Mother and Instinct, TOS: S1E25 “The Devil in the Dark”

Living organisms are often driven by two main instincts: survival and reproduction. Our brains fight or flight reaction keeps us vigilant of our surroundings, while the drive toward reproduction motivates us to overcome the risks of finding a mate, even in a dangerous environment. We carry the genes of those who were most successful with both of these, or those who were most lucky! Considering an evolutionary timescale, luck would diminish, and the most successful creatures likely benefited from a fearful respect for the environment, and the watchful protection of dedicated parents. These parents used their caution and fear to make sure their brood stayed safe, but what happens when instincts, and interests, clash?

A dangerous creature has been attacking the mining colony of Janus VI, killing several people. Kirk and Spock beam down to help, only to find the traces of a strange and terrifying monster, and an increasingly terrified crew. A beast, a demon, a devil in the dark! The minors dont know what to do, but they want to help the Enterprise crew any way they can. When Kirk and Spock finally stumble upon the creature, it does not attack them. Instead it is wounded, and seems to beaskingfor help. Using a mindmeld, Spock feels the creatures intense pain. After a second meld, he discovers that the creature is a Horta mother, protecting a large collection of eggs.

The fear and paranoia of the minors was pitted against the Hortas passionate instinct to protect its young the entire time. Only Spocks empathy, and ability to reach out to it, put an end to the war of instinct against instinct. Dr. McCoy was able to heal the Horta mothers wounds, and the minors eventually learned to work together with these gentle and fascinating aliens.

Instinct plays an important role in keeping us safe, as well as ensuring the welfare of our children. However, it is not always accurate; we must also rely on reason and empathy to form a true assessment of the world around us. Spock was able to understand the Horta by sharing her pain, her fear, and the love she had for her children. No matter the shape or size of a mother, these emotions are felt by many creatures who share an instinct to nurture their young. Its life Jim, but not as we know it.

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