Monday, December 2, 2013

Unseen Trek: 'For They Shall Inherit' by Jerome Bixby

The Dorn (1998/1968)
Story Outline by Jerome Bixby, undated (probably 1967)
Review and Analysis by Dave Eversole
Originally posted at Orion Press.


The Enterprise is sent to rescue a colony of Klingons from a farming world near the Federation border. The planet's sun is about to go nova, and Starfleet helping the Klingons will certainly be good PR. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and several "five-liners" beam down, and react in shock as they see a Klingon hanging upside down, his feet secured in a torture device. Soon we learn that the malevolent race known as the DORN have taken over, have killed all the weak Klingons, sparing only the strongest warriors, and plan to use the Enterprise to escape the destruction of this world.


Kirk and party are thrown into a holding pen with several hate-filled Klingons. Tarnok, their leader ("a Ted Cassidy type"), tells Kirk how the Dorn use them for amusement, force them to fight larger, stronger Dorns in gladiatorial games. Games the Klingons always lose.

Kirk is determined to escape. He wrests authority from Tarnok and becomes the leader of the small group in the pen. Meanwhile the Dorns, expert mimickers, use the communicators to call the Enterprise and assure Scotty that all is well, that they're preparing an evacuation. Scotty warns them that the sun will blow up in about 18 hours.

Kirk makes eyes at an attractive Dorn girl, and she smiles in a come on manner at him.

Soon we learn that the Dorns plan to pit the Humans against the Klingons in their sadistic games. The landing party's phasers are returned, as if the Dorns don't know what they are. When Kirk and company fire them on the Dorns nothing happens. Oh, Tarnok tells Kirk, the Dorns are immune to such weapons fire.

"Why weren't they told this," Kirk wants to know. "We came to help you!"

"And you failed," Tarnok says.


The games begin. A Human is killed by a Klingon opponent. Spock is pitted against another Klingon, and barely survives, has to kill his opponent. The Dorns eagerly watch, rather like sadistic fanatics. Spock wonders how they could be so "extravagant" in their cruelty.

The prisoners are permitted some small freedoms, and Kirk attempts to woo the Dorn girl who came on to him earlier. They even get a smooch in before they are discovered by the Dorn leader and sent their separate ways. Kirk declares to his shipmates that such wooing was the best way to discover what kind of enemy they are facing, its strengths and weaknesses.

The games continue. One Klingon, tired of the nonsense, attacks a Dorn in a violent rage. The Dorn seems to gain strength from the Klingon's very emotional state, seems to grow stronger the more the Klingon screams his fury.

Spock ponders on the fact that all women, children, and weak Klingons were killed outright by the Dorns and only the strongest, the most violent, the most KLINGON of the Klingons were spared. Why would an intelligent enemy kill the lambs and spare the lions?

McCoy has a medical puzzle on his hands. The Dorns are very humanoid, but they don't need to be. They appear to breathe in, but the air does nothing, their lungs don't expel it. They appear to eat but the food does not process the way it should. It simply goes in, but does not come out. Strange...

Kirk woos the girl, and she promises that both the Humans and the Klingons will be allowed to go onboard the Enterprise when the Dorns leave the planet.

Kirk and Tarnok are pitted against each other in a humdinger "Most Dangerous Game" type of hunt/fight. If Kirk wins, the Dorns will take the Humans off the planet. If Tarnok wins, the Klingons get to go. Kirk is surprised that his girlfriend lied to him, but the battle begins -- on foot, chasing each other through the woods, weapons in hand. Kirk defeats Tarnok, but refuses to kill him. The Dorns seem deflated, and the Dorn leader declares that no one will be spared.


Back in their pen, Tarnok seems to finally respect Kirk, but is still steamed that the Human bested him. Spock has a theory. The Dorns have delighted in upsetting Kirk, McCoy and Uhura, but have stayed away from him. He goes to a guard, engages him in friendly banter, begins to recite a mathematical formula. The Dorn tries to get away. But Spock smiles, dances, pinches him in a light-hearted manner. The Dorn is frantic, weak, must get away. Suddenly, Spock slaps the Dorn. He seems to come back alive and decks the Vulcan.

McCoy also has an answer to his dilemma. The Dorn are obviously energy beings only assuming humanoid form.

Kirk goes to meet his Dorn girlfriend. He finds out she has been playing him all along. He DECKS her. She fights back, full of life and energy.

The sun will nova in five hours. Scotty is still waiting for them to beam up. (At this point, Bixby admits that he needs to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why Scotty is so gullible.)


It all comes together for our heroes. The Dorns feed on violence and hatred. Thus they spare only the strong to produce the "food" they need. They need more of it now, since they are expending energy to maintain a humanoid appearance. They need the Enterprise to escape because in their natural form they cannot escape the supernova's effects.

Kirk goes to Tarnok, asks if the Klingons could possibly contain their hate and anger. Tarnok isn't so sure, but the Klingons will try.

The prisoners are all marched out to fight. But under Kirk's guidance, the march turns into a "peace march," one filled with laughter and song and conviviality. Spock even tickles Tarnok to get him to laugh.

Gradually, the Dorns weaken and waver and revert to their natural energy forms and float upward to their doom in the coming supernova. "Good-Bye, Good-Bye" Kirk says cheerily as they leave. Kirk and crew are beamed aboard and the Enterprise escapes in the nick of time.


Aboard ship, McCoy comments on the peace-march, the laugh-in, passive resistance.

To Tarnok: "Blessed be the meek-- for you shall inherit another planet. Hopefully without any Dorns on it."

He is taking readings with a scanner-- Tarnok stiffens, not caring for it.

Some good snapper, as Enterprise speeds away from spectacular nova.

So we have elements of 'By Any Other Name' and 'The Day of The Dove' in one story. This outline further evolved before becoming the aired episode we all know.

I'm sorta glad we got two very good Bixby episodes instead of one!


Drexel Jerome Lewis Bixby (1923-1998) was the author of numerous science fiction short stories and novels. He may be best remembered for his 1953 short story, 'It's a Good Life,' which was adapted by Rod Serling in 1961 as an episode of The Twilight Zone. Bixby's film and television career spanned from 1958-2007, and included such credits as It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Fantastic Voyage, and The Man From Earth, written by Bixby on his deathbed. For Star Trek, he wrote, 'Mirror, Mirror,' 'By Any Other Name' (with D.C. Fontana), 'Day of the Dove,' and 'Requiem for Methuselah.'

Editor's Note: Although this draft is undated, the Star Trek Writers Report for the week ending March 29, 1968 indicates the first draft outline of 'For They Shall Inherit' was delivered on March 28, 1968. For a number of reasons, however, I suspect this draft was actually written sometime before that outline. I will have to examine the production files for 'Day of the Dove,' however, before I can find out for sure. Stay tuned.

Also, credit/blame goes to Dave Eversole for suggesting the visual pun at the top of this post!

Images courtesy of Trek Core.

Review originally posted at Orion Press.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. That sounds as if it would have been even more interesting than "Day of the Dove," but I guess it would have been a lot more expensive to film, which probably explains why we ended up with "Day of the Dove." :-)