The Practical Joker
Stardate: 3183.3
Original Airdate: 21 Sep, 1974

Captain's log, stardate 3183.3. Our present mission, a routine geological survey of type four asteroids, is nearing completion. The cruise has been uneventful and we are now approaching the final asteroid in our assigned sector, a full seventy two hours ahead of schedule.

[Bridge]

(As they approach the asteroid, three Romulan warships become visible, and Enterprise is attacked)
KIRK: Scotty, give us maximum shielding.
SCOTT [OC]: Aye, Captain.
KIRK: Mister Sulu, bring us about to a new heading of nine oh two mark six.
SULU: Aye, aye, sir. Mister Spock, who the devil's attacking us?
SPOCK: Romulans, Captain. They were apparently lying in wait on the far side of that asteroid.

[Engineering]

SCOTT: A cold-blooded ambush. Let's give the heathens a fight they won't soon forget.

[Bridge]

KIRK: Negative. We've suffered damage and we're outnumbered three to one. I think this is an instance where discretion is the better part of valour.
UHURA: Captain, I've established contact with the Romulan commander.
KIRK: I demand an explanation for this unprovoked attack.
COMMANDER [on viewscreen]: Unprovoked? My dear Captain, your ship trespassed into Romulan territory, in defiance of your own treaty. We had no choice but to defend ourselves.
KIRK: We came nowhere near Romulan territory. I deny all charges and plan to file a detailed complaint with the Federation.
COMMANDER [on viewscreen]: You seem to forget that invasion of Romulan territory is punishable by death.
(More weapons hits)
SPOCK: Captain, the Romulan ships are overtaking us. At close range our deflectors will be unable to repel their attack.
SULU: Captain Kirk! An unidentified energy field is drifting into our path.
SPOCK: Strange. It's not on the charts.
KIRK: But it may be just what we need to shake the Romulans. Batten down, we're going through.
(Enterprise sails into a foggy area with electrical discharges)
KIRK: Mister Spock, what are our chances?
SPOCK: The field is composed of highly charged subatomic particles. If the density grows no worse we should be able to ride it out.

[Engineering]

SCOTT: Hold together, little darling, hold together.

[Bridge]

(Enterprise emerges from the other side)
SULU: It worked. The Romulans turned back rather than risk the energy field.
KIRK: Reduce speed to sub warp cruise. We'll lay by here for repairs.
UHURA: After that ride, I could use some repairs.

[Officer's mess]

(A sumptuous feast with platters of fruit and dessert still on the table, and drinking glasses that look like some vases I've got)
KIRK: How are the repairs progressing, Scotty?
SCOTT: Just fine, Captain. We should be in tip-top shape in another twenty four hours, no thanks to those Romulan vultures.
MCCOY: Nevertheless, we're still in business and I propose a toast to a narrow escape.
UHURA: Cheers!
KIRK: Salud!
UHURA: To us.
SULU: He, this glass just leaked all over me.
UHURA: How do you like that? So did mine.
SCOTT: And mine.
SPOCK: It appears we're all victims of a rather bizarre coincidence. The odds against something like this happening are astronomical.
MCCOY: What coincidence? We used to pull stunts like this in medical school with trick glasses. Don't look now, but we've got a practical joker in our midst.
KIRK: Now let's not jump to conclusions, Bones. Yes, we all got wet, so what's the joke?
SCOTT: Twas probably a minor slip-up of the food synthesisers. I'll check it out after lunch.
KIRK: Fine. Right now why don't we all eat up before our food gets cold.
(But before the fork reaches his lips, it bends and the food slides off)
MCCOY: Another coincidence, Jim?
KIRK: I'm beginning to wonder, Bones, I am beginning to wonder.

Captain's log, supplemental. Unusual incidents have continued to plague our crew. Even the perceptive Mister Spock has fallen victim to these simple-minded pranks.

[Bridge]

(Spock has his eyes pressed against a binocular device)
SPOCK: Curious, very curious.
KIRK: What have you got there, Spock?
SPOCK: Captain, I found this device on my console. It seems to serve no useful function, and
(When he lifts his face from the eye pieces, of course there are rings around his eyes and laughter from the crew)
SPOCK: Captain?
KIRK: I'm sorry, Spock, it's your

As these little surprises have grown more and more frequent, our crew members have found them less and less amusing.

[Mess hall]

AREX: Officer Scott, won't you join us for lunch?
SCOTT: No thanks, Arex. I'm just going to grab a sandwich and get me back to work.
AREX: Very good.
SCOTT: One grilled cheese on rye. What the blazes? Hold it just a doggone minute!
(All sorts of foods are being thrown from the dispenser and piling up around his feet)
SCOTT: I said one sandwich, that's all. Someone turn off this infernal food factory.
M'RESS: Excuse me for laughing, but
SCOTT: Go ahead and laugh. Big joke. I'll bet you two are responsible for this, ay?
AREX: Hey, wait a minute. We didn't cause this to happen.
SCOTT: Tell that to the Captain. I'm reporting both of you just as soon as I
(Then he gets a custard pie in the face)

The situation has reached the point where friends are accusing friends. The entire crew is on edge, myself included.

[Bridge]

KIRK: Okay, this whole thing has gone far enough!
AREX: Sir?
KIRK: I've just picked up my clean uniforms from the service chute and when I put this one on, I discovered this.
(In big bold letters on his back - Kirk is a Jerk. The comm. system bursts into laughter)
KIRK: When you all finish laughing, I'd appreciate an explanation.
SPOCK: Captain, I never laugh.
KIRK: Well somebody certainly did.
M'RESS: Captain Kirk, look behind you.
KIRK: Really, M'Ress, you're going to have to be a little more clever than that.
AREX: This is no joke, sir.
KIRK: Now what?
(Vapour is coming from under the bridge doors)

[Corridor]

(Kirk and Spock exit the turbolift)
SPOCK: It appears to be a legitimate fog. Perhaps the humidification system is
KIRK: Here, Spock. Whoops!
SPOCK: Amazing. This deck is covered with ice.
KIRK: And it was almost covered with us. I don't know what's going on here, but it's going to stop before someone's hurt.
(laughter from the comm. system)
KIRK: There's that laugh again. Something awfully familiar about it. What do you make of all this, Spock?
SPOCK: The evidence all points to one guilty party, Captain.
KIRK: You mean you know who's behind these stunts?
SPOCK: Not who, what. I believe our practical joker is the Enterprise itself.
KIRK: Of course. That laugh, it's the voice of our main computer.
SPOCK: Precisely.
KIRK: Spock, I want all hands at their stations. We're going to run a complete systems check from bow to stern and get to the bottom of this.

[Outside Rec Room]

(A light by the door sign says unoccupied)
UHURA: Good, the Rec Room is unoccupied. At least we can enjoy our off-hour without worrying about practical jokes.
MCCOY: Just what the doctor ordered.
(They go inside and the doors close just as)
SPOCK [OC]: All hands to your stations. This is a general alert. Repeat, all hands to your

[Rec room]

(In the big, empty room, oblivious to the announcement)
SULU: Well, what'll it be, a swim at the beach?
(It's a holodeck. They get a beach with waves and seagulls)
MCCOY: It is lovely, but I'm more in the mood for a nice quiet walk in the woods.
UHURA: Doctor, that sounds perfect.
SULU: Then woods it is.
(He works the panel, and they get their grass and trees.
MCCOY: Ah, now that's more like it. Shall we?

[Bridge]

M'RESS: Captain, crewmembers McCoy, Sulu and Uhura are still in the Recreation room and do not answer the call to stations.
KIRK: That's strange. Repeat the call.
M'RESS: Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and Helmsman Sulu, report to the Bridge immediately. Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Uhura and

[Rec room - forest]

SULU: It's so peaceful. So relaxing.
MCCOY: And best of all, no practical jokes.
(laughter)
UHURA: What was that?
SULU: I'm not sure. It almost sounded like someone chuckling.
MCCOY: It was probably just one of the audio tapes rewinding. Come on, there's lots more to see.
(Out of their sight, a pit in the ground gets covered by fallen branches, then leaves. Laughter as the three walk towards it)
MCCOY: Lieutenant Uhura, I have to hand it to you. This is just what the doctor would have ordered.
(Then they fall into the pit)
SULU: There it is again. Someone is definitely laughing at us.
MCCOY: I'm going to get to the bottom of this right now.
COMPUTER: Get to the bottom of this (laughs)
MCCOY: Okay, whoever you are, so we fell for your juvenile joke. Now get us out.
COMPUTER: Fell for my joke. (laughs)

[Bridge]

KIRK: Spock, quiz the central computer about McCoy and the others.
SPOCK: Yes, Captain. Question. Why are we unable to communicate with crewmembers McCoy, Sulu and Uhura?
COMPUTER: Answer. That is for me to know and for you to find out.
KIRK: Did I hear that right?
SPOCK: Affirmative. The dysfunction is more severe than I thought. Question. Are you deliberately holding our missing crewmembers prisoner?
COMPUTER: I'll never tell.
KIRK: Let me try. This is Captain James T Kirk speaking. You are programmed to obey any direct order I may give, correct?
COMPUTER: Correct.
KIRK: Very well. I order you to release crewmembers McCoy, Sulu and Uhura immediately.
COMPUTER: Say please.
KIRK: Well, I'll be
SPOCK: I suggest compliance, Captain.
KIRK: Pu-leese.
COMPUTER: Say pretty please with sugar on.
(Instead, he calls up Scott on the main viewer)
KIRK: Scotty.
SCOTT [on viewscreen]: Aye, Captain.
KIRK: We've got serious trouble with the main computer. We have reason to believe it's kidnapped three of our crew.
SCOTT [on viewscreen]: Kidnapped? Blue blazes.
KIRK: To prevent any further trouble, I want you to shut down all logic functions until we can get a handle on the problem.
SCOTT [on viewscreen]: Aye, aye, sir.

[Rec room - forest]

(Uhura and Sulu help McCoy climb from the pit)
UHURA: There.
MCCOY: When I get my hands on the clown who's behind all this, I'll put him in Sickbay for a week.
COMPUTER: Temper, temper. Perhaps this will cool you off.
(And now they are in the middle of a blizzard and up to their knees in snow)
SULU: We've got a whiteout condition here. How will we ever find the exit?

[Computer room]

SCOTT: Time for a nap, old girl. Captain's orders.
(Then the gravity goes off)
SCOTT: (into communicator) Engineering to Bridge. Emergency.

[Bridge]

KIRK: (into communicator) Scotty, what the devil's going on?

[Computer room]

SCOTT: Beats me, sir. Our gravity just reversed polarity all by itself.

[Bridge]

SPOCK: An obvious defensive manoeuvre by the computer.
KIRK: This is crazy. Our own computer's declared war on us and I haven't the slightest idea why.
SPOCK: I have a theory, Captain, but first I suggest that if Officer Scott moves away from the computer, it might feel less threatened.
KIRK: Scotty, vacate the computer room.

[Computer room]

SCOTT: Vacate sir? But

[Bridge]

KIRK: On the double, Officer Scott.
SCOTT [OC]: Aye sir.

[Corridor]

(Scott crawls along the ceiling into the corridor, where he promptly falls to the floor)
SCOTT: You bloody big scatterbrain. Make up your monumental mind.

[Bridge]

KIRK: Congratulations, Spock. Your strategy worked. Now would you tell me what's happening to my ship?
SPOCK: You recall that energy field we passed through?
KIRK: Certainly.
SPOCK: Apparently, subatomic particles from that field have invaded our computer's circuits, much like bacteria infect living matter. As a result, the Enterprise is suffering the electronic equivalent of a nervous breakdown.
KIRK: What can we do to stop it?
SPOCK: I'm afraid I don't know, Captain. Its illogical behaviour precludes a logical solution.

[Rec room - arctic]

SULU: The temperature must be twenty below and its still dropping.
UHURA: Look, this is still a room, no matter how it appears. If we can travel long enough in one direction, we're bound to reach a wall. Then we can feel our way to an exit.
MCCOY: Then let's move before we all turn into icicles.

[Bridge]

CREWMAN [OC]: Search party seven to Bridge.
KIRK: Bridge here. Report.
CREWMAN [OC]: Captain, our sensors show the missing crewmembers are in the Rec Room all right, but the door's jammed.
KIRK: Okay, stand by.
SCOTT [OC]: Engineering.
KIRK: Scotty, we need a work crew with power tools to open a frozen door. Have them report to, report to
(Kirk starts giggling)
SCOTT [OC]: Captain, what is it? Are you all (laughs) Are you
(As everyone else starts laughing, Spock raises an eyebrow)
KIRK: Come on, Spock. Where's that Vulcan sense of humour?
SPOCK: Hmm. Just as I thought.
AREX: Spock, what, what are you mumbling about?
SPOCK: Our air is being pumped full of nitrous oxide. Better known as laughing gas. But it's no laughing matter, especially for Vulcans.

[Rec room - arctic]

(The three trapped people also have the giggles)
UHURA: This blizzard keeps getting worse.
SULU: I know. If we don't, if we don't keep moving we're going to freeze.

Captain's log, supplemental. Somehow Spock managed to switch on our emergency air before collapsing from the effects of the gas. The fresh air quickly revived us, although it'll be exhausted in another six hours.

[Bridge]

KIRK: We must cure the computer by then or there's no telling what we'll be forced to breathe next. Scotty, how's the door coming?
SCOTT [OC]: Captain, none of our power tools work.

[Corridor]

SCOTT: Some kind of energy drain set up by the ship. We're giving it a mighty go with the crowbars, though.
KIRK [OC]: Keep at it. We've got three people in there whose lives may depend on it.

[Rec room - arctic]

MCCOY: You two better go on without me. My old legs have given out.
UHURA: But Doctor, we can't.
(And the computer takes pity on them, They are in a formal garden)
SULU: Well, what do you know? Come on, Doctor, we're finally getting out of here.
MCCOY: I hate to be a pessimist, but that may not be as easy as you think.
(Correction, not a garden, a maze. But the doors are pried open)
MCCOY: Then again

[Bridge]

KIRK: You don't know how good it is to have you back on the Bridge, alive and well.
MCCOY: We're as happy about it as you are, Jim. I'd just like to make one request.
KIRK: Sure, Bones, what?
MCCOY: Could you turn up the heat?
KIRK: I'll see what I can
SPOCK: Captain, we're underway.
UHURA: Engine room reports all engines shut down, yet they're firing.
SULU: Captain, the helm no longer responds. We're coming about to a new heading.
KIRK: As soon as our course stabilizes, give me a reading.
SULU: Course stabilizing at one one four mark twelve.
SPOCK: We're heading back to the Neutral Zone.
KIRK: And you can bet those Romulan ships will be gunning for us.
(After a while)
SPOCK: Sensors are picking up three ships, Captain. Magnification shows them to be Romulan warships.
SULU: We're decelerating, sir.
UHURA: Main cargo hatches are opening. I'll put them on the viewing screen.
MCCOY: Jim, what in heaven's name is going on?
KIRK: You know as much as I do, Bones.
(Something floats out of the hatch, then expands to become a huge version of the Enterprise)
SPOCK: The Romulan ships have halted their attack. Apparently the sight of a spacecraft twenty times their size has given them second thoughts.
MCCOY: Okay, I admit it's an effective bluff, but so what? As soon as they figure it out, they'll destroy the balloon and us.
KIRK: Wait a minute. There is a method to this madness.
SPOCK: Please elaborate, Captain.
KIRK: The Enterprise is pulling her biggest practical joke of all, and this time the joke's on the Romulans, the same Romulan ships that damaged the Enterprise.
SPOCK: Are you suggesting that the Enterprise is seeking revenge?
KIRK: What else? She's going to make fools of the Romulans by having them attack a balloon, and Romulans fear disgrace more than death.

[Romulan Bridge]

CENTURION: Commander, there's no radio response from the large ship.
ROMULAN: Very well, it has refused surrender. Advance at attack speed.
(They shoot, and it deflates amid computer laughter)
ROMULAN: We've been tricked. After them. I want that Federation ship blasted into space dust.

[Bridge]

SPOCK: The Romulans are giving chase.
MCCOY: They must be furious to follow us this deep into Federation territory.
KIRK: (panic stricken) I don't care about the Romulans, I just want to avoid that energy field we passed through before. Helmsman, do you have a fix on it?
SULU: Yes, Captain. Our course will take us nowhere near it.
KIRK: Good! I couldn't face going through there again.
COMPUTER: The energy field frightens you?
KIRK: It petrifies me.
COMPUTER: How interesting.
SULU: We're changing course, to a direct bearing on the energy field.
KIRK: No! We can't!
(They do, and so do the Romulans)

[Romulan Bridge]

CENTURION: Commander, our instruments are useless in this field. We've lost contact with the Federation ship.
ROMULAN: We've got to clear this field before our ships break up. Bring us about on a heading for home.

[Bridge]

(The computer is laughing, then)
COMPUTER: My circuits! You tricked me, Kirk. How could you?
MCCOY: What the devil is going on?
KIRK: Bones, the worst thing you can do to a practical joker is to play a practical joke on them.
COMPUTER: It's not fair.
(Enterprise leaves the energy field)
SULU: The controls are responding now.
SPOCK: And I'm getting normal function in all computer modes. That last pass through the energy field apparently reversed all effects.
MCCOY: Well done, Jim.
UHURA: Captain, I'm picking up strange transmissions from the Romulan warships. Listen.
ROMULAN [OC]: Turn off those food synthesisers! We're knee deep in desserts and they're still pouring out!
MCCOY: Shall we tell them how they can reverse the effects of the field, Jim?
KIRK: Yes, but later. Let's not spoil their fun just yet.

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