Atabis, a planet in the Klingon Neutral Zone, sends out a distress signal: a sleeper ship, the Compassion, is headed their way and prepared to land right smack on top of the capital city. The Enterprise, being the nearest Federation vessel, is dispatched to investigate, and the Klingons also send a ship of their own, the Pao Yar, helmed by the magnanimous Captain Klarr.
Rounding out the list of secondary senior officer spotlights, Uhura tags along on this one to help out with busted communications equipment. She joins the usual power trio, as does Captain Klarr, who wants to personally see to it that Kirk doesn’t get up to any funny business. Klarr, although suspicious, is overall pretty chill for a Klingon, willing to take a wait-and-see approach that’s rare in portrayals of TOS Klingons.1 His (unnamed) aide is another story: aggressive, accusatory, hair-trigger temper—much more your stereotypical Klingon of the time. Klarr and the aide always arrive in a room shortly after you do, their judgmental eyes waiting to pounce on any slip-up.
It doesn’t take long to realize Compassion is a rather ironic name for this ship. It’s populated with people displaying a wide range of obsessive tics, mental blocks, and emotional issues. Among the more important ones for the purposes of moving forward in the mission are Tuskin, the paranoid man who hoards the playroom all to himself; Rackaback and Gormagon, his steroidal enforcers; and Moll, who is overwhelmed by grief at the lack of nutritional food available for her son Stambob, and is the only person Tuskin trusts to provide him untainted food.
The food, among other things, is dispensed by the Phays, a sort of maternal computer intended to provide the citizens of the Compassion with all their basic needs. Somewhere along the way, however, its core became corrupted, and now it’s as off-kilter as any one of the people it’s supposedly taking care of. It pumps the food full of tranquilizers, is generally smothering in its overall demeanor, and has problems maintaining a consistent self-identity.
Scanning the playhouse in the playroom reveals something defying all known laws of space and time is going on back there. Of course, being the penultimate mission of the game, you might guess that it has something to do with the Brassica, since the amount of time left to wrap that arc up is winding down. And you’d be correct. After seeing through all their inconsistencies and run-around, the Brassicans finally decide maybe you’re ready for first contact after all.
There’s no way to know for sure, but I suspect this mission came near or at the end of the voice recording sessions, because the cast, particularly DeForest Kelley, have a tendency to skip over a lot of the more challenging and/or less essential pieces of information in the dialogue. Only Nimoy seems truly committed to nailing words like cyanodiphosphotrihydrous. By contrast, the voice acting by most of the inhabitants of the Compassion is outstanding despite its hamfistedness. Grinagog’s unhinged laughter, Tuskin’s high-pitched Matt Frewer-esque paranoia, and the strong GLaDOS vibe of the Phays are particular highlights.
“Though This Be Madness” probably requires the most running back and forth of any mission, and it’s often less clear than usual what you have to do next. But as setup for the final test, it’s a delectable treat, with much more miscellaneous flavor than the average mission, and no pressure of having to earn a good score to boot.
MVP & LVP
- My MVP here is Klarr. He stays out of your way. When he does feel a need to insert himself into your business, he’s super-helpful. When the Enterprise crew (read: McCoy) is egregiously rude to him, he strikes the proper tone in his reproach without being aggressive. He trusts you to do the right thing, and is content to sit back and watch. He is one upstanding Klingon.
- This mission’s LVP is also a Klingon, and an easy choice: Klarr’s aide. He does nothing but complain and try to turn his captain against the Enterprise crew and the Enterprise crew against each other. It’s immensely satisfying when Klarr finally lays him out cold.
Nuggets & Other Stray Bits
- At the beginning of the mission, you can choose to either respond to or ignore a Romulan distress call from the Warbird Infinitus that originates from inside the Romulan Neutral Zone. If you answer it, they start attacking you when you show up, and upon defeating it, four more Warbirds show up. They let you off the hook, recognizing you were responding to a distress call in good faith and acting in self-defense against a rogue ship. They want information about the Brassica, which you can convince them (without lying) you don’t have. Given that you don’t receive a score for this mission, however (since it segues directly into the next one), you have literally no incentive whatsoever to take this path, unless you’re that interested in Neutral Zone intrigue, and since this mission is long enough as it is, ignoring the Romulans is a perfectly viable and preferable option.
- Wrestling fans might notice more than a small similarity between the way Rackaback and Gormagon walk and the Bushwhackers’ entrance.
- DeForest Kelley audibly snickers during one particularly tongue-twisting line read in this mission. Hear it here.
NEXT TIME: Meeting the Brassica face-to-face in “…Yet There Is Method In It”