“To Attain the All” would have been one of the first thirteen episodes of the new Star Trek series, Phase II, before it was canceled and its tentative pilot, “In Thy Image”, rewritten to become The Motion Picture.
The story, by science-fiction author Norman Spinrad, who also wrote “The Doomsday Machine”, was centered on a mysterious being calling himself The Prince who captures the Enterprise and challenges its crew to attain the knowledge of an ancient race.
The Enterprise is studying a group of artificial-looking planets, seemingly created by an ancient civilization. During their investigation, the ship vanishes from the known galaxy and finds itself in what the story describes as a “chaotic rainbow maelstrom universe of swirling colors.” Communications, sensors and the engines are all disabled. The only system still running is life support.
A bald, blue-skinned alien, who identifies himself as The Prince, appears on the bridge. He is the last of the First Ones, an ancient race that had the power to rearrange entire solar systems. Kirk is incredulous, demanding to know what is going on. The Prince explains that he has brought them to this area of space to learn about the Lost Ones — if they can prove themselves worthy of “attaining the all.”
Decker and Xon, as representatives of Earth and Vulcan, are invited to come down to a planetoid. Kirk requests that the Enterprise be released as a sign of good faith. Xon interjects that the alien shows no signs of life. The Prince disagrees, explaining that he has moved beyond life as mortals know it. Again the captain demands the freedom of his ship, but The Prince insists that the only way the Enterprise can leave is if the knowledge of the Lost Ones is imparted to them. If Kirk decides that his people are not destined to attain the “all,” then his ship will remain where it is for eternity. Kirk relents and Decker, Xon and The Prince disappear.
Down on the planet, The Prince tells the Starfleet officers they must navigate their way through a maze to reach a computer that contains all knowledge. If they are able to reach the computer, they will have proven their worthiness.
With that, The Prince vanishes and Decker and Xon find themselves upside down on the “immaterial” ceiling. Decker begins to approach the situation logically while Xon tries to study it through human intuition. As a result, they find themselves right-side up. When The Prince asks if they have begun to learn, they nod in the affirmative.
Back on the Enterprise, McCoy and Chapel are having an argument about the prognosis of a patient. The Prince appears before them and argues that they should merge closer with one another. After a while, McCoy begins to say things that sound like what Chapel would say and vice versa. The Prince seems pleased.
Cutting back and forth between the maze and the Enterprise, everybody seems to be switching personality traits. The only one unaffected by all this is Kirk. This is chalked up to the loneliness of command. The captain realizes he needs to move quickly.
Gambling, Kirk threatens to destroy the Enterprise if no contact is allowed with Decker and Xon. The Prince states that Kirk has won, but communication must be made telepathically through the minds of Ilia and Xon. Ilia begins to speak in Xon’s voice, which allows the Vulcan to speak to Kirk and hear through Ilia’s ears. Xon tells the captain that they are nearing their goal. In the background, Uhura mouths these words as well. She has become part of the psychic link.
Kirk wants to speak to Decker, and the commander begins to speak through the Deltan’s mouth. Kirk is partially successful in bringing Decker out of this euphoric state. At that moment, the Enterprise lurches and The Prince states that only a mental link-up between the captain and Scotty can save the ship. This is accomplished, but now the entire crew seems caught in the connection. Every time Kirk asks a question, they respond in unison.
In the maze, Decker, Xon and The Prince enter the central chamber of the planetoid where they find “an eerily glowing globe about twice the size of a basketball on a plain pedestal.” Xon places his hands against the globe and undergoes an incredible experience. Decker feels the same thing. The Prince appears on the bridge and the entire crew turns to Kirk to explain that the “all” has been attained.
Now speaking in turns, the officers explain that The Prince is a holographic projection. The First Ones have given up both their bodies and their identities to become godlike minds: the All, which is based inside the globe that Xon has made contact with. Their plan is to merge the Enterprise with the All. Then the All, having acquired physical form, would be able to go into space and merge with other intelligent beings.
Now it is Kirk’s turn to attain the All or he will die. The bridge crew approaches him menacingly. Kirk appeals to Decker, trying to convince him that he should retain his humanity and not let the All have their way.
Decker hears his captain’s voice but struggles. He touches the globe and is filled with “unholy ecstasy.” He removes his hands, still partially himself, and disappears. He materializes in a corridor near Kirk and joins the others in pursuing him. Once more Kirk tries desperately to remind Decker of who and what he is. Decker struggles, but finally manages to snap himself out of the mind-link.
They proceed to engineering, where they get into a fight with Scotty. The stress of this battle snaps the chief engineer from the link as well. The trio fight their way to the transporter room, sealing the door behind them. Decker suggests that if they beam the globe containing the All into space, it might lose its connection with its power source on the planet and become helpless.
The crew break through the door and are moving in for the kill when the globe and Xon are beamed aboard the ship. The Enterprise is abruptly back in its own space and the crew returns to normal.
Some time later, back on the bridge, Kirk and his officers are debating how they should dispose of the globe. Xon suggests that, logically, the globe should be dispersed into space, thus putting an absolute end to its power. Kirk disagrees: “Maybe we can teach the First Ones a lesson in something that they with all their knowledge haven’t attained yet — mercy.”
Scotty is ordered to beam the globe, in one piece, toward the Andromeda Galaxy. Considering that it will take billions of years for it to get there, Kirk hopes the All will use that time to learn about mercy and humility.
Despite the similarities to “Return to Tomorrow”, in which the survivors of an ancient race also stored their intelligence in an orb, Gene Roddenberry was enthusiastic, writing in a memo dated August 4, 1977, “Spinrad is brilliant and he is onto the right thing.”
Roddenberry did worry the show would not be able to afford building a subterranean maze and pointed out there was little adventure. “The jeopardy is mostly intellectual.”
He suggested that, instead of taking over their minds, the First Ones might attempt to persuade the Enterprise crew by offering each one what they most desired. This idea was taken up in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hide and Q”, when Riker is temporarily given the power of the Q and gives Geordi his eyesight, Worf a Klingon mate and turns Wesley into an adult man.