Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki

A friendly reminder regarding spoilers! At present the expanded Trek universe is in a period of major upheaval with the finale of Year Five, the Coda miniseries and the continuations of Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks; and the premieres of Prodigy and Strange New Worlds, the advent of new eras in Star Trek Online gaming, as well as other post-55th Anniversary publications. Therefore, please be courteous to other users who may not be aware of current developments by using the {{spoiler}}, {{spoilers}} or {{majorspoiler}} tags when adding new information from sources less than six months old. Also, please do not include details in the summary bar when editing pages and do not anticipate making additions relating to sources not yet in release. 'Thank You


Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki

"The Ambergris Element" was the 13th episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series in the show's first season, airing during the week of 1 December 1973. The episode was written by Margaret Armen, who also wrote "The Lorelei Signal". It was directed by Hal Sutherland and novelized in Log Five by Alan Dean Foster.


VHS teaser
While studying a planet whose surface is entirely covered with water, Kirk and Spock are transformed into water breathers by a frightening aquatic sur-snake.


"Captain's log: Stardate 5499.9. We are orbiting the planet Argo. Argo was once a land planet, but its surface is now almost completely covered by water. The change was caused by violent seismic disturbances. Our mission is to study the effects which the quakes and other phenomena had on its surface. This knowledge may save millions of lives on a Federation planet, identical to Argo, which will soon be undergoing similar transformation."

The crew lands in a specially designed aqua-shuttle but is immediately attacked by a sur-snake and Kirk and Spock become trapped in the monster's grip.

"Ship's Log: Stardate 5504.2, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott in command. Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock have been missing for almost five days. Search parties can find no trace of them or the aqua shuttle. Dr. McCoy and I are continuing the search at a greater distance from the attack point."

McCoy, Scott, and Lt. Clayton find the missing officers.

"Medical Log: Stardate 5506.2. Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock were rescued forty-eight hours ago. They have no recollection of what happened to them after they were attacked, but medical examinations show an unidentified substance in the blood stream has affected their entire metabolism and changed them into water breathers. Their internal structure is completely transformed, and even their eyes are covered with a transparent film, like the second eyelid of a fish. So far all efforts to return them to normal have failed."

McCoy says, "We're stumped, Jim. The hormone seems to be the major factor in your mutation but we just can't identify it." Kirk asks, "Are you sure the mutation wasn't somehow accomplished naturally?" McCoy replies, "It's infused into your bodies at key structural points. It had to be done by injection." Kirk demands, "But can't you duplicate it Bones? Your medical computers have information of every procedure in the Federation's hospitals." McCoy says, "It's highly sophisticated and completely unknown to us." Spock inserts, "That implies there are intelligent lifeforms on Argo." McCoy replies, "The sensors don't indicate any life forms down there aside from fish.[fish]]." Spock thinks the readings may be incomplete. Kirk can't spend the rest of his life confined to a tank so he and Spock must travel underwater to find the planets inhabitants, the Aquans, in the hope they will be able to return them to their normal Human selves.

Kirk and Spock explore the submerged Argo and find a group of inhabitants who hate any air breathers. They want them to leave. Their young saved them once but it won't happen again. The two officers soon find a beautiful underwater city. Hesitantly, the Aquans agree to perform surgery to return Kirk and Spock to normal, but when Scotty dives down to warn of an impending quake, they become fearful of air-breathing spies. Kirk and Spock are deemed treacherous and are sentenced to death.

Rila, a water breather, agrees to help them if they will in turn help her find a buried ancient city in ruins whose archives may contain a way to reverse the mutation. They discover that the substance in their blood streams is similar to the ambergris of Earth whales. The reverse mutation is induced by an infusion of an antitoxin made from the venom of a deadly giant sur-snake. The Aquans help them obtain the necessary medicine, but Kirk nearly dies from the vaccination.

In orbit, the USS Enterprise uses its phasers to hit the uninhabited sections of the planet in an attempt to move the quake's epicenter away from the Aquan city and new land masses are born. Grateful for saving their lives, the young Aquans make their ancient records available to the Federation and decide to use the new found medicine to reverse their water-breathing mutations and resume life above ground. Kirk implores them not to lose contact with their underwater ancestors. The elders declare they will pass ordainments to forbid it and this time they will not ignore them.


Episode characters

Arex Na EthCadmarChristine ChapelCheeronJimmy ClaytonDomarJames T. KirkLemusShiboline M'RessLeonard McCoyNephroRilaMontgomery ScottSpockHikaru SuluNyota Uhurasur-snakeunnamed Aquans
Referenced only

Novelization characters

AnkeeArex Na EthCadmarChristine ChapelCheronJimmy ClaytonDomarLena GoldblumJames T. KirkJohn KyleLemasM'marShiboline M'RessLeonard McCoyMoraxNefrelRelaMontgomery ScottSpockHikaru Sulusnake-squidunnamed Aquans
Referenced only
DevilD'irrajD'UbervilleEllisAbraham LincolnMeierM'nassM'naultM'restM'sittN'nanceOxleyTaviUmbaV'rrone

Starships and vehicles

boatUSS Enterprise (Constitution-class heavy cruiser) • USS Hood (heavy cruiser) • Kzinti cruiserNCC-1701/5A (class S-4 aquashuttle)


Episode locations

ArgobridgeForbidden Zonethe galaxyshuttle hangersickbaytransporter room
Referenced only

Novelization locations

ArgobridgeCaitEarthForbidden Zonethe galaxyLlach-sseshuttle hangersickbaytransporter room
Referenced only
Cetacea systemGalactic RimRomeSolStarfleet Science CenterVulcan

Races and cultures

AquanCaitianHuman (GothPrussianTerran) • JariteEdosian or TriexianVulcan
Referenced only

States and organizations

FederationRuling Tribunal of the AquansStarfleet AcademyStarfleet

Science and technology

airlockanthropologyaquariumattendant tankbeam transmitterbelt lightbinocularschemistrycitycommunicatorcomputerdeflector shielddirectional antennadirectional trackerdisruptordistress signaldrone probeecologyelevatorengineforce fieldgeologygenetic engineeringhypospraylibrary computerlight bulblife supportlife support beltlift enginemedical tricordermicroscopephaserphoton torpedophysicspistolpower packrecorderrecord-samplerseismologysensorself-powered meshsociologytelefocalsthermal blankettransmittertransportertricorderuniversal translatorwheelchair

Materials and substances



amphibiananacondaanimalbacteriacephalopodcetaceancoralcrustaceanfelinefernfishflowerhumanoidichthyoidkelplicoricelizardmilkweedminnowmolluskmosspeacockplantsnakesea serpentsur-snakesquidtreewhaleworm

Ranks and titles

biologistcadetcaptainchief engineercommandercommunications officercrewmandiplomatdoctorengineerensignfarmerfirst officerHigh TribunehistorianJunior Tribunelieutenant commanderlieutenantlinguistnurseofficerphysicianpilotpioneerroommatescientistsecurity chiefsecurity officersenior officerspysurgeontransporter chiefwarrior

Other references

alert status (red alertyellow alert) • alienangelassignment patchatmosphereautumnballetblack starboarding partybookbrainbranch classificationbulkheadcaptain's log, USS Enterprise, 2269caduceuscaverncentimetercitycolonycommand chaircoordinatescpheryhm-ajdaydicedredelearthquakeEmergency CycleevolutionexileextinctionFederation Starfleet ranks (2260s)fireG-type stargillglassgoldgraveyardgravityGreco-RomanhearthieroglyphicshistoryhospitalhourkilometerKzinti languagelight-yearlog entrylungmammalianmaskmausoleummedallionmedical log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)meterminutemirrormonthmountainmuseummutationnetOld Daysorbitorchestrathe Ordainmentspeaceplanetpoetrypoltergeistpuppetpyramidrankrelay stationschoolsciencesecondsecurity chambership's log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)skatingstalactitestalagmiteStarfleet ranksStarfleet uniformStarfleet uniform (2265-2270)surgerytabootentacletoyuniverseweekyearzoo




  • In the Log Five novelization of the episode, the Aquans Lemus, Nephro, and Rila are misnamed as Lemas, Nefrel, and Rela.
  • Rather than wear life support belts during Kirk and Spock's treatments to return them to normal, Leonard McCoy and Christine Chapel wore underwater gear, as their movements required more precision than could be trusted within the force fields.
  • Chapel asked McCoy if Kirk needed a shot of adrenaline or aldrazine a few minutes after the first hypospray injection, but McCoy waited to give the serum more time to work.
  • Rather than walking during their visit aboard the Enterprise, Domar and Rila rode in powered wheelchairs, as their flippers weren't designed for walking and, despite their musculature, their legs would tire against the pull of the ship's artificial gravity.
  • Spock believed that it was the first time in history that a Federation starship's geology department directed where to fire phasers and photon torpedoes.
  • Kirk complained about the whining sound made by the transporter.
  • When Rila looked forward to exploring the restored city of Llach-sse, Kirk warned her that her skin might crack and blister in the sun.
  • Following the final statement in the aired episode about not losing contact with each other because of their differences, Kirk explained that minor physical differences led to many conflicts in Earth's past, which he said were exacerbated by the exploitative attitudes of small-minded people.
  • After beaming back to the Enterprise, Spock observed Kirk's skin beginning to discolor again. This was a transition for the next episode adaptation, "The Pirates of Orion", in which Kirk suffered from choriocytosis.

Related stories


published order
Previous episode:
The Slaver Weapon
TAS episode produced Next episode:
The Jihad
Previous episode:
The Terratin Incident
TAS episode aired Next episode:
The Slaver Weapon
Previous story:
first story
Log Five
Log five.jpg
Next story:
The Pirates of Orion
chronological order
Previous Adventure:
Excelsior: Forged in Fire
Chapters 7, 9, 11
Memory Beta Chronology Next Adventure:
Star Trek: The Role Playing Game
The Presence of My Enemies
Previous Adventure:
More Tribbles, More Troubles
Pocket Next Adventure:
The Pirates of Orion


External links