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Kirk plunges into a watery world of hostile mutants! — "The World Beneath the Waves" was a comic book story published by Gold Key Comics in February 1977, the 43rd issue of their TOS series. It was the 15th comic written by Arnold Drake and the fifth drawn by Alden McWilliams. In this story, Leonard McCoy's estranged daughter Barbara McCoy joined the USS Enterprise crew to explore an underwater civilization.


The strange water world was threatened from within – threatened by its own genes! The king's answer was, kill the rebels at birth! Thus the strangest of all civil wars was brewing as the crew of the Enterprise prepared to visit...The World Beneath The Waves.


Captain's log, stardate 19:26.03:

Priority 2-A message from Starship Command HQ has interrupted previous schedule...

The Enterprise is diverted to pick up a technical advisor and a new assignment. At the coordinates, a small craft lands on the hangar deck, and Barbara McCoy disembarks. Her father Leonard greets her with a hug. James T. Kirk asks why she will be needed on a mission when the ship already has three xenobiologists aboard. She mentions having written a paper on adaptability to severe climate change, and has prepared a mission briefing which will explain.

In Barbara's quarters, Leonard is enthusiastic to get to know Barbara. But his daughter is reticent, sniping at him not having done so in the past and not looking to bond. Leonard remarks she has a bitter streak. Overhearing from the doorway, Kirk steps into the room to address the concerns. He says that in the brief time he's known her, he's become fond of her, but no family tension will be allowed to interfere with the smooth operation of the ship. She acknowledges the order with a salute. Kirk suggests he and Leonard review the mission briefing. Outside, Leonard laments that if he hadn't been "out here chasing glory," he might still have a family. Kirk reminds him of duty handbook paragraph 28, sub-paragraph G that "the long and disorienting tours of SF duty recommend no long-term relationships."

A virtual-reality briefing on Bwuja shows that seven thousand years ago, radioactive debris from an ancient supernova incinerated the planet's surface, completely destroying the cities of the Bwujans and boiling the tops of the oceans. Having seen the storm approach for several centuries, a small portion of Bwujan civilization with gill transplants managed to survive in deep trenches below the sea. Over time, the surface cooled and gill mutations gave the Bwujans natural water-breathing ability. Radiation had since subsided on the surface. The Enterprise was assigned to study the underwater society as it is today, having gone through the fastest natural adaptation on record.

Scott visits Barbara, telling her that Leonard is a decent man. But Barbara says the job of his daughter is vacant.

Kirk, Spock, Leonard and Barbara beam to the surface in diving gear. They ingest comp-ox capsules, which provide enough oxygen to breathe for 24 hours. Swimming down one mile, they are met by a trio of Bwujans riding large, purple, domesticated Bwujan porpoises. They lead the landing party to an undersea city and an audience with King Raan XIV and Queen Saya, who speak via telepathy, which Barbara sees as another mutative adaptation to undersea life. She says they came to be friends and learn from them, but Raan calls them air breathers from another world, condemns them as part of air-breathing ancestors who "made the gods angry and destroyed our surface land," and says they will be tried and executed in two days.

Captain's log, stardate 30:21.4:

Captives of the underwater world we had come to study, our march to imprisonment is interrupted by a sombre sight.

En route to their cell, they see a funeral procession, a baby casket with two pall bearers and six family members. Once in the cell, water is pumped out and they are in an air chamber. Hearing tapping from a wall, they phaser a hole and tunnel into another room containing air-breathing Bwujans, people who had been born without gills. One of them, Lojo, says one out of many thousands are born without gills. Publicly, they appear to be killed, but Raan secretly sends them to the air-filled caverns. Some try to climb to the surface, but mutated beasts called agaaras kill them. Lojo says Raan and Saya have lost their own child prematurely, and Saya can't bear another.

As the landing party follow the route of the climbers, they encounter an agaara, which charges and grabs Barbara. Leonard saves her life by distracting the creature with phaser fire. It drops her and chases him. Although it resists the phaser beams, it eventually breaks it apart before it can kill him.

When they reach the surface, they find a young boy who brings them inside a cave to meet his parents, former climbers now living on the surface. Tako, the boy's father, says 58 people live on the surface, 14 of whom have been born there. They don't try to help air-breathers below for fear Raan will have them all killed.

Spock suddenly cries out, and outside Kirk finds Spock held at knife-point by Raan, who had followed them. Lamenting his own compassion, Raan accuses the air-babies of building the world his priests warned of, air-breathers who will threaten his undersea world. He declares that the surface king has to die, and, dragging Spock into the cave with him, discovers their king is Doro, a child. His raises his knife anyway, but Saya appears and stops him. Doro is actually their own child. Saya had given birth to an air breather, but fearing that Raan would kill the child, Saya lied about its death and instead left it on the surface. Tako says they'd found the baby on the shore and raised it as their leader.

Realizing Doro could have been with them all along if Raan had been honest with Saya, Raan decides the child should live in the air caves near them. But Tako's wife proposes an alternative. She shows them her second child, who is a water-breather. Raan has an air-breathing child, and Tako has a water-breathing child. Following her logic, Spock suggests that the two families exchange children so both can live in their natural environments, and they all agree.

Back on the ship, Leonard and Barbara seem to have mended their differences. Spock observes that the forced child separations on Bwuja must have affected the McCoys.



AmuDoroJames T. KirkLojoBarbara McCoyLeonard McCoyRaan XIVSayaMontgomery ScottSpockTakoTako's wifeNyota Uhuraunnamed Bwujans
Referenced only
DevilRudyard KiplingJocelyn Treadway (?)

Starships and vehicles

USS Enterprise (Constitution-class heavy cruiser) • shuttlesubmarines


Referenced only
Earth (Sahara)

Races and cultures


States and organizations


Ranks and titles

bardbiochemistcaptainchief medical officercouncilordoctorkingpoetpriestprofessorqueenrebelscientistsenior officertechnical advisorsci-tech

Science and technology

A-bombairlockcomp-ox capsuledaggerdepthometerengine roomhelmetharpoonlingua-discmechanical gillmenta-pixphaserradiationsensorspacesuitsupernovatelescopetool belttransplanttransporterxeno-biologist


agaarabutterflyBwujan porpoiselizardjellyfishmonkeyporpoiseseahorsesquid

Other references

19th century20th centuryairatombeambouldercarnivalcavecellcenturycigarcivil warcommunicationcoordinatesdayduties handbookexecutionfirefiring squadfuneralgenehistoryhourhyperspacelight speedmarriageminutemoonmutationobduriumoceanoxygenpaperplantprison cellpyramidsquartersring systemsecondsectorskeletonstarstarshipstonesupernovasuperstitiontelepathytombtransporter roomtreewateryear


Related media


The story took place at least three weeks after the events of TOS comic: "Furlough to Fury", unless Barbara McCoy had already started training for the Bwujan mission during the events of that story.

c. 4700 BC
c. 4400 BC
  • Surface of Bwuja is incinerated, with survivors having migrated into ocean trenches.
c. 2900 BC
  • First Bwujan born with natural gills.


  • Spock quoted, "Ours is not to reason why," which he attributed to Rudyard Kipling. The quote was actually from "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Tennyson: "Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die." Kipling's poem about the brigade does not contain the verse. Kirk made the same quote 19 issues earlier, in "The Trial of Captain Kirk", and correctly attributed it to Tennyson, to which Spock had replied, "a perceptive gentleman." (The Charge of the Light Brigade article at the Poetry Foundation websiteand The Last of the Light Brigade article at the Kipling Society website)
  • The landing party dove 2,600 feet (792.48 meters) before encountering the first Bwujans, then traveled further down before entering the city. Comp-ox capsules might have compensated for all their breathing needs, but additional uncited medical assistance would be needed for this dive. The pressure at that depth would be a crushing 78 atmospheres, and nitrogen narcosis would be a risk when entering the air-filled caverns and making the half-mile climb back to the surface. (Pressure at depth calculator at the Blue Robotics website and Deep_diving article at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.).
  • Raan assessed that the visitors were air breathers from another world, although there appeared to be no way he could have known that. The Bwujans appeared human, and thanks to the comp-ox capsules the landing party would appear to be breathing water, and could just as easily have been mistaken for Bwujans from another city. Perhaps the landing party identified themselves a few moments before, not shown in the story. Or Raan jumped to conclusions because the visitors were neither telepathic nor radioactive, and their necks were covered by clothing, suggesting no gills.
  • Raan and Saya seemed to have no difficulty being on the surface during their visit with Tako's family. Perhaps they were using telepathy and holding their breath.
  • The stardate in the second log jumped ahead more than a year. That span of dates was inconsistent with their usage in TOS.
  • Nyota Uhura was only seen from the back in one panel at the communications station when the priority message arrived from Starfleet.

Barbara McCoy

  • Dr. Barbara McCoy was introduced three issues earlier, in "Furlough to Fury". In that story, she suggested to Kirk that she might one day do offworld studies for Urey University, and if so they might meet again, planting the seed for her reappearance in this story.
  • Barbara was presented a little differently in her prior appearance. She had black hair and, while also estranged, seemed much less bitter about her father. She was a civilian doctor, an assistant professor of xenozoology at Urey University. In this story, she wore a Starfleet uniform with lieutenant stripes. Given her background, temporary Starfleet service may have been the method through which her civilian offworld studies were arranged.
  • In the previous story, as one might expect of a xenobiologist, Barbara was extremely comfortable around large, alien animal life. She allowed herself to be suspended by the tentacle of a Rykunian octopus while feeding it. She cultivated a delicacy for, and fed, a mammoth bear-like vrell, which hugged her, and she later put herself in harm's way for the animal. She said she took care of dozens of animals. In this story, though, she shrieked in terror at the sight of the large agaara, yelling "look at that – thing!" The behavior seemed inconsistent. It had to have been an instinctive reaction to a deadly threat from an unknown lifeform, as opposed to the familiarity of animals in her lab.



Gold Key Comics stories and publications
Issues "The Planet of No Return" • "The Devil's Isle of Space" • "Invasion of the City Builders" • "The Peril of Planet Quick Change" • "The Ghost Planet" • "When Planets Collide" • "The Voodoo Planet" • "The Youth Trap" • "The Legacy of Lazarus" • "Sceptre of the Sun" • "The Brain Shockers" • "The Flight of the Buccaneer" • "Dark Traveler" • "The Enterprise Mutiny" • "Museum at the End of Time" • "Day of the Inquisitors" • "The Cosmic Cavemen" • "The Hijacked Planet" • "The Haunted Asteroid" • "A World Gone Mad" • "The Mummies of Heitius VII" • "Siege in Superspace" • "Child's Play" • "The Trial of Captain Kirk" • "Dwarf Planet" • "The Perfect Dream" • "Ice Journey" • "The Mimicking Menace" • "Death of a Star" • "The Final Truth" • "The Animal People" • "The Choice" • "The PsychoCrystals" • "A Bomb in Time" • "One of Our Captains Is Missing!" • "Prophet of Peace" • "Furlough to Fury" • "The Evictors" • "World Against Time" • "The World Beneath the Waves" • "Prince Traitor" • "Mr. Oracle" • "This Tree Bears Bitter Fruit" • "Murder on the Enterprise" • "A Warp in Space" • "Planet of No Life" • "Destination... Annihilation!" • "And a Child Shall Lead Them" • "What Fools These Mortals Be.." • “Sport of Knaves” • "A World Against Itself" • "No Time Like the Past" • "Spore of the Devil" • "The Brain-Damaged Planet" • "To Err Is Vulcan" • "The Empire Man!" • "Operation Con Game"
Additional stories "James T. Kirk: Psycho-File" • "A Page From Scotty's Diary" • "Spock: Psycho-File" • "From Sputnik to Warp Drive"
Collections Star Trek Annuals (1969197019721973197419751976197719781979198019831986) • The Enterprise Logs (Volumes 1234) • The Key Collection (Volumes 12345) • Gold Key Archives (Volumes 12345) • Gold Key 100-Page Spectacular
Related media "Voyage of Discovery" • "The Exile" • "The Red Hour" • "The Tunnel of Death" • "... Wild Goose Chase!" • "A Hint of Life" • "Space Chase" • "Escape from the Clinging Dags" • "Eye of the Beholder" • "The Menace of the Mechanitrons" • "Trial by Fire!"


Published Order
Previous comic:
#42: World Against Time
TOS comics (Gold Key) Next comic:
#44: Prince Traitor
Previous story:
World Against Time
Stories by:
Arnold Drake
Next story:
Prince Traitor
Chronological Order
Previous adventure:
Furlough to Fury
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
The Animal People
Previous comic:
Furlough to Fury
Voyages of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), Year Two Next comic:
The Animal People
Production history
February 1977
First published by Gold Key Comics.
June 2004
Printed in the omnibus The Key Collection, Volume 5. (Checker Book Publishing Group)
September 2008
Included on The Complete Comic Book Collection DVD. (Graphic Imaging Technologies)
27 September 2018
Reprinted in Graphic Novel Collection #46. (Eaglemoss)
Dutch: In the omnibus Ruimteschip Enterprise Classics Strip-Paperback #2. (De Vrijbuiter)
German: As "Welt unter den Wogen" in the omnibus Raumschiff Enterprise Comic Taschenbuch #2. (Condor)
German: As "Welt unter den Wogen" in some editions of Condor Superheiden #1: Star Trek Jahrbuch. (Condor-Verlag)
Italian: As "Il Mondo al di Sotto del Mare" in the omnibus The Gold Key Collection, Volume 10. (Free Books)

External links