The World Beneath the Waves was a comic book story published by Gold Key Comics in February 1977. In this story, Leonard McCoy’s estranged daughter Barbara McCoy joined the USS Enterprise crew to lead a mission exploring an underwater civilization.

Publisher's descriptionEdit

Cover blurb
Kirk plunges into a watery world of hostile mutants!


Captain’s Log, stardate 19:26.03
Priority 2-A message from Starship Command HQ has interrupted previous schedule…

The Enterprise was diverted to pick up a technical advisor and a new assignment. At the coordinates, a small craft landed on the hangar deck, and Barbara McCoy disembarked. Her father Leonard greeted her with a hug. James T. Kirk asked why she would be needed on a mission when the ship already had three xeno-biologists aboard. She mentioned having written a paper on adaptability to severe climate change, and had prepared a mission briefing which would explain.

In Barbara’s quarters, Leonard was enthusiastic to get to know Barbara. But his daughter was reticent, sniping at him not having done so in the past and not looking to bond. Leonard remarked she had a bitter streak. Overhearing from the doorway, Kirk stepped into the room to address the concerns. He said that in the brief time he’d known her, he’d become fond of her, but no family tension would be allowed to interfere with the smooth operation of the ship. She acknowledged the order with a salute. Kirk suggested he and Leonard review the mission briefing. Outside, Leonard lamented that if he hadn’t been “out here chasing glory,” Leonard might still have a family. Kirk reminded him of duty handbook paragraph 28, sub-paragraph G that “the long and disorienting tours of SF duty recommend no long-term relationships.”

The briefing on Bwuja was provided via menta-pix, a multi-sense virtual-reality system. The cultured humanoid life there discovered that the path of radioactive debris from a supernova would wash across the surface of their world in three hundred years, incinerating the surface. Their only hope was to migrate deep undersea. Over the next two centuries, they developed an artificial gill transplant to live underwater. By the time the surface was destroyed, only a small percent of the population had been able to migrate, living in the deepest ocean trenches and caves when the surface of the oceans boiled. Ignorant of mutative properties of radiation, scouts sent to the surface either died or returned near death, and they concluded that the surface was damned. For the next 1,500 years they continued to survive with gill implants until a natural random mutation produced a child born with gills. The trait was dominant, and passed along over the generations until everyone was born with gills. The disaster happened 7,000 years ago, and radiation had since subsided on the surface. The Enterprise was assigned to study the underwater society as it was today, having gone through the fastest natural adaptation on record.

Scott visited Barbara, telling her that Leonard was a decent man. But Barbara said the job of his daughter was vacant.

Kirk, Spock, Leonard and Barbara beamed to the surface in diving gear. They ingested comp-ox capsules, which provided compressed oxygen enough for them to breath for 24 hours. Swimming down 2,600 feet, they were met by a trio of Bwujans riding large, purple, domesticated porpoise-like creatures. They led the landing party to an undersea city and an audience with King Raan XIV and Queen Saya, who spoke via telepathy, which Barbara saw as another mutative adaptation to undersea life. She said they came to be friends and learn from them, but Raan called them air breathers from another world, condemned them as part of air-breathing ancestors who “made the gods angry and destroyed our surface land,” and said they would be tried and executed in two days. They were to be taken to “Air Cell No. 4.”

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 the cell, they saw a funeral procession, a baby casket with two pall bearers and six family members. Once in the cell, water was pumped out and they were in an air chamber. Hearing tapping from a wall, they phasered a hole and tunneled into another room. In the room were air-breathing Bwujans, people who had been born without gills. One of them, Lojo, said one out of many thousands was born without gills. Publicly, they appeared to be killed, but Raan secretly sent them to the air-filled caverns. Some tried to climb to the surface, but mutated beasts called agaaras killed them. Lojo said Raan and Saya had lost their own child prematurely, and Saya couldn’t bear another.

As the landing party followed the route of the climbers, they encountered an agaara, which charged and grabbed Barbara. Leonard saved her life by distracting the creature with phaser fire. It dropped her and chased him. Although it resisted the phaser beams, a shot at "max-d" setting eventually broke it apart before it could kill him.

Finally they reached the surface. There they found a young boy, who brought the landing party inside a cave to meet his parents, former climbers now living on the surface. Tako, the boy’s father, said 58 people lived on the surface, 14 of whom had been born there. They didn’t try to help air-breathers below for fear Raan would have them all killed.

Spock suddenly cried out, and outside Kirk found Spock held at knife-point by Raan, who had followed them. Lamenting his own compassion, Raan accused the air-babies of building the world his priests warned of, air-breathers who would threaten his undersea world. He declared that the surface king had to die, and, dragging Spock into the cave with him, he discovered their king was Doro, a child. His raised his knife anyway, but Saya appeared and stopped him. Doro was 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 said 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 decided the child should live in the air caves near them. But Tako’s wife proposed an alternative. She showed them her second child, who was a water-breather. Raan had an air-breathing child, and Tako had a water-breathing child. Following her logic, Spock suggested that the two families exchange children so both could live in their natural environments, and they all agreed.

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



AmuDoroJames T. KirkLojoBarbara McCoyLeonard McCoyRaan XIVSayaMontgomery ScottSpockTakoNyota UhuraWife of Tako
Referenced only 
Rudyard Kipling

Starships and vehiclesEdit

USS Enterprise (Constitution-class) • shuttle



Races and culturesEdit


States and organizationsEdit


Ranks and titlesEdit

kingpriestqueensupreme councilorsupreme majesty

Science and technologyEdit

adaptationair-breatherairlockcomp-ox capsulegenetic mutationmechanical gillmenta-pixphaserradiationspacesuitsupernovatelescopetransplantwater-breatherxeno-biologist

Other referencesEdit

agaaraBwujan porpoiseBwujan seahorsecavesduties handbookfuneralmax-d settingocean trenchpyramidssector coordinate



published order
Previous comic:
World Against Time
TOS comics
(Gold Key)
Next comic:
Prince Traitor
chronological order
Previous Adventure:
Furlough to Fury
Memory Beta Chronology Next Adventure:
Prince Traitor


  • Dr. Barbara McCoy was introduced three issues earlier, in TOS comic: "Furlough to Fury". In that story, she suggested to Kirk that she might one day do her offworld studies for the 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.
  • Barbara said she trained underwater using the compressed oxygen capsules for three weeks prior to this mission. Additionally, making arrangements for offworld studies from the university and at least temporarily joining Starfleet would have taken additional time. The elapsed time between stories could be no sooner than three weeks unless training for this mission started prior to the events of TOS comic: "Furlough to Fury".
  • 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, Lord Tennyson: “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” Kipling’s poem about the brigade, “The Last of the Light Brigade”, does not contain the verse. Kirk had said, "Ours Not to Reason Why..." 19 issues earlier (TOS comic: "The Trial of Captain Kirk") and correctly attributed it to Tennyson, and Spock had replied, "a perceptive gentleman."
  • 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 they would have needed additional medical assistance for this dive. The atmospheric pressure would be a crushing 78.57 atmospheres at that depth, and nitrogen narcosis would be a risk when entering the air-filled caverns and making the half-mile climb back to the surface.
  • 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.
  • The stardate in the second log jumped ahead more than a year. That span of dates was inconsistent with their usage in TOS.
  • Uhura was only seen from the back in one panel at the communications station when the priority message arrived from Starfleet.

Related storiesEdit


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