“Space, The final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
A taste of Armageddon
Season 1, Episode 23
Original air date: February 23, 1967
The Enterprise is headed to Star cluster NGC321 on a diplomatic mission to try and open relations with the people of Eminiar VII. Ambassador Robert Fox will lead the mission stressing to Kirk how important it is to open a dialogue with a planet in this part of the galaxy. Upon reaching the planet, they are sent a Code 7-10 from the surface, meaning they wish no contact. The Ambassador orders Kirk to ignore that instruction and stresses that he’s in charge of the mission. Kirk is afraid for his ship, but on the insistence of Amb. Fox, he goes to yellow alert and prepares to make contact. Spock informs Kirk that the USS Valiant went missing after trying to make contact with Eminiar VII many years before, but otherwise it seems to be an advanced planet with no signs of warfare.
Kirk and Spock along with Lieutenants Galloway, Osborn and Tamula beam down to the planet where they are met by Mea 3 who has advanced enough technology to know exactly were they will materialize. Mea takes the away team to meet with the High Council which is led by Anan VII. Kirk tells them they wish to establish diplomatic relations; Anan tells them that’s impossible as they are in a state of war and have been for 500 years. Kirk says the planet seems peaceful and there is no evidence of warfare. Anan assures them that they lose 1-3 million people each year in their war with the third planet in the system, Vendikar. Just then, they state they are under attack lamenting the huge fusion bomb explosions in the capital. Kirk can’t hear or feel the expected affects of such explosions and radios to Scotty, who has been left in charge of the Enterprise, and he confirms there is no evidence of any damage. Spock deduces and Anan confirms that they wage this war by computer simulated attacks and each side then agrees to disintegrate within 24 hours the people that were simulated to have been killed. Kirk is shocked by this, while Spock mentions that it is very logical. Anan is glad Spock approves, to which Spock replies that he “understands, but does not approve.” Anan informs Kirk that unfortunately since they were in orbit, they became a target for Vendikar and their ship was registered as destroyed, therefore all personnel must come to the surface for disintegration. Kirk of course refuses, so he and the rest of the party are taken into custody until the Enterprise agrees.
Scotty then receives a message from Kirk telling him the talks are going well and the Eminiarians have granted the entire crew extended shore leave and they should all start beaming down at once. Scotty picks up on the ruse and confirms via the computer that the message was simulated, we see Anan sending the message. In their comfortable cell Spock and Kirk discuss Vulcans’ (more on this later) psychic abilities, he uses this ability through the closed door and wall, getting the guard to open the door where he is disarmed by the landing party. As they leave the room, they stumble upon a disintegration chamber which Kirk destroys with the disruptor he took from the guard. Anan is informed of the escape and orders the Enterprise be fired on, the Enterprise’s shields prevent any damage, but the Helmsman informs Scotty they wouldn’t be so lucky if the shields were down. The Ambassador orders Scotty not to fire back on the planet to which Mr. Scott reluctantly agrees.
Back on Eminiar VII Kirk and Spock incapacitate a few more guards and weapons for themselves and the male Lieutenants, along with two uniforms that allow Galloway and Osborn to pose as Eminiarian guards. Kirk stops Mea from entering a disintegration chamber and tries to reason with her, telling her he wants to stop the war. On the Enterprise, the Ambassador speaks to Anan who tells them it’s all a big misunderstanding and they should come to the planet so they can negotiate. Ambassador Fox orders Scotty to lower the shields as a show of good faith, but he refuses, even when threatened with prison. McCoy agrees with Scotty, sighting both the firing of weapons and the previous deception, the Ambassador leaves in a huff. Kirk finds Anan in his quarters and they talk. Anan offers Kirk a drink which he accepts as he tells Anan that he can end the war and if not, Kirk will destroy Eminiar, with or without his ship. The Councilman presses some hidden buttons under a table and when they leave the room Kirk is overpowered by the guards (after fighting off four of them successfully.)
Ambassador Fox and an ill-fated aide / assistant, beam down to the planet’s surface where he is immediately taken into custody by the Eminiarian forces. Fox quickly realizes the error of his smugness, but luckily is rescued by Spock and the red shirts. During a tussle the aid, who never gets a name or a line, is killed. Back in the council chamber Anan opens a channel to the Enterprise telling Kirk he must order them to the surface as they are almost out of time to finish the disintegrations. Kirk uses the opportunity to tell Scotty to carry out General Order 24. Kirk tells Anan that the whole planet will be destroyed by the Enterprise in two hours regardless of what they do to him. Anan tries to fire on the ship but they are out of range. Kirk distracts the guards long enough to gain control of a weapon and thus the whole room, just as Spock comes in to “save” Kirk. Kirk and Spock, getting back their communicators and phasers, destroy the war computer. Anan tells them that this will break the treaty with Vendikar and they’ll have real weapons fired at them, Kirk tells him that he’s counting on that. Kirk explains that they’ve made war so neat and clean that there’s no reason to end it, only the threat of total destruction will bring them to the negotiation table. Ambassador Fox offers to serve as an impartial arbitrator between Eminiar and Vendikar, an offer to which Anan agrees.
Back on the ship, Kirk is informed from Ambassador Fox that the talks are hopeful. Spock points out that Kirk was taking an incredible risk in his actions. Kirk points out that it was a calculated risk that seemed to work out. Spock finds that illogical.
Known to Fans As:
Notable Guest Stars:
Barbara Babcock as Mea 3. A lot of these one-off guest stars have had whole careers in similar roles, this week on Perry Mason, murder suspect on Hardcastle and McCormick etc. Babcock falls somewhere in the middle of a star like Montalban and one of these bit players. She was a long-running cast member on several shows, most notably on Hill Street Blues for six seasons playing Grace Gordon, a role for which she won the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1981. She also had a long run as Dorothy Jennings in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Babcock, 83, lives in Carmel, California and has been suffering with Parkinson’s Disease since 2004.
Gene Lyons as Ambassador Fox. Lyons’ early career was on Broadway in the 1940’s where he starred in Witness for the Prosecution and other theatrical productions. Making his way to TV he did guest spots on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Virginian and many others before becoming part of the regular cast of Ironside as Police Commissioner Dennis Randall. Lyons suffered from alcoholism his whole adult life and succumb to that disease at only 53 years old in 1974.
David Opatoshu as Anan 7. Opatoshu was another reliable guest star in dozens of TV shows, both comedies and dramas from the late 1940’s all the way up to the early 1990’s. From the Twilight Zone, to Mannix to The Bionic Woman, to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century to his final spot in the short-lived Gabriel’s Fire; Opatoshu was always working. His most famous role however was probably as the Irgun leader in the 1960 epic, Exodus starring Paul Newman.
Spock calls his people Vulcanians.
Spock can somehow Jedi mind trick people through the wall, Vulcan psychic ability is dialed up or down depending on the plot even to this day. (Sarek and Michael communicating across thousands of light years in Discovery for example.)
They can only fire “some” phasers with the shields up, yet Fox is able to beam down to the planet with the shields up. Once again; the limitations of weapons, transporters and shields in relation to each other is at service of the plot only.
General Order 24 will crop up again in TOS in the third season episode Whom Gods Destroy, which wasn’t very good and will not be part of these reviews.
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: One, on an Eminiarian guard who should have seen it coming.
Damn it Jim: Very McCoy light episode.
Kirk’s Shirt Off: No
Aged the Best:
I don’t know if aged is the right way to phrase it, but the consistent plot points that any outsiders from the regular cast are idiots was brought home again. Much like in modern TV where if our heroes are local police, then the FBI is honing in on their business and don’t understand what they’re up against, whereas if our heroes are the FBI then the local police are narrow minded yokels who need to get out of their way. Ambassador Fox is a total idiot after apparently decades of diplomatic experience whereas Kirk is right about everything.
This episode is really about the Neutron Bomb. While in actuality It’s more complicated than this, the general public was sold on the Neutron Bomb as a weapon that kills the people but leaves all the infrastructure intact. In the popular imagination you could drop one on East Berlin and a couple days later just waltz in and turn back on the water and electricity and invite some West Berliners to pick out their favorite apartments. Not caring how many people die as long as the economic engine keeps chugging along – glad we don’t have those conversations anymore.
Aged the Worst:
The male Lieutenants have phasers, the female lieutenant Tamula (the first Asian woman we’ve seen on Star Trek) has the tricorder. Although she does get to hold a phaser on Mea 3, she’s not even considered to be part of the rescue party – she’s there to take notes.
The whole Eminiar Council was middle-aged or older white guys. Just like every current White House task force.
So that Aide to Ambassador Fox is not only not mentioned as a casualty or discussed in any way – he also gets blindsided and taken into custody by the Eminiarians and doesn’t say a word? There was really no reason for him to be in the episode at all, his dying didn’t add to the tension or anything.
B+, little heavy-handed Shatner, don’t you think?
Tomorrow’s Episode: The Devil in the Dark