“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!”
Let This be our Last Battlefield
Season 3, Episode 15
Original air date: January 10, 1969
The planet Ariannus has been subjected to a plague and the Enterprise is on its way to decontaminate it. A ship, they identify as a shuttle stolen from Star Base 4 two weeks prior, appears on their sensors. It won’t respond to hails and has one life form aboard, but it is losing life support. They put on a tractor beam and bring it into the shuttle bay. Kirk and a security team head down to meet it, and as the shuttle bay doors open a man with a face that is half white and half black tumbles out of the door and collapses on the floor. In sick bay, Kirk, McCoy and Spock talk about the unconscious alien and determine that his odd coloration must be a genetic mutation – one of a kind. McCoy treats the man while Spock questions his ability to do so, not knowing anything about his alien physiology. Spock leaves sick bay as the man awakens. Kirk accuses him of stealing the shuttle craft, the man – named Lokai -claims he was simply using it and his need was great. He is from the planet Cheron, which is in an unexplored portion of the Galaxy. He is antagonized by Kirk and refuses to answer any more questions.
Back on the bridge, a small ship has appeared on sensors but can’t be seen on the view screen. It heads straight for the Enterprise but disintegrates at the last minute. The one life form aboard is suddenly on the bridge, another mono-chrome alien who introduces himself as Bele and apologizes for the way he came aboard. He says he is an official from Cheron and is there to bring Lokai to justice as he has been found guilty of treason but escaped. Kirk explains that they have no extradition treaty with Cheron and won’t just let him take Lokai without due process. He does let him see Lokai but reminds him that the Enterprise is his ship and he’s in command.
In sick bay Lokai is horrified by Bele’s presence. Lokai and Bele argue about his “treason” with Lokai claiming his people were treated as slaves, with no rights just oppression. Bele claims they were treated with compassion but they would need to wait for equal legal treatment etc. etc.. They continue to yell and Bele has to be physically restrained from Lokai by Kirk. Lokai demands political asylum and Bele demands he is handed over. Kirk says that Lokai is his prisoner and Bele is his guest, but he will not decide anything that will be left to Star Base 4 after they have completed their mission to Ariannus. Bele says that is not satisfactory but Kirk directs him to his quarters and assumes the issue is settled.
Chekov contacts Kirk and tells him that the ship is suddenly off course and they can’t fix it. They have no explanation; neither Spock, Sulu, Chekov or Scotty can do anything to get back control. They go to red alert and in sick bay, Lokai uses the distraction to leave his bed. Spock figures out they are being directed to Cheron. Bele comes on the bridge to assume command telling Kirk that they’ve changed course by his will, explaining he’s been chasing down Lokai for 50,000 years and he will bring him to justice. Lokai enters the bridge and he and Bele begin their argument anew. Kirk orders them taken to the brig, but they both emit a force field that pushes back the security people. Kirk orders them stunned with phasers but the same thing happens, they are unaffected. Kirk tells Bele the ship will be under his control or he will destroy it. Bele doesn’t believe him, so Kirk and then Spock and Scotty in turn activate the self-destruct sequence. The countdown begins and Kirk tells Bele once they get to five seconds they can’t undo the destruct. At the last moment Bele relents and gives back control of the ship. Bele tells Kirk he can certainly complete his mission of mercy on Ariannus, but afterward he wants to be taken to Cheron. Kirk says he will not negotiate the command of the ship. Kirk tries to lecture them both about the Federation and their peaceful integrating of many cultures and people, but they are unmoved. He gives them free movement around the ship but warns them not to interfere with the operations.
Loakai is in the mess hall lecturing some of the Jr. Officers about the oppression his people have faced on Cheron. His pleas, more rationally presented than his arguments with Bele, get a sympathetic ear from Sulu and Chekov. Spock overhears his talk. In Kirk’s ready room, he and Spock host Bele for some drinks as they await a message form Star Base 4 about what they are to do with their guests after the Ariannus mission. Spock verbally spars with Bele about the nature of his dispute with Lokai and his people. They get word from Star Base 4 that after the mission they are to bring Bele and Lokai there and Lokai will get due process before perhaps being sent back to Cheron with Bele. Bele is not happy with this, he is afraid that the delay will allow Lokai to gain allies or escape as he has so many times before. Bele says to Spock and Kirk that they clearly can see Lokai’s inferiority. Kirk says they are exactly the same, but Bele reveals that the inferiority / superiority system on their planet is based on which side of the face is black and which is white. Bele is white on the left side and Lokai on the right. Spock tries to get Bele to understand how the Vulcans long ago used logic to settle their violent tendencies but Bele sees no value in this, just making a knock about humans being descended from apes. Kirk and Spock tell him that surely there must have been a time in the past when all beings on Cheron were one color or the other, but Bele dismisses this out of hand.
The Enterprise carries out I’s mission over Ariannus and heads to Star Base 4. Kirk, Spock and Bele head to the bridge, but Bele has once again taken control over the ship and has burned out the circuits that control the self-destruct mechanism. He is taking them to Cheron. Lokai comes on the bridge asking if this is the justice the Federation stands for, and why they don’t kill Bele. Chekov says they don’t kill. Bele and Lokai go after each other with an energy field around them that threatens to destroy the ship. Kirk tells them if the ship is destroyed, they are both dying with it, neither getting what they want. They pull apart. Spock now has Cheron on sensors and finds only destruction. All major cities are destroyed, all sentient life is dead, with unburied corpses on the streets. Bele and Lokai go back after each other as Kirk tries to reason with them, to give up their hatred. Lokai leaves the bridge and Bele follows, they chase each other around the ship while visions of the planet’s destruction are imagined by them both. Lokai beams down to Cheron and then Bele follows. The bridge crew laments their hatred, as Kirk orders the Enterprise to head back to Star Base 4.
Known to Fans As:
Not subtle racism episode
Notable Guest Stars:
Frank Gorshin as Bele: Gorshin had many memorable television roles, but was really more of a stand-up comedian and impressionist than an actor. Working at a movie house as a youth he perfected impressions of the day’s biggest movie stars; like Brando, Bogart and Cary Grant. These impressions won him a talent contest that led to bigger and bigger night club and casino gigs. He appeared innumerable times on Tonight with Steve Allen and The Ed Sullivan show – appearing the night the Beatles debuted. Nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of The Riddler on Batman, his most well-known TV role, Gorshin went on to do all the usual guest star stints on Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Hawaii Five-0 and the like – but in larger roles often where the focus of the episode was on his character- like in this one. His last really prominent role was as Dr. Fletcher in 1995’s 12 Monkeys. A lifelong heavy smoker, Gorshin died in 2005 of lung cancer at the age of 72.
Lou Antonio as Lokai: Antonio’s biggest acting role was as a fellow prisoner of Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, but he did some other small parts in various shows. It was really as a television director that he made his career. Starting in the 60’s up until about ten years ago he directed episodes of almost every popular TV show you’ve heard of. Starting with Gentle Ben, through The Partridge Family, McMillan & Wife, The Cosby Show, The West Wing, CSI and then reunited with friend William Shatner in Boston Legal. (I’m not sure they’re friends but Antonio seems to have been involved as a director of almost every television project Shatner has done in the last 50 years, could be a coincidence I guess.) Antonio is 86.
Lokai keeps asking them to give him justice and kill Bele, but he knows what his species powers are and that they can’t do anything – he just seems whiney.
We see other Trek series use this same basic self-destruct scene, with the Captain, First and Second officers having to verify the code in sequence.
Kirk has turned up phasers to kill many times before but won’t do that here.
They seemed to get to Cheron, an uncharted planet in a far-off part of the galaxy very fast.
Bele shorted out the navigation system and the self-destruct but Scotty has navigation back up and running almost right way.
They were barely close enough to Cheron to use sensors and then less than two minutes later were close enough to beam there, and once again they didn’t know they’d beamed there until after they left, they couldn’t have stopped them or put up shields.
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: None
Damn it Jim: Nothing memorable
Kirk’s Shirt Off: No
Aged the Best:
This is a tricky one. Clearly, it’s about racism, but Lokai isn’t given any more sympathy then Bele. It’s more about mutual hatred than Lokai having valid claims of oppression. Seems like it’s less about the civil rights movement and more about the black power movement, which sought to use force to bring about social change rather than the non-violent solution advocated by the (at this time) recently murdered Dr. King. Lokai could easily be Stokely Carmichael and Bele George Wallace. Unfortunately, this episode with a few minor changes, could air today. Make Bele a sheriff whose officers killed an unarmed black man and Lokai an activist who arranges a protest that gets out of control and one of the sheriff’s men is killed. Things are certainly better for the average African American in 2020 than in 1969, but not equal, certainly not equal.
Again, this is so much of its time but then not. Kirk kind of plays the role of the average late ’60’s white American who sort of sympathized with King and isn’t necessarily racist, but also is simply scared by the Black Panthers and the like. It’s really multi-layered and they cover a lot of that ground in a short time.
I always wondered if Lokai talking to the Jr. Officers and Bele with Kirk and Spock was supposed to lead to a division among the crew, one side sympathizing with one and one with the other? That would have made for a very interesting episode but it was probably one of those things were it would have been too much for one episode but too little for a two part one.
As for that side plot, how nice would it be if we could just fly a ship over the earth and decontaminate it?
Aged the Worst:
Boy they really wanted to show us the decontamination of Ariannus, huh? That was like a five-minute sequence. Could have easily been Scotty just telling Kirk, “Decontamination complete Captain” and then we would move on. It’s not really even a “B” plot, it’s just a thing that also happens.
The make-up looks bad in HD. You can see the rings of pink around the eyes and mouth (like our President) and the thin pink line down the middle between the two sides. Then of course they used that white powder make-up for the white side that doesn’t reflect the stage lights, but black grease paint for the other side that does.
Gorshin is great, and I understand why they didn’t want Bele played by a white guy and Lokai by a black guy – but in retrospect wouldn’t the episode have had more impact if they were both black actors, or Asian actors, in make-up? I mean it’s not like it was subtle anyway.
The flashes to burning buildings and the stupid running around the ship went on way too long.
A, probably the best episode of the second half of season 3.
Tomorrow’s Episode: All Our Yesterdays (This is the last one, I’ll do a wrap up on Wednesday.)