Saturday, October 19, 2013

Star Trek: Errand of Mercy

Holy smokes, it has been a month and a half since I have had a new post of my tour through the original Star Trek episodes. Fear not, I am back on track. Today we finally get to meet the Klingons in the wonderful episode Errand of Mercy. The story has a gives an important message about U.S. Soviet Cold War relations with a great sci-fi ending.

As the episode begins Kirk receives a coded message from Starfleet. He tells Spock that, "Negotiations with the Klingon Empire are on the verge of breaking down. Starfleet Command anticipates a surprise attack. We are to proceed to Organia and take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the Klingons from using it as a base."
Within moments the Enterprise is under attack and returns fire, all without showing the enemy ship. Yes, back in the day the special effects were very expensive and they went to great lengths to only show what they really had to show. The special effects from the battle here were all recycled from Balance of Terror.

Uhura relays a message from Starfleet confirming that the Federation is now at war with the Klingons.

After the opening credits, Kirk puts Sulu in command and warns him of an imminent Klingon attack. Sulu's orders are to protect the Enterprise and flee if necessary. Kirk and Spock beam down to Organia to warn the Organians that the Klingons are coming and to try to convince them to work with the good guys. (So much for the Prime Directive, eh?) Earlier Spock described the Organians as a "very peaceful, friendly people living on a primitive level," that apparently score a "Class D minus on Richter's Scale of Cultures." Really, the Richter Scale of Cultures? It's a big galaxy. By the 23rd Century there must have been lots of Richters with scales for all sorts of things. Right? Oh, well. The point is that the Organians will be defenseless against the Klingons.
Ayelborne greets Kirk and Spock.
Ayelborne takes them to the Council Chambers where Kirk makes his case describing the Klingons as a "a military dictatorship" that will place the Organians into vast slave labour camps with no freedom.  Kirk explains, "Your goods will be confiscated. Hostages taken and killed, your leaders confined. You'd be far better off on a penal planet. Infinitely better off."
The Organians are not even slightly concerned and assure Kirk that they are in no danger. Instead they are worried for Kirk and Spock, which frustrates Kirk to no end.

Spock finds that the Organian culture has essentially not changed in thousands of years. Kirk offers military aide and to help them end disease, hunger and hardship. Again, the Organians are not impressed or interested insisting that they are in no danger at all.

The Klingon fleet arrives and the Enterprise flees to safety. Kirk and Spock are encouraged to blend in with the locals. 
The action picks up when the Klingons arrive and we get to meet Commander Kor, played by John Colicos. Kor is quite simply magnificent and a worthy foil to Kirk. He sweeps in and announces that he is the military governor of Organia. He confronts the Council along with Kirk and Spock.

Kor asks Kirk where is smile is. The "stupid, idiotic smile everyone else seems to be wearing." Kor eventually asks if Kirk welcomes him the way that the Organian Council does. When Kirk says no, Kor responds by saying, "Good, honest hatred. Very refreshing. However, it makes no difference whether you welcome me or not. I am here and will stay. You are now subjects of the Klingon Empire. You'll find there are many rules and regulations. They will be posted. Violation of the smallest of them will be punished by death."

Kor is really the first Star Trek villain than is fun. He shares with Kirk their list of rules on Official Klingon Stationery. Snazzie, isn't it?
Is it me, or is that a TIE Fighter on the Klingon stationery?
The Organians refuse to offer any resistance to the Klingons so Kirk and Spock decide that they must take it upon themselves and begin by blowing up a munitions dump. I am not sure what is in a 23rd Century munitions dump but they blew up the cardboard boxes with a sonic grenade. I am not sure where they got the grenade either.

The Organians are not at all pleased by their actions and ask Kirk to never do this again. When Kirk asks if their personal freedoms mean so little to them, Ayelborne responds by saying "How little you understand us, Captain."

Alas, the Klingons were monitoring the whole conservation and when they enter Ayelborne gives away Kirk's identity. Kor had hoped to meet the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise in battle.
By the way, see that guy between Spock and Kor? He's in the background in a few scenes. I don't think you'll ever see a more clean cut looking Klingon anywhere. It is like they didn't even try to make him look alien. At least Kor has the eyebrows and facial hair.
Kor asks Ayelborne, "Do you always betray your friends?" Before the Klingons take Kirk away, he turns to Ayelborne and says, "I have no desire to die for the likes of you." Kirk and Spock are imprisoned and much to Kirk's surprise they are later released by Ayelborne.

Kor announces that because Kirk and Spock obviously had help in escaping they are killing 200 Organians and will keep killing them until they are returned. So Kirk and Spock decide to take on Kor to keep more Organians from being killed. As they skulk around Kirk asks Spock what he thinks their odds are for being successful. With a straight face Spock says, "Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately 7,824.7 to 1." Of course, this isn't the first time Spock has given such precise estimates. He also did it in The Devil in the Dark. Both episodes were written by Gene L. Coon.

Eventually they break into Kor's office and there's going to be a rumble! Or is there?
Just as the fight starts on the planet and as the Federation and Klingon space fleets meet, all the weapons, controls, and even the bodies of their opponents become too hot to touch.

The Organians walk in and calmly tell Kirk and Kor that, "We cannot permit you to harm yourselves" and that they have put a stop to the violence. Kirk and Kor are not pleased.

Ayleborne explains, "As I stand here, I also stand upon the home planet of the Klingon Empire, and the home planet of your Federation, Captain. I'm putting a stop to this insane war. .... Unless both sides agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities, all your armed forces, wherever they may be, will be immediately immobilized."
Kirk: "Even if you have some power that we don't understand, you have no right to dictate to our to handle their interstellar relations! We have the right-"
Ayelborne: "To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?"

Kirk is properly embarrassed, as he should be, and then the Organians really lower the boom:
"The mere presence of beings like yourselves is intensely painful to us.... Millions of years ago, Captain, we were humanoid like yourselves, but we have developed beyond the need of physical bodies. That of us which you see is mere appearance for your sake."
They then convert to pure energy right before everyone's eyes and Spock drops his F-bomb - "Fascinating" calling the Organians "pure energy, pure thought" and "not life as we know it at all." It's good stuff.

The Organian Peace Treaty that clearly results is later referred to in The Trouble With Tribbles, but conveniently ignored in most later Trek.

Alas, there was no new music written for this episode. It was all tracked from other episodes.

You can watch Errand of Mercy here from It is well worth it.

 Oh, in case you missed it, be sure to check out my Two Great Treks post from earlier today.

Next up, one of the great ones - The City on the Edge of Forever.

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