Thursday, January 1, 2015

Star Trek: Bread and Circuses

It is time for another episode of Star Trek. Today I bring you:
The crew of the Enterprise is looking for a missing starship, the SS Beagle, when they encounter a trail of debris from a ship, but no sign of human remains.
The debris trail leads them to planet 892-IV, which is very Earthlike. Spock reports that "the proportion of land to water is exactly as on your Earth. Density five point five, diameter seven nine one seven at the equator, atmosphere seventy eight percent nitrogen, twenty one percent oxygen. Again, exactly like Earth."  Kirk is not impressed noting that the oceans and landmasses are "quite different."

I guess he knows what he talking about, as he's previously been to a planet that was an exact duplicate of Earth--back in the train wreck that was Miri. Still, 892-IV is too much like Earth to make this story work for me.
Uhura picks up a TV broadcast showing that the society on the planet below speaks English and appears to be a 20th Century Rome. Coo1, Romans in Space! No, not so much.

Later, Spock says that the world is a "complete Earth parallel" and Kirk cites "Hodgkins's law of Parallel Planet Development" to sort of explain it all away. Um, okay. I guess there are all kinds of worlds out there that have very nearly the same history with the same languages and cultural references too. I would have bought it if it had been a case of cultural contamination (as we see later on in A Piece of the Action), but that's not the case here at all.

The writers had an opportunity to make a commentary on slavery, but spent more time in the episode picking on network television. That's too bad.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to look for the missing crew of the Beagle and are promptly captured.
They quickly make friends with their captors, a group of runaway slaves, and Spock checks out their reading material. Yeah, their equivalent to LIFE or Look magazine is hawking cars like the Jupiter 8. Kirk explains that they are looking for missing friends and they learn of Merikus, the First Citizen. Interesting as the captain of Beagle was named Merik, a guy who didn't make the cut at Starfleet Academy.
We learn that the runaway slaves worship the Son, which of course sounds like Sun and director Ralph Senensky gives us the visual cue to intentionally throw us off.
They set off to find Merikus and are promptly captured and thrown in the slammer. Naturally, our heroes are able to break out, but not for long. They are re-captured but meet Merik and Procounsel Claudius Marcus who want nothing more than to have Kirk beam down his entire crew so that they can fight and die in the arena on TV.
In an effort to convince Kirk to capitulate Spock and McCoy are forced to fight on TV ("in color") while Kirk looks on. Are they watching aboard the Enterprise? Apparently not. Strange, isn't it?
Spock and McCoy surprise everyone by winning and are thrown back in the slammer, while Kirk is given his own beautiful slave for the night as an enticement into the Roman life. As they say, "when in Rome....."
The next morning Kirk still isn't willing to cooperate. Claudius (sitting) wants to talk to Kirk alone and gives Merik (in orange) a slam, asking him to leave, saying "The thoughts of one man to another cannot possibly interest you." Zing!

Kirk is to be executed on TV, but Scotty saves the day. He's arranged for a there to be a power outage, just 'cause, and it happens to be right when Kirk is to be executed. They'd know that if they were watching Roman TV, but they aren't. Instead he was just plain lucky that his actions allowed Kirk to escape.
Kirk breaks out Spock & McCoy and Merik helps too by signaling the ship. The landing party beams out just as the bad guys arrive to riddle their beaming bodies with machine gun bullets. Apparently to no affect.
Merik is dead, but everybody else is saved (Yay!) and apparently the Romans can all be saved too as Uhura give us the big reveal at the end. The slaves don't worship the sun in the sky, but instead the Sun of God -- making Bread and Circuses the Easter Episode* of Star Trek. Ugh.

The episode does have some great Spock & McCoy moments, but otherwise it doesn't do anything for me at all.

*There are other "holiday" Trek episodes too. Charlie X is great for Thanksgiving and Dagger of the Mind is perfect for Christmas, as these holidays are specifically mentioned in the episodes. I would add that The Omega Glory is the natural for Independence Day (or maybe Constitution Day, but nobody remembers when that is anymore) and that Journey to Babel is perfect for Father's Day.

EDIT: Thanks to a commenter for reminding me that I somehow left out Trek's Halloween episode, Catspaw

Speaking of Journey to Babel, that will be the next episode here.


  1. You forgot the other holiday episode of Star Trek - Catspaw!

  2. Phil, you are right. I'm not sure how I managed to forget that. I'm going to update the post to put it in.

  3. I would like in the episode does have some great Spock and mccoy moments, but otherwise it doesn't do anything for me at all.