It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #22!
This week’s episode is “The Return of the Archons” and it’s a cerebral trip that hooks you from the get-go and doesn’t let up.
We open with Sulu and another Lieutenant, O’Neil (Sean Morgan), running down what looks like a recreation of a Puritan-era town, wearing era-appropriate clothing. Sulu tries to calm O’Neil down by saying the ship will get them out of there, but O’Neil protests that there’s no time and “You know what they’ll do to us!” As shrouded men in monk-like robes begin going closer and closer to them, he bolts. Sulu is beamed up, but not before he is hit with a projectile from a staff held by one of the robed figures.
Kirk meets Sulu in the transporter room, asking him what was going on. “Paradise,” Sulu replies, dreamily. “Paradise.”
After the opening, we learn that the Enterprise is in orbit above the planet Beta III to investigate what happened to the Archon, a starship that disappeared near this planet 100 years ago. Kirk, with Sulu safe aboard the ship, beams down himself with Spock, McCoy, sociologist Lindstrom and two security guards, to investigate. They materialize in the exact spot where Sulu and O’Neil were.
They’re approached by several inhabitants, asking if they are “from the Valley” and if they’ve “come for the Festival.” A woman, Tula (Brinoni Farrell) says that her father has rooms for them. A man, Bilar (Ralph Maurer) tells them to hurry for “the Red Hour is almost struck.” Suddenly, the clock strikes 6 and the inhabitants go into an uncontrolled frenzy, cavorting, rioting and looting, completely out of nowhere.
The landing party hustles to where Tula pointed them to, and find Reger (Harry Townes), Hacom (Morgan Farley) and Tamar (Jon Lormer, who previously showed up in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie, Part I”) who all talk in hushed whispers of “Landru.” But who or what is Landru, and why does he permit such strange violence to happen on Beta III?
This is a doozy of an episode, with the opening catapulting you right into action. And boy, what action! We’ve got subterfuge, we’ve got some fighting, we’ve go mysterious men with crazy powerful staffs and a whole bunch of strange elements that blend together to make this episode a thrilling mystery.
Joseph Pevney–who previously directed “Arena”–returns here, and his action skills are just as sharp, using tense camera action to keep the viewer riveted. He’s very quick to use his camera to point out just how unsettling the surroundings are, keeping you on edge. He’s helped by a story from Gene Roddenberry and a script by Boris Sobelman that raises compelling questions about utopian society at its core: can a utopia, the script asks, be accomplished without some vital essence being lost?
Such weighty material gives the cast plenty of work to sink their teeth into, and they do wonderfully. Shatner plays Kirk as the lone voice of reason in the wilderness, desperately trying to convince others to see the truth of what’s around them. Nimoy gets to rock a pretty awesome hooded habit (to cover Spock’s ears, you see) and Towne gives Reger much more dimension than a simple father figure, giving us one of the best guest performances in Trek so far.
If Towne looks familiar, it’s because he’s a character actor who, in his life, popped up in everything from Bonanza to The Incredible Hulk.
Overall, this is a fine episode, another action-packed ride that makes me look forward even more to the episodes to come. Recommended.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.