Star Trek Saturdays #23

It’s time for…Star Trek Saturdays #23!

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This week’s episode is “A Taste of Armageddon” and it’s pretty darn great, with heavy ideas presented in an entertaining matter.

We open with the Enterprise en route with Ambassador Robert Fox (Gene Lyons) to star cluster NGC 321 to open diplomatic relations with the inhabitants. They receive a message from Eminiar VII, the main planet they intend to contact, labeled 7-10, or “stay away at all costs.” Kirk wishes to honor the request, but Fox, who technically outranks him, orders him to proceed because they’ve waited too long to make contact with this planet.

After arriving at Eminiar VII, Kirk, Spock, a yeoman and two redshirts beam down. Conveniently, they’re right at the heart of the planet, at the Division of Control, where the government resides. They’re met by Mea 3 (Barbara Babcock) who tells them that they’re in grave danger. She takes them to the High Council of Eminiar VII to make their case, but the planet’s leader, Anan 7 (David Opatoshu), rejects their offer because they are at war, he says, with the neighboring planet Vindikar, for nearly 500 years. Suddenly, their meeting is interrupted by reports of an attack by enemy forces.

 

(Left: Babcock Right: Opatoshu)

We see that the main city everyone’s in is reported destroyed by enemy fire, but the crew’s tricorders detect no radiation, and the Enterprise doesn’t see evidence of anything happening from orbit. It is Spock who discerns the truth: the “war” is fought entirely with computers. But if that’s true, then why are there reported and confirmed deaths on both sides…?

This episode, such as it is, is obviously meant to instill some fears about technology, which a lot of sci-fi has done. The whole setup of Eminiar VII, actually, sort of put me in mind of things like Metropolis or Logan’s Run (Neither of which I’ve seen yet, but am familiar with, just FYI).

Another surprising thing here is that this episode actually spends a lot of time on Scotty. After being in the background for the most part, he actually gets a chance to shine confronting the hostile ambassador when he’s put in charge of the ship with Kirk and Spock being on Eminiar. It’s a nice thing to happen and James Doohan rises to the challenge, bringing to bear some of the swagger and heft he no doubt exhibited throughout his astonishing military career.

Speaking of acting, every guest star in this episode is pretty awesome: Babcock is chillingly cold as Mea and Lyons is a real jerk, albeit a slightly sympathetic one, as Fox. But the MVP here is Opatoshu, who gives a perfect glimpse at what it’s like to be a leader who does the horribly wrong thing for, to him,  justified reasons.

Regular cast wise, this is very much a Kirk-centric episode. Shatner gets a lot to do here action-wise and he does it well, while Nimoy just sort of rolls with it. Mind you, that’s never a bad thing.

Writing-wise, as I’ve hinted, this is pretty solid, grappling with big ideas–VERY big ideas–in a way that’s entertaining, not didactic. Robert Hamner–the creator of the ’60s television series S.W.A.T. among other things–is credited with the story, co-writing the screenplay with Gene Coon, and he gives us a script that suggests more than one close reading of 1984. It’s still a cracking hour of action, but some of the subtext here will make you think for sure.

Directing once again is Joseph Pevney and, as “Archons” and “Arena” have proved, he’s a good fit for Star Trek, giving lean, punchy direction that allows even the weightier aspects of the story to come down easy. I can’t wait to see what other gems he’s got coming down the pipeline.

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.

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