Rewatching... Star Trek: Errand Of Mercy

My continuing mission: to watch classic television exactly fifty years after original broadcast date...

"...we Klingons play to win"

Thursday 23 March 1967

There's this race of aliens called the Klingons, and Kirk doesn't like them. They're warlike and brutal; Starfleet has just advised that negotiations with them have broken down, and ordered the Enterprise to fly to a planet called Organia and protect the inhabitants.

Spock described Organia as a Class M planet (whatever that means), and I laughed out loud at the phrase "Richter scale of culture"! It gets a 'D' on that scale by the way so don't book any school trips there.

On their way to Organia they are attacked by the Klingons. A mini-skirmish, the Klingon ship is destroyed but as a result of all this: it's WAR! Cue opening titles.

Sulu gets to be in charge of the Enterprise this week, and is warned by the captain not to get involved if a fleet of Klingons arrive, just to run like hell. Metaphorically of course. McCoy must be having a week off as he's nowhere in sight this episode.

Looks like another Earth type planet again this week. We're not seeing so many of those colourful but artificial looking studio bound planets any more. A wise move I think, if that's the direction they're going, as I think it's better if it looks 'real' even if it just looks like Earth every week. They always look better shot on location.

It looks like 'the olden days', complete with a sort of castle or fortress. A man approaches the Enterprise group. This is Ayelborne - not a small town in Oxfordshire actually (I know, I'm sure I've been there), but what seems to be the chief 'old person' in this community. They exchange comically elaborate theatrical hand gestures, which does look rather silly, but on the other hand I applaud the attempt at trying to realistically depict different alien cultures. He represents the Organians and they make the crew very welcome.

They are taken to a sort of council room where they sit around a table and Kirk tries to warn them about the Klingons. These Organians are all elderly men and they seem very relaxed, smiling, peaceful, and completely unphased by Kirk's warnings. They keep repeating that they are in no danger and are more worried about the safety of their human guests.

Later Spock has a word with the captain, telling him that the Organians are "stagnant" and that there has been no technological progress here for centuries. So they return to the meeting and Kirk offers them the progress they lack: schools, technology...but all are rejected by the old men. They're perfectly happy as they are and clearly don't need aliens coming along and telling them how to run their planet. It's a colonial thing isn't it? So called civilised people arriving somewhere they consider primitive and wanting to 'improve' their lives.

Meanwhile the Enterprise comes under attack by the Klingons who soon land on the planet. It seems they view themselves as an occupying force and march into the council room. The Enterprise team have had their weapons confiscated by the Organians prior to this, in order to prevent potential conflict. Fighting bad, smiling good.

The Klingons are a dark skinned race with unusual facial hair. We've had a version of the Roman Empire before of course with the more obviously named Romulans, and this Klingon lot seem to have similarities. Their leader is called Commander Kor. Blimey. I like his exasperation at the Organians and the "stupid idiotic smiles everyone seems to have". He seems to respect the humans more, approving of Kirk's "good honest hatred. Very refreshing." For a man who doesn't trust those who smile a lot he's doing a fair bit of smiling himself.

He doesn't seem so keen on Spock and has him taken away for interrogation. Spock is able to shield his mind though so they don't get the full picture. Spock and Kirk are released and they promptly blow up a munitions dump just to prove what big tough men they are. They think this'll encourage the Organians into action but they are wrong. And what's more the Klingons have been listening in.

Spock is locked up again and Kirk has a man-to-Klingon chat with Kor over drinks. Well Kor has poured himself one anyway, and seems quite taken by the captain, calling them both "two tigers among sheep. Killers." Rarrrrgh! Well...not really! Despite what this episode seems to be trying to preach, I've seen no evidence in the previous 25 episodes that Kirk is a warmongering barbarian! But perhaps Kor knows something I don't. Every time Kirk argues though Kor keeps banging on about his "mind scanner". So he's locked up with Spock, but soon Ayelborne arrives and just lets them out. Just opens the door. Easy as that.

Of course their escape is soon noticed and they put out an announcement over the PA, warning that they'll kill 200 people every so often until the men are returned to them. Creepily the old men carry on smiling despite their hatred of violence. These are the coolest, most laid back people ever.

A hilarious moment when Kirk demands their weapons be returned. Wherever could they be though? Perhaps Kirk will tear the place apart until he finds them. Ayelborne gives in and points to a cupboard...they're in there. The only cupboard in the room! Cunning.

I'm not impressed with the standard of Klingon military training. The one that Kirk and Spock overpower takes literally seconds to give away where his boss can be found. None of that "I'll die before telling you" stuff here.

There's a big old Sixties-style end of episode fight scene...but with a twist: all their weapons suddenly get hot so they drop them. On the Enterprise a similar thing happens with the controls. Turns out the Organians have Special Powers and can stop war like that.

Kirk and Kor bicker like children for a while, the Organians remain calm and dignified. It's clear who the grown-ups are in this episode. Kirk effectively demands the right to wage war if he chooses to. Ayelborne points out that Earth and the Klingons will be friends one day and work together. Yeah right!

We then get to see the Organians' true form. It seems they have evolved from humanoids into pure energy in the form of blinding light. Once again Spock points out that it's life Jim, but not as we know it. I wonder how this evolution happened and what genetic advantage that gave them. I'm sure Darwin would have been fascinated. Imagine the first time a humanoid Organian gave birth to the earliest form of energy-Organian. Perhaps the baby just glowed a bit. And then later, glowing boy met glowing girl and they had a slightly more glowing and slightly less solid baby. Feeding time must have been a nightmare. Eventually there'd be lots of these freakish glowing children, unable to eat, drink, or play hide-and-seek, the parents unable to find clothes for them to wear because they were no longer solid enough to support clothing. I guess it would save on lighting.

But I digress. On the Enterprise Kirk admits that he's embarrassed by his childish outburst, and insistence at the right to fight. Well so he should be.

I've never been fond of these loud-mouthed posturing warmongers (see my review of Space Seed for example), so I found the Klingons incredibly irritating, and therefore this wasn't a particularly enjoyable episode for me. We were presumably supposed to view Kirk and his gang as not much better, but I don't really buy that. However that's the way they were written this week, so I think the Organians came off best in this one.

NEXT!

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Rewatching... Star Trek: Errand Of Mercy
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