Star Trek Rewatch

Star Trek Re-Watch: “The Omega Glory”

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“The Omega Glory”
Written by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Season 2, Episode 23
Production episode: 2×25
Original air date: March 1, 1968
Star date: Unknown

Mission Summary:

As the Enterprise approaches the planet Omega IV, they notice another vessel in orbit. It appears to be a Constitution-class starship, the USS Exeter, but it won’t respond to any hails. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Lt. Galloway (start your redshirt timer…) beam over to the ship. They discover… nothing. The ship is empty. All they see are uniforms lying around, filled with some kind of white crystals.

MCCOY: These white crystals. That’s what’s left of the human body when you take the water away, which makes up ninety-six percent of our bodies. Without water, we’re all just three or four pounds of chemicals.

Uh, no one tell his high school science teacher, OK? (We’re about 70% water.) They play the final log tape, the “Surgeon’s Log.” They see a haggard and visibly suffering ship’s surgeon on the viewscreen explain that they’ve all been infected with some kind of virus. That virus will have also infected Kirk and anyone else onboard the ship. Their only hope is to beam to the surface. He then collapses dramatically.

You didn’t run, did you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

They beam down and find some Asian men in fur get-ups beating a white man and his female companion, also in fur get-ups. They’re about to slice off the guy’s head (with a katana, no less) but the landing party’s arrival throws everything off. Suddenly Ron Tracey, the Exeter’s captain, enters and tells the men to stop. He appears to be their leader, which sets off a few red flags with Kirk—if you’re an Iron Age society’s leader, you probably violated the Prime Directive. Just a guess.

Tracey explains that he, too, is infected with the virus, but that Omega IV has kept him alive. The place has a natural immunizing effect that wards off all disease. The Kohms (the Asian men) are in charge, and the Yangs (the white men) are primitive animals, “impossible even to communicate with.” What a terrible place, right? But the virus means that they’ll die if they ever leave the plane, so they’re stuck with the Kohms and Yangs for good.

McCoy begins work on isolating a cure, if he can. Spock and Lt. Galloway return from some kind of excursion, but Galloway is injured. Spock explains that the Yangs attacked them with a lance—they are truly savage creatures. But while gallivanting around, Spock found, amongst hundreds of Yang bodies, an empty phaser power pack. From Tracey’s phaser. He’s been violating that Prime Directive like CRAZY. Kirk calls Tracey a “fool” but agrees with Spock: he must report this to Starfleet.

Just as Kirk is about to hail Enterprise Tracey comes in, with his throng of Kohm followers. Lt. Galloway tries to fire his phaser at them but Tracey zaps him into oblivion. The Kohns swipe the weapons and communicators from the landing party, and Tracey hails the Enterprise himself, telling Uhura that the landing party is unconscious from the disease. She seems skeptical, but what can you do?

Finally, we learn Tracey’s real plan. Mr. Wu, Kohn’s right-hand-man, is over four hundred years old. The men there live to be hundreds, even thousands of years old, thanks to some magical property on the planet. Tracey is determined to find out what it is, isolate the serum, and then market it—a fountain of youth that grants near immortality. For a reasonable fee, of course. (Does this planet have a secret cohort of Ferengis?)

Kirk of course is too good a man for this, and some man-fighting ensues. Tracey wins. He sets McCoy up with a lab to isolate the serum and locks Kirk up with the two Yangs from the beginning of the episode.

The Yangs are decidedly not friendly. The man promptly attacks Kirk, and some more man-fighting ensues. But the woman gets a little too close to Spock (who is in the next cell) and he nerve-pinches her. When she collapses, the man goes to tend to her, finally leaving Kirk alone.

Kirk and Spock talk theories of how this society came to be as if the Yangs weren’t even there. Spock thinks it has to do with a bacteriological holocaust, in which “the yellow civilization is almost destroyed” and “the white civilization is destroyed.” Um. Yeah. Tactful, this Roddenberry fellow. Kirk tries loosening the bars on his window, the key to their freedom. But the moment Kirk says the word “freedom” the male Yang looks sharply at him.

MALE YANG: That is a worship word. Yang worship. You will not speak it.

Oh ho ho! Look who can talk! Though the man is suspicious since Kirk seemed to be in cahoots with the Kohns, Kirk gets him to help him pry loose the bars. At which point the man uses it as a shank to whack Kirk on the head.

Spock looks on helplessly.

About seven hours later, Kirk finally comes to. Luckily the man pried open all the bars, so Kirk is able to get away and unlock Spock’s cell. They quickly disable the guard outside McCoy’s lab and rejoin the good doctor. McCoy explains that after whatever horrible war devastated these two races, the planet “built up natural immunizing agents.” But once those agents finish their immunization process, they work forever. The Exeter crew would have survived if they had just stayed on the planet a few hours.

KIRK: Then we can leave any time we want to. Tracey is of the opinion these immunizing agents can become a fountain of youth. There are people here over a thousand years old, Bones.
MCCOY: Survival of the fittest, because their ancestors who survived had to have a superior resistance. Then they built up these powerful protective antibodies in the blood during the wars. Now, if you want to destroy a civilisation or a whole world, your descendants might develop a longer life, but I hardly think it’s worth it.
KIRK: Then anything you develop here as a result of all this is useless.
MCCOY: Who knows? It might eventually cure the common cold, but lengthen lives? Poppycock.

Spock has rigged a crude communication device and they’re about ready to beam away from this terrible place. But, of course, Tracey steps in. He shoots Spock with his phaser and accuses Kirk of releasing the Yang to warn his tribe. The Yangs attacked the Kohms and overran them. Tracey looks like he’s been mauled by a mugato and it’s clear the Kohns lost this one.

KIRK: We can beam up at any time. Any of us.
TRACEY: You’ve isolated the serum?
KIRK: There’s no serum! There are no miracles! There’s no immortality here! All this is for nothing!

But Tracey won’t take no for an answer. He demands that Kirk hail his ship and get more phasers, to fight back against the Yangs. Kirk does, and of course Sulu, who’s in command, refuses on the grounds that it would violate the Prime Directive. This devolves into some more man-fighting (yawwwn) but their little scuffle is interrupted by a group of Yangs with spears, who take them prisoner.

The landing party (plus Tracey) are held by Yangs in furs with spears. This leads Kirk to thinking…

KIRK: If my ancestors were forced out of the cities into the deserts, the hills…
SPOCK: Yes. I see, Captain. They would’ve learned to wear skins, adopted stoic mannerisms, learned the bow and the lance.
KIRK: Living like the Indians, and finally even looking like the American Indian. American. Yangs? Yanks? Spock, Yankees! 
SPOCK: Kohms? Communists? The parallel is almost too close, Captain. It would mean they fought the war your Earth avoided, and in this case, the Asiatics won and took over this planet.
KIRK: But if it were true, all these generations of Yanks fighting to regain their land….
MCCOY: You’re a romantic, Jim.

But it gets better. A Yang brings out a tattered American flag. Then, the Yang from the cell earlier (whose name we now know is Cloud William. YES I KNOW), puts his hand on his heart and recites a mangled version of the Pledge of Allegiance. Kirk springs up and finishes the pledge. This freaks out the Yangs—how does he know their “holy words”? Tracey accuses Kirk of being “the evil one” who was “cast out of heaven.” He then accuses Spock of being the devil—and when Cloud opens up his Bible, it’s got a great picture of this skeevy-looking guy who looks a lot like Spock. Then, the nail in the coffin: Tracey tells the Yangs that Spock “doesn’t have a heart.” Cloud listens to his chest, and sure enough, he doesn’t hear one, because Vulcans have a heart somewhere else. Cloud demands one final trial: whoever can speak the “holy words” without his tongue turning to fire is the good one. He begins speaking gibberish and waits for either Tracey or Kirk to follow.

Kirk has no idea what he’s saying, but that’s OK because he has an ace up his sleeve!

KIRK: No, wait! There’s a better way. Does not your sacred book promise that good is stronger than evil?

…what’s that supposed to mean? Oh right, man-fighting. Some MORE man-fighting ensues, and during the struggle Spock begins using his magical demon powers to hypnotically suggest the Yang female. She is affected by it, taking the communicator and bringing it to Spock. Spock is able to hail the Enterprise just as Kirk wins, holding a blade against Tracey’s throat.

A landing party beams down, totally confused about what’s going on. But the Yangs have seen enough. Cloud Williams drops to his knees and calls Kirk a god, vowing to serve him. But Kirk explains that the words they wanted him to say—he did not understand, they were so jumbled. He walks to a chest containing the sacred document. He opens it…

…and it’s the Constitution.

KIRK: Hear me! Hear this! Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying We the People. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words, ’We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.’ These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!
CLOUD: The Kohms?
KIRK: They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing! Do you understand?
CLOUD: I do not fully understand, one named Kirk. But the holy words will be obeyed. I swear it.
(Kirk leaves the Yangs to gaze at the old papers with new eyes.)
SPOCK: There’s no question about his guilt, Captain, but does our involvement here also constitute a violation of the Prime Directive?
KIRK: We merely showed them the meaning of what they were fighting for. Liberty and freedom have to be more than just words. Gentlemen, the fighting is over here. I suggest we leave them to discover their history and their liberty.

Analysis:

The first ten minutes of this were a strong Warp 5. The next 25 minutes were a solid Warp 3. But the last 15 were an appalling Warp Factor 1.

I was actually really excited about the mystery of the dehydrated crew. The empty Exeter had an eerie Hiroshima feel to it, the uniforms like silhouettes of the former crew emblazoned on the consoles. It actually gave me shivers. Then they beamed down to Racially Awesome Land where we learn that the “yellow civilization” is a bunch of genocidal Mongolian communists whose unrepentant evil forced whitey to devolve into Native American “animals.” Did anyone actually SEE this episode before it went on the air? I mean, even if you’re willing to forgive the excruciating racism (a big if), the sheer ludicriousness of the communist paranoia should be fodder for a million jokes. If those “Asiatic” communists win WE WILL ALL TURN INTO WOLVES. Think of the children! What the hell, Gene Roddenberry?

When they brought out the tattered American flag, I just about died. It felt kind of like that bizarre National Guard/Kid Rock advertising campaign, where you can’t actually believe anyone was supposed to respond to this with inspired awe because it’s just the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen and you can’t wait to go make fun of it on the internet.

And now that I have done that and had fun with my hyperbole, I’ll talk about it a bit more seriously: it’s racist, it’s offensive, and it’s baffling all at once. For a show whose mantra is the Prime Directive, Star Trek doesn’t just stomp on it here, it actively espouses cultural imperialism as the only way to set right so-called backwards societies. Granted, they’ve done it before, but never so blatantly and only as a “last” (interpreted generously) resort. Kirk has this nice moving speech in the beginning that “a star captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive.” HAHA that’s a good one, Kirk. I would love to see the Federation constitution that spells out the Prime Directive, with a little asterix footnote: “Not valid in CA, RI, or with James T. Kirk.” Tracey only wanted immortality—not so evil, really, just human—but Kirk actually comes in and accuses the Yangs of “slurring,” or polluting, the American values that should be held so high above all others. After his impassioned speech about freedom and liberty, Kirk demands to know if Cloud understands that the laws must apply to everybody and Cloud responds: “I do not fully understand, one named Kirk. But the holy words will be obeyed. I swear it. ” Because nothing says freedom and liberty like “OK you just tell me what to do and I’ll obey.” You don’t obey! That’s the whole point of freedom, ja?

Things that were awesome: McCoy trying to grab the tuning fork thing (but getting caught); the illustration of Demon Spock; Kirk shouting that there are no miracles. And…that’s all I can think of in the awesome category.

This misguided attempt at American patriotism is like a big sloppy wet kiss: so outrageous that at best, it’s uncomfortable to watch, and at worst it’s kind of revolting and oh god did you have to use tongue I can’t watch. Except I did. For you. And now I never have to see it again. Hurrah!

Torie’s Rating: Warp Factor 1

 

 

Eugene Myers: Few Star Trek episodes have such a promising setup and then go so far off the rails. The opening mystery on board Exeter tricked me into thinking this might be a different episode from the one I was dreading (further aided by a DVD mixup—I thought I was watching “By Any Other Name”). I had completely forgotten the plot involving Crazy Tracy, the infection, and the “immunizing” potential of Omega IV. I’d probably have given the first act of this episode a Warp 5, but the warp engines fail midway through and the show limps in just short of Warp 3 at the end.

 The situation on Exeter is creepy and intriguing, though the piles of white crystals in Starfleet uniforms immediately evoked the 1966 Batman movie for me. It’s always fun to see a “different” ship on the show, but it sure seems that the majority of captains are completely nuts, always craving power and/or immortality. They need better psychological screening, yeah? You also would think that the crew of Exeter would set up an automatic warning or distress signal, so investigating crews won’t find out about the infection until it’s too late.

Once Kirk and the others beam to the planet, the episode begins its slow decline. The “Yangs” and “Kohns” are still wince-inducing, fully lacking in subtlety and vaguely offensive in their portrayals of white men acting like Native Americans in silly furs and yellow “Asiatics” in Mongolian costumes. But it’s not trying to be subtle, is it? They go out of their way to draw the obvious parallels, and the planet is improbably similar to an alternate Earth where they have struck on the same flag, pledge of allegiance, and exact phrasing of the Constitution of the United States. If Spock doesn’t believe it, why should we? (Granted, it’s theoretically possible that given enough worlds, parallel Earths like this might well exist somewhere in our universe, if not in another one, but it certainly wouldn’t develop in the same galaxy.)

This episode is heavy on propaganda. The suggestion that the ideals of the Constitution must “apply to everyone” doesn’t seem problematic to anyone—in the same episode where the non-interference principle of the Prime Directive is extolled as the highest law. In today’s society, I found it especially chilling that Kirk accuses the Yangs of “slurring the words” of their Constitution and emptying them of meaning. Despite Kirk’s fervent patriotism for an ancient Earth “tribe” and his cocky announcement that the Consitution describes freedom better than any document before or since seems somewhat out of place, I do admire his passion. And the Constitution is a pretty good document. I thought it was a nice touch that Spock stops the security men from leading Tracey away just long enough for him to hear Kirk’s rah-rah-America speech. I might have forgiven some of the silliness of the Yankee-Communist reveal, but the incorporation of the “Star-Spangled Banner” crosses the line and highlights just how goofy the premise is.

This episode has one other mighty flaw: Spock’s use of hypnotism to force the woman to bring him a communicator. When I saw that, my first thought was, “Oh crap! Spock is the devil!” This ridiculous Vulcan ability that is rarely used in Star Trek, but I believe it does make at least one more appearance in another episode. (If he can use a Jedi mind trick whenever he wants, all tension is removed from any predicament he finds himself in. And you have to wonder why he allowed her to beat up his captain earlier in the episode.) It’s also too bad that they continue to beat the idea of immortality to death. The concept of an immunizing planet as a fountain of youth was new at the time, at least in Star Trek, but it’s revisited in later series—most notably Deep Space Nine.

I was happy to see Sulu in command of Enterprise, but where was Scotty? And why would he beam down into a potentially dangerous situation when all the other senior officers were already in trouble? (Incidentally, I hope someone told him and the red shirts that they need to cool their heels on Omega IV for a little while before beaming back to the ship, given that pesky infection that will kill everyone if they aren’t immunized first.)

Speaking of weird diseases… Man, the 1990s were rough; they had both the Eugenics War and bacteriological warfare experiments? How did any of us survive? Maybe there’s another planet out there where we didn’t, huh? There’s a plot for the next Star Trek movie. Writing is easy!

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 2 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: MCCOY: “Spock, I’ve found that evil usually triumphs unless good is very, very careful.”

Syndication Edits: Spock walking to the science station to play the Exeter’s logs; three different sections of the fight between Kirk and Cloud Williams; the scene where Tracey forces Kirk to order more phasers, and Sulu’s refusal to do so; the buildup to the entrance of the flag; Cloud sticking the knife in the floor before Kirk and Tracey fight.

Trivia: Morgan Woodward, who plays Captain Tracey, appeared before as Simon Van Gelder in “Dagger of the Mind.” Both times he was a little off his rocker.

The voice of Roy Jensen, who played Cloud Williams, was digitally slowed for the episode.

Though Lt. Galloway dies here, he re-appears in “Turnabout Intruder” and “Day of the Dove” (though in the latter he is Lt. Johnson).

Other Notes: “The Omega Glory” was actually written two years earlier, in 1965, and was one of the three episodes considered for the pilot. (The other two being “Mudd’s Women” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the latter of which was ultimately chosen.) In the original draft, the ship’s doctor was Milton Perry and he was killed in action during the course of the episode.

The original draft is very different from the episode aired. Originally, when Kirk beamed down and met Tracey, the man looks younger. It  turns out to be psychosomatic response to not having a captain’s responsibilities. Spock, on the other hand, had actual powers over women: he uses it to obtain information from an Omegan woman early on, then later touches the top of a woman’s head and she falls to the floor, dazed. He brought her out of it by closing her eyes and slapping her face. It was this hypnotism that led the Yangs to accuse him of devilry.

The original ending had a western-style gunfight, complete with rifles.

And regarding how this parallel planet could have gotten the Constitution down to the calligraphy: apparently an earlier draft of the script heavily implied that the Yangs and Kohms were descendants of settlers from the ’60s space race. Their ancesters were the first space colonists, and on Omega IV the Cold War played out and ended differently. This doesn’t jive with the final script, though, if we’re to believe that the Kohms really can live to be 1000 years old (the ’60s space race would have only been two hundred years ago).


Next episode: Season 2, Episode 23 – “The Ultimate Computer.” U.S. residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.


Torie Atkinson thinks they should’ve just called them Morlocks and been done with it.

Eugene Myers wan in da korz uff oomn eelens, id bekkems neces ery forn pebli too dizzlev da powticle banz… Right?

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