Jul 3 2009 6:23pm

Star Trek Re-watch: “Errand of Mercy”

“Errand of Mercy”
Written by Gene L. Coon
Directed by John Newland

Season 1, Episode 26
Production episode: 1x 27
Original air date: March 23, 1967
Star date: 3198.4


Mission summary
Peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon Empire are breaking down, so the Enterprise is ordered to Organia, which isn’t a sex resort like it sounds, but a planet of “peaceful, friendly people living on a primitive level.” Actually, that still sounds like a sex resort, doesn’t it? Organia’s only value is its strategic military location; Kirk compares it to Armenia and Belgium in Earth’s history, “the weak innocents who always seem to be located on the natural invasion routes.” They must reach the planet before the Klingons and prevent them from establishing a base there. Starfleet Command’s communique also mentions the possibility of a surprise Klingon attack. Not long after decoding this message, the Enterprise is indeed attacked, but they quickly destroy the enemy ship. The debris hasn’t even cleared before they receive a code one alert from Starfleet. “Well, there it is,” Kirk says. “War. We didn’t want it, but we’ve got it.” And without a store receipt, they can’t even exchange it for something they do want. Committed to their duty, they set course for Organia at warp seven.

They reach Organia and learn that a Klingon fleet is already in the area. Kirk puts Sulu in command of the Bridge, with orders not to engage the enemy. If attacked, he is to escape and warn Starfleet, leaving Kirk and Spock behind on Organia. (He must still be hoping for a sex resort.) The captain and first officer beam down into a Renaissance Faire. The rustic villagers fail to react to their sudden appearance. The ruins of a vast fortress loom in the distance, like a big sore thumb in the otherwise backwater locale. An elderly man welcomes the visitors and introduces himself as Ayelborne, chairman of the Council of Elders, the only position of authority on the planet. Kirk follows him to the council chambers for a chat while Spock goes sightseeing.

Kirk tells the Organians that the Klingons are coming to take over the defenseless planet, but his impassioned warnings fall on deaf ears. Kirk persists: “The Klingons are a military dictatorship. War is their way of life. Life under the Klingon rule would be very unpleasant. We offer you protection.” But the council members seem convinced they are in no danger at all. Increasingly frustrated, Kirk feeds them more propaganda on the countless horrors the Klingons will inflict on their people, then apologizes, “I’m a soldier, not a diplomat. I can only tell you the truth.“

While they deliberate the Federation’s offer of protection, Spock returns from his tour and tells Kirk that Organian society is stagnant: “For tens of thousands of years, there has been absolutely no advancement, no significant change in their physical environment. This is a laboratory specimen of an arrested culture.” This gives Kirk another bargaining chip. When the Organians refuse their help, he sweetens the deal with the promise of technological advancements to improve their lives. They still aren’t interested and advise Kirk and Spock to leave before they’re put in danger. Too late—Sulu interrupts to inform them that the Klingons have arrived and are attacking the Enterprise.

Kirk tells Sulu to save the ship and alert the fleet. One of the council, Trefayne, says that the Klingons are beaming down to the planet and keeps up a play-by-play commentary as armed Klingons approach the citadel. When Kirk asks how he knows what’s happening, Ayelborne says, “Oh, our friend Trefayne is really quite intuitive. You can rest assured that what he says is absolutely correct.”

Kirk and Spock are trapped on the planet with the Klingon occupation army. To hide them, Ayelborne disguises Kirk as an Organian named Baroner, swapping his Starfleet uniform for peasant garb (still in command yellow), and tries to pass Spock off as a D&D elf trading “kevas and trillium.” He also confiscates their phasers, to prevent them from taking any violent action against the Klingons. Then a Klingon bursts into the council chambers and introduces himself as Kor, “military governor of Organia.”

Kirk, as Baroner, draws Kor’s attention because he isn’t smiling like the rest of the Organians. When Kor orders his men to take Spock to the “examination room” for questioning as a spy, Kirk protests—which is also un-Organian behavior. For showing a little backbone, Kor appoints “Baroner” as the liaison between the Klingons and the Organian civilians, responsible for keeping order.

Kor takes Kirk to his office in the castle and gives him a lengthy list of Klingon Proclamations to enforce. Klingon soldiers bring Spock into the office and announce that he passed his examination, which consisted of a “truth finder” at force four:

It’s a mind-sifter or mind-ripper, depending on how much force is used. We can record every thought, every bit of knowledge in a man’s mind. Of course, when that much force is used, the mind is emptied. Permanently, I’m afraid. What’s left is more vegetable than human.

Kirk’s pretty disgusted with the device, but Spock seems all right. Though the Klingons believe his cover story, he’s designated as an “enemy alien” under constant watch. Kirk and Spock leave the castle and walk about the village. When a Klingon bodychecks Kirk, Spock restrains the captain and apologizes for getting in the Klingon’s way.

KIRK: You didn’t really think I was going to beat his head in, did you?
SPOCK: I thought you might.
KIRK: You’re right.

They have more important things to do anyway. They hope that if they can strike back against the Klingons, they can stir the passive Organians to action. They decide on some “simple and plain communicating,” in the form of a night raid in which they blow up the Klingon munitions dump with a sonic grenade. The Organians question them afterwards in the council chamber and Ayelborne begs them not to enact such violence again. Kirk tries to convince them:

History is full of examples of civil populations fighting back successfully against a military dictatorship. We may not be able to destroy the Klingons, but we can tie them up. Blow up their installations, disrupt their communications, make Organia useless to them.

Kor, who has bugged the office, realizes he’s picked the wrong man to serve as his liaison to the Organians. He bursts into the office again and says he’s going to use his “mind scanner” on Kirk before killing him. Ayelborn blurts out Kirk’s true identity to protect him from the scanner (forgetting the “killing” part of Kor’s threat). Kirk’s reputation precedes him, and Kor seems thrilled to have the captain of the Enterprise. Kirk is rather pissed at the Organians: “I’m used to the idea of dying, but I have no desire to die for the likes of you.” But he’s given a momentary reprieve, as Kor follows the villain’s handbook and decides to talk to the captain before killing him.

Kor offers Kirk a drink and says that the Klingons and the Federation are alike, but Kirk will have none of it: “We’re nothing like you. We’re a democratic body.” Kirk continues to give his trademark glib responses; when Kor questions him about the positions of the Starfleet ships, he answers, “Go climb a tree.” Kor threatens to dissect Spock and run the scanner on Kirk in twelve hours if he doesn’t cooperate, then sends Kirk to join the Vulcan in the dungeon.

After nearly six hours in their cell, Kirk and Spock are still conspiring to stop the Klingons if they ever get out of there. Ayelborne arrives and lets them out, explaining that “(y)our captors plan to do violence to you. That we cannot permit.” He leads them to the only other set built for this episode, the council chambers, where Kirk ask him about his wishy-washy behavior and mysterious abilities.

KIRK: First you turn us in, then get us out. What are you doing now, waiting for the Klingons to post a reward so you can turn us in again and collect it?
AYELBORNE: How little you understand us, Captain.
SPOCK: Nor do we understand what happened to the guard at the citadel.
AYELBORNE: Please do not concern yourself about them.
KIRK: What happened to them?
AYELBORNE: Why, nothing happened to them, Captain. Nothing at all.

Ominous, much? Kirk continues to berate the Organian for his “idiotic placidity,” but Ayelborne repeats, “To us, violence is unthinkable.” Not so for the Klingons, who implement “Special Occupation Order Number Four”: the murder of 200 Organians, with the intent of killing another 200 every two hours until Kirk and Spock are turned in. One wonders what occupation orders one through three are like.

Kirk is adamant that no more will die on his watch. They force Ayelborne to return their phasers: “Gentlemen, I have no great love for you, your planet, your culture. Despite that, Mr. Spock and I are going to go out there and quite probably die, in an attempt to show you that there are some things worth dying for.“

Yup, definitely not a diplomat. While he and Spock storm the castle, Ayelborne and the other council members decide they will have to stop the violence themselves. Kirk and Spock easily dispatch the Klingon guards in the castle and locate Kor’s office. They burst in on him for a change and immediately disarm the commander. Kor helpfully mentions that the Federation fleet is on its way. Kirk can’t avoid making a gratuitous chess reference.

KIRK: Checkmate, Commander.
KOR: Shall we wait and see the results before you kill me?
KIRK: I don’t intend to kill you unless I have to.
KOR: Sentimentality, mercy. The emotions of peace. Your weakness, Captain Kirk. The Klingon Empire shall win. Think of it, as we sit here, in space above us the destiny of the galaxy will be decided for the next ten thousand years.

But Kor has another trick up his sleeve. He tells them that Klingons are stronger than humans because they don’t trust each other—they’re always under surveillance. The Klingons who have been watching Kor’s office arrive to save him and Kirk scrambles for a firefight, but then everyone in the room drops their weapons. They can’t even bear to fight hand-to-hand, and on the Enterprise the Bridge crewmembers jump away from their stations.

Ayelborne and Claymare stride in and explain that they’ve stopped the violence by heating all of the Klingon and Federation weapons to 350 degrees—and they don’t mean to bake cookies. As if that isn’t enough, they drain power from their ships, too. Ayelborne says, “As I stand here, I also stand upon the home planet of the Klingon Empire, and the home planet of your Federation, Captain. I’m putting a stop to this insane war.” Claymore adds, “We find interference in other people’s affairs most disgusting, but you gentlemen have given us no choice.” Kirk and Kor insist that they have a right to settle their differences on their own terms, but end up proving the Organians’ point by arguing with each other over whether the Klingons or the Federation started the war in the first place.

Kirk tries one last time to convince the Organians to side with the Federation, since the Klingons killed 200 of their people, but Ayelborne tells him no one has died—everything on their planet is a sham, including the buildings, which Spock surmises were created so visitors can “have conventional points of reference.” They are beings of pure energy, the product of millions of years of evolution. And by the way, it’s time for Kirk and Kor to go. The singleminded Klingon actually proposes joining forces to defeat them, but Kirk stops him from attacking Ayelborne and Claymare. The Organians transform into lights too bright to look at, then slowly fade out.

KIRK: Well, Commander, I guess that takes care of the war. Obviously, the Organians aren’t going to let us fight.
KOR: A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious.

On the Bridge of the Enterprise, Kirk reveals a rare moment of chagrin. Spock asks him what’s wrong.

KIRK: I’m embarrassed. I was furious with the Organians for stopping a war I didn’t want. We think of ourselves as the most powerful beings in the universe. It’s unsettling to discover that we’re wrong.
SPOCK: Captain, it took millions of years for the Organians to evolve into what they are. Even the gods did not spring into being overnight. You and I have no reason to be embarrassed. We did, after all, beat the odds.
KIRK: Oh, no, no, no, Mr. Spock, We didn’t beat the odds. We didn’t have a chance. The Organians raided the game.

This episode is very important to Star Trek continuity because it introduces the Klingons to the series and establishes what is later called the “Organian Peace Treaty” between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. This enforced ceasefire kept them from warring until the Khitomer Accords in 2293 (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) instituted a voluntary—and lasting—peace, fulfilling the Organians’ prophecy to Kirk: “It is true that in the future, you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together.” This uneasy alliance was best illustrated by the presence of a Klingon on the Bridge of the Enterprise-D, Lt. Commander Worf.

For all their power and influence, the Organians just kind of faded into the backstory of the series, rarely referenced outside of TOS, which is probably for the best considering how much their presence would have limited the intergalactic conflicts in the series. According to the internet, Organians appeared in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise titled “The Observer Effect,” but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Despite the deep ramifications of the events of “Errand of Mercy,” there isn’t that much to say about the episode because it deals in such absolutes. The Organians are on the order of gods to the humans and Klingons, too bright even to look upon in their noncorporeal form; as Spock says, they’re “as far above us on the evolutionary scale as we are above the amoeba.” War is clearly undesirable, except to the military-minded Klingons intent on interstellar conquest. But does the episode actually support outside interference in a private conflict? Though Kirk and Kor object to the Organians’ involvement, in the end they accept it, not that they have much of a choice. Is this meant to parallel U.S. participation in foreign conflicts? I don’t think this is necessarily a natural comparison, as Americans have traditionally supported one side or another when barging in on other countries’ wars, arguably seeking to further our own agenda, and the Organians simply abhor violence and are completely impartial.

There’s also the matter of the portrayal of the Klingons as stereotypically villainous (swarthy and mustached, with obvious Asian influence), while Kirk, representing the Federation’s interests, is much more sympathetic. Even though he tries to get the Organians’ assistance through friendship instead of force, his motives are no less transparent. He doesn’t always come off well in this episode, which is why it’s so satisfying to see him admit his mistake at the end. But I don’t really blame him for being angry at the meddling aliens. Far worse than testing the humans, they were playing with Kirk and Kor, unable to contain their amusement during the Klingon occupation (“Smile and smile. I don’t trust men who smile too much.”), all while Kirk was doing his best to protect them. It’s not as if they were trying to hide their identities or abilities behind that primitive facade either. They may have had the best intentions in stopping the war from happening, but I think we need to group them with the other advanced races that practice their own brand of superdickery with their powers.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: John Colicos’ Kor is ruthless, cruel, and brilliant—he delivers an excellent performance as the commander of this occupation. In fact, he’s so effectively villainous, it’s hard to sympathize with him at all. The one-sidedness of this episode, which Eugene discussed above, is the only thing that really bugged me about it. Kirk’s frustration with the Organians and his commitment to independence and freedom are admirable and sincere, while the Klingons seem to revel in violence and cruelty. It some ways, it made me yearn for the even-handedness of “Balance of Terror,” in which enemy soldiers are seen simply as individuals caught up in something far beyond their own control or desire.

The real world parallels are hard to ignore. Kirk refers to Organia as a kind of Belgium, caught between warring powers. The Klingons themselves are constantly referred to as tyrants, military dictators who conquer and destroy, carrying out mass executions for minor disobediences. Their Asian appearances and the reference to slave labor camps conjure images of World War II-era Japan and its occupation of Korea. I was also struck by Kirk’s vehement belief in civil disobedience as a way to fight military dictatorships—he refers to historical successes, but all I could think about were that even the successes were mixed with failures (to use WWII as an example again, the Korean Liberation Army and the efforts in Norway under German occupation).

Kirk is deeply distasteful (and in my opinion, off-puttingly so) of the Organians’ commitment to non-violence. He equates non-violence with weakness, as child-like and primitive. He promises to “remake their world” and his arrogance about the superiority of his own culture and way of life is just as astonishing as Kor’s arrogance, later, that the Klingons are better than the peoples of the Federation and thus deserving of the galaxy. Kirk misinterprets the Organians’ refusal to rise up as complicity, and he (perhaps foolishly) understands their peacefulness as cowardice. They tell him again and again, “How little you understand us.” It isn’t until the end that he becomes embarrassed by his own actions. He concedes that the Organians are more powerful than humans—and yet their power and strength do not come from violence, or influence, or cultural imperialism or superiority. Something to think on, Kirk.

I was particularly interested in the way in which Kirk talked himself into defending a war that he claims he never wanted to be a part of. Ayelborne calls him on it, and Kirk looks positively frightened at his own behavior. All in all, it’s a sobering look at the way in which making war becomes so easy and comfortable, it can be difficult to step back, re-examine the reasons, and find a common ground on which to make peace. Or, you know, have some space douches come in and make the choice for you.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 5 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: Spock, when asked about the odds of their escape: “Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately 7,824.7 to 1.”

Syndication Edits: Several moments from Kirk’s initial discussion with the council; the Organians confiscating Kirk and Spock’s phasers, and giving them their fake identities; the great line by Kor that he hates the Organians because they “smile and smile”; a big chunk of Kirk’s speech about staging a resistance after they blow up the munitions; Kor insulting the Organians; some transitions, including Kirk being carried to the dungeon; the discussion with Kirk, Spock, and Ayelborne as Kirk and Spock try and decide whether or not to trust them; the other great Kor line, when Ayelborne says he’s going to put a total stop to this “insane war”—Kor says, “You’re what??”

Trivia: This is the last episode in which the term “Vulcanian” is used to refer to Vulcans. Both “Vulcanian” and “Vulcan” are used at different points in the episode: Kor uses “Vulcanian” and the Klingon lieutenant uses “Vulcan.” The episode title comes from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens: “It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it.” In the script, the Klingons were described simply as “Oriental, hard-faced.” John Colicos said he was going for the “Genghis Khan” look.

Other notes: John Colicos reprises his role as the Klingon Kor twenty-seven years later in three Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes: “Blood Oath,” “The Sword of Kahless,” and “Once More Unto the Breach.” He has a little more weight and the familiar Klingon forehead ridges (but we won’t talk about those). The baldric that Kor wore was reused for Worf during TNG’s first season, and it’s merely a burlap sack painted gold.


Next episode: Season 1, Episode 27 - “The Alternative Factor.” US 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.

1. Jvstin
One of my favorite episodes, and John Calicos' performance helps make the episode complete. He makes an excellent foil for Kirk.

I understand that Kor was intended as a recurring antagonist for Kirk (it was originally going to be him in Day of the Dove, but the actor was not available). Pity that didn't work out. Having a Klingon opposite number for Kirk showing up on a regular basis would have been cool.
j p
2. sps49
Colicos would reappear as the original Baltar, and played cowardly evil just as well as his aggressive evil here.

The Klingons appear to hark back to Emperor Ming here, but appear to act like Nazis (the "kill/ injure one of us, and we kill lots of you"). I will have to look for an example.

For all the repeated "How little you understand us" the Organians give Our Heroes, they wait until the end to actually explain. Maybe they could have done that right off?
3. DemetriosX
I hadn't realized just how full of space douches TOS was until this rewatch. Yeah, Colicos is awesome here, but otherwise the episode is rather unsatisfying. Space douche episodes like "Arena" are bad enough, but the ones that resolve the tension by declaring it to have been false all along violate almost every tenet of storytelling.

One thing that occurs to me is how little concern shows seem to have had for continuity between episodes. Even the most generic sit-com today would appear to have a better grasp of character backstory, show environment, and direction than we have seen in TOS so far. I suppose this represents a general change in the craft, but were other hour-long dramas from the period this vague in their first seasons?
4. NomadUK
The Organians rigged the game.

I think you'll find that he actually says, 'The Organians raided the game', which makes more sense.
C.D. Thomas
5. cdthomas
Remember that the primary afterlife of shows back then -- the beginning of secondary syndication -- guaranteed that episodes would not be shown in order. It was a new development in the 60s that networks considered shows to be worth money through syndication -- CBS bet on that, while NBC concentrated on one-time-only spectaculars.

That partly explains why continuity didn't matter much. Just think back to BONANZA, and how many different brides Mr. Cartwright fatally and improbably married, to get that variety of offspring, as well as those modern families composed with a widow or widower with kids. If we counted the shows with a vanishing sibling, we'd be here all day.

Once you got shows like HILL STREET BLUES that took the soap-opera arc and ran like hell with it, it started to matter what you saw when. Remember that DALLAS and DYNASTY (and its ancestor PEYTON PLACE) also got stations in the habit of running syndication strips in order. Lastly, VHS and DVD sales made nearly every viewer conscious of inconsistencies, which made producers conscious of them.
C.D. Thomas
6. cdthomas
Oh, and is that John Newland of ONE STEP BEYOND fame? (the B&W series, not the Madness song...)
Jeff Soules
7. DeepThought
This episode is another reminder of the striking differences between Kirk and that other great Starfleet captain, Picard--and correspondingly, of the differences between what We The Audience have considered heroic in the '60s and the '80s-'90s. Kirk says, "I'm a soldier, not a diplomat." Picard is opposite--a soldier too, and successful enough in battle to have his own name in the Academy training handbook, but a diplomat first and foremost. Kirk arrogantly assumes that different means inferior, while Picard would never take the Organians' "just-plain-folks" routine at face value. The Organians should probably have mentioned why they were so confident there was no danger to them; and yet, it's kind of remarkable that Kirk didn't even bother to ask.

Also note how the nature of the Klingons has changed from ToS to TNG--or even just later Trek continuity; can you imagine Christopher Lloyd being so serenely evil as... well, okay, just forget about Christopher Lloyd.
8. NomadUK
Actually, Kirk does begin to ask that question. At one point he says something like, 'Sir, I have told you that you are in danger, and you keep assuring me that there is none. Would you mind telling me — ' I believe this occurs just before Trefayne announces that the Klingons are beaming down.

To be fair, war has been declared, so Kirk is at this point, by definition, a soldier; Picard would have been, too. His job is to keep Organia out of the hands of the Klingons.

I don't see any evidence that Kirk thinks 'different means inferior'; I think, in this episode at least, he sees the Organians as spineless and useless in the face of a brutal and implacable enemy, and unwilling to act in their own best interests. Of course, he doesn't understand that they are doing just that, but, then, Kirk is far from omniscient.

My knowledge of new Trek is less than encyclopaedic, but it seems to me that the Klingons are to Kirk as the Borg are to Picard: enemies to be fought at all costs.
Eugene Myers
9. ecmyers
@ 4 NomadUK

You're quite right! Thanks for the correction. Fixed in the post.
Church Tucker
10. Church
Good gods of Kobol, I loathe this one. It's a bit of cold war wish-fulfilment that just winds up getting in the way of future (heck, present) drama. There's a reason it was largely ignored going forward.

The entire Trek franchise can be summed up as "Roddenberry's Utopia meets Drama." This is it in its worse incarnation.
Avram Grumer
11. avram
On the contrary, Church, one of the main developments of this episode -- the Organian Peace Treaty -- actually gets mentioned in a later episode ("The Trouble With Tribbles").

That's more than most big plot developments (or even some little ones) got in classic Trek. The M-5 computer, the lie-detection machine from Harry Mudd's first appearance, the android-manufacturing device from "What Are Little Girls Made Of", the telekinesis drug from "Plato's Stepchildren", the panacea spores from "This Side of Paradise" -- none of that ever turns up again.
Melissa Ann Singer
12. masinger
Am I crazy or is there somewhere, in some later series or in a tie-in novel, a reference to the Organians as "light bulbs?"

I could never decide if I liked this episode or not. On the one hand, I kind of liked the enforced peace treaty because it meant that the show would not become an ongoing war drama (boring, sorry); on the other, I was really fed up with the Organians because they didn't tell Kirk what was really going on. And on the third hand, I'm not sure Kirk would have been able to handle the truth, since he is so tied to a physical (as opposed to metaphysical) universe.

I do recall that this was an ongoing theme in SF for a while--the idea that if a species became sufficiently evolved/mentally powerful, they would discorporate. I never really liked that or understodd why that would be a desireable state, at least not as a permanent condition. I mean, on a hot summer day it might be nice to be bodiless and not have to sweat, but on the other hand, what about eating ice cream? Or in winter, not having to slog through snow, but what about having a snowball fight? The "your memories will be as powerful as reality" trope didn't work for me either.
Ursula L
13. Ursula
I don't see any evidence that Kirk thinks 'different means inferior'; I think, in this episode at least, he sees the Organians as spineless and useless in the face of a brutal and implacable enemy, and unwilling to act in their own best interests.

Well, that's rather the point of the critique of Kirk's judgement. "Spineless," "useless," and "not acting in their own best interests" are all condemnation and insult, seeing them as inferior, unable to do the spine-ful, useful things that he thinks would be in their best interest.

The Organians' behavior makes little sense to Kirk, and his assumption is "they're fools" rather than "I don't have all the information and/or empathy needed to make sense of their behavior." This is a very foolish assumption for any situation where you don't understand the motives of the people around you.

This is because of Kirk's own weakiness in assessing the situation - he assumes that he posesses all the relavent information, and that his evaluation of their best interest is better than their own assesment of their best interest.

There are many things that might be going on - they might have powers he doesn't know, or a different definition of their "best interest" than he uses for his best interest, or they might be quietly aligned with the Klingons already, or they might have a third party as a powerful ally, aside from the Federation or the Kingons.

They might simply be awaiting more information before taking sides, unwilling to take Kirk's self-interested claims of the Federation's goodwill as true without some sort of outside confirmation.

Kirk, foolishly, assumes that since his "best interest" is in the Federation's strength, the "best interest" of the Organians also lay in being taken into the Federation's shadow. But their intrests are not Kirk's interests, or the Federation's interests, and falling under the control of an outside power (Klingon or Federation) is going to be against the interests of almost anyone, absent a really strong reason to give up independence.

It reminds me of something I read in Eisenhower's memoirs of his presidential years. He expressed a great deal of frustration that India wouldn't ally itself outright with the US against the USSR. His rather condescending interpretation of the behavior was that the Indians didn't want to take sides against "fellow Asians." He never considered that India had just escaped from under the thumb of the UK, and had no desire to fall under the thumb of the US, USSR, or anyone else, and that neutrality was part of their desire for independence in the same way in which the US in its earlier, weaker years attempted to stay out of European conflicts, rather than falling into the influence of one or another European power. Instead, India looking out for India's self-interest, rather than doing what was in the US's self-interest, was interpreted as a sign of mental weakness and being over-emotional.
Torie Atkinson
14. Torie
@ 13 Ursula

I think you're exactly right, and that those assumptions are built on the presumed superiority of Kirk's own culture and values. It's something that's bothered me a lot about the series, more than I ever remember it doing. Even Vulcan culture, the discipline that Spock exhibits, is supposed to concede inferiority to the greatness of humans.

Kor displays the same arrogance about the Klingon empire. Ah irony.
15. Rand Al'Todd
DemetriosX@3 and cdthomas@5 are correct - in the 50s/60s there was little or no effort in TV series to build continuity.

Other than each series's "bible" of rules there was no effort to tie subsequent episodes together. The Mudd re-appearance was actually almost shocking when it occurred.

I remember comments that Star Trek had a high level of internal consistancy between episodes, with one particular story about Takei arguing with a director about which motions/actions were used to fire a phaser or photon torpedo. George insisted that he had to do it the same way as a prior episode instead of how the current director wanted it done.

If you really want to look for inconsistancies, look at Bonanza. Like most westerns, the characters carried Model 92 winchesters, but one episode involved the pony express (which only existed for a couple of years around 1859). Others had real historical characters who traveled the west up to 40 years apart showing up in consectutive weeks. Basically, anything that happened in the west between 1850 and 1910 was fair game.

Compared to that, TOS was consistent. They just didn't tell us (until a later book) that Squire Trelane was really part of the Q. The Organians may have just been a small community within Q.
16. Rand Al'Todd
Ursula and Torie:

Don't forget that Kirk's attitudes towards the Organians are also affected by his "stagnant civilization syndrome" - any civilization living at peace HAS to be stirred up, no matter what.

(What Prime Directive??? If they are peaceful, happy, content, then we MUST distroy the god/computer/government that is allowing them to be so. That is Kirk's Prime Directive.)

The Organians have apparently stagnated, as Spock tells him, so he would have started the war with the Klingons just to stir up the Organians, and he would have felt totally justified to do it.
Church Tucker
17. Church
@11 avram

"On the contrary, Church, one of the main developments of this episode -- the Organian Peace Treaty -- actually gets mentioned in a later episode ("The Trouble With Tribbles"). "

Yeah, that's why I said "largely ignored." Even in TwT, there seems to be no consequence for combat on a small scale. After that it seems to have been pretty much ignored.
18. Scott6113
Ah, the other posters are treading on sacred ground here. Roddenberry makes a philosophical statement here, that a truly advanced race would evolve beyond the need for war. In the end, the Klingon and Kirk move toward each other against the Organians who prevent them from fighting. They are very much alike, from an Organian perspective. The line that "someday you will be fast friends" (if memory serves) prefigures the TNG Klingon-Federation alliance, and Detente.

The USSR and USA become allies? Very controversial just a few years after McCarthyism. Roddenberry took a risk. Like a Russian novelist, he cloaks his political commentary in allegory.

This is my TOS favorite. See past the campy dialog and there's actually food for thought here, especially given the date.
19. General Order 24
I don't care what negatives are said of this episode. I love this episode and think its one of the strongest in character. Its good as a vehicle for the good guys to realize their inconsistancies of war and diplomacy. Kirk summarized and comes to term with it all at the epilogue of the episode by his guilt at trying to force the Organian's into War and choosing sides. I've watched this one the most since way back whenever. Everything has inconsistancies and this is no exception but a lot of what I'm reading here have missed or misread where they do mention things about Organia etc in future episodes as already mentioned by another reader. There is also good humor among the script. Sure its a typical Cold War paralell storyline but it works at least in 1960's Pop Culture. It kinda had to be really.
20. Dave Palmer
This is one of my favorite episodes. The twist ending, where the hero (Kirk's) actions are shown to be un-heroic, is an interesting device that goes against TV conventions. Throughout the episode, the viewer is intended to sympathize with Kirk, and the portrayal of the Klingons as unredeemably evil is intended to reinforce that. Then, at the end, this is turned on its head, and Kirk is confronted with another set of values, according to which his actions are no different from those of the villian. Kirk learns something, and presumably the viewer does, too. Is it a "message" show? Obviously and unashamedly so. If you don't like science fiction that's intended as didactic allegory, you shouldn't watch any Star Trek episodes from the 1960s.

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