Fri
Jun 4 2010 2:41pm

Star Trek Re-Watch: “Patterns of Force”

“Patterns of Force”
Written by John Meredyth Lucas
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Season 2, Episode 21
Production episode: 2x23
Original air date: February 16, 1968
Star date: Unknown

Mission Summary

The Enterprise is on a mission to the planet Ekos, home to “primitive, warlike people in a state of anarchy” and where Starfleet Academy history instructor John Gill has been on assignment as a cultural observer. Starfleet hasn’t heard from him in six months and worries he might be dead, so Enterprise has been sent to find out what happened. As they approach the inner planet, a rocket with a nuclear warhead targets them from Ekos’ surface. Kirk is confused—the Ekosians never had space travel, and though the Zeons, a neighboring planet, did, they’re a peaceful race. Kirk and Spock decide to beam down to the planet, and the captain instructs McCoy to “prepare a subcutaneous transponder in the event we can’t use our communicators.” Good idea. Too bad they never use it again.

They beam down to the planet in some kind of farmer/peasant get-up and immediately run into a man named Isak, who looks terrified and hurt and tells them to run. Kirk and Spock obey, hiding around a corner. Isak is quickly captured by two men in Nazi uniforms, complete with swastika armbands, who call Isak a “Zeon pig” and kick him. Kirk tries to stop them but Spock warns him about the non-interference directive. The SS officers drag Isak away. Kirk and Spock quietly emerge from their hiding space just in time to catch a propaganda video about the Fuhrer: John Gill!

In the video, the deputy fuhrer, Melakon, presents a prize to a woman named Daras for being a “hero of the Fatherland,” and promises that “preparations go forth for the Final Decision. Death to Zeon.” Then actual stock footage of Nazi marches play, just in case you don’t quite get the message.

KIRK: How could this have happened? The chances of another planet developing a culture like Nazi Germany, using the forms, the symbols, the uniforms of twentieth century Earth are so fantastically slim.

That’s science fiction for you. But surprise, more Nazis show up, and they mistake the captain and his first officer for Zeons. Kirk pretends to rat out his alien friend, distracting the officer long enough to karate-chop him. Very clever, actually. They steal the uniforms and decide to try infiltrating the chancellery, since that appears to be where John Gill is. They make their way to the chancellery but get stopped at the front door with a “Papers, please.” Though Spock finds his papers, the officer notices that his skin color is a little off, and demands Spock take off his helmet. The jig is up, and our heroes are captured and taken to Nazi prison, which is luckily located in the heart of the chancellery they’re trying to infiltrate.

CHEST HAIR ALERT: Kirk and Spock wind up getting whipped, shirtless. This is possibly as disturbing as the Hollywood-ized Nazi references. Though the major who captured them is delighted to whip them, a man named Eneg enters and tells him to stop. They play out a good cop-bad cop routine as Eneg tells the major to ease up or else they’ll die before any information is acquired. The major reluctantly agrees and throws the two of them in a cell, right next to Isak, the man they saw get taken away on the street.

When the Nazis leave, Isak explains that the Zeons are peaceful and came to Ekos to bring technology and civilization. Though the Ekosians weren’t exactly pacifists, they did not take up their current violent brutality until the Nazi movement began just a few years ago. Kirk can’t understand: Gill was the “kindest man I ever knew.” But whatever happened, they have to get their phasers (AND THEIR SHIRTS PLEASE) back. Kirk remembers the subcutaneous transponders, which is funny because I hadn’t. The transponders have rubidnium crystals inside, which can be used to excite light and create a laser.* Spock uses Kirk’s back as a table to get to the incandescent bulb in their cell, and after a few moments the light is transformed by the crystal into a metal-cutting laser that breaks the lock on their door.

Kirk pretends to be willing to talk but when the Nazi guard comes, Spock nerve-pinches him from behind. They free Isak and make their way to the laboratory to find their weapons. Kirk pretends that Spock and Isak are his prisoners, and then bumps into a passing Nazi guard, swiping his keys. Genius. They break into the lab and find their communicators completely dismantled and a log saying their phasers have been sent to Gestapo headquarters. With no weapons, no communicator, and a building full of Nazis, they decide to escape and re-evaluate their options.

Using an underground escape tunnel network they link up with Isak’s brother, Abrom, and some other Zeons on the lam. Abrom tells Isak that his fiancee is dead. But Spock wastes no time to mourn—he sets out to repair the communicator so that they can contact Enterprise. Once he thinks it’s complete, their entire party is raided by the beautiful blonde Nazi they saw in the propaganda film, Daras. She had been following them. She shoots Abrom and prepares to shoot Isak when Kirk grabs her and uses her as a human shield against the other Nazis.

ISAK: Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot, please.
ABROM: No, wait. No more. You’ve proved they’re on our side.
ISAK: Now, please forgive us, but we had to be absolutely certain.

It was a trick! Daras is a resistance fighter on the side of the Zeons. Kirk explains the situation and insists on seeing John Gill. Tonight he will announce a full-scale war against the Zeons and Kirk must stop him and repair the damage done. His appearance tonight at the chancellery will be attended by all the top-ranking Nazis, and they decide to use Daras to sneak in and get access to Gill.

Later, we see Daras pulling up in her car to attend the event with three documentary filmmakers in tow: Kirk, Spock, and Isak. Now you know where Tarantino got it from! They’re able to find Gill hidden in a curtained-off compartment, but he doesn’t move. Kirk thinks he must be drugged, and needs McCoy’s expertise to get him out of it. They hide in a cloakroom and Spock uses his makeshift communicator to contact Uhura. She beams down McCoy, dressed as a Nazi doctor, and Bones is none too happy about it. But by then the Nazis have picked up the weak communicator signal and are tracking it down. Suddenly Eneg and other men burst in, demanding to know why they’re all hiding in the cloakroom. McCoy plays the part of a drunken colonel brilliantly, and Kirk explains that they’ve hidden him in the closet to avoid embarrassment. Satisfied, Eneg leaves, but Spock is baffled as to how he couldn’t recognize them from their earlier encounter what with the beatings and all. Kirk attributes it to luck and tells them all to move on and get to John Gill.

But it’s too late. Semi-comatose, Gill orders a full-scale attack on Zeon. The entire space fleet is dispatched to murder every last Zeon. Spock neck-pinches the guards in front of Gill’s compartment and they break in to find Gill completely out of it. McCoy doesn’t know what they gave him and doesn’t have an antidote, so he tries a general stimulant. Gill is able to answer questions but that’s it—he’s completely out of it. Kirk asks him why he did this:

GILL: Planet fragmented. Divided. Took lesson from Earth history.
KIRK: But why Nazi Germany? You studied history. You knew what the Nazis were.
GILL: Most efficient state Earth ever knew.
SPOCK: Quite true, Captain. That tiny country, beaten, bankrupt, defeated, rose in a few years to stand only one step away from global domination.
KIRK: But it was brutal, perverted, had to be destroyed at a terrible cost. Why that example?
SPOCK: Perhaps Gill felt that such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism.

Unfortunately Melakon, the deputy fuhrer, took control and started drugging Gill. Kirk tries to snap him out of it to call off the attack but Gill collapses again into his comatose state. But Eneg has arrived. He bangs on the door and demands to be let in. Kirk orders Daras to aim the gun at Spock and pretend to have captured an assassin. The ploy works, and Daras takes Spock to Melakon to stall for time. Meanwhile, Kirk orders Bones to give Gill another stimulant. It could kill him but the entire Zeon race is about to wiped out and Kirk thinks it’s a fair risk to take.

McCoy uses the stimulant and Gill comes to just long enough to call off the fleet and expose Melakon as a traitor. Furious, Melakon grabs a machine gun and shoots through the curtained partition that separates them from the fuhrer. Gill falls to the ground, dying, and confesses his mistakes to Kirk. Meanwhile, Isak grabs a gun and shoots Melakon. But Eneg intervenes: “There’s been enough killing. Now we’ll start to live the way the Fuhrer meant us to live.”

Eneg and Daras commit to rebuilding their world, and Kirk and his crew return to Enterprise. On the bridge they think back to how this all happened. Kirk thinks it’s because men can’t resist the urge to play God:

MCCOY: It also proves another Earth saying. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Darn clever, these Earthmen, wouldn’t you say?
SPOCK: Yes. Earthmen like Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan. Your whole Earth history is made up of men seeking absolute power.
MCCOY: Spock, you obviously don’t understand.
SPOCK: Obviously, Doctor, you fail to accept.
KIRK: Gentlemen. Gentlemen, we’ve just been through one civil war. Let’s not start another. Mister Chekov, take us out of orbit.


* This is not unlike Tony Stark’s ability to create a particle accelerator in his basement in Iron Man 2.

Analysis

Star Trek definitely had some cojones to try and tackle Nazis, but its approach is so misguided that I can’t entirely admire its effort. The assumption here that Nazi Germany was just efficiency gone wrong thanks to a few bad seeds is laughable at best and dangerously inaccurate at worst. It wasn’t efficiency but ruthlessness that enabled Hitler’s rise to power. Murdering or imprisoning each and every political enemy and exploiting and validating deep-seated xenophobia tends to consolidate power pretty damn effectively whether or not you have a team of industrial engineers creating a flawlessly organized state. The idea that a history professor didn’t understand or appreciate the complexity of that historical movement is unbelievable.

I think the biggest disappointment for me was the lack of nuance. I felt completely bludgeoned by every one-to-one parallel (though I did like Daras saying, “Are you saying our Fuhrer is an alien??”) and at times just wished they had used clunky metaphors instead. If you’re going to make a statement about Nazis, at least try to approach it with a little more accuracy and sensitivity. If you’re just making a statement about absolute power, why use Nazis at all? I would have loved to see a society built on Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon, and none of those are nearly as loaded a topic as Nazism. But putting aside the Nazism for a second—I know, it doesn’t seem like you can—it was a tight and, dare I say it, funny episode.

The comedy here is really top-notch, and I laughed out loud countless times. The scene of Spock using Kirk as a footstool is deadly. Even the little quips about the uniform not fitting (it’s a metaphor, get it?), Spock’s helmet “hiding a multitude of sins,” and Kirk’s performance as the cinematographer were genius. Drunken McCoy was easily the highlight, though. I was also extremely impressed by the cleverness of our heroes. So often the answer just falls into their lap (*coughsubcutaneoustransponderscough*) but Kirk really shined as a brilliant tactician. I liked his “You’re right! He’s not one of us!” that distracted the Nazi guard long enough to incapacitate him, and the key-swiping bit was just genius. Even I hadn’t realized what happened until he jingled them a few moments later in front of the door. I was surprised by the reveal that both Daras and Eneg were sympathetic resistance fighters (this is notable in that so far the plots have not often surprised me). It had a tension and tautness that reminded me of Lucas’ other episode, “The Changeling.” This is a good thing.

The weirdest bit: shirtless Spock. I mean, aside from being totally and completely bizarre, it’s bad Star Trek. That scene made me see a generally fit but approaching-middle-age man, not an alien. I think it humanized him in a way that undermined a lot of Spock’s mystery and uniqueness. Mostly it just felt inappropriate. Two half-naked dudes all sweaty, getting whipped and climbing on one another? I had a moment of looking over my shoulder to make sure no one could see what the hell I was watching!

So while the lackluster execution of the Nazi premise killed any hope of higher than 4 stars, it was still a better-than-average Star Trek episode. Just listen up, students of the Academy: If you don’t observe the Prime Directive YOU GET NAZIS. Now we’ve all learned something.

Food for thought: how come on every away mission to an Earth-like planet they send Spock? Wouldn’t you not send the alien?

Torie’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Eugene Myers: So... Shirtless Spock. Yeah. Totally didn’t see that coming.

I don’t know why fans don’t refer to this as “that episode where Spock took his shirt off,” but probably it’s because no one wants to remember that. It either made no impression on me previously or I blocked it from my memory, but I’m afraid it’s stuck there now. I mean, Shatner actually looked pretty fit compared to Nimoy, and this was a late-season episode. And the hair! I’d think excess body hair would be a disadvantage on a desert planet, but perhaps he can blame his human heritage for that as well.

Instead, people refer to this as the “Nazi episode,” which is perfectly descriptive. It’s surprising and impressive that Star Trek tackled this topic, especially with such humor. What’s more surprising is that they did it so blatantly. When I was a kid, I obviously didn’t catch most of these references. “Zeon” is a forehead-smacking moment, not to mention the names Isak, Abrom, and Davod. I see what you’re doing there, Mr. Lucas! All the references to the Zeons as pigs were uncomfortable, though used for effect, and this assessment of Spock by Melakon is a disturbing reminder of Nazi racism: “Note the low forehead, denoting stupidity. The dull look of a trapped animal.”

I’m just not sure all this imagery is fully justified, though it is certainly a shortcut to the message “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They could have attained the same effect without directly using Nazis, and surely this was preaching to the choir at the time. If it’s meant to be an indictment of dictators, it falls short of being truly meaningful social commentary. (Perhaps the real message is behind the scenes, as the Paramount offices were used as Nazi headquarters...) And what are we to make of Spock’s statement at the end, “With the union of two cultures, this system would make a fine addition to the Federation.” Is this a reference to post-WWII Germany?

“Patterns of Force” might have been interesting as an exploration of “non-interference,” since that’s really what caused this mess in the first place. The idea that misinterpreting the past can lead to repeating the mistakes of history is also interesting, and with that explanation I finally get the meaning of the episode title. Incidentally, this also gives us a glimpse into the poor condition of the Vulcan educational system; it’s a sad thing if Spock is so easily impressed by Gill’s “treatment of Earth history as causes and motivations rather than dates and events.” Then again, Vulcans are more preoccupied with facts than emotional qualities like ambition.

Even with a superfluous and heavy-handed moral, the script is written and plotted well, with excellent dialogue and subtle comedic performances. It has a clear conflict and an intriguing mystery with a slow reveal and a surprise twist of a sort. Though the overall effect is a bit uneven, the episode strikes me as earnest and genuine, and I admired how it does so many things well when it probably should have fallen apart. In the end, I’d like to think of this episode as “the one with the subcutaneous transponders,” which end up being a handy plot device in Star Trek, even if they’re never used to create a laser again.

Did anyone else want Kirk to have a moment to remember Edith Keeler when he watches all the Nazi propaganda?

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: UHURA: Doctor McCoy is having difficulty with that uniform, sir.
KIRK: Send him down naked if you have to!

Syndication Edits: A portion of Kirk and Spock’s beatings; a few moments after the Nazis throw Kirk and Spock into the jail cell; the brilliant scene of Kirk “bumping into” the Nazi and swiping his keys (kind of odd to be missing that, since the guard later searches himself and goes after them!); a line of dialogue after Kirk and Spock meet the underground movement (not sure which one); some of Kirk & the gang “filming” Daras; one of the “Hail Fuhrer!” shouts; Kirk and McCoy arguing over whether to give Gill the second stimulant shot; Kirk slapping Gill and begging him to tell people what really happened.

Trivia: A note on names: The “Zeons” are the “Zions,” “Abrom” is “Abraham,” “Isak” is “Isaac,” “Davod” is “David,” “Daras” is nearly “Sarah” backwards, and “Eneg” is “Gene” spelled backwards.

The Nazi headquarters is actually the Paramount Studios Producers’ Building (awwwkward), while Gill broadcasts in the Directors’ Building. The costumes are (you guessed it!) from Paramount’s standard costume collection. The underground area is recycled from “Devil in the Dark.”

The V-2 rocket footage was real stock footage, and the clips of Hitler in a car surrounded by soldiers is from Triumph of the Will.

David Brian, the actor who played John Gill, was actually the star of his own show: Mr. District Attorney. Skip Homeier, who plays Melakon, returns in “The Way to Eden.”

Other Notes: Because the swastika was banned by the German constitution following World War II, this episode could not air in Germany. An Austrian television station carried it, though, so a few people in the southern areas were able to catch it. It did not appear in translation in Germany until 1999, and even then it was late-night on a pay-TV network.


Next episode: Season 2, Episode 22—“By Any Other Name.” 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.


Torie Atkinson thought this was going to be a lot worse than it was. She is glad to move on, though.

Eugene Myers really wanted to see Inglourious Basterds again after re-watching this episode.

30 comments
David Levinson
1. DemetriosX
I'm not really sure why you're both surprised at Trek "tackling" Nazis. The war had been over for slightly less than 23 years and CBS had a hit show in its second or third season that was a comedy set in a Nazi POW camp. At a guess, part of the Nazi thing is also another cost-saving measure. Stock sets, stock costumes, stock footage even.

Still, a decent enough episode for all its flaws and heavy-handedness. Major historian fail, though. I mean, not only was efficiency not what took Germany from bankruptcy to the edge of world domination, they weren't exactly lacking in infrastructure and resources like the Ekosians. They already had some of the finest chemists, engineers, and scientists in the world (fortunately for the rest of the world, a lot of them were Jewish). Hardly the primitive, warlike people we're told the Ekosians are.

And Starfleet hasn't heard from Gill in 6 months, but the regime has been in place for years? Huh?

Finally, I wonder how Shatner and Nimoy felt puttin on those uniforms. Both are Jewish and both were raised fairly religiously. It must have felt a little strange.
Marcus W
2. toryx
I remember watching this as a kid and even then being horrified by the notion of the Nazis as a shining example of efficiency.

Shirtless Nimoy is just plain wrong. What were they thinking?

It's interesting that episodes like this one really allow the actors to shine. The comedy, the effectiveness of the characters, and a straightforward example of just why the Prime Directive exists all combine to make it a much better episode than it otherwise would have been.

I think it'd be awesome if Tarantino really was inspired by this episode.

Edit to add:

Finally, I wonder how Shatner and Nimoy felt puttin on those uniforms. Both are Jewish and both were raised fairly religiously. It must have felt a little strange.

That occurred to me as well. Nimoy in particular brought so much of his religious background to the Vulcan culture, it really makes one wonder.
J M McDermott
3. J M McDermott
John Gill... or John Galt?
Torie Atkinson
4. Torie
@ 1 DemetriosX

Because of the reasons you mentioned: Nazis and the Holocaust weren't some abstract idea in a history book, but recent enough history to have affected the lives of the men and women who worked on the show. Surely some of the people involved had Jewish loved ones or friends who survived (or didn't).

And yeah, major historian fail.

@ 2 toryx

Agreed! It's interesting that no matter the wrapping--Nazi, Roman, Old West--the performances hold it together. We'll see how much that's true in the really awful episodes...
J M McDermott
5. WonderGirl
Ahhhhh, this episode . . . for some reason, I find myself thinking of the performance by the actor who played Isak as one of the better things. He does a good impression of a man who knows all too well what it's like to be an untermensch and is thoroughly bewildered by the mysterious origins of Kirk and Spock.

I like to think that maybe John Gill's bad decision can be read as a commentary about how the tendency to let even the most horrific historical events fade out of memory over time (how much would the majority of people in the 23rd century care about the Holocaust, after all?), although I seriously doubt that that's what the writer had in mind.

I'm probably just missing something, but does anyone else wonder how the Ekosians, who presumably aren't well-versed in Terran history, decided that they needed to go beyond efficiency and establish a New and Improved Nazism, Now with 100% More Genocide? Did they raid Gill's bookshelf and say, "hay gaiz, we iz not doin it rite"?

Also, did anyone else blink when Isak blurted out "Thank God!" with no in-world explanation at all, as if none was needed? Really, John Meredyth Lucas, parallel development much?



Lastly, moment of annoying pedantry here, sorry. It's "on the lam." Being on the lamb is what you are at a seder.
Andrew Belmont
6. rosetintdworld
At the risk of being flamed for mentioning the unmentionable... Didn't Voyager also do this plot? Sequel or just happenstance? (I know I ask these questions a lot, and apologize, younger gen viewer for the most part.)
J M McDermott
7. DensityDuck
"This is not unlike Tony Stark’s ability to create a particle accelerator in his basement in Iron Man 2."

But, as I recall, he had to take his shirt off to do it. So I guess the secret to super-science is to take your shirt off first. I would explore this theory further but my comrades are all middle-aged men best described as "stout", and also I'm engaged.
Iain Coleman
8. Iain_Coleman
If you're going to use a notorious 20th-century regime as an exemplar for rapid industrialisation through ruthless methods, wouldn't Communist Russia be a better fit than Nazi Germany? I wonder if that was the first draft...
Torie Atkinson
9. Torie
@ 5 WonderGirl

Argh! I know that. Embarrassing typo ahoy. Fixed now. Thanks.

The actor who plays Isak is quite good. I like the way we see him as a victim transform and, because of necessity and circumstance, turn to violence.

I find it hard to believe that WWII had faded from memory. I just find the whole episode kind of baffling. It's not a good examination of how the Nazis came to power, and if they were just going to do a "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" episode, why Nazis?

@ 6 rosetintdworld

You're totally right! The Killing Game. It looks like there's an Enterprise episode, too: Storm Front. I've seen most of Voyager and totally don't remember that one... But don't worry about flames, I still have a fondness for Voyager as My First Trek. I haven't re-watched it, though.
Torie Atkinson
10. Torie
@ 7 DensityDuck

You may have gone blind just prior to this scene, but both Kirk and Spock are shirtless when creating the laser.

@ 8 Iain_Coleman

It's probably just because Paramount had lots of Nazi uniforms lying around, and they're a lot more recognizable to laypeople than anything from communist Russia.
Jeff Soules
11. DeepThought
@Torie #10 --

I dunno, I'd have thought that in the Red Scare '60s the viewing public would've recognized some sort of commisar uniform. Maybe it's just even more uncomfortable to do a partially-comic episode that praises your vanquished enemies than your current ones.

As to the historical weaknesses and general lack of depth with which the author explores the premise -- I kind of wonder what this episode looked like before the network censors got ahold of it. Surely someone or another had some words there, and that could've been the cause of a lot of the historically-analytically limp treatment of the premise.
j p
12. sps49
Shirtless Kirk and Spock were possibly aimed at those who might like that sort of thing (I thought you would, Torie :) ).

I thought there were several clever elements in the story, as pointed out in the analyses. And Nazis are the go-to cliche to show something is Bad, and hadn't been done to death yet. They did have a great opportunity for a Jetpack Hitler here, but the world would have to do without for another 40 years.

Communism would never have been done. Mainstream Hollywood ( and the Left) still had vestigial respect for the People's Revolutioary idea behind it, wanted to be their friends, and would never have protrayed them as Evil. The Molotov- Ribbentrop pact was almost forgotten, and I don't thing the Prague Spring had been crushed by Soviet tanks yet, much less Tianenmen Square.
Marc Houle
13. MightyMarc
This was my favourite episode when I was growing up. And although I still thoroughly enjoyed it, I have some of the same questions that WonderGirl brought up...

Let's just pretend that Nazi Germany was efficient for reasons other than being a fascist regime that enslaved a large part of their population and stole the entire wealth of their Jewish population.

If you take all of that "efficiency" and build a new culture using that "efficiency", that should not automatically lead to the racist, genocidal culture that Gill seems to have created.

Unless, of course, Gill really was building a dictatorship that thrived by feeding off of the hatred of and racism towards a segment of the population. Which essentially means that Gill wasn't corrupted by power, but that he'd started off corrupted to begin with.

So the whole moral of this episode isn't that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but rather that absolutely corrupted individuals will seek absolute power.

I guess Spock did win that last argument.
Eli Bishop
14. EliBishop
sps49: That would be a more convincing argument if Star Trek TOS hadn't consistently used the Klingons as blatant Soviet stand-ins. They didn't have any discernible ideology, but they were clearly the ruthless anti-democratic Cold War enemy; "A Private Little War" was just the most ham-fisted example of many.

Also, just because Hollywood was less rabidly anti-communist in the '60s than in the '50s doesn't mean it was taboo to depict Stalin and Mao as bad guys. The Manchurian Candidate was just six years before this episode, and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold didn't exactly paint a rosy picture of East German Communism. I'd say those were pretty characteristic of their time in that they treated the U.S. and its allies (and anti-communist demagogues like the McCarthy character in Candidate) much more cynically than anyone would have in past decades, but still showed the other side as having pretty much no redeeming qualities at all, except maybe a kind of villainous stick-to-itiveness.
Avram Grumer
15. avram
In the 1960s, Communist Russia was still a going concern, remember? One of the ongoing themes in classic Star Trek was that the US and USSR (and PRC) would eventually overcome their differences peacefully. Given that, why would he make an episode that directly criticized the Soviets?
jon meltzer
16. jmeltzer
Communists are coming. Remember "freedom - that is a worship word"?
j p
17. sps49
Saesar (or Rome) and LCD TV will be skewered soon enough.

Eugene, I hope the references weren't too uncomfortable, but they were intended to show how wrong and stupid that kind of crap is. I mean, using Spock's skull as evidence of his lesser mental development?

EliBishop @14-

Klingons as Communists? They seemed more like Nazis without swastikas to me, especially in Errand of Mercy where Organians were ordered killed at 50:1 for every Klingon killed or attacked. Although I think this was used by the Germans in WW1 in the Low Countries, so I dunno.

And part of Hollywood was decidedly non-Left, yes (John Wayne, for one) but in general it was (and is) decidedly liberal, plus Commusism was even more inefficient that Nazism/ fascism.
Mitch Wagner
18. MitchWagner
I always assumed the Klingons were proxies for the Soviets, and the Romulans for the Red Chinese.

There always seemed to be a subtext that the Klingons and us were enemies now -- but we might be great allies in the future. The Organians even said as much. But those Romulans, now, they're really alien. Inscrutable, even.

I remember this episode as a real turkey, interesting to hear good things about it. I'll have to give it a try. The theme certainly seems timely today. America seems to think we can torture enemies, keep a huge portion of our population in prison, run concentration camps for accused terrorists, impose our imperial power around the world, but it's ok when we do it, because we're the good guys.

I have quite a lot of body hair, and I think it's funny the way a hairy chest on a man has become an object of joke-revulsion in pop culture. It was considered sexy in the 70s. Either way, as a married guy, I'm out of the game, and can afford to watch and laugh from the sidelines, and not have to worry about having to get my chest waxed for the laydeez. Ow. Owowowowow.
Mike Conley
19. NomadUK
Came in late, nothing much to add. I liked the episode a lot, especially the little touches (Spock's raised eyebrow when Daras reveals that she betrayed her father to the Nazis; McCoy's struggle with the boots in the cloakroom; Kirk's 'Oh -- my goodness' as Spock gets the rubindium laser working).

I thought the ending was a bit pat. A couple of bullets, and the entire Nazi hierarchy is overturned and they all realise the error of their ways? It took a few more rounds than that in 1945. But that's typical of the way civilisations have been corrected on Star Trek: the Archons, Eminiar VII, the Iotians, Triskelion.

One exception to this quick-fix rule so far has been on Neural, and we know how unpopular that solution was.

Another episode with an other-than-instant-fix will be coming up shortly, involving a different planet-wide dictatorship.

And I must say, Spock looked pretty sharp in that helmet.

Oh, and that's 'Führer' or 'Fuehrer', by the way.


sps49@17: Klingons as Communists? They seemed more like Nazis without swastikas to me

Yes, especially with the bronze skin and the Ming the Merciless beards and moustaches. Clearly Aryan stand-ins.

MitchWagner@18: I think it's funny the way a hairy chest on a man has become an object of joke-revulsion in pop culture

It's not just chests anymore. Watch any porn lately? Strangely, it seems as though Ken and Barbie have become personal grooming paradigms. Part of the gradual infantilisation of Western culture, I guess.
john mullen
20. johntheirishmongol
By this time Nazi's were a fairly popular bad guy for tv/movies/books. In addition to Hogan's Heroes, there were a few books that came out at thie time about Nazi gold/clones of Hitler and other associated plots with old Nazi's in South America. Every couple of year's Simon Weisenthal would track down another criminal and they would take him off to trial.

This episode was pretty good, in that it had quite a few good bits with Kirk and Spock. It's been a while since I have seen it but I remember it as a decent but not great episod. Star Trek messages were never really subtle.

On chest hair - in the 60s/70s it was shown off. I remember going to discos in a polyester shirt and gold chains. Now it's everyone shaves everything. I can't imagine the upkeep, lol.
j p
21. sps49
NomadUK @19-

There was a real plot to assassinate Hitler, and the result would have been similar, but not quite as fast.

The Kilngons still acted that way to me, appearances notwithstanding.

And who admits watching porn? :)
Church Tucker
22. Church
Ah, good episode. Classic raiding of the costume department, but without resorting to Hodgman's Law. Solid 4 (and when was the last time we were all in agreement?) Heck, it should prolly get an additional bump just for the fanfic/vid material it provided.

I think what everyone is missing here is that this isn't so much about Nazis, as it is about Jews. The Nazis just came from recent history (and hundreds of war film wardrobes.)
J M McDermott
23. Lsana
@ 5 WonderGirl, 13 MightyMarc,

I always assumed that there was a certain amount of racism inherient in Gill's program. It's part of all Fascism to a certain extent; a big part of what makes people willing to go along with the program is the us/them mentality. This was even more true for the Nazis than for other brands of Fascism: if Gill had just been going for "make the trains run on time" then surely he could have patterned his society after the Italian Fascists or the Argentinian Peronists or perhaps Mosley's followers in England (or if we wanted some real entertainment, Roderick Spode's Blackshorts). My guess is that he picked the Zeons as the enemy on the grounds that they lived on another planet and hence would be unlikely to suffer very much from the hatred of the New Reich.

What always bothered me about this episode is the fact that here we make a big deal of the fact that another society couldn't have evolved an exact replica of Nazi Germany, but in the Yankee/Communist episode, we see a society that apparently evolved exactly the same as the US, right down to the same flag and the same constitution. That causes no comment.
Mike Conley
24. NomadUK
Lsana@23: What always bothered me is that here we make a big deal that another society couldn't have evolved an exact replica of Nazi Germany, but in the Yankee/Communist episode, we see a society exactly the same as the US, right down to the same flag and the same constitution. That causes no comment.

It's a two-edged sword that Star Trek was made when it was. Before the era of Hill Street Blues, there weren't fixed teams of writers, ensuring tight continuity checking and story arcs; on the other hand, we occasionally got people like Theodore Sturgeon and Harlan Ellison, who could actually write, at the cost of inconsistency.

I think I know which one I'd choose.
Torie Atkinson
25. Torie
@ 18 MitchWagner

It's not a revulsion for body hair generally but rather how ridiculously inappropriate it is for Spock specifically. They took the alien hero character on the show--the only one, really--and made him look like any 40-year-old 70s dude. Why? I want to unsee that! It undermines his alienness and now I'm going to have to fight the image of Spock as an open-shirted 70s cop.

@ 19 NomadUK

Yeah, the Tor.com system didn't like my accent characters and stripped them. Grr.

@ 23 Lsana

I agree, racism is a huge part of that, right down to the language. They call the Zeons "pigs" and animal metaphors are a classic way to dehumanize a group of people, othering them and encouraging people not to feel sympathy when the actual violence happens. The Jews were rats, the Tutsis were roaches, etc.
Mitch Wagner
26. MitchWagner
... when of course it was Kirk who was the open-shirted 70s cop. Or, 80s cop.

I saw this episode in the 70s, and I remember thinking even then that Leonard Nimoy looked kind of out of shape for Spock. And this was when I was a child, with vastly greater capacity for suspension of disbelief, and well before male TV and movie stars routinely displayed sculpted muscle definition.
J M McDermott
27. ***Dave
I'm surprised that all the focus is on Spock's chest hair, when what's most notable (at least as the young geek I was watching the show the first time) is that the welts and blood drawn by the whipping were *green*. Plus, Kirk kept flinching under the whip, while Spock bore the whole thing stoically.

I guess, coming from a family of hairy-chested men, I just didn't see it as anything odd or offputting.

This is one of those eps I always mistake for a 3rd Season entry, simply because the plot is so awful and the metaphor so heavy-handed -- even though the acting is, in general, pretty decent (in particular, as noted, the Kirk/Spock team-up).
Jeromy Houston
28. Aabeester
The original Star Trek will always be the best. I've seen them all and I almost forgot about this one until I saw your story.
J M McDermott
29. Kebster
I'm so glad that other females who think Spock is awesome dislike shirtless Spock. For some reason there is a large (or at least loud) section of Spock-fandom that finds that...sexy? I find it disturbing. The end.

I love the Tony Stark comment. I watched Iron Man 2 in a theatre full of science grad students and that got a lot of laughs.
J M McDermott
31. Mr.
I never cared for this episode or for the TOS since it did nothing but focus on Kirk (makesout with every woman), Spock (Data, a machine, showed more emotion than he ever did) and McCoy (complains in every single episode and scene).

You would really have to be a Star Trek fanatic to not only like it any part of it, but to come up with piss poor excuses for the lazy writing. John Gill's reasons made no sense whatosever, but this is typical Sc-Fi writing coming from people who have every little knowgle, if any, on the subject matter of Nazi Germany.

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