Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “Patterns of Force”

“Patterns of Force”
Written by John Meredyth Lucas
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Season 2, Episode 23
Production episode 60352
Original air date: February 16, 1968
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. A Federation historian, John Gill—who instructed Kirk at the Academy—has gone missing. He was observing the planet Ekos, one of two twin planets, the other being Zeon, but nobody’s heard from him for six months. The Enterprise has been sent to find out what has happened to him.

A ship comes from Ekos—which is a surprise, since Zeon is the planet that has space travel, not Ekos. Spock reads that the ship is a robot probe armed with a thermonuclear warhead. Chekov destroys it with phasers, but the bigger concern is that the Ekosians shouldn’t be that far advanced technologically. Kirk orders a higher orbit that would be out of range of the Ekosians’ detection.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Kirk is concerned about how Ekos went from a technologically primitive world full of warring factions to a planet that can launch a thermonuclear missile at a ship in orbit. Kirk and Spock beam down in appropriate clothes, wearing subcutaneous transponders. Kirk orders Scotty to come back into transporter range in three hours and beam them up no matter what.

They arrive to find a Zeon being beaten up by soldiers wearing the insignia of Nazi Germany. They see a propaganda screen that shows that the Ekosians have adopted Nazi tactics and Zeons are to be expelled from Ekos. The last shot is of the Fuhrer: John Gill.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Two different soldiers try to capture Kirk and Spock as “Zeon pigs,” and they’re stopped by karate chops and neck pinches, and both members of the landing party now have their very own Nazi uniforms.

Unfortunately, Spock’s uniform is that of a lieutenant, and a suspicious major orders him to remove his helmet, which reveals his Vulcan heritage.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

The pair are taken to a cell and interrogated—while also being whipped. The chairman of the Nazi party, Eneg, arrives to continue the questioning due to the fact that the weapons the landing party were carrying have defied examination by their scientists. Eneg orders the prisoners locked away for an hour before questioning is resumed.

Their cellmate is the same Zeon they saw getting beat up before. His name is Isak, and he explains that Ekosians hate Zeons in order to unite themselves. The Zeons came to Ekos to try to civilize them, bringing them technology and such, but then the Nazi movement started, and they focused all their ire on Zeons. The movement started around the same time Gill arrived.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

They need to get out, so they use the crystals in their transponders (which they pull out of their arms by use of a slat in the cot to cut their arms open) to focus the light from the bulb in the cell to make a crude laser that burns off the cell’s lock.

Kirk cries for the guard, and Spock does the neck pinch. Kirk puts on the guard’s uniform and they free Isak as well, as he can show them to the lab. Kirk pretends to be taking two Zeon prisoners to the lab for experiments in order to distract a guard and steal his key to the lab, and they get in and find their communicators disassembled, with no sign of their phasers.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

The guard goes back when he realizes his keys are missing, and Isak clubs him on the head. Spock puts on his uniform, and they carry a “dead” Isak out on a pallet. Isak leads them down into the sewers to a cave system where there’s a Zeon underground. Isak is reunited with his brother Abrom, and he learns that the Nazis killed his fiancée.

Spock goes to a quiet area where he can put the communicators back together. He manages to get one finished, when some Nazi soldiers enter, led by Daras, whom they saw in the propaganda film earlier being given a citation. She shoots Abrom—but then Kirk and Spock get the drop on her. Only then does Abrom stand up and reveal that it’s a ruse. Daras is an Ekosian, but she’s on the side of the Zeons. The citation was for betraying her father—which was actually her father’s idea, as he saw the changes in the Fuhrer and wants to fix things, so he set it up so Daras would become a favorite of the regime.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Kirk finally explains who he is—and who John Gill is. Daras is shocked to learn that the Fuhrer is an alien. But it’s impossible to get in to see him. Melakon, the deputy fuhrer, is the only one who sees him, he’s in seclusion otherwise.

The Fuhrer is giving a speech—possibly to declare war on Zeon formally—and only the most important party leaders will be there. Daras will be as well, and they need her to get them in. Kirk hits on the idea of a documentary crew following the new face of the Fatherland around with cameras and lights.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

They shoot in the hallway to get a look at the booth from which the Fuhrer will give a speech, and Gill looks completely out of it. Kirk thinks he might be drugged or had a psychotic break. Their three hours are up, so the Enterprise is in range, and they make contact via Spock’s cobbled-together communicator. Kirk orders McCoy beamed down in the uniform of a Gestapo colonel (of course, the Gestapo didn’t actually wear uniforms, but we’ll let that go). At no point does anyone mention the fact that they aren’t wearing their transponders.

The SS has picked up the communication and are searching the building. McCoy beams down and two seconds later, Eneg comes in with troops. They bluff that McCoy is drunk and they’re keeping him in the storage closet so he doesn’t embarrass the Fuhrer. Eneg compliments them for their discretion, and Kirk wonders why Eneg didn’t recognize Kirk and Spock.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

The speech begins, and they head to the main room where it’s being broadcast on a television screen. The microphone is blocking Gill’s mouth so you can’t even see his lips move as he gives his speech. In McCoy’s medical opinion, he’s been drugged based on how he looks, and the disjointedness of his speech. Melakon then declares the Fuhrer to be awesome and declares death to Zeon. (Pointedly, Gill’s speech never mentions Zeon once.)

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Daras, and Isak break into the control room by pretending to film the guards with the hero of the Fatherland and taking them out. McCoy confirms that Gill’s been drugged, but he can’t say what was used. He risks a stimulant.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Melakon has ordered the Ekosians to wipe out the Zeons once and for all, under orders from the Fuhrer he says. There’s now urgency, so Kirk orders Spock to mind-meld with Gill, and he determines that Melakon is the true power of the Nazi party, with Gill as the figurehead. He’s coherent enough to answer direct questions. Gill thought he could unite the Ekosians with the efficiency of Nazi Germany without the sadism. But Melakon took over and reintroduced the sadism, leading to this nightmare.

Eneg and his guards show up, and Kirk orders Spock to take off his helmet. The cover is that Daras has captured a Zeon spy who was trying to assassinate the Fuhrer. They say that the spy should be taken to Melakon, and Eneg agrees—at which point Isak realizes that Eneg is part of the underground as well. Kirk is left alone with Gill while the others go to Melakon.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Kirk risks a further stimulant and urges Gill to give a speech condemning Melakon, which he does, ordering the recall of the fleet that will attack Zeon. Melakon shoots Gill, and then Isak shoots Melakon. Gill dies in Kirk’s arms, his last words are realizing that he was wrong and he should’ve followed the non-interference directive. (Little late there, bucko…)

Eneg and Daras promise to go on the air and continue Gill’s work.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Fascinating. Melakon has a blast performing an evolutionary analysis on Spock, saying that his sinister eyes and malformed ears point to an inferior race, not to mention the low forehead, denoting stupidity, and the dull look of a trapped animal. Leonard Nimoy’s “seriously, dude?” expression during all this is epic.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy has trouble putting his boots on. That and diagnosing Gill is about all he does this episode. 

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Hailing frequencies open. It’s unclear why Uhura didn’t pick up the broadcasts on Ekos the way she did back in “Bread and Circuses.” It would’ve saved Kirk and Spock some trouble on the surface…

It’s a Russian invention. Chekov gets to fire the weapons this week, destroying the missile the Ekosians use to attack the Enterprise. 

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is ordered to beam the landing party up in three hours no matter what, using the transponders. When three hours pass, no mention is made of the transponders at all.

Channel open. “Captain, I’m beginning to understand why you Earthmen enjoy gambling. No matter how carefully one computes the odds of success, there is still a certain—exhilaration in the risk.”

“Very good, Spock—we may make a human of you yet.”

“I hope not.”

Spock having an epiphany, Kirk insulting him, and Spock refusing delivery of the insult.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Welcome aboard. David Brian plays Gill, while Richard Evans plays Isak, Valora Noland plays Daras, Skip Homeier plays Melakon, Patrick Horgan plays Eneg, William Wintersole plays Abrom, Chuck Courtney plays Davod, Bart LaRue plays the newscaster, and Gilbert Green, Ralph Maurer, Ed McCready, Peter Canon, and Paul Baxley play various Nazis. Homeier will return in “The Way to Eden” as Dr. Sevrin. Maurer previously played Bilar in “The Return of the Archons.” McCready previously played an inmate in “Dagger of the Mind” and the crazed tricycle owner in “Miri” (he’ll be back in “The Omega Glory” and “The Spectre of the Gun”—all his appearances are in episodes directed by Vincent McEveety). LaRue and his awesome voice previously played Trelane’s father in “The Squire of Gothos,” the Guardian in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the announcer in “Bread and Circuses,” and one of the providers in “The Gamesters of Triskelion.”

Plus, of course, we have recurring regulars James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Trivial matters: This is the only actual writing credit that John Meredyth Lucas has that occurred during his tenure as show-runner. His previous effort, “The Changeling,” was under Gene L. Coon’s regime, and his next two (“Elaan of Troyius” and “That Which Survives”) will be in the third season under Fred Freiberger.

Eneg was named after Gene Roddenberry, in what was probably an affectionate dig.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Gill was referenced in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part 2,” as well as several works of tie-in fiction, among them Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman, Strangers from the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno, and A Less Perfect Union (in Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism) by William Leisner.

The various offices of the Ekosian Nazis were actually offices on the Paramount Pictures lot. When the chancellery was seen from the outside, the windows are shuttered because it was an active office building, and people were doing studio business.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

This episode wasn’t aired in Germany until 2011.

Spock mentions Lee Kuan as an Earth tyrant who is meant to be from some time between the late 20th and 23rd centuries. He’ll be mentioned again in “Whom Gods Destroy.”

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

To boldly go. “You should make a very convincing Nazi.” You gotta wonder how William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, both Jews, felt about this episode. Nimoy, interestingly enough, never quite does the salute right and is half-hearted about it, even though a) he’s supposed to be in disguise as a Nazi officer and b) the character he plays is one nitpicky sonofabitch.

Otherwise—blargle. I have no idea what to say about this episode. I mean, it’s the Space Nazi episode, so it’s hard enough to take it seriously. It’s obviously a budget-saver, since all the costumes were lying around the Paramount lot, and they used the Paramount lot for most of the locations. The script is a mess, as things are mentioned early on and then forgotten, starting with the missile attack at the beginning. Why is there no mention by Melakon or Eneg of the ship they fired on at the top of the episode that destroyed their missile? Shouldn’t there be concern about that?

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Kirk and Spock put subcutaneous transponders into their arms, which is a great idea, and one that would’ve proven handy in any number of other episodes. And then it’s used—to make a laser so they can escape their cell? Er, okay.

Gill is so drugged that he can barely talk coherently to Kirk—until it’s time to give the speech condemning Melakon, and then he’s all eloquent and stuff.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

Kirk and Spock put on so many different uniforms in this episode, it devolves into absurdity, especially given that by episode’s end there are about a dozen unconscious Nazi soldiers lying around in their underwear….

And then we have the “revelation” that Melakon is the true bad guy here—except until Gill’s canned speech, we haven’t even seen Melakon except for a few seconds on a TV screen pinning a medal on Daras, which makes the revelation significantly less interesting.

Star Trek, season 2, Patterns of Force

But the biggest problem here is that Gill’s plan just doesn’t make any sense on the face of it, because Nazi Germany wasn’t an efficient state (though, to be fair, that notion was a popular one when the episode was written). It was an effective one, though that was as much due to how the victors in World War I stepped on the Germans’ necks with postwar reparations. Hitler’s propaganda was far more effective being given to a beaten-down people. (Hitler’s tremendous charisma was a big part of the Nazis’ success, too, and Gill—especially incoherent drugged Gill—doesn’t have anywhere near the ability to rabble-rouse that the original Fuhrer did.) But it was actually a messy bureaucracy full of departments that didn’t trust each other (leading, among other things, to the blunder of invading Russia in winter, one of the most costly acts of the war from the German perspective).


Warp factor rating: 4 

Next week:The Ultimate Computer

Keith R.A. DeCandido has bunches of short fiction floating around, including “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” in The X-Files: Trust No One, “Streets of Fire” in V-Wars: Night Terrors, “Time Keeps on Slippin'” in Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Far Horizons, “William Did It” on, and “Send in the Clones” in The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, plus the upcoming short fiction “Live and On the Scene” in Nights of the Living Dead, “Right On, Sister!” in Limbus Inc. Volume 3, and “Identity” in Alternate Sherlocks. Plus there’s his short fiction collection Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido.


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