Episode number 21, The Return Of The Archons. It explores a theme that was already discussed in The Galileo Seven (the roles of logic and of emotions) and there’s a problem already noted in Miri, namely that of shooting every scene in a pre-existing set, in this case reminding the early twentieth century with semi-medieval buildings with lots of stones and torches, without any real reason. Evidently, that’s what was available in the studios at that time! Nevertheless, this is yet another enjoyable episode that shows once again that Roddenberry had clear ideas on how to develop the series and how to give it a clear and consistent direction.
The USS Enterprise arrives at the planet Beta III to look for traces of the Starfleet ship Archon disappeared there a hundred years earlier. Sulu is on a reconnaissance mission on the planet surface with O’Neil (Sean Morgan) but they are chased by men with big brown tunics and menacing tubular weapons. O’Neil seemingly manages to escape, but Sulu is hit by one of those weapons just before he’s beamed out. On board the Enterprise, Sulu arrives in a state of confusion, raving about the planet’s society and saying that it’s paradise.
Thus, Kirk goes himself to the planet with a large landing party that also includes the faithful Spock and begins to investigate what’s going on. The people of this world seem to live without emotions, with mechanical and repetitive movements, even if there seems to be a festival created specifically to vent all the constantly suppressed instincts. Soon Kirk and the others realize that the people of Beta III live by following the dictates of such Landru, and everyone feels part of unicum (which is called the Body). Also, there’s a resistance movement of people who try to live differently. Thanks to a man named Reger (Harry Townes), the landing party discovers that the Enterprise commanded by Scott (the lesson of Arena of the captain who should be on board at all times has not yet been learned) is under attack, just like the Archon one hundred years before. It’s up to Kirk, Spock and the others on the surface to find out where Landru is and save themselves and the ship!
If it wasn’t clear already, this is another episode with quite dark atmospheres and at times trespassing from science fiction to horror, something that so far this first season of Star Trek has demonstrated to b able to do very well. And this is true for the first part of the story. In the second part, we get a plot twist which is slightly reminiscent of The Wizard Of Oz: Landru turns out to be is nothing but an ancient computer commanding society in a logical manner to maximize well-being: no conflicts, no emotions, no passions… only coldness leading to peace and tranquility. So here’s the paradise mentioned by Sulu, a paradise where life is in fact a real nightmare! Kirk and Spock eventually free the inhabitants of the planet from Landru’s rule by making it go haywire with a logical inconsistency and they leave the sociologist Lindstrom (Christopher Held) on the surface to help reconstructing the society a bit like it was done when leaving the planet of Miri and the other children a few episodes ago. Interestingly, Spock mentions the First Directive, but Kirk silences him by saying that this dead society must be saved from the delirium dictated by a 6,000 years old computer. So much for no interference!
The last minutes of the episode are once again devoted to a comedy scene starring Kirk and Spock, with the Captain making fun of the half-Vulcan for his lack of emotion without him even noticing the irony. Well, at least this time we can have a laugh without any of the crew having died in the process! In short, this is another good episode (with its flaws, of course: the festival thing is juts sketched, some dialogue are cut short without any reason, and then why are all these aliens simply human?) which cements the relationships between the two protagonists of the series, Kirk and Spock, and which also gives visibility to the various Scott, McCoy and Sulu in the most important parts of the story. And now let’s proceed to the next episode, we’re almost done with this first season, I cannot believe it! Ciao!
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