Here's a very unusual episode. You see things in this one you don't often see in TOS:
1) The PD is explained and compliance is demonstrated. 2) Scotty really does save the day, and not by fixing something that was already broken. In fact, nothing goes wrong with the equipment at all. 3) Spock and McCoy have several intense and interesting interactions, instead of just their usual petty snipefest. This time it's a knock-down drag-out snipefest. 4) Kirk actually (maybe) gets laid. Yes, this *is* unusual. 5) TOS actually makes an overt religious statement.
This episode is also typical in many ways:
1) The action takes place on ANOTHER world which is remarkably similar to Earth. 2) Kirk gets imprisoned, and finds it an enjoyable experience, *again*. 3) Spock, despite being a pacifist, turns out to be a kick-ass fighter, *again*. 4) McCoy goes ashore although there is no obvious reason for him to be there, *again*. 5) Kinky elements - Bondage, humiliation, sexy captivity scene, and other kinky stuff. Torture isn't demonstrated but *is* mentioned, and in a sexy context too, as usual. 6) Kirk gets thrown into a spicy situation with a sexy woman and, as in the ep Mudd's Women (and many others), it's NOT HIS IDEA. 7) Something happens which looks K/S slashy.
Ok, we are trying to figure out what happened to Captain Merrick's ship, which disappeared 6 years ago. The trail leads to a remarkably Earthlike planet (no way!) that is at a 20th century level of development. We monitor a TV broadcast about slave rebellions, and Gladiator fights. Spock recognizes the "barbarian" fighting as an Earthman who served with Merrick.
Kirk is awestruck. Gee! A modern-type culture that has gladiators and slaves! We're beaming down right now!
Next thing you know they are blinking in the sunshine and discussing the Prime Directive. They remind each other of the rules:
1) No identification of self or mission. 2) No interference with social development of planet. 3) No references to space or to the fact that there are more advanced civilizations.
[NOTE: Gotta wonder how they plan to explain Spock. It's not like he can pass as one of the locals.]
They are immediately captured by a group of guys with guns who are apparently renegade slaves. The leader turns out to be Flavius Maximus, a former gladiator. They ask about Spock's ears, natch, and about the starship uniforms. To convince Flavius and friends that they are not Imperial Roman types, Kirk whips out his communicator and asks Scotty to count how many people he sees standing around. Answer, 12, which is the right answer, thank goodness. Kirk then explains to Flavius that he was communicating with his ship, "somewhere at sea". Why this helps I can't say, but so far so good. An old guy who is sort of really in charge now convinces Flavius to trust our guys.
Now we are in the rebel's cave hideout. These people all worship the sun. Their religion is a religion of brotherhood and peace. The old guy was demoted from senator to slave when he converted. Not exactly what you call a good career move.
Kirk asks questions, but not about the religion and their rebel way of life. He's more interested in discovering what he can about Captain Merrick. The name "Merrick" makes everybody tense. They know him as Merricus, the bloodthirsty first citizen, and lord of the arena games. It sounds as if Merrick violated the Prime Directive, or worse! Kirk says Merrick will be taken away and punished, but he needs help to get to Merrick. He asks to be taken to where he might find Merricus.
The renegades have less than nothing, but they still manage to find some slave-togs to dress Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in (although I don't know why this is necessary now if it wasn't before), including a knit cap to conceal Spock's ears with. It's 80 degrees outside, so he looks weird anyway, but no matter.
They set off on foot with an armed Flavius in the lead. They are soon surprised by a group of cops who take them captive. Flavius is recognized and called by name, which enrages him and he attacks the cop, and is quickly subdued. Not exactly smart, this Flavius. Spock's silly cap is removed and he is declared to be a "barbarian". Heck, they are all barbarians, it seems.
Now things start to get good. The four are imprisoned. Spock and McCoy begin to fussily bitch at each other and Kirk and Flavius begin to share a butch, male-bonding moment, but they are interrupted. Flavius gets the star treatment and is selected out for the gladiator pool. Next, our boys are ordered by three guards to follow them.
"Three against three..." Kirk murmurs to Spock and McCoy. "We may never have better odds..."
McCoy doesn't get it.
To the guards Kirk says, something like, "Well OK, but we won't get far, our friend is sick!"
McCoy is clueless. "I am?"
"YES" Jim insists, "We Probably Won't Even Make It Out The Door Before My Pal Doubles Over And Is Obviously Very Sick!"
OK, McCoy gets it now, as would anybody else within earshot. McCoy suddenly "gets sick". The guards very stupidly come closer to see, and of course get stomped, punched, and pinched. The guys run for it but don't get far. They run right into Merrick and a guy who turns out to be the *real* powermeister around here, an obvious faggot named Claudius Marcus, who tells them it's no good to pretend - he knows who and what they are because Merrick told him.
[NOTE: Oh yeah? Well we know what Marcus is without anybody telling us!]
Next thing you know, they are in CM's luxurious apartment. There is a gorgeous blond slave lady hovering nearby, and once they are all seated, she comes over to serve snacks. Kirk's eyes meet hers and their gazes lock. Everything stops for a second.
"Lovely thing, isn't she?" Proconsul Marcus asks Kirk, mildly. Kirk doesn't answer.
There's a lot of blah, blah, blah that is mostly nonsensical about why Merrick adopted the local way of life and allowed his crew to be sacrificed in the arena. Something about "contamination". Proconsul Marcus didn't want anybody from outside worlds finding out about him and his culture.
[NOTE: Baloney. That ain't the half of it. Him and Merrick clearly have an understanding that is much more complex than that, but fortunately we are spared the icky details.]
Kirk is handed his communicator, and while guards train guns on his head he is ordered to to order his people down from the ship. Kirk thinks about it, then calmly says to Scotty:
"Condition green. All's well. Kirk out!"
[everybody reacts dramatically]
Everybody involved already knows what condition green means. Because *we* don't know, Scotty muses aloud that the Captain's in trouble, but they are ordered to not interfere. He decides he is going to do something anyway, but in a way that doesn't violate the PD. Go Scotty!
Next thing you know, Kirk is in handcuffs.
[NOTE: Finally! I'm surprised we had to wait this long! As soon as Kirk's eyes lit up at the realization that this culture had institutionalized slavery I figured he'd beam down in handcuffs already ready for action.]
He is forced to watch as Spock and McCoy are given shields and swords and forced to do battle on live TV as a team against a couple of gladiators, one of whom turns out to be our old friend Flavius. Gee! What are the odds!?
They fight, and the fight is actually played for laughs. Flavius goes up against McCoy, and it's sure lucky for McCoy that Flavius is a pacifist now, because otherwise he'd get creamed.
Spock easily holds off his opponent, gets bored eventually, and begins taunting the unnamed gladiator, saying:
"...I am well able to defeat you!"
"Fight, Barbarian!" his panting half-witted antagonist wittily retorts.
"I do not want to injure you." Spock explains, humiliating his opponent even more.
Proconsul Marcus asks Kirk if he is now ready to order his people down to the surface to join the fun. This is confusing. Was this spectacle arranged to convince Kirk it's a great way of life? Apparently. When Kirk manifests a complete unreadiness to invite all aboard the Enterprise to abandon ship and come on down, Marcus sneers:
"Admit it. You find these games frightening, revolting!"
Kirk smiles and leans back as if he's enjoying the show. "Proconsul, I have seen forms of entertainment that make this look like a folk dance!"
[NOTE: A revelation. We thought he *hadn't* ever seen anything like that because he had always been been facing the wrong way to actually watch anything. Maybe he has souvenir pictures he has seen.]
The guys fighting hear Kirk's remark, feel embarrassed, and decide to up the excitement. Spock's gladiator starts calling him names. Spock yawns, and while holding off his guy with one hand, asks McCoy if he'd like some help. McCoy cusses at Spock and tells him it's an illogical question. This gets Spock going. He offs his guy then runs over and mercifully neck-pinches Flavius off to dreamland.
This is against the rules. Now it will be decided if they will be summarily executed. Kirk? What do you say? Should we kill 'em quick? Kirk declines comment. OK, Merrick..what do you say? Merrick defers to Marcus. Who's on first? I don't know, but for some reason Marcus decides to spare Spock and McCoy, and they are taken back to their cell.
Kirk is taken to the Proconsul's chambers. He thought that guy looked fruity, now he's sure. Kirk thinks he's now to be forced to be the Proconsul's toy, that he's going to be tortured and raped and stuff by the guards for the Proconsul's amusement, while Spock and McCoy are shackled nearby, forced to helplessly watch the humiliating spectacle, and he steels himself inwardly for the ordeal, but then is confused to find instead that he's been released into the Proconsul's chamber, and the only person there with him is the Proconsul's beautiful blond slave, Drusilla.
"I am told for tonight I am to be your slave", she explains.
Kirk naturally is pissed. He'd always rather be the slave himself.
"It won't work!" He tells her, then calls out to anyone listening (presumably Marcus), "It won't work, do you hear!" No show tonight! Forget about it!
[NOTE: No shit. Kirk probably can't get it up under these conditions.]
"We are alone, please believe me", Drusilla earnestly assures him.
[NOTE: That's part of the problem, doll. If he was being enslaved and tortured and raped by a gang n stuff, that'd be different.]
*Meanwhile*, back in the jail cell Spock keeps trying to escape and the reason why is obvious: he's locked up with McCoy, and McCoy is getting on his nerves.
"I'm trying to thank you for saving my life, you pointed-eared hobgoblin!", McCoy carps.
~Let me out of here, let me OUT OF HERE~ Spock thinks, as he tests the strength of the prison bars for the 15th time.
McCoy gentles his manner and tries to act understanding. "I'm worried about Jim, too", he says.
[NOTE: Excuse me, but McCoy is the only one who is merely worried about Jim. Spock is clearly insane with stark, raging anxiety. He's climbing the walls, for cryin' out loud! When you remember that Spock can sense emotions and influence thoughts from a distance (refer: Devil In The Dark) it's easy to imagine that he's sensing the kind of "peril" Jim's really in, and that THAT is what has really got him worried.]
*Meanwhile*, back at the proconsul's love nest, Kirk and Drusilla are getting chummy. She has provided him with food and wine. She sits next to him and anxiously waits for some sign of approval. He tastes the wine. Yep, it's good. He samples the food. Yep, it's good. She is so relieved. She tells Kirk she under orders to please him.
"I have been in a lot of strange worlds, seen a lot of strange customs...perhaps this is considered torture here?" Kirk asks, struggling in his own special way to understand his role.
"I wouldn't want to see you tortured in any way." She tenderly assures Jim.
[NOTE: Ok, so, kill the lights and you won't have to see it. BTW, speak for yourself. Some of us live to see Kirk getting tortured.]
Then Drusilla adds, "At the first sign of pain you will tell me."
[NOTE: That's more like it! She's giving orders now! *Now* we are getting somewhere!]
Kirk brightens, apparently happy that he might have some pain to report if he plays his cards right.
"You'll be the first to know!" he promises, and they seal the deal with a kiss.
Fade out, Fade in.
Time has passed. It's now the next day in the Proconsul's chamber, and Kirk is awakened by the Proconsul himself. Kirk is alone: no Drusilla in sight. In fact, there is no sign that she has ever been there. Was she just a dream? Kirk sits up, fully dressed, and stands up, vacating a bed that looks like it was never used. The whole apartment is as neat as a pin. Hmm. Doesn't exactly look like he animaled out on Blondie all night. Hmm.
[NOTE: I guess they could have played "Let's clean house" all night. Kirk would be good at that. Especially if he had some incentive like a big ol' frat paddle to keep him motivated. Come to think of it, he does seem to be walking a little funny.]
[NOTE: In the past I have counted this incident as one of the 3 times in TOS that Kirk ever got laid. I now think I was in error. There actually is no obvious sign that he did get laid. Sure he ~could have~, but he also ~could have~ been giving Spock head for *years*. If it happened, it's impossible to tell.]
Weird Proconsul Marcus explains that he lent Kirk his apartment and slave for the night because he respects him.
Kirk is all: well, gee, thanks, I guess. He obviously is waiting for the other shoe to drop. He's thinking, OK, now the fun really begins. Now I get dragged behind a team of horses naked through the streets to a place where I'm publicly pilloried and whipped for messing with the Proconsul's property n stuff...
Instead, the real reason for the Proconsul's generosity is made clear. Merrick. Proconsul Marcus is favoring Kirk and making friends with Kirk and calling Kirk a real man ~to humiliate Merrick~!
Marcus says, "Would you leave us, Merrick? The thoughts of one man to another can not possibly interest you!"
Merrick blushes and slinks away, chastened.
Now that Kirk realizes he was just a tool in Marcus and Merrick's sick love games, he relaxes. He *thought* there was something funny about that guy, now he knows he's right.
*Meanwhile* Scotty's plan is revealed: he's going to interrupt power on the planet's surface! That'll teach 'em! Now if they want to watch the action in the arena, they'll have to buy it on tape! Scotty hopes the sudden unexpected outlay of economic resources to buy these tapes will throw the economy into a tailspin, provoking reckless behavior and a stock-market crash, which will cause the prison system to need to drastically cut back their workforce, meaning there will be fewer guards, so hopefully this will improve Kirk's chances for escape!
Just as Kirk is being asked to hold really still to make it easier for his executioner to kill him, all the lights go out! Scotty's plan goes into effect. There are desperate runs on all the banks. There is rioting and looting. Many small businesses go belly up. People start standing in line for bread. Hungry children whine hopelessly all over town. Pretty soon, the taxes aren't getting paid and the layoffs begin. Just as Kirk's executioner's eyes have adjusted to the darkness and he prepares to deliver the ritual thrust of the sword, he is handed a pink slip. Whew! Just in the nick of time!
Kirk grabs a machine gun for a souvenir and tries it out on a couple of guards. He shoots the lock off of Spock's cell door and runs *into* the cell, where dag-nab it, he darn well knows he belongs. Merrick gets stabbed but just before he dies he tosses Kirk one of the communicators.
Kirk calls Scotty. Kirk, McCoy, and Spock dissolve in a transporter beam as another guard sprays their vanishing forms with machine gun fire, to no avail.
Well, *that* was exciting!
Mr. Scott gets a big pat on the back for managing to ruin life for everybody on the planet while still technically not violating the Prime Directive.
Uhura now tells everybody that the Sun worshippers don't worship the sun in the sky, but the Son Of God!
Kirk is all, gee! Wouldn't it be cool to see him get crucified all over again n stuff? But no. No, they already know how that story ends, and they have another party they have to go to, so they leave orbit and set a course for fresh new adventures.
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