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Star Trek: The Return of the Archons

Man: "Come for the Festival, ayuh?"
Kirk: "Yes."
Man: "Got a place to sleep it off yet?"

Was this a communism metaphor?

I like plots about dystopian futures. There's so much that can be done with them. Not that this was a particularly strong entry in the genre, since it was mostly computer-related technophobia combined with Old Testament-style dogma. When holographic Landru said, "You will be absorbed. Your individuality will merge into the unity of good," Dan immediately said, "We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own." A little precursor of the Borg there, but nowhere near as good.

"Festival" wasn't explained, but it certainly seemed to be blowback from everyone being so calm and peaceful all the time. (One wonders if something similar is happening on planet Vulcan, huh?) I did like the scene where all the quiet, peaceful people suddenly stopped, picked up sticks, and started toward the landing party. Villagers with pitchforks. Good times.

Of course, the big question was, how dare we interfere in the society of the people of Beta 3, no matter what it was? Landru didn't come from the Archon, after all; Landru destroyed the Archon. Spock did mention the Prime Directive only to get shot down by Kirk, who countered that the Directive only applied to living, growing cultures. I don't know. I think if there was a provision like that in the Prime Directive, Spock would have been familiar with it. Does Kirk really get to decide how the Prime Directive is applied? I guess he does.

The best part of this one was probably the colonial garb (Kirk looked really good in the tail coat and string tie) and the fact that, for some reason, everyone was sleeping in what looked like Victorian bunk beds. I guess a society where everyone bounces from quiet, peaceful nonentity to participants in an orgy of sex and violence doesn't have a need for double beds. Spock in bunk bed. Sounds like the punch line of a joke, doesn't it?

Ben says...

Okay, maybe Sulu wouldn't be zapped so often if he didn't just stand there while the slow moving Grim Reaper Smile Police just kind of sidle on over to him.

This is more proof that the writers and producers of Star Trek weren't dumbing down anything, even when the episodes were not the most memorable. The struggle between the collectivity and the individual is probably the central struggle of the twentieth century, and they address it head-on here. Contrast this with the Borg in the Next Generation, much more compelling from a television point of view, but did anyone ever think maybe the Borg had a good idea about how to save a decaying society? (If you raised your hand to say yes, please report for assimilation.) On the other hand, this episode saw (as recently noted by historian Tony Judt) the tendency that the more perfect the solutions to the last century's social issues, the more disastrous the result (see Fascism, Communism and untrammeled faith in Markets as three of many examples).

Then again, maybe it's just a metaphor for the 9 to 5 rat race. Conform during the workday and you can go nuts around 6 (Hey, I may open a bar called "The Red Hour").

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3156.2. The planet was Beta 3.

— The starship Archon disappeared a hundred years ago. We had starships a hundred years ago? I guess we did.

— Sulu was the first to get zapped. I seem to remember him being the first to get zapped in "The Squire of Gothos." Maybe Sulu is just prone to zapping.

— I'm sure the plots about computers as evil, soulless objects that take over worlds reflect the trend toward general technophobia in the sixties.

— It was certainly convenient that the Landru computer was hidden right there in town, and even in the same building. No running around to cities all over the globe looking for it.

— Spock punched out one of the Grim-Reaper-like enforcers. Maybe he didn't trust himself to find the guy's neck under that robe.

— Reger and Marplon (were they going for Roger and Marvin?) were pretty timid for resistance fighters. Good thing Kirk carried out their revolution for them.


Kirk: "You'd make a splendid computer, Mister Spock."
Spock: "That is very kind of you, Captain."

Two out of four Victorian bunk beds,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. My brothers and I used to love shouting out "Festival! Festival!" like the weirdo does during the Red Hour. I always enjoyed this one just to see them all in wild west dress clothes and for McCoy being brainwashed and becoming part of The Body and spying on the others.

  2. The choice of what appears to be a nun's habit (on a planet modeled after a Puritian colony, no less!) for Spock's disguise is both hilarious and questionable. Maybe people did run around dressed like that, no one seemed to question it. Attempts to hide Spock from native populations were always pretty hilarious, though.

  3. I like this episode a lot. I enjoyed the clothing and yes Kirk did look pretty good in the old style clothes. Sulu getting zapped made me laugh, because I'm like dude run, skip, speed walk away, just do something. I think the biggest reason why I like this episode was watching all those people wild out. Can you imagine if at a certain time of day, you got to scream, break things, make out with no blow back? It would be chaos yes, but sometimes chaos can be good. We live in a society that expects us to be good, obey and that's it. Maybe the we need a weekly festival to blow off some human emotion. Of course no murder, rape, or doing anything to kids and animals. So civilized chaos perhaps?

  4. Not much to add to the reviews here. As I was born in 69 I wasn't really in tune with the technophobia of the 60s, but it is apparent watching shows of the time.

    The Dystopian society setting is used a lot in sci-fi, and less often in fantasy, but it is as you say Billie, usually a good setting and can discuss some crucial topics. Star Trek does hit these kinds of stories fairly often, but this is a more mediocre outing into the genre.


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