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Star Trek: Errand of Mercy

Kor: "I don't trust men who smile too much."

And we have Klingons!

This is a fascinating episode in a cultural sense. Kirk initially has genuine fear for the safety of the Organians, becomes totally frustrated with their reaction, and then is angry and disgusted because they refuse to do what he thinks they should to save their own lives. In the process, he discovers that he is a lot more like the Klingons than he thought he was. Kirk wasn't completely off the mark, though. If the Organians had actually been quiet, primitive nightie-wearing people with goats who would have been decimated by the Klingons, Kirk would have been right. I think.

Anyway, I've always thought the Organians were cool. These particular god-like aliens had no interest in controlling us, playing with us, or acting superior. They didn't take action until they absolutely had to in order to save human and Klingon lives. Kirk insulted them over and over, and they just brushed it off as totally unimportant. The Organians seemed a lot more like god-like aliens would actually be, if they existed. They just wanted to be left alone to glow in peace. And of course, they didn't want innocents to die. How irrational of them, huh?

The Klingons are, of course, a great addition to the series. They're the classic bad asses of the Star Trek universe. Macho and war-like, much more like humans with too much testosterone than the cold, logical Romulans, they wear flamboyantly militaristic uniforms and have many, many tufts of facial hair in odd places. I have always enjoyed John Colicos' portrayal of Kor, and the way Kor and Kirk ended up bonding because they were both so frustrated with the Organian elders. Kor was our first Klingon, and he was a good one. If he hadn't been, I wonder if we would have gotten more Klingons?

Kirk told Ayelborne that he was a soldier, not a diplomat. I don't think that's true, though. Kirk functioned often as an ambassador. Maybe not so successfully at it this time, though.

Ben says...

Kind of the opposite message of "Arena." Here, the God-like Aliens eventually have to tell the lowly lesser beings to knock off the squabbling and go to their rooms. Billie comments that this is more like what you'd expect of god-like aliens, and I think she's right: GLA's as parents as opposed to the Metron "Let's make em fight," or Trelane's "Mom, I'm bored, can I play with the humans" GLA's as kids (and not nice ones).

Klingons are clearly the best aliens ever. Or certainly the best 1960's aliens ever. Fact 1: they are the classic American "Other," vaguely Asiatic with sinister beards and savage customs. Fact 2: They like war. Fact 3: Their starships are more phallic than the Federation's, insinuating that Kirk is less manly than they are. Finally, Fact 4: they hate peaceniks and don't try to hide it (as opposed to Kirk, who tries to hide it). Fact 5: Klingon is an easy alien to do a great job with as an actor, making every Klingon-centered episode in the old series memorable.

So, to sum up, Great (if over the top) acting + even better (if vaguely racist) alien opponent = Nearly 50 years of shouted alien dialogue, opera and Gak! for breakfast.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3198.4. An interesting visit to the planet Organia.

— A "code one" message from Starfleet Command means war.

— Did Spock describe the Organians as a D on the "Richtor Scale of Cultures?"

— Sulu was left in command for the first time.

— The Klingons used their "mind sifter" on Spock, to no effect.

— Some of the cast referred to the Klingons as "Klingins." Pronunciation of newly created words and names can sometimes be a problem.

— Kirk was literally tossed into the prison cell, and it was obvious that Shatner did his own pretty difficult stunt there.

— Ayelborne tells Kirk and Kor that eventually, humans and Klingons would be allies.

— John Colicos reprised his role as Kor in several episodes of Deep Space Nine.

— Spock's Organian disguise was tights and a short cape, which made him look like a tall elf. Dan (who was walking through the living room while I was watching this one) noticed that Kirk and Spock stayed in their respective Starfleet uniform colors, Kirk in yellow and Spock in blue. Kirk wore tights, too. At least they both had the legs for it.


Kirk: "The weak innocents. They always seem to be located on the natural invasion routes."

Kirk: "Well, there it is. War. We didn't want it, but we've got it."
Spock: "Curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want."

Kirk: "What would you say the odds are on our getting out of here?"
Spock: "Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say, approximately 7,824.7 to one."
Kirk: "Difficult to be precise? 7824 to one?"
Spock: "7824.7 to one."
Kirk: "That's a pretty close approximation."
Spock: "I endeavor to be accurate."
I honestly don't think Spock was serious about the odds, because they don't seem to have a mathematical base. It was just a way for the two of them to banter, to show their friendship for each other before facing almost certain death.

Kirk: "Well, Commander, I guess that takes care of the war. Obviously, the Organians aren't going to let us fight."
Kor: "A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious."
I've always loved the way John Colicos did this line. Delightful.

Four out of four glowing god-like aliens,

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


  1. Once again (and no surprise) a prescient, intelligent, "I-was-just-gonna-say-that' review!

    And yeah, what a great final line, generously given to A KLINGON for gosh sakes! I know I've trod this squeaky board before: but it's not only a great line of its own self, and it not only fits thematically, being true to characters' nature (including Kirk the Warrior). It also surreptitiously encourages and provides a venue IN US for empathy with Others, our emenies (my younger brother always referred to that classic kids' book as "Let's Be Emenies"). And not empathy just in the 'we-all-everybody' kinda way, but also in the more naughty sense of ALSO feeling that all-out battle would have been glorious! That whole dulce et decorum est pro patria mori thing is so much more widespread and deeper than we may think -- and these subtle touches wink and give a quick, maybe unsettling flash of that.

    They also help build the arena (ha) of this show into an entire richly-perceived world -- not from one single scene or astounding story, but from the plethora of little touches like this, that endlessly resonate. I love that.

  2. I like the review. One of my favorite episodes. By the way, Shatner's prison stunt wasn't dangerous--he lands on a mattress. I was thinking about the danger too, so I replayed the scene. The director, John Newland, was a badass.

  3. Baltar! I also loved the original Battlestar Galactica as a kid and I recognized John Colicos there as Baltar as well. He's great at being the Sci-fi adversary!

    This is another fine example of the show and how fun 60s sci-fi can be. I always have liked the Klingon ships better than the Fed's as even when TNG came around to make the design looker sleeker and more modern, it never looks as cool as the Klingon design, a design that you see all over the place for good reason.

    Organians are also in Star Fleet Battles as well, they had the ISC kind of keep the other powers at bay after the general war had depleted their forces, but then the Andromedans came...

    Love this one too!


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