Star Trek: Patterns of Force

Gill: "Even historians fail to learn from history."

Ah, the dreaded Nazi episode. I wasn't looking forward to it.

Yes, I understand why they did it. It was the sixties, and World War II wasn't that long ago. It was an interesting premise, that a specific political structure would always lead to an evil dictatorship and genocide. A bit simplistic, though. And the story was too heavy-handed, no subtlety whatsoever.

It helped that the bulk of the story was about the heroic Resistance, which somehow managed to look French. (Note the knotted neck scarf and the beret.) The Nazi uniforms looked authentic, too, although Daras's outfit made her look like a Nazi girl scout. What didn't help was that the Zeons and Ekosians looked exactly alike, but somehow the Ekosians were able to spot a Zeon instantly. Was it just how they were dressed? You'd think with all of that easy uniform stealing, the Zeons would all be walking around disguised as Nazis. Okay, the fact that you couldn't tell a Zeon from an Ekosian might have been intentional, a way of making a statement. And maybe I'm giving the writer too much credit.



For me, the best part of this episode was the humor. (Don't ask me to explain why there was so much humor in a Nazi episode.) The prison break exchange with Spock balancing on Kirk's back always makes me laugh. The cloakroom scene was enjoyable. "You make a convincing Nazi" was funny, too, mostly because Kirk did indeed make a convincing Nazi. Spock didn't, although he gave it the old college try.

So the moral of the story appears to be that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. You'd think a brilliant historian would have known that, huh? Frankly, I think Zeon and Ekos had grounds for a massive joint lawsuit against the Federation. They would have won, too.

Ben says...

Am I wrong, or are we to reach the conclusion that if John Gill had somehow retained control of Planet Weimar that he would have done the Good Nazism (which is evidently super efficient, good for fixing up societies which are down on their luck, and characterized by really snappy uniforms)? As it worked out, Melakon took over and did the Bad Nazism (characterized by the racism, genocide, and total war). Kirk and company break the whole thing up but it was reminiscent of the way an old pulp novel about lesbians had to end with the good girl escaping into the arms of Mr. Right, or the drug expose that ends with the Marijuana smoker violently losing their mind. It's a pop culture treatment of something tempting but which on the whole we decide it's better to reject.

Of course, it could also be that the Trek writers were making fun of the fascination with fascist ideals that cropped up in a lot of science fiction. Norman Spinrad's brilliant 1972 SF novel The Iron Dream (ostensibly written by Adolf Hitler) is perhaps the greatest example of this. It reads much like the paperback sci-fi of the period, but being "Hitler's," only the most obtuse reader could miss the point. Later this presence of fascist ideology in mid-century science fiction has been almost routinely acknowledged. I think the movie version of Starship Troopers makes the point about as well as it could be made.



Although personally I loved Neal Patrick Harris as Doogie Himmler, I think maybe we should look elsewhere for our inspiration.

Back to Billie for Bits and pieces:

— No stardate given. The planet Ekos, and discussion of the planet Zeon.

— This is the second time we see an entire alien culture patterned after a specific place and period in Earth's history. The first was "A Piece of the Action."

— When Kirk and Spock first beam down, they are wearing what they wore in "The City on the Edge of Forever."

— Kirk and Spock had tracking transponders inserted under the skin. And they immediately cut them out for the jailbreak. Those transponders would have made finding them a lot easier in other episodes. I don't recall – are the transponders ever used again?



— I have always been weirded out by Spock with his shirt off. One doesn't think of Vulcans as having hairy chests. It just seemed wrong. Even without the streaks of light green blood.

Quotes:

Kirk: "That helmet covers a multitude of sins."

Spock: (balancing on Kirk's back) "You realize that the aim will, of course, be very crude."
Kirk: "I don't care if you hit the broad side of a barn. Just hurry, please."
Spock: (long pause) "Captain, why should I aim at such a structure?"

Daras: "Are you saying our Fuhrer is an alien?"

Daras: "How would you classify this one?" (indicating Spock)
Melakon: "Very difficult. Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears. Definitely an inferior race. Note the low forehead denoting stupidity..."
A little master race humor, there.

McCoy: "It also proves another Earth saying. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Darn clever, these Earth men. Wouldn't you say?"
Spock: "Yes. Earth men like Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan. Your whole Earth history is made up of men seeking absolute power."
McCoy: "Spock, you obviously don't understand."
Spock: "Obviously, Doctor, you fail to accept."

Two out of four stolen Nazi uniforms,

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

3 comments:

Juliette said...

I love the Space Nazis episode! I haven't seen it in a long time, but I'm looking forward to rewatching it. I like the sheer, simple daftness of these episodes (I love the Space Romans one as well) and they make for a nice change of pace, and I grew up on 50s British war movies and stories about the Resistance, so it's nice seeing Star Trek revisit those themes. Having said that, maybe when I do re-watch it I'll feel differently!

tinkapuss said...

I know this episode seems rather simplistic but, as a teenager learning history, I found it did augment some of my understandings at the time about the motivations of Nazi ideology. And it also showed me what 'resistance' was. Plus it gave me a bit of an embarrassing-to-admit crush on anyone in a Nazi uniform... The Shat would have made a great goose-stepping white supremacist - that hair; those eyes ;)

The real epiphany for me was (not that I am superficial or anything, and not that I didn't get the importance of the message) Leonard Nimoy had an awesome bod! Hairy or not, he actually succeeded in making Kirk look a bit tubby.

Outsider65 said...

Hairy Spock is pure Squick. Sorry, probably not a popular opinion, but I had to say it. Shatner was so kind to viewers by staying clean-shaven. Too bad Nimoy didn't take after him in that regard. I don't want to see people's body hair. I guess because it's a tertiary sex trait, it's gross and embarrassing to see. I wonder if in the future we'll extend this to include beards as well. Someone probably studies trends like this.