***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***
SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S1:21. “Return of the Archons”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
GUEST-STARRING: Charles Macaulay, Harry Townes, Torin Thatcher
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry (Story), Boris Sobelman (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: February 6, 1967
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise discovers a planet on which all beings have been “absorbed” into the mind of a single ruler: Landru.
By Rob Siebert
What are the odds that an episode where Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Sulu get to dress up in 19th century outfits is actually about free will and humanity’s propensity for war?
Actually, on this show the odds are quite good.
Unfortunately, this is an episode where you have to work a little harder to get past the initial silliness. At first I thought we might have been introducing a new villain in Landru. Maybe a character that keeps trying to create hive mind societies based on “simpler times.” In theory, that’d be a great way to save money by recycling costumes from other productions. You could have Kirk and Spock in Victorian times, the Stone Age, or even the present (the ’60s). Frankly I’m surprised they didn’t go all out for this episode and have them just be cowboys.
Yet strangely this odd world they find themselves on isn’t Earth. Rather, an “Earth-like planet.” Pfft. Yeah, okay…
What we have is a story about a planet where individual minds have been absorbed into a single consciousness, otherwise known as “the Body.” The mind allegedly belongs to a man known only as Landru. But, SPOILER ALERT: We later find out Landru is a machine. This strange place is a computer’s logical, soulless idea of what an optimal human society should be.
MEANWHILE, IN FEBRUARY 1967: Operation Junction City is initiated by US forces in Vietnam on February 22. At 82 days, and it becomes the longest airborne operation conducted by American forces since Operation Market Garden during World War II. It is also the only major airborne operation of the Vietnam War.
As he conveniently tends to do, Kirk hits the nail on the head with these lines to a pair of rebels, who are suddenly too frightened to stand against Landru:
“You said you wanted freedom. It’s time you learned that freedom is never a gift. It has to be earned.”
It kind of makes you wonder, in a depressing sort of way, what Kirk and Spock would think of the world in 2020. Racially charged riots and protests. A pandemic. A president that is…well, what he is.
Not to mention the idea of how appealing such a hive mind might be to said president if he could be in the Landru role. And how humiliating would it be to be represented by him.
But hey! This episode is the first mention of the Prime Directive! So that’s something in the positive column, right?
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