Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Return of the Archons"

**1/2

Air date: 2/9/1967
Teleplay by Boris Sobelman
Story by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The crew beams down to a world inhabited by people exhibiting strange behavior: a single-minded zombie-like trance state that explodes into temporary anarchy when "red hour" approaches. Kirk & Co. become involved in an underground movement to oppose the all-knowing Landru, a manipulative dictator that has apparently forced all of his citizens into uniform submission. Appropriately enough, Landru ultimately turns out to be a computer.

This episode is a metaphor for a lot of things, many of them approached with sophistication: anti-communist and anti-oneness sentiments, a warning of calculated technology replacing flesh-and-blood anticipation and adaptability, and the argued need for fighting authorities. But the plot flow lacks a cohesiveness to make it all come together into a unified, strong story with an underlying message. The "red hour" craziness is bizarre but confusing in narrative terms, and other small details of the plot are never fully developed.

Also, we have a slightly goofy resolution in which Kirk Outsmarts the Computer [TM] by feeding it some sort of circular logic that makes it fry itself and explode—arguments that just aren't convincing enough on story terms to be wholly worthwhile. Still, "Return of the Archons" has an intelligent underlying structure to it; it's just too bad the plot couldn't deliver on all fronts.

Previous episode: Court Martial
Next episode: Space Seed

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5 comments on this review

Strider - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 1:38am (USA Central)
This is one of my least favorite episodes. I don't get how the people were incorporated into "the Body." Was there some computer chip in their brain? It didn't look like it. And what the heck happened at the red hour, and why? They all went nuts for 12 hours because...? And was that the so-called "festival?"

I liked the idea of there being an underground resistance, and Kirk et all almost automatically gravitating toward it, rather than the established authority. That's good American mythos right there. At least in the 60's, we still saw ourselves as the rebels fighting for the underdog.
mike - Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - 7:09pm (USA Central)
Barely tolerable. Maybe I'm missing the point because it's steeped in metaphors revelant to the 60's. Furthermore we've seen this setup before. We've got Kirk and his landing party trying to find and defeat another omnipotent super computer that holds godlike sway over a people. Of course he wouldn't interfere except the god computer has got the Enterprise locked in orbit, firing heat beams or something at it that will eventually destroy the ship. There were way too many of these shamelessly by the book plots in the original series and this one is as unremarkable as the others.
Corey - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 7:37am (USA Central)
The Festival allows selected townsfolk to rape, dance and beat one another, getting all their bottled up emotions released.
dgalvan - Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - 12:55pm (USA Central)
"Kirk Outsmarts the Computer ™" seemed to happen a lot in TOS. It's kind of an interesting artifact from a time when computers were huge, room-filling mechanical devices. Hard for us to comprehend with our present-day definition of "computer", but probably worked as a sensible idea for the audiences of mid-to-late 60's.

-I assumed the "festival" was Landru's way of letting the people blow off pent-up aggression and frustration, so that they could sustain their politeness the rest of the time. But that was just my assumption. . . they certainly didn't address it in the episode itself, which I thought was odd because it was a big deal at first and then never mentioned again.

-I also laughed out loud when the guards were left gaping at their destroyed Landru computer while Kirk walked by and said "If I were you I'd start looking for another job". Look at it from the guard's point of view. Some alien guys show up and destroy their system of government, philosophy, and religion all in one brief logic- conversation. Then head-alien (Kirk) just says, "see ya later suckers!" If I were the guards I'd be like: What the hell, man! We were fine before you got here!

-At this stage going through TOS's first season for the first time, I am noticing that almost all aliens they encounter look pretty much exactly like humans. With the exceptions of Spock, Romulans, Balok (Corbomite Maneuver) and the Gorn, pretty much all aliens they find on other planets are just humans. (The one with the kids who fear the "groups", this episode, the "Taste of Armageddon", etc.)

I recognize that budgets for makeup etc. were limited back in the day, so it's not a big deal, but it is a noticeable deviation that I'm glad the later Star Trek Spinoffs corrected. In those later shows, they would almost always add a little brow ridge, ear deviation, or even just a different hairstyle to show that someone is not human.


redshirt28 - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 2:08am (USA Central)
Festival was about one thing my friends... procreation.

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