Star Trek: The Original Series

"Errand of Mercy"


Air date: 3/23/1967
Written by Gene L. Coon
Directed by John Newland

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Starfleet, on the verge of war with the Klingons, sends the Enterprise to the planet Organia to negotiate a protection settlement so the Klingons won't invade the planet and set up a base there. But these people want nothing to do with the Federation or their protection—and they're convinced that they aren't in any danger. Kirk is furious when these Organian "sheep" refuse to stand up for their own way of life. The Klingons, led by Kor (John Colicos), subsequently arrive, take Kirk and Spock hostage, and threaten to subject them to a rather nasty mind probe to extract Starfleet war information.

This story finds irony in its plot, as Kirk is determined to convince the Organians to turn to violence, even though Starfleet's mission is supposedly one of peace (this is a story suited particularly well to Captain Kirk's adamant boldness). The Organians' claim to ultimately safety is proven when they turn out to be powerful beings capable of stopping at will the war between the Klingons and Federation.

The use of all-powerful, superior beings to preach a message of anti-violence to lowly humanoids is a theme that's been grossly over-utilized in Trek's freshman season, but fortunately the usage here is far better realized than in, say, "Arena." Kirk arguing vehemently for the right to engage in war is particularly telling.

Previous episode: The Devil in the Dark
Next episode: The Alternative Factor

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9 comments on this review

Sat, May 22, 2010, 7:40am (UTC -5)
I understand that "Errand of Mercy"'s anti-violence message was ground-breaking in its time, but I think that the moral is actually less strong by having the Organians be non-corporeal super-advanced life-forms who can't be harmed. If the Organians had been regular humanoids with technology on par with the Federation, but had still CHOSEN not to defend themselves, I think the message would have been stronger and more relevant.
Sat, Nov 3, 2012, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
What message would that be?

"We think nothing of anything we have accomplished on this planet. We hold our own civilization in the lowest contempt. Our regard for our own lives is so trivial that we, as a society, welcome and invite annihilation at the hands of the first barbarian horde, eager to wipe out our names from the role-call of history."

That message? It's one thing (1) to be dedicated to peace. It's another thing (2) to be dedicated to peace to the point that annihilation becomes an acceptable alternative to life. And it's yet another thing (3)to be dedicated to peace, spreading the message of peace, encouraging peace and yes even fighting to keep the peace when necessary. Option 3 anyday. A peaceful society is exactly the sort of society one should be willing to fight to share and maintain.

Not really relevant arguement in this episode though since they turn out to be super-beings after all.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
"Klingons don't take prisoners," Kirk asserts, despite being held prisoner by Klingons here.

"Drink not with thine enemy -- the rigid Klingon code."

A code observed by Worf but not by Kor here. No wonder they tried to kill each other.
Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 8:02am (UTC -5)
One has to take Star Trek plots with a grain a salt. If the Organians turned out to be humaniods, vulnerable to being conquered, it wouldn't have made the message stronger. It would have more likely gave a message of the immorality of pacifism.

In the first season almost all the episodes are either super advanced beings teaching them a lesson or Kirk outsmarting a computer.
Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Kirk had a few great moments in this episode.

His "Go climb a tree" smile. His embarrassment in the final scene over his "we ARE entitled to our war!" speech. And his dialogue with Spock on Organia.

Great, just great.
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed watching this. The remastered version includes a couple of pretty neat battle scenes with the Klingons but they don't intrude too much, they just really emphasise that Kirk and Spock are going to be on their own for a while. It was really great watching them muck about a bit on the planet. Kirk's mutual disgust with Kor at the Organians seemingly pacifism was funny and probably in character for Kirk but feels a bit out of place against the Federation's ideas about acceptance and understanding of other cultures. Sulu was great in his brief bit as acting-Captain.

My only problem with it was that it dragged a bit in place and it stuck to the same few rooms for most of the duration. There was obviously something going on with the Organians and it was just a matter of how long until the revelation came and if that would be worth it. The planet seemed deserted except for the room the council was in and there were only ever a handful of Klingons, and even though I understand budgetary concerns it still feels lacking. The ending seems a bit simplistic but since it didn't seem to stop the Klingons being adversaries I'm just just going to believe it affects this region of space only.

John Colicos as Kor was fantastic, such an amazing antagonist but not really a villain, almost like he's playing a recurring character and it's such a shame he never came back. I really like his version of the Klingons which feel more like Cardassians than the 24th century Klingons and Kor's deviousness reminds me of the layered characters of Garak or Dukat. I was watching Generations the other day and to go from those stupid cartoon Klingons to something like this was striking.
Tue, Jun 2, 2015, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
There are a number of good comments here on this episode.

I agree with Nic that the message is confused by the fact that these non-corporeal entities seem technologically or intellectually advanced to the point where violence is irrelevant to them. That makes application of this episode to real world problems limited.

I also agree with Matrix that the episode took too long to reveal any key information to the audience. This required an overly brief wrap up, in my mind.

Still, as others said, a good pro-peace episode.
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 12:39pm (UTC -5)
For some reason I like this episode a lot and would give it 3.5 or maybe 4 stars. The patience the light beings displayed - who embody only for our benefit. The peaceful technique of heating weapons to disable them. A path, albeit quite long term, to a future w/o war. These things are often discussed in alt media as being real. And of course, the foundation of the Klingons for future Treks!
Sean Hagins
Mon, Oct 10, 2016, 11:58am (UTC -5)
As a Christian, I would never kill anyone which includes not going to war. I appreciate the message this episode brings.

The one thing that bothers me is how Kirk can't seem to even pretend to be an Organian. He has to be restrained by Spock when shoved (come on!) I know this is still season 1, but his character wasn't very likable here

(If anyone responds to me message, I will try to answer-there doesn't seem to be a way to be notified of responses, so I may miss it)

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