Star Trek: The Original Series

"A Piece of the Action"


Air date: 1/12/1968
Teleplay by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon
Story by David P. Harmon
Directed by James Komack

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A Prime Directive issue becomes a lively comic piece when the landing party beams down to a planet to correct the social damage inflicted upon the culture, which is based on the Chicago gangsters of the 1920s because of a single book left behind by a Federation starship a century before.

Unfortunately, after beaming down, Kirk & Co. constantly find themselves on the business end of several machine guns, in the middle of the war between leading gangsters Bela Oxmyx (Anthony Caruso) and Jojo Krako (Victor Tayback), who both want a supply of Kirk's "heaters" (phasers).

The running gag of Kirk and Spock getting guns pulled on them proves quite amusing; every time it looks like they've gained the upper hand, ka-chack—two more goons with guns. Meanwhile, we get to see Kirk and Spock in gangster suits, a hilarious game of "Fizzbin," Spock saying "Check!", and Kirk in full role-playing mode, chewing the scenery in some genuinely funny scenes as he tries to work out everybody's piece of the action. It's an enjoyable gem with sharp dialog and good timing, as well as an undercurrent that still manages to say something relevant about intervening in other societies.

Previous episode: The Gamesters of Triskelion
Next episode: The Immunity Syndrome

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8 comments on this review

Thu, May 2, 2013, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
You pretty lose track of how many times Kirk, Spock and McCoy get the upper hand on the gangsters or vice-versa. Guess you just have watch whose holding the tommy gun at any given moment. No matter. This is just one of those fun comedic dress up episodes. It really gets going when Kirk throws reason and protocol out the window and he just cuts a deal like a gangster complete with a suddenly proficient Chicago accent. Sharp suits, gangster slang and a Vulcan trying gamely to keep up his part of the improvisation. What's not to like? It's all just great fun like The Trouble With Tribbles.
Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
Generally I dislike episodes where our heroes end up on planets that look like earth at various times so I didn't expect I would enjoy this episode. But, what a pleasant surprise, I did! It was pure comedy gold. From Kirk's lackluster driving skills to him talking like a 1920s gangster - highly entertaining and very very funny.
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 10:17pm (UTC -6)
Ditto, "spocko".
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 7:35pm (UTC -6)
Not a bad episode not great either. It's entertaining in all of its silliness. I'm usually not a fan of TOS episodes were Kirk and company clown around in some facsimile of earth's past. I realize they did it for budget reasons. The creative staff would basically event a story that would allow an episode to be filmed on whatever sets that were lying around the Paramount lot at the time. So I can't be too harsh on it.
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 12:34am (UTC -6)
Too late to meet the 1992 publication date, but the market still has room for a book about Chicago mobs of the 1920s that not only is morally ambivalent or outright admiring of the gangsters' outlaw but also -- and this is important -- contains blueprints for fabricating all the buildings, clothing, vehicles, and weapons necessary to emulate them, plus a primer on their slanguage.

Of course, for all we know, Iotia was already mostly a parallel for 20th century Earth before Horizon visited. Wouldn't be the first time.
Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 9:53am (UTC -6)
My favorite part of of this episode, and I'm not sure the scene survives the syndication cuts every time:
Kirk's on the blower -- sorry, communicator -- to Scotty and he's outlining the telephone-transporter scam about to be pulled.
Camera angle is on Scotty standing next to the captain's chair, Uhura visible behind him at her console.
As Kirk outlines the scam and what it entails from the Enterprise's end, Scotty's not quite catching on -- but Uhura is. And the delighted and satisfied grin that slowly spreads across Uhura's face is priceless.
Thu, Jan 14, 2016, 4:09am (UTC -6)
Ouch. I guess I stand alone on this one. I found the plot aimless yet repetitive, and the ganster theme just annoying. The only good part was the game of "Fizzbin." Spock, as usual, was used to good effect, but no one else was. DeForrest Kelley actually looked embarassed to be in several of the scenes. When I saw the three and a half star rating Jammer gave it, I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately, it did not hold up. Not nearly as much fun, nor as clever, as "The Trouble With Tribbles."
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 8:28pm (UTC -6)
Pam, you're not alone. I just saw this one again and thought it was insipid. Yes, there were some cute comic moments. But the whole "who's got the upper hand" changing every five minutes isn't an amusing running gag; it drained any momentum and plausibility from the plot. Worst of all is when suddenly it's The End and we have (a) no resolution to the planetary situation which set this whole thing up in the first place and (b) an additional Prime Directive issue because of an irrelevant piece of goofiness -- McCoy left his communicator behind. Kirk cracks a funny and we cut to credits. So WTF was the point of the whole story?

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