Star Trek: The Original Series

"Errand of Mercy"

3 stars

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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30 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)
Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 3:15pm (UTC -5)
Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet...

KIRK: People of Organia, you're in danger! The Klingons are coming! And they're evil and nasty and will brutally oppress you! If you want, we'll help you out so you can resist them.

OLD GUY: No, no, we're perfectly fine. Thanks for asking, though. We're just a simple, peace-loving people.

KIRK: Hey, I understand that this is all new to you, but trust us, the Klingons are really really bad guys, and won't care about how peaceful you are. What makes you think you'll be safe?

OLD GUY: Oh, I forgot to tell you, we're actually a super advanced race of energy beings. The Klingons couldn't hurt us if they tried. Heck, we could control THEM if we wanted to.

KIRK: Oh... well, never mind then. Hey, Starfleet wants to make sure the Klingons won't use this planet as a base of operations. Given that you hate war that much, you won't let them do that, right?

OLD GUY: Sure, no problem.

KIRK: Good. Well, nice meeting you, you guys are a lot nicer than the last omnipotent energy being I met. They made me fight a lizard-man, but I digress. Uhura, tell Starfleet "mission accomplished." Scotty, beam us up.


Seriously, for the supposed enlightened race, these Organians sure could be dishonest. OK, they never actually lied about it, and Kirk probably should have asked how they seemed to know stuff that they couldn't know, but still. For all their protestations about hating violence, they sure let it go on for a long time, even though they knew Kirk's only purpose there was to help the Organians resist the Klingons. And instead of just letting everyone know what's up to begin with, they play dumb long enough that they have to resort to violence instead. Seemed like a bunch of jerks to me.

Oh, and by the way, Mr Enlightened Superior Being, forcing your will on other sapient entities IS VIOLENCE. Threatening them with future violence in order to get them to stop fighting isn't showing off the value of pacifism. What you have done, Mr Perfection, is show everyone just how useful, just how effective violence can be. You have managed to impose your will on two separate societies based on your superior use of force and superior defensive capabilities. You taught us a lesson all right, oh Producers of Allegorical Sci-Fi. A lesson about rank hypocrisy and arrogance.

I have decided, in my personal canon, that the reason we don't see the Metrons or the Organians or any other of these pacifist energy beings in the TNG era is that the Q tortured and killed them all. And as they watched their civilization slip away into nothingness, forever removed from the face of the galaxy, their last thoughts were "gee, maybe that Kirk guy had a point." OK, so maybe I'm being cruel and nasty, but these ridiculously juvenile and poorly thought out messages are really starting to bug me.

It especially bugs me in this episode, because other than that, it is absolutely fantastic. I love it. I love Kirk's disdain toward the Organians, but still willing to fight and die for them. I love Kor's respect for Kirk, even while recognizing him as a dangerous opponent. I love the worldbuilding, the intensity, the threat the Klingons represent. I love Shatner's acting in this one, showing he is far better than the ham-tastic reputation of his. I love the finality and resignation in the way he announces that this is war. Heck, I even loved the Organians other than the pretentious message at the end. I'd be fine with the entire plot if it wasn't for the hubris behind it. Fortunately, despite my complaints here about it, I refused to let it get in the way of my enjoyment of the episode.

By the way, with respect to the Klingons, obviously the aren't the Viking race that they are in the TNG era. And I can see why Matrix would compare them to the Cardassians, particularly with the emphasis on torture and oppression being shown in this episode (to say nothing about Kor's comment that everyone is watched). But, with that said, Kor still does come off as feeling pretty similar to the Next Gen Klingons. He still has a love of combat, and a healthy respect for a fellow warrior. While he's not above oppressing the people, he was outright delighted to come face to face with Kirk, and disappointed that he met in this way rather than on an equal footing. His mannerisms also seemed appropriately theatrical to me too. Just take his last line: "A shame, Captain, it would have been glorious." It may have been Kor saying it, but it sounded exactly like something Gowron would say. A small thing, but I think it does connect the two series a bit. And maybe it's why Kor was the one who survived Blood Oath and got more episodes; perhaps his character seemed to fit the new era better than the other two.
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
I think what's missed about this message is the strong anti-imperialism theme running throughout this episode. Kirk arrives on Organia with the expressed purpose of obtaining the planet for the Federation. Ayelborne welcomes Kirk and Spock as guests, and politely declines the "offer" to join the Federation. Spock shows disdain for the Organians because they don't measure up to the Federation's standards of progress, while Kirk shows disdain for the Organians because they do not immediately adopt Federation ideals. During the episode, we are given clues that the Organians are more sophisticated then the “D-“that Spock rates them on the richter scale, given that they are clearly aware of the Galactic community, already have knowledge of the Klingons and their economic trade status (since they know that kevis and trillium D are useless to them) and the fact that they can detect the Klingon fleet in orbit while Spock can’t with his tricorder. All classic signs of the arrogant imperialist, unable to consider another culture as superior until their own military has been humbled, even Spock isn't immune to it.

Throughout the episode, the Organians have repeatedly insisted that their people believe in non-violence, but Kirk ignores them every time, because their culture is inconvenient to the Federation. When the Klingons occupy the planet, the Organians do little more than smile. Kirk never considers that the Organians might be happy under Klingon rule, since they accept it right away and smile endlessly. Instead Kirk attempts to start an armed conflict to “help” the Organians despite their every plea that he stop immediately. As a direct result of Kirk’s actions, 200 Organians are lined up to be shot, and Kirk doesn’t show the least bit of remorse, instead acting vindicated of his own actions. Ayelborne repeats “How little you understand us” again and again as the violence that Kirk has brought to their world has nearly brought him to tears. Kirk never bothers to understand the Organians, only judging them, condemning them for not following the example of the Federation of freedom and resistance. Kirk even threatens Ayelborne with violence if he wasn’t allowed to arm himself against their wishes. By his own initiative, Kirk has intervened in the Organians affairs and turned their planet into a battlefield. This all sets up for the deliciously ironic ending where Kirk demands non-interference in the Federations affairs, rendered helpless against the culture he had dismissed as unworthy.

So I don’t think the Organians being non-corporeal beings is cop out. The Organians being more advanced then the Klingons and the Federation was hinted at from the beginning, and it was only the arrogance of these two warring cultures that blinded them. The Japanese regarded the Americans as barbarians until those invincible Black Ships steamed into their harbor and forced a treaty to be signed. The Chinese dismissed the British as inferior during the lead up to the Opium War until the British Navy forced a treaty to be signed. The Organians are only serve as metaphor for a superior culture to the already advanced future world of the Federation.

As for why the Organians assume corporeal form and maintain a primitive culture, it could serve as some kind of embassy for less advanced cultures, or perhaps that was the Organian equivalent of maintaining a garden, or Chateau. They were open to visitors until violence was brought on their world, which was intensely painful to them, which provoked the Organians to action. Unlike Skeptical, I do not see this as the Organians imposing the philosophy of pacifism via violence, but rather a defense of their own culture. If the Federation and Klingons will not leave the Organians in peace, then they will make the peace because they have the power to do so.
Peter G.
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
Great comments, Edax.

One thing about the imperialism angle: While we can be tempted to see Kirk as being "responsible" for the violence that ensued on the planet, I think it would be more fair to say that the Klingons began it, but Kirk escalated it. After all, assuming the Organians were not powerful beings, while they may have been happy to live under the Klingons the Klingons might have executed them for any old reason anyhow. Supposing that Kor commanded an Organian to harm another Organian, and he refused, no doubt the punishment for such disobedience would be death. And so while Kirk did initiate the overt violence, it would have begun regardless with or without him.

I think the cold war message takeaway here is that the Federation's claim of being there to protect or help the Organians was entirely self-serving, and that although their rationalization for staking a claim to Organia was different than that of the Klingons, functionally both sides were the same. The Federations true aim there was to defeat the Klingons, not to help some random race that they clearly didn't bother even meeting prior to the Klingons showing interest there. This is the crux of the problem in the episode: the Federation is already enmeshed in hostilities against the Klingons, so there is no way they can be coming in peace no matter how friendly they act.

That being said I'm a bit wary of episodes like this that seem to directly equate the Federation with the cold war United States, precisely because the Federation is supposed to actually be better - not merely claim to be better. I like this episode a lot, but I'm not crazy about using the Federation as a way of showing disingenuous morals.
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
Interesting commentary Edax, but I still have issues with it.

First of all, about your imperialism angle. I see where you're coming from. But on the grounds that Kirk and Spock were so sure of their own superiority that they didn't listen to the Organians, I think that's bad writing rather than intended, especially on Spock's part. Throughout the first season, Spock was written as practically a Mary Sue character. He was always the smartest person in the room, always suspected what was really going on, and always seem to be morally superior to the humans surrounding him. This episode is thematically similar to Arena, and the beginning of that episode had Spock practically spelling out the theme of the story for us in his dialogue. Thus, I have a hard time believing the writers intended Spock to be in error here. Other than Galileo Seven (where the focus was on Spock being an alien), Spock is simply never that clearly wrong or that clearly... human.

Instead, I think it was just a mistake on the writer's part. There's a mystery and a surprise reveal in this episode. Everyone knows that if you write a mystery, you need to leave clues throughout the setup so that the audience doesn't feel the solution to the mystery comes out of left field. The trick is to make the clues not so obvious that the audience doesn't figure it out immediately, and especially not so obvious that the audience figures it out and wonders why the characters couldn't do so. And I think the writers failed on that part. It was too obvious that the Organians had extra knowledge, and I think even Kirk and Spock mentioned it. But that was dropped in favor of the rest of the plot. I suspect that it wasn't intended to show a character flaw in our characters. Of course, that is just my suspicion; you are free to interpret the scene differently.

However, I am absolutely not convinced that, even if Kirk had imperialistic tendencies, that justifies the Organians own imperialism. Your justification that they were only defending their own culture seems a bit hollow, as it sounds like Hammurabi code of tit for tat, and I thought we moved beyond that line of ethos. If the Organians are truly pacifist, live and let live beings, then presumably they would want to limit their own imposition on others. And indeed, all they had to do to maintain their way of life is banish the UFP and Klingons from their planet. That's certainly justifiable, and a minimal intrusion on the other two cultures. Instead, they imposed their culture throughout the entire UFP/Klingon territory. I thought defense of culture should only intrude on other people's cultures as minimally as possible? This wasn't defense; this was spreading their dogma through the sword.

And remember my first point. All of this, ALL OF THIS, would have been avoided if the Organians had simply been honest in the first place. If they wanted to defend their culture, why didn't they try through nonviolent dialogue first?

Meanwhile, I think it's disingenuous to consider the UFP and Klingons to be two sides of the same coin, just two different flavors of imperialism. After all, the Federation knew of this planet before this episode, and knew of its strategic importance. Despite that, they were ok with simply leaving the Organians alone until situation demanded otherwise. Yes, The Federation acted in their own interest, but that interest was survival, not resources or bloodlust. And Kirk, even if misguided, did everything for what he thought were the Organians best interests. Sure, it may be slightly arrogant to say he knew what their interests were more than the Organians did, but that was partly because of the Organians' dishonesty. After all, the flip side of this episode is the Bajoran occupation. Given that a situation like that was the most likely outcome of the Klingon attack, shouldn't Kirk try to help them out? Why should he be condemned for not recognizing an outlier scenario instead of the far more likely one?
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
Heya Everyone!

Love the recent discussion! Nice to see.

After reading the comments, and running the episode through in my head (last watched around two years ago), something occurred to me: Without the meddling of Kirk and Spock, the Organians would probably have done... nothing, and billions might have died.

Now, hear me out. We heard during the episode that there was probably going to be a state of war between the Federation and the Klingons, but it hadn't happened yet. It was just probable. When the Fantastic Two head down to the planet, they are told time and again that everything is fine, just go home and we will sit here and smile. But they don't leave (eventually cannot), and keep stirring things up. And these Organians, who have let these ants run around their fake anthill, get more and more frustrated as they say "Stop, or we'll say Stop again" and the ants don't listen. Hey, they may be super duper powerful, but they are not perfect. They seem to still have some foibles. And one of them is when the ants tell them they would do as they please, over and over, they eventually cannot take it any longer (not liking the brutal, savage things they were planning on doing), and they metaphorically slam their hand on the table and say "Enough is enough! Not only are you going to listen to what we have to say, but we are stopping your war, as of NOW!", potentially saving billions...

On the other hand, if Kirk and Spock had left when they were first told to go (they still could, if memory serves), or had just become random fake townsfolk sitting in a room somewhere, the Enterprise leaves and joins the Federation fleet. They are eventually engaged in glorious battle with the Klingons and billions die in the war, while the Organians sit in their room, contemplating whatever they think about, and smile. They never got mad at the ants, so they never made a decision to intercede, because the fake anthill was still quiet and peaceful...

Since they had never gotten involved in any other war, that we know of, they probably wouldn't have now. Because, hey, we're just ants to them. And even today, we don't explain things to ants, because how could they possibly understand?

Anyway, that was the epiphany I had while reading these most thoughtful insights above.

I hope this is a great day for everyone... RT
Thu, Dec 1, 2016, 10:36pm (UTC -5)
Heh, I just recalled that the Enterprise did indeed join the Federation fleet, and they were all racing toward the Klingons when they were stopped. We just don't get to see the other ships. Would've been neat if they'd shown some other ships when they did the revamp. :) But I digress, and my point is the same even with that small...

Whoopsie... RT
Fri, Dec 2, 2016, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G. While it's true the Klingons could have ordered the Organians to do violence against other Organians, this however that is purely speculation. At least this violence would have been the result of an Organian decision, and not the interference from a 3rd party. And perhaps, the Organians would better tolerated minor acts of violence vs a galactic war. The Organians very likely know what submitting to Klingon rule meant anyway, and it was Kirk's blind belief that the Organians didn't know any better that escalated the conflict.

@Skeptical I could see Spock as a character showing disdain for the Organians, especially when he noticed that their culture was totally stagnant. There's no logic in making no effort towards progress, to be content with the dark ages. Notice that Spock made no effort to respect the Organian's wishes, despite the fact that he got along with those damn hippies in Way To Eden.

"And indeed, all they had to do to maintain their way of life is banish the UFP and Klingons from their planet. That's certainly justifiable, and a minimal intrusion on the other two cultures. Instead, they imposed their culture throughout the entire UFP/Klingon territory. I thought defense of culture should only intrude on other people's cultures as minimally as possible? This wasn't defense; this was spreading their dogma through the sword."

I see no reason why the Organians need to follow the Prime Directive. Even though they were more advanced beings, they still carried flaws, such as the intense pain they experience around violent individuals. When the war was brought to their doorstep, the Organians became involved, even if they did not wish it. Spreading dogma through the sword implies aggression, but all the Organians did was act in self-defense and enforced a peace treaty. You can't defend a culture in a war with inaction. If the Organians just banished the two factions, they could have returned, and perhaps have attacked the Organians as an enemy, which would cause the Organians great distress, and having to continually relocate warships without trying to enact a peace treaty would have continually increase their involvement in a war.

"And remember my first point. All of this, ALL OF THIS, would have been avoided if the Organians had simply been honest in the first place. If they wanted to defend their culture, why didn't they try through nonviolent dialogue first?"

The Organians at no point were dishonest. They did try nonviolent dialogue first, rejecting the Federation's offer and accepting Klingon occupation law to prevent a conflict. Kirk ignored the Organian's decisions and wishes at every turn and continued to wage a conflict against the Klingons, and even threatened Ayelborne with "More violence then he'll know what to do with" if he could not arm himself. As for the Organians being TOTALLY honest, imagine the Federation in the TNG days just telling a pre-warp specifies, "Hey I'm an alien!" just for the sake of honesty? It's happened before, but it tends to permanently ruin the observation of the less advanced cultures.

@RandomThoughts I don't quite agree that had Kirk not turned Organia into a battlefield, the Organians might not have interfered. The Organians feel intense pain when around violence individuals, and a fleet battle over their planet could have prompted them to action. I think what's too easily forgotten is that Organia belongs to the Organians, and being the only habitable planet in the disputed zone, they would end up very involved. It would just be a matter of when the Organians have had enough of the conflict that they would act.
Peter G.
Fri, Dec 2, 2016, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
@ Edax,

My example of Klingons trying to force the Organians into violent actions was just meant as a random example of how no matter whether Kirk got involved or not, the Klingons were eventually going to start executing Organians either way. Something would have happened, somehow, that would have angered the Klingons, and they would no doubt turned to killing before long. This is all to just answer your point that without Kirk's bravado things could have been resolved peacefully. I believe there was never any possibility of life under Klingon rule being either peaceful or non-violent. It wouldn't have been as bad as a war, but it would have probably still been too much for the Organians. The only difference, I suppose, is that if the Klingons alone had gone too far the Organians might have just done something *to them* and not to the Federation. It's for the best that this isn't how it happened, since the Organian peace treaty directly laid the path towards the Khitomer Accords.
Fri, Dec 2, 2016, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.
No I understood what you were getting at. It's difficult to gauge what the Organians would have considered too much, since I don't think the Organians were actually killed when the mass executions happened. Perhaps they planned to pantomime the subjugation of their people to better study the Klingons? Since the Organians fully cooperated with the Klingons, there would be no logical reason for executions, so I dispute that it would be inevitable. Whilst mass murder could still happen, it would only be pure speculation at that point. The Organians didn’t even react when they were being mass executed in the episode, they were much more distressed at Kirk’s actions.

Going back to the topic of Imperialism, this acceptance of Klingon occupation vs war should have been the Organian's decision, not Kirk's. Organia was in the disputed zone, and the Organians accepted Klingon rule, Kirk really had no legitimate reason to threaten the Organians or engage in a guerrilla war on the planet, since it was now peacefully under Klingon rule. What was the Federation going to do if Kirk somehow managed to drive the Klingons off the planet? Forcefully annex the planet against the Organian’s will? It’s a strategically valuable planet that has rejected the Federation and the Federation would not allow Klingon occupation of it. Can you see just what kind of mess Kirk has potentially caused? Would the Federation have to send in occupation force to prevent further Klingon invasion? Remember, this is the only habitual planet in the disputed area, the Federation would have little cause to dispute the area unless they wanted Organia for themselves. Just how free would the Organians be if the Federation gave them no authority to decide their own fate in this Klingon-Federation war? Kirk’s offer that they had the freedom choose seems really disingenuous since when the Organians refused, Kirk provoked the Klingons against Organians while posing as an Organian.

Considering that the Klingons were just “Russians in Space”, what if the Organians wanted to be under Klingon rule? Some countries actively sought out the Soviet Union, what would Kirk or the Federation have done in this circumstance? Since the Federation disputes the territory, I suspect they would not have allowed that, perhaps even have “made Organia useless to them”.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Another great Season 1 episode with a nice twist at the end. The clues were effectively sprinkled throughout the episode that there's something special about the Organians, however they deliberately tried to appear sheep-like until the very end when war was about to break out.

One assertion: The Organians may well be the most advanced species in all of TOS Trek. I can't think of a species that has been associated with a history of millions of years of evolution. Something to debate...

The motives of peace / non-violence are presented much better here than with the Metron in "Arena" - That episode was a case of a higher being's attempt at imposing higher morals didn't come off as well as here.

The acting of Colicos as Kor was terrific - many interesting dialogues with Kirk/Spock/Organians. And I believe it is the first introduction of the Federation's biggest nemesis in the series. The Romulans were introduced in "Balance of Terror".

There is also the opposing philosophies of the Klingon Empire (communist dictatorship) and the Federation's American values of trying to help a perceived inferior society with strategic aims.

Overall an enjoyable episode and one in which a race of vastly superior beings seems to act as such - their only weakness seems to be the pain they feel when around violent beings, however they only take action when push comes to shove.

3.5/4 stars for me.
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Having the Organians be non-Human is the right way to go. Humans are not capable of completely being without any emotion or suspending desires. The important part is the story - That it's ultimately senseless to fight. It never solves anything in the long run.

The quibbling about the intent of the Federation is missing the point. Deep down, we only go after what is advantageous. Of course they involve themselves where they are not wanted. Organia is of "strategic importance". That give the Federation carte blanche to be involved when they are not invited.

The only think I disliked about this episode was the flip attitude of Spock and Kirk when they were fighting the Klingons. there was no real "danger" that they would be killed. Otherwise the writing and acting was off the charts.
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 9:36pm (UTC -5)
In-light of ST:Discovery, I decided to revisit Errand of Mercy, in which the Klingons make their first apperance. What's interesting is that this episode concisely deals with an entire war, its conclusion, and the greivances of all parties, within a mere 50 minutes. Discovery should be jealous of such wonderful brevity.

Jammer gives Errand of Mercy 3 stars, but I'd give it 4. The remastered version in particular is IMO a masterpiece.

I also feel most of the comments here (except Edax's) have missed the point of the episode: think of the Organians as any Third World nation repeatedly forced to change hands between larger powers (typically the European powers or the United States). All these powers either resort to naked colonialism, or disguise their imperialism with flowery language, a form of smug paternalism which is of course blind to the virtues, values and ways of the local culture.

Errand of Mercy thus critiques the militant colonialism of the Klingons, with the hypocritically "merciful" colonialism of the Federation (written in the 1960s, this would essentially be about the US in places like Vietnam and Indonesia). Both approaches deny the free agency of locals. Does this mean that a smaller nation should do as the Organians do and simply let themselves be conquered? That's what's radical about the episode; the Organians see surrender from a kind of utilitarian position; it's the least bloody option. Violence leads to peace anyway in the long-run, and surrender and obedience merely hastens the demise of an unjust order that will fall with time anyway. It's the old adage; the best way to remove a dictator is to ignore him and let him die of old age.

Of course this is not a stance which contemporary moralists like. Afterall, don't we have a duty to act against evil? Sure. But sometimes doing nothing is the truly radical act. Conversely, sometimes acting merely perpetuates problems. Would Iraq be better off today had Saddam been left in power (or not installed by the West in the first place?)? Would WW2 have been less bloody had Poland given up Danzig? Would Vietnam be in the same place today had the Vietnamese not resisted the US or the US not sided against the local majority? When every party is a jerk, such that acting righteously against jerks forces jerks to be bigger jerks, passivity can be radical.
Trek fan
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 11:20pm (UTC -5)
Errand of Mercy is a terrific TOS episode that marshals several familiar Season 1 themes to introduce the Klingons and the fantastic character of Kor. I give it 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

Yes, we've seen Trek war-and-peace episodes before -- Arena, Balance of Terror, etc. -- and super-powerful noncorporeal aliens. But here we see more of the noncorporeal superbeings than ever before (Arena, Squire of Gothos, Charlie X) and the Organians are really nifty characters as a result of their depth: Not only do we get the twist that the pacifists are the most powerful people in the episode, but the story carries us deftly from identifying with Kirk/Spock's frustration at the Organians' pacifism to realizing both Kirk and Kor are in the wrong by insisting on their "right" to wage war. This idea that the most powerful people are the ones who choose not to use their power is really thought-provoking stuff.

But the episode is also very sharply written by Gene Coon in one of his stronger outings. The showdowns between Kirk/Spock with the Organians and Klingons are quite smartly written. Good Trekkian polemics here. Also the little bits like the running odds of survival from Spock, as he and Kirk try to organize a guerilla resistance, give us some nifty character interaction while establishing some Trekkian dialogue staples. I love the extreme heat attack in the climax where everyone struggles and fails to go after each other's throats, building up to the ironically funny moment when Kor and Kirk seem willing to WORK TOGETHER (Kor: "We'll handle them; I have an army!") to stop the Organians and go back to killing each other. And this episode establishes the Organian peace treaty that sets up a running Cold War (rather than shooting war) with the Klingons for the rest of TOS. And the Organians' prediction that the Klingons and Federation will one day be "fast friends" sets up Star Trek VI and the post-TOS Klingon-Federation relations.

But the real reason many of us love this episode is the introduction of the Klingons and particularly Kor. More disciplined soldiers of a militaristic empire than the cartoonish tribal warriors of the TNG era or the animalistic predators of "Star Trek Discovery," the TOS Klingons are smart and formidable opponents. Kor in particular is a worthy adversary: John Colicos stamped the Klingons for all who would follow with his swaggering entrances, his Fu Manchu facial hair, his gold sash that later finds its way onto Worf in TNG, his deliciously clever dialogue (lost somewhat in post-TOS Klingons, who speak in grunts and brawls) and his devious handling of Kirk/Spock. While I never found the Klingons' introduction here as strong as that of the Romulans in Balance of Terror, Kor's sparring with Kirk is delightful. And those lines -- "I never trust a man who smiles too much," "It would have been GLORIOUS," etc. -- really nail the ethos of Klingon dignity and delight for battle right from the start here. Kor is just awesome enough to carry the whole show even with it's repetitive elements: I'm glad the character reappeared on The Animated Series and made a full comeback (played again by Colicos) on DS9 as a Falstaffian character gone to seed yet seeking redemption. Indeed, as someone said above, DS9 seems to have taken "Errand" as a template for many of its own war episodes with the Cardassians/Jem Hadar in addition to bringing back Kor himself. Good stuff.
Sat, Nov 4, 2017, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
Response to the criticism that the Organians did not reveal themselves for so long into the episode: Besides abhoring violence, they also abhorred interfering. They were trying to stay out of it as long as they could.

The final scene was the best, where we see the ever placid Organian consul leader actually get angry. He didn't like feeling that emotional. After stopping the war, the Organians disappeared because "beings like yourselves are intensely painful to us".

Lastly, the concept of disabling weapons is very appealing, rather than trying to teach people not to be violent. So much simpler. Wish we could do that.
Mon, Dec 25, 2017, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Small detail: The look of sheer glee on Kor's face when the Organians expose Kirk's identity is priceless. No wonder Colicos was picked to play Baltar in the original BSG ten years or so later! He was so great at playing the villain!
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 3:17am (UTC -5)
Late to this discussion, but I've long wanted to weigh in on this episode with an observation I've never seen mentioned. To start, I agree with Skeptical's points.

But more than that, Kirk makes mention of other, occupied Klingon worlds. Preventing a war means those planets will remain conquered, under (tyrannical) Klingon rule. Yes, the Klingons eventually get less oppressive, but that's generations of people living under despots.

That was the crux of Kirk's argument. Some things (freedom) are worth dying for. The Organians, however, don't give a whit about that. It's why I never liked them, or the conclusion of this episode.
Mon, Feb 18, 2019, 3:03pm (UTC -5)
Where in ssn 1 besides here and Arena have all powerful beings taught humanoids about non-violence??? Often its humanity-Kirk-teaching this lesson and others to others (A Taste of Armageddon), sometimes all-powerful beings and resisting them, such as in The Squire of Gothos and Where No Man Has Gone Before. I'm struggling to fit Kirks stance here with his stance on war in A Taste for Armageddon, I guess it kinda fits...
Sun, Apr 7, 2019, 8:17am (UTC -5)
Not a favorite. Slow moving and predictable. The Organians kept telling Kirk and Spock that there was no danger and they didn't understand, but (unbelievably) neither Kirk more Spock took the time to press them as to why they were so serenely confident - even after they demonstrated unusual powers (by knowing the Klingons' movements).

The message was certainly classic Trek, but awkwardly delivered.

I liked seeing Sulu in charge of the ship.
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 1:13am (UTC -5)
One of my favorite episodes, it shows once again the great job of casting the show did,John Colicos is just perfect as kor.Here we have a planet of people who everyone thinks is a primitive , laboratory example of an arrested culture but is in fact millions of years ahead of everyone.
Mon, Sep 30, 2019, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
Colicos as Kor is another wonderful guest actor to grace TOS.

I've always loved his great lines in his initial appearance along with Kirk/Spock and the Organians.

"Have we a ram among the sheep?" Kor to Kirk

"I need your obedience. Nothing more."

"I don't trust men who smile too much."
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 8:55am (UTC -5)
I’m with Springy on this one. The confrontation scene between Kirk and the Organian leader seemed to play out the same way five or six times in the episode. The mystique built around the Organians is good, but the relentlessly quiet nature of the episode makes you wish they acted out sooner rather than later.

Shatner, Nimoy and John Colicos definitely make a feast of the morsels the script gives them. The bluster between the Federation-KE belies great parallels in the Cold War and it feels like the actors were eager to portray that angle.

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