Star Trek: The Original Series

"A Taste of Armageddon"

3 stars

Air date: 2/23/1967
Teleplay by Robert Hammer and Gene L. Coon
Story by Robert Hammer
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise investigates a planet in the vicinity of another starship's disappearance, but the crew is warned of danger as they approach the planet. Detecting no actual threat, Kirk and Spock beam down, where they are told that the Enterprise crew has been labeled a casualty of a recent attack—a simulated attack in a simulated war with a neighboring planet. Now Kirk and his crew—like generations of people before in this war—are expected to willingly walk into "disintegration chambers" where their deaths can be tallied.

This episode is a good example of an anti-war message the way only TOS could tell it. It drops the subject under a spotlight of absurdity, and has Kirk take a defiant attitude in an effort to change these people's backward ways. Ultimately, he changes their minds by giving them no choice: Either they give up the simulated war and declare peace, or they fight war with real weapons and real destruction, destroying the society they've tried to preserve. It's strangely amusing how Kirk's bold-and-brash in-your-face attitude can make a story work.

Previous episode: Space Seed
Next episode: This Side of Paradise

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64 comments on this post

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Strider
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 1:52am (UTC -6)
I love that in this episode, Kirk's primary motivation seems to be irritation. He's got this "Oh-no-you-did-not-just-tell-me-to-order-my-crew-into-a-death-chamber" thing going on, and he's going to make those councilmen sorry they ever messed with him. He might have let them alone if they hadn't tried to pull that.

It was freaking awesome.

Also awesome were Scotty flagrantly defying orders, McCoy getting all in Fox's face, and Spock deciding they'd messed around enough and it was time to put an end to the insanity. "I'm going to get the ambassador and the captain." And then ordering the yeoman to knock down and sit on what's-her-head if she had to.

I also liked Spock walking in just after Kirk had turned the tables on a whole room of captors, including armed guards, saying, "I'd assumed you needed help. I see I was in error."

Although I always love Spock, this was Kirk's show. "I didn't start it, councilman, but I'm liable to finish it." SO classic.
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NCC-1701-Z
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 4:03pm (UTC -6)
@Strider: I am in full agreement with you on this episode. Bill Shatner really made this episode awesome with his overacting.

Favorite line: "The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank!" I love Scotty.
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NCC-1701-Z
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 4:05pm (UTC -6)
Oops...meant to put "scenery-chewing" instead of "overacting".
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Paul
Tue, Sep 3, 2013, 11:10am (UTC -6)
The only problem here is that this is such a blatant violation of the Prime Directive. Granted, the aliens here have warp drive. But if Picard couldn't intervene in the middle of a Klingon civil war, what gives him the right here to completely turn a society on its head?

Don't get me wrong: I know this happened a lot in TOS. I just don't like that episodes like this happen while at other times, the Prime Directive is considered so sacred.
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Moonie
Wed, Oct 2, 2013, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
I liked this a lot. A simulated computer war - great idea. As so often, the story is just the background setting for the characters to shine - Kirk, Spock and Scotty had a few great moments. I loved seeing Scotty in the spotlight, on the bridge. Fantastic episode.

I haven't watched enough Star Trek yet to be totally clear on whether or not this is a violation of the Prime Directive.
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Jack
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
Eighteen to the twelfth power doesn't sound like a very useful way to express a big number...
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dgalvan
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
-This plot concept seemed completely original to me! Surprising, but I'd never seen a sci-fi plot where a war was fought with simulations, and the "casualties" obediently killed themselves, all in an effort to preserve the infrastructure. It was pleasant to find such an original plot in a 50-year old TV episode. But then, I'm now curious why this concept hasn't been re-visitited in any modern sci-fi show I can think of. Am I missing an example?

-Kirk's point at the end when chatting with McCoy and Spock is key: with real weapons, people would still die, but now the ability to make war would eventually be hindered as well.

-Shatner gets lampooned a lot, but watching most of these TOS episodes for the first time, I gotta say: He is REALLY good!

You can call it overacting, but most of the time I don't think it's not really overdone. And it is entertaining in the way it is supposed to be: presenting the idea that Kirk is indeed a maverick. It's not subtle, but not everything has to be subtle to be good.

-This is yet another episode where the "aliens" look exactly like humans. Logistically understandable given the special effects / makeup limitations of the time. But still, a tad annoying.
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Corey
Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 8:18pm (UTC -6)
Overacting? Shatner's not even acting. The guy perpetually radiates pure awesome.

As for this episode: personally, I think it's a classic, and represents the best of Original Trek. I love how the abstract tone of Original Trek lends itself well to episodes set on alien planets. DS9, TNG and Voyager struggled to create "realistic" alien cultures, whilst Original Trek simply goes for abstract, metaphor and surrealism.
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Brandon
Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 6:19pm (UTC -6)
Did anyone notice that this is one of the few episodes where the red shirts actually survived?
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John TY
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
Enjoyable - Kirk as quasi-villain is always fun to watch.

And some nice insight on the way casualties of war can become numbers and thereby facilitate the indifference of the general public. Topical stuff given the Vietnam War, and obviously still relevant today.

But in order to achieve a dramatic conclusion the show falls into a few TOS clichés. Most annoying is Kirk and co deciding they're going to dictate what's best for these people even though they've only just met them and know close to nothing about their war. Whether it technically breaks the prime directive or not, this kind of message is simplistic at best; encouraging very black and white thinking. It brings to mind many people's attitudes to ongoing (yet distant) conflicts around the world today - Israel/Palestine for example.

Anyway yes, at least no red shirts died in the filming of this episode.
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John TY
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Actually I recall that Robert S McNamara made the comment that the US administrations he served had a very misguided/limited view of the nature and causes of the conflict in Vietnam. And we all know how that turned out.
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Beth
Thu, Dec 4, 2014, 2:22am (UTC -6)
I love this episode - had never seen it before now. Kirk is awesome, Scotty is awesome, Spock is awesome, even the Yeoman and the other redshirts have a useful role to play in this episode instead of getting killed off, and I loved that Ambassador Roger Idiot McStupid Fox (what is it with Ambassadors and Commodores being such assholes??) finally learned his error and his lesson and got a chance to do his job for real, instead of being disintegrated.

Although, what happened to the Ambassador's attache? He seems to just die while propped up on his legs. WTF?

As for this whole thing being a violation of the Prime Directive... come on, pretty much every TOS episode was in violation of the Prime Directive somehow. Kirk was a man of decisiveness and bold action, and was not one to ponder about the long-term consequences of those actions. Also, I think the people of Eminiar VII lost their right to non-interference under the Prime Directive when they claimed the Enterprise as a "casualty of war". Like someone above said, Kirk might have let them be with their computerized war, but there's NO WAY he's going to let anyone destroy his ship or disintegrate his crew!

And I agree that Shatner as Kirk is excellent, especially in episodes like these. He doesn't need to be subtle and act with grace - his emotive and brash demeanour IS what Kirk is like; it embodies the passionate boldness and sometimes stern coldness of his character.

Shatner CAN act just fine, when properly directed. His Kirk in "The Motion Picture" was a flat rehashing of '60s Kirk, with no innovations in character. That Kirk was also far too cold and petty in that film, the way he subterfuged Decker's command out of transparent jealousy and a craving for control. But Shatner's Kirk in "The Wrath of Khan" became a bit more subtle and depressed, reflecting an aging Kirk who hates getting old and hates that he's a shipless Admiral, and really hates that there isn't a damn thing he can do about it. And don't tell me that Shatner's acting didn't elicit any tears or any pathos at all when, while stifling tears, he described Spock as "the most...human" person he'd ever known. Even his defeated and deflated, "No..." when Spock dies feels jarring, as the shock of losing someone you love naturally would feel. [A far cry from the pointless "death scene" for Kirk, and hilariously inserted "KHAAAN!" line by Spock, in ST: ID]. I think Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett deserve some credit for getting Shatner to hit the notes just right. Anyway... enough TWOK luuurve.

So yep, a solid 3/4 episode. Classic stuff.
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Nick Hughes
Thu, Jan 15, 2015, 4:13pm (UTC -6)
Kirk does not violate the Prime Directive in this story. There. I've said it.

As the Enterprise enters the system, it's told by Eminiar VII to go away because it's dangerous to go there. Kirk initially wants to comply and leave. Ambassador Fox orders him, very firmly, to proceed to the planet. So the responsibility of what happens next is firmly on Fox, not Kirk.

Next, Kirk is informed that the Enterprise has been declared a casualty and that the crew has to beam down to get disintegrated. That's an act of war. Eminiar VII and Vendikar aren't societies ignorant of space faring races, they are aware of The Federation and have previously destroyed other Federation vessels. Kirk acts to defend himself and his crew, from the threat of an aggressor. The Prime Directive is for the protection of cultures but not those who choose to attack the Federation. However he, like any competent commander, isn't using the weapons and tactics that his opponents want him to. He takes the initiative and protects his crew; his first duty.

Let's not make Kirk the Prime Directive violating maverick villain of the piece here: Anan VII shows himself to be quite devious, manipulative and insensitive to the anguish of others. It's only when he feels his life is threatened that he starts to lose his self control.
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Shannon
Sat, Mar 28, 2015, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
More so than any other TOS episode, this is the one were Kirk has been accused by many fans of flagrantly breaking the Prime Directive. I have to disagree with that. The Prime Directive is NOT an absolute, despite what Worf said once in Pen Pals. Kirk was forced into this situation by an ambitious ambassador looking to put another feather in his cap, so I don't think the Prime Directive would require him to allow his crew to be killed. As for the Eminians, they are a warp-capable species, along with the Vendicans, that have been killing each other for centuries. Kirk didn't really "interfere" with their culture, he gave them back what war really is, which forced their leaders into considering peace. Is it a "gray area" of the Prime Directive, definitely, but a one-off case that resulted in something good... Liked this episode a lot, would give it 3.5 stars.
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Vance
Sun, Jan 10, 2016, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
Thinking about today in relation to this 1967 episode, I take away a slightly different lesson from "A Taste of Armageddon."

When this episode was produced, the Vietnam War was indeed a topic of great debate. Significantly, the universal U.S. military draft was still years away. (The draft ended in 1973.) Also, MAD (mutual assured distruction) was cited as a chief reason for the nuclear arms race during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. . . If both sides have the power to kill the other completely, then neither side will risk direct military confrontations that could lead to a full-scale war.

In this current era of a seemingly never-ending war in Iraq and Afghanistan and with ISIL and al-Qaeda, we've created our own version of the Vendicar/Eminiar societies. There's no more draft now and no real debate among politicians about war policy. When was the last time you heard ANY political candidate speak with urgency about our wars? When was the last time you heard a continuous, thoughtful no-soundbite debate in Congress? If there is any, it gets the briefest media attention.

Less than one percent of the American people now serve in the military. During the Vietnam conflict, nearly ten percent of that generation served in the U.S. military. Greater than twelve percent of the entire population served during World War II. But today, when most of us are completely removed from the realities of war, our culture continues its way of life, seemingly unaffected by the longest wars in American history. American life and our individual lives continue as if there has been no war in the 21st century-- or even worse, as if our wars have no real cost or consequences. For many of us, that's close to true, I think.

At least the inhabitants of Eminiar & Vendicar took war seriously enough that they were willing to disrupt lives and die as the result of a conflict that was mostly removed from their everyday lives. Then again, I wonder: how many people had to be forced into those extermination chambers? How much public unrest or debate was there? Or was it all just fine for each citizen, so long as HIS or HER life was likely not to be inconvenienced?

That's where it seems we are today: war is fine, so long as it doesn't disrupt you in any ways significant or tiny.

(PS-- I'm not advocating for anything here, and I don't have answers. I'm just thinking aloud and wondering if others have made similar connections and come to similar or different conclusions. I appreciate this forum and hope that I have offended no one. Thank you.)
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grumpy_otter
Mon, Apr 25, 2016, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
Vance, if I could attach a video clip, it would be of me giving a standing ovation to your comment. Indeed, we are so removed from war that we might as well be like the idiots presented in this episode. It is a shameful aspect of our culture that these "removed wars" have become commonplace to us. I teach history, and find my college-age students so oblivious to our wars, and so accepting of them, that I sometimes want to slap them.

Additionally, in relation to the episode, my mother always taught me that I must "respect others' beliefs." I accepted it as a child, but around about age 16 I turned to her and responded, "Not if they're stupid." And that's how I feel about this episode and the prime directive. If a culture embraces stupid beliefs, then I will NOT respect nor cooperate with those beliefs,

As to who is the arbiter of whether or not a beliefs is stupid--there are certain standards of behavior that harm no one. If your beliefs violate that, then they are stupid. At the moment, I am speaking specifically of idiots who cannot comprehend the reality of transgender individuals, and think transgender women only do it to "get at" young girls in the restroom. Those are stupid and ignorant beliefs and I will not respect them. And I will fight them as I am able.
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Robert
Mon, Apr 25, 2016, 3:27pm (UTC -6)
@grumpy_otter - I thought the argument was that if we allow trans women into the girls bathroom then other people with a penis with follow suit. I didn't think we were actually afraid of the trans people, but I'm not sure. As though the only thing stopping them from entering the bathroom to do God knows what to (for some reason) unsupervised little girls is that other penis possessing people aren't supposed to go in there. But if we facilitate the allowance of this by not passing new laws... God knows what will happen. At least this is what I think Ted Cruz was saying. My day is always confusing when I wake up and find Donald Trump making sense.
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Ivanov
Mon, Jun 13, 2016, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
This might just be my favorite episode of the original series I liked the idea of a civilization that decided to wage war virtually just to spare both planets infrastructure.

I do wonder though what happened to the lost federation ship? they made it clear that the crew was captured and vaporized but they don't say what they did with the ship afterwords.
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Polly
Mon, Oct 10, 2016, 3:07am (UTC -6)
The presence of the yeoman who appeared to be of Japanese descent during the discussion of the 'messiness' of war being ultimately a deterrent suggested to me that the writers were thinking more of Hiroshima than Vietnam. There was also much discussion through the 1960s of the neutron bomb, which among other 'advantages' was going to be able to kill large numbers of people while doing relatively small damage to buildings and infrastructure.
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Skeptical
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 1:33pm (UTC -6)
This was a fun one. Some random comments:

- Star Trek is at its best when it can weave good sci fi elements into a strong story. This is one example of that. Computer simulations were definitely a "futuristic" scenario at that time, and the idea that one could simulate war on a computer works out as an interesting concept to explore. That these people could have developed this artificial war works, to put it simply. And watching Kirk and Spock try to figure out a way to solve this problem, both of protecting the Enterprise and saving WhatsHerName (the immediate problem) and breaking this culture out of its routine (long term problem), was a joy. The obstinate ambassador who learned his mistake and Scotty's resoluteness in the face of legal trouble completed the fun. It's a strong story, what is there to complain about?

- As part of the high concept, exploring what a culture must be like in order to accept this simulated war is vitally necessary. And the episode does that, particularly by focusing on WhatsHerName (yeah, sorry, don't feel like looking it up). You see the blankness in their faces when Kirk and company resist the disintegration chamber; she simply can't understand why someone wouldn't willingly commit suicide just because a computer tells them to. She has completely accepted this way of life. The thought of saving her life frightened her! In contrast, the leadership seems to understand that others would see this approach as insane, thus resorting to trickery to try to kill the Enterprise crew. Given that, perhaps they see the approach as immoral, but still demand it as being better than the alternative. For the most part, these people are completely subservient to the state. And yet, there's inklings that the state isn't subservient to their ideal. So how hard was it to convert the people to this idea? How bad was the previous war that this was seen as a better alternative? How controlling of information is the government that the new generations (the people who did not grow up with the previous war) did not see a negative side of this approach?

- Meanwhile, even though Trek is famous for message shows, it's a bit odd that this seems to endorse the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. By threatening complete annihilation, and by bringing back the old fashioned sort of war, the episode seems to endorse the idea that violence, or at least the threat of violence, can solve problems. By threatening the destruction of the entire planet, Kirk saved himself and the Enterprise crew. And by destroying the computer, he potentially created true peace on the planet. That doesn't sound like the so-called "enlightened" pacifist approach that this series seems to take. However, since this approach didn't require shoe-horning in some stupid god-like being into the story, I don't really mind. Kirk was faced with a messy situation, and had to come up with a messy result.

- Speaking of which, I'm glad they left the ending a bit vague. We don't know if these people, or their enemy for that matter, will be willing to try for peace, or would instead go back to an actual war (although, if everything is simulated, wouldn't that mean they have no weapons at this point?). We don't even know if there still are legitimate grievances among the two people. But the inertia of the simulated war was broken, so everything is up in the air. There's a feeling of trepidation in the air as the Enterprise leaves, but also a feeling of hope. Likewise, I'm glad they showed the ambassador willing to stay behind and help broker a peace treaty. He was definitely portrayed negatively throughout the episode, so showing him a bit more well-rounded in the end was for the best. This isn't just a minor deal; there is a very real chance that he will end up trapped on a war-torn planet and die a gruesome death. Yet he accepts that risk to try to help. It shows that he isn't entirely the caricature that he seemed to be in the beginning, emphasizing the first three letters in his title and showing his astounding naivety. But he really is bound to his duty, and honorable in his own way even if he was also stupid...
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zzybaloobah
Tue, Nov 29, 2016, 1:12am (UTC -6)
Yep, love the episode.

Kirk: "I didn't start this war, but I'm liable to finish it."

And no, he didn't violate the Prime Directive - for all the reasons elaborated on above. I also find it amusing that TNG is accepted as *the* canon for all things Trek -- as in "Picard said this, Kirk must be wrong." Maybe Picard got it wrong? Or maybe things just changed in the "generation" between TOS and TNG.

Great satire on making war too sterile and antiseptic -- probably more timely today than it was then.

Finally, something I like to point out (usually commenting on a DS9 episode) is General Order 24: "Blow up the whole planet." That's some *serious* badassery.
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Rahul
Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
This is an excellent episode - great idea, acting, and I can't think of any overtly stupid actions. Spock has some great lines and the deviousness of Anan7 to achieve his objectives made it very interesting.
As for a moral or lesson from the episode - I think it's simply pointing out that war is bad and making it sterile only serves to keep it going. With real war, both parties should eventually try to find peace as the devastation is too great. Kirk sets this up in his own way -- he has been threatened / the ship has been threatened and he has little choice.
I guess the cliche (albeit small) is Ambassador Fox at the start - do all these high-ranking officers always have to feel the need to enforce their authority? In any case, Scotty was terrific in defying him.
No guilt in giving this episode 4/4 stars - one of the best of all TOS episodes.
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IAC.
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -6)
One of the reasons I love this episode, is that subordinate crewmen/actors are given dialogue, etc.
Such as when Spock leaves the female yeoman with a weapon ( a 1st ? ) and instructs her to kick the other girl,s ass if need be !
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IAC.
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -6)
One of the reasons I love this episode, is that subordinate crewmen/actors are given dialogue, etc.
Such as when Spock leaves the female yeoman with a weapon ( a 1st ? ) and instructs her to kick the other girl,s ass if need be !
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Richard
Thu, May 25, 2017, 10:59pm (UTC -6)
An enjoyable episode, but one aspect strikes me as implausible.

I find it hard to believe that people would voluntary walk into a disintegration chamber. Granted, we are dealing with an alien race (even though they look just like Earthlings), and we don't know the psychology of this race. However, I would imagine that self-preservation is a pretty strong instinct throughout the galaxy.
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JJ not Abrams 8-)
Sat, Sep 2, 2017, 2:35am (UTC -6)
Re comments of zzybaloobah ... completely agreed on prime directive and TOS vs TNG... as Captain Janeway explained in Voyager, "they were a little quicker to fire phasers ..."

General order 24 is definitely bad ass -- btw does anyone know what general orders 1 - 23 are ?
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Trek fan
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
This Vietnam-era Star Trek episode is a riveting outcry of the human spirit against all attempts to make war "clean" and "clinical" and "safe," especially relevant today in our age of smart bombs and drones which massacre people without troubling us to see and feel the bloody results of our politics (the one incentive to stop killing) up front. One may also recall efforts to make capital punishment and euthanasia "humane" by removing the pain. Anyway, I give this one 3 1/2 or 4 stars because it's so uncompromisingly brilliant in its observation that making war easier only perpetuates rather than ends it. The computer-run war here is a nifty concept and the voluntary immolations are not impossible to imagine as an eventual possible development of "clean warfare" in our own times.

Kirk does not violate the Prime Directive in this episode. As clarified on TNG, the Prime Directive applies to pre-warp civilizations which are not ready for first contact. At the start of "A Taste of Armageddon," the Federation ambassador is coming to establish diplomatic relations and negotiate the entry of the planet into the Federation, implying first contact has already been made by the earlier ship (Anan 7 makes a "just as it happened before" reference to the earlier starship crew being executed as a "war casualty," so the Federation's tech is not foreign to them) or is now being made. So the Prime Directive simply does not apply here: The Federation is clearly looking to dialogue with this slightly less advanced warp-capable people and become active in their affairs, just as Picard's crew gets involved in myriad interplanetary disputes of non-Federation peoples in TNG.

Furthermore, the Aminians in "A Taste of Armageddon" wage war on the Enterprise, declaring its crew a casualty and trying to lure them down to the planet for disintegration without their informed consent. When a bully attacks you and threatens to keep attacking you even after you defend yourself successfully, even fooling you into thinking he is peaceful until he can hit you in the face again, you are past the point of reasoning with him and of hoping you can leave his arm unbroken. There is no room for moral neutrality in the face of an unjust aggressor: The Allies not only had to fight back against the German occupiers and drive them out of France in WWII, but invade Germany and destroy the entire German war machine to keep it from continuing to murder people.

Indeed, Anan 7 and his cronies are clearly interfering with the Enterprise and attempting to impose their culture on the Federation imperialistically rather than vice versa. Since they "started this war"/attacked first, Kirk has no problem fighting back ("I'm liable to finish it!") and removing instrumentation that will continue to kill unwitting outsiders if left intact. Yes, that means forcing the Aminians to confront the ugly consequences of having made war "safe and legal" to the point that people blandly immolate themselves because a computer tells them to do so. But the Aminians have left Kirk no other choice.

There's also just a lot of fun energy in this episode: Kirk, Spock (love it when he does the neck pinch and "practices diplomacy" on a booth), Scotty (who has some great lines here), the yeoman, and even Fox are sharply drawn in their efforts to understand and finally fight back against the people who want them to voluntarily walk into a disintegration chamber because a computer said they got hit in a cosmic game of "Battleship." I would just add that Fox has good cause to change his mind as Anan's cronies are shoving him into a disintegration booth while he protests his diplomatic status after beaming down with an assurance of safe conduct -- the kind of crazy stuff Hitler pulled by making false treaties in order to break them later. Once we've lost the ability to recognize something as crazy, we're in a lot of trouble as a society, and it's not "black-and-white" to say that what Hitler did or what the Aminians are doing in this episode is just flat-out wrong. Even in Star Trek there is such a thing as universal rights, including the right of people not to be disintegrated against their will.
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Tanner
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 7:18am (UTC -6)
Near the end, Kirk and the rest of the landing party could have just beamed back to the ship once Kirk made contact with Scotty and left the system; leaving the two planets to work it out themselves.
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ZITA CARNO
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
"NOT WITH MY SHIP YOU DON'T!" I just love this episode, for a good many reasons, not the least of which is the tour-de-force performance of William Shatner. No,he's not overacting---you must remember that he did a lot of Shakespeare on stage, and he brought a lot of this to his work on Trek and added a new and exciting dimension in the process. I also love the fact that Scotty was every inch the equal of the captain when it came to protecting the Enterprise and her crew---and how about Spock and how he demonstrated "a peculiar variety of diplomacy" with a well-aimed phaser? Nor was there any violation of the Prime Directive, for it did not exist for the two squabbling planets. Oh yeah---what got me, as it always does, was our favorite Vulcan doing his thing through the wall---not exactly a mind-meld but a demonstration of telepathic hypnosis, and I've always been fascinated by and am continuing to explore what the Vulcans call "wuh tepul t'wuh kashek"---the power of the mind and what it could be capable of. Great fun, and a lesson to be learned.
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JD
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
I came on thinking this would be one of the episodes that I really liked but would be lampooned by a bunch of disgruntled reviews. I thought the Jammer review would dislike too. But...pretty nice. Nice to see most of the reviews are pretty positive. Funny thing is I'm not the biggest Kirk-style captaining fan, but as many agree, it really works here, in all its glory. This could be meme'd with the ain't-nobody-got-time-for that meme, on his behalf.
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ZITA CARNO
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
Don't ever let anyone tell you that Vulcans don't have a sense of humor! Spock certainly did, and he demonstrated it in the scene where he said to one of the Eminian guards "Sir, there is a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder"---a most logical practical joke, because when the guard turned his head to look he was promptly knocked out with that famous nerve pinch. However, it was no joke that Spock voiced a complaint about his failure to teach Captain Kirk how to do it---but he need not have felt embarrassed about it; the reason was that Vulcans have the ability to project a particular energy through their fingertips, a faculty that humans do not possess.
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Peter G.
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
"the reason was that Vulcans have the ability to project a particular energy through their fingertips, a faculty that humans do not possess."

An interesting theory! Unfortunately it's later refuted in TNG's Unification pt 2, but perhaps this is what they had in mind at the time?
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ZITA CARNO
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 3:25pm (UTC -6)
Peter---this might well have been what the "Next Generation" writers had at the time, to try making sense of some of these aspects of the original series, and that is one reason I didn't like "Next Generation" nearly as much as I did, and still do, the original. They took a lot of the mystery out of Trek in favor of relationships and such to the exclusion of the mystery and suspense, and that may be the reason for the relative absence of Vulcans in TNG, with the exception of the powerful story of the trials and tribulations of the aging Sarek. I will always remember the ambassador in the original series and particularly in the scene in "Star Trek III" where he and Admiral Kirk perform the incredibly beautiful mind-meld. Oh, by the way---as you may have read or heard, Vulcans over the age of 200 are prone to developing what is known as Bendii syndrome---the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's---but it's interesting to note that Spock escaped that problem: it was probably the human factor in his blood that protected him, so he just aged normally, or what we call normally. Thanks for bringing up this subject; it'll make an interesting addition to my own explorations of the mental abilities of this intriguing species.
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Startrekwatcher
Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 12:01am (UTC -6)
3 stars

Very thoughtful episode that uses an original sci fi idea to communicate a good message while being entertaining in the process.
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Pete
Sat, Mar 16, 2019, 8:09am (UTC -6)
This episode contains a rare and straightforward example of Spock lying.

"Sir, there is a multi-legged creature on your shoulder..." (nerve pinch)

Also dryly funny, as Spock often is.
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Springy
Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
I give it points for creativity.

An average ep overall: Kirk saving the day in his know-it-all way.

Sexy Lady was not that into him, but he saved her anyhow.

On to the next one.
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Brian S
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 1:32pm (UTC -6)
@Richard: "I find it hard to believe that people would voluntary walk into a disintegration chamber.... I would imagine that self-preservation is a pretty strong instinct throughout the galaxy."

++++

The episode addresses this point.

Mea--the hostess--says she has no greater wish to die than Kirk or anybody else, but that to her it's preferable to the alternative.

In war, there isn't just death.....there is pain, and suffering, and mutilation, and torture.

Take, for example, the conflict in Syria. It isn't just the deaths from the bombs being dropped on people. Thousands more beyond just the dead are injured, crippled, left bleeding in the streets. Their wounds can become infected, limbs lost. Among the survivors, homes and schools are destroyed. Basic services disrupted, water systems damaged and non-functional. Supply lines are cut, there are food shortages and hunger. Disease runs rampant with no functional medical facilities to treat it. Soldiers/Rebels tend to be fairly barbaric in personal combat, often taking prisoners, torturing enemies, raping civilians.

War is not sanitary. War creates secondary and exponential unintended suffering far beyond deaths from the primary attack.

And even in killing, not all deaths are brought about the same. Most combat deaths are not instantaneous and painless like a disintegration chamber. People spend minutes or hours bleeding out from bullet wounds or shrapnel. Choking to death on nerve agents. Drowning in the ocean after a sub or battleship is sunk. Having their flesh burned off their bones by bombs. Spending several days agonizingly bleeding to death in your home next to your family under 500 pounds of rubble.

As Spock says, there is a certain logic to a war ravaged civilization wanting to do away with all of those secondary harms. None of the Eminians *want* to die, but given the choice between a horrifically painful death where your face and limbs are blown off and you bleed out in some muddy ditch or a clean instant painless death where you merely step into a "disintegration chamber"......one can see the appeal.
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hifijohn
Tue, Apr 30, 2019, 12:11am (UTC -6)
Great episode, there we have two civilizations , they need war but dont like the messiness of it so they come up with a logical solution.BTW Fox's face may not look familiar but his voice should , he did many narrations for documentaries in the 70's.
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Sarjenka's Brother
Fri, May 10, 2019, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
Has anyone every noticed that McCoy is always by the captain's seat, needlessly questioning every decision of whoever is in command?

Scotty, who had the situation well in hand, should have sent him down to Sickbay with orders to stay there.
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Bobbington Mc Bob
Wed, Sep 18, 2019, 4:30pm (UTC -6)
DEPLOY THE SILLY HATS
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Bobbington Mc Bob
Thu, Sep 19, 2019, 6:29am (UTC -6)
I honestly thought General Order 24 was going to be revealed to be "Keep hallways clear of mop buckets at all times to avoid trip hazards" - a huge Kirkian bluff. Turns out Starfleet really does have an Armageddon Order.

Nice episode, I liked the tone of the acting, which was a lot more measured than some of the hamminess of "Court Martial". You can feel star trek gradually becoming Star Trek, and laying the foundation for hundreds of future episodes of TNG, DS9 and siblings. Not VOY though, whose quality control procedure was lifted directly from the making of "Spock's Brain".

Just kidding. Well, only a bit.
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Chrome
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 8:58am (UTC -6)
Pretty enjoyable episode. The Sci-Fi device used in this episode was clever, allowing a war to be fought only with casualties of life instead of full-scale warfare. There’s a really great allegory here about Mutually Assured Destruction, where it may seem like two superpowers who hardly have contact with each other are fighting a war endlessly because an actual conflict would be disastrous. The power of this story’s message stirred some great debates here, to be sure.

General Order 24 cuts away from the point the writers were making, though. The writers seem to be against the idea of forcing a society to behave a certain way through threat of violence, yet the solution they give Kirk is to... force a society to behave a certain way through threat of violence. Can we imagine if an alien species came to 20th century and forced the USA and Soviet Union into a hot conflict?

Finally, Miko Mayama makes a small appearance as the Yeoman of the week. It’s nice to see some more ethnicity on the set and the actress is simply gorgeous.
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William B
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 10:23am (UTC -6)
@Chrome, I might be misremembering, but I don't think Kirk's position is exactly against forcing behaviour through the threat of violence. As I think Peter has talked about, TOS seems to not even be that anti-war, exactly. I think Kirk's attitude is that they have to face up to what perpetual war actually means, in order to make an informed choice. Maybe their conflicts really are unresolvable without war, but their current situation is so sanitized that they can't really evaluate it properly. I wouldn't go as far as to say I support Kirk's decision -- it's pretty out there to force a war to be bloodier in order to convince people how to behave. But I think Kirk's position is internally consistent: sometimes violence is necessary, but you have to own it. Not owning up to your violence is what mostly leads to unnecessary violence.

I think in addition to the general Cold War allegory, I think this was specifically about the war in Vietnam, where individuals were shuttled across the world to die in a war that a huge proportion of Americans were basically insulated from, so that for most people, until they or their own relative were drafted, had no real sense of the scale of the loss of life, and even in some cases were able to calmly go into war (like the people in this episode calmly accepting that they've been selected to be killed) because society at large was in such denial as to the reality of what their war entailed. Kirk's actions are in that sense a little bit similar to journalists reporting to Americans on the actual horrors of combat during the war -- levelling with people (to a degree) about what their war actually means, so that they can actually understand it. Not literally, because the journalists weren't really ramping up the war so much as just communicating what was already happening, but I think metaphorically Kirk's doing something similar.
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Rahul
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 11:57am (UTC -6)
I absolutely love this episode and just saw parts of it again a couple of weeks ago but William B. really nails the allegory here so well. The idea of making war sanitized (by those all for it) and how Americans felt about Vietnam in the 60s (somewhat uninformed) with journalists etc. trying to really inform the public about its devastation etc. is pretty much what Kirk is trying to show Anan 7 & co. It's a very clever episode.

Bigger picture is that TOS greatly benefited from the backdrop of the Cold War / Vietnam and I don't think the series is purely "anti-war" but I agree with William B. re. Kirk's position that sometimes it is necessary and you have to own it. It's a similar decision that Kirk makes in "A Private Little War" where he decided to balance the scales and arm Tyree's people otherwise they'd be obliterated by the Klingons and the tribe they supported. It's really brilliant how TOS used these real world events so effectively as allegories. "Errand of Mercy" is another example of attempted colonialism, being prepared to go to war when all else fails etc.

So I think TOS is defending military spending or a strong military -- most often it should act as a deterrent, as a means to further diplomacy, and one hopes it never has to be used. Now I'm thinking of "Dr. Strangelove"...

@Chrome - yes I too loved seeing Mayama play a small but useful role here. Gotta love when Spock told her to sit on Mea 3 if necessary to watch over her.

This is also one of the best Scotty episodes for the entire series. It's not about his engineering prowess either...
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Atomguy
Tue, Nov 5, 2019, 7:59am (UTC -6)
How, in 500 years of fighting, has collateral damage against people not in the war never come up?
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Top Hat
Tue, Nov 5, 2019, 8:09am (UTC -6)
I get the impression that both planets regard it as a total war, with no meaningful distinction between combatants and non-combatants. But I guess you mean it's a bit implausible that aliens have never become entangled in this conflict before, which I guess I would agree with.
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Chrome
Tue, Nov 5, 2019, 10:31am (UTC -6)
They tell visitors like Kirk to leave right away when they encounter them. The episode goes to some length to show that the planet is self-sufficient and, besides the war, is functioning well without outside interaction.
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Atomguy
Wed, Nov 6, 2019, 8:54am (UTC -6)
They seem to care about not hurting people not involved and only try to kill the crew once it was listed as a casualty, and even then they seem regretful. While we don't ever see the other faction involved, they seemed similar. But you raise fair points. Also, another thing I noticed later on, what is stopping one side from just bombing the other with thousands of tricobalt devices? If it's all virtual, then someone could probably just design one of those drone thingies to constantly bombard the surface with as many weapons as they like, essentially decimating the population.
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Sleeper Agent
Fri, Dec 6, 2019, 9:41pm (UTC -6)
It doesn't matter what the Prime directive says explicitly, it's its core message and how it is lived by, that ultimately defines it. To this definition one clearly must include the idea of souverenity; because there is no way Starfleet would tolerate outside-alien intermingling in earthly affairs.

With that said, "Taste of Armageddon" would be a lot less fun if Kirk would have just beamed away at first best chance. One of its highlights being Scotty in command of the bridge, "The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank!" =]

A real treat of an episode, one of the finest of season 1.
IV of IV
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Ben
Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 8:09am (UTC -6)
Great episode. Couple of observations. The uniforms they wear on the planet were ridiculous looking. Also I always got confused between the lead councilman’s name-Anon 7 and the planet’s name - Eminiar 7. There’s plenty of other numbers to choose from!
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SouthofNorth
Sat, Jul 4, 2020, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
SPOCK: An entrance, Captain, but no exit. They go in, but they do not come out.
KIRK: A disintegration machine?
SPOCK: Or an elevator ...
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kurtis
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 5:41pm (UTC -6)
One of my favorite episodes and a great example of what TOS is great at. Unique concepts and stories dealing with philosophical themes and amazing characters.

The sterilization of war is a concept that's especially relevant today, with drone warfare and the neutron bomb. War is bloody by nature and to shelter a society from that leads to further suffering.

As for the prime directive! I don't think he broke it!
1.This was an advanced society.
2.They committed an act of aggression against the Enterprise crew.
3.Kirk wanted to turn around initially. It was Fox who ordered him to go in.
Then Kirk had to do what he had to.
4.Then he destroyed their whole way of living...

Ok he broke the prime directive a bit!
But that's not the point!
It was still a great episode!
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Rubens
Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 1:28am (UTC -6)
I heartily agree with Kurtis.

TOS is not ashamed to deal with universal subjects, desensibilisation of war is not light a one, and that it is why the episodes continue to be appealing 50 years latter.

People of Eminiar 7 just "got used" to kill 3 million of their own per year, even if they had a like with Vendikar to stop the war at any time.

And you have to love Scotty in this episode, even risking to be sent to a colony prisions , he didn't budge.
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Mal
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 11:06am (UTC -6)
@Vance, I want to echo what @grumpy_otter has written in praise of your post - really, you’ve said it all. I absolutely love coming here and seeing that someone, in this case @Vance, has already done the heavy lifting. Thanks bro.

https://youtu.be/a5-sBB9CPKo?t=32

For those keeping score at home, this is the first time that we hear about Enterprise being part of a federation - just last week in “Space Seed” Kirk was still calling the ship the "United Spaceship Enterprise”. But now,

KIRK: I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, representing the United Federation of Planets.

It’s about time.

We also get a red-SKIRT of the week, the lovely Yeoman Tamula. Why can't nuTrek attract this kind of high quality crew?

@Rahul, good point, there are several other episodes that also cover Vietnam going forward. If fact, I would say a few of the past episode were also about the war.

To put TOS in context, in 1964, the democrats swept the election and really kicked the Vietnam war into high gear. So Star Trek was airing at a time when it was just not possible to ignore what was going on any more.

In 1967, the year “A Taste of Armageddon” aired, 11,363 United States soldiers died in the Vietnam war - more than 30 American boys were dying over there every day.

31 dead soldiers a day. Every day. Day after day. That number went even higher the next year.

So, for example, we remember “Arena” because Kirk fought the Gorn. But there is a crazy scene in "Arena" reminiscent of the after-effects of an agent orange attack in Vietnam:

MAN: They poured it on, like, like phasers, only worse, whatever they were using. I tried to signal them. We called up. Tried to surrender. We had women and children. I told them that! I begged them! They wouldn't listen. They didn't let up for a moment.

Time and again in it’s history, Star Trek has had a message of peace. Sometimes they did that through shows that depicted the horrors of war, like DS9’s The Siege of AR-558. And sometime they did that with a scifi element that had a different twist, like the haunting Voyager episode “Remember”.

That’s probably what offends me most about nuTrek. Star Trek: Discovery literally began with a preemptive strike by the Federation that starts a war. I just can’t imagine Kirk would have ever allowed that on his Enterprise, which was just 10 years after that Discovery pilot.

The people in charge of Star Trek have lost its soul. Let’s see if they can get it back.
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Mary
Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 12:25am (UTC -6)
Saw this recently and I really liked it. Sure Kirk overacts but it's so fun that he does. It makes the show more emotional for the viewer. Besides he has to emote for 2 because his co-star, Spock, has to be deadpan.

I kind of like that there were no romances. The ideas show through clearer.

The idea was interesting and made me think about things. I do however see a real-life precedent for the idea of a sterilized war - General Sherman in the American Civil War. He marched to the sea burning everything in his path to take the "nobleness" out of war. He saw that many had glorified the war and the alleged righteous causes. Politicians, who create wars, sell wars using the propaganda of some noble, righteous, or idealistic cause. In reality, the politicians stand to benefit financially while those they send to die stand to gain nothing. W T Sherman saw the South drafting its young men to die to protect the way of life that benefitted a very few. So he destroyed the culture and civilization that enabled the powerful and wealthy in the South to glorify the war. Kirk was the General Sherman Eminiar Seven.

I do not get too upset about the Prime Directive. The mission involved a ship that had been lost before and soon it became self-preservation for themselves. The Eminians were no primitive backward society. They knew about the Federation, space travel, and technology. Some get too hung up on the idea of the Prime Directive to the point that no decent storylines could ever be told.

When there is a good story, the design of the aliens, props, and sets go relatively unnoticed. Write a good story and you can make the production low budget and nobody will care.
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Bob (a different one)
Mon, Feb 22, 2021, 10:47am (UTC -6)
Solid episode. I like Kirk's speech about "Not killing...today" but I think Shatner did a very poor job of delivering it.

I have a question:


SPOCK: We know very little about them. Their civilization is advanced. They've had space flight for several centuries, but they've never ventured beyond their own solar system. When first contacted more than fifty years ago, Eminiar Seven was at war with its nearest neighbor.
KIRK: Anything else?
SPOCK: The Earth expedition making the report failed to return from its mission. The USS Valiant. Listed as missing in space.


FOX: Captain, in the past twenty years, thousands of lives have been lost in this quadrant. Lives that could have been saved if the Federation had a treaty port here.



Are we to infer from Fox's statement that more ships than just the Valiant have fallen prey to either Eminar VII or to Vendikar?



A little piece of trivia I just read on Memory Alpha:

In the 24th century, the Eminiar VII Starbase was located on this planet. (TNG-R: "Inheritance", okudagram)
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Tidd
Tue, Mar 23, 2021, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
A very good episode - the notion of neighbours waging a long term war via computer, is great sci-fi, and would have been a strong story whether done as The Outer Limits, Dr Who, or TOS.

Ultimately it was Kirk's episode (again!) though I took exception with yet more fist fights; it took quite a while for the producers to wean themselves off that particular trope. The most ridiculous of these was a 2 second blur towards the end during which Kirk managed to disable 4 armed guards.

There was also strong support from Spock and Scott, the latter coming fully into his own for the first time. "Aye you are, Ambassador, but I'm not going to lower the screens" (I think he meant 'shields'...)

As for the glamorous Mea, we were introduced to her with the usual soft focus and romantic strings, indicating that she might possibly be yet another Kirk conquest. Once it became clear that she wasn't, after all, the soft focus and mood music disappeared.

More 'aliens' with completely human form... I do wish that TOS had been set in the far future instead of the 23rd Century. Then, as in This Side Of Paradise, the warring humanoids in this episode could have been explained as long-past Earth settlers - i.e. pre-Federation - falling out.
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Alyx
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
I don't see what the purpose of this war even was, especially once they had reached the point of basically turning it into a computer game. Why actually kill anyone, just go the rest of the way and make it a harmless competition. Since neither side had any interest in ever surrendering after five hundred years it wouldn't really matter anyway, it's not like the real death's discouraged them anyway. I also find it really hard to believe that these people would willingly walk into these disintegration machines, even if they believed it was for the good of their civilization. Survival instincts are just too strong for that. There would at the very least be rebellions on both planets from people not keen on just giving up their lives needlessly.
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Sigh2000
Fri, Mar 25, 2022, 6:05am (UTC -6)
@Brian S [Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 1:32pm (UTC -5)]
Re: the question of why Mea would just simply walk into a disintegration chamber.

Thanks for reminding us of some of the real horrors of war. Your discussion from 35 months ago is amazingly prescient in view of current events in Ukraine.

"War is not sanitary."
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Sun, May 15, 2022, 10:42pm (UTC -6)
War--and I mean a *real* war, not the “War on Drugs” or the “War on Poverty”--is ugly, destructive and terrifying, but it’s always fought with a clear goal or resolution in mind. Wars are supposed to end, and their initiation is the first step in bringing about that end. "A Taste of Armageddon" shows us that when war becomes nothing but a sanitized video game, with the "losers" marching themselves into death chambers when they haven't even been playing the game, it's already over. It stops being war and becomes something else. If you’re content to live with deaths alone, if you can congratulate yourselves on your ability to dispense with the people without facing any destroyed buildings, the acquisition of new territory or the use of shocking and expensive weapons, then your war isn’t necessary in the first place so you might as well simply STOP IT and live in peace, Ahaaaahhhhh!

In a twisted sort of way, you have to admire these Eminian citizens’ patriotic spirit. In our own world, we constantly hear about how less and less of a country’s population, particularly in the United States, is ever called upon to fight its wars. 99% of the population is able to simply go about their regular daily lives. Yet in contrast, these Eminians will willingly go to their deaths when a computer calls their names up at random, for what they see as the good of their society. It’s absurd and horrifying, but damn is that some hardcore patriotic allegiance. It strains credulity even as fiction, and that’s probably the point. They believe in this down to their bones. It’s ingrained in their culture. I’ll bet they don’t even know what they’re even “fighting about” anymore after five hundred years, but that’s exactly the lesson here.

Mea-3’s rationale is priceless -- “If no one reports to die willingly, we’ll all have to launch real weapons!” The attitude here is, “We don’t want destruction. In fact, we don’t need destruction. We don’t need damage. All we want and need is death.” The way this planet is fighting its wars is more evil than if they just fired weapons at each other, because the way they have it now, their citizens are literally dying for nothing. Kirk contends that it’s ironically inhumane to accept death without destruction--sanitized war of the kind on Eminiar is a senseless and stupid cop-out, because *war and murder is supposed to be an unfathomable last resort.*

Lots of comments above have it exactly right: One of the best parts of “A Taste of Armageddon” is Kirk’s utter resolve and pointed determination to make this entire house of cards collapse immediately. Moral relativism be damned; sometimes it’s just fun to flog a bunch of morons. Spock gets into the act as well, serving as Kirk’s competent sidekick. He points out that while this system may have a certain scientific logic to it, it’s still wrong. It's actually *worse* than war.

And how awesome is Scotty back on the Enterprise, with his keen instinct to smell bullshit and refusal to believe a single word said by “that mealy-mouthed gentleman” on the planet. Even the annoying ambassador is by Kirk’s side with a gun in his hand by the end. Talk about righteous fury. It’s infectious, and fun watching the crew bring down Eminiar’s system.

This could have easily been a preachy, pedantic mess. The speeches are here for sure, but they’re kept succinct and William Shatner delivers them dynamically and heartily when he could have simply lectured the planet (and we the viewers) sanctimoniously. In the end, the two planets are left with little choice but to declare peace, but here’s the dry rub--other than no longer having to see their loved ones walk into disintegration chambers, no one will notice any difference. What a message!


Best Line:

Kirk -- “I wish to speak to Anan-7.”

Mea-3 -- “He is busy coordinating casualty lists.”

Kirk -- “He’ll have more casualty lists than he knows what to do with if he doesn’t get in here and talk to me.”


My Grade: B+
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Peter G.
Sun, May 15, 2022, 11:09pm (UTC -6)
Nice review, PCP. I'll be getting to this one sooner or later in my rewatch of the series, but one thing that strikes me right now as I think of it is the title: according to the episode's name Kirk is giving them a taste of the end of all life as they know it. I'm not sure if this is ever stated in the episode itself, but it seems evident to me that once technology reaches a certain level, assuming offensive tech will always be ahead of defensive tech, it will be impossible to wage an all-out (civil) war without simply wiping out both sides immediately. So not only is the lesson the concept that destruction and death should be a last resort, and that the horrors that come with this should act as an actual deterrent, but it seems we should also consider that once the tech level is too high any kind of war will really be untenable altogether. If you start a battle of this type both sides will have mutually assured destruction far worse than what we feared during the Cold War. Imagine nukes, but instead their equivalent 300 years from now.

So not only is Eminiar-7 threatened with damage to their infrastructure should they resume hostilities for real, but they will probably just die as a race. In a way we have to almost give credit to the evil disintegration chambers. Imagine that for some reason both sides simply cannot tolerate being at peace, or at least they couldn't at the point where this all started: I suppose in a weird way it's more rational to send a % of their population to their deaths than to lose 100%, if that's what it comes down to. That's not really the calculus we're supposed to make here, but if armageddon is the alternative then perhaps it sort of changes the parameters of what's 'acceptable' for these people. Naturally we should just say that it's foolish for there to even be a conflict, rather than to pick between executions and total annihilation. But I guess group psychology is a funny thing. It might just be possible that for some reason peace wasn't an option way back then, but it is now that Kirk has intervened. Maybe they needed someone stronger to come in and wake them up from their bad dream.
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Proud Capitalist Pig
Mon, May 16, 2022, 12:02am (UTC -6)
@ Peter G

Yes there was just so much to unpack here. It seems like for these two societies, Mutually Assured Destruction didn't even work as a concept. Their solution was to find a way around it completely--which is the one chilling part of their otherwise absurd mindset that I didn't even think to bring up until you raised it just now, so thanks for your thoughts!

I actually liked how it was never explained (unless I missed something) why they held so much animus to each other they would even find an arrangement like this acceptable in the first place. Any attempt to spell this out this would have cheapened the idea or, worse, allowed some folks to rationalize it.

One message I took away from all this was the "Sanitized" war on display here actually *cheapens* life in the worst way, which is why it's even worse than a plain-old typical war fought with weapons. All wars have to have a disregard for life by their very nature, but at least typical wars will one day end. For these people, there was no end sight and the *goal* of the war was lost completely. The people were dying for nothing, but were still willing to do so just so others could live in "peace." What they didn't realize was they had already achieved peace through the threat of MAD, but they had so much societal loyalty and ingrained tradition, or even 500 years of passed-down hatred of the other side, that they couldn't even recognize this. That's scary stuff.

I appreciate your comments as always!
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Lannion
Wed, Sep 7, 2022, 4:09pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode, and even better reviews. Of all TOS episodes, this is the one which I think about most; it haunts me for days every time I watch it, and after reading the comments, I guess I’m not alone with that.

While I like that every crewmember of the Enterprise has at least one stellar moment here, I think the central figure in this episode is Anan 7: he is the symbol of the Eminian society, the incarnation of its culture and concepts, and although he didn’t invent the rules of the computerized war between Eminiar and Vendikar, he is the one who defines them for Kirk and his crew. Without being evil, he’s a great antagonist, and the confrontation between him and Kirk in his office is outstanding in an episode full of brilliant scenes. What I find most fascinating is how they both try to lure the other into a trap. Anan, of course, wants to capture Kirk and hold him until the rest of his crew comes down to the planet, so he can fulfill his commitment to kill them. What Kirk does is much more subtle, so subtle and ambiguous that I’m not even 100 % sure I’m not imagining it (you tell me). It’s a kind of red herring; he tricks Anan into a false estimation of the danger he represents.

Kirk starts by establishing a threat that will later culminate in giving the famous “General Order 24”: “You don't seem to realise the risk you're taking. We don't make war with computers and herd the casualties into suicide stations. We make the real thing, Councilman. I could destroy this planet.”
It’s not clear – neither in this scene nor later –, whether he really means to put it into practice, but what’s more important is that Anan becomes aware of the threat. It’s purely strategic thinking: Kirk, being a good chess player, prepares his next moves and pushes his opponent into the right direction. Anan sees the danger of the heavy-armed Enterprise orbiting Eminiar 7, but he thinks he’s in control of the situation as long as he has Kirk trapped on the planet. Consequently, feeling in a superior position, he starts mocking and taunting him:
“Why do you think I don't let you talk to your ship?”
Kirk: “I don't need the ship for that.”
At first this may just sound like a big-mouthed attempt at bravery… at least that’s how Anan interprets it, but I think that’s a crucial misunderstanding. When Kirk talks about destroying Eminiar 7, Anan takes the threat literally: what he has in mind is the Enterprise blasting the planet to rubble with its weapons, and he doesn’t see how Kirk could possibly accomplish anything destructive without the help of his ship. Since I’m sure that Kirk himself is equally well aware of that, I'd assume that he, on the contrary, is speaking metaphorically: his idea is that his refusal to bring his crew down for execution will disrupt the system which has prevented Eminiar 7 from destruction during 500 years. But Anan doesn’t get this connotation; he continues mocking Kirk with beautiful sarcasm:
“You mean, all by yourself with a disruptor, you can destroy this planet?”
Kirk: “That's exactly what I mean.”
Anan: “I had no idea you were so formidable.”
Kirk: “You seem to think I'm joking (...)”
Until the end of their conversation, Anan doesn’t look through the double meaning of Kirk’s talk about destroying Eminiar 7 all by himself; he obviously thinks that Kirk is just boasting and doesn’t see the danger to himself and the Eminian society. That’s perfectly in line with Kirk’s strategy, so instead of clarifying his statement, he deliberately confirms and supports Anan’s misunderstanding.

Concerning the outcome, I appreciate that it’s left a bit vague. That the warring parties have started peace negotiations is an optimistic note, but it’s quite clear that there’s still a long way to go. Which lines up perfectly with the message we are given: that hatred and violence are part of our nature, but that we can overcome it if we’re willing to try… step by step, day by day. This will probably never be a perfect world, but we can make it a better one. I really like the modesty, the humility of it.
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Ms Spock
Wed, Sep 14, 2022, 5:25pm (UTC -6)
@Lanion, that's a great point which I hadn't really considered before - that Kirk can destroy the planet by refusing to order his crew down for self-destruction because the other planet would then take that to be a breaking of the treaty.

One thing that strikes me as a retrospective 'mistake' is that Fox and his assistant are able to beam down with the shields raised. Unless I'm misremembering it's not possible later on to use the transporter if the shields have to be up. But it's another example of how the premise hadn't quite bedded down by this time in the series - only just getting the Federation mentioned for example. The only way round it if that had already been established would have been to have Fox and his sidekick take a shuttle - maybe the assistant was a qualified pilot - but it would've been clunky and taken up more narrative time. Anyway, it wasn't a problem for anyone at the time watching these of course.

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