Star Trek: The Original Series

“Patterns of Force”

3 stars.

Air date: 2/16/1968
Written by John Meredyth Lucas
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Review Text

Sometimes you have to grant a story a few points and look at the bigger picture. "Patterns of Force"—in which Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to a planet that has modeled itself after Nazi Germany because Starfleet officer John Gill (David Brian) has violated the Prime Directive and intervened—is such an episode.

Here's a show where the outcome of an entire planet rests on Kirk and Spock sneaking around a Nazi base and outmaneuvering the bad guys by using some of the oldest tricks in the book of spy movies. The literal use of the Nazis seems a little on the excessive side; I find it hard to swallow that Gill would incorporate the hatred and racism of Nazism (and even so specifically their symbols) in his attempt to create this "efficient" state.

Nevertheless, "Patterns" works reasonably as a plot-heavy episode with the underlying cautionary tale of interference and the subsequent need for action, both in opposing evil and in setting mistakes right. As conveyed, it's not incredibly deep, but it's workable.

Previous episode: Return to Tomorrow
Next episode: By Any Other Name

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43 comments on this post

    This just isn't an episode I'd gladly watch again. I don't see it as a cautionary tale so much as just another Kirk and Spock in ackward period costume episode. As usual they up end and turn an entire culture around with an all too easy solution. Along the way we get a lot Nazi movie cliches and the obligatory gun pointing. Not an overall bad episode but not a three-star outing.

    I agree with mike. Nazi adaptations are such a cliche, but it's interesting to ponder that when this episode was made Nazi Germany was barely twenty years in the past.

    There's also a lighthearted moment where, while putting on their commandeered Nazi uniforms, Spock comments that Kirk "should make a very convincing Nazi," to which Kirk gives a dirty look in response. This exchange almost seems to point at the off-screen irony that both of these actors are Jewish.

    Kirk et al. chide John Gill (correctly, of course) for not learning the proper lesson from history, but I feel the need to point out that Kirk et al. seem to learn the wrong lesson from this very episode. John Gill's mistake, Kirk assures us at the end, was in believing that Nazism failed not because its leaders were psychotic (though they were), but because there is something inherently difficult in having an absolute ruler with complete power, in the first place. And, as McCoy further adds, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. From this, it would seem as if this is an episode in which John Gill's initial attempts to do good for Ekos are corrupted by Gill's eventual need to assert power which leads to bigger and bigger evil actions, or some such. However, a minute before, the episode's plot resolution hinges on the fact that John Gill thought Nazis were efficient, and tried to use Nazi-style authority without the vicious cruelty, and second-in-command Melakon drugged him, took over, and spread his evil racist lies; Gill says explicitly that Ekonians aren't bad or aggressive against Zeon, but it's just one evil man in Melakon, whose removal is presumed by everyone involved in the episode to mean the end of Nazism on the planet. Spock even makes a passing reference to these planets being great Federation candidates now that Melakon's out of the way. Right.

    What the episode really "shows," through its plot, is that creating a society in which unquestioning obedience to a leader is a goal, makes it really easy for the "wrong" leader to take charge. That's got some heft to it, because it shows how well-intentioned ideas can be exploited by evil men. But, you know, that still makes the problem of Nazism all about the leader, as if one of the great horrors of human history can be written off on one man. John Gill maybe was doing great, if it weren't for that darned Melakon going and drugging him! Yeesh. The episode, for somewhat understandable reasons, doesn't get too close into the psychology of the Nazis -- pretty much every character we spend some time with ends up turning out to be in the Resistance, to the extent that I half expected it to turn out that literally every Ekosian who wasn't Melakon was in the Resistance.

    When Gill starts talking about the importance of the non-interference directive, I rolled my eyes a little. I agree with the Prime Directive as a general rule, but all this episode "proved" was not to start a Nazi Party on a planet for "efficiency" sake, and then let yourself get drugged by a psychotic lieutenant.

    I'm perhaps being hard on this episode, but I think the specific choice of Nazi iconography means that the episode has to be held to slightly harsher standards -- the weird allegories like "A Taste of Armageddon" may meander too, but they're still about abstract ideas which have many historical referents. Nazism is so *specific*, and so recent (even more so at the time of the episode), and to have an episode both conclude that the problem isn't the leaders but the whole style of leadership (agreed) and also that it all went wrong when one psycho took the reigns and is all gonna be completely fine once he's out (...?) rubs me wrong. I think this is a place where more abstract allegory is useful -- Nazism is too big for this episode, fine, show Gill's attempts to impose "order" on the planet lead to fascism from Gill's choices, or because the Ekosians *at large* were going in that direction (rather than, again, *one guy*), or something.

    As it stands, some of the episode's commentary against cultish top-down leadership still stands up okay, and there's some fun to be had in the Kirk and Spock duo, and there's some good material for the Resistance members. But really -- I think this episode is a letdown. I'd probably say 2 stars.

    A bit of trivia: the actor who plays Eneg - the "nice-guy-Nazi" (???) - is apparently the undisputed king of audiobooks. A recent interview with him has been posted: joycegeek.com/2015/03/05/horgan/.

    By the way: I wonder if Jammer is aware that Nimoy just passed away. Someone should tell him.

    Fair at best.This episode seemed to exist merely to remind us that Nazi's were bad but very efficient. And so Kirk and Spock could try on the uniform. There is one thing I have noticed about this episode though. In the scene in which Kirk and Spock are first donning their uniforms dialogue has been cut. In the original release Spock says,"You should make a very convincing Nazi Captain." Kirk looks up and says,"Why thank you Mr. Spock, I think."
    I can't imagine why the later line was cut other than maybe some one thought it might sound vaguely like Kirk was complementing the Nazi's. Any one else remember this?

    Well for all you youngsters and your naivety. The episode aired in 1968. Only 23 years after the end of WWII. The Nazi's were still a sore subject with many. Roddenberry was trying to be edgy as usual. Fast forward to today, most of the people who were even young adults back then are no long with us. Almost 50 years later comments like: "about Nazi adaptations are such a cliche" are ignorant.

    Ah yes, the Nazi episode. Where our two Jewish leads dress up like Nazis and run around doing Nazi salutes all episode. (Yeah, I know Roddenberry was Jewish too.) I found this episode appalling. Dressing your actors up like the guys who committed a huge, recent genocide against their people just feels so gross. Maybe it didn't bother them though, I don't know, I only speak for myself.

    Yeah what to say about the actual episode...

    Kirk and Spock become blood brothers, then Spock's a dick and dances around on Kirk's freshly whipped back for reasons only discernible to him. Whatever, play laugh track. Thankfully we never have to see Spock shirtless again after this episode. *shudders* That much hair is not logical.

    Kirk and Spock's mutual hero turns out to be some idiot who not only broke the Prime Directive but did so to start a Nazi state. How disappointing for them. These guys need to find better role models.

    For some reason they need McCoy to tell that a man is obviously all not there.

    Spock is an expert at putting on shoes now. Since when did "resident alien" mean "dispenser of stupid advice"?

    It's got some funny moments though, if you can stomach the premise.

    Escaping by pretending their new friend was dead and they were dumping his body outside was some pretty dark humor. Or maybe just dark.

    Great episode of TOS, worth 3 1/2 stars out of 4 for me. The secret to "Patterns" is that it moves like gangbusters, with on-point dialogue and deft plotting, right up until the inevitably tidy conclusion that a one-hour teleplay requires. And even that ending -- with the tragic "Fuhrer" drugged up, as opposed to a computer or ex-Starfleet madman running the show -- feels memorable and unique among TOS episodes in this "Earth-like planet" sub-genre.

    It's not the deepest Trek episode out there, but "Patterns" is still smarter than a "Star Trek Enterprise" shoot-em-up or JJ Abrams reboot film, and I find a lot to like in it. There's tension, excitement, a fresh percussion-driven musical theme that goes beyond a mere recycling of past episodes' music, and intriguing characters who hint at a deeper texture and context than many Trek outings. This is really superbly done, with the spy gimmicks and double-crosses keeping things more interesting than usual. And the Kirk-Spock chemistry in the jail cell and various fish-out-of-water scenarios, mixing in Bones at the end of the show, feels spot-on in terms of unforced TOS actors' chemistry.

    The pace and break from ship-bound storytelling in "Patterns" is especially refreshing after so many TOS outings where the characters sit around rehashing positions or making speeches while the plot grinds to a halt. This is a story about weighty Trekkian moral issues -- primarily, the need to repair the damage of a Prime Directive violation in a context of two warring factions -- that manages to feel exciting and even fun in an offbeat way. Hard to pull that off, as many later iterations of Trek (i.e. TNG) have proved, but the mix feels right here.

    And the use of the Nazis, who are undoubtedly the last absolute "evil" that people nowadays agree upon, really sharpens the Prime Directive issue. By painting the contaminated population as Nazis, it really ups the tension and pressure for Kirk to act in some way to undo the damage, and creates a real interest in seeing how he'll manage to resolve it without violating the Prime Directive further. This is not "Star Trek Insurrection," where it was hard to get on board morally with Picard's decision to side with a lilly-white gated community of 600 people against the common good of the universe. It's also not "Return of the Archons" or "Taste of Armageddon," where Kirk simply defeats a computer to influence the fate of a culture beyond the point where it's simply a matter of defending his ship. This time, for once, Kirk's meddling feels completely justified and even morally necessary.

    A good action/adventure with some classic Star Trek humor between the big 3 - especially Kirk/Spock. It makes for an entertaining hour although it's not particularly profound. Kind of reminds a bit of "The Return of the Archons" with the underground inflitrating etc.
    Also dubious how John Gill would seriously think Nazi Germany is the way to go - and then Melakon comes along and takes charge. The old violation of the PD and its consequences at play here.
    Some interesting discussion about historical tyrants - absolute power corrupts absolutely - that's fine and interesting and provides the necessary philosophical examination of what they went through.
    I'd rate this 2.5 stars out of 4 - a familiar theme dressed up in Nazi Germany costume.

    By today's standards this is rather tame but it must have been rather shocking back then. A few well presented interesting ideas. Better than average in my opinion.

    Not a favorite. The explanation as to how Nazis ended up on the planet was ludicrously contrived.

    The first time I saw this ep, years ago, I laughed that anyone would believe the dopey-looking man on screen was actually talking and making sense, and that his barely coherent racism was worth following. I was the dopey one.

    The character interaction was good. The John Gill character was not.

    I was pleasantly surprised that the writers didn't come up with a reason Kirk had to kiss the ep's sexy lady (to save the planet, of course).

    Average offering.

    This definitely has its moments, especially with Kirk working together with the Zeon to gain sympathy and trust. We can sort of see some parallels between the Zeon and the Jews. And of course we get some okay humor out of the Nazi antics. "You'd make an excellent Nazi, Captain!" says Spock in an expectedly straight-faced Vulcan manner.

    What's frustrating about this one, is that they dress up in Nazi costume for what seems like at least four different times only for it to never work. You start to get the feeling that any plan involving dressing up as Nazis is never going to work and it's just stupid. Then, bafflingly, the final attempt (at a time you'd think the SS base would be wise to the ploy) to sneak in as Nazis works without a hitch.

    Of course, the main weakness here is that the episode builds up so heavily to the Gill reveal that we expect a solid explanation as to why he turned the planet into Nazis. However, we find that he's just drugged and he had pure intentions starting a Nazi-styled empire. I'm not going to get into why that reveal is convoluted because others have so well. To cut to the chase, this reveal isn't particularly insightful about the Nazis or about non-interference in general. Like others have noted, if you're going to do a Nazi story, you need to really hit home and make a strong message or else you're just wasting your characters on an old cliché (yes, it was old in the 1960s - remember, there were films about Nazis *during WWII* [ex. Casablanca]).

    So, I can see where they were going with this, and I think the character work and humor was good enough to make it entertaining. In fact, I did enjoy a lot of it, and perhaps that's thanks only to some incredibly good acting. The story Itself simply lacks meat, or the meat isn't nearly as delicious as what the episode promised.

    Springy wrote:
    "I was pleasantly surprised that the writers didn't come up with a reason Kirk had to kiss the ep's sexy lady (to save the planet, of course)."

    That's pretty funny! I do think a better resolution between Kirk and Daras would've helped, though. It didn't need to be a kiss. It just needed to be a better explanation as to how they were going to undo the Nazi damage.

    I do want to add though, that I think is the most successful Trek adventure to deal with Nazis directly. So, it's still leagues ahead of the even-more hackneyed usage of them in Voyager and Enterprise. At least TOS could say they were the first to tackle this in a televised Sci-Fi context, especially in the Trek universe.

    TNG and DS9 were smart enough to deal with WWII themes indirectly with metaphors that weren't so heavy-handed and I think it paid those series well -- particularly DS9.

    It's rather premature of Spock to be contemplating Federation membership for the two planets -- especially Ekos.

    And I'm not sure why either would have any interest in joining the Federation after what happened.

    I see this as a Romulan opportunity.

    Actually, it's not so unusual for Jewish actors to play Nazis. The actors who played Colonel Klink, Sergeant Shultz, General Burkhalter and Major Hoffstader on Hogan's Heroes were Jewish. There have been a great many Jewish actors who have played Nazis in order to mock them, or to remind people that Nazis are bad. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world that Nazis are bad, but unfortunately, people seem to need to be reminded of this every now and then.

    https://www.jta.org/2019/10/23/culture/theres-a-long-history-of-jews-playing-nazis-on-screen

    I don't know; this is pretty far from everything I associate with good Trek. "A Piece of the Action" at least had a bunch of hilarious moments, whereas this has nothing going for it. The ending felt like a contrived mumble, and seriously what the devil was that speech by the führer?

    For some reason, it also bothers me when Kirk and Spock beam down to a simpler culture and end up being captured without any direct means to solve the situation. It just feels so stupid. Like a federation observer who breaks the prime directive so that he can introduce nazism to an alien culture. ...

    I/II of IV

    I started watching Star Trek about 50 years ago. The Vietnam War was still hot, right in the middle of the Cold War.
    Ho Chi Minh had led the Vietnamese to shrug off the European yoke, and he has much inspiration from both the USA and Marxism; the latter dominated. It also motivated his lieutenants, and they were much more ruthless. Ho wanted the revolution, but the lackies gladly made sure there was no outer OR inner threat. Ho was the figurehead, the man on TV who impressed world society; the thugs ran the show.
    I believe that, at the very least, heavily influenced the episode, and Nazi uniforms were the visual portrayal. (National Socialism and Communism are virtually identical, largely differing in purpose/justification of expansion.)

    I agree with @William B, mediocre at best.

    This is the only episode of TOS that I think could actually be improved with a laugh track.

    Still, lots of BDSM fodder for the slasher set. Nazis whipping our bare-chested heroes in a jail cell must have made some poor fool's day back in 60's. ENT's decontamination scenes were never this indecent.

    https://youtu.be/DEwDkZfUYQo?t=5

    I think it may be interesting to you all that this is the one and only TOS episode which did not get aired back then in Germany.
    And not for decades...
    Only after the xxth rerun, in early nineties (I think) someone bothered to give this a dubbing as German language version and bring it on TV screen (or rather, publish on a video cassette edition).
    So, the memory of WW2 was fresh enough in end 60's German television (probably state-run ZDF) brass thought this would either hurt people or create legal problems with all those svastikas being shown (nazi symbols are forbidden in public, up to this day). This as a historical side note.

    About the plot, it ends with a big amazement. Because the problem is simply solved by eliminating the leadership. What about the hate they have sown and exploited for years. How could it be everyone immediately forgets about it and is friends with the other faction? They swallowed the ideology and lived it to the last minute, it should be hard to get this out of their heads, particularly for the side with the upper hand who must have enjoyed their privileges the system brought them. So Gill does a speech about having done a mistake and everyone should stop molesting, suppressing, killing the others? This turn is quite unbelievable and too easy.

    So many problems with this story.

    - where did the nuclear warhead come from? It was Zeons who were technologically superior to Ekotians, yet in the few years of "Nazi" rule, there simply wasn't the time to create them: the Zeons didn't have the technology of war, Ekotians didn't have technology full stop.

    - early on, Spock determines both races are "humanoid". Yet it's quite clear from the episode that these people aren’t merely humanoid, they're all human.
    (Rationale: obviously the races had to look human so that Gill could be presented as the Fuhrer, also so that Kirk and Spock (with woolly hat over ears) would be seen as natives.)

    - and yet, Kirk and Spock are identified immediately as Zeons by an Ekotian 'Nazi' from their appearance; it would have been so much more convincing if he'd asked to see their papers, then arrested them when they didn't produce.
    (Rationale: can't think of any!)

    - in the prison cell, it's Kirk who dreams up the plan to use the subcutaneous implants as lasers. Yet you'd think it would be Spock as Science Officer who would think of it.
    (Rationale: was this one of those occasions when Shatner commandeered lines intended for other cast members?)

    - the ending was loose and unresolved, with the future of Ekos in particular apparently 'secure' following the death of the one Maverick "Nazi".
    (Rationale: the Ekotians had had only a few years being hypnotised under "Nazi" rule and many of their leaders were secretly Resistance members. It doesn't seem so unlikely that the population would awake 'as from a dream'.

    Despite all these flaws, the episode was nevertheless an enjoyable adventure, with enough thought-provoking stuff about Nazism.

    3 stars

    Ian is right that this wasn't cliched in the 1960s.

    But it could have lost 5 or 6 minutes.

    Spock is an inefficient bumbler in a couple of scenes - entirely out of character.

    Too much light-hearted banter in an episode about NAZIS ffs.

    2.5/4

    This one was OK, it moves along well and the costumes are always interesting to look at. I like the use of crystals to escape the jail. But the resolution seems all too easy with the underground basically represented at all levels of leadership. Also, while I think this one may be unique in analyzing the Nazi efficiency, there were many Nazis on TV during the sixties ; popular tv series such as Rat Patrol, Combat, Twelve O'clock High and Garrisons Gorilla's featured Nazis regularly, as did 60's films like Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, Von Ryan's Express, as well as many others. The Longest Day showed some German officers questioning their country's motives. There were Stormtrooper ( German) GI Joe dolls sold in five and tens during that time. Lots of props and costumes available to use for Star Trek.

    The reason for Gill's choice of the Nazi system - its supposed efficiency - is bogus as any analysis/account of the infighting among the Nazi leadership, the duplication of offices etc shows how inefficient it generally was. Of course, the tragic exception was the carrying out of the Final Solution and murder of other groups such as gypsies but even there, there was conflict between the production arm which needed slaves for munitions and other essential war work and the ideology that dictated mass murder had to continue regardless. Hitler stayed above everyone who had to anticipate his desires in the process referred to as "working your way towards the Fuerher". So for me the Idea of a historian recreating National Socialism is fatally flawed. Given that its cohesiveness had to be based on paranoid hatred of a particular racial group how could the project be anything but a disaster from the outset?

    There is also an odd confusion with the timeline as there are references to Gill only being to there a few years yet Darla (?) talks of growing up idolising him and she looks to be at least early twenties.

    Let's face it, this is really not a good episode. Although as a kid I truly didn't mind it. I think for a child it's perhaps a reasonable enough way to get a bit acquainted with the Nazis as being a cultural boogeyman. But its weakness is that the plot consists mainly of sneaking around, getting captured, escaping, getting captured, and so forth. Too many scenes involving pretending to be Nazis. Even the meta humor of having a couple of Jewish fellas running around in Nazis uniforms and joking about it isn't going to make these scenes that much more fun.

    However what the episode does achieve is that it's making a subtle point very different from what you'd expect from a Nazis vs good guys story. In fact it isn't even a Nazis vs good guys story on a fundamental level. The episode is about the PD, and highlights two different and overlapping cases of cultural pollution. The first and obvious one is John Gill, a prodigal historian, thinking he can help a culture improve itself. In this story, he believes his brilliance and expertise makes him great enough to do what others can't, which is to successfully help shape another culture according to his intellectual will, to benefit them. And the episode shows that not even the most ingenious of us can control the destinies of millions and make changes that are controllable. No matter the intention, unintended consequences will follow. Those consequences may even cause you to become the monster you're trying to prevent. It's worth noting that he didn't choose the Nazis because he's a mere maniac: he chose them because this was a barbaric, warlike people who were already hellbent on violence. Presumably he concluded that only a violent role model could possibly interest them. Their problem, he observed, was a fractured society always at war with itself, so he proposed to have them follow an example of top-down unity, all focused on a single goal. In context, this is not actually as crazy as it first appears in the episode. It's important to remember that they were most likely already committing atrocities before he did anything, just against each other. He wanted them united, which is essentially the lesson Earth learned to its benefit. The lesson is that you can't just bootstrap a society into following a paper schema.

    The second case of cultural pollution is one of the most understated, almost forgotten, facts revealed to us in the story: the Zions - sorry, Zeons, had previous already visited Ekos and taken it upon themselves to share their technology and culture. We assume this was to help the more primitive Ekos advance themselves so that they could join Zeon in an age of enlightenment and peace. Except we're also told that Ekos was savage and violent even after their visit: John Gill didn't contribute anything to that. They would no doubt have turned around and tried to exterminate the Zeons with their new technology regardless of whether they were wearing Nazi uniforms or anything else. The fact that Gill gave them the Nazi ethos perhaps made them more efficient (so the episode claims), but likely not any more bloodthirsty than they already were. Perhaps the political unity made them more effective in targeting and wiping out the Zeons on their planet, but I expect that even if Gill had done nothing the Zeons were going to find themselves under attack regardless, if they weren't already. Gill's side project is almost a red herring in context of the enormous cultural interference the Zeons had already perpetrated on a less advanced civilization, and it nearly wiped them out. Their pacifism and Jewish names may make them play as victims in the blunt teleplay, but if you look purely at the story points they are in fact responsible for this horrible mess and don't even realize it. Since the episode is all about cultural interference - Gill's last words are ones of regret regarding the PD - it can't be an accident that this sub-plot is about the Zeons having made the same bonehead move Gill did, albeit for different reasons. The Zeons no doubt did it out of pure altruism, and Gill seems at least in part to have done it to satisfy his sense of his own brilliance, a god complex of sorts. But the motives don't really matter: what matters is that if you believe in the idea of the PD it's because you simply can't avoid causing unintended collateral effects when you start messing with someone else's way of life. It's fascinating how pivotal and yet unexplored the Zeon contribution to the problem is.

    One message buried in all this is one that I have thought about before, and which you can find in C.S. Lewis: being too brilliant and educated can make you stupid in a way that merely smart people (or average people) could never be. I could say a lot about this topic, but perhaps I'll just leave it at that.

    This episode is what would have happened if the Iotians got hold of Mein Kampf or the RIse & Fall of the Third Reich. Heil Oxmyx.

    "Where our two Jewish leads dress up like Nazis and run around doing Nazi salutes all episode. (Yeah, I know Roddenberry was Jewish too.)...."

    Actually Roddenberry was not Jewish...

    This was not a particularly "edgy" episode, but rather, extremely of its time.

    For instance:

    Last year on Mission: Impossible, Martin Landau impersonated Martin Bormann(!) to hoodwink a bunch of Fourth Reich enthusiasts in Argentina.

    Just a few months ago, "The Producers" premiered.

    Hogan's Heroes is in its third season.

    On Laugh-In, we've got the "Very interesting" Nazi.

    What John Gill was try to make (and what the writers were trying to portray) was "good fascism". The show ultimately settled on Nazi imagery because it was cheap and readily available. I don't fault the show-runners for that.

    As for the concern that just because Melakon's dead doesn't mean all is well for Ekos, granted, but I will note that:

    That's kinda what happened in 1945, and this version of the Nazi Reich has its #3 and #4 positions occupied by Zeon sympathizers.

    If that sounds implausible, I'll point out two things, one hypothetical, and one actual:

    1) Gill probably wasn't a psychopath, and he surrounded himself with good people, Eneg among them. It makes sense there'd be some left in the upper party echelons.

    2) Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy who became the #3 person in Syria before being caught and executed in '65 (a story that was widely known when "Patterns of Force" was written).

    Among the many defects of this episode, Kirk's overemphasis on the risks of the single leader principle has an rigin probably in the Cold War era of its creation. The viceNazidm shared with Communism was not the psychosis of the leaders, or a focus on racial hate, but the rule of a single leader and system eg Stalin, Khruschev, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Mao tse-tung.

    I’m guessing that a great deal of the reason for this episode’s existence was the ready access to WWII era German military/nazi costumes, and most everything else was just a series of contrivances to justify that period dress. There seems to be a total lack of complex analysis pertaining to nazis, authoritarian societies, or even raw hate in this episode, almost like the nazis iconography was just a convenience to take advantage of what they had laying around the studio costume shop. It’s surprising that TOS of all shows would totally whiff when it comes to a thoughtful exploration of nazis specifically and centralized power in general. This sort of philosophically rich territory is usually where this show shines, but here the episode’s mindset seems very strange, almost laughably shallow. Given the general pop culture treatment of nazis in the 1960s, such shows as Hogan’s Heroes or Laugh-in for example, it’s possible the general psyche just wasn’t ready to face the full magnitude of what had happened a mere twenty years before. But I can’t help but feel disappointed that an episode, especially one featuring a plot built ostensibly around historical analysis, takes such an odd view.
    So, let me see if I understand: John Gill introduced nazism and the example of the third reich as the paragon of efficiency in order to funnel the ekosians worst cultural tendencies into a more ordered society. This blows up in his face, not because it’s inherently flawed, but because of a few bad apples hijacking his attempts at utopia. Is that about right? Because if that’s accurate then John Gill is a terrible historian. Which is particularly irritating because the episode paints him as one of the best reputed in his field, a scholar who interpreted history as a series of causes and motivations as opposed to simply pinpointing events and dates. Yet through that prism I would have thought he’d conclude that the “efficiency” of the nazi state was largely achieved by motivating the people to militarism and hyper-racism via an inflation of ethnic supremacist attitudes and the exploitation of a sense of victimhood through scapegoating, primarily of Jewish people, and this run on sentence only makes a very small scratch in the complexity of what led to that particular moment in history. Not a smart instruction manual for social reorganization. Even from a practical standpoint any society that commits massive manpower to a system of simple murder during a state of total war is not particularly efficient. But as I said, I suppose all this history stuff was just a rationalization to justify the nazi imagery.

    In the end the episode makes some fair conclusions about the corrupting nature of power, and there’s definitely some fun character beats along the way. Also, as a prime directive episode it has some merit while not taking itself too seriously. But the clumsiness of the script and the hard work of getting past the Nazi stuff makes this one a mixed bag.

    2.5 hairy-chested Vulcans.

    Honestly I think the episode is saying more about the PD than about Nazism. That even if you take what you think is a good idea, and try to control another world with it, something will take over and you won't have any control, but rather the process will control you. To that extent this is an interesting statement about ecosystems and what happens when you think you can control all elements in them. The nature of an authoritarian command structure specifically lends itself to abuses and corruption; the fact that it was Nazism can probably be chalked up to props and costumes lying around, yes. But imagining they had more money and could make up a new authoritarian regime from whole cloth (if you'll pardon the pun), I think it would more clearly be about *patterns* of force. And I think the message here is supposed to extent into even idealists with a good intention, who try to impose something ordered on a people not ready or mature enough to deal with it. Even good-sound principles can become authoritarian and corrupt, and I think the episode is saying that this happens when you use force to impose a system (even a 'good' one). The Federation is supposed to be an example of a society that evolved once the people were ready for it, and wasn't imposed on anyone.

    The conceit we are asked to simply accept here is that Gill had a good idea and tried to impose it on a society, which resulted in this. In reality we cannot accept that Nazism is a good idea, but I think that's actually an unintentionally distracting side issue. We are suppose to believe that he did have a good idea, and it led to monstrous results. The Nazis are a convenient placeholder for whatever that is.

    @peter g

    I agree this is intended more as a prime directive episode than a Nazi episode. And the idea that undue influence on a society can take on a life of its own is an interesting one. My issue is more with the premise. Normally the PD deals with technology, or a more advanced society unintentionally rushing the development of a relatively primitive one. In this case, John Gill introduces a society from earth’s past as a model to build around, and the example he chooses isn’t particularly more advanced than the ekosians currently are, so this isn’t a strong setup to convey the point of the dangers of cultural contamination, and more to my point, it can’t easily be divorced from the Nazi connection as it’s materially built into the plot, and thus is also kinda weak for exploring the mechanics of authoritarianism. In order to accept the episode’s setup, one has to, as you say, agree that Gill had a good, or at least noble, idea. However, that’s pretty ludicrous on its face, which I find a difficult hurdle to get over in order to examine the issues the episode is actually talking about.

    Additionally, Gill couldn’t possibly have imposed his social ideal on the ekosians, but rather it seems likely he convinced them it was a worthwhile endeavor. Meaning that he must have pitched the nazi thing pretty hard, again making it difficult to sidestep, while also missing the force part of the “patterns of force” notion. My suspicion is that much of this was due to the plot being built around finding an excuse to dress the crew up like nazis. I can get over it, but it leaves the episode feeling more quirky than thoughtful for me.

    "Additionally, Gill couldn’t possibly have imposed his social ideal on the ekosians, but rather it seems likely he convinced them it was a worthwhile endeavor."

    I think the idea isn't that Gill used force, but rather introduced an idea that force should be used to disseminate an ideal. Basically "join our utopia or die", which is how some people would seemingly have it if they had their way. Naturally we are meant to realize that a utopia can't be something that requires force to institute, so by definition it can't be a utopia. The example would have been more poignant had Gill tried to suggest that the planet's leaders force Federation values on their people, with the same monstrous result, but that would have probably confused the audience, who would have taken away that there must be something wrong with the Federation values.

    "My suspicion is that much of this was due to the plot being built around finding an excuse to dress the crew up like nazis."

    No doubt the highlight of the episode is seeing a couple of Jews run around having fun in Nazi uniforms. There's something deliriously dripping with black humor that I can appreciate in that. But I suspect it was an unintentional irony, if I'm guessing.

    Well hoo-wee Captain Howdy. Nazis. Fucking Nazis.

    There are actually three laughably “logical” reasons as to *why* they’re Nazis in “Patterns of Force.”

    1.) The Desilu/Paramount Out-of-the-Box Reason -- Shit, all these Hollywood World War II movie costumes are just collecting dust in the Paramount studio closet. It’s 1968. Time to justify their storage and appraisal expenses again. “Hello, Gene?”

    2.) The Star Trek In-the-Box Reason -- People are idiots, and our viewers are even dumber. Allegories don’t go far enough in some cases. We need to be *explicit* here with what we’re saying. And damn it, you can’t possibly get more explicit than Fucking Nazi uniforms and swastikas. There’s no way the masses will miss this message.

    3.) The Star Trek In-Universe Reason -- Idiotic historian John Gill refers to Fucking Nazis as the most efficient ruling government ever conceived, because he is a pompous university historian who--amazingly, I know--didn’t learn from history. Goddamn, he should have stayed up in his ivory tower. The fatal flaw he failed to realize--other than Nazis are FUCKING NAZIS--is that whenever you eschew representative democracy for an authoritarian dictatorship ruled by assholes with Messiah complexes, no matter how good your intentions may be in terms of bringing a unified order to unmitigated chaos, you simply always get FUCKING NAZIS. (Which, to be fair, is the point that “Patterns of Force” wants us to digest.)

    Gill--ugh, that moron--thinks he’s doing this warring planet a service by unifying their forces through one strength of will, which was Adolf Hitler’s exact rationale. He gives the Ekosians Nazi uniforms, Nazi regalia, Nazi salutes and Nazi slogans because he’s too stupid to invent something else himself like those innovative teachers from “The Wave” or “Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes” did to teach their own students the business.

    But, Gill, my man, you can’t have Fucking Nazis without explicit racial purity dogma and scapegoating the “lesser” races, which is where the Zions come in. Oops, I mean the Zeons--sorry, I made the same mistake that @Peter G did above. Gill, in his infinite wisdom, figures he’d best also provide the Ekosians an effective outlet for their hatred as well, or they wouldn’t play ball. But as you know, there was that little Holocaust thing. (Which “Patterns of Force” glosses over with a single throwaway line in one of the early scenes that chillingly confirms that yeah, they’re doing that too). Gill is a tool, a buffoon, one of the worst incompetent schmendricks that Kirk’s time has ever seen. And to its credit, “Patters the Force” conveys this fact pretty damn effectively considering that Gill’s efforts led to the planet being populated by FUCKING NAZIS. Shed not a tear for this idiot.

    The message here isn’t that Nazis suck and must be overthrown. That’s a given, unless you’re a psychopath. The message of “Patterns of Force” is that you should simply mind your own damn business. There’s nothing about this strange planet that shows it ever deserved any sort of meddling in the first place. Let them all kill each other. No skin off Gill’s ass. No skin off my ass. Prime Directive sounds good to me -- unless you’re in a “Private Little War” situation of course and there’s money to be made! But I kid.

    There’s one huge comfort that viewers of “Patterns of Force” can take away from all this. And that is, it’s profoundly silly. It’s silly in the first place to see Star Trek reduced to a Nazi costume drama. It’s silly seeing McCoy having trouble with his jackboot, comically trying to fit his foot into those damned thin contraptions (@Booming, why the hell do Germans design boots like that, anyway??) It’s silly seeing William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy parading around in Nazi costumes for a payday in Hollywood. And that’s the exact point. That’s what we can all breathe a sigh of relief over--when all is said and done, Nazi uniforms today are nothing more than that: costumes.

    Fucking Nazis!


    Speak Freely:
    McCoy -- “What in blazes is this?!” (Speaking for us all, of course.)


    My Grade: C+

    Previous commenters beat me to it, the episode exists because access to the costumes was cheap. And at the time there was Hogans Heroes, "VEHRRI INTERESTING" and The Producers as well as many other productions utilizing this theme. I refer to this episode a lot because Joe Bribem is a corallary to Gill, an impotent leader occasionally drugged up enough to speak on television, while the puppetmaster (that's an obummer) is the real evil running the show. Art imitating life. And they predicted it decades earlier. Yet we still do not learn from our mistakes! start printing mail-in ballots

    @Greg

    Yes -- you stated what I have been thinking about as well re. this episode given that there have been a couple of comments on it recently. The parallels between Gill and Biden are alarming as are the effects their "puppetship" are having on Ekos and America in taking it in an authoritarian direction. Never thought this particular TOS episode would be prescient but here we are... Orwell's 1984 comes to mind.

    This episode made some of the points humanity learnt through the "Stanford prison experiment", three years before said experiment! That makes it prescient and praiseworthy to my mind.

    Even attempting to describe Nazism as a situational effect of relatively mundane causes, rather than "because Hitler was evil" would have gone against the understanding of that day (possibly even today). Yes, the analysis wasn't too deep, and the shenanigans were hokey. So what?

    Nazi's were already a tired cliche by the late 1960s, and this is a classic case of a plot contrivance to merely support the use of a lot of old European sets and nazi uniforms and drag them out of storage. It is a boring repetitive parade of scenes of people dressing up in costumes getting captured and escaping again with a lot of filler and some unintentionally icky/offensive and funny moments. All the potential opportunities for prime directive and wider philosophical/political subject matter were all wasted and sacrificed for an unfunny re-enactment of Keystone cops using nazi uniforms.

    Bone's classic line breaks the 4th wall “What in blazes is this?!”

    Speaking for us all, indeed. One star for Bone's one good line in the entire hour.

    Well I expected that I could troll some TDS afflicted with the comparison of John Gill to Joe Bribem, but instead I got someone who agrees with this point.
    John Gill was at least trying to mold an efficient society, albeit with the ultimate flawed model, until Melakon/obama surreptitiously took the reigns to implement "transforming" (wrecking) society. Take comfort in the notion that those in "the resistance" are the good guys, who have to contend with a fake news based premise this is being done for our own good. Raw power corrupts absolutely, and goes on vacation two-thirds of the time. By the next time this episodes comes around again, we will have an answer to the question of what direction the country is going. things are looking up!

    @Greg and Rahul: With respect to your competency concerns, do not conflate a lifetime speech impediment with being drugged. Did you not see President Biden’s 67 minute State of the Union address on March 7, 2024? And his continuing personal conversations with members of Congress for and additional 30 minutes? If not, you may want to watch it on replay, available on YouTube. And if you are concerned about raw authoritarian power taking over, you might want to read Project 2025 by the Heritage Foundation. And perhaps watch a replay of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

    @LMo

    Biden's stuttering is not the issue. And he should not be mocked for it. It is what comes out of his mouth and his mental state that are far more problematic. I truly believe he's suffering from some form of dementia. That's the parallel to John Gill in this Trek episode who has been drugged. Biden's too old to be POTUS and that's become clear during his presidency. Not a few days go by where I don't see a clip of Biden in an unscripted environment making a fool of himself.

    It's actually tragic and is having dire consequences for the US in terms of Biden's lack of capability. He is essentially a puppet, manipulated by leftist ideologues who have turned the US into a far more authoritarian state -- lockdowns, vaccine mandates, collusion with big tech and legacy media to suppress views not endorsed by the Biden administration. These have caused far more damage to democracy than a one-time event like Jan. 6.

    As for Project 2025, the liberal bureaucracy has turned into its own force. What's wrong with getting more conservatives involved and having better balance? If there is a Republican president, he should be able to reassert political control over the bureaucracy. I do think the administrative state needs to be deconstructed.

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