Star Trek: The Original Series
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
Air date: 1/10/1969
Teleplay by Oliver Crawford
Story by Lee Cronin
Directed by Jud Taylor
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The Enterprise becomes the newest battlefield for two bitter enemies, Lokai (Lou Antonio) and Bele (Frank Gorshin), who have been at each other's throats for millennia—a microcosm of the schism based on racial hatred that divides their world. Determined to take Lokai back to his home world for punishment, Bele seizes control of the Enterprise navigation as the ship's crew is helpless.
About the only thing "Last Battlefield" has going for it are some good intentions. The story is way too unfocused and meandering to work as reasonable allegory. Reducing racism to absurdity is certainly something that provides the opportunity to be pointed by conveying the sheer stupidity of the ideas behind pointless hatred. Unfortunately, the allegory is too preachy and pretentious and fails to say anything except in the very broadest of terms. (Prejudice has many troubling shades of grey that this story fails to acknowledge.) Only one scene stands out among the mayhem—a scene where Bele is appalled that no one recognizes the reasons for his hatred.
An extended sequence involving the Enterprise self-destruct sequence only manages to draw the story further off course. And while the director of photography's choices here exhibit an ambitious need to be atypical, the results are mixed—too often distracting rather than enhancing. Morality plays are well and good, but not when they're as haphazardly assembled as this one, which is a waste of a perfectly good opportunity.
Previous episode: Whom Gods Destroy
Next episode: The Mark of Gideon
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66 comments on this post
Mon, Apr 9, 2012, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 19, 2012, 10:01am (UTC -5)
I suppose it's possible to compare Bele's argument ("All of Lokai's people are white on the right side.") with the ridiculousness of D'Jamat's religious argument ("The expanse was created in 9 days not 10"). Yet while the cause for the Jihad in "Chosen Realm" just comes across as insulting and silly, Bele's racial hatred seems to hold more importance. I think part of it is Frank Gorshin's performance in the scene and with my interpretation for the cause of the racial hatred on their planet.
Visually, I can see Jammer's point about some of the filming choices being distracting, but outside of some of the closeups of eyes during the self-destruct sequence, I like most of the choices used. A lot of VOY and DS9 feels the same because it doesn't always seem like the directors were using a lot of different camera angles, but in this episode of TOS it feels like the director was trying lots of different things: overhead and underhead shots (not quite sure how to describe those) and even the extreme closeups during the self destruct scene are allowing the show to appear different than usual.
It's not a great episode by any means. They arrive at Cheron way too quickly after having saved Arrianus. If the two planets were so close together it's hard to understand Kirk's argument that they need to fly all the way back to Starbase 4.
But while the ending may be too extreme in the concept of the entire Cheron race having killed each other out of hatred it does provide a very striking and dark ending which usually isn't seen on TOS. Shatner's performance of a resigned Kirk "Where can they run?"), I feel, is right on target. Shatner may not be the greatest actor in TREK, but he always played Kirk to perfection.
Fri, May 10, 2013, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 10, 2013, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 2:10am (UTC -5)
This was the point at which the quality of third-season TOS suffered its final collapse, and never recovered.
Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
However, in 1969, beating people over the head with the idea that racism is bad wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
I often compare this one as a successful counterpart to the confused and too-subtle "The Outcast" as an example of what the latter should have been.
Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
The main value of this episode was in the scene where Kirk and Spock are oblivious to the racial difference between the two aliens, and Bele revealed it was the side of their faces that were black vs. white. Also Kirk's discussion at the end that their hatred destroyed their people. Good food for thought. But the rest of the episode was filled up with nuts-and-bolts sci-fi distractions that failed to pick up on this good sociological theme of racism and hatred.
Ah well, what little allegory it had in it was memorable, at least.
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
Now, I think the implication for the civil rights era is an appeal to compassion for everyone. And as far as that goes, the episode makes an important point. And certainly, I think that there is some need for "balance," that hatred and violence is not automatically justified from the oppressed any more than it is from the oppressors. I go back and forth on whether the episode sets up a false equivalence here, because someone forced into slavery hating his slavemasters is far different, and far more justified IMO, from a slavemaster hating his slave for disobedience. However, over the top as it is, the "1 million people" figure listed of the people who died in support of Lokai's cause at least makes it seem as if Lokai's crusade for freedom of his people most likely had some big unethical actions. So I don't know. The "1 million people" figure is also, it should be noted, Bele's version of events, which is not confirmed by any in-episode story; in the episode, Lokai is certainly a bit of an obsessed madman himself, but I kind of think that Bele comes off far worse, and the episode's pushing the equivalence leads to weird effects (which are only balanced out, and then some, by the implication that millions or more died because of Lokai). Lokai ultimately is just trying to get away from Bele and Bele is bringing Lokai in to get executed; Lokai is a little bit closer to just wanting to be free and escape the cycle of violence, though Bele's presence seems to agitate him back into wanting political action. The episode suggests, probably unintentionally, the ways in which white collar and blue collar criminals are sometimes treated differently: Lokai, the episode's oppressed criminal, steals a shuttlecraft to escape and Kirk continues to insist for most of the episode on his plan to bring him to Starbase 4 to face charges, largely because Lokai acts frazzled and angry, whereas Bele steals the entire Enterprise with all hands on board to accomplish an illegal extradition, and then Kirk just talks him down and the Starbase indicates that they will probably agree to Bele's request, because Bele can put off some degree of sophistication and carries some authority. I think, notably, Kirk is mostly humouring Bele at this part in the story, recognizing that Bele can retake the Enterprise if he wants to, but still, it's a pretty interesting contrast.
The episode does actually undermine some of its own points, because in spite of the suggestion that the two races are FUNDAMENTALLY THE SAME SPECIES, that Lokai and Bele's obsession with their petty physical differences as indicative of inner worth is ridiculous from any objective viewpoint, well, Bele has ridiculously powerful mind powers which can take over the Enterprise and send it hurtling through space at super-speeds and Lokai can't. My girlfriend helpfully, somewhat jokingly/somewhat seriously, suggested that maybe the difference is because Bele has more education, ha, which fits with the general political content of the episode. I can buy that. Still, it's kind of weird, and without more information directly confronting whether Bele and Lokai's apparent power differential ultimately does mark them as different species, it's hard to say that the Enterprise crew's reflexive assumption that their physiological differences are purely superficial is necessarily correct. It doesn't mean that a physiological difference that allows for super telekenesis powers in one and not the other would give Bele's species a right to enslave Lokai's, but it would change the episode's message a fair amount, and I think it's fair to say that this is something the writers probably just overlooked, in their giving Bele superpowers for mostly plot purposes. On the other hand, this exchange is kind of interesting:
SPOCK: Change is the essential process of all existence. For instance, the people of Cheron must have once been mono-coloured.
BELE: You mean like both of you?
KIRK: There must have been a time, long ago no doubt, when that was true.
KIRK: Excuse me. Kirk here.
SCOTT [OC]: We're orbiting Ariannus, sir.
KIRK: Very good. Commence decontamination procedures when ready. Advise when complete.
SCOTT [OC]: At once, sir. Scott out.
BELE: I once heard that on some of your planets people believe they are descended from apes.
SPOCK: The actual theory is that all life-forms evolved from the lower levels to the more advanced stages.
Now, the science of all this is, ahem, dubious, but let's presume that all the statements in this section are true. In that case, Spock's statement that life forms evolved from "the lower levels" to the "more advanced stages" suggests that Bele and Lokai are more advanced than humans -- the analogy, I suppose, is that Bele and Lokai are to humans and other monocoloured species what humans are to apes. This actually fits the fact that Bele, firstly, has extreme super brain powers, and secod that Bele and Lokai are apparently extremely long-lived. They are "more advanced" than humans -- and yet are still trapped in a cycle of hatred which they cannot escape. I think the point here is that hatred, racial prejudice, long-term effects of class differences and the resentments that come from this, etc., are not things that the intelligent are immune from: anyone, who is not careful to check themselves, can find themselves destroyed by this.
The scene where Bele expresses shock that no one can recognize the difference between him and Lokai is indeed effective. I think that many of the individual scenes with Bele and Lokai work, too. The ending is, uh, heavy-handed, yes, but there's a certain poetic desperation in it all. Frank Gorshin, probably best known for playing the Riddler in the Adam West Batman series, brings the proper self-assured disgust to his role as Bele. I do agree that the episode has several weaknesses, some of which I've mentioned, some of which Jammer and the others on the board have mentioned. The self-destruct sequence is a *huge* detour which kills the episode's tension. In general, Bele's extreme superpowers are not taken seriously enough by the narrative; it may or may not be true that Kirk could do something about them, but there is something frustrating that Kirk et al. don't even try to figure out an alternate way of dealing with Bele, some kind of way of preventing him from taking the ship over again. The episode's pacing is slow and it's somewhat more fun to talk about than to watch, and not actually hard-hitting enough to make up for this lack of fun. Still, I think it's got a fair amount going for it. I think I'd say 2.5 stars.
Mon, Mar 16, 2015, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
It would have been easy to protray Lokai as the hero, and Bele as the villain but the episode portrays them as deeply flawed individuals, entirely consumed by their "cause". Their dispute is rather academic, given that it's taken entirely out of context, without a shred of evidence presented, and they keep accusing each other of atrocities that Kirk and crew have no way of verifying...until they finally get to Cheron, that is. It's only when Bele dines with Kirk and Spock that racial prejudice comes into play (and Bele's racism is not limited to Lokai, note the "monocoloured trash" comment later on, and the way Bele makes a derogatory comment about humans evolving from apes).
The very ugly ending is also quite striking compared to other TOS episodes, which tend to end on a positive note with Kirk laughing off whatever trouble he had found himself in. Here, no one laughs and Kirk's pleas for peace and understanding fall on deaf ears. It's heavy handed, for sure, yet a lot of Star Trek is heavy handed (subtlety and Star Trek are not very good friends, I'm not even sure they're acquainted...;))
Tue, May 24, 2016, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 17, 2016, 11:24am (UTC -5)
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
One - it brilliantly highlighted how trivial their differences were. As a child, I did not notice their colours were reversed until Bele pointed it out. This was a simple yet clever point of differentiation, particularly on such a low budget! As soon as Bele mentions it, your immediate reaction is to think "but that's so trivial!" - and that of course was the point.
Two - the concept that they would keep hating and pursuing each other, despite their entire planet being destroyed, because they had been doing it for so long their hate was literally all they had left. It was all that sustained them, and they could never know anything else. Bele will keep chasing Lokai until the end of time in the ruins of a wasted planet.
Pure tragedy. And pure folly. To this day it sticks with me. The producers of Star Trek should be commended for putting together such a powerful story given their limited resources.
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 8:09pm (UTC -5)
Awful episode, extremely heavy handed, subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Just going to list all the bad: Cheron in the "southern" part of the galaxy, awful cartoony direction, atrocious acting, self-destruct sequence (much better inSTIII :-)), meandering plot that doesn't go anywhere, boring racism allegories.....
But my biggest issue, so Bele has been chasing Lokai for 50,000 years?!?!?!? Right...... yet they were close enough to reach Cheron in a few hours...... and in all that time neither had noticed the Cheroni had annihilated each other...... I'm all for a bit of socio-political commentary, but does it have to be this stupid?
Fri, Jul 7, 2017, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
I think the self-destruct sequence was well done with closeup shots of Kirk, Spock, Bele, etc. Was more dramatic and powerful than say DS9's "The Adversary". Good to see the concern/relief on the faces of Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu.
The episode is also about a battle of wills which, I think, is well done between Kirk and Bele. Kirk gets to hammer his authority over the Enterprise, which is something Shatner does well.
Who is right, who is wrong? Lokai or Bele? This episode, while not a great episode, serves an important role in the Trek cannon -- I believe a fair number of episodes from future Trek series have their roots in this one given squabbles on alien worlds, racism/prejudice, diplomacy, relations between the Federation and a new alien species.
Good performance from guest actor Frank Gorshin, in particular, an actor with a good pedigree.
As for one flaw, found it strange that Bele has the power of his will to control the ship but Lokai has no such power. Given these powers, why hasn't Bele been able to catch Lokai for 50,000 years?
Ultimately the ending scene is somewhat poignant with Bele chasing Lokai on a destroyed planet presumably for another long time to come. "All that matters to them is their hate." - Spock
I'd rate "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" 2.5 stars - an iconic Trek episode but not what I'd call a classic -- difference being that it tries to do what we think Star Trek is all about (stylized exposition of a problem faced on Earth) but is heavy-handed and has enough flaws.
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 3:07am (UTC -5)
I'd say it was right after this. While this one wasn't great, it was needed - and no more ham-handed than half of TOS anyway.
For all the lambasting season 3 endures, the first half isn't too bad - yeah it's got Spock's Brain and The Children Shall Lead, but also has The Enterprise Incident and Wink of an Eye. And Is There In Truth No Beauty and Day of the Dove and For the World is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky aren't too bad either. Granted, between two of those and Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, they really needed some shorter titles.
But after that? It's a parade of stinkers up until All Our Yesterdays, which was one last high before ending the series on an absolutely rotten note (that everyone had to wait 4 months for, at that). Last Battlefield was the last semi-good episode right before the season collapsed.
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
"LOKAI: You have read about it in history, I see. How can I make your flesh know how it feels to see all those who are like you, and only because they are like you, despised, slaughtered, and even worse, denied the simplest bit of decency that is a living being's right? Do you know what it would be like to be dragged out of your hovel into a war on another planet? A battle that will serve your oppressor and bring death to you and your brothers? "
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 1:32am (UTC -5)
It would be ridiculous for the enslaved to love their slaveholders, indeed when we see slaves cooperating with slaveholders we cringe. We in a free society implicitly know that the slave’s rage against his master is just and the slaver’s rage is unjust. So the problem is not hate, rage or violence, the problem is unequal power and the intellectualized justifications for breaches of justice used by the powerful.
Instead of being “preachy” this is just self-congratulatory. It’s a story that makes the white audience feel better about their racism because they know there are Black Panthers out there who “hate” the white race. After all the viewer doesn’t “hate” blacks, they just don’t want their daughter marrying one!
It’s the 60s version of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.”
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 8:46am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
The sequence of the two men chasing each other through the ship corridors while images of the planet are superimposed is memorable. The struggle and failure of the crew to confront the racism of Bele and Lokai add to the sorrowing feel of the show: Racial hatred defies all reason and can reach a point of insolubility. Lots of contemporary parallels in this allegory even today, with all of the ethnic cleansing and mass migration going on in the world. Maybe "Battlefield" is uncomfortable viewing for some people who view racism in the past tense, but I think it's an essential Trek episode that remains more relevant than ever. Love it or hate it, it's one of the most iconic examples of Trekkian ideals ever filmed, and the lack of resolution feels very real at the end. As a geek, I also love the introduction of the Enterprise self-destruct codes, to be re-used later as an Easter egg in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 7, 2018, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 13, 2018, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Seeing the National Guard on my city streets was quite scary, Bobby and Martin had been killed - and this episode shined a light right on the same subject matter making illuminating the stupidity of the whole thing.
Yes, it may have been preachy, but to me it showed how mind-fumblingly stupid the human race can be.
Sun, Aug 5, 2018, 10:36am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 21, 2018, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
There is also a not so subtle nudge at conservative christians , when bele very cautiously says "I once heard that on some of your planets people believe they are descended from apes. " For those too young back then white southern christians believed they were superior to blacks.
Fri, May 31, 2019, 6:59am (UTC -5)
For its time, a brave and straightforward tackling of the subject of racism. The startling reveal that the "big difference" is "which side is which" is very creative, memorable, and effective. I mean - it is a truly large physical difference, yet one aliens (and the viewer) aren't likely to even notice. But those two are obsessed with it, and attach all sorts of significance to it.
I like how they hid this large difference in plain sight. The viewer's surprise sends the message much better than preachy Kirk. I also like that the effect of the difference is that they are mirror images of each other.
The ep does falter in its mission by being more about hate in general than racism in particular, but still: A classic.
Above average for sure.
Sat, Jul 13, 2019, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
"Bele has been chasing Lokai for 50,000 years?!?!?!? Right...... yet they were close enough to reach Cheron in a few hours...... and in all that time neither had noticed the Cheroni had annihilated each other...... I'm all for a bit of socio-political commentary, but does it have to be this stupid?"
It made me think that, if the Federation had known about all this sooner (um, if they were already so close to reach Cheron, why didn't they??) this might have actually been a place where [re: TOS "A Taste Of Armageddon" episode] Eminiar VII's plan of "civilized" war-by-computer would have actually been a plausible solution—disintegration chambers and all! In fact, Anan 7 (leader of Eminiar) would have been an excellent diplomat to lead a mission to Cheron about this.
Hear me out, please:
The Eminians encountered by the Enterprise were (after 500 yrs) a super orderly society, seemingly non-violent and peaceful in their inter-personal interactions. They found all that so distasteful—in contrast to the banal destructiveness of their computer war. Whereas the Cherons were so outwardly and inwardly filled with rage and violence. Perhaps the Eminians once were, too, and only "civilized" themselves through the course of the 500 yr war, such that by the time the Enterprise visited Eminianr VII the people had long been "Ready" for this next step: to think and act with diplomacy and end their war for good.
Self-segregation onto different planets or regions, then an "orderly war" over a few hundred years (or whatever, given their long lifespans) might have just been enough for the profound rage in each "Race" to calm itself. YES, as with Eminiar, millions would die over the time, BUT... instead of ending with a burning planet where everyone's dead, the Cherons (like the Eminians) could have survived as peoples and cultures, with the planet in tact, until some future time where they would be read for a Kirk-style intervention and finally end it all.
Thu, Jul 25, 2019, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
That secret disdain in your heart for people of a certain type? You're getting played.
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
But absolutely ruined by a long list of bad moves in writing, direction, etc.
Terrible episode, and I WANTED to like it.
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 2:28am (UTC -5)
Sometimes, messages need to be preached, and sometimes the broadest of terms are required for it to be heard.
>"Prejudice has many troubling shades of grey that this story fails to acknowledge."<
True point. But this was broadcast in an era where MLK had recently been assassinated and where only six weeks earlier Star Trek had aired the first interracial kiss on US television, to the dismay of some regional censors.
This episode was written for an audience that was still struggling with (and often against) the concept that "Segregation = Bad"
There are absolutely shades of gray to be explored....1969 was not the time or place for those. Hard to dive too deeply into nuance with an audience that barely understands or accepts the basics.
Sun, Sep 29, 2019, 10:06am (UTC -5)
This isn't quite as bad as And the Children Shall Lead or The Way to Eden but it's so close the distinction is hardly worth noticing. Way too preachy, way too presumptuous and in the final analysis guilty of hypocrisy while at the same time being oblivious to the fact.
Sun, Dec 29, 2019, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
There’s a false equivalency made between Lokai’s and Bele’s people that seems totally inappropriate.
The show does not acknowledge the strong probability that Lokai’s fight for freedom may be justified, nor does the show weight the blame of the conflict on the oppressors.
It’s always been true throughout history that it is the oppressors who ultimately need to disarm, stand down, accept those once-oppressed and enslaved people as equals. The question of *how to accomplish this* is a matter of tactics, and violence is an absolutely valid option on the table.
There’s certainly a place for peaceful protests, but no amount of passive resistance would’ve saved the Jews in Nazi Germany, or countless other oppressed people in history. It is true that in some circumstances you have to fight for your freedom — a fact that Star Trek even in other episodes acknowledges.
To me, I thought the show was addressing Malcom X, who was assassinated 4 years before the release of this episode. He and MLK differed on the point of total nonviolent resistance. Malcom X thought blacks should arm themselves and defend themselves if attacked. He was, obviously, very controversial, especially at this time.
It seems unlikely that the American civil rights movement would’ve made the ground they did without defending themselves in the 50s and 60s. The movement succeeded largely because BOTH blacks were defending themselves violently, AND Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement pointed to a peaceful alternative. But it was the threat of violent resistance that enabled the peaceful option.
But the show doesn’t acknowledge these realities in this episode at all. It places the blame for Cheron’s ultimate destruction on both sides without any deep reflection. As if, for example, the Jews in Nazi Germany were just as culpable for Germany’s devastation as the Nazis, or blacks in the southern states in America in 1865 were just as culpable for the South’s devastation as racist slavers.
I get it. I get that in the time this was made, they probably couldn’t have gotten away with a more nuanced message. Not in 1969, not among the wide audience watching Trek. But still, for a modern audience to not acknowledge the deep flaws in this episode’s allegory seems wrong to me.
1/4 stars for me.
Mon, Apr 20, 2020, 10:20am (UTC -5)
Wed, May 6, 2020, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
All in all quite enjoyable.
II I/II of IV
Sun, Jun 14, 2020, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Reasonably clever with the monochromatic view due to the sun's radiation blinding the fact that there are aliens living amongst a xenophobic race that needs help from the Enterprise. Interesting examination of the PD and great to have John de Lancie as a guest actor. He has a good scene where he and Kirk discuss the PD, though for a xenophobic person, he had quite a good understanding of it!
Kind of topical given today's themes of illegal immigration, regions in conflict, refugees all getting the TOS treatment -- sometimes contrived, heavy-handed, but well-intentioned and it all feeds into a good story. The episode also made good use of the entire crew, Sulu got to put his botany expertise to work, the counsellor, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov all had small contributions to make.
A critic could say there are some trite lines, but I think they were well used in the TOS style: "how often we look but fail to see," "no them, only us". Kirk gets to make a speech and employs his pragmatic brand of diplomacy which we've seen in "A Taste of Armageddon" or "The Cloud Minders".
3 stars for "What Ships Are For" -- lots of little bits and pieces fit well together in this story. Does simplify some issues as Trek often does but it comes off as a good tale here. Get to see some people forced to confront their prejudices and work together. Again very impressed with the overall production and integrity to TOS.
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
That said, LtbYLBF is something of a let down. And while I can't endorse @Jammer's 1 1/2 star review (seems a bit harsh, the episode was after all entertaining, and had a good point), I can't say it rises far beyond 2 1/2 stars.
On the other hand, re-reading my review of DS9's Far Beyond the Stars, I realize, that if you're looking for something special to watch today, Far Beyond is the way to go. It is not for nothing that @Jammer gave that DS9 episode 4 stars. Peach it, brother Benny!
Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
I love the opening sequence. In 30 seconds they pick up a contact, classify it, come up with a course of action and Kirk gives very clear concise directions to his subordinates, and they are out the door lickedy split. Total efficiency of action. That crew is a well oiled machine... They need to show this to the cadets in Space Force!
And who peed in Spock’s cornflakes?
Kirk: Any prognosis Doctor?
McCoy: I’m not sure Jim. I’ve never worked on an alien species like this before.
Spock: And yet you continue to pump him full of your noxious potions.
Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
I guess an alien is never going to respect you until you beat him...
Fri, May 14, 2021, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
But, this is Series 3 of TOS, often much maligned. Yet, knowing their time was limited and their budgets slashed, did they decide to get much more political than in Series 1 & 2? It would seem quite possibly so: we've had insanity (Whom Gods Destroy), the nature of beauty and appearance (Is There ITNB?), overpopulation (....Gideon), and here it's racism and slavery. It seems very likely that this was (?made) shown soon after the assassination of MLK, and it is to the credit of the producers that they would address such a sensitive issue.
The technique of having two characters with half black half white faces, yet the opposite way round, quite cleverly shows up the absurdity of racism, especially when Bele cannot believe they fail to see that reversal of the colours indicates a natural 'superiority / inferiority'. In fact the cleverness extends beyond that, for when taking your eyes off the extreme hues of Bele and Lokai, the skin tones of Kirk, Sulu, and Uhura (to take the three most obvious examples) seem to blend into a kind of homogeneity, which is arguably what the producers intended.
Yes, it's preachy. Yes, it's hamfisted. Yet it is one of the most thought-provoking episodes of TOS, especially when you view it in not only context of its time, but also now in the era of Trump and #BlackLivesMatter.
I can't award it more than 2.5 stars as a TOS episode but I'd give it top marks for addressing something that no TV show of its era dared to do.
Fri, May 28, 2021, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
This is almost like a remake of season one’s Alternative Factor, and about as effective and pleasant to watch. Not very.
The “50,000” years thing is the most obvious way this story goes so dreadfully over the top in its Aesop. “This is how much they hate each other!” However, the 50,000 years might even be literally true if they are ghosts.
That would also explain why Starfleet had never had any contact with their planet, despite it being nearby.
Wed, Jun 23, 2021, 9:43am (UTC -5)
The archival World War 2 footage of London Burning at the end, at least that is what it looked like, was a neat touch too. Probably a cost cutting move instead of having to create a burning set. I give it an A.
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
The episode is famous for a reason. It's an episode of Star Trek that matters. We should give it credit for that. If it had tried to be any more complicated, would it have been anywhere near as effective? Or impactful? Simple little morality play that it is, I'm glad it exists and I wouldn't want to change it.
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure I agree that it's not for adults, although I do agree that a clear merit is that it's accessible for kids. Adults get mired in details, where every conversation ends up in the weeds, such and such happened, it means this, no it means that, so and so is guilty...and this episode cuts right through that and fast forwards into the future, where all is said and done and both sides are annihilated. It is so far past mattering who is in fact at fault originally that to even bring up the subject is merely to partake of Lokai and Bele's insanity. It's a never-ending hole spiraling down to nothing. But some might argue that certain misdeeds are only so many generations in our past - or even contemporary in some cases - and so they cannot be forgotten or let go of. They must be repaid in full one way or another. And here's where Let This Be Your Last Battlefield finds an unusual strength: it addresses this directly and says it doesn't matter, that what's in the past is only worth fixating on if you want to sacrifice the future. This is certainly not a popular view among many today, but nevertheless it's what the episode is saying. It seems to almost perhaps be advocating to simply let go of whatever happened before, even if horrible, and to just make peace and let live. And that is not a childish suggestion, nor an easy one. In fact great playwrights like Aeschylus have tackled this very issue and asked (such as in the Oresteia) how it could ever be possible to move forward beyond the blood of the past if all terrible acts must be requited. To say that they simply shouldn't be, so long as a new law and justice can be found, is a very hard message to live. I don't think it's just for kids at all, and especially not so right now since even this simple message is by no means agreed upon.
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
I also think it's hard for adults to watch this episode without having a "But what about . . . ?" thought after every few lines. That doesn't have so much to do with the premise rather than the scripting. But if the scripting was better (and I take it as a given it would need to be more complicated to be better), it would run the risk of being less accessible, particularly to children, and therefore less effective.
. . .
The more history you study, the more you realize that "redressing past wrongs" is nonsensical. It's always been something. It will always be something, unless and until we radically transcend the nature of . . . existing at all, I guess. So do your best. Don't hate. Try not to do harm. That's all there is. It's all that makes sense.
Hard to live with, yes. That's in our nature. But not out of our control, if we would but try.
I don't know that the episode gets all the way there with its message--if I'm being honest, I feel like we're extrapolating now--but I know that it wants to, at least. So I agree: let's give it the credit for that.
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 18, 2021, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
TOS still can't break the mold of "ship gets taken over" or "crew gets captured."
Sat, Apr 2, 2022, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 12:40am (UTC -5)
"The ep does falter in its mission by being more about hate in general than racism in particular"
I have to disagree of one thing because even if we were all the same race, history shows that humans will just find another reason for division. The Hutus and Tutsis, Irish and British, Sunnis and Shiites, Japanese and Koreans, etc. All are instances of the two sides being the same race but being divided by something else such as tribe, nationality or religion
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 2, 2022, 12:11am (UTC -5)
* The extremely over the top hatred between the two
* The invisible ship (there isn't one)
* Bele's arbitrary powers
* No contact between the Federation and the Cherons despite it being close enough
* Even the cartoonish appearance of the two would work better if it's just their self imposed caricatured self image and the actual Cheron races weren't exact opposites
* Kirk's decision to just let them roam the Enterprise makes more sense if it had been revealed they aren't even "real"
To me this interpretation makes so much more sense than what's depicted that I had to go read episode notes to see if that was the original idea, but apparently not.
Ultimately the Aesop is just extremely bundled, like it was written by someone who had no idea what they were writing about.
For example, the "southern part of the galaxy". That's problematic for a couple reasons.
First, anyone who has the slightest notion of a galaxy (a very large part of Trek's audience) is going to groan and be embarrassed.
Second, there were racial issues in the "northern" part of the galaxy at the very time this show was made.
Fri, Nov 4, 2022, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
Similarly, the whole Idea of them pursuing each other for 50 thousand years and yet getting back to Charon in double quick time makes no sense. And if there had been as much conflict generated by Loki as Bele cliaims, wouldn't they have come to the Federation's attention before now?
There's too much padding, what with the self destruct sequence and the extended final sequence. Frank Gorshin looks particularly silly running. And whose decision was it to have the two characters in ballet tights - it's distracting and not in a good way. I suppose the alternative plotline was ruled out by the whole Star Trek ethos because there was no possibility, despite Loki's preaching to the crew, of them espousing his cause and becoming dragged into his conflict. So without that, it has to be a battle just between them.
I'm not sure if Loki is truthful because if Bele isn't lying, Loki's people were freed thousands of years ago. Their complaint seems to be more that they aren't treated equally, but perhaps they all lack the kind of powers Bele demonstrates and it is that which is the more fundamental difference between them despite the fixation on which side is white or black. So it's the real reason Loki's people were never fully emancipated. He certainly isn't able to wrest control of the ship away from Bele and prevent himself being returned to Charon. There is the point too that he is named after the trickster god in Norse mythology which casts doubt on how much his word can be trusted. Bele, similarly, is untrustworthy as he proves by his actions.
It's probably the old insistence that man includes woman, but it always grates when Loki goes on about being brothers, husbands etc . I do wonder if there was a place for women in his crusade.
Finally a niggle is the scene where Spock overhears Loki preaching to the junior officers through a door left ajar. Where does a door like this come from on the Enterprise where all the doors are panels that slide into the walls?
Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
You’re right that there are some elements which don’t make sense or are obviously padding, but I disagree about the self-destruct sequence. It may be too dragged out to create real tension, but I think it does serve a purpose: Kirk’s iron resistance to Bele’s and Lokai’s demands shows how important it is for him to stick to his own values and convictions – if necessary, to the bitter end – instead of letting himself be taken in by propaganda and getting involved in a conflict by adopting another one’s position as his own. A detail which really doesn’t make sense is that five-seconds rule: “From five to zero, no command in the universe can prevent the computer from fulfilling its destruct orders.” If it’s impossible to stop destruction, why delay it? I think it’s one of Kirk’s many bluffs, to put pressure on Bele and to buy a few seconds in which he’ll still be able to act.
I also agree with your statement that both Bele and Lokai can’t be trusted. There are no objective, reliable facts about the situation on Cheron; all the information we get is coming from the subjective, opposed viewpoints of two extremists. I find it interesting that Kirk, for once, refuses to take sides and judge who’s right and wrong, and I’ve even got the notion that we as viewers aren’t supposed to do so either. The conflict in which we are supposed to take sides is not between Bele and Lokai – it’s between Bele and Lokai on the one side and the Enterprise crew on the other.
From this point of view, the “moral of the story” makes more sense too. Other commenters have claimed that the episode undermines its own point by making Bele and Lokai appear equally bad, thus making it difficult for the viewers to solidarize with Lokai (the slave) against Bele (the oppressor). But I think the episode’s intention is rather to have the viewers relate to the Enterprise crew: people who have overcome hate and racism to such an extent that they (i.e. Kirk and Spock) can’t even begin to understand why it matters who is black or white on which side.
In contrast, as somebody has already pointed out above, BOTH Bele and Lokai hold views which would seem to qualify as racist and which are not limited to each other: apart from calling each other „half-black“ and „half-white“ (which is reduced to absurdity given that these insults very visibly and obviously apply to both alike), they also call the humans „monotones“ or „monocoloured“. I think the episode does a good job in presenting such attitudes in a way that they reveal themselves as being ridiculous. In appearance, Bele and Lokai very obviously have much more in common than Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Sulu (and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in one scene on the bridge, the camera slowly pans over each one of them before returning to Lokai and Bele), but they put up a fuss over the question who is black or white on which side. The absurdity of it would indeed be ridiculous if their hate hadn’t led to the complete destruction of their civilization.
So I think that while the episode clearly references to history, it is at the same time abstract enough to serve as an allegory with a broader scope, with the message that hate is destructive. Hate can blind people to the reality. There is some irony in Bele’s reproach to Spock: “Are you blind, Commander Spock?” Kirk and Spock are as blind to the (small) difference as Bele and Lokai are to the (far greater) similiarities between themselves.
Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 5, 2023, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 2, 2023, 11:25pm (UTC -5)
Despite all its flaws, I still enjoyed it in 2023.
Among the many distractions, of which the camera on the Red Alert lights was the worst, were the nonsensical time-speed-distance relationships. It seemed to take a few hours to get to Cheron, which was in largely uncharted, non-Federation space at warp 10. Now, anything over warp 7 makes Scotty nervous. It's going to take a long, long time to get to Starbase 4. Why not aim for the nearest starbase?
Anyway, I still enjoyed it.
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