Star Trek: The Original Series

"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

1.5 stars

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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72 comments on this post

Mon, Apr 9, 2012, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
OK, it's preachy. But it's better than a star and a half. Certainly better than the Lights of Zetar.
Jeffrey Bedard
Sat, May 19, 2012, 10:01am (UTC -5)
Certainly this episode is not perfect, but I would rate this three stars myself. Unlike most 3rd season episodes "Battlefield" is at least trying to say something. Although the conversations about genocide, civil rights and racism are pretty vague, in spite of that I think some details regarding the affairs of Cheron can be gleamed. Granted, this is only my interpretation but at one point early in the episode Bele tells Lokai that he was "the product of our love." I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps that means Lokai and his ancestors were genetic creations of Bele's people, but for whatever reason the two skin colors came out reversed. And due to the cultural prejudices of Bele's people, Lokai's kind came to be seen as inferior.

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)
Preachy, yes, by 21st century stardards, but not so in 1969 when racism was commonplace. The brilliant part of this story is that the only thing that distinguishes the two races is which side of the face has the black pigmentation and side has the white. Bele's people are black on the right side and Lokai's people are white on the right side. Bele finds it stunning that Kirk and Spock ( and obstensibly us the viewer) don't notice that Lokai is "obviously" inferior. These two races have been at each others, throats for millennia over a distinction that is just ridiculously trivial to us. But of course that's the point! It may seem dated and heavy handed now to talk about racism with the kind of heated blunt dialog found in this episode, but this was 1969. Remember this was a time when a TV series with multiracial cast was controversial.
William B
Fri, May 10, 2013, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
I don't know if I think this episode is particularly good (I haven't seen it since I was around 10), but it is a pleasure to see Frank Gorshin in *anything*. My suspicion is that I'd rate it more highly than Jammer at least for honourary reasons. The allegory setup is on about the level of a Dr. Seuss story (maybe a cross between "The Sneeches" for arbitrary status markers and "The Peanut Butter Battle Book" for apocalyptic brinksmanship). That's not itself an insult -- Dr. Seuss is fantastic -- but somehow the simplistic allegory works better for 20-page picture books than an hour long live action drama.
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 2:10am (UTC -5)
The terrible clothes. The terrible makeup. The terrible acting. The Batmannish zooming in and out of the red alert lights. The invisible ship. "The southern part of the galaxy". The unexplained shuttecraft theft. The arbitrary and apparently unlimited powers of Bele. Kirk's "nah, let's just see what they do" order in the final scene as aliens with arbitrary and apparently unlimited powers are allowed to trot briskly through the corridors and activate the transporter. The way the bridge crew just stands there glumly and watches as Bele zaps their controls. The extreme close-ups of eyes and lips. The self-destruct sequence that grinds the whole episode to a halt. The watch-every-step decontamination of the planet. The SECOND watch-every-step decontamination of the planet. The sledgehammer of a failed allegory that ultimately doesn't give us any useful or interesting insight into racism because its two representatives of the issue are unbelievable cartoon characters.

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)
When I first saw this as an 8th grader in 1969 I was awed by the allegory about racism. The two sided people was a creative way to address it in a one hour TV episode. Yes the story is simplistic. But all of the first Trek is simplistic. It was breaking new ground every week, and I still appreciate 40 years later the courage with which a weekly prime time series could go boldly where no one had ever gone before.
Jamie Stearns
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
This episode has been widely criticized for making its anti-racist point with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and it's true.

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)
I actually enjoyed this episode a lot. Kirk was interesting to watch here. Normally Captain Kirk gets invovle with other cultures and races problems, but this time he decided to let the federation handle the problem. The cheron are obviously going through a civil right moment, but for the most part the crew just sat back and watched. After Bele took over the ship for a second time it did become a little bit preachy, but Frank Gorshin gave a great performance.
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Agree this was a missed opportunity.

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.
William B
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
You know, I actually think this episode is a bit more ambitious than is given credit for by Jammer and most of the commenters. It's certainly true that the episode points out the irrational racial hatred of judging people by useless visual cues. But the episode is also pretty explicitly about how class intersects with race, and while it's not entirely successful it sort of works. Lokai and Bele are from, respectively, the less and more powerful of a set of two races apparently coexisting. According to Bele, Lokai's people are violent savages who can't take care of themselves, and Bele and Lokai's conflict is of the just policeman against the vicious, terrorist criminal. According to Lokai, Bele's people are a race of cold and heartless slavedrivers, and Lokai and Bele's conflict is of the passionate freedom-fighter against the cruel, tyrannical despot. Bele is a part of a mass machine of enslavement slaver out to protect his people, and Lokai is a killer of (apparently) a million people as part of a campaign of emancipation. And in that sense, the values of the two, and their approaches, are diametrically opposed, and the episode follows through on this: Lokai, the populist, tries to rouse some rabble among the junior officers (Chekov, Sulu, etc.) in the rec room, whereas Bele, the aristocrat, tries to appeal to Kirk and Spock's sophistication while fine dining in Kirk's quarters. What they have in common, though, is that both are obsessed with hatred of the other, screaming at the Enterprise crew to kill the other (or in Bele's case, to allow them to go back to his homeworld where Lokai can be killed); they also state pretty openly that the other is representative of his entire species (species being marked by which side of the face is which), and both believe that the other's race is evil in a fundamental way. The point, I think, is that both Bele's characterization of Lokai as an irredeemably violent savage and Lokai's characterization of Bele as an irredeemably cruel tyrant are, ahem, *mirror images* of each other, that hate is hate regardless of whether it's coming from the uprising oppressed or the defensive oppressors. Bele and Lokai actually really are class opposites as well as race opposites, but they are joined in their hate, which makes it difficult for the Enterprise crew to recognize them as different from each other; and ultimately, their respective species destroyed each other.

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.
(Intercom whistle)
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)
Saw this one a couple of days ago. Flawed, but interesting. The first half is basically a bureaucratic dispute: who is taking whom to where: is Lokai going to Starbase 4, or to Cheron? For once Captain Kirk is following the Prime Directive to the letter: he cannot takes side because he doesn't know Cheron and its culture, because Lokai is accused of stealing Federation property and because the mission on Arrianus where countless lives are a stake takes precedence (BTW did you notice that the shuttlecraft Lokai stole has Enterprise markings on its hull? What was an Enterprise shuttle doing on Starbase 4, I wonder?).

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)
Kirk: "Cheron? That's in the southernmost part of the galaxy, isn't it?"

Wow, subtle.
Mon, Jul 11, 2016, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
I wouldn't mind if I can see a sequel of Cheron
David Pirtle
Sat, Sep 17, 2016, 11:24am (UTC -5)
I couldn't disagree more. I have always found this to be a powerful episode, particularly in the context of the world in which it aired (less than a year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr). It does an excellent job of illustrating the absurdity and intransigence of racism.
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
I have to say, IMHO this is actually one of my all-time favourite Star Trek episodes. I found its core message to be deeply profound - particularly when I first saw it as a child. It had two very, very powerful concepts:

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 this is one of those episodes that people who don't consider themselves Trek fans will remember because of the white/black faces. I think it is memorable for the attempts to address issues of racism, prejudice, political asylum and whatever else. It tries to address some heavy philosophical issues -- probably doesn't accomplish much other than hammering some altruistic beliefs, but a worthy exposition nonetheless.

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.
Daniel B
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 3:07am (UTC -5)
{ This was the point at which the quality of third-season TOS suffered its final collapse, and never recovered. }

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)
There's also an anti-Vietnam war part to this, too:

"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)
The morality of this story is based on an absurd false equivalence: that the problem with racism is “hate” on both sides (you could say many, many sides even) and that the solution is to abandon that hate. But racism is not about hate. Racism is a classification system that decides rights and privileges based on phenotypic and cultural inferiority. Without the power (economic, military, cultural) to grant rights and privileges, the supposed “hate” is meaningless. More importantly racism can be participated in without any particular “hate” from individuals in the oppressor class.

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)
An excellent analysis, William B, and an interesting, thoughtful read.
William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
@Trent, thank you! I've been enjoying reading your comments of late.
Trek fan
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
I've always loved "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" as a classic Trekkian exploration of racism, a topic all-too-sadly missing on pretty much every series after TOS, as if we've "solved" the issue or something. Frank Gorshin is great as always in the role of the more self-righteous/haughty of the two aliens, and their black-white/white-black makeup is a clever illustration of racial differences that boils racism down to the simplest elements so that all viewers can see its absurdity. There's also the devastating and sorrowful shock ending, very rare for Trek, that leaves a big impression. I give this one 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

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.
Peter G.
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
I agree with you, Trek fan. This episode can be ridiculed for its simplicity, and yet that's why it's great. The makeup is ridiculous - and yet that's the exact reason it's brilliant, because so is the racism being portrayed. The characters seem so extreme, and yet that's only because they are so convinced they're right. And the arguments seem to go in circles forever and go nowhere - which is exactly where circular logic goes. Both of them are even given rather convincing sounding things to say about each other, and the point is that in the end none of it matters. They can be as right as they like in each of their points and yet in the end their hatred is wrong no matter how right they are. The destroyed world is the only conclusion that could possibly come from people so resolute in being correct about another's misdeeds. This note, that being kind and forgiving is more important than being right, ends up transcending the racism theme and can speak to any number of egoistic problems people have where they put their own concept of correctness over and above the point of view of others. The proof is in the pudding: take a look at U.S. politics today. This episode is must-watch TV now more than ever. We've regressed since this first aired.
Preachy Petrus
Wed, Feb 7, 2018, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
When Star Trek TOS was made the sheer pointless madness from WW II and people clinging to their notion of what the other party had done to justify hating it was much more recent. The madness should be forgotten, but the lesson remembered. Go ahead and hate the preacher if you don’t like the lesson being offered and enjoy the madness.
Wed, Jun 13, 2018, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Nobody likes to being preached to, not even back in the day. This episode just gets annoying with its "Racism is bad mkay?" message.
jeff H
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
I saw this episode as a kid, and thought it was eye-opening for the subject matter and especially what was going on in the 1960s with the race riots in the USA.

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)
There once were two cats of Kilkenny. Each thought the other was one too many. So they fought and they fit, and they scratched and they bit, Till excepting for nails and the tips of their tails, Instead of two cats, there weren't any...I was watching this episode last night and I was reminded of this old English rhyme---and I got to thinking about one really major problem with the human race on Planet Earth. They just can't get along. And what Star Trek shows us here is a truly majorexample. The hatred between these two humanoids ---Bele and Lokai---is so all-encompassing that we forget all about the stolen shuttlecraft! And I think back---way back---to an incident in the third grade in public school. There were these two little girls---one a frecklefaced redhead, the other with skin the color of good coffee with cream---who sat next to each other in the classroom and compared notes and were good friends. Some wiseguy in the back of the room spoke up and called attention to this---wanting to stir up trouble, no doubt. The redhead took hold of the other's arm and examined it carefully---and then she exclaimed, "That's just skin!" End of discussion, and the wiseguy was sent to the principal's office. Two kids who had the right idea. Now why can't adults do likewise---why can't they take an example from Spock and the concept of IDIC---infinite diversity in infinite combinations?---And so Bele and Lokai, got home to a planet where they found themselves the last two survivors of their "races", with nothing left for them but their hate, not realizing that it's co-existence or no existence...
Bruce Brunger
Sun, Oct 21, 2018, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Funny how when the bridge scene view switched from facial shots of Chekov and Sulu at the helm, then switched to the over-the-shoulder view from the perspective of the Captain’s chair looking to the main viewscreen, we see that Chekov has been replaced by other stand-in actors several times....obvious reuse of other stock footage
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
Great episode and Im very surprised by the bad review and comments.Remember this is the 60's and the south still had segregated bathrooms and water fountains.
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)
Flawed, but a classic nevertheless.

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)
My biggest issue with this episode is what STEVERAGE noted above:

"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)
When I watched this episode as a kid in the 1960s when it first aired, its message about racism was blatantly obvious and came across as heavy-handed even for me as a 6 year old....I was fascinated with the concept that having one color on one side (or the other) was enough of a difference for them to hate each other (as a kid the Dr Sues allegorical story of the Sneeches with or without stars on their bellies instantly came to my mind as well) for an adult viewing audience it may have been overplayed and preachy, but for a kid like me growing up in the Civil Rights era 1960’s at the time, the message about racism was well received...
Binging TOS
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
In my interpretation of this story, not all of the people of Charon are dead. The ones who stoked the hate and profited from it escaped to a new world before the civilization burned itself to the ground. Bear this in mind when politicians or religious leaders of any persuasion malign the people of their opposition.

That secret disdain in your heart for people of a certain type? You're getting played.
Sarjenka's Brother
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
Noble intent (and I'm FINE with "heavy-handed" preaching with the right message).

But absolutely ruined by a long list of bad moves in writing, direction, etc.

Terrible episode, and I WANTED to like it.
Brian S.
Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 2:28am (UTC -5)
>"Unfortunately, the allegory is too preachy and pretentious and fails to say anything except in the very broadest of terms."<

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)
I must agree with Brundledan's assessment of this episode. The make up was garish. The camera angles and closeups were distracting. With Frank Gorshin running up and down the corridors in his tights I was half expecting Batman to make an appearance. It was overall a terrible episode and surely helped give the third season its well deserved reputation for being uneven. It has all the subtlety of an H-bomb. And yet while preaching about the dangers of racism it is itself guilty of much the same sin. "Cheron, that's the Southernmost part of the galaxy, isn't it?" That quote pretty much presupposes the concept of us and them and that we are better.
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)
Watching this in 2019, at 33 years old, I found this episode’s allegory to be totally off the mark.

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.

It’s nonsense.

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)
Ham-fisted and goofy moralizing to be sure. But as a child this episode said a great deal to me and taught me a lesson about tolerance and the futility of race hatred. To see such a diverse group of people on the bridge of the Enterprise so utterly confused as to why the black & white cookie people hated each other got the message across to me. This episode low key helped to shape my view on tolerance and race relations. It’s still a pretty garbage episode overall though. Frank Gorshin goofily running through the corridors with images of fire and destruction in his head makes me laugh every time.
Sleeper Agent
Wed, May 6, 2020, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
It got a bit much when they started to chase each other around on the Enterprise, and it felt kind of strange when Kirk aborted the self-destruct sequence and the momentum of the episode died. But I liked the aliens and their mysterious powers. Frank Gorshin did a wonderful job as Bele as well.

All in all quite enjoyable.

Sun, Jun 14, 2020, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Thoughts on Star Trek Continues: "What Ships Are For" -- really enjoyed this one. Definitely a TOS story if there was -- and a better version of a combo of "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" and TNG's "Symbiosis".

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)
Well, when I started this TOS re-watch last year, who would have thought I would reach LtbYLBF on MLK Day of all days?

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)
Justin, I totally agree. Good lessons still relevant today.

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)
Oh, and I almost Shatnered my pants during the self destruct count down. Nobody, takes control of James Kirk’s ship. Ever.

I guess an alien is never going to respect you until you beat him...
Fri, May 14, 2021, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
A very difficult episode to review. First, purely on its own terms, it's an obvious piece of sermonising against racial prejudice and slavery, delivered in quite a hamfisted way. So far, so bad.

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)
Maybe they are ghosts, endlessly fighting the same battle of a long dead world?

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)
I liked it. I thought there was a good message concerning the Cold War as well as to how MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), would happen if the fighting continued indefinitely. And it did, where everything was destroyed except for Bele and Lokai.

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.
Jeffery's Tube
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
Yes, this episode is not really sophisticated enough to be a compelling exploration of the issues surrounding racism for adults. But for children . . . this episode deserves a lot of credit for the generations of children who watched it, thought "Wait, they hate each other because one is white on the right side of his face and one is white on the left? That's stupid!" and then the lightbulb goes on in their heads and they realize: "Oh yeah . . . that's STUPID!"

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.
Peter G.
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
@ Jeffrey's Tube,

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.
Jeffery's Tube
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
I agree that a simple message can be profoundly affecting, for anyone, simply because it is so simple. It's a way of throwing that message into stark relief, which drives it home. But it can also be insulting to critical thinkers (such as adults) if they're of the mindset to be critical at the moment. I guess how it strikes you depends on the moment in which it does.

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)
The comments in this chain are perhaps the best of the series. Lots of interesting thoughts on the dynamics of racism that hadn’t occurred to me when I rewatched this episode. Especially those pointing out the equivalency in it between the oppressor group and the enslaved group. The best of these analytic comments is from Binging TOS on 08/7/2019. Very cool idea, well put.
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -5)
“false equivalency” ...
Mon, Oct 18, 2021, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Not great, not terrible. Some thought provoking ideas, especially Bele's puzzled reaction when Spock "failed" to see the difference between himself and Loki. No happy ending here either, and a decent message about the effects of hatred.

TOS still can't break the mold of "ship gets taken over" or "crew gets captured."
Sat, Apr 2, 2022, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Destruct code 1-1A-2B. I hope our nuclear codes aren't that ridiculously weak.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 12:17am (UTC -5)
I don't think the episode is great but I am more forgiving of this episode's lack of subtlety than I am of ENT's "Stigma", (an episode that was made 12-15 years too late) since this was an anvil that needed dropping in 1969.
Beard of Sisko
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 12:40am (UTC -5)
@ Springy

"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
The Man
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
@Paul It must bother you to have to acknowledge racism.
The Man
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
@mike You actually believe that racism doesn't exist today?
The Man
Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
@Steverage "Boring" racism? You are most definitely white.
Sun, Oct 2, 2022, 12:11am (UTC -5)
Rewatching this, I was again struck how much more sense it would have made if Cheron had indeed been destroyed 50,000 years ago and Bele and Lokai were ghosts chasing each other for eternity. It would explain a great many things, and wouldn't change the Aesop at all:

* 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)
And at warp 10, we're going nowhere mighty fast.
Ms Spock
Mon, Nov 28, 2022, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
This was never a favourite of mine, even as a kid. Being from the UK, a lot of the points relating to US politics etc passed me by, for instance, the line about the southernmost part of the galaxy just struck me as a stupid mistake as there is an up and down dimension in space not a restriction to points of the compass. I also wondered how Kirk could even have heard of their planet if there has been no contact before.

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)
@Ms Spock

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.
Peter G.
Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
I think one overlooked aspect of the episode is that the differences between Loli and Bele aren't just that they are similar but a bit different. They in fact are equal and opposite: black and white but on opposite sides (much like their analysis), as well as being of two distinct classes but on opposite sides. The play of opposites here seems to suggest that not only a trivial difference such as the side of them that's white, but the fact itself of *being* opposite, is what's at stake. And I think this plays into concepts like classism and other isms, portraying any position oriented as being against ones opposite as being just as bizarre as Loki and Bele's dispute is. From Spock's perspective, it would be as strange to hear that someone dislikes someone else for being rich or that a rich person holds someone in contempt for being poor, as to hear the logic about which side of the face is white. And I think this can play into any oppositional binary where the enemy is the person on the other side. The fact, is, when we hear Loki and Bele argue, there are perhaps times when we sympathize with the particulars of their arguments and understand why they would be upset. And yet the episode is saying it doesn't matter, not if you're as enlightened as we hopefully one day will be. It doesn't matter who oppressed whom or who is undermining what; or who started what or who is worse than whom. The idea would be to see fighting against others for supremacy in the first place as absurd. In Trek it takes the Eugenics wars and WWIII for this to sink in. Hopefully not so for us...
Sun, Feb 5, 2023, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
Why does a 23rd-century computer sound like a 1960s teletype?
Thu, Mar 2, 2023, 11:25pm (UTC -5)
I remember this from early 1970s syndication when, as a ten-year-old, I thought it was profound.

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.

Mon, Jun 19, 2023, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
For all the claims here about how bad this episode was, it sure generated much debate and chatter.

What problems that do exist for this episode, exist for many other episodes. Which is, a great concept that required more than 45 minutes to explore. So, any & all subtleties are condensed and appear "ham-fisted." Many of the arguments spouted by Bele & Loki, were arguments made by the activists back in the sixties. So the dialogue was being drawn "straight from the headlines" as they used to say.

It's in my personal list of top ten TOS episodes. I was just under ten when it originally aired. The ending has always stayed with me, powerful stuff. I saw it then and watching it as an adult now, it sure is an element of the decade in which it was made. We've come a long way.
Sat, Jul 1, 2023, 9:57pm (UTC -5)
The strong message that this episode sends is good enough to outway some of the weak areas. The destruct sequence is purely filler in my opinion. Frank Gorshin gave a fine performance, but the cheesy tights and his running style are poorly done. Still, it was better than other season three episodes by far.
Tue, Aug 8, 2023, 8:43am (UTC -5)
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield is one of those episodes that I remember seeing a lot in reruns. For what it’s worth when I saw this episode as a kid in the 80s I got the anti-racist message loud and clear, and it felt pretty meaningful, a clear, unequivocal declaration against prejudice that felt very powerful and subversive. Seen now as an adult in the 21st century the story comes across as a bit heavy handed, even clumsy. But I think that’s hindsight talking. In the context of the 1969 social landscape this episode was produced in, the in-your-face nature of the message feels appropriate and effective, also very trekkian. The main issue with this outing is that it seeks to draw out a two sides argument between bele and lokai, which, particularly for modern audiences, is difficult to accept. I think the 21st century mindset views the impetus to be on the oppressor/aggressor to make right the social injustice present in a power dynamic such as the one depicted in Cheron society, and as such, Lokai seems far more sympathetic as a character with accessible motives. Whereas bele just seems like an asshole. Perhaps this effort at equivalence was done in order to avoid alienating those audience members allegorically represented by bele, or perhaps the episode is aiming more at the mechanics of hatred/racism rather than the particulars of blame. It’s hard to say. However I think given that lokai seems to have his own prejudicial baggage and evidently his side in this situation has taken some pretty extreme measures resulting in a great deal of carnage implies that the idea here is that hate is hate, regardless of why it exists. Perhaps that’s what the title refers to, with the “last battlefield” representing the contest in one’s mind between the choice of hate and the choice of understanding, hate leading inevitability to the finality of ultimate destruction. This focus on the nebulous concept of hatred has some uncomfortable conclusions, notably that clinging to a sense of injustice and demanding restitution for past wrongs is a zero sum game, it’s better to just let the past go and focus on building a better future. This is, of course, a lot easier to do for someone in the position of victimizer as opposed to those who have been abused, so your enjoyment of this episode may vary with the degree of agreement you have with the “let it go” mindset.
A few other thoughts:
-more season three budget saving tactics by making bele’s ship invisible. There was no in-universe reason for his ship to be cloaked.
-bele has an odd array of powers. Was he telepathic?
-the time scale is way over the top. 50,000 years? Really? Decades would have been sufficient to convey the absurdity of it all.
-is this the first depiction of the self destruct sequence?

An iconic, albeit rough around the edges episode.

2.5/4 clearly mislabeled shuttle craft.
Projekt Kobra
Mon, Sep 18, 2023, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
"All hands, this is the bridge, return to normal duties.....Except you know...kind of forget that recent BRUSH WITH DEATH WHERE I CAME WITHIN MOMENTS OF BLOWING US ALL TO SMITHEREENS!....

Just know....go back to normal."
Projekt Kobra
Mon, Sep 18, 2023, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
Heke of a long jog to the transporter room doncha think?

The best is Gorshin's goofy running....What a card that guy was!
Projekt Kobra
Mon, Sep 18, 2023, 7:00pm (UTC -5)

Ah shaddup, ya pinko phoney.

I hate everyone who has it coming.

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