EPISODE TWENTY-SIX: Errand of Mercy
That’s right folks, everyone’s favourite war-loving, chief-of-security becoming race of aliens arrives in the Trek universe, in all their weird “exotic Orientalist” 1960’s goodness. A bunch of dudes in black-face, wearing fu manchu mustaches, speaking in British accents and saluting a bit like Nazis. What a wacky combo.
Kirk and Spock beam down to a strategically important planet to try and convince them to allow the Federation to arm/defend them against the Klingon Empire. The Klingons are built up nicely as threatening conquerors and show up with an invasion force, forcing the Enterprise to flee and marooning Kirk and Spock behind enemy lines. The native population of the planet (mysterious old guys!) keep referring the fact that they’re magic and untouchable, but Kirk staunchly refuses to listen, often cutting them off just as they are about to explain why they’re magic. It’s quite frustrating, from a viewer stand-point and similar to the Dan Brown Syndrome of having characters with clearly important knowledge just simply not state it in order to artificially create suspense. Our mysterious old guys are trying to explain that they are beings of pure energy, evolved far beyond either Klingon or Human and will allow no conflict to occur between the races.
This leads to a fantastic show-down between Kirk, the Klingon captain, and the Magic Old Guys, where Kirk passionately argues that they should be allowed the agency to wage war if they want to wage war. This is an interesting little scene for two reasons: First, we get Kirk passionately arguing in favour of war, despite the Old Guys repeatedly pointing out how many innocents will die; Second, we get Kirk fuming about exactly what he does EVERY EPISODE: Meddle in the affairs of aliens. Just a few episodes, he forced a war in order to broker peace in A Taste of Armageddon and yet here he is, arguing that these Magic Old Guys shouldn’t be allowed to intercede in his affairs.
Do as I say, not as I do, I suppose.
The Klingon Captain gets some great moments and is a fun, scenery-chewing, classical actor at work. Of particular note is the awesome little moment where he suggests that between Kirk and himself, they should be able to take out all the Old Guys. The begruding respect the two have for each other makes them easy allies, despite their animosity.
The episode ends with the Magic Old Guys brokering peace and explaining how the Klingons and Humans will become friends in the future, which I’m sure Mr. Worf agrees with. It’s a fun little episode that flips the conventions of the show and introduces an important element to the future of Trek.