|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.23 “A Taste of Armageddon” – (Original air date: Thursday, February 23, 1967)

TrekTasteofArmageddon

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “A Taste of Armageddon.”

  • On this date in history: The 25th amendment to the US Constitution is ratified. This amendment clarified issues dealing with presidential succession and disability. It states explicitly that the Vice President becomes President if the President dies, resigns, or is removed from office. It also establishes procedures for filling a vacancy in Vice President and for responding to presidential disabilities.
  • What the 25th amendment didn’t do is clarify the Starfleet chain of command on board a starship, or explain why Sulu is often left in command when it should be Scotty.
  • On the singles charts, The Buckinghams still rule the US with “Kind of a Drag,” which is kind of a drag (pardon me for going for the easy jab). The Monkees are on top in the UK with “I’m a Believer.”
  • On Saturday, February 25, 1967, the Pontiac Firebird is first introduced to the public at the Chicago Auto Show.
  • By this point in the series, we’re getting the hang of creating punchy teasers. The Enterprise is en route to a planet named Eminiar VII to open diplomatic relations. The residents of Eminiar VII seem pretty xenophobic and send a message to the ship warning them to stay away at all costs. Kirk is inclined to heed the warning, what with the Prime Directive and all. Kirk has demonstrated an ability to sometimes follow the rules.
  • We have a Guest-Douche in this episode, Ambassador Robert Fox. He reminds me here of that guest-douche commissioner in “The Galileo Seven.” Like the commissioner, the ambassador is able to pull rank with Captain James T. Kirk and override his decision to stay away from Eminiar VII.
  • End of teaser.
  • It’s beginning to seem like every guest-star outranks Kirk.
  • In his Captain’s Log, Kirk says his orders are clear: Establish diplomatic relations at all costs.
  • Stay away “at all costs.” Establish diplomatic relations “at all costs.” Why is everything always at all costs? Are there no discounts in the Alpha Quadrant?
  • More than fifty years before, we find out from our Chief Exposition Officer Mr. Spock, the USS Valiant failed to return from a mission to Eminiar VII. Since little is known about the planet, Kirk is beaming down with a landing party before allowing Ambassador Fox to go down.
  • Scotty tells Kirk to have a “bonny trip.” In case you’ve forgotten that he’s Scottish.
  • Kirk, Spock, a pretty female yeoman, and two potential victims form the landing party. This time, to keep things fresh, the pretty female yeoman is Asian instead of our usual Caucasian. This may also be because Sulu is conspicuously absent from this episode and quotas had to be met.
  • The landing party is met by Mea 3, who is a pretty Caucasian female because nature abhors a vacuum. Mea has two guards with her. She reminds Kirk that he was warned to stay away for his own safety, then escorts him to see Anan 7 and members of the High Council.
  • By the way, when Kirk introduces himself to Mea, he says he represents the United Federation of Planets. We’ve heard “Federation” used previously in the episode “Arena,” but I believe this is the first time we’ve ever heard the entire name.  It will stick.
  • Anan 7 says it’s impossible to establish diplomatic relations with the Federation because Eminiar has been at war with another planet, Vendikar, for five hundred years. Casualties in the civilian population total from one to three million dead each year. As long as the Enterprise is orbiting the planet, they are in danger.
  • Spock says that he sees no evidence of war from their scans.
  • And, wouldn’t you know it, Vendikar attacks while the landing party is there in the council room. An area flares up on the map and Mea says that the city took a direct hit.
  • Kirk and Spock are confused. They don’t hear any explosions. The female yeoman takes tricorder readings. There’s no radiation.
  • Mea says the enemy are using fusion bombs. Kirk contacts Scotty, and of course Scotty detects nothing either.
  • In the computer room with Anan 7 and the rest of the council, another bomb strike is recorded. Someone says, “Just as it happened fifty years ago.” Could this be a reference to the missing USS Valiant?
  • Anan and the council members return to the council room. Kirk says, “There’s been no attack, no explosions, no radiations, no disturbances whatsoever. If this is some sort of game you’re playing—”
  • Anan assures them that this is no game. Half a million people were just killed. He then orders an immediate retaliatory strike.
  • Spock has reached the conclusion that they’re fighting their war on computers. It’s like an MMO that Eminiar VII and Vendikar have been playing for 500 years. Spock didn’t say this: That was me.  This is some sort of game they’re playing.
  • Kirk correctly points out that computers don’t kill half a million people.
  • Nonetheless, Anan says, the deaths have been registered. The casualties have twenty-four hours to report to the disintegration machines. People die, but the civilization can continue on. It was their solution to mutual assured destruction centuries ago.
  • It’s like playing a paintball match. Only, after you’re shot with a paintball, you have to immediately leave the scene and hang yourself in a closet.
  • We don’t interfere with alien cultures, right? This is their culture. Besides, we were warned to stay away. Too late now. The Enterprise was classified as destroyed by a tricobalt satellite explosion during that last attack. Everyone on board has 24 hours to report to the disintegration machines. Kirk and the landing party are being held captive to ensure compliance.
  • Before we go to our act break, another present-day comment from me, something that never would have occurred to me while I watched these episodes as a child, perhaps while eating a bowl of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal. The Eminiarians give time information in Earth terms, which makes no sense. 500 years. 24 hours. Why 24 hours, which is one rotation of the Earth on its axis? What we consider to be a day. Why would that be a reference for aliens who’ve had little or no contact with Earthlings? If you make the argument that this is the figure given to Kirk because its something he can understand, then it doesn’t explain why this is the same timeline given to other Eminiarians.
  • Sometimes it sucks to have an analytical mindset. Spock knows my pain.
  • Now, our break. Old Gold Filter cigarettes come with Gift Star Coupons that you can redeem for gifts or cash. Tareyton 100s taste better because of their charcoal filters. Pall Mall Gold 100s are the 7-minute cigarette. Newports are the first menthol cigarette to allow genuine tobacco taste to come through.
  • I started smoking when I was 12 years old. I’m not sure why, although all the people I admired on television were smokers. John Wayne, Rod Serling, Johnny Carson. I don’t smoke now, though.
  • Neither do they.
  • As we begin Act Two, I want to point out the head gear worn by the Eminiar guards. It makes them look like crayons, or maybe Magic Markers.
  • Mea defends the Eminiarian tradition. It has kept their civilization thriving, in spite of the war. It turns out that she was reported as a casualty during that last attack and has to report to the disintegration chambers. She will do so willingly, because she believes their way of warfare is better than the alternative.
  • You have to admire someone who stands up for her beliefs.
  • Then, we are on the bridge of the Enterprise with Scotty and McCoy. Kirk contacts them to tell them that the planet has agreed to the establishment of full normal diplomatic relations. Also, all personnel are ordered to come ashore for shore leave. Trained Eminians—oops, I’ve been calling them “Eminirians”—will transport up to assume support positions.
  • As you may have guessed, this is Anan 7 using a computer device to make himself sound like Kirk.
  • Scotty guessed it, too. He runs the last message through the analyzer and determines it was someone using a voice duplicator.
  • Scotty’s hair appears very greasy and flat in this scene. Maybe this was still in style, but no one else’s hair looks like this.
  • Back on the planet surface, Spock mentions that limited telepathic abilities are inherent in “Vulcanians.” This isn’t the first time “Vulcanians” is used, but it would eventually be phased out in favor of the simpler, better “Vulcans.”
  • Spock uses these rather Jedi-like powers to make one of the Crayon Heads outside open the door, where he is immediately disarmed and knocked unconscious.
  • Kirk’s plan is to get their communicators back and contact the ship. But, first, they must get more weapons.
  • Down a corridor, they come across people willingly killing themselves in a disintegration booth. Kirk stops Mea from doing the same. Spock uses the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on another Magic Marker Head, and now they have two weapons.
  • They destroy this particular disintegration booth. There are others, I’m sure.
  • Anan 7, informed of the landing party’s escape, orders planetary disruptor banks to open fire on the orbiting starship. End of Act Two.
  • The Enterprise‘s shields are enough to keep the planetary weapons from damaging the ship. Thanks to Scotty’s quick thinking and suspicious nature, they were able to anticipate the attack.
  • Scotty entertains the thought of sending down a few dozen photon torpedoes, but Ambassador Fox vetoes that plan.
  • Kirk and the landing party return to the room they broke out of earlier. Kirk explains to the lone female yeoman (quickly becoming a staple on these away missions) that this is the last place they’ll search for them.
  • Mea is with them, and she says they have to let her leave, because her time is almost up. These people are like lemmings.
  • Spock announces that they’ve captured four Eminiar disruptors, two complete outfits of male clothing, and, perhaps most important of all, one of their communication devices.
  • Spock says the communicator’s range isn’t enough to reach the ship yet. He’s going to try to alter its components, but that will take time.
  • Kirk presses Mea for the complete layout of the building. He wants to know how to get to the War Room.
  • Ambassador Fox, the big dummy, talks to Anan 7 and allows himself to be talked into beaming down. He’s convinced that Anan wants to open diplomatic relations with the Federation, even though they were warned away from the planet and the Eminians just tried a surprise attack on the Enterprise. Ambassador Fox is a fool.
  • Ambassador Fox orders Scotty to lower the ship’s defensive screens as a sign of good faith. Scotty refuses to do so, and the ambassador tells him he can have him sent to a penal colony for refusing to follow his commands. Scotty stands his ground. He’s no fool. And he’s a brave man.
  • Kirk enters Anan’s room and allows himself to be talked into joining him in a drink of trova. As he’s pouring his drink, Anan 7 presses concealed buttons.
  • Kirk gets Anan 7 to admit that their communicators are in the War Room. Kirk pushes Anan into the War Room ahead of him, suspecting a trap. He pushes Anan into the first guard waiting for them in the War Room, then tackles the second, but the two eventually overpower him.
  • Anan asks if Kirk’s still alive. When he finds out he is, he says it’s a pity, because such a man would have preferred to die fighting. He orders the guards to take Kirk to the Council Room. End of Act Three.
  • Act Four begins with the dunderheaded Ambassador Fox beaming down to Eminiar 7 and immediately being told by Anan 7 that he and his party have been declared war casualties. They will be taken to one of their casualty stations so that their deaths may be recorded.
  • Yes, Ambassador. You are about to be disintegrated. How’s that for diplomacy?
  • Spock manages to rig the Eminiar communicator to speak to Scotty on the bridge. He finds out that Ambassador Fox has beamed down. He orders Scotty to take the ship out to maximum phaser range and stand by for further orders. Spock plans to find the Ambassador and Captain Kirk, who is now overdue to return.
  • With two of the landing party posing as Eminian guards, with their Reservoir Tip Heads, Spock rescues the ambassador and destroys another disintegration station.
  • In the Council Room, Kirk learns that the Eminians aren’t disintegrating people quickly enough, which is threatening to put them in violation of a treaty that has lasted for five centuries. Kirk says he doesn’t care about that. He says that Anan 7 was right in calling him a barbarian, and he intends to prove it to him. When Anan opens a channel to the Enterprise, Kirk tells Scotty to enact General Order 24 in two hours.
  • Fifteen minutes later, Scotty gets on the communicator and says that all the cities and installations on Eminiar 7 have been located, identified, and fed into their fire-control system. In one hour and forty five minutes the entire inhabited surface of the planet will be destroyed.
  • While Anan is all in a tizzy about what to do, Kirk knocks down a guard and gets his weapon. While Kirk is holding everyone off, Spock and Ambassador Fox enter the room. Of course Kirk didn’t need rescuing.
  • Kirk and his team destroy the critical computer, ending the MMO game that has been raging for five centuries.
  • Kirk has given the horrors of war back to the Eminians and the Vendikarians. They will now have to wage real war, with real weapons and death and destruction.
  • Unless they can make peace, of course.
  • Which is where that great numbskull Ambassador Fox comes in, offering to help the two planets broker peace.
  • Considering Fox’s track record, both planets probably obliterated each other a couple of week’s later. But, Kirk and his team no longer care, so neither do we.
  • During our conversational outro on the bridge, we find out that Kirk didn’t believe he was taking that big a chance in destroying the computers. They had been willingly killing three million people a year based on video game scores. An actual attack probably wouldn’t have killed any more people, but it could have ended their ability to keep on fighting.
  • Kirk said he had a feeling that the Eminians would do anything to avoid a messy war, even talk peace.
  • A feeling is not much to go on,” says Spock
  • Sometimes a feeling, Mister Spock, is all we humans have to go on.” That’s quotable Trek for you.
  • Captain, you almost make me believe in luck.”
  • Why, Mister Spock, you almost make me believe in miracles.”
  • Two lines of dialogue that were completely unnecessary. End of episode.

I have always liked “A Taste of Armageddon.” But, for me, it’s always been more about the idea than the execution. The idea of a war being fought solely on computers is an interesting one, and way ahead of its time in 1967. Voluntary suicide was a nice touch.

The conclusion of this episode brought its rating down just a little for me. It didn’t make the All-Time Best Trek list. Why couldn’t the Eminians just build more computers? Did they lose the ability to construct computers over the last 500 years? They must know something in order to keep them functioning for all of those years. Plus, Ambassador Fox has never demonstrated that he was anything other than a pompous jackass. He seems like an unlikely candidate to broker peace.

In spite of these issues, this is still a classic Trek episode. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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