TOS: S1E21: “The Return of the Archons”

In which Sulu wears a hat, cults are roundly denounced, and Kirk shouts a surprisingly sophisticated thesis on the difference between what a society thinks it wants and what’s actually good for it.

I wonder what else Paramount was filming that they told the writers "we have a lot of colonial dress to use up. Roll with it."

I wonder what else Paramount was filming that they told the writers “we have a lot of colonial dress to use up. Roll with it.”

Oh, no. Oh no no no. Guys running down brick building streets with three corner hats and riding boots. Maybe this will be the episode that introduces the Prime Directive? Miri kind of got a pass because of the whole ‘not letting children starve to death’ thing, but if they’re going to make Sulu wear a ruff and a tricorne there better be something out of it besides George Takei walking onto the set like that on a whim. Just kidding, George, you are the best. Looks like the landing party is being pursuied by sinister dudes in hooded robes and magic wands that do some sort of mindwipe. They get Sulu just before he beams up.

The Enterprise is searching for the remains of a starship that vanished a hundred years ago, the Archon. Given that there’s a threat which appears to brainwash people with barely a tap, of course it makes sense for the entire senior staff to beam down. Begin the grand tradition of Spock wearing ridiculous things to cover his ears.

Apparently at 6:00 PM – “the Red Hour,” everyone goes insane and starts a mad fracas – one might even say a brouhaha. Some chick jumps Kirk. It’s a Thing that Happens. It’s mandated that this happens, by the will of Landru. The older gentlemen are very upset that the staff are not wildly humping everything that moves and breaking everything that doesn’t. And occasionally crossing those categories. As soon as 6:00 AM arrives, everyone goes back to behaving like mindless zombies except when they’re traumatized by the ‘festival.’

The guys in hoods are giving of a Borg-y vibe. “The Good Is All. You Will Be Absorbed.” There’s the whole ‘talking in capitals’ thing going on, which is never a good sign, and it certainly feels like the people are basically network nodes in a big impersonal machine or telepathic hive mind. I’ll go with machine because I’d expect an instance of organic telepathy to be less… mechanical.

Prior to the time of Landru, the planet had autoluminescent plastics that require no apparent power source and glow indefinitely, and now they build with stone. It’s beginning to look a lot like cultural incursion… no, that doesn’t scan properly into the tune. Drat.


“Fascinating, captain. This lighting panel is so advanced it is capable of casting shadows that appear to come from somewhere else entirely.”

It appears that Landru commands “the Body” which “absorbs” those who oppose it. The crew of the Archon arrived when their ship was destroyed by energy beams from the planet. We know this because the crew of the Enterprise is currently under the same kind of attack. So perhaps not

"I wear a toga, which means I have powers that appear to be magic. Because fuck you, that's why."

“I wear a toga, which means I have powers that appear to be magic. Because fuck you, that’s why.”

cultural incursion, and more of a – yup, the presence of a bog-like being who’s going to turn out to be a total douche. Look at his douchy transparent face. Doesn’t quite track with how mechanical everyone was earlier, but there’s still half an hour to go. This is probably a red herring, but we’ll go with it for now. Landru says this is a world without all that bad stuff, conveniently ignoring the “festival” that gave a young woman PTSD. Forget the Borg, this is giving off a vibe like the Architect in one of the two Matrix movies that never happened. Something about pent-up resistance needing to break free every so often to maintain control. Landru knocks out the shore party with an energy beam and they wake up in a dungeon, sans gear and sans McCoy. So they’re out some valuable gear.

Spock is agreeing with me again. I’ve rarely been prouder.

Anyway, looks like this episode is more about cults than the Prime Directive. Ah well, another day, perhaps. The robe guys take Kirk away into a room full of the kind of technology required to broadcast the kind of signals that could pull down the Enterprise. In the 60s, the future was going to be full of smooth walls painted in relatively bold pastels. Kirk gets brainwashed, but we can suspect that since the series continues after this Spock will not oh no wait, the guy who did Kirk was a member of the Resistance. Cool, we didn’t have to resort to the whole ‘alien biology’ excuse. So whatever is controlling the citizenry doesn’t have feedback capability from its nodes. McCoy is still brainwashed and almost gets suspicious, but fortunately he’s kind of dumb even (especially?) when brainwashed so he’s not difficult to fool.

Prime Directive talk at last. Spock refers to the prime directive of noninterference, to which Kirk replies that this only applies to living, growing cultures. He has a point. The Prime Directive  will be expanded on over the course of the series, and we’ll see under just what conditions it applies or does not apply, but for now it appears that one of the core purposes does not apply when a society appears incapable of progress.

I’m not entirely clear on how ‘heat beams’ could be bringing down the Enterprise and making its orbit decay. That may just be my cross to bear,




Anyway. Holographic projection, phasers, computer. Landru is a computer that’s ordering society according to its conception of what’s good for the populace. So it’s time for Kirk to lay some human-style learning on this alien AI.

Core Message Railing Against AI-Run Societies count: 2

Kirk Talks An AI To Death count: 1

Kirk Justifies Utter Disregard For The Prime Directive count: 1

Did we miss something awesome?