TOS: S1E26: “Errand of Mercy”

In which we meet the gold lamé-wearing Klingons, tensions mount and threaten to turn a cold war hot, and energy beings are always incomperably terrible at maximizing their own utility function.

It’s kind of remarkable how military 23rd century Star Trek still is. Coded messages that are not to be scanned until the designated coordinates are reached – the message held by one senior officer and the codebox by another. This is also where we meed the Klingons, who are suspected to be about to attack an M-class humanoid planet. They open fire out of nowhere and disappear in a cloud of debris just as I tried to go and take a screenshot. Sorry. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Still, if they’re that easy to take out, the upcoming war with the Klingons should be no trouble, right? Right?

Kirk appears to be basically training Sulu up to be his replacement. He leaves Sulu in command in tense tactical situations, making sure he understands the full strategic situation and empowering him to abandon the away team (Kirk

Space-Colonial Williamsburg

Space-Colonial Williamsburg

and Spock) in favor of the fleet. No wonder Sulu gets the Excelsior by the time the TOS movies are over.

Kirk is making his case to bring Organia under the Federation by spouting propaganda about the Klingons. The Organians are unconcerned, and I’m aware of why. Kirk, to his credit, notices that the Organians seem more concerned for his safety than their own and has the brains to ask, but all he gets are evasions. If they were hiding planetary defense cannons (which they aren’t) or some other ace in the hole, would it really be revealing too much to say “We can take care of ourselves, despite what you think, and we just want to be left alone,” instead of “It’s our way of life”? Either way they’re going to pique the curiosity of any species that makes a habit of going to space, so why try to evade? Literally the one constant in your interstellar diplomacy is that you will be talking to people who were curious enough about how everything works that they leashed the very forces of gravitation and space-time and use it to go new places and see new things and, in the case of some of the more militaristic species out there, conquer. There is zero chance that hand-waving and vague plaititudes is going to get anyone to go away. Particularly not once Spock comes back with his readings that there has been no technological development on this planet for tens of thousands of years, and yet they don’t seem rattled to find themselves the epicenter of an interstellar war. Pro tip: If you want a space-faring species to leave you alone, don’t be an enigma.

Also the Organians seem able to sense ship movements in orbit and transporter beams despite the wheelbarrow being the height of their cargo transportation. It’s almost as if they’re some sort of heightened psychic or

None of that is important, though, because DERPY KLINGONS ARE ON THE MOVE.

None of that is important, though, because DERPY KLINGONS ARE ON THE MOVE.

god-like being, but we’ve already had so many  of those, surely we’ve run out of angles on this theme by now?

Derpy Klingons. The commander of the Klingons busts into the council chamber and asks Kirk if he has a tongue. It’s almost worth noting that Kirk is disguised as an Organian and trying to pass as one of the simpering locals, but it’s better without the context. Kor (the Klingon commander) may be part of the derpy Klingon-augment strain, but he’s clearly no slouch. It’s hard to tell whether he’s sussed Kirk and is deliberately baiting him, or just appreciates belligerence when he sees it.

Of note: Spock appears to be able to deceive mind-scanning technology. Also, the Klingons have mind-scanning technologies. Machine telepathy seems to exist in the Star Trek universe, and there’s some speculation as to how much of that is in use by, say, the Universal Translator.

I’m not sure how Kirk and Spock riling up the Klingons and attempting to provoke them into mass executions of the locals is supposed to help. Kor appreciates the honesty of a rebel, and they establish the whole ‘my beloved enemy’ thing going on. And Kor is giving Kirk a pretty effective Hannibal lecture – trying to convince Kirk that the fact they both think the Organians are weak and pathetic, dismissing the ‘minor ideological differences’ between military dictatorship and representative democracy as inconsequential in the face of being a member of a dynamic, spacefaring culture. It’s like if Stalin and FDR had sat down for scotch to commiserate about how pathetic the Swiss are for staying neutral.

One of the Organians strolls into the dungeon, grabs Kirk and Spock, and walks out. Kor, finding out about this, decides to execute hundreds of Organians every hour. And  yet, these same fearsome Klingons can be compelled to give up their plans when Kirk garrotes one into unconsciousness. That is not an underling who’s going to make it very far in life. In the showdown in Kor’s office, everything is escalating and is inevitably leading to war, so the Organians heat everything that can be used as a weapon to oven temperatures and shut down all the fleet weapons.

The last ten minutes of this episode are indescribable. Kirk is so angry about the Organians taking away his choice for war that the cognitive dissonance leads him to defending his right to send millions of humans off to kill millions of klingons and die in turn. The Organians seem to want to just be left to their own devices and not have murder out there in the galaxy. Given the existence of the Borg and the Dominion War, it seems reasonable to assume that the Organians got fed up with life on the physical plane and went off to some mode of existence in a completely different mode where galactic strife wouldn’t intrude on them – otherwise, why wouldn’t the Federation send a ship to Organia at the start of the Dominion war and ask for help in settling a treaty? Unless they left, conflict should be impossible anywhere at least within the Alpha quadrant.

 

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