TOS: S2E17: “A Piece of the Action”

In which the Prime Directive is there for a reason, my hatred of monoculture is well justified, and if youse mugs don’t share my blog, I’m gonna scrag ya, see?

Some episodes, I’ve never heard of. Some I know by name because they’ve survived the test of time, and some I know by name because they’re just such platonic examples of something that should never have made it out of the ’60s. And I honestly don’t know which of the latter two this episode is going to be, but I have a sinking feeling.

The Enterprise approaches Sigma Iota II, and is opening a channel with “Boss” Oxmyx. The planet is, according to math, about 100 light years from the nearest Federation base which is “at the outer edge of the galaxy’ apparently. Oxmyx has no conception of space, and was last contacted 100 years ago, before the introduction of the Prime Directive. So the culture, having been contaminated “somehow” will need to be repaired ore re-guided, in order to repair the damage. Such damage being that they’re living in the 30s but all civilians are carrying Thompson rifles with drum magazines any everyone is a mobster.

I mean, I guess the mobster era was the most recent thing that they could romanticize in the '60s. Either that, or Paramount just had the set lying around.

I mean, I guess the mobster era was the most recent thing that they could romanticize in the ’60s. Either that, or Paramount just had the set lying around.

A world in which drive-by shootings are so commonplace that the corpses are left in the street, and city governance is a matter of protection racketeering. This is actually shaping up to be my favorite episode, actually. I mentioned in a previous post about how much I hate the monoculture trend, where Star Trek tends to take one thing and make it the species stereotype, and then never have any variation on that theme until the writers decide they need to be deconstructionist? This is like that, only extremely self-aware. The boss has a book called ‘Chicago Mobs of the Twenties’ in his office, and with the clues pieced together from earlier it’s pretty clear that the Iotians rebuilt their culture as if the book was a manual. Which means the larger historical and cultural context in which the mobs existed will be basically ignored, only barely mentioned. And everything will be exactly as terrible as you would expect from a poorly-thought-out monoculture.

With all the times a landing party gets abducted and stripped of their weapons, you’d think standard starfleet issue would include a concealed holster or a boot phaser, or any other tool that could be used in a pinch if taken hostage. That way, when Oxmyx’s men steal Kirk’s phasers and communicators, they could wait until the opportune moment, stun the thugs, and get back to the ship. Of course, then everything would be too easy, and Kirk wouldn’t have to ‘teach’ some mobsters how to to play Fizzbin.

Except on Tuesdays.

Except on Tuesdays.

Now, if they were computers he could just talk them to death. Instead he has to distract, confuse, and punch a bunch of people. This episode has some of the best facial expressions and must be watched just for that fact alone. McCoy has the temerity to ask Spock how well he knows primitive radio equipment. Given that the last time Spock was in a pre-warp society he built a tricorder out of a vacuum cleaner and a television while McCoy was insane.

This episode also marks one of the few times Kirk doesn’t try hitting on a woman in order to get himself out of a jam. All the mob bosses have desk candy because that’s how things worked, and Kirk hasn’t bothered to make eyes at any of them. Instead, he’s macgyvering a tripwire and pulling the old ‘unspecified prohblem with a prisoner, beat up the guards as they come in’ routine.

It's hard to tell who's having more fun, Kirk or Shatner.

It’s hard to tell who’s having more fun, Kirk or Shatner.

A few scenes full of Kirk shouting insane jargon and trying to drive a car and doing so very, very poorly later, and Kirk and Spock are ‘ready’ to abduct one of the two mob bosses involved in the plot. And the episode gets its title from a bargain made with with a little kid, which later inspires Kirk to do his bluff thing where he talks in code in front of the enemy and finds the third option in whatever unwinnable scenario is in front of him and kidnaps one of the bosses. Make that all of the other bosses.

ANd apparently the ship’s phasers come with a stun setting, and which such an overwhelming display of force, Kirk can dictate terms. It’s just a shame that McCoy left his communicator on the planet, and when the Federation comes back they’ll be gangsters with Federation-level technology. Or possibly a Federation of their own, given how plots in the ’60s work.

One thought on “TOS: S2E17: “A Piece of the Action”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S6E22: “Suspicions”

Did we miss something awesome?