In which expectations are reversed, a herring is red, and Gene Roddenberry takes it too far.
The Enterprise approaches planet Omega IV, and I have no idea how these naming conventions work. Is the star called Omega? One would think that there are enough stars out there that the Enterprise would be well out of the Greek alphabet by now. However, that’s not important right now. What is important is that another Federation ship is nearby, and it looks like the whole crew has been turned to salt leaving nothing but their uniforms.
Okay, not salt. Dehydrated human. The log indicates some form of infections plague, (“Don’t go back to your ship”) and that Captain Tracy is.. doing something.
Down on the planet, we have what appears to be a rather primitive society. Kirk is greeted with a scene out of a classic men’s adventure magazine. Kirk has to stop his security guy from interfering with the natural course of the planet, or at least what they think is the natural course of cultural evolution. Unfortunately, Captain Tracy appears to be in charge and interfering with the culture. The backdrop is what appears to be a civilized villiage-building people called the Kooms against a primitive, barbarous tribe called the Yangs. In a turnabout that Star Trek helped pioneer, the future setting is used to change around the audience expectations and the white dudes are the barbarian ones. We’ll see more of this hilarity with the black and white makeup episode.
Anyway, Tracy apparently used his phaser to defend against a barbarian assault, and he’s obsessed with the planet because something on the planet destroys all disease. The natives in their early iron-age culture regularly live to well over a thousand. Fifty-fifty odds on whether this episode is better done than “Star Trek: Insurrection.”
There are hints of a prior civilization that was destroyed, one to barbarism and one to the iron age. Only as it turns out the Yangs are not entirely barbarous after all. With all the other bacteriological stuff going on, there are strong hints that the human dehydration disease was the product of some sort of world war using bio-agents. We’ve been getting a lot recently that refers to the Cold War. Maybe it’s just me, but I enjoy these a lot more than the ones where there’s just some random space monster.
McCoy finds out that there are just a whole bunch of natural countermeasures to the bio-plagues of the past, and the longevity of the inhabitants is just natural selection. This is far from the worst biology Star Trek has thrown or will throw at us, so I’m inclined to let it happen.
Oh no wait fuck this. Kirk decides that the etymological derivations of the tribal names is that the Yangs is a derivation of ‘Yankee’ and Koom is a derivation of ‘Communist.’ And there’s an american flag. Okay, no, that’s like the opposite of how everything works. This was going so well until it turned into a cold-war analogue of “Planet of the Apes.” There’s even a little Star Spangled Banner leitmotif in a minor key.
Setting how fucking ridiculous this is getting aside for a moment, we see all the trappings of American democracy into a religion with no understanding behind the meanings of the words, let alone the concepts they embody. Sounds familiar, and makes me want to go watch one of the things Aaron Sorkin wrote instead.