TOS: S2E25: “Bread and Circuses”

In which I open a bottle of Scapa 16, parallel evolution is observed, and I’m pretty sure those shields are painted hubcaps.

The crew has found the debris of the SS Beagle, and fortunately there are no bodies, so the crew made it off safely. There are enough numbers being thrown around to do some math here. It’s been drifting for 6 years and made it one sixteenth of a parsec. That means the debris is going 10,185,553.2 m / s, or about 3.3% of light speed. I mention this because, much as we all love Star Trek and Star Wars they, as well as the hosts of other science fiction shows that try to be hard sci-fi, tend to not do the homework, numbers-wise. This is an instance where the numbers work, and I feel the need to congratulate them for it. 

Anyway, the Beagle  was a non-Starfleet ship. The captain, Merrick, dropped out of the Academy and joined the merchant fleet. The planet to which the debris was tracked appears to be a television-using pre-atomic society with widespread slavery and gladiatorial games. A Roman empire that never fell. It’s a cute juxtaposition between the numbers being right and the utter silliness of precise parallel cultural evolution, including, for some reason, spoken English rather than something the universal translator turns into English. I would prefer rubber-forehead aliens.

Anglo-saxons speaking Enlgish talking about Praetoreans while holding Winchesters. Thanks, Star Trek.

Anglo-saxons speaking Enlgish talking about Praetoreans while holding Winchesters. Thanks, Star Trek.

The landing party is set upon by a bunch of people in what look like uniforms with a chain iaconography. I’m guessing a group of escaped slaves. At least they didn’t bring a redshirt to get shot just for funsies.  I’m not sure where they all got matching uniforms, but I guess they could have all been from the same cell block.

In a sop to how ridiculous “The Omega Glory” and “Bread and Circuses” actually are, Kirk throws out something about Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development. Honestly, as long as it’s there on the lampshade, I’m fine enough with it to move on, at least until we get to TNG’s “The Chase.” Then we’re gonna have words.

Also, there’s a pantheon vs. sun worship thing going on, with the outcast slaves. And Merrick, Academy dropoput, is first citizen of the Empire. Guys,

Join Starfleet. See France.

Join Starfleet. See France.

seriously. We just watched “The Omega Glory” two episodes ago. And “Patterns of Force” two episodes before that. You have to mix up your themes a bit. Now would be a perfect time for one of those ‘hey gods are just aliens with weird abilities’ episodes you crammed down our throats in the first half of season 1.

Anyway, the plot. The landing partyt gets captured and thrown in jail. Their native guide used to be a famous gladiator before he found sun worship, and gets hauled off to the arena. The crew jailbreak only to be caught by the local Secret Service, protecting Merrick.

That's a face that just screams 'megalomaniac.'

That’s a face that just screams ‘megalomaniac.’

Merrick, for his part, seems to be on the verge of trying to justify himself to Kirk. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem like he’s actually altered the culture much, if any, so far. Just put himself at the top of it somehow.  Hopefully, we’ll be treated to a dilemma in which Merrick is trying to civilize the world and Kirk will have to decide between letting him continue and hauling him back to leave the planet to its natural development.

Fun fact: 37 million people died in World War III. We know this because, behind closed doors, Spock and McCoy are in yet another pissing contest about whether the Planet of the Week is superior to Earth of the same technological era. This planet hasn’t had a war in two thousand years. Just a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

Somehow, Merrick was convinced by a vizier that he should stay on this planet and orders Kirk to do the same, rather than risk word going back to Starfleet about a little isolationist Empire. That makes so very little sense but meh whatever. McCoy and Spock are put up against two gladiators, including their native guard. Spock is doing fairly well, and the native guide and McCoy are barely moving their swords against each other. And Kirk is being called on his strength of character as a Starfleet captain. The vizier doesn’t credit Kirk with being able to sacrifice two men to save four hundred, based on his overvation of Merrick. The fact that Merrick is a dropoutis really only an advantage in that the vizier will wind up trying to call a bluff that isn’t one. Good news for the Enterprise, bad news for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

Kirk’s made a good enough showing to deserve a quick and easy execution on live television, apparently. Good thing Scotty and the Enterprise are planning a big surprise – killing all the power sources on the planet. The distraction gives Kirk just enough time to escape, get to Spock and McCoy, and give Merrick a redemptive moment, right before it’s revealed that it’s not Sun worship, it’s Son worship.

Kirk seems remarkably pleased that an upstart religion is going to sweep across the globe, resulting in fractious infighting wherever it supplants the existing Roman culture.

Did we miss something awesome?