Written by Robert Hammer, Gene L. Coon, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Something I remember hearing quite a bit about during the Cold War when I was younger were bombs that would kill the citizenry but leave cities intact. It was a concept that always seemed quite odd, must have made sense to those who came up with the idea.
Gene Roddenberry from time to time took on some of these ideas from our government and society and put a spin on it that really helped clarify just how absurd the concept was.
The Enterprise is trying to establish diplomatic relations in an unsettled region of space. They receive a code to stay away from a planet, but the diplomat on board, Ambassador Robert Fox (portrayed by Gene Lyons) overrides that and orders Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to approach the planet, Eminiar VII.
Kirk beams down along with Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and other members of the security detail. They are told the story of a war between Eminiar VII and Vendikar, another planet in the system, which has been going on for 500 years. When an apparent attack occurs, Kirk and the others are mystified. Despite the readings of the instruments on the planet, their own detect no explosions or residual radiation.
As it turns out, the war that is being fought is computer simulated. The computers decide what will happen in each attack. If someone is designated as having died, they must report for disintegration. This preserves the infrastructure of the planet as well as the culture to a degree. In this most recent attack, it was designated that the Enterprise was destroyed.
Anan 7 (portrayed by David Opatoshu), the head of the council on Eminiar VII, expects the crew of the ship to beam down for disintegration. When they don’t acquiesce immediately, he tries to deceive the crew into coming down to the surface. Only the Ambassador beams down, and is immediately captured.
On the negative side, the character of Ambassador Robert Fox comes off as such a buffoon, it’s hard to believe he would be chosen for the job of First Contact with Alien Species. This happens a number of times subsequent to this point in the series, and again in the movies, where Captain Kirk is shown to be smarter and have better instincts than those who are above him in the current Earth government, the Federation, or Starfleet. The problem seems to be that Shatner actually believed that he was somehow superior as well and it all went to his head. However, it’s poor writing in general to have this happen again and again and really raises questions about the judgment of those who are arguable the most powerful in the galaxy.
Sad to say that the idiotic concept of leaving the infrastructure intact while killing the citizenry wasn’t the bad idea of the Star Trek writers but was an actual idea bantered around for a bit during the Cold War. People might think the take on this, drafted by writers Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon, is a bit “out there” but I feel it points out how ridiculous of an idea it really is.
The citizens of Eminiar VII obediently do whatever their computer tells them to. This might seem a bit too sheep-like, but with the way this country has been played to a large extent over the past four years that if you didn’t blindly support the President and all of his policies you were somehow unpatriotic makes it easier to digest. Give people their creature comforts, bombard them with mindless entertainment and disinformation, and a trip to Disney World and they’ll follow you anywhere, even into the disintegration chamber.
The acting is pretty good. Shatner and Nimoy have become comfortable in their roles and give a steady performances that we’ve come to expect. David Opatoshu is probably the biggest surprise as he manages to convey a multi-dimensional leader in very little screen time. Wasted is Barbara Babcock in a role as a higher-up in the government who comes off as more of a mindless sex-kitten as well as Lyons in the Ambassador role.
As the original series went, A Taste of Armageddon is pretty good. There have been some excellent episodes as the first season winds down and the series has settled down in terms of form and language. There are still a few instances of inconsistency, such as Spock again using the term “screens” instead of “shields” but that has more to do with the fact that there was no “Bible” for the series which would become a more common practice later on in developing a series. Overall, this is an excellent episode that goes a long way to solidifying the series legacy.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Space Seed
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – This Side of Paradise