Season Two - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – The Omega Glory – What The Hell?

Written by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Being a science-fiction fan requires some suspension of disbelief. I’m okay with believing that somehow technology in the future overcomes the issue of no gravity in space. I can buy that communication issues are overcome with the use of a universal translator. I can even ignore Voyager‘s never-ending-photon-torpedo-supply.

The Omega Glory has a few things that stretch the bounds of credibility. The beginning is a decent story that sets up a degree of peril among the Enterprise crew, but then the ending falters completely into the absurd.

Much like many other episodes during the second season of the original series, the crew of the Enterprise finds themselves orbiting the planet Omega IV, along with another starship, the Exeter. When there is no response to their attempts to communicate, Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), and res-shirt Lt. Galloway (David L. Ross) beam over to the ship. The entire crew has disappeared. All that is left is their uniforms and the minerals that make up their bodies.

As they search the ship, they find the ship’s surgeon’s log which tells them they are now infected as well, and their only hope is to beam down to the surface of the planet. Their beam-down interrupts a fight between the humans who reside on the planet and also gets the attention of Captain Tracey (Morgan Woodward).

Captain Tracey is the sole survivor of the Exeter’s crew. It seems they were all infected with the virus, but Tracey believes that the planet Omega IV is keeping him alive. He believes he’s found a fountain of youth there and reveals that Wu (Lloyd Kino), of his friends on the planet, is over 400 years old.

Omega IV seems to have developed into a dual society. The Kohms, whom Tracey has aligned himself with, are more civilized than the Yangs, who seem like wild marauders. Unfortunately, Tracey has contaminated society with his liberal use of phasers in defending the Kohms from the Yangs. His reasoning is he’s protecting the resources that are keeping him alive.

Tracey attempts to talk Kirk into going along with his plot to harvest the fountain of youth on the planet and make a killing. Kirk isn’t buying into it, but Tracey holds the phasers and keeps the Enterprise landing party under his thumb.

This part of the story was actually decent. Kirk is faced with a Starfleet officer who is mad to the point of being dangerous. He’s in no way honoring what Starfleet and the Federation are about, seeking to exploit what he has found with no regard for anything or anyone except his own profit. The scenes in the Exeter with the empty crew uniforms are sufficiently spooky, even all these years later.

However, it becomes absurdly horrible over the last 15 minutes of the episode.

After being imprisoned by Tracey as he coerces McCoy to develop a serum based on what he thanks are the fountain of youth properties in the atmosphere, Kirk manages to accidentally help two of the Yangs escape. They are priming for an attack, and Tracey wants Kirk to get more phasers from the Enterprise. The two scuffle and end up being taken prisoner by the Yangs, along with Spock and McCoy.

Listening to the Yangs confer about what they have to do, Kirk starts putting together that this is a society where wars were fought between the West and East were fought, similar to the Cold War of the 1960s. When the Yangs bring out an American flag, it’s just too much. They start reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Kirk finishes it.

Yes, the audience is supposed to believe that somehow, on a far-off planet, a society independently developed completely parallel to the United States on Earth, complete with an American flag, Pledge of Allegiance, and a copy of the Constitution.

This part would have made a better parallel universe story. Here it’s just so ridiculous the episode falls apart. Nothing else matters because I was too busy laughing at the absurdity of it all.

If that isn’t enough, once the audience knows this, it makes everything else even worse. The Kohms are depicted as being Asian; my guess would be modeled on the Mongolian culture. At first, that seems progressive for the 60s – all Asian actors in a more developed society in a world far away. However, it’s actually pretty racist to have them representative of the Communists who were the victor in the war that was fought on Omega IV. The fair-haired Yangs (or “Yanks”) devolved into a sort of Native-American tribe surviving as they can in the fight against the authoritarianism of the Kohms.

There’s not enough to redeem The Omega Glory from what’s bad about it. It’s over-the-top patriotism in the midst of the Cold War in the 1960s, and I’m sure the network thought it was great on some level. However, to me, this represents everything science fiction shouldn’t be.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – By Any Other Name

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Ultimate Computer

7 replies »

  1. ” made a better parallel universe”
    yeah, I’m sort of surprised they didn’t do that, instead.

    One of the first things I recall Babylon 5 fans remarking on was the obedience to the laws of physics (though I’d have preferred to see more remarks on questioning illegal orders…).

  2. I’ve never liked “The Omega Glory.”

    Gene Roddenberry loved the notion of “parallel worlds,” partly because if someone did a decent script – and “The Omega Glory” is not THAT decent – it’s a cool science-fiction trope that gets viewers to think about the themes and ideas the writers are trying to convey.

    I think, though, that much of the appeal of “parallel worlds” for Roddenberry (and other TOS producers) is purely economics. Neither the studio (Desilu/Paramount) nor the network (NBC) ever gave Star Trek the budgets necessary to create a more “realistic-looking” show, so the staff had to go with what it could acquire from the wardrobe/props departments on the Paramount lot.

    As a filmmaker (screenwriter, particularly), I’ve been involved in projects which have been hampered by low to non-existent budgets. So I can understand why Star Trek often had to resort to “parallel world” or “bottle episodes” set exclusively aboard the Enterprise.

    Still, this episode SUCKS.

    (If memory serves, “The Omega Glory” was the alternate script that Roddenberry peddled to the networks along with the original pilot episode, “The Cage.” NBC preferred the latter, but they didn’t buy the show based on that episode with Jeff Hunter. They did give Roddenberry a shot at a second pilot, which was filmed and aired as “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”)

    • I could understand a parallel universe – and that would have been a better option involving quantum physics rather than space travel. I get the whole budget thing, and that’s why the viewer can overlook and forgive so many aliens who look just like humans. There’s a point, though, where it’s just an insult to the intelligence and this one felt like it.

      Should have been an alternate universe and it would have worked better. There still would be issues, but the premise would be easier to swallow.