Written by Jerome Bixby, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
The third season of the original Star Trek series was the one that was the most erratic and bipolar. There were some terrific episodes and some of the worst of the series produced this season. The reasons for this generally had to do with low budgets and the creative staff running for the exits. On the surface, Day of the Dove is not that spectacular an episode. However, couched against the growing unrest about the war in Vietnam in 1968 it becomes quite the argument against it. Star Trek was the only show that was doing this at the time, as its pacifist message went over the head of the network censors as well as some of the audience.
The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a colony that is under attack. When they arrive, there is not a trace of the colony remaining. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) leads a landing party down to the surface to investigate. While they are down on the planet, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) communicates to the Captain that a Klingon battle cruiser has just been sighted. Thinking they are responsible for the colony’s destruction, the Captain orders Mr. Spock to engage in battle. However, as the ship approaches it becomes apparent that the ship is already disabled without the Enterprise firing on it.
Commander Kang beams down to the surface with his own landing party and quickly takes Kirk and company prisoner. He threatens to torture Chekov (Walter Koenig) unless the Captain orders the Enterprise to beam them up.
Someone wants the Federation and the Klingons at war with each other. It’s this blob of light that keeps changing colors nearby while all of this is happening. The audience knows it, but the characters do not. Chekov keeps talking about the Klingons having killed his brother, yet Sulu (George Takei) says he had no brother and was an only child. This energy being seems to thrive on the animosity between the Klingons and Enterprise crew, and also influences them. Scotty (James Doohan) is sent to check the weapons and finds all of the phasers have been transformed into elaborate swords.
Slowly the Captain comes to realize they are being manipulated, and the only way to defeat the being is by ending the fighting. Much the same way he comes to the realization that the way to solve the problem in A Private Little War is to stand down he must do that here and convince the Klingons of the same.
Day of the Dove is a good anti-war episode. The message that to keep fighting is futile comes across strong. The non-corporeal light being I would say is representative of the military-industrial complex that profit when wars are being fought and will do anything to keep those profits coming.
The problem is there is overlap in the story between several different episodes we’ve already seen. Not only A Private Little War, but the idea of the non-corporeal being casting an evil influence over them is reminiscent of Wolf in the Fold. Day of the Dove does manage to draw the two of these concepts together nicely, but it’s been done and it feels a bit tired.
The Klingon makeup is terrible. I know they were going for a bit more than what was done earlier with Klingons in the series, but this is just awful. It looks like someone went entirely too heavy with the spray tan and then decided to film like they were in Mississippi and sweating all the time. With the series being remastered, it makes it all the more noticeable and distracting.
The acting here is stellar, though. Michael Ansara is Commander Kang and pretty much defines Klingons from here on out. He is a warrior through and through and more than a match for the Captain of the Enterprise. He displays the right air of confidence and swagger as a race built on conflict would show. Really, the Klingons we see in The Next Generation and beyond are built on this performance right here.
The regular cast shines too. Walter Koenig takes Chekov in a completely different direction than we usually see from him. Chekov is scary in this episode, and because he’s under the influence of an alien, this being a part of his darker side is never explored again. Sometimes that plot device is used to excuse any type of behavior, such as Spock showing emotion and never having to answer for it. Here, Chekov appears ready to rape the Kang’s wife and never suffers any fallout for it. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) also has a moment when she overreacts to frustration as does Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) when he rails against the Klingons. It’s all being driven by the alien, but they are allowed to go darker than they ever did before in the series.
Day of the Dove is a very watchable episode and a good representation of the series. There are many missteps, but it still holds up very well all these years later. I give credit to the actors for that.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Spectre of the Gun
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky
Wow, this is an excellent review, Patti, and fascinating that it sets the tone for Klingons like Warf, in TNG. Also neat to see the future Al Bester getting to practice his darker side a few decades earlier!
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He gets the practice again a couple more episodes down the line. They seemed to let him do more this season.