Star Trek 1.26: Errand of Mercy

Errand of MercyErrand of Mercy” gives us the long-awaited introduction of the Klingons to Star Trek. As such, it’s a landmark episode right away. It also shows us just how much the Klingons have evolved over the course of Star Trek’s long history, and not just the obvious forehead ridges either. These Klingons are clearly 1960s references to the Yellow Peril, complete with Asian-oid make-up and Fu Manchu moustaches, with some shades of Nazi-style militarism thrown in. Whereas Klingons later develop into a proud warrior race with a strong sense of internally consistent honour, these Klingons are conniving, deceitful, and downright despicable in their actions, although the leader Kor displays an evilly affable nature by making amusing comments and offering Kirk a drink and so on. And, these Klingons harbour cowards, as seen when one spills his guts to avoid Kirk strangling him in a late scene. No Next Generation-era Klingon would be caught dead capitulating under mere threat of death.

The episode opens with the Enterprise approaching the planet Organia – a strategically important habitable planet between the Federation and Klingon spheres of influence, and inhabited by technologically primitive natives. The Enterprise is attacked, completely by surprise, as in the first thing they know about it is when the ship suffers explosions and everyone on the crew lurches to one side. Doesn’t the ship have some sort of… sensors to detect approaching ships? They fend off the attack, destroying the attacking ship. This prompts them to talk to the Organians and to offer them protection against the Klingons.

Kirk and Spock beam down, leaving Sulu in charge. Once again this demonstrates the vital importance of placing both your commander and first officer in a position of potential danger together. The Organians have a stagnant medieval level society, with no violence whatsoever. In fact, they’re so non-violent, they refuse any help from Kirk and state that the Klingons are not a threat to them, which confuses Kirk and Spock.

The Klingons arrive, drive off the Enterprise, and duly overrun the planet, turning the Organians into slaves and forcing Kirk and Spock to disguise themselves. The leader Kor picks Kirk as his native liaison, issuing various totalitarian proclamations (clearly written in English) through him. Spock is obviously a Vulcan, so Kor subjects him to a mind probe device, but Spock’s superior mental fortitude allows him to deceive it. Kirk and Spock decide to lead a rebellion, even if the Organians are unwilling, and sneak out into a blue-filtered night to blow up a munition dump. This prompts Kor to toss them in a dungeon. Spock is still stumped by the Organians lack of regard for the situation and insistence that nobody will be hurt – you’d think that by now someone as smart as him would guess that they have a secret that means they are capable of defending themselves (and anyone else) from harm.

The Organians show up to free them from the dungeon in an unexplained manner. irk and Spock decide to go on the offensive against the Klingons again, despite Spock calculating odds of 7824.7 to 1 against their success, lamenting that it’s “difficult to be precise“. Kirk decides to risk it anyway. The Organians finally step in to prevent Kirk and Kor killing each other, and reveal they are energy beings capable of disarming everyone on the planet and in the massed warships in orbit. They enforce a peace treaty, and state: “It is true that in the future, you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together.” Chalk up another set of virtually omnipotent aliens encountered by the Enterprise crew.

This is a decent episode, slightly tarnished by the “evil oriental” portrayal of the Klingons. And of course omnipotent aliens have become clich√© in Star Trek, but at this point of the series it was still capable of being a surprise, and the situation provides enough suspense, drama, and novelty to carry the episode.

Tropes: Yellow Peril, Evilly Affable, Medieval Stasis, Perfect Pacifist People, Easily Conquered World, Mind Probe, Training The Peaceful Villagers, Hollywood Darkness, Ludicrous Precision, Never Tell Me The Odds, All Powerful Bystander, Energy Beings, Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Foreshadowing.
Body count: None!
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

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