“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is famously one of the most anvilicious episodes of Star Trek ever made. It starts with the Enterprise en route to decontaminate a plague planet, when they intercept a shuttlecraft stolen from Starbase 4, just before its life support fails. The occupant is a strikingly pigmented alien, white down one side of his body and black on the other side, split right down the middle of his face. Spock declares it a “one of a kind” anomaly.
The alien, Lokai, mends in sickbay when a mysterious ship approaches. Sulu helpfully announces there’s “a space vehicle ahead”, just so there’s no confusion that it might be a Spanish galleon or something. The vehicle mysteriously doesn’t appear on the viewscreen, despite sensor readings showing it there, then it suddenly vanishes amidst intercut shots of red alert lights dramatically zooming in and out, depositing on the bridge the alien Bele, who is pigmented asymmetrically like Lokai. Bele says he is a justice officer pursuing the criminal Lokai for the past 50,000 years across the Galaxy from their homeworld of Cheron. Bele and Lokai engage in a war of words. Lokai says he was persecuted and claims political asylum with the Federation, while Bele demands custody of him. Kirk keeps them apart and declares Lokai must first face trial for the theft of the shuttlecraft, but neglects to place any guards on the two aliens obviously bent on killing one another.
Bele uses his psychic powers to take control of the Enterprise and head for Cheron. Kirk foils it with a threat to self-destruct the ship, forcing Bele to allow him to save the plague planet first. Bele then regains control, having deactivated the self-destruct mechanism first, and the ship flies to Cheron. Bele and Lokai fight, and Bele calls Lokai and “his people” all sorts of thinly veiled racist epithets, and Kirk expresses his amazement that they could be so at odds, when clearly they are alike. Bele drops the hammer that no, he is black on the right side, while Lokai and “his kind” are black on the left side. Kirk sees the racial hatred for what it is now. They arrive at Cheron and discover the entire population annihilated by war and hatred. Kirk calls on Lokai and Bele to forget their enmity and live in the Federation in peace, but they escape and beam down separately, to continue their fight alone. Kirk delivers the obvious moral.
It’s actually not a bad story, once you get over the sheer heavy-handedness of the anti-racist moralising. And the improbability of the colour scheme. And the unimportant padding provided by the plague world. Hmm. Well it is still interesting and engaging to watch, unlike some episodes. And although the moral couldn’t be more heavy-handed, the ending does leave the right sense of “what a terrible waste“. (The population of Cheron, that is, not the episode.) So yeah, actually not as bad as it could have been.
Tropes: Anvilicious, The Plague, Amazing Technicolour Population, Red Alert, Really 700 Years Old, Self Destruct Mechanism, Two Keyed Lock, Cardboard Prison, Wham Line, Fantastic Racism, Hell Is War, An Aesop, Padding, Values Resonance, Silly Reason For War.
Body Count: Entire population of Cheron (off-screen, before episode).