Star Trek 2.17: A Piece of the Action

A Piece of the ActionA Piece of the Action” is a very memorable episode, though not for the good reasons. It stands out as one of the more bizarre episodes, with Kirk and Spock donning 1920s gangster suits, for the very simple reason that they visit a planet whose entire society is based on 1920s Chicago.

The planet Sigma Iotia II had been visited by the Federation ship Horizon 100 years before the Enterprise arrives. The native society was noted as early industrial, and “highly imitative”. The Horizon never made it back home, and its sublight radio messages meant nobody else heard about Sigma Iotia II until recently. As Kirk, Spock, and McCoy quickly discover when they beam down – directly into the middle of a busy street – is that the planet looks exactly like 1920s Earth. Couldn’t they get some better landing coordinates? I suppose not, given their radio contact told them to meet his men near a “yellow fireplug”. The greeting party brandishes Tommy guns and escorts the trio to the hangout of Bela Okmyx, a “boss” of part of the city.

Okmyx is aware enough that the Federation has high technology, and wants to bargain for advanced weapons to enable him to take out the other bosses and rule unchallenged. This takes place over a game of pool, in which Okmyx hits balls other than the cue ball with his cue for no apparent reason. We learn here why the culture is so bizarrely like 1920s Chicago, as Okmyx reveals a book left by the Horizon: “Chicago Mobs of the Twenties”. Spock deduces that they have adapted their entire culture to imitate the information in the book.

Kirk refuses Okmyx’s deal and there ensues some back and forth shenanigans with various Enterprise crew being locked up, kidnapped by rival boss Krako, escaping, dressing up as gangsters, and so forth. In the one truly memorable scene of the episode, Kirk bluffs his way out of captivity by teaching his captors a “man’s game” – the card game Fizzbin, which he invents on the spot, with wacky rules that mystify the gangsters until he and Spock launch a surprise attack and knock them out. In another entrapped situation, Kirk pulls a MacGyver to rig up a booby trap when captors enter his cell. This is not a particularly serious episode, and Kirk soon starts hamming it up, falling into a ridiculous Chicago gangster accent, and playing off the even more sesquipedalianly loquacious than normal Spock (who Kirk calls “Spocko” at one point). There’s even a bad driving gag, with Kirk taking off in reverse when attempting to drive a car, and Spock saying things like, “I think that lever is called a ‘clutch’.”

Eventually things get sorted when Kirk muscles all the bosses into one room and demonstrates the Federation’s power by having the Enterprise stun everyone on the streets in a one block area. Suitably impressed, the bosses agree to Kirk’s plan to unify and begin economic development rather than keep infighting. He takes a 40% “piece of the action” skimmed off the top for the Federation, which he later explains to Spock and McCoy will go into a Federation fund to help the natives develop a more ethical society of their own.

It’s memorable for the Chicago gangsters, so out of place in a science fiction setting, and Fizzbin. But this episode is so tongue-in-cheek that it’s hard to take it seriously, and the story is pretty lame and full of padding. Below par, but amusing enough to not be a complete disaster.

Tropes: Going Native, Planet of Hats, Mundanization, The Don, Mob War, Gray’s Sports Almanac, Calvinball, McGyvering, Cement Shoes, Dartboard Of Hate, Dramatic Gun Cock, Large Ham, Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, Driving Stick, Gunboat Diplomacy.
Body count: 1 native gunned down in a gang hit.

2 Responses to “Star Trek 2.17: A Piece of the Action”

  1. Monica says:

    Maybe it’s because I grew up in Chicago, but I’ve always liked this episode. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but often with the original Trek, that’s part of the charm. Plus I think “Spocko” looks hilarious in the gangster suit.

  2. Peter says:

    Like you said, i found this episode memorable both for the Chicago Gangsters and the Fizzbin which i still find amusing and like Monica said, i think that what makes the Original Series good (well good to watch if not always a good episode) is because of that ridiculousness being a part of its charm.

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