STAR TREK:
- The Original Series (TOS)
- The Animated Series
- The Movies
- The Next Generation (TNG)
- Deep Space Nine (DS9)
- Voyager
- Enterprise

THE ORIGINAL SERIES:
- Season One
- Season Two
- Season Three
- "Season Four"

Season Two:
-30: "Catspaw"
-32: "Friday's Child"
-33: "Who Mourns for Adonais?"
-38: "The Apple"
-39: "Mirror, Mirror"
-43: "Bread and Circuses"
-45: "A Private Little War"
-46: "The Gamesters of Triskelion"
-49: "A Piece of the Action"
-52: "Patterns of Force"
-54: "The Omega Glory"
-55: "Assignment: Earth"


SCIENCE FICTION:
- Doctor Who
- Sliders
- The Matrix


- Main Index
- Site Map

The Rise of the Prime Directive

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, 20th century Indian spiritual & political leader

Season Two (1967-1968)

Season Two is the true original hey-day of the Prime Directive in Star Trek. So far, there have only been mere inklings of the Federation's greatest law in Season One, but this cornerstone of Star Trek philosophy will soon define itself and be used more in season two than anywhere else in original Star Trek.


Friday's Child

(Star Trek story #32 in production order)
written by D.C. Fontana
This slightly mad-cap action tale provides one of the earliest arenas for one of the aspects of the Prime Directive. In many ways, this story is simply a modernization of the typical western action show, with the inhabitants of the planet Capella 4 substituting for Native Americans, complete with teepee camps, tribal chiefs, and the cliché misconception of their love of the warpath. Lots.

Of course, the Starfleet and Klingon characters appear as the European settlers did, bringing their advanced technologies with them and causing considerable culture clash.

And so Roddenberry and crew proceed to go one better than the typical western show, which would be locked into repeating bad historical behaviour. Captain Kirk proudly points out one of Starfleet's greatest selling points to the Capellans: that their highest law is that the Capellan's world will remain theirs no matter what else happens. Good show. And it does seem to be merely a reaction to European vs. Native American concerns here.

The Capellans show no evidence of having discovered something like Warp Drive, and don't seem interested in space travel, or even the sky for that matter. So one wonders why Starfleet even allows itself to show up to talk to these people? They didn't know that Klingons would show up to rival them when they decided all this, so they can't blame their enemies this time.

Mind you, I think Starfleet should interact, and be themselves, so good for them.

Perhaps less admirable is the way they wield weaponry in this story. Both way back when I first saw the story and still now for different reasons, I hate to see our characters without their phasers, having to make do with bows and arrows. Firstly, phasers are simply much more exciting for special effects reasons. But more importantly, a phaser can stun an attacking native and allow him to wake up with merely a headache after the problem of the day is solved. But Kirk and co. wind up killing many natives with the bows and arrows they are forced to make, when their aim is to convince these people of their trade-worthiness instead. Poor show guys. Have your Directives nothing to say about that?

"Friday's Child" remains a fun and enjoyable show, with plenty of satisfying outdoor filming and many humorous moments. Writer D.C. Fontana gives us some of her trademark moments of cutting back to a scene to discover that a fight has somehow broken out while we weren't looking, while composer Gerald Fried comes up with the definitive musical cues for scoring such an outburst, what I call the "Loose Cannon Kirk" theme. Classic.

Grossly conspicuous by their absence are any visuals whatsoever of a Klingon spacecraft, a huge minus mark on the show in my opinion. Klingons deserve better, but have not had any spaceship models built for them yet. Sad.

But the Prime Directive has barely got warmed up yet.....


Who Mourns for Adonais?

(Star Trek story #33 in production order)
written by Gilbert Ralston
This next story makes no actual mention of the prime directive, but neatly puts the shoe on the other foot. If Starfleet and the Federation don't want to interfere or even show themselves to societies on planets that haven't yet learned to come out and mingle with the rest of the galaxy on their own initiative, this story is all about what is wrong with that relationship when aliens like Apollo came to visit us on Earth before we were ready.

Thus is laid important motivational groundwork for the creation of the Prime Directive by the writers, and a superbly thought-provoking episode is delivered here. Nice one.

The musical score is Fred Steiner's most important new contribution to Season Two's library of re-usable tracks. His Apollo motif and power themes capture majesty and inescapable struggle beautifully, and will be reused countless times afterward, while his own re-use and re-recording of his prior themes like Kirk's Command from Charlie X are welcomed and celebrated by the ear, bringing multi-season consistency to the show. Nice job.


The Apple

(Star Trek story #38 in production order)
written by Max Ehrlich
This story continues the theme set up in "Who Mourns for Adonais?" with our Starfleet characters once more confronting the relationship between primitive people and their god. And the episode features what is probably only the second mention ever of Star Trek's "non-interference directive", after "The Return of the Archons".

It is important to note that Kirk and company have orders from Starfleet to investigate this planet, due to the strange technological readings acquired by a previous passing ship. And once they investigate enough to learn something, there isn't really any way to leave this dystopia as it was without also letting the Enterprise crash on the planet.

Technically, the humanoid inhabitants aren't warping out to mingle with the rest of the galaxy, but the technology they support looks as though it's creating a major hazard to galactic navigation without proper checks and balances and enough sentient awareness to really know what it's doing.

Just as McCoy makes an excellent case for the mental/emotional/spiritual/social growth of the local population that requires them to grow out of their dystopia, an equal case can be made for Starfleet's social/spiritual growth if it could grow out of its dystopian view of applying a non-interference directive across the board. And Spock's argument that the society on Gamma Trianguli Six works, doesn't really fly. As the episode amply proves, it has no capacity for encountering any society outside itself with any grace or good will, with Vaul acting xenophobically and implementing courses of action based on fear. Good riddance. Kirk should not be asked to sacrifice his ship and crew to sustain this. Let Vaul and company learn the standards, boundaries and limitations of good galactic social behaviour, and deal with that as they see fit.

So, as prime directive development goes, here's an episode that goes far to prove why it isn't such a great idea, and all before it has even got a chance to prove itself in a proper episode. The strangeness continues....

One last word regarding the identification of the planet: It is a nice touch to see Bayer Notation being used properly instead of just hearing numbers and Greek letters thrown about carelessly as often happens in other episodes. Gamma Trianguli is a real star that you can find in your charts, making it easier to believe in a fictional sixth planet orbiting around it as the setting for this story. Nice.


Bread and Circuses

(Star Trek story #43 in production order)
written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon

At long last, the Prime Directive comes out of the back pages of shelved scripts and series bibles, and gets revealed in a full blown story to the rest of the production crew. I say to the crew, because this story was subsequently pushed back to the very end of season two for first broadcast, which allowed other Prime Directive stories to get aired first, a move repeated on recent DVD full season box sets. Bizarre.

Anyway, this first true prime directive production puts the dubious law ahead of honesty and good taste. Indeed, honesty proves it would have been a better guide for handling the story's challenges than the Prime Directive, although the attempt here has some nobility. In fact, the whole thematic point of the episode seems to be whether or not the Prime Directive is a good idea. Let's dig in and see...


The Enterprise crew get into this adventure hot on the trail of a ship that came before it - an often used sci-fi plot device for creating mystery and raising both questions and stakes early on in a narrative. In Star Trek's case, this often means our characters are boldly going where someone else has gone before, but the device still works well enough that audiences either don't notice it, or forgive it easily.

In this case, it may be interesting to note that the ship in question is a survey ship called the S.S. Beagle, commanded by a Starfleet Academy dropout who later "went into the merchant service". I bring this up in an attempt to determine exactly how far-reaching the jurisdiction of the Prime Directive is in Federation society, if indeed the Beagle is not a Starfleet vessel and does not have a Starfleet crew.

Bizarrely, only after our favourite trio of Enterprise crewmembers beam down do they brief themselves on the idea that the Prime Directive is in full effect, and proceed to list the truths that they are not to divulge to the locals. I'd prefer to merely refrain from advertising such facts without shying away from standing by the truth under direct questioning, but seeing as how Kirk and company need to find out what happened to the group of space travelers that came before, it's not really practical to avoid the subject.

It's also too late for our trio to change out of their normal uniforms and disguise themselves in local garb as they often do, but I think I like them better when they dress honestly like this. And this seems to be the first time that their law is actually called "The Prime Directive", instead of the "non-interference directive" as has happened twice previously.

Dr. McCoy's idle ramblings shortly after make the mind reel. WHY would he fantasize about claiming to be a holy figure like the arch-angel Gabriel, broadcasting loudly such a false claim to a local population? If this is the terrible, culture-corrupting lie that the Prime Directive was designed to prevent, why should such prevention require more lies that attempt to manipulate the situation in the opposite direction? Why don't they just stick with honesty and avoid both bad situations?

And needless lies come thick and fast out of the mouths of our Starfleet trio shortly after. Instead of giving their names, they answer the question of "who are you" with invented geography. Kirk later follows this by saying that his ship is out at sea. What good this does them is unclear when they later have to dig for information about the Beagle crew, and press on asking if there are any legends of people coming from the stars, and they receive as much confusion as they give, as this dovetails seamlessly into the whole sun-worshipping red herring.

Hodgkin's Law

Kirk's first Captain's Log entry for the episode, nicely delayed until it was actually needed, mentions something called "Hodgkin's Law of parallel planet development", a nice label to both give some believability to the coincidences of discovering a large number of planets resembling some point in Earth history throughout the rest of this season, and also to provide extra backbone to the whole "Prime Directive" philosophy, namely the idea that because we believe we turned out so well by not officially encountering any aliens before we were ready, these parallel planets will develop best if we ensure they never register our alien presence before they are ready. Personally, I think we Earthlings were very much affected politically and religiously by beings whose honest heritage was obscured by both their need to control, and our need to be in awe - and that the episode "Who Mourns For Adonais?" nails the issue much more effectively. Too bad McCoy didn't remember Apollo when he made his Gabriel remark earlier.

While I like Hodgkin's parallel planet theory in itself, in that it allows our Star Trek characters to interact with situations normally found in sci-fi time travel stories yet without tying up our characters' options in historical foreknowledge or re-run plot loops or any of the other common choice-draining idiocies, the Prime Directive often comes into play as well in these cases and creates almost the same thing, although typically not as badly.


It's not long before our trio from the Enterprise perform a little costume switcheroo, although any reasoning behind their new choice is muddled indeed. Why would they want to wear the grey T-shirts with the 3-chain-links symbol, which seem to denote a person of the slave class? Surely there are better choices in "20th-century Rome" that won't get them stopped at first sight so that they might investigate freely. Even if Septimus and Flavius can't provide anything else, their everyday Starfleet uniforms would arouse less disciplining from common guards and possibly attract people who know something about the crew of the Beagle.

There is a nice bit about "Roman" slavery evolving into a semi-comfortable institution... nice because our own economic development isn't actually as far from that idea as the Starfleet characters seem to believe, and it makes one wonder exactly where Roddenberry and Coon's beliefs were when they wrote this choice bit....


By far, the biggest blow against having the Prime Directive govern Kirk and company's moves during the subsequent action plot is the fact that the head of the local government, the manipulative Proconsul Claudius Maximus, is fully aware of who and what both Federation crews are, and he constantly flaunts this knowledge in full view and earshot of his numerous armed guards. It seems to me Kirk would be within his rights to use any sci-fi device at his disposal to render the lot of them unconscious while making good their escape.

While much time is well spent in the early portions of the story detailing the various facets of the Prime Directive and how it applies to this week's situation, its net effect on the story's plot structure seems to be as a thorny hindrance, stretching out the old capture and escape prisoner dynamics that have become staple padding in science fiction everywhere. Indeed, shortly after the mid-point of this adventure, it seems the writers have little territory left to explore, and little promise of delivering an action conflict that the audience hasn't already just seen. Spock and McCoy have a character interaction in their cell which could probably be dropped into any episode, and would probably best suit a story centering on Spock's character. Kirk's encounter with the slave-girl Drusilla equally seems out-of-place for such a late stage of a story that was about other things. Far too much is made about our Enterprise trio's inevitable escape back to their ship. Far more interesting, and bizarre by its absence, are any attempts to rescue any of the Beagle's alive, adapted crew or at least get their opinions on the situation. Emphasis is not where it should be, and the story does not go down as a great one amongst Star Trek fans.

Last but not least is the final twist of the tale, where it is revealed that this Roman Empire is not threatened by worship of the sun in the sky, but the Son of God, instantly drawing parallels with our own Christian religions. Perhaps this is meant to take the place of Kirk and company's heroic opportunities to "fix" this society, while proving that the Prime Directive wisely guides Federation citizens to let other civilizations realize their own ways out of their own messes. Dandy.

At least these "Romans", on their unnamed but numbered planet, are getting peace and brotherhood out of the idea. Excellent. But I distrust symbols, as they can be easily usurped for less noble ideals, and this alien version of "the Son" is too easily assumed to be an exact parallel of our own Christian beliefs by the Enterprise crew without any proper study. One obvious fact they all seem to be overlooking is that Septimus knows this "Son" to be up in the heavens, where the stars twinkle. How can we be sure this planet's religions weren't formed (or corrupted) by some other ancient astronauts from a previous galactic organization? How do we know that ancient "Prime Directives" weren't violated way back then? And if so, perhaps they parallel us too closely. I point again to the example of "Who Mourns for Adonais?" Who is to say what really is natural development for a planet's culture? Interaction with other civilizations is an important component which I believe is not best prepared for with either total isolation or "white lie" falsehoods.


Though this episode does a fairly good and important job of bringing the Prime Directive out of the closet and featuring it properly enough so that following episodes can finally use it as a background element should they so choose, "Bread and Circuses" delivers neither a great episode in itself, nor a pillar of legal wisdom other than institutionalized self-doubt for a high civilization. A good exploration of values and the human condition could well assail this law and come up with something better. Bizarrely, the Trek team attempt this next from completely the wrong angle, and bugger themselves up worse than ever before.....


A Private Little War

(Star Trek story #45 in production order)
story by Jud Crucis and Gene Roddenberry
teleplay by Gene Roddenberry

This Star Trek episode is probably celebrated far more for sneaking past the censors to have its spot-lit hour on a prime-time soapbox rather than for anything it actually said.

Wading deep into socio-political territory, it tackles a situation almost tailor-made for the precious Prime Directive - which actually never gets mentioned. The closest the episode comes to it occurs during the scene when Kirk and McCoy beam back down to the planet dressed this time in local garb, and one of them mentions that their interference/influence is "forbidden". Normally, you would think that was because of the Prime Directive, but the story goes out of its way to say, no, it's because of a report that Kirk wrote out years ago after first visiting the planet.

This makes you wonder why his earlier mission was allowed to bypass the Prime Directive and beam down and mingle so heavily with the local population in the first place! He certainly made no attempt to disguise his true nature from Tyree, who later spills the whole truth to his wife in this episode. Starfleet indeed has some very inconsistent methods of dealing with its highest law. But far worse is yet to come.....


This story is split into several very different stages, each of which requiring its own brand of criticism. The first stage has our usual Star Trek trio down on the planet surface in their regular uniforms. Perhaps the most interesting point in this section is Dr. McCoy's greed as he sizes up the biological natural resources that this land has to offer. Perhaps this is the clue to what Starfleet really wants during the episode, rather than winning any philosophical debates or trying to better themselves.

Another stage of the story is triggered by the presence of rifles and yet another Klingon ship that the viewer is cheaply denied any visuals of. Kirk and McCoy make it their mission to discover if Klingon influence is responsible for the presence of the rifles on the planet surface. I think the pair have a legitimate reason to disguise themselves as natives this time, not because of anything the Prime Directive has to say about revealing themselves to developing cultures, but more because it's too early to tip their hand to any Klingons or Klingon sympathisers on the planet like Apella and his group.

While the episode proceeds through this section, it is largely okay as far as Starfleet values are concerned, although far from being great drama or great value for screen time. Tyree's wife Nona is easily dislikeable, a very obvious manipulator accustomed to getting her way with weak-minded men. She seems to be doing double purpose in the story, perhaps partly as one of Roddenberry's less-than-brilliant fantasies, and perhaps partly as the kind of passionate, corrupting influence amongst technologically reaching cultures that easily demonstrates why it is a mistake to give them weapons that they are not yet wise enough to handle. The bit about a person not being able to refuse her anything after the root ritual also feeds clumsily into both of these roles. Without any kind of bio-chemical backup, as it appears when it is first said, it seems like a ridiculous part of local culture that the Starfleet people should not even slightly feel bound by. Starfleet can give its thanks in ways that it finds normal instead.


Two-thirds of the way through the story, Kirk and McCoy collect and record all the evidence they require, and have an interesting little scuffle with a Klingon and his cohorts to boot. Great stuff. The following scene has them discussing their options and philosophies in a cave, which becomes the most major turning point for the episode's fortunes. First to the debate.

Of the two of them, Dr. McCoy easily has the most sympathetic viewpoint, and his criticisms of Kirk's viewpoint are sharp and hit home. Kirk's only leverage in the debate is the challenge he throws out for McCoy to come up with a better solution. McCoy may not be up to it, since he's a doctor, not a sociologist, but a good brainstorming session for that better solution is long overdue.

Two ideas are key here. One is to stop treating Tyree's group any different to the group that the Klingons are influencing. They used to trade with each other; they should do so again. Nurture that peaceful, progressive side of BOTH parties. Yes, that means you've got as much work to do with Apella's rifle-toting Klingon sympathizers as with Tyree's group or any other. And note how quickly and easily Kirk comes up with this idea when faced with a similar problem later on in "Patterns of Force" (production #52).

The other key idea is this: If you've got a problem with the Klingons, take it right to the Klingons. Don't drag the ignorant locals into it with you, or worse let them ineffectively do all the fighting for you.

Which brings me to the point in the story structure where philosophical failure is chosen, after the evidence collecting mission is achieved, and McCoy and Kirk have their debate. The episode really goes into the toilet after this point, and never recovers. Natural story structure, as it has evolved through human myths and legends over thousands of years, prompts one to feel what our heroes should tackle next. Transmit your evidence back to Starfleet, then get your proper uniforms back on, and come out of the closet. Have a proper confrontation with that lone Klingon in the other village, and don't be afraid to bring out your phaser and a contingent of security men, in the red shirts and all. Let the Enterprise confront the Klingon ship as well, and put a model of their ship on screen for the viewer already. Shut down the rifle-making operations on the planet, and confiscate or destroy as many rifles as you can see.

But more important than any of that, is to be able to confront any desire the locals may have developed for rifles in the first place, for if the knowledge of how to make them has been passed down from the Klingons, the genie may be out of the bottle irreversibly. The real challenge is to reignite the locals' sense of pride in their own culture, and emphasize all those wonderful things that Kirk and Starfleet admired in them in the first place: their sense of peace, their fairness in trade, their ability to handle the technology of bow and arrow in harmony with each other. I can picture a very satisfying scene of Kirk in proper uniform, speaking to all the locals including both Tyree's group and Apella's, mocking the arguments of the Klingon and his offers of quick and easy profit. Let all the locals reject him and the seeds of distrust and laziness and greed he tried to sow between them. There would have been the ideal ending for the episode. And as Star Trek fans are proud of saying, this show is supposed to be about ideals.

What the episode actually delivers after its major turning point is an unending succession of drab, pointless, disgusting conflicts that simply pile more and more rubbish onto the heap. The character parallels are close enough to then-current events to make even this work as a kind of negative warning - IF only our regular characters had framed it that way. But this is all Kirk's choice, and he sticks by it until the episode ends, after which none of this foolishness is ever brought up again in further Star Trek episodes. It's enough to make me want to nominate this as the worst original Star Trek episode ever.

If we are to take a warning out of it in spite of the framing, it is probably good to note that Tyree is indeed a weak character all the way through, with a developing case of passive-aggressive syndrome. He never really does demonstrate any of the high values that Kirk reportedly admires in him. Kirk (and possibly the writers as well) may be making the mistake of equating peace with passivity. Tyree never shows any great leadership or ability to resolve conflict. Instead, he is shown to be easily manipulated, most often by his wife. He balks from conflict, unsure of himself, and runs away. This is no noble restraint. When too much of this negative pressure has built up inside him, he snaps and lashes out, as in the end. True peace requires conflict-resolution, which stems from proactivity. Passivity, on the other hand, usually leaves conflict to fester under the surface until it can't be held in anymore. Tyree has gained no inner strength at the conclusion of this episode; he has merely allowed himself to be manipulated once again, this time by Kirk and circumstance, and he may have become more deeply locked into this condition by now.

Nona also demonstrates her weakness loud and clear, seeking power over others through others, but having no clue how to directly show her own strengths. Even with Kirk's phaser clutched securely in her hands, she fails to even ATTEMPT to fire off a single shot when a long and drawn out attack from a group of Apella's riflemen ensues, preferring instead to beg her attackers to let her make a bargain with their leader for its power. She at least needs to demonstrate the phaser for them, for goodness sake. These guys have never seen such a thing before. The idiotic writing here makes the mind reel.

And sadly, nowhere on this planet have we seen any locals any further up the scale of wisdom.

It all makes one wonder what the real point of this adventure was supposed to be? If it is merely thin justification for America's involvement in Vietnam, I don't think it really came close to achieving it. Perhaps it is a criticism, but hardly an effective one without more strongly deterring Kirk's fans from following in his footsteps and/or supporting similar ideas. Gene Roddenberry's misplaced notion that high values are inextricably linked to the American Flag and its foreign policies may be partly in evidence here. The episode really is nothing but a mess in the end, unworthy of its hour on the prime-time soapbox.


And so, in one situation where the Prime Directive actually would have been a vast improvement over what happens, it gets ignored, although a loud smattering of honesty and conflict resolving ability still would have trumped all. Starfleet values are still sadly leaving much to be desired....



The Gamesters of Triskelion

(Star Trek story #46 in production order)
written by Margaret Armen
This is a real turkey of an episode, primarily due to the plainness of the cliché capture and escape routine that is unimaginatively stretched out to be the entire plot of the story. It could be told in 15 minutes, but we're left watching a lot of padding that inflates it out to 50. The technological dominance that the Enterprise and her crew suffer under seems completely unbelievable and poorly worked out, existing only to maintain a silly plot. Ho hum. I am pleased to see that there is a minor Andorian character in the final portions, as they seem to feature all too sparsely in original Trek.

This episode is only included here due to one off-hand remark that Kirk makes to the brains near the end. When he challenges them to train the Thralls into becoming a self-sufficient society, he taunts them by saying that his own people do that with other cultures all the time.....

Huh? And here I thought they forbade themselves from doing that with their greatest law, the Prime Directive? Something doesn't quite add up here. Perhaps Kirk was just making things up to get the brains to take his bet.

Oh well, it's not as if this is a shining example of Star Trek that fans will study often. After "A Private Little War", this is probably the second worst episode of season two, and worse than anything from the first season.


A Piece of the Action

(Star Trek story #49 in production order)
story by David P. Harmon
teleplay by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon

Sigma Iotia Two - an interesting name for a planet, because it isn't quite the corruption of Bayer Star Notation it at first appears to be. Though it sounds like two Greek letters pulled from the air at random combined with a number, the second is NOT the letter iota. It sits in the correct position for the genitive form of the name of a constellation. While "Iotia" does not correspond to any of the known 89 constellations popular in Earth astronomy, it is reasonable that Starfleet travels to stars better identified by the astronomy of other civilizations. Perhaps "Iotia" refers to a constellation best identified and viewed from within the Vulcan star system.

At any rate, the inhabitants of this week's new civilization become known as Iotians. Perhaps it's a bit too ostentatious to name them after an entire constellation, but then precedent has already been set with the Orions....


Essentially, yet another Prime Directive driven story is told while only referring to it as a "non-interference" directive. Refreshingly, a previous ship interacted on Sigma Iotia Two before the law came into being, and so the Federation is already involved, and simply needs to put its best foot forward. Nice.

Another nice touch is the idea of the Iotians being imitators who have information on our own past - much more believable than Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development, and working much better than any time travel conundrums.

And to Kirk's credit, he and his crew proceed with openness and honesty throughout their first contacts with the inhabitants. Things don't go quite to plan, as their hosts have other ideas they feel strongly about.

Sadly Kirk and company still have an end goal of manipulating the Iotian society back onto the track they believe the earlier ship knocked them off of. The end solution is charismatically delivered, but not all that well thought out. It is vastly unclear how, if at all, it will achieve either the manipulation they set out to accomplish, or how it will set a precedent for the kind of interaction the Federation would wish to pursue.

Anyway, despite the violent nature inherent in the subject matter defining this society, the episode is clearly designed to be as much a load of fun as possible, and it largely succeeds in this area at least. Kirk and his crew's right to get involved and do something for this society is well supported in the writing, and despite their solution being a bit hokey, they don't do too badly in the end. All this will allow "A Piece of the Action" to come out as a better episode, and a better use of the Prime Directive, than the more obvious Prime Directive stories like "Bread and Circuses" and "A Private Little War". Good show. No wonder this one was broadcast first in late season two's sequence of Prime Directive stories....


Patterns of Force

(Star Trek story #52 in production order)
written by John Meredith Lucas

This story is quite similar in its main concept to many of the parallel society Prime Directive stories of late season two, particularly "A Piece of the Action", yet has a few nice new twists in it too. This week's parallels have been brought about yet again by previous Federation influence from a prior ship's exploration, and turn out to be more intentional than those of "A Piece of the Action" when the "non-interference directive" should have guided Federation personnel better. And it is up to Kirk and co. to "fix the mess".

Some of the nicer touches in the episode are the ones that define the new civilizations of the week in ways that make it not so parallel. Involving a second planet that has interplanetary space travel is a very nice touch, indicating that the jurisdiction of the Prime Directive may be about to expire before long. The episode opens with a very nice optical shot, adding an extra planet to a scene we've seen many times before. There are plenty of other unique societal developments listed throughout the show helping to flesh out these societies and give them needed dimension which are great to see and hear.

But ultimately, these all get overshadowed by old, jaded, Nazi symbolism which, despite a few balancing comments, doesn't really rise far enough above the usual clichés to make satisfying viewing. The complete overwhelming nature of brutality, callousness, and torture displayed here seems too inhumanoid and too unreal to be anything more than an attempt to justify any policy the Zeons want to employ, and they don't really come out of the adventure demonstrating any of the peacefulness they reportedly had. "Patterns of Force" feels like typical western propaganda most of the way through, and out-of-place propaganda coming from Star Trek.

Overall the story structure is fairly good, but could have improved had the torture idea been left out, being both a dynamic that makes poor viewing material and being too cliché on top. The capture and escape routine surrounding it might also be replaced by something more interesting and better balanced, but thankfully this section is kept short.

The final stages on the planet do work well though, and provide some quality action and drama that is also fairly unique for a Star Trek episode. At one point, a solution that would help the Zeons is offered, and it is refreshing to see Kirk reject this instantly with the reasoning that they also need to help the Nazi-emulating Ecosians as well. Brilliant. If this kind of thinking had only prevailed back in "A Private Little War", that episode probably would not have ended up in such ridiculous shambles.

John Gill's final resignation scene makes a compelling and moving endorsement of the non-interference directive that is easy to agree with and buy into. Yes, it would have been better than what happened here.

The coda attempted between our trio of regulars back on the ship muddles the arguments once again though. If the Federation would simply learn to give up attempts to manipulate and control it would be so much farther ahead. Presenting itself honestly and allowing other people and other civilizations to shape themselves as they see fit would be so much easier and more effective.....

All in all, this is a fairly good episode, treating its subject matter with more seriousness than "A Piece of the Action", and having a more successful and believable resolution. But ultimately it will have to take a more serious hit for being too literal with its Nazi symbolism and too stereotypical in polarizing the attitudes of its opposing forces to ring true to the alien civilizations it means to portray. A good effort, but Star Trek deserves slightly better.


The Omega Glory

(Star Trek story #54 in production order)
written by Gene Roddenberry

Finally, after more than two years of production, the last of the three candidate scripts for the second Star Trek pilot gets made into a viewable TV episode. Gene Roddenberry actually takes the sole writing credit, something that only ever happened on the first pilot "The Cage" and its two-part mutated form "The Menagerie". Such rarity may help this episode to reveal a more pure version of what the legendary man was really all about than any of the many other episodes which he co-wrote with others.

"The Omega Glory" shows a vast array of strengths early on, quickly becoming an extremely exciting and thought-provoking adventure - the epitome of good Star Trek. It is a huge pity that it was then saddled with such a ridiculous clunker of a conclusion, dragging its overall rating back down into the dank doldrums of the bottom ranks. What is possibly Roddenberry's biggest blind spot in human values is laid bare for all to see.....


The opening scene on the Enterprise probably would have worked better had it used a typical Captain's Log entry, as the exposition we have to wade through to get the characters' motivations is pretty bland. One can easily imagine these first few pages of the script being typed up before the Captain's Log idea had crystallized in the producers' minds, and well before computers and word processors had made script alterations as painless as they are today.

Once past this though, our main characters embark on a compelling investigation that takes them through a rich tapestry of fascinating sci-fi and social concepts, new environments, and a variety of action sequences, all the while raising stakes, adding tension, and gradually peeling back the layers of mystery both for the planet and for Captain Tracey and crew. Much of what is taught in screenwriting classes is embodied in Roddenberry's shining example here. The first 2/3 of the story continues in this excellent vein.

And of all the stories produced up until this time, this is the one that clearly wanted to introduce the idea of the Prime Directive, having all the proper expository dialogue (albeit cleverly disguised as philosophical debate) to detail what the Prime Directive is, and how it will come to be at the center of this week's adventure. Sweet. The argument is also one of the strongest ever in favour of the Prime Directive, particularly because the violation discovered has to do with spreading weapons technology and engaging in local wars. But how many of us would choose to act differently from Captain Tracey, given the crushingly difficult circumstances he was faced with? The choices are not so easy, and can continue to provoke substantial thought even today.

Firstly on Captain Tracey's part, I think the key to more enlightened choices must lie in being able to see past the propaganda of the opposing local factions. The Kohn people do not turn out to be all that less savage or more civilized than the Yangs; they are actually quite similarly silly. Note the brutal beheading the Kohns are in the process of committing as Kirk and company beam down. Had Tracey taken the Prime Directive more seriously, or simply had a more spiritual head on his shoulders, he could have assumed this probability from the beginning and should have spotted the tell-tale signs to support it as he learned more from his experiences. Had he not taken sides, he would have had no one to give weapons to.

Self-preservation is perhaps another area. Roddenberry really forces this to remain in the shades of grey by taking away all chances of letting Tracey retreat harmlessly back into his own society. Tracey really is forced to interact and integrate himself. And if his Prime Directive violation had been of the "love-thy-neighbour" type of spiritual leading-by-example, I think it would have been worth supporting.

Kirk's options are even more confounded. He is not only faced with conflict between Kohns and Yangs, but also one between Tracey and the laws of Starfleet that may not be the most well-thought-out. If only he could stand aloof from Starfleet's prosecution of Tracey.... but as Spock points out, the laws will find Kirk equally guilty if he does nothing. And so Kirk and his crew are put in the role of policemen. Any doubts about Tracey's guilt are quickly put to rest by the deadly cover-up Tracey exhibits early on.

But I think Tracey really deserves to be arrested for multiple murders more than anything else. If the Prime Directive was so precious, just why exactly did he come down to the village and openly try to arrange for his crew to conduct a survey? If that much is okay, as it probably should be, it is already enough interference to possibly alter the course of advancement for the planet's people. So good. Deal with it. And if it is also wise to not go handing out advanced phasers to a primitive and quite violent culture, make a law about weaponry and arms technology, rather than silly blanket ideas of where evolution should or should not take a species. Be yourselves, Starfleet, and use good common philosophical sense.

Curiously, Tracey introduces greed and monetary gain as one of his motives. This is bizarre if one follows through on the premise that Federation society does not use money. If they had all overcome the need to measure each other's contributions to society and simply offered their services freely in an attempt to continually better themselves, surely an extremely experienced Captain like Tracey would not be so easily lured back into that trap.

Even towards the end of its excellent streak, the plot of "The Omega Glory" starts to stretch credulity a little. Captain Tracey begins to remind me of many of the villainous forces in Malcolm Hulke's Doctor Who stories (season eleven's "The Dinosaur Invasion" (story no. 71) immediately springs to mind, although "The Sea Devils" (story no. 62) and "Frontier in Space" (story no. 67) are equally valid examples), where no matter how much more likely it is that the good guys have numbers or circumstance or logic on their side, the villain always manages to show up in the right place at the right time to thwart their plans, knock them back to square one, and stretch the plot out a little longer.


However it is the inexplicable exact duplication of the American Flag, and later the U.S. constitution, that kills the excellence of this story and makes Roddenberry's writing appear extremely foolish and misguided. Had this been an episode of "Sliders", that series' staple of duplicate Earths across parallel dimensions would make the situation on Omega 4 easily acceptable. But we don't have any of that here.

Roddenberry has made good use so far in the script of a planet with similar development to Earth, yet one that took a different turn at a critical point. No problems with that idea. But one should expect such a planet to have its own unique cultural idiosyncrasies and symbols. Its national and ethnic divisions should be different, with their own unique names and flags. And no matter how similar their national mission statements and constitutions are to any found on our Earth, one should not expect to find such documents exactly like ours, word for word, written in the same language and font. The universal translator seems to be out of a job in this tale. At least this planet seems to have its own unique continents, unlike the equally unnecessary duplication in "Miri" (Star Trek production #12).

Of course, in science fiction, all this could just be another plot point, deepening the mystery and raising extra questions. Perhaps there was another Prime Directive violation further back in this planet's history, or another valid reason for Earth's culture to be duplicated here so exactly. If so, great! Bring it on. But Roddenberry totally ignores this, and our regular Star Trek characters seem to be playing with less than a full deck for failing to notice this and make it an important part of their investigation.

In fact, Kirk's presumption towards this planet's culture becomes an ugly, embarrassing, and blatant display of Roddenberry's American chauvinism. Don't get me wrong; the American constitution is a great document, and the spirit behind it should be reawakened in its citizens who have forgotten its meaning, and it should be shared proudly and openly with any civilization that may be inspired by it. But this is not America on planet Omega 4. Neither Kirk's crew nor Tracey's have spent enough time here to know exactly what this culture is yet. And the real sin is that they don't make any effort to remain open to learn how it might be different. Kirk loses all credibility in discussing philosophy and ideals by attempting to pull THEIR ideas in THEIR exact words out of HIS OWN memory. This unquestioned assumption that "their goodness must be exactly like ours" shows a complete lack of respect for their culture, as much by Roddenberry as by Kirk and crew. And isn't respect for other cultures what the Prime Directive is really supposed to be about in the first place?

"The Omega Glory" fails in another important way as well. Philosophy is intended to be the battleground upon which Kirk proves his supremacy over Tracey in the eyes of Cloud William and his tribe of Yangs (not to mention even more importantly in the eyes of us viewers). When Kirk can't remember all the exact English and Latin that he arrogantly assumes is identical in the scriptures on Omega 4, he convinces Cloud William that his victory in a one-on-one knife fight to the death with Tracey will equally prove that he is the good guy. Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous in your life? And it all comes from a writer revered for putting philosophy at the forefront of good science fiction. Hmmm. Yes, a knife fight at this point is ridiculous, but it's also a re-run. We've already witnessed Kirk and Tracey go at it in hand-to-hand combat at least twice before in this episode, so by the time this latest fight ensues, it really is a tired event - and no longer peppered by the phaser effects that made the previous battles so much cooler. There has been no build-up of anticipation for such a contest; it feels instead as though common sense has been slapped in the face with a wet fish. The story doesn't escalate here; it drops through the floor. If only Kirk could have stuck to the philosophical battleground, and gotten it right. Where are Captain Picard and the Next Generation writers when you need them?

Even with such sadly unbelievable and unsatisfying methods in the final portions of the story, many important goals are successfully accomplished throughout. Kirk and his crew manage to isolate the cure for the water reduction disease, they rescue/arrest Tracey, and they make it back to the ship. The conflict between Kohns and Yangs comes to a temporary cessation via the overwhelming dominance of a massive Yang attack, and Kirk and co. look as though they are making this more permanently peaceful and respectful by inspiring the Yangs philosophically.

One can easily be lulled into believing that Kirk's charismatic moment (pointing out that the words of the Yang/U.S. constitution must apply to everyone) will help Cloud William and the Yangs respect the Kohns instead of thinking that they are just for killing. That certainly is the feeling emanating from the moment. But if they do take that lovely meaning, they didn't get it literally from the words. Kirk only speaks the first sentence of the constitution, barely audible over a crescendo of music as though one is meant to get swept up in the emotion of the moment and not really examine the wording too closely. That first sentence is very specific to the formation of a union of the states of America, and contains oxymorons like "secure the blessings of liberty".... Security and liberty are such natural opposites that this phrase reeks of conspiracy designed to take liberty away, and convince people to act in opposition to liberty all the while believing that they are actually promoting and enjoying it. More importantly, having the Yangs apply the words of the formation of the union of the states of America to the Kohns leads easily to the idea of the Yangs claiming Kohn territory to be a part of that union, and forcing this ideology upon them whether they agree with it or not. Instead of respecting their old enemies, the Yangs could easily come out of this adventure philosophically empowered to carry out the opposite. More conspiratorial oxymorons.

And Kirk does recognize that other cultures throughout the galaxy have come up with ideas and documents similarly great to the U.S. Constitution, after which he wants to declare that the U.S. said it best. Lots. Unless this show remains open to better itself, everyday, no matter how good the last day was, it will be philosophically surpassed. That goes for the U.S. Constitution, and it goes for the Prime Directive as well. Violating the Prime Directive to help resolve the conflict between Kohns and Yangs and bring peace is a good heroic gesture - but it's hard for any non-American to look at this and believe Kirk accomplished it. Whatever good philosophical points he actually may have made are deeply overshadowed by American symbolism and the idea of America dictating its ideals to the rest of the world/galaxy. Kirk is too eager, biased, and himself misled to have made a better choice than following the Prime Directive to the letter, while simply being himself and acting on his own philosophy instead of preaching it may have been the best course of all.


In the end, not only does the Prime Directive seem less than ideal here, and not only do Kirk and his crew violate it, they don't even manage to offer a more heroic or sensible or respectful solution. While "The Omega Glory" deserves much mention for an excellent beginning that introduces and showcases the Prime Directive properly, it ends in a complete disaster for philosophy, sci-fi credibility, and action-adventure originality.

And strange it is too, that practically all of original Star Trek's memorable Prime Directive stories were produced before the story designed to introduce it. Now that it has been so definitively unveiled, the rest of the original Star Trek series lets the idea rust in peace....



The Prime Directive Stories of Season Two, ranked from best to worst:

  • Mirror, Mirror
  • Who Mourns for Adonais?
  • The Apple
  • A Piece of the Action
  • Patterns of Force
  • Friday's Child
  • The Omega Glory
  • Bread and Circuses
  • The Gamesters of Triskelion
  • A Private Little War


Read the next Star Trek review: "Assignment: Earth"



These Season Two prime directive stories are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season Two "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend continue to develop through its prime. Set contains all 26 episodes from the second season in their original wacky broadcast order, plus new bonus features.

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....

DVD U.S.

DVD Canada

DVD U.K.

Standard DVD Extras include:

  • To Boldly Go... Season Two featurette (20 min.)
  • Designing the Final Frontier featurette (22 min.)
  • Writer's Notebook: D.C. Fontana (8 min.)
  • Kirk, Spock, & Bones: Star Trek's Great Trio (7 min.)
  • Nichelle Nichols - Divine Diva (13 min.)
  • Life Beyond Trek: Leonard Nimoy (12 min.)
  • Text Commentaries on "Amok Time" and
    "The Trouble with Tribbles"
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (8 min. total)
  • Production Art & Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Standard DVD remastered with CGI:
Region 1, NTSC, U.S.
Region 1, NTSC, Canada
Region 2, PAL, U.K.

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek set for season two, like that of season three, seems destined to be obsolete in very short order. Its content is easily surpassed by the more respectful presentation on Blu-ray, and unlike the "purist" DVD release listed above, appears to have none of its own exclusive content. Add to that the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage, and I'd have to recommend that all devoted Trekkers should consider other options for their ideal TOS season two product.

Season Two - Blu Ray

  26 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.


Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • option to watch original or new CGI effects.
  • Audio commentary on "The Trouble with Tribbles"
    by writer David Gerrold.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 2 episodes:
    • "Amok Time"
    • "The Trouble With Tribbles".
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies part 2 (HD, 12 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / DeForest Kelley stand-in)
  • Star Trek TOS on Blu-ray (HD, 10 min.) restoration and upgrade featurette.
  • Star Trek's Favorite Moments (SD, 17 min.)
  • Mobile-Blu Content-To-Go Exclusives: "Creating Chekov", "Listening to the Actors" "Writing Spock" "Spock's Mother"
  • "More Tribbles, More Troubles" with commentary from the animated "Season 4" DVD box set.
  • "Trials and Tribble-ations" in HD this time, with
    two featurettes from the DS9 season 5 DVD box set.
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.


Reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Assignment: Earth"



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