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Season One:
-1: "The Cage"
-2: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
-3: "The Corbomite Maneuver"
-4: "Mudd's Women"
-5: "The Enemy Within"
-6: "The Man Trap"
-7: "The Naked Time"
-8: "Charlie X"
-9: "Balance of Terror"
-13: "The Conscience of the King"
-16: "The Menagerie"
-20: "The Alternative Factor"
----: _Time Travel Season 1
-21: "Tomorrow is Yesterday"
----: _Prime Directive Origins
-22: "The Return of the Archons"

-23: "A Taste of Armageddon"
-27: "Errand of Mercy"
-28: "The City On the Edge of Forever"
-29: "Operation -- Annihilate!"
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A Taste of Armageddon

(Star Trek story #23 in production order)
  • story by Robert Hamner
  • teleplay by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon
  • directed by Joseph Pevney
  • tracked music by Sol Kaplan / Mullendore / etc.

A Taste of Armageddon

Star Trek delivers yet another dystopia for Kirk and company to unravel, but this one is FAR more charismatic, engaging, and entertaining than the previous episode "The Return of the Archons". In fact, all things considered, this is one of the better episodes of the season, and it gives us quite a variety of concepts to discuss.

The Prime Directive remains largely in hiding for this season, without a proper episode in which to define itself, which leaves us wondering exactly how many of its 47 suborders have been invented yet. If we make one of the assumptions common for the 23rd century, that it should only apply to civilizations that haven't yet achieved warp drive, "A Taste of Armageddon" is in the clear. Both Eminiar 7 and its adversaries on Vendikar have warp drive, space travel, the ability to transport and materialize objects over great distances, and appear to be the Federation's peers in technology.

However, at the beginning of this one, Kirk clearly feels that it is his legal duty to respect the Eminians' wishes that they do not approach the planet. This seems to be on par with Starfleet's stance with the Halkans in "Mirror, Mirror", and by the 24th century we will see similar respectful distances with large civilizations like the Klingon Empire in "Redemption". Can we consider this stance to be part of the Prime Directive at this time?

In any case, it is Ambassador Robert Fox who breaks this policy, commanding Kirk and company to follow suit. Ultimately, it is to everyone's good in the end, thanks to everyone's ability to use all their incredible skills in other areas at maximum effectiveness, however, if a number of them had not been on the ball, the end result could easily have been quite disastrous.

On the surface, it can easily appear that the main concept at the heart of this dystopia - a population voluntarily disintegrating themselves such that a computer simulated war could spare their culture and infrastructure, would be revoltingly unacceptable to any thinking being... but I think such an emotional response should not be assumed to be universal. This is a case where a very different brain chemistry in the Eminians and their offshoot adversaries the Vendikarians could take up a lot of the slack, and promote different values and ways of seeing the universe. There's a lot of good stuff in this direction already in the dialogue. Too bad the Eminians couldn't have got a significantly alien look, to aid the idea along a little further. Funky wardrobe and bizarre doors aren't quite enough.

Still, you'd think they might consider a simulation designed to destroy the infrastructure and the enemy's ability to make war, rather than its population. They've planned to perpetuate war, rather than to WIN it. Best of all though, Kirk finally cuts through their dumb comparisons of their version of war with the ugliness of the real thing, to say that peace trumps both, and why aren't you aiming for that? What's really gone missing here are the reasons for them to be at war in the first place, the issues that would take this from being an intangible intellectual exercise and make it about something.

The Gene Coon Instinct

There is a sad and disturbing way to tell whenever writing producer Gene L. Coon has had his hand in a script. Usually, one of his core beliefs will come through in the characters' dialogue, and though it often gets harnessed usefully, I don't think it's really very accurate or ultimately beneficial. Essentially, that belief is that when a Human being relaxes his efforts, and lets his base instincts guide his actions, violence and murder will be the result. Only by exerting the effort of his higher intelligence can a better outcome be achieved. There was already much dialogue referring to this idea in his first script, "Arena", but it is even more prominent here in the second story he worked on. And worse here, it is used to anthropomorphize the Eminians and Vendikarians, stuffing them in the same boat with us Earth Humans.

I prefer to believe that there is an essential goodness in the heart of each and every Human being, and that external forces and circumstance, not least of which may be living in lack, are the elements that bring on less than exemplary behaviour, particularly when we respond according to our fears. That's where violence comes from. [ "The Enemy Within" got that part really right.] If we're locked into a bad pattern, maybe it does require effort to begin the change to get to a new place. But once out of the pattern, and in sight of a better one, there is a more real instinct for us to settle into, one of honesty, generosity, and putting our best foot forward in challenging circumstances. When that becomes habit, we are at home with the real instinct at the core of our species. In that sense, I think there's a significantly more optimistic future for us than what Coon's pen would often indicate. And perhaps we got a much more believable set-up and contrast for Coon's basic idea when we got to Deep Space Nine's third season episode "The Abandoned". Still, Coon's writing would do a lot to help aim Star Trek in the correct direction, as has happened here with this story.

But today's plot will have to take a hit from a huge oversight. There's a huge section of quite engaging drama where Scotty quite rightly refuses to lower shields to allow beaming because he correctly suspects the Eminians are poised to open fire the moment they do. Then, two scenes later, suddenly the Ambassador and his aide casually beam down. How did they arrange that? And what did stop the Eminians from destroying the Enterprise? I'm sure a bit of re-drafting on the script could have accommodated this bit, but it's a total black mark on the story the way it is.

Additionally, I think the production team were getting a bit stressed at this point in the series, because it would have been great to see the Eminians' weapons firing a visual beam, but we get nothing instead. At least the sound effects and on-set pyrotechnics are still quite good.

Well, this story still moves along at a good pace, exploring its characters and ideas well, and giving us lots of good action and satisfying moments, and a generally emotional and satisfying ride. Ambassador Fox looks like he's only going to be a one-note thorn in everyone's sides at first, but he realistically finds many other uses for himself, applies his skills, and proves that he actually did have good ideas for making the universe better for all in the first place. Not bad at all.

Yes, I'd have to say this episode worked better than a lot of others this season, and helped define an angle for Star Trek's philosophy that could keep it focused, successful, and just optimistic enough to carry on seeking to better itself. Good show.

Read the next Star Trek review: "Errand of Mercy"

This story is 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 One "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend develop from its infancy. Set contains 29 episodes from the first season in their original wacky broadcast order, including "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2" which used footage from the original unaired pilot "The Cage". However, "The Cage" itself is only included with the Season Three Box Set.

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 Canada


Standard DVD Extras include:

  • original restored broadcast versions of the 29 episodes.
  • "The Birth of a Timeless Legacy" documentary (24 min.)
  • Text only commentary by Denise & Michael Okuda on "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2", and "The Conscience of the King".
  • "To Boldly Go" featurette (19 min.) discussing
    "The Naked Time", "City on the Edge of Forever",
    "The Devil in the Dark", and "The Squire of Gothos".
  • "Reflections on Spock" featurette (12 min.)
  • "Sci-Fi Visionaries" writing featurette (17 min.)
  • "Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner" featurette (10 min.)
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (7 min. total)
  • Photo Log (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every episode (1 min. each)

Season One - Blu Ray

  29 episodes @ 51 minutes
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch, and new 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 episodes with original or new CGI effects.
  • Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century featurette (HD, 20 min.) covering the restoration, CGI effects, and music upgrades.
  • Starfleet Access - Okuda interactive trivia plus picture-in-picture interviews on 6 episodes:
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before
    • The Menagerie Part 1
    • The Menagerie Part 2
    • Balance of Terror
    • Space Seed
    • Errand of Mercy
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies (HD, 13 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / Gorn)
  • Kiss 'N tell: Romance in the 23rd Century (8 min.)
  • Interactive Enterprise Inspection (HD)
  • plus all documentaries, featurettes, and episode promos from the "purist" standard DVD set listed far above.

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

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Errand of Mercy"

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