Saturday, February 7, 2009

TOS Rewind #25: "Errand of Mercy"

Today's episode:  Errand of Mercy (03-23-1967)

My drink this time:  A Margarita:  to mark the passing of Ricardo Montalban.  We talked about the Khan stuff back here.

Eric, Rob, and I did a podcast for this episode.  The whole installment is late this time due to the fact that the first podcast got trashed due to a Garageband crash and our general busy-ness.  We'll try and get the next one out quicker!

Here's my brief take on this episode (more detail in the podcast).

At the risk of repeating myself, this is a crucial episode in the series.  It would be important if for no other reason that it introduces the Klingons, quite well I'd say, and sets up a lot of material for Trek material going far beyond the Original Series.  The whole point about making the Federation and the Klingons "get along" paves the way for an awful lot of material in The Next Generation.  Sure, the Klingons aren't all that exotic, regular guys with dark hair/skin, but the detail that's presented about their Empire really helps get us beyond the usual Trek alien-of-the-week thing.

Kor is a great villain, one of the best Klingons I can think of.  He's ruthless and cunning, plus he has a sense of humor:  very important in a space opera.  Kor can have large groups of innocent civilians put to death at the drop of a hat, but can still be cool enough to have a drink with Kirk, his big enemy, pointing a phaser at his chest.  What a guy!  As Rob pointed out in the podcast, it's really interesting to watch Kirk, while disguised as a peaceful Organian, virtually blow his cover just because he can't resist being called out by Kor calling him a coward.  Classic.  We miss the usual McCoy dialogue (one of the few TOS episodes he doesn't appear in) and you'd think Scotty'd be running the ship in crisis after his tough performance in "A Taste of Armageddon."  Oh well, he needed the week off.  And of course, at the end of the episode, Kirk has to sit back and admit how foolish he was to be pissed at not being able to go to war with the Klingons.  Spock has a good smirk at the typical human inconsistencies.  If you watch this episode, do it an tell me the Organia sets don't look like a weekend at the MN Renaissance Festival! 

And of course, we have the concept of the uber-powerful aliens putting we puny humans (and Klingons) in our place.  We really have no true frame of reference with regard to the Organians.  Only Spock seems to fully realize this.  It's not unlike the situation in "The Day the Earth Stood Still."  The aliens aren't going to let us screw things up.  The message:  knock off the warmaking or we'll take away your ships!  Hmm, beats having your entire race wiped out by Gort and Klatuu...
And now Eric's turn:

This is going to be a short review, since we covered most of the important stuff in the podcast.

One thing I didn’t mention is that the title “Errand of Mercy" is taken from “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" by Charles Dickens: "It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it." A cool title for a great episode. It is, in fact, one of my favorites. The characters are superb (especially Kor) and the Democracy vs. Dictatorship analogy is well done. But the main reason I like this episode is that it evokes a powerful sense of wonder.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is science fiction’s ability to evoke a sense of wonder that appeals to me. And as “Errand of Mercy" demonstrates, classic Star Trek, when at its best, wielded this ability magnificently. The story draws you in and makes you think that the Organians are meek, ineffectual simpletons. Kirk and Kor strut around, waging their interplanetary pissing match, secure in their superiority only to be brought up short when the Organians reveal that they are actually incredibly powerful, highly-evolved beings who have a problem with the lower life-forms disturbing the peace. So they put a stop to it. Conclusively. This is the kind of story that makes you think about humanity’s place in the universe and the possibility that their could be other intelligent life out there that is significantly more advanced than we are. Heady stuff. I guess I’m just a junkie for anything that will spark my imagination.

Next time:  “The Alternative Factor"

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