Monday, July 26, 2021

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 17 (A Piece of the Action)

The Prime Directive was always a standard in the Star Trek universe.  If a society hadn’t yet reached a certain point in their development, Starfleet vessels weren’t to interfere in their development.  The results could be disastrous.  The society’s development could be stunted or, worse yet, the population might annihilate itself.  A Piece of the Action shows us what that might have looked like.

The Enterprise is responding to the destruction of the Horizon 100 years earlier.  The last planet they visited was Sigma Iotia II, which was said to have a very imitative population.  When the Enterprise gets there, they find the people imitating gangsters of 1920s Chicago.  Why?  Because one of the crewmembers left a book on 1920s Chicago gangster culture.  The Iotians took this book as their new bible.

Kirk doesn’t have to worry so much about the Prime Directive, as the damage has already been done.  The question now is what to do about it.  In dealing with one of the bosses, Bela Okmyx, he realizes that it’s not going to be easy.  As Spock points out, the society is based on what he calls a moral inversion.  There’s no precedent for it in the ship’s computers.  It’s going to take a bit of creativity.

As usual, Kirk and Crew manage to pull it off flawlessly.  Yes, the episode is campy, as usual, but it works here, more than usual.  There’s an underlying feeling that the portrayal of gangs isn’t meant to be accurate.  You know that gangs probably were never like this, but you don’t know anything about who wrote the book.  Also, the Iotians are bound to take a few liberties.  You’re very much in on the joke.

Kirk is, too.  He realizes that it’s impossible to undo the damage.  His best option is to simply roll with it.  He uses their own inertia against them and, ultimately, for their own benefit.  The Iotians will have to be put back on track gradually.  Yes, there’s the issue of having to explain it all to Starfleet.  Kirk admits he has no idea what his report will look like.

It’s not the kind of episode that would call for an all-out sequel, but I would have like a throwaway line or two.  The Next Generation and Voyager dealt with The Prime Directive.  Even Deep Space Nine walked a tightrope with the Bajorans.  The Iotians could have been mentioned as a reason why The Prime Directive is so important.

The kicker is that McCoy left his communicator on the planet, which could mean that the Iotians might one day develop space flight.  I doubt they could build a warp drive from it, but there were apparently some important components in the device.  It might have been interesting to find out what happened to them.


IMDb page


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