Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 21 (Patterns of Force)

The episode begins with The Enterprise visiting the planet Ekos to check in on a former history professor of Kirks, John Gill, only to be greeted by a nuclear weapon.  Neither Ekos nor its neighboring planet, Zeon, should have that level of technology.  The only possible theory is that Gill somehow contaminated the planet’s progression, which is unlikely, given the Prime Directive.  Even as an observer, Gill would have been bound not to interfere with either planet’s development.

When Kirk and Spock beam down, they find Ekosians in full Nazi gear.  You wouldn’t think that fascism would be a good form of government.  Even if you removed any malice or ill intent, that kind of rigidity doesn’t usually end well.  But, there it is.  In fact, there are a lot of uncanny parallels, like Ekos subjugating Zeon as a lesser culture.  They even salute each other and have an eerily familiar flag.

Kirk and Spock eventually find out that Gill is the Führer.  When they do find Gill, they find him in a heavily sedated state; Deputy Führer Melakon is really giving the orders.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy are able to bring down the government and save the day, leaving the planets to rebuild their society.

There is an apparent simplification to the episode.  It’s odd that so much would be similar, even if Gill only borrowed the basic government.  His thinking was that the German Nazi state was the most efficient one Earth ever knew.  And it actually worked until Melakon gained control.  You’d think that Gill wouldn’t have mentioned the flag or the salute, but the Ekosians developed them anyway.

I’d imagine that this was done to leave nothing to the imagination, which is unusual for several reasons.  First, science fiction can usually create effective metaphors for things like this.  It doesn’t have to be Russia versus America.  It could be the Klingons versus The Federation.  To be so direct isn’t necessary.  In fact, it could be problematic, as displaying swastikas in Germany is illegal.  I doubt this episode would have gone over well in the European market.  I would have thought that at least the flag, if not the salute, would have been changed.

I’m not sure what the process was on developing this episode.  Given that the episode aired in 1968, a lot of Americans would probably still remember World War II.  I would think it would be a sensitive subject for people.  Even though it’s direct, I did find it to be an interesting episode on a lot of levels.  In fact, my only real complaint about the episode was that it was too obvious.  It was also a little too long, with Kirk and Spock having to escape from prison several times.

The shame of it is that the episode doesn’t really go into too much detail.  It’s not clear exactly what Gill was thinking.  Yes, it was an efficient state and all forms of government can be corrupted, but why even interfere in the first place?  What did Gill gain from it?  It’s not really explored why fascism would necessarily go downhill so quickly.  True, it only takes the one bad apple, but was Melakon a bad apple to begin with or was he corrupted by power and opportunity?  I feel like a bit of the nuance was lost in this episode, but it’s still a watchable episode.


IMDb page


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