(airdate: March 1, 1968)
Writer: Gene Roddenberry
Director: Vincent McEveety
Captain Ronald Tracey: Morgan Woodward
Sirah: Irene Kelly
Cloud William: Roy Jenson
Lt. Galloway: David L. Ross
Wu: Lloyd Kino
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is approaching the planet Omega IV when they encounter a fellow starship, the Exeter, abandoned in orbit around the planet. A deadly disease wiped out the entire crew, and the landing party - Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Lt. Galloway - have contracted the disease by being on the Exeter. Their only chance at survival is to beam down to the planet, so they do, where they find the Exeter's captain, Ron Tracey. He's working with a primitive civilization, the Kohms, protecting them from attacks by a savage tribe, the Yangs. All the people on the planet are extremely long-lived, and Tracey thinks this planet holds the secret of immortality; thus, he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure this secret, over the landing party's objections. McCoy determines that the inhabitants' longevity is natural to them, and that no secret exists; the planet provides an immunity to the disease after a few hours, but that's it. The landing party is captured by the Yangs, where it turns out that the development of Omega IV is incredibly close to that of Earth's: the Yangs are the Yankees, while the Kohms are the Communists. A biological war wiped out the civilizations, reducing them to this state, but the Yangs still retain memories of "holy words": corruptions of the US Constitution and the US Pledge of Allegiance. Kirk defeats Tracey in ritual combat and reminds the Yangs that their "holy words" are for everyone, not just the Yangs.
Whoops!: Tracey's Exeter patch is flipped horizontally in all the indoor scenes (so that it's two circles on the left side). McCoy states the human body is 96% water; the real figure is closer to 60%.
We'll cover the specifics of the coincidence of a culture so close to Earth's in the Library Computer section, but it's worth asking here what point Roddenberry is trying to make by having the Omegans be so close to humanity. Is it to warn us that we could wipe each other out with a biological weapon? That the United States isn't necessarily going to win a war? Or just that the ideals that the United States are based upon are pretty neat? We could also quibble with the idea that the Yangs' holy relics would have survived as well as they did for over a thousand years. And that's a thought: if everyone lives for a really long time now, how long must it have been since the war, given that no one seems to remember what happened or how things used to be? (Acknowledging that a thousand years is a long time for anyone to remember things.)
The thing that makes the least amount of sense by a considerable distance: Gene Roddenberry reportedly submitted this script for Emmy consideration. (Maybe because this was the only script that season for which he was the sole credited writer, but still.)
Classic Lines: McCoy, describing a possible serum: "Who knows? It might eventually cure the common cold, but lengthen lives? Poppycock. I can do more for you if you just eat right and exercise regularly."
Cringe Lines: Kirk: "That's a very interesting theory. The yellow civilization is almost destroyed, the white civilization is destroyed."
Technobabble: The final reading of the landing party's infected tissue is Y three X point zero zero four.
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Lt. Galloway and Spock are attacked off-screen by Yangs, but Galloway is later vaporized by Captain Tracey. Spock is stunned when Tracey vaporizes the machine Spock is working on. Kirk gets knocked out by Cloud William in a jail cell, and also grapples with Tracey in ritual combat.
Library Computer: The USS Exeter is a ship of the same design as the Enterprise [so Constitution-class]. [The original version of the episode provides no registry number; the remastered version gives it as NCC-1672, a number which derives from Greg Jein's 1973 article "The Case of the Jonathan Doe Starship".] Her assignment patch was a vertical rectangle, with five dots staggered on either side of the patch (three on the left, two on the right). [This is how it appears on Carter, so we're assuming this is the correct orientation, despite it being flipped on Tracey for most of his scenes.] The Exeter's standard complement of shuttlecraft was four. The captain of the Exeter was Ronald Tracey, an older man with white hair and blue eyes and one of Starfleet's most experienced captains. The chief medical officer was a man named Carter, who was of Commander rank and had thinning brown hair. A landing party beamed down to Omega IV and then beamed back; they unknowingly brought aboard a virus which ended up wiping out the entire crew, over 400 people. Only Tracey, still down on the planet, survived.
Omega IV is a purple planet [Earth-like in the remastered version], with Earth-like features and a humanoid population. This population consists of the Kohms, an Oriental-like people who live in villages, and the Yangs, savage European-like people who wear animal skins and live in the wilderness. The Yangs have no fear of death and are thus very vicious, fiercely defending their territory and trying to capture Kohm lands. They also refuse to talk to the Kohms, believing them to be only good for killing. The leader of the Yangs is Cloud William, a tall man with blond hair and blue eyes. He was the Guardian of the Holies, Speaker of the Holy Words, Leader of Warriors. By the end of this story the Yangs had successfully taken over all the Kohm lands.
Long ago, the Yangs and the Kohms were both more advanced civilizations, but a form of disaster devastated the two civilizations, nearly wiping out the Kohms and almost completely wiping out the Yangs. McCoy was convinced that this disaster was a biological war, with a virus resembling a biological agent developed on Earth in the 1990s. [It's tempting to tie this in with Khan and his supermen ("Space Seed"), but there's no real evidence beyond the timing.] The virus removed all the water from a victim's body, killing them and leaving behind a white, salt-like crystal residue: the remaining chemicals in the body. This virus lingered on Omega IV, but over time the planet created natural immunizing agents. This meant that not only did any survivors become immune to the disease, but that their natural longevity and general immunity also increased; for instance, one of the Kohms, Wu, was 462 years old, while his father was over 1000. Anyone on the planet long enough would also be protected from the virus and eventually develop an immunity to it, but their own lifespans wouldn't increase.
The Yangs had a primitive culture, with holy relics and worship words that only chiefs and sons of chiefs can view or speak. "Freedom" is one such word; a corruption of the United States' Pledge of Allegiance ("Ay plegli iannectu flaggen tupep like for stahn") and the Preamble to the United States Constitution ("E plebnista norkohn forkohn perfectunun") are others. The Preamble is the greatest of their holy words. They also have a ragged US flag [the 50-star version, by the look of it] and a copy of the Bible (Cloud William opens it to the Old Testament Book of Haggai). Kirk and Spock speculate that "Yang" and "Kohm" are corruptions of "Yankee" and "Communist", respectively. [So. Why is Omega IV's history so close to that of Earth's, right down to the flag and the Preamble? One possibility is Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development ("Bread and Circuses"), which is the idea (roughly) that similar planets will develop along similar lines. However, Kirk and Spock comment in "Patterns of Force" that the odds of a culture developing so closely to that of Nazi Germany's, right down to the symbols and uniforms, is virtually impossible. This would suggest that Omega IV's parallels are also virtually impossible, and yet there they are. To be fair, Roddenberry noted the problem and included a scene that was cut from the final edit, where the landing party wonders if the Omegans were in fact human, having arrived as a result of the early part of Earth's space race. Alas, the timing doesn't work out, given how old some of the Omegans are said to be. (Although we suppose you could also include time travel to explain this, but that makes things increasingly convoluted.) Christopher L. Bennett's novel Forgotten History suggests this is simply the result of cultural contamination, with an Earth ship noting the Yangs' similarities to that of the United States and giving them some artifacts to inspire their fight for freedom. The episode itself provides no answers.]
Captain Tracey[, perhaps driven mad by the death of his crew,] is intent on obtaining a serum of immortality for the benefit of all humanity, in direct violation of the Prime Directive - although he claims that the Prime Directive doesn't apply because the Yangs are "animals". [More evidence of his insanity, since you'd think these would be exactly the type of people the Prime Directive would apply to.] Tracey kills many Yangs with phasers in order to obtain the serum, and McCoy's insistence that there is no serum doesn't seem to convince him. Tracey is ultimately placed under arrest by Enterprise security guards.
On Omega IV, the Year of the Red Bird occurs every eleven years.
Phasers use power packs, which can be swapped out as necessary.
Per Starfleet Command, Regulation 7 paragraph 4 states that an officer is to be placed under arrest, unless in the presence of the most senior officers available, the officer gives satisfactory answer to the charges that are brought before them.
Starfleet policy [or possibly just Enterprise policy] prevents a starship from beaming down phasers without verification. If someone's life is in danger, volunteers are willing to beam down to help instead.
A starship captain's most solemn oath is that they will give their life and even their entire crew rather than violate the Prime Directive. The regulations also make it clear that anyone who does not act to uphold the Prime Directive (or through inaction fail to uphold it) is considered equally guilty.
Kirk knows the US Pledge of Allegiance and the Preamble to the US Constitution. Spock has attempted unsuccessfully to teach him the Vulcan nerve pinch.
Final Analysis: "He spoke the holy word." The racial aspects of this story have not aged well, despite their best efforts; the Yangs are depicted as savages, but we're ultimately meant to side with them over the Kohms. But the biological warfare aspect isn't actually too bad, and the conflict with Tracey is engaging. Unfortunately, they jettison all that at the end in favor of a bizarre, poorly considered comparison with the United States that lacks a clear reason or motivation, and the episode turns into an excessively nationalist tale with little justification for doing so. And it's not like "The Omega Glory" was building to this moment, so when it happens it comes out of left field. This was one of the original suggestions for the second pilot; it's little wonder NBC kept trying to dissuade Roddenberry from going ahead with it.
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Page originally created: June 9, 2018
Page last updated: June 9, 2018