03 January 2016

All Together Now, In Their Hoods (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.21, "The Return of the Archons")

I've been getting into Star Trek Online recently and have bought myself a Tier 1 Constitution class vessel i.e. the same type as the Enterprise. It's a lot cooler to fight Klingon Birds of Prey in than the standard light cruiser you start with in the Federation faction.

Anyway, there's none of that in this episode, which starts strange and gets stranger...

While on another planet in search of a long lost spaceship, while dressed in rather old-fashioned clothing, Sulu and another crew member encounter some dudes in brown robes with big sticks. Only Sulu manages to beam back up and he ends up being very strange indeed...

Kirk and his team go down to discover a society with all the locals behaving very strangely indeed, including having an exactly 12 hour riot.

This review contains spoilers.

This episode contains a lot of 'possessed acting', as the locals are under the control of a mysterious computer called Landru that has decided to eliminate society's disorders but at the cost of free will. In short, this is a classic Star Trek story and was frankly pretty predictable.

We get McCoy possessed, while Kirk and Spock end up pretending to be possessed as they attempt to destroy the computer, freeing society from its control. All the regulars get good material and do a decent job of being 'possessed', something that sci-fi actors need to learn to be able to it seems. The late Lis Sladen from Doctor Who was a master of this in fact. We also get the amusing sight of Spock (whose big ears are pretty conspicuous) dressing like a monk.

Speaking of intervening in a society, this is the first mention of the Prime Directive in the show's history - and it immediately gets a loophole, in which getting involved to restore a society to its natural development is permissible.

The plot is a deeply philosophical one about the flaws of trying to create a perfect society, especially when machines are involved. The climax involves Kirk talking a computer to death through logic, something that reminds me of Zoe doing something similar in Doctor Who. We also get one of those 'humorous' endings in which Kirk says Spock would make a great computer.

None of the locals (who are all dressed in Western garb in an episode shot on a backlot used in Westerns) are particularly memorable in this; most of them do end up doing 'possessed acting' for most of the episode and I'm really not sure what the 'Festival'/Riot was all about.

The henchmen of the main villain dress in brown cloaks with hoods, reminding me after the episode of outfits worn in the Red Dwarf episode "Angels and Demons", which Kirk and Spock later take to infiltrate the main base. Difficult to take them entirely seriously nearly 50 years on considering how much this has been parodied since.


An interesting episode with a lot of philosophical concepts but not a classic.


Next up one of the most famous episodes of the entire run... "Space Seed".

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