STAR TREK REWIND: “Errand of Mercy”

“Even the gods did not spring into being overnight.”

I stated in a previous review that the Romulans too closely resembled humans in their desires, fears, and motivations that they could never be considered the uber-villain of the Star Trek franchise. The Klingons were designed (by writer/producer Gene L. Coon) to fit that bill. As David Gerrold described them, Klingons are disgusting creatures who “fart in airlocks,” and “pick their teeth with their fingernails because they think it’s fun.”

I don’t think Kor would behave in such a manner, and as the Klingons would be revised, re-written, and ret-conned for over 50 years, they’ve changed dramatically since “Errand of Mercy,” the episode that would introduce them. Starfleet Command orders Kirk and the Enterprise to visit the planet Organia and prevent the Klingons from taking over the planet. Kirk and Spock beam down and meet with the Council of Elders.

Kirk tells them they are in danger, that the Klingons will occupy the planet and make life generally unbearable for everybody there. Spock tells Kirk the culture is completely stagnant. There is no evidence of technological advancement so Kirk tries to grease the wheels a little by offering Federation resources. The Organians don’t seem to care at all, nor do they care about the imminent danger.

The Organians disguise Kirk and Spock as citizens while the Klingons begin their occupation of the planet. Enter Kor, Military Governor of Organia, played perfectly by John Colicos (who would reprise his role in three Deep Space Nine episodes). Kor is no dummy. Even as he observes the complete passivity among the old men on the Council, he senses intense hatred from Kirk and mild annoyance from Spock.

The Organians are of no help to Kirk and Spock, so they come up with plans for violent resistance. They blow up a munitions dump. This appalls the Organians, who sell out Kirk and Spock to the Klingons. Kor is impressed to be meeting the famous Captain James Kirk and his First Officer, although he would’ve preferred to meet him in battle. It’s almost impossible to hate Kor, even if he is a “bad guy.”

Kor has principles. He trusts no one. The behavior of these Organians disgusts him. He complains about being a “Governor of sheep.” He lusts after battle. Kor was probably the mold by which all Klingons were to be sculpted. Though there is no mention of personal honor among these Klingons, we believe these are honorable men, if misguided by the virtues of armed conflict and dependence on occupation in order to sustain their empire.

Although imprisoned (and awaiting execution) by the Klingons, Kirk and Spock are set free by the Organians. You would think these people are completely out of their minds until we get to the “twist” ending. Even Spock is at his wit’s end with these Organians. He and Kirk can’t understand what they can only perceive as a balance the Organians wish to keep between the Klingons and the Federation. As Kor says, “Survival must be earned.”

The Organians seem to wield unnatural powers. They know when they have visitors. They know when the Klingons are arriving. Doors magically open and close for them. There is no technology to be seen. They would be referenced later as part of a mandated peace treaty with the Klingons, and we would see them again in the excellent fourth season Enterprise episode, “Observer Effect.”

In the end, Kirk is embarrassed by his behavior in the face of god-like beings who simply sit in on judgment and then wag their fingers when they think the “children” are taking the game too far. Kirk and Spock didn’t want war, but they also didn’t want to be told what to do, even by superior lifeforms.

Twice a week, Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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