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Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Seven “Day of the Dove”

Stardate: None given, Kirk mentions the date is “Armageddon” (2268)
Original Air Date: November 1, 1968
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Director: Marvin Chomsky

“Federation ships do not specialize in sneak attacks!”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A landing party beams down to Beta XII-A, a distant human colony located near the border with the Klingons. However, upon arrival they quickly discover that the entire colony has mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Dr. McCoy notes that a distress call had mentioned an attack from an unidentified ship. As they walk around this craggy, deserted planet, a non-corporal ball of light is strangely hiding in the shadows, but only we in the audience are seemingly aware of its presence. Out of the blue, a Klingon battle cruiser appears followed by a landing contingent led by Kang (Michael Ansara). He claims that Kirk has illegally attacked his cruiser, which Kirk denies. In turn, kirk accuses Kang of attacking eta XII-A, but Kang denies this accusation, as well. Both Kang and Kirk accuse each other of violations of the Organian Peace Treaty (from “Errand of Mercy”) –Kang believes the Enterprise has tested a new weapon which has damaged his ship, whereas Kirk believes Kang has detonated a new super-weapon which has utterly wiped out all trace of the Beta XII-A colony. Kang threatens torture as punishment and he attempts to forcibly take control of the Enterprise.

When requesting to beam aboard, Kirk secretly issues a red alert to Spock at the helm. Once aboard the Enterprise, the Klingons are quickly betrayed and captured. Despite their fears and rumors of Federation “death camps,” Kirk assures the Klingons that they will be humanely treated. Meanwhile, the incorporeal glowing bright light also quietly boards the Enterprise and begins roaming.

The Enterprise beams aboard the remaining Klingon crew and then fires phasers upon the damaged Klingon cruiser, presumably destroying it. However, communications suddenly go down and phaser power begins disappearing as medieval swords spontaneously appear where advanced weaponry once lay –an effect which Spock deems “instantaneous transmutation of matter.” Gradually, the crew loses control of the entire Enterprise as it is mysteriously commandeered by an unknown force. The ship begins accelerating wildly outside the galaxy while 400 (later 392) crewmen become trapped beneath bulkhead doors below deck. In a spontaneous sword fight, the Klingons break away and freely roam the ship. Kang then quickly gains control of the engineering bay and he begins depriving other sections of their life support systems so that they will feel “like the icy cold of space.” The ball of light and Kang are now both working against Kirk and the crew.

Meanwhile, a general sense of hostility has gripped the crew. A raging Chekov grabs a sword and demands vengeance on the Klingon “Cossacks” for the death of his brother Piotr on a Federation outpost on Archanis IV (however, Sulu later reveals that Chekov does not have a brother, he was actually an only child). Then, Dr. McCoy also grows agitated in demanding violence against the Klingons, as does Scotty, and even Spock’s partly human side reveals a brief moment of malcontent. When Kirk briefly restores sanity, he and Spock speculate that there must be some other force at work aboard the Enterprise. Recent events have unfolded such that base hostilities among the crew have been magnified, particularly racial bigotry. They surmise that the alien force is a both a catalyst and feeder upon violent, confrontational energy.  

Time is running out as the unknown alien life force begins draining the Enterprise’s dilithium crystals. The crew captures Kang’s Klingon wife, Mara (Susan Howard), and despite being filled with propaganda about the viciousness of the Federation, she soon realizes Kirk is not the brutal murderer she was led to believe. Kirk, Spock, and Mara corner the incorporeal ball of light and attempt to make peace with the Klingons in order to regain control of the Enterprise. Following another sword fight with Kang, Kirk manages to persuade him to lay down his arms in order to defeat of their mutual enemy. In the end, the alien finally flees the Enterprise out into open space amidst an eruption of laughter and backslapping between the Klingons and Enterprise crew.

This episode offers a terrific examination of hostility and racial animosity by showcasing the effects of propaganda on both sides of a war between the Federation and the Klingons. Aside from the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” perhaps there is another Cold War lesson to be drawn from this episode. Peace may be possible, even with bitter enemies like the Klingons, but only if a mutual enemy is identified. Maybe we cannot escape the existence of enemies, the possibility of peace implies some sort of enemy to contain. In the end, the true enemy of both the Federation and the Klingons is the poison of prejudice. Not unlike the famous “Christmas Truce” along the Western Front in 1914, both the Enterprise crew and the Klingons under Kang must maintain an armistice despite being aware that fighting will resume again shortly. It is also worth noting that both the Federation and the Klingons have clearly been pumped full of propaganda from both sides –in particular, the Federation “death camps” were very clearly a lie. Both sides are quick to assign blame, but they are slow to identify solutions. As is always the case, the most difficult role is assigned to the peacemaker.

What that being said, what actually happened to the colony on Beta XII-A. Was it a real colony? Or was it simply another fiction crafted by the unnamed war-loving incorporeal alien? Or, on the other hand, was it simply mere propaganda by the Federation and never truly existed? The true origins of Beta XII-A would be an interesting plot thread.

On a final note, there was a uniquely interesting moment in this episode wherein the Enterprise was essentially capable of entrapping the Klingons in limbo while they were beaming aboard. This kind of temporary technological imprisonment strikes me as important, I wonder if it will return again in future episodes.

Writer Jerome Bixby (1923-1998) was a prolific fiction writer known for his 1953 short story “It’s A Good Life” which became the basis of the classic Twilight Zone episode. He also crafted many other Western and Science Fiction novels which inspired movies like Fantastic Voyage and Alien, as well as certain writings by Isaac Asimov. Mr. Bixby died in 1998 at the age of 75. In his original draft script for this episode, the Enterprise receives a false distress call en route to celebrate “Peace Day,” the anniversary of peace through the Federation. The aliens were also described with humanoid features, though they were actually “blobs of light.”

Director Marvin Chomsky (1929-2022) was the cousin of leading contemporary linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky, and this was the second of three episodes he directed for Star Trek. As of the time of this writing, Marvin Chomsky passed away only a few months ago.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • The working title of this episode was “For They Shall Inherit.”
  • John Colicos was originally slated to return as the Klingon Commander Kor in this episode, however he was already committed to another project.
  • Actor Michael Ansara later returns in DS9 to reprise his role as Kang (“Dead Oath”) and then again in Voyager (“Flashback”).
  • A Klingon “agonizer” is used again in this episode, this time on Chekov. Previously, the device appeared in “Mirror, Mirror.”
  • This episode establishes that the Klingon cruiser is capable of carrying 440+ Klingons.
  • At one point, Chekov tries to attack the Klingons (again shouting “Filthy Cossacks!”) as he claims the Klingons a colony on Archanis IV. This colony reappears in the DS9 episode “Broken Link.”
  • Beta XII-A is apparently explored further in the TNG expanded novels.  
  • This is the only TOS episode to feature a woman in the role of a Klingon.

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Six “Spectre of the Gun”

Stardate: 4385.3 (2268)
Original Air Date: October 25, 1968
Writer: Lee Cronin (Gene L. Coon)
Director: Vincent McEveety

“The violence of your own heritage is to be the method of our execution.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Enterprise is on a mission to make first contact with a reclusive alien race known as the Melkotians. As the ship approaches the planet Melkot, the Enterprise discovers a mechanical device of unknown properties. Spock conducts a reading which reveals no life forms aboard, however the strange glowing object appears to be tracking the Enterprise. Then a booming voice echoes out: “Aliens, you encroached on the space of the Melkot, you will turn back immediately, this is the only warning you will receive!” It speaks in every available human dialect (Kirk hears English, Chekov hears Russian, and Uhura hears Swahili).

Kirk decides to ignore the warning and the Enterprise proceeds forward toward Melkot. A landing party of Kirk, Spock, Bones, Chekov, Scotty beam down to Melkot where they find a planet entirely encased in a thick fog with no communications availability. Then, a terrifying alien beast appears through the fog. He reminds Kirk of the buoy’s warning, and since it has been ignored, “you are outside, you are disease, and disease must be destroyed…” Suddenly, the landing party are transported into a surrealist representation of an old western town, complete with a dusty road under a bright red sky. A nearby newspaper reveals it is Tombstone, Arizona and the year is 1881.

The situation quickly becomes clear –the crewmen are being punished by the Melkotians for trespassing and they are condemned to relive the shooting at the O.K. Corral. Kirk and crew are to play the role of the Clanton gang in their battle with Wyatt Earp (Ron Soble) and Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman), and though Kirk (or Ike Clanton) attempts to stop the fight, the tension continues to build for a 5 o’clock showdown. Along the way, Chekov (a.k.a. “Billy Claiborne”) engages in a romance with Sylvia (Bonnie Beecher), but it is stopped short when Chekov is sadly gunned down by Wyatt Earp. Could this be the end of Chekov?

Attempts to flee the town prove fruitless as the Melkotians have erected a forcefield. Spock and Bones try to create a hand grenade and a tranquilizer, but both efforts fail. With time running out, Spock persuades the others that this whole simulation is merely a figment of their minds. If they simply believe they will not die in the shootout, it will be true. With Kirk and Bones being unable to avoid creeping fears of death, Spock performs a mind-meld on his fellow crewmen just in time before the shootout begins. And just as predicted, the bullets do not kill the Enterprise crew. When the ammo runs out, Kirk tackles Wyatt Earp to the ground, but instead of killing him, Kirk shows mercy. Moments later, they are returned to the bridge of the Enterprise –and Chekov has been restored to perfect health! Because Kirk has proven Starfleet’s peaceful intentions, the Enterprise is now properly invited to Melkot, and this time they will be welcomed by a Melkotian delegation.      

“I wonder how Humanity managed to survive.”
“We overcame our instinct for violence.”

Why does Starfleet order the Enterprise to make contact with the Melkotians? A little backstory would have been helpful here because otherwise it seems odd that the Enterprise is so aggressive as to ignore hostile warnings. Are there valuable minerals on Melkot? Or will the Mellkotians serve as key allies against the Romulans or Klingons? Perhaps their unique telepathic powers could prove useful (their limitless telepathy seems to echo the Talosians from “The Cage”).

There is a subtle theme replete throughout this episode which contemplates mankind’s optimistic future as it overcomes its’ own violent impulses. Whereas Kirk’s ancestors once violently conquered the old west, he is capable of breaking the curse by declining to murder Wyatt Earp. In doing so, he earns the respect of the Melkotians (thankfully they do not respect the honorable death a la the ancient warrior’s code).

This episode offers another fun and slightly surrealist side quest for the Enterprise. It delivers a nod to the prevailing Western genre (i.e. shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke, as well as movies like Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West which was released that same year) and also this is perhaps a wink at Star Trek’s own creation as “Wagon Train to the stars.” This episode is a bit of a guilty pleasure, right down to the partially completed set pieces, but it is hardly peak Trek. In a way, it reminded me of episodes like “Bread and Circuses” or “Patterns of Force” or even “A Piece of the Action.”

Originally titled “The Last Gunfight,” this episode was written by former show producer, Gene L. Coon (albeit under the pseudonym “Lee Cronin”).

This was the sixth and final episode directed by Vincent McEveety.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • This was the first episode produced for season 3, but the sixth to air.
  • James Blish’s novelization was entitled “The Last Gunfight.”
  • The date in which this episode takes place is October 26, 1881.
  • In one amusing scene in this episode, Scotty tries to order scotch at the saloon but the bartender reminds him that they only carry bourbon –“unless you want corn whiskey!”
  • In this episode, Kirk says his ancestors pioneered the American frontier.
  • This episode aired one day before the 187th anniversary of the true gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  • DeForest Kelley had previously played Morgan Earp in the 1957 film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  • This episode was shot on a studio stage with partially completed sets in part due to budget constraints but also to give a fragmentary view of Kirk’s mind. The sets were designed by Matt Jeffries.
  • According to later interviews, James Doohan despised his back-combed hairstyle as featured in Season 3. Apparently, it was not his choice.
  • Bonnie Beecher (1941-present) who played the role of Sylvia in this episode, appeared in a variety of other popular shows, including in The Twilight Zone episode “Come Wander With Me.” She had previously dated Bob Dylan in college and there have been speculations as to whether or not Dylan wrote the song “Girl From The North County” in her honor. She and her husband run a youth camp in Mendocino and they have one son together. She is still alive as of this writing.
  • The booming Melkotian voice was performed by Abraham Sofaer in one of his two appearances in the Star Trek series.
  • Other actors in this episode also appeared in popular Western shows: Ron Soble, Charles Maxwell, Rex Holman, Sam Gilman, Charles Seel, and Bill Zuckert.

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

Reflections on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Book XVIII

“We are now, Reader, arrived at the last Stage of our long Journey. As we have therefore travelled together through so many Pages, let us behave  to one another like Fellow-Travelers in a Stage-Coach, who have passed several Days in the Company of each other; and who, notwithstanding any Bickerings or little Animosities which may have occurred on the Road generally make all up at last, and mount, for the last Time, into their Vehicle with Chearfulness and Good-Humor; since after this one Stage, it may possibly happen to us, as it commonly happens to them, never to meet more” (595).  

Partridge suddenly arrives at Tom’s prison cell bearing news that his mother is actually Mrs. Waters (from the Upton inn). Then, Black George arrives at the prison and informs Tom that Squire Western and his sister Mrs. Western have had an intense argument. Later, Squire Allworthy learns of Tom’s generosity with the money he initially gave him when Tom was expelled from the Allworthy estate. As news breaks that Tom did not initiate the duel with Mr. Fitzpatrick, a letter from Square who is dying. In it, he confesses to Squire Allworthy that Tom is innocent of his past transgressions and that the true villain was Mr. Thwackum (with an enclosed letter exposing Thwackum’s haughty demands of Squire Allworthy).

Next, it is revealed that Tom’s father was Mr. Sumner, the son of a clergyman whom Squire Allworthy had raised, and –in the greatest twist of all—Mrs. Waters reveals that the true mother of Tom Jones was none other than Bridget Allworthy, the good Squire’s own sister! Blifil is found to be a villainous traitor whole Tom lobbies for forgiveness. Sophia and Tom are then reunited, and while she remains skeptical of Tom’s libertine ways, Tom manages to reassure her by guarding the armour of his own heart, if not always his own physical desires. All parties seem pleased, especially Squire Western who looks forward to having a grandson in nine months.

In a brief epilogue (“Chapter the Last”) Tom and Sophia are married and they have two children, living in perfect happiness each day on Squire Allworthy’s estate. They remain beneficent to all those around them. In what is perhaps the greatest farce of all in the novel, Tom’s fortunes in life only change when his birthright is revealed of aristocratic blood. No matter how many kind and good-natured deeds Tom performed in life, al that really mattered was that he was born of Squire Allworthy’s sister. Tom Jones offers a classic indictment of the prevailing mores of the British ruling class, who despite their platitudes of benevolence, prove to that the only thing dividing a hero from a villain is his bloodline. Goodness is a rare possession in England. As the book progresses, we are taken from 1) Somerset, 2) and the open road, 3) to finally concluding in London (all the while the young Pretender’s Jacobite rebellion serves as the backdrop). And interestingly enough, there is no real growth for any of the characters in the book (I suppose one could make the case that the confessions of Square and Mrs. Waters show some modest change of character). However, the only fact that changes the entire plot concerns the secret identity of Tom’s mother –Bridget Allworthy—which suddenly elevates Tom’s material situation and welcomes him back into his upper-class bubble. In this way, it is a markedly different kind of familial reveal than, say, Oedipus learning the hideous truth of his own mother. Tom finds his love of Sophia (“wisdom”) by sheer fortuity.     

Ever the rascal, Henry Fielding closes his blistering satire of trendy “novels of manners” (i.e. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Clarissa), a genre which so pervaded his age, by offering a fairy tale all too perfect to be believed. Tom Jones as a character becomes little more than a “thesis” as Kenneth Rexroth notes. Jones is a common enough fellow, the kind that was often absent from the novels of Fielding’s day, but Jones represents the universal hero not unlike other classical foundlings, such as Romulus and Remus raised by a she-wolf, or Moses found among the reeds. He is the natural gentleman, despite being a bastard, whose goodly nature is nevertheless his greatest flaw in the modern world, a world which seeks to crush him at every turn. He lacks tact and mischievousness while maintaining an overabundance of innocence and libido. In the end, his life is saved only by mere luck, happenstance, and fortune. This is the great irony of Tom Jones as, contra the realism of Daniel Defoe’s found diary entries in Robinson Crusoe, the unnamed narrator of Tom Jones ceaselessly reminds us that this whole tale is untrue via endless digressions and reflections intended to unseat and dethrone the modern reader from his place of presumed omniscience. In this way, Fielding owes a great debt to his intellectual forebear, Miguel Cervantes.

For this reading I used the Norton Critical Edition of Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling edited by Sheridan Baker.

Reflections on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Book XVII

The narrator reflects on tragedy and comedy. Comic writers end their books when their characters are made as happy as can be; whereas tragic writers conclude only when their characters reach the pit of human misery. However, since Tom Jones is of the former variety, the narrator endeavors to bring his characters onto the safe shores of happiness soon. In this respect, the ancients had an advantage over the moderns with the widespread believability of their stories and legends.

Blifil, Mrs. Miller, and Squire Allworthy debate the moral character of Tom when Squire Western arrives and shares Mrs. Western’s plan for Sophia to marry Lord Fellamar. This leads to a vigorous discussion as Blifil pines for Sophia, but Squire Allworthy advises Blifil to examine his own heart as he appears to be driven mainly by lust. However, returning to Sophia from whom the narrator can “no longer bear to be absent,”—

“The lowing Heifer, and the bleating Ewe in Herds and Flocks, may ramble safe and unguarded through the Pastures. These are, indeed, hereafter doomed to be the Prey of Man; yet many Years are they suffered to enjoy their Liberty undisturbed. But if a plump Doe be discovered to have escaped from the Forest, and to repose herself in some Field or Grove, the whole Parish is presently alarmed, every Man is ready to set his Dogs after her; and if she is preserved from the rest by the good Squire, it is only that he may secure her for his own eating” (577-578).

Sophia is compared to a hunted doe as three men seem to be chasing her. Mrs. Western sympathizes with Sophia after she shares that Lord Fellamar attempted to violate her. In shock, Mrs. Western shares her own personal “conquests and cruelty” toward her many suitors in her youth.

Meanwhile, in prison Tom receives news from Partridge that Mr. Fitzpatrick has not died from Mrs. Miller, Nightingale, and Partridge. Despite the fact that Tom is generally a good-natured person who has been wronged, neither Squire Allworthy nor Sophia are on speaking terms with him. At the end of Book XVII, news arrives from Mrs. Waters (from the Upton inn) that Mr. Fitzpatrick has survived and is admitting fault for the duel (which is especially timely as two witnesses to the duel were falsely claiming that Tom started the fight). However, the narrator claims this will be overshadowed by a piece of news which Fortune has yet in store for Tom.

For this reading I used the Norton Critical Edition of Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling edited by Sheridan Baker.