The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Errand of Mercy

When the Klingon Empire decides to annex the planet Organia, the Enterprise is sent to put a stop to its expansionist plans. Kirk and Spock beam down to convince the populace to accept the help of the Federation, only to be bemused and frustrated by the Organians seeming lack of care for the coming occupation. And when the Klingons arrive, the Enterprise is forced to withdraw, leaving Kirk and Spock alone to mount a two-man resistance.

Here they are, the most well known and archetypal villains of the Star Trek universe – the Klingons. The first time I saw this episode, I had never seen a Klingon on screen before, but I already knew that they weren’t supposed to be just dark-skinned humans with black hair and fancy moustaches – where were their facial ridges? Well, unfortunately, the budget of the TV series never allowed for the intended Klingon looks, so in fact, until The Motion Picture, we’re stuck with the smooth-headed Klingons. In Deep Space Nine, Worf claims that Klingons do not like to talk about the difference, whilst Enterprise actually tried to explain it, but do we really want to accept Enterprise as a thing that happened?

Anyway, here we see the Klingons introduced as a generically warlike race, with short tempers and a tendency to punish any infraction with death. According to their commander, Kor, they act as a unit for the greater good, and everyone is watched; there’s nothing yet about all the Klingon codes of honour – in fact, right now that’s more the province of the Romulans.

Character development

I was furious with the Organians for stopping a war I didn’t want”

Once again, this is a Kirk and Spock episode, with hardly anyone else getting a moment of screen time. Kirk comes to Organia thinking of himself as superior to both the docile Organians and the warlike Klingons, only to discover that not only are the Organians are far beyond him, but that he’s more similar to the Klingons than he would like to admit.

The world of the future

  • The Klingons have a device which can be used at various strengths to probe people’s minds. Vulcan mind control techniques can resist the mind probe. Klingon weapons are also referred to as phasers in this episode, rather than disruptors as they are later on.
  • ‘Quadrant’ is still being used to mean ‘sector’, rather than an entire quarter of the galaxy as it is from TNG onwards.
  • In the last episode, we learnt that there are least two models of phaser, the weaker ‘Phaser One’, as used by the miners of Janus VI, and the more powerful ‘Phaser Two’, as used by the Enterprise crew.
  • The Organians claim that the Federation and Klingons will one day become fast friends, which of course does come to pass in TNG.
  • Kor is one of the three Klingons who will appear in the DS9 episode Blood Oath.

Most illogical, Captain

  • At the start of the episode, the Enterprise phasers look, act and sound more like photon torpedoes.
  • Why did the Klingons imprison Kirk and Spock together? They should have kept the separated to prevent them from pooling ideas and information.
  • How are the Organians able to appear on Earth and the Klingon homeworld simultaneously? If they are that powerful, surely they must end up running into, say, the Q continuum?
  • Kirk says that humans are used to thinking of themselves as the most advanced race in the galaxy, despite the fact that the Enterprise has already encountered the Metrons, Balok and Trelane.
  • Spock comes up with some ridiculous odds again, this time too precise to be meaningful. I’m sure he’s just having Kirk on at this point.

Summary – Errand of Mercy: There’s Klingons on the starboard bow.

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