The Great Star Trek Rewatch: A Piece of the Action

When Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the planet Iotia, they are well aware that they may have to undo any contamination caused by the visit of a previous starship a hundred years ago. What they weren’t expecting, however, was that the entire Iotian society has modelled itself on a single Earth book – on Chicago mobs of the 1920s. Can Kirk possibly restore order to this mob-based society?

Before the holodeck gave us an excuse for this type of episode, TOS was forced to use more creative means to shoehorn other, lower budget genres into its storylines, and here we have one where an entire culture has based itself on a book. As I’ve said before, I watch Star Trek for the sci-fi, so I wasn’t looking forward to this episode, and it was indeed a bit of a feat of endurance to get through it. The story is flimsy throughout, and the only real entertainment it provides is Kirk sporting a pinstripe suit and attempting to talk like a mobster.

Mobservations

  • The Prime Directive was put in place within the last century – before that, it was fine for starships to contact pre-warp cultures. Presumably some first contacts went wrong, or the Vulcans pointed out the logic of non-interference, and then it was instated.
  • The Iotians were left with books other than the one on Chicago mobs – these are said to be textbooks on radios and the like, which is presumably how they were able to recreate Earth cars and telephones with such accuracy.
  • The “transtator” is apparently the core component of most 23rd century technology. When McCoy leaves his communicator on the planet, Kirk remarks that the Iotians may be able to reverse engineer it – this is clearly meant to be an amusing end-of-episode exchange, but shouldn’t they be taking steps to retrieve it? They know roughly where it is – all they need to do is lock onto it and beam it up before they leave.
  • In this episode, Scotty is able to fire wide beam phasers on stun from the Enterprise, affecting people on the planet below. This in itself is morally dubious, and presumably shouldn’t be done in areas where people are operating heavy machinery, but more to the point – if they can do this, why don’t they do it in many more episodes?
  • Kirk remains pretty much invincible when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

Summary – A Piece of the Action: I’d much rather watch an episode of The Sopranos.

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