When the Enterprise picks up Lokai, a mysterious alien who is white on the right side of his body, and black on the left, they have no idea that they have stepped into a millennia-old conflict. For Lokai is soon followed by Bele, an alien from the same planet who is white on the left side of his body, and black on the right. Bele considers Lokai to be a traitor, criminal and all-round inferior being, and has chased him across the galaxy for 50,000 years, hoping to bring him to justice. Unable and unwilling to choose sides, the Enterprise crew must find a way to deal with these two implacably warring individuals.
What a difference two decades makes! When I first watched Star Trek, my viewing companion was my grandmother, and she hated this episode – to paraphase, “how silly, they hate each other because they have opposite colours”. This was what stuck in my mind, along with a memory of this being a slow-paced episode with not much happening. This time around, my viewing companion really enjoyed the allegorical nature of this episode; these aliens look much the same to the crew of the Enterprise, but slight differences in the colour of their skin have caused centuries of racial hatred. How silly, to judge someone by the colour of their skin, right?
So, in that regard, I have a newfound appreciation for the episode – after all, it’s doing what Star Trek does best, which is to use sci-fi to shine a light on ourselves. Nonetheless, it’s far from perfect – yes, there’s a good idea here, but as with so many recent episodes, in order to stretch it out to 50 minutes, it feels like there’s a lot of padding.
It’s not always black and white
- For once, the remastered edition has done a good thing – correcting the shuttlecraft that lands in the hangar bay from generic stock footage of the Galileo to a correctly labelled shuttlecraft from Starbase 4.
- Bele is so magic that he is able to control the Enterprise just by waving his hands around. And of course, as per usual no one stops him from freely entering sensitive areas such as the transporter room – which is left unmanned at times!
- Since it’s possible to set the transporter yourself, leave the console and step onto the pad, why is a transporter operator needed to pull all those levers? Is Scotty lying about how difficult it is just so he can still earn the big bucks for being a transporter expert? Also, how does the “do it yourself” mode work? Is it like a self-timer on a camera, where you have to set it and run into position? Does it activate even if you don’t get to the pad on time, or does it have a weight sensor that triggers the transporter to activate?
- In this episode, Bele specifically gets given guest quarters, which seems like a sensible thing for the ship to have, given that they often transport dignitaries and the like. However, in Elaan of Troyius, Uhura gives her quarters up for Elaan (and it’s unclear whether any of the things Elaan breaks are Uhura’s treasured personal possessions). Why do this? Is it because they’re both women, and the guest quarters are only for men? Unlikely, unless Uhura has been giving up her quarters for every female visitor on the ship, without complaint. Does Uhura have the best quarters on the ship, whilst the guest quarters are spartan and unattractive? Maybe Elaan really loves African art?
- Going back to Elaan of Troyius again for a moment, weren’t Elas and Troyius pre-warp cultures since they only had nuclear-powered intra-solar system spaceflight? Whither Prime Directive?
- In this episode, the ship is able to travel at Warp 10+ without breaking apart, even though in some episodes anything from Warp 7 upwards is a strain on Scotty’s beloved engines.
- Kirk talks about the “south end” of the galaxy, as if this has any meaning at all.
Summary – Let That Be Your Last Battlefield: Martin Luther King had a dream, but it didn’t reach every corner of the galaxy.