TOS: Episode 50: Patterns of Force
Again we begin with a mystery. The Enterprise crew has been attempting to contact an Earth historian, Mister John Gill, for over six months without success. It would seem he is missing. However, he had been studying the development of a primitive planetary system when last heard from. Now the crew find themselves within reach of the very planet they hope he resides upon. We witness a touch of hero worship on the part of our heros as both Kirk and Spock carry an affection for Mister Gill's work. Kirk studied him intensively in school, and Spock, too admired Gill's approach to recounting the story of our planet. It seems Gill treated history as a matter of causes and motivations, rather than dates and events, which Spock found fascinating.
Strangely, though there is no response from either of the planets our ship is approaching, a spaceship plots an intercept course for the Enterprise. We discover it is actually an unmanned probe carrying a warhead. Being the superior vessel, the Enterprise crew successfully destroys the warhead, but in doing so discovers it to be an atomic weapon.
We now find ourselves in the grip of an episode hosting TWO, possibly intertwined, mysteries.
The warhead offers this unusual puzzle--how could the technologically primitive planets the crew are approaching have nuclear power long before the anticipated development of their civilizations would project?
KEY EPISODE ELEMENTS
1. A Ship Without A Captain or First Mate
Star Fleet databases inform us that the planets below host undeveloped warlike peoples. Further, the nuclear warhead would suggest those warlike people would mean to attack anything approaching. In the face of such clear expectation for violence, Kirk and Spock do the ONLY THING REASONABLE. They remove the two leaders of their galaxy class starship (themselves) from the bridge of that ship by beaming directly into the path of danger on the planet below. How else could they discover WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON ON OUR PLANET OF MYSTERY, and honestly, we couldn't expect them to hand such a task over to just anyone, could we?
2. Civilian Attire
Wonderfully, the situation finds us viewing both our captain and first mate in civilian attire, with Spock's standard knit cap to effectively cover ALL TRACE OF HIS ALIEN COMPONENTS. oh, to be without view of those ears. I love those ears. Still, Spock must fulfill his duty. He dons the cap, and together he and Kirk beam below.
In case we had any doubt over the severity of danger Kirk and Spock have put themselves in, their landing on the planet surface places them IMMEDIATELY in the path of Nazis. That's right--deep space Nazis. Did you hear me? Deep space, primitive planet, war loving Nazis. Star Trek couldn't be in the midst of coping with the cold war, could they?
Kirk responds to the situation with one statement. "Unbelievable." Unbelievable indeed. This other planet uses Nazi symbols, Nazi leadership patterns, and Nazi practices of elimination of those that are not of the desireable race. Unfortunately, however, we also discover that our missing historian is actually the Nazi leader on our new planet.
4. Naked Chest Whip Lashing
That's right. Kirk and Spock both end up half naked before we are even a quarter of the way into the episode. Captured by the Nazis, our starship leaders find themselves covered in red and green marker stripes as the makeup crew is forced to find a way to imply whiplash cuts administered by the SS guards. After the marker lashing, our men find themselves thrown in jail.
Star Trek has showcased Kirk's bare chest again and again, of course. We have not seen Spock's before, however. All I can say is that my love for him has grown. Spock is lovely.
5. Make Shift Laser Technology
Wonderfully, while preparing a makeshift laser Spock gives us first a lecture on the physics of light transmission, and then a confession on his inability to understand Kirk's use of metaphor.
After making a laser out of almost nothing, our crewmen successfully break themselves out of jail along with a planetary prisoner. The prisoner leads them to a secret hideout of those people being killed off by the Nazis.
6. Spock Embracing Risk
In the midst of the trials our men face Spock realizes that there is an exhiliration mixed into the reality of chancy situations. Though he is skilled at calculating risk, the truth, he realizes, is that one still never knows if one will succeed--it is in that space of chance that feeling can be found. While facing the possibility of being re-captured by Nazis Spock finds himself there in the space of feeling, though he then also confesses he hopes not to dwell there too long.
7. McCoy's Emotionalism
Wonderfully, McCoy finds being required to beam to the planet wearing his own Nazi uniform. Immediately he gushes with classic frustration and emotion yelling about the trouble of his Nazi boot.
McCoy is brought to the planet surface in order to determine if our Mister John Gill is actually drugged, psychotic, or hypnotized. It seems too unbelievable that our dear historian could be the leader of an entire Nazi civilization. We discover Mister Gill has been horribly drugged, though we don't yet know why.
McCoy and Spock work together to first stimulate Gill, and then mindmeld with him. Magically, Spock makes it possible for Gill to respond to questions, though he cannot initiate speech himself.
In the midst of the Nazi pursuit for obliteration Kirk and Spock are forced to consider a horrible choice--either they kill 1000 to save millions, or they refuse to kill anyone and risk losing everyone. Do the sheer numbers of lives saved make any action worth taking? Does the consequence make a choice right?
Kirk, of course, finds another way.
9. Human Limitation
We come to understand through this episode that a person with too much leadership power can't resist the chance to play god, thereby choosing wrongly. Our historian, it turns out, used the wisdom he'd gained from studying human history to attempt to lead an alien people out of strife through the example of another time on Earth. Though he'd originally intended it to be without genocide, the situation comes out of his control and leads towards the murdering of innocents.
Confused by the illogical choices of the lost historian, Spock resolves NOT to become human. McCoy swears Spock misunderstand human history, and Kirk leads us away from the conflict by closing the episode with a forthright demand to leave orbit.