The Machine that Ruled The Planet! Originally broadcast on February 9, 1967 this is The Return of the Archons.
Captain’s Log Stardate 3156.2
While investigating the planet Beta III Enterprise Sulu is beamed back acting strangely with his team mate now missing. Looking for the missing team member, Kirk and party run across people who insist that they attend The Festival which seems to be nothing but a chaotic mess not unlike The Purge. When it is clear they know nothing about The Festival, they are encountered by beings known as The Lawgivers who insist that they be taken into The Body. After resisting and hiding from the Lawgivers, the party is captured when trying to contact Enterprise. Kirk and team awake to discover that the entire populous has been brainwashed and it will soon happen to them as well. After McCoy is indoctrinated, Spock breaks free and joins the resistance who have prevented both his and Kirks indoctrination. There they learn that the entire society is under the control of a living computer known only as Landru. Finding Landru, Kirk and Spock discover that the computer believes it is doing what is best for the society. Using logic against it, Spock convinces it that it is in fact evil, causing it to self destruct freeing the people of the planet. Kirk leaves a team of specialists to help the civilization get back on track now that they are free.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This one is a truly creepy, almost Twilight Zone-esque story that shows a very strange and almost zombie-like people who are being controlled by a mysterious being. For much of the episode the story is played out like a predecessor of The Purge combined with almost cult like ‘stepford wives’ implications. As the story progresses there is a tremendous mystery over the identify and purpose of Landru and why they would have such control over the people in the colony. The beauty of this entire episode is that it creates a truly frightening situation that is ultimately explained through a technology that has taken a life of it’s own.
As the mystery progresses we find that Landru truly believes that it is doing the right thing by ensuring it’s citizens are at peace and safe in every way. Unfortunately it’s directive has become distorted over time making it its own worst offender which ultimately leaves the citizens of Beta III much worse off than they had been before.
Overall, this is a tremendous episode that is not only well plotted, acted and paced but is presented more as a horror story than a traditional scifi one, making it truly legendary. Unfortunately, we never learn what became of the citizens of Beta III, but we do discover the fate of Landru via Lower Decks. Lets just say…he didn’t go out with the bang we thought he did.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- Scotty takes command of the ship in the absence of the main bridge crew.
- We get an early reference to the Prime Directive in this episode.
- One thing that is never explained is why everyone was dressed the way they were…
- and for some reason Kirk loves dropping people off on planets never to retrieve them. huh…
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: A Taste of Armageddon
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Late To The Game 1/19/2022
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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