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BREAD AND CIRCUSES (2nd season; episode #43) Director: Ralph Senensky
writers: Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon and (uncredited) John Knuebuhl
Air Date: 03/15/68
This was one of several Trek episodes which presented planets with very similar evolutionary patterns to Earth, to the point that it strained credibility. A mention of 'Hodgkin's Law' is inserted, postulating parallel development among certain planets. But, the bottom line is, this was not an 'alternate dimension' sf show, but a space travel show; if Roddenberry felt a need to comment on our human condition with such fabricated theories on parallel evolution, so be it. And this one was possibly the best of the lot. The title refers to a way of keeping the populace - the mob - satiated with blood sports.
The Enterprise arrives at a planet where Rome never fell. It would be as if, on Earth, the Roman Empire continued for several more centuries instead of falling apart in our 5th century. Cops, aka Centurions, wearing motorcycle helmets, run around with machine guns, though they still carry swords for the sake of tradition; gladiatorial games are televised for the masses (this episode was 8 years before the similar Rollerball film). Slavery has evolved, as well, with some meager benefits extended to keep most slaves complacent.
A lot of ideas are presented in this one, including some thoughts on religion. It comes across as a serious, adult approach. In fact, there's a coarseness to much of this episode, an edge, reflecting the cruelty of the culture presented here. BTW, the planet is known only as 892-IV (the 4th planet in the star system 892, see? - at least it wasn't the 3rd planet, which would be a bit too eerie).
As was the case with most later episodes, the main trio of Kirk, Spock & McCoy beam down to investigate this intriguing yet dangerous environment, searching for clues on the disappearance of a smaller ship years earlier. The Empire seems to bring out the worst in them, such as McCoy's verbal attack on Spock while they're imprisoned. Is McCoy so insightful on Spock's fear of living because he knows something about having a death wish? The trio also strain to hold true to their strict Prime Directive (an order that forbids them to interfere with another culture), unlike many other episodes. This was ironic, as this was one episode where I wouldn't have minded Kirk disregarding the directive again and laying waste to a city or two as a lesson in power to some fat proconsul (played in a repugnant manner by Logan Ramsey). BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10
Extra Trek Trivia: Captain Merrick (played by William Smithers above) failed a psycho-simulator test at Starfleet Academy; it required a split-second decision. He commanded the S.S.Beagle, a smaller-type ship, not a starship like the Enterprise; rebellious slave Flavius, who resembled Spartacus of the same film, was played by Rhodes Reason, who starred in King Kong Escapes around the same time; his twin brother was Rex Reason, star of This Island Earth.
Last edited by BoG on Sun May 03, 2015 2:13 am; edited 6 times in total
CLASSIC TREK QUOTES:
Flavius: "Where do you come from? What do you call those?"
Spock: "I call them 'ears'."
Flavius: "You trying to be funny?"
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