Wednesday, December 02, 2009


From Wikipedia:

"The Return of the Archons" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #21, production #22, and was first aired February 9, 1967. It was repeated by NBC on July 27, 1967. The screenplay was written by Boris Sobelman, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry, and directed by Joseph Pevney.

Overview: The crew of the Enterprise encounters a world controlled by an unseen leader.


Oh, but this one is so much more than a simple encounter with "a world controlled by an unseen leader." Yeah, it's one of the better "parallel Earth" stories. Sure, it offers a glimpse of the future's past, with the Enterprise investigating the loss of the USS Archon nearly a century earlier. And it's got one of those fabulous logic battles between Kirk and a powerful sentient computer. This one would be fun, no matter what.

But it's the social situation in which Kirk and crew find themselves, and its ramifications for our culture, you know, us viewers back here in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, that truly make this episode great. The people of Beta III exist in a sort of group consciousness, which allows for some sense of individuality, but which can also be stripped away at the whim of the apparition-like Landru whenever he requires "The Body," that is, his subjects, to perform a group action. Generally, these people are calm and peaceful, with a psychedelic gleam in their eyes, offering well-wishes and love to whomever they may encounter. Except, of course, during "Festival," when Landru causes his people to release their inner demons, spending entire nights literally raping and pillaging their own civilization.

They're just like us.

No, seriously. Think of the bloodthirsty Southern Baptists who love the death penalty, love torturing prisoners of war, love hating homosexuals, and who love you and Jesus. Think of the perfect suburbs with their underbelly of sleaze and anger. Think of the entire US population twenty four hours before, and then twenty four hours after, 9/11.

"The Return of the Archons" has always creeped me out, from the first time I saw it when I was four or five, right up until today. The notion that all our minds are being controlled somehow, that we only pretend to be peaceful and loving, that animalistic violence is just a surface scratch away from it's full bloody glory, that everything we value and believe in is a monumental lie, I think I've instinctively feared my whole life.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how psychologically disturbing this episode is. I've read a few reviews of this one on the web, and, generally, people rate it as average: they obviously don't get it. Go check it out. It's great.

"It is done."