Return of the Archons - episode #22

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Return of the Archons - episode #22

Post  BoG on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:02 pm


THE RETURN OF THE ARCHONS (1st season; episode #22) Like a Star @ heaven Air Date:2/9/67
Directed by Joseph Pevney / writers: Boris Sobelman, Gene Roddenberry

ABOVE: Sulu is about to get cornered by a Lawgiver and then absorbed into 'The Body' - Paradise!

This episode does present some deep and sophisticated concepts, quite sophisticated even for this show; however, the drawback was an unexciting narrative, even a drab pace, and a lackluster conclusion. The Enterprise had already arrived at a planet before the episode begins, on one of those investigative searches for a lost Federation ship from a century prior (see also A Taste of Armageddon, where-in a ship was lost half-a-century prior).
This planet's inhabitants all seem to be in a perpetual state of vapid, almost mindless contentment, walking about in a happy daze on the streets of a pleasant town. Well, perpetual, that is, until the big clock strikes a certain hour - the Red Hour - then everyone goes crazy raping & pillaging. I wonder who cleans up these messes afterward? - this 'festival' as it's called is depicted in a manner which nowadays draws derisive laughter, I'm afraid. It was meant to be disturbing, offering a stark comparison between civilized, calm citizens and ones who are berserk a moment later. As of this decade, it calls to mind such films as 28 Days Later, also depicting crazed citizens, with obviously a more realistic, more savage tone.

The people here are no more than wind up toys, following the telepathic command of a hidden ruler named Landru. Landru's will is enforced by mysterious robed figures, Lawgivers, who employ strange staves. We can surmise that, perhaps, this was a veiled attack on communism back in the sixties, showing the inherent dangers of collectivism. The science fiction premise, that of the 'group-mind,' has been prevalent in sci-fi, especially in the sixties. In such a state, there are no real individuals left, only a 'body' composed of many cells, each cell pretty much the same as the next one. This story proposes that when free will becomes too intoxicating and mankind nearly destroys itself (i.e. self-induced holocaust), then something may step in to regulate our will to avoid extinction - a cosmic Gandhi turned benign dictator, if you will. Therefore, this could be a commentary on rampant capitalism and democracy, as well - so the story wants to have it both ways.

However, as with every body, be it physical or mental, there inevitably appear certain strains or viruses attacking from within. The rebels here work in groups of 3 and are apparently resistant to the absorption techniques imposed by Landru. It's interesting that these rebels are all old men (Harry Townes, Jon Lormer), perhaps having developed some immunity over time. But, they don't behave so much as rebels as just crying for some saviors to come - like the 'Archons' from a 100 years ago. Kirk has to coerce these guys into helping him find this mysterious Landru, all the while avoiding being absorbed. My favorite scene lets actor  De Kelley show what a good actor he was, after McCoy gets absorbed into the body. No one else was able to capture that self-satisfied contentment as well as he did and it was all the more unsettling when, after pointing an accusatory finger, he attacked Kirk in rage ("You're NOT of the BODY!") -  you can't pay for better entertainment sometimes.
The 4th act, unfortunately, is anti-climactic, with the use of anti-machine logic by Kirk to get some circuits sputtering (see later episodes such as The Ultimate Computer and The Changeling, which also suffered in depicting conveniently very vulnerable, faulty machinery). I did appreciate the guest turn by actor Torin Thatcher, who appears late in the episode. I'll always remember him from the best Sinbad movie, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
Now we come to the real crux of this story - the disregard of the Prime Directive, that supposedly unyielding law which governs the ethics of the Federation. It states that such Federation envoys as the Enterprise crew may never interfere with or change another culture. Now, it wasn't a COMPLETE disregard: Spock does remind Kirk of the directive towards the 4th act. Kirk dismisses this rule with a couple of sentences, that it only refers to a growing culture, which this isn't. Oh, really? I wasn't aware that such distinctions could be made. Perhaps now we understand the attraction of going off into space as a starship captain - you get to play God on occasion. Not a bad way to spend one's time - as we remember in The Apple and A Taste of Armageddon.
Extra Trek Trivia: in a rare instance, Spock employs his fist rather than his famed nerve pinch in this episode - perhaps he was concerned the pinch wouldn't work well on the zombie-like robed Lawgivers. Also uncharacteristically, Kirk referred to McCoy as 'Doc' in this episode, not the usual 'Bones.' Jon Lormer would also play an old man in For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and portrayed an old illusion in the first pilot, The Cage. Landru (Charles Macaulay, who would return in Wolf in the Fold) created his mechanical talisman 6,000 years ago; advanced aliens began training special Earth agents 6,000 years ago (Assignment:Earth); is there a connection?


Last edited by BoG on Sat May 02, 2015 11:18 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Return of the Archons full episode

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:31 pm

CLASSIC TREK QUOTES:
Sulu: "You, you did it. They knew we were Archons. These are the clothes they wear, not these!"



They sure do make a mess in these here parts...
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