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Episode 21 – TOS 1×21: “The Return of the Archons”

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If you’ve ever heard fellow geeks make “of the body” jokes, this is where it comes from. In this episode, the Enterprise is out to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the U.S.S. Archon, which apparently crashed on unexplored Beta 3 – a planet so far away from Earth that it’s taken a century for someone to come looking for them. But instead of the hale and happy descendants of the Archon crew, they beam down to discover to whole planet of old-timey, ultra-polite zombies… and they really want the Enterprise to join in.

This episode is bursting at the seams with amazing early references to stuff that later becomes central the the Star Trek mythos, and asks a lot of really interesting questions, many of which are still relevant today! As a result we spend a lot of time talking about quasi-serious-business Star Trek analogies for real-life history & society this week, including but not limited to: Cold War terrors of communism as an all-consuming, individuality-crushing machine (as a bonus, spot the possible early seeds of the Borg!); herd immunity and the concept of society as body; the nature of human sentience, in an age where we are beginning to seriously discuss the preservation of human consciousness in digital storage; and What Is Consent, Anyway, when you’re being wholly controlled by an evil god and unable to voice an opinion or make a decision? (spoiler: It Isn’t).

There’s also a lot of really interesting, if subtle, in-episode talk about how mythology is perpetuated through a society in the form of a spaceship crash creating a prophecy that accurately predicts the Enterprise’s arrival. Also first seen in this episode: a genuine mention and micro-discussion of the Prime Directive… which of course Kirk & Co. proceed to completely ignore in favour of talking a computer to death.

All good fun.

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Kim guest-hosted on another podcast this week! Check out the ThumpaThumpa podcast to hear her talk about Queer As Folk. You can find them on Tumblr and Podbean.

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