Episode 23 – TOS 1×23: “A Taste of Armageddon”

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This week’s episode is best described as a game of RISK that got massively out of hand.

Our fair ship is ordered (against the better judgement of literally every member of the crew, it seems) into a region of space with a galactic-standard Do Not Enter sign hung on the door. These orders are issued by Federation Ambassador Fox, AKA: The Beigest Man Alive, who probably should look into another career because he is actually not very good at diplomacy. Kirk protests that going in there is a) a bad idea and b) could totally start a war, but Fox insists, and in they go.

Guess what happens.

Not only is the Enterprise crew instantly sentenced to death the moment the away party beams down, but it gets crazier: this planet has been engaged in a 500-year-long war with a neighbouring world where casualties are caused not by bombs and guns, but calculated by computer – at which point the unfortunate victims of mathematics walk willingly into a disintegration machine. We kill 3.1 million of ourselves every year in this war, say their extremely solicitous hosts! It’s no big deal!

A Taste of Armageddon screencap: math really CAN kill you
Turns out I was right in high school: math really CAN kill you.

As you might imagine, Kirk & Co. object in the strongest possible terms.

This episode also features guest star Barbara Babcock, who went on to join the secondary cast of Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman, which you’ll know because of the 2.5 minute micro-lecture at about minute 26. It also also contains the second appearance of Yeoman Tamura (played by Miko Mayama, first seen in Court Martial), who is highly competent and wishes she got to point alien space-crystal-rayguns at people more often.

Yeoman Tamura with a ray gun
On the whole, we think this is for the best.

The consensus is that this episode was and remains relevant to the way we, in the West, view distant wars. In 1967, this was a thinly-veiled metaphor for Vietnam conscription and the Television War – in 2016, it’s a commentary on drones and our ability to kill real fellow humans from thousands of miles away using what is basically an Xbox controller. Eerily lifelike, and sufficiently chilling that despite the usual massive plotholes and inexplicable decision-making, I think this one holds up.

Editor’s Note: There’s a point where I suggest this episode contains callbacks to the movie Logan’s Run, before Kim reminds me that Logan’s Run the movie came out in 1976, and A Taste of Armageddon hit TV screens in February 1967. Logan’s Run the book was published in 1967, but I couldn’t find a specific date. Who knows? But if the two were unrelated it’s a hell of a co-incidence. (tl;dr: watch Logan’s Run. Sci-fi classic. Scary. Very Good.)

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