Episode 26 – TOS 1×26: “Errand of Mercy”

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So the chatter around this episode before we watched was basically KLINGONS KLINGONS KLINGONS. Because this week’s story involves the first appearance of our favourite (I know, we say that every time) Star Trek aliens: The Klingons!

…well, sort of. There’s a running joke regarding Original Klingons versus Classic Flavour Klingons, i.e. pre-Bumpy-Forehead v.s. Post-Bumpy-Forehead. Until the Enterprise storyline that tried (not super-gracefully) to explain away the drastically differing appearances of early and classic Klingons, the best explanation was basically “we do not discuss it.” Generally speaking this is the explanation we prefer, because early Klingons were… different. Warlike, sure. Super into military service, sure. Our favourite wine-swilling, wild-haired warrior poets?

Koor v1
Koor v1

…ehhhhh, not so much.

With war looming on the horizon, the Enterprise is dispatched to secure peaceful, pre-Warp Organia, a civilization that has stalled somewhere around Barely Medieval and just happens to be right in the path of the imminent Klingon invasion. Their planet is strategically valuable, and the Federation wants that planet secured for the protection of the rest of the region. Also, Klingons have a habit of enslaving and massacring their conquered subject worlds, which is something the Federation would like to avoid if at all possible.

Only one problem: the Organians don’t want the Federation’s protection. And then suddenly it’s too late: the Klingons have arrived, and the away team (only Kirk and Spock) are left stranded in the middle of an occupation.

You might describe this episode as a story about imperialism, and how even the benevolent kind of assimilation is Not Really That Great. That’s a valuable discussion to have, especially in Star Trek. Trek canon never stops talking about the fact that even though the Federation is, by and large, a benevolent force for good, the very mechanism of a society so large and powerful means that imperialism and assimilation, often explicitly denounced in Trek as negative, destructive things (that’s basically why the Prime Directive exists), are always waiting in the wings. A great example of this is the famous Root Beer Speech from DS9 (the important bit starts at at 1:35).

Two-thirds of us, though, were too caught up in the glaring, obvious fact that the supposedly helpless, primitive people the Enterprise was sent here to protect were secretly (SPOILER) all-powerful, non-corporeal ascended balls of light who were never in any danger, only took physical form to trick the actually-primitive visitors on both sides, and when the situation becomes genuinely inconvenient for them, snap their fingers and bend the Federation and Klingon forces to their will, declaring the war over. I mean, no war = good. But you might ask: “why take physical form in the first place?” They’re ascended! Beyond all mortal cares! All-powerful and all-knowing! And would they even have intervened if the Klingons and the Federation hadn’t shown up to play loud space-music on their front lawn? WHO KNOWS. (They definitely never interfere in galaxy-spanning space-war again, at least not in this reality, so I’m thinking… no.)

This incensed some of us (mainly me), and it took us a while to realize why this sort of high-handed behaviour felt so familarly infuriating. And then we remembered: the ascended jerks from Stargate.

Ascended jerks from Stargate.
Who, us? Interfere? Nahhhh.

Ascended Omnipotent Aliens: dicks in every galaxy.

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