3/20/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "A Taste of Armageddon"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: S01E23
Air Date: February 23, 1967
Written by: Robert Hamner and Gene L Coon
Directed by: Joseph Pevney

Premise
The Enterprise visits a world at virtual war and while they're in orbit they are declared a casualty of war. Now Kirk has to stop the war before this entire crew is forced to disintegrate themselves.

Review
If you hadn't noticed before, probably the most annoying thing for starship crews is for a diplomat to join them on a mission. And that's pretty much what happened here. The insufferable Ambassador Fox insists that the Enterprise continue on its diplomatic mission despite the fact that Eminiar VII is in the middle of all-out war. The planet's leaders even sent out a warning for no one to come! Kirk insists that they honor the warning, but Ambassador Fox seems to think that he's in charge for whatever reason. So they go.

When they get there everything seems to be normal. A thriving society with advanced technology and sprawling cities await them. Not a single sign of war. So you can understand their confusion. Anan 7, the leader of the planet, explains that they have been at war with the neighboring planet for 500 years. And Spock deduces that their war is fought entirely with computers. That's right, it's an entire society of gamers where the deaths are made real.
We used to be a classy society like you. But then we took an arrow to the knee.
When another attack is received, the deaths are calculated and the Enterprise is numbered among the damages. The entire crew is given 24 hours to report to disintegration chambers. That's right. Because of some other planet's war, the Enterprise crew is ordered to kill themselves. Of course they're not going to be that direct about it. The Eminians know enough about human nature to know that they're not going to agree to that. So they capture Kirk and contact the Enterprise using his voice.

Anan 7 tries to convince them to take shore leave, but Scotty knows better. He tested the voice that came through and discovered that it was not, in fact, Kirk's. So he doesn't come down. Meanwhile, Mea, the captain's girl of the episode, defends the war saying that if they didn't report to the disintegration chambers, their enemy would be forced to launch real weapons.
But look at that face. Surely we can launch weapons at that.
Well, Kirk eventually escapes and destroys a disintegration station. In retaliation, Anan 7 fires on the Enterprise. Scotty is able to hold her together, but Fox demands that he be let down to the surface to find a diplomatic solution. The problem with that is if they take down the shields to activate the transporter, they'd be blown away for sure. Scotty stands his ground, Fox says the mission is more important than the ship, and Scotty decks him. Not really. I wish.

Eventually Fox gets down, though. Along with a whole crew, he meets some Eminians who escort him. He thinks they're going to council chambers, but, instead, they bring him to another disintegration station. And then Spock ruins it by saving Fox's life and destroying the station. Well, eventually they all meet up in the council chambers and Anon 7 explains that if they don't fulfill the treaty, a real war will start and everyone will die. And Kirk says that's not such a bad idea.
Just destroy both of these guys and get it over with.
So Kirk destroys their war computers. Without them, the enemy will be forced to attack with real weapons. And then war will be a thing to be avoided. The devastation will force them to end the war. Fox agrees to act as a mediator in peace talks. So, if nothing else, we've gotten rid of Fox. Which, in itself, makes it a good day overall.

Overall Thoughts
This is a classic Star Trek morality tale about the horrors of war and death. Except that it doesn't show the horrors... which makes it more horrible. It's really a very intriguing idea, I just think that, outside of an alien civilization with completely different social values, it's not really viable. In either case, Kirk teaches a valuable lesson about the reasons war should be avoided and we all go home happy. Huzzah!