After coming across the wreckage of the S. S. Beagle
, Kirk, Spock and Bones beam down to the surface of the nearest planet. This planet is a class M planet remarkably like earth down to the land/water ratio. Atmosphere and radio signals hint a technological advancement equal to 20th century Earth. They beam down to a part of the wilderness close to city limits, thinking it deserted when they're taken captive by slaves on the run. After Kirk impresses them with his communicator, they take him in and tell him about the empire. Apparently, they get very angry when slaves worship a different god. Kirk and company gather the runaway slaves to be "sun" worshipers. It seems the civilization on this planet is a reflection of a modern day Earth where Rome never fell.
When Kirk and company are captured and taken to the city, they find out what happened to the crew of the Beagle
. It seems not all captains are that dedicated to their crew. When Merik was offered a life of luxury as First Citizen in return for selling out his entire crew to fight in the gladiator pits, he couldn't resist. What a bastard.
The Fan Nickname
for this episode is "The One With...
the Space Romans
Tropes for this episode include:
- Ancient Rome: This planet's hat.
- As You Know: Kirk, Bones and Spock all discus what the Prime Directive is, even though they presumably know what that is.
- Blood Sport: Barbarians (i.e., people not of this planet) and slaves fight to the death in gladiator pits. It's treated like Monday Night Football.
- Bread and Circuses: Look at the title.
- Crowning Music of Awesome: Yeah, it's recycled from "Amok Time", but it's still awesome!
- Deadpan Snarker: When an armed man points at Spock's pointed ears and says "What do you call those?" He calmly replies "I call them ears." When asked if he's trying to be funny, he flatly replies "Not at all." Oh, that Spock!
- Defiant to the End: Merik's last move is to throw Kirk his communicator.
- Dystopia: It's the worst of Ancient Rome combined with the worst of the 20th Century.
- Gladiator Games: They even make magazines about it!
- Great Escape: They try the old faking sick trick. (I'm sure that's on YKTTW somewhere.) It doesn't work.
- Grudging Thank You: Spock tells Bones to hurry up with what he's trying to say while he looks for a means to escape their cell. "I'm trying to say 'thank you', you pointy eared hobgoblin!" Bones blurts out.
- Happiness in Slavery: Or at least medical benefits and pension.
- Heel Face Turn: Merik eventually decides to aid Kirk, redeeming himself, though he has little time to enjoy it.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: The gladiatorial games as they're presented seem a lot like modern reality game shows like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. Only with decapitations.
- Also, Kirk's surprise at cars being named after Roman gods. The Ford Mercury, anyone? (founded in '39, no reason for them not to remember that.) The Saturn Corporation?
- I Have Your First Officer AND Your Doctor: Kirk is told if he doesn't do as Merik did, Bones and Spock will be forced to fight to the death in the gladiator pits. Even threatened with this and with guns to his head, Kirk still refuses. Claudius Marcus is impressed by this show of character. Merik is rightfully ashamed.
- Inexplicable Cultural Ties: The Hand Wave we get is something called Hodgkin's Law.
- Involuntary Battle to the Death: What could possess a man to battle another man to the death? Whips! Massive whips!
- Laugh Track: The crowd's cheers and boos are mechanically produced.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Kirk gets this trope more than James Bond does! Claudius Marcus invites Kirk and company to eat with him, before he forces him into a Sadistic Choice at gun point.
- No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus: Uhura comes to the conclusion that the "sun" worshipers are "son" worshipers when their detractors can't come up with anything bad to say about them. (They must not have Fundies Say The Darndest Things on this planet.) The new religion is one of love and brotherhood. Yeah.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bones gives one to Spock, telling him that he fears emotion more than death. Spock calmly responds with Vulcanese for I Am What I Am.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Kirk makes smoochy face with Drusilla the Sex Slave. Pan up to chandelier. Pan down to Kirk sleeping alone. Drusilla didn't even stay for breakfast!
- Shout Out: A car called the Jupiter 8 could be a Shout Out to Lost in Space
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Spock and Bones are at it again! Even in the heat of combat, they manage to snark each other.
- Space Romans: The whole planet
- Spy Speak: Kirk tells Scotty "Condition Green, everything's fine." However, "Condition Green" is their code for "I'm in trouble." Scotty has to figure out a way to help Kirk without breaking the Prime Directive.
- Theiss Titillation Theory: Those scraps of gold foil that Drusilla seems to think constitutes as a dress.
- Think Nothing of It: Spock's reaction to Bones' Grudging Thank You.
- Thirty Second Blackout: Scotty causes one to help Kirk and company escape.
- Whip It Good: Anyone who tries to get out of the gladiatorial combat gets whipped back into action.