The One with... the Klingons for the very first time ever!
The war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingons is coming to a head and it looks like the peaceful planet Organia is stuck in the middle. Kirk puts Sulu in charge of the Enterprise, reminding him that his duty will be to the ship, not to the landing party consisting of Kirk and Spock. The people of Organia are a peaceful, welcoming bunch, content with their medieval way of life. When Kirk informs them of the war encroaching on their planet, the Organians seem unconcerned.
When the Klingons make their grand appearance and start occupying Organia, Kirk and Spock go undercover as traders, hoping to get the drop on the Klingons and drive them out. Much to Kirk's shock, the Organian council of elders betray them to the Klingons, only to rescue them from jail easily enough. Kirk is increasingly chagrined by the Organian's refusal to fight back against the tyrannies that the Klingons are imposing on them.
As the moment of full blown war approaches, the Organians reveal the truth. They are actually Sufficiently Advanced Aliens of pure energy who cannot be killed by conventional weapons. In fact, they use their mental abilities to neutralize not only all the weapons present, but the fleets of both the Federation and the Klingons! They impose a peace treaty on both sides, making it clear that they can render all their military forces helpless no matter where they are. The Organians bid both factions farewell, but before they disappear they express a wish that both races will learn not to be so violent.
Tropes of Mercy:
- Absentee Actor: McCoy and Scotty don't appear in this episode. This is the third and final regular episode in which McCoy doesn't appear, after "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and the second part of "The Menagerie".
- Actual Pacifist: The Organians.
- Affably Evil: Kor is smartly turned out, by no means bad-mannered, and urges Kirk to share a drink before he, Kirk, must regretfully be mind-sifted and killed. Kirk refuses to drink with the enemy, but by all the signs Kor is quite willing for this simply to be a social occasion, although it will save Kirk much pain if he is prepared to spill some secrets.
- Ball of Light Transformation: This is the true form of the Organians. The amiable old men turn into blindingly bright light at the end of the episode — their humanoid appearance was simply A Form You Are Comfortable With.
- Big "NEVER!": Kor's reaction to Ayelborne's prediction of peace between The Federation and the Klingon Empire. Becomes Hilarious in Hindsight in view of the cooperation between the two powers in the Star Trek: The Next Generation era.
- Characterization Marches On: The Klingons. As an example, the Klingon lieutenant prefers obeying Kirk to dying. Two seasons later, Kang will say "A Klingon would never have surrendered."
- Disapproving Look: When Kirk gets chagrined enough to start backpedaling and tells the Organians, "Well, no one wants war...", Kor shoots him a glare that says "Speak for yourself, Kirk!" loud and clear.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The Prime Directive had not become a major plot point this early in the show's run. Hence Kirk promising lots of technological goodies to the Organians in return for them allowing the Federation to use their planet as a base in the looming war with the Klingons is not the big deal it would be in later series.
- Also, Kirk calling himself "a soldier, not a diplomat" goes against later statements that Starfleet prefers its captains to be more diplomatic than martial.
- The Mind-scanner that Kor and his Mooks use is the sort of tech that, in the TNG era, would be more associated with the Romulans. Then again, given that the Klingon and Romulan Empires form a temporary alliance during this era, the Klingons might've gotten the mind-scanner from the Romulans.
- Apart from the fact that Klingons outward characterization faintly resembles their current look (no ridges and everything), they seem to lack the Proud Warrior Race attribute they are so well known for. Sure their leader Kor has it, but one of his men, for example, is easily intimidated into revealing important information by Kirk putting a garrotte to his neck — a far cry from your current typical Klingon, who would sooner die rather than surrender. Also, quite obviously, there is no Klingon language yet.
- Enemy Mine: When Ayelborne declare that they will under no circumstances allow the Federation and Klingons to fight, Kor whispers to Kirk that they could take him together.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Kor would rather be commanding glorious battles, not bullying a population of "sheep"; and he angrily scolds the Organians for their spinelessness and laments that "it is always the brave who have to die".
- Fake Town: When Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet Organia, they arrive in a small town with medieval technology and peasants. At the end of the episode they learn that the entire town was an illusion to give the Federation and the Klingons A Form You Are Comfortable With.
- Forgotten Aesop: Towards the end of the episode, Kirk seems to welcome war with the Klingons, becoming agitated that the Organians have stopped them. He just stopped two planets from waging war just two weeks ago on Eminiar VII.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: The reason why the Organians don't always look like glowing balls of light.
- Ghost Butler: The doors to the Organians' chamber open and close by themselves.
- Great Escape: Subverted. Ayelborne just opens the door and tells Kirk and Spock they can go. These things happen when you're a being of pure thought.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Good Lord. Kirk and Kor go at it the entire episode, coming to a head as the Organians put an end to the Space Battle.
- Heel Realization: After the affair is concluded, Kirk admits to Spock that he found his own protesting of the Organians stopping the war rather embarrassing.
- Humans Are Bastards: But Klingons are even worse.
- I Have Your Wife: The Klingons try to manipulate Kirk by threatening Spock, which greatly upsets the captain. Ho Yay abounds.
- Idiot Ball: Hints that there is something a bit off about Organia are present, but even Spock fails to follow them to their logical conclusion. (Admittedly, Kirk, Spock, and the Klingons have more immediate concerns occupying their attention.)
- Doors open and close automatically, despite the fact that this is supposedly a pre-industrial culture. Kirk, Spock and the Klingons might have failed to notice this because they come from civilizations where automatic doors are the norm.
- Trefayne announces that eight Klingon ships have entered orbit and that hundreds of Klingons are beaming to the surface. Despite past experiences with Psychic Powers, Kirk asks how he knows this. Kirk and Spock also fail to consider the possible implications of the Organians being psychic. Likewise, the simple fact that people supposedly from a society stuck at a Medieval level of technology even understand the concept of starships and transporters in the first place fails to arouse any suspicions.
- Improvised Weapon: Kirk uses the simple rope belt on his costume to garrotte a Klingon to force him to give information.
- Innocuously Important Episode: The Klingons are introduced.
- Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: Kor doesn't even have to shout for his guards, as his own office is under surveillance.
- Living Legend: Kirk is just about a year into his command of the Enterprise, but Kor already knows him by reputation and is delighted to be meeting him in person.
- Ludicrous Precision: Spock, again. He tells Kirk that the odds of success for their raid on Kor's headquarters are "7,824.7 to 1". Later, though, after they get past the first few guards, he remarks that they have now dropped to "less than 7,000 to one"; Kirk observes that they're getting better.
- Moral Myopia: Kirk is pompous enough to criticize the Organians for being so high-handed as to put a stop to the war, thus denying the Federation and the Klingon Empire their right to govern their own affairs. Of course, the entire episode showed that neither side really cared about the impact the war would have on non-aligned planets like Organia and that both merely saw them as strategic assets. Cold War allegory much?
- Not So Different: Invoked by Kor to try and persuade Kirk into turning traitor on the Federation, as he notes that the two of them have more in common with each other than with the "sheep-like" Organians. Kirk denies this, but the implication that Kor has a point is hardly subtle, especially when Kirk angrily declares his detestation of the seemingly spineless and sheep-like Organians, or when Kirk and Kor are both furiously berating the Organians for interfering in the war between their species.Kor: You of the Federation, you are much like us.
Kirk: We're nothing like you. We're a democratic body.
Kor: Come now, I'm not referring to minor ideological differences. I mean that we are similar as a species. Here we are on a planet of sheep. Two tigers, predators, hunters, killers, and it is precisely that which makes us great.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The Organians do it without even trying very hard. Kirk tries to fake being dumb to pass for an Organian, but Kor sees through it right away. Spock's mental disciplines mean he can even trick a machine into thinking he has no idea what's going on.
- Planetville: Kirk and Spock just beam down into the middle of a primitive town square and expect that somebody will be able to direct them to the offices of the local world government.
- Playing with Fire: The Organians make all weapons, including the control panels on the Enterprise (and presumably the Klingon ships as well), too hot to handle. Even hand to hand combat causes burning pain.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Kor acts like this, but it's treated as a personal quirk rather than the racial trait it would become.
- The Quisling: The Organians seem this way, at first.
- The Short War: The Klingon/Federation war only lasts one episode, courtesy of the Organians forcing a stop to it.
- Shout-Out: The episode title comes from Nicholas Nickleby: "It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it."
- Small Role, Big Impact: This was John Colicos' only appearance as Kor on TOS before reprising the role decades later on Star Trek: Deep Space Ninenote , but his Genghis Khan-influenced performance set the standard for all Klingons throughout the Star Trek franchise.
- Space Amish: The Organians appear to be this. Not only do they have only a Medieval level of technology, but they show neither signs of having made any progress in a long time, nor any interest in acquiring more advanced technology.
- Space Romans: John Colicos, who played Kor, had some influence on the makeup design and conceived Kor (and by extension all Klingons) as "a futuristic Genghis Khan". One of the early production memos for this episode specified that the Klingons should look like "the Ho Chi Minh type." This fitted well with the Klingons being a metaphor for the Communist bloc to contrast with the Federation's "West" due to the former's particular association with China and 'the East' in the American imagination at the time (for a much less subtle attempt at same, see "The Omega Glory)".
- Stepford Smiler: The Organian Council of Elders.
- Strange Salute: Ayelborne greets Kirk and Spock by bowing and making fluttery circular motions with his hands. Kirk and Spock catch on quickly and return the greeting. In Kirk's case, rather sarcastically at times.
- Stock Footage: The exterior of the Klingon headquarters is a stock footage shot of the Citadelle Laferrière in Haiti.
- Third Party Stops Attack: The Organians take this Up to Eleven by stopping a full-scale war.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: This is what Kirk and Spock attempt to do with the Orgainians to make them resist the Klingon occupation, only to find that they are firmly uninterested and for good reason.
- Understatement: Kirk points out Spock's talent for this when he says that being trapped on Organia during a Klingon occupation is "not a pleasant prospect".
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The people who live like Medieval peasants take no notice of the two strange men who have beamed down into their midst.note Kirk and Spock actually comment on the oddity ("You'd think they had people beaming down every day." "Yes. Curious lack of interest."), but are apparently too distracted by the immediate crisis to ponder its significance.
- War Is Glorious: Kor is disappointed that the Organians prevented a war that "would have been glorious".
- Wham Line:Kirk: WE HAVE THE RIGHT—
Ayelborne: To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?
- Worthy Opponent: Kor expresses outright admiration for Kirk, and is deeply disappointed that they didn't get to meet on a battlefield.