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Recap / Star Trek S2 E17 "A Piece of the Action"

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Kirk and Spock, "takin' over" Iotia.
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Original air date: January 12, 1968

The Enterprise receives a 100-year-old radio transmission from the U.S.S Horizon on the planet Sigma Iotia II and investigates. The person they first contact is "Boss" Oxmyx. Kirk, Bones and Spock beam down to Iotia to find a world very much like 1920s Chicago, only with people not even trying to hide the fact that they're carrying submachine guns. Apparently, shoving one in somebody's face is their way of saying "Hi".

It seems that when the Horizon visited Iotia 100 years ago, they left behind some books. Aside from being virtually identical to humans, Iotians are very imitative and adaptable by nature. There were some textbooks on how to build radios and such, plus a nice little volume called Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, copyright 1992. The Iotians have made this book on '20s mobsters the basis for their culture. And Boss Oxmyx wants "heaters" (phasers) or it's curtains for Kirk.

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A Piece of the Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Sulu doesn't appear in this episode.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: Kirk drives one of the 1920s-model automobiles based on his and Spock's vague recollections of how such vehicles work. Naturally, he's fairly clumsy.
    Spock: Captain, you are an excellent starship commander but as a taxi driver you leave much to be desired.
    Kirk: It was that bad?
    Spock: [Nods]
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Oxmyx and Krako become Top Boss and Lieutenant for the entire planet. Spock brings this up at the end of the episode as one of the flaws in Kirk's strategy, but Kirk suggests that the Federation's "cut" from the Iotian syndicate can go towards teaching the natives better ways.
  • Badass Fingersnap: One snap of Oxmyx's fingers and his mooks step forward with heaters aimed at Kirk's head.
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  • Bald of Evil: Krako has a noticeable bald spot, and he's one of the most ruthless bosses.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: The Iotians likely come as close to this trope as TOS ever got. They take mimicry of other cultures to extremes far beyond anything humans have done, even with the inspiration being so obviously detrimental to themselves to the point that everyone in their society wants to get shot at for no appreciable gain.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: The Starfleet heroes have a hard time understanding the gangster slang that the natives use, though Kirk does adjust to it quite nicely while putting on a "mafia" act.
  • Brick Joke: Becomes one in DC Comics' Star Trek: Remember McCoy's communicator? Oxmyx returns it intact, figuring McCoy wouldn't like him or the other Iotians messing with it. He also brings in Kirk's "piece of the action," several briefcases filled with money.
  • Calvin Ball: To distract the guards holding them, Kirk comes up with an extremely complex card game, "fizzbin". Naturally, the rules are bizarre, and, while the guard doesn't catch it, the audience can hear that Kirk contradicts his own rules at least once.
    Kirk: ...but the odds of getting a royal fizzbin are astro— Spock, what are the odds of getting a royal fizzbin?
  • Cargo Cult: The Iotians use Chicago Mobs of the Twenties as a means for modelling their entire society, treating it as their Bible, with all due reverence. Presumably justified as, after having come into contact with a successful advanced alien culture, they aimed to copy that culture and said book was the best they had available.
  • Chain of Deals: Star Trek 25th Anniversary for the NES has a segment based on this episode and was structured this way. In the actual episode, Kirk and company refuse a deal to give them phasers. They're trying to undo a mistake that was made by giving them advanced tech, after all!
  • Chekhov's Gun: With an actual gun—Spock tells Scotty to keep the ship's phasers on stun (perhaps the only time they do that). Kirk then has Scotty fire them to stop a shootout and show everyone what they're dealing with.
  • Corpsing: At one point Spock gets tangled in a bit of mobster slang and you can see Leonard Nimoy — well, not cracking up, because this is Spock, but definitely struggling not to smile.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Krako has one of Oxmyx. Of course, he cheats at darts.
  • Death from Above: This is one of the few shown cases of orbital bombardment in Star Trek, though it is not death from above, just stunning (yes, even the Federation's starships have a stun setting on the phasers).
  • Distressed Dude: To the point of parody; Kirk, Bones and Spock manage to get kidnapped three times each, and Kirk's mostly just annoyed by the whole thing.
  • The Don: Several Dons. In the end Kirk is the biggest Don on the planet — and he makes clear that he's really only an enforcer for the real mob, the Federation.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: As Kirk and Spock confront Krako, Krako's men get the drop on them this way.
    Spock: Captain, I believe that perhaps it would be wise to do as he says. I just heard the sound of...
    Kirk: The sound of a machine gun bolt being pulled back.
  • Dress-Up Episode: Kirk and Spock dress up in 1920s clothes in order to blend in with the citizens on the Planet of Hats.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Kirk is an awesome Starship Captain, but a lousy driver.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Who knew that the ship's phasers could be set on stun? This incredibly useful feature had never appeared before and would never be used again across the entire franchise for 53 years and counting!
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: This is the only episode of the series to end in a freeze-frame.
  • Gangland Drive-By: The crew land on a planet who based their society on 1920s gangsters, complete with period weapons and vehicles. Minutes after beaming down, a drive-by takes place right in front of them.
  • Gangster Land: This planet's hat.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: That's what started this mess!
  • Giving Up on Logic: Even Mr. Spock (gasp!) gives up logic because he's observed that normal rules do not apply on this planet.
  • Glasses Pull: Oxmyx does this a few times, such as when Spock mentions their encounter with Krako's men.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: "The Federation's takin' over whether you like it or not!"
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: Kirk puts the car in reverse before managing to make it go forward every time he tries to drive.
  • Here We Go Again!: Bones accidentally leaves his communicator behind.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite being a mob boss, Oxmyx admits that he's a peaceful man at heart, and doesn't like everyone trying to knock off everyone else or else be seen as weak. In fact, he's gotten sick of it, and it takes so much time away from actually getting things done in their territories.
    • The Iotians as a whole, are extremely intelligent, adaptable people who are imitative by nature. Their actions are more based on the "teachings" of the book, rather than pure malice.
  • I Lied: When Oxmyx tricks Spock and Bones into beaming back down and recaptures them:
    Spock: Mr. Oxmyx, I understood that we had an arrangement, a truce.
    Oxmyx: I was hoping you'd think that, dummy.
  • Indy Ploy: Pretty much all of Kirk's plan to end the Iotian gang war, especially fizzbin, gets made up as he goes along. The Enterprise doesn't even have information as to what exactly the Horizon did to contaminate the planet before they get there, so they're going in blind. Luckily, Kirk's plan turns out to be Crazy Enough to Work.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Tepo, one of the minor bosses, whimpers "Mother" when he's beamed into Oxmyx's office.
  • Large Ham: Kirk has way too much fun playing gangster. And then there's Krako, who seems to have No Indoor Voice.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: After Oxmyx spells out his plans to Kirk.
    Kirk: Now let me get this straight. You want us to supply you with arms and assistants so you can carry out an aggression against your neighbors?
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Kirk manages to escape using some wires from a radio, a bed sheet and a waste basket.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Kirk and Spock steal the clothes from two of Oxmyx's flunkies, leading to the above picture.
  • Mundanization: Kirk, McCoy, and Spock are beamed down in the middle of a world of crosswalks and fireplugs.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Whoever left that book about the gangsters behindnote  accidentally contaminated an entire culture and caused who knows how many deaths from enhanced technology and aggression.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Kirk mostly just seems annoyed at the beautiful woman told to give him a massage.
  • Offered the Crown: At the end, Oxmyx wants Kirk to be the top boss. Kirk declines and makes Oxmyx the top boss, with Krako as his Number Two.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bones is troubled by the fact that he's left his communicator with the Iotians. Spock agrees with his concerns, but Kirk shrugs it off as no big deal and reasons that studying it will probably help their growth. "Prime Directive, Shrime Directive" basically.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Krako's Number Two, when he wakes up after Kirk knocked him out for the second time.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Spock admits that logic and practical knowledge can't help here.
  • Parrot Expo-WHAT?: When Kirk tries to explain to Oxmyx that his planet is on the far reaches of the galaxy.
    Oxmyx: Toward the edge of what?
  • Planet of Hats: The former poster child for this trope. The Iotians' "hat" seems to be extreme imitativeness, and in this case they're imitating a book called Chicago Mobs of the 20s. Incidentally, if you look closely, you'll notice the three gangs pictured wear three different kinds of hats. Oxmyx's gang all wear fedoras. Krako's gang all wear boaters. Mirt's gang all wear bowlers.
  • Protection Racket: How the gangs seem to operate, pretty much to the level of rudimentary government. People pay their "percentages" and expect protection and services in return. One woman is shown complaining to Oxmyx's men about a faulty street-light, claiming "a girl ain't safe".
  • Puppet King: Kirk claims that the Federation wants to control the planet through one of the natives.
    "The planet is bein' taken over, but we don't wanna come in here and, uh, use our muscle, you know what I mean? That ain't, uh, subtle. So what we do is we help one guy take over the planet. He pulls the strings and then we pull his!"
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Krako and Oxmyx, respectively. Oxmyx prefers to calmly discuss things with Kirk (though with aggressive undertones), while Krako (as mentioned above) has No Indoor Voice and a very short temper.
  • Straw Vulcan: Not this time for Spock who recognizes that other methods are necessary on this screwy planet:
    Spock: It would seem that logic does not apply here.
    McCoy: You admit that?
    Spock: To deny the obvious would be illogical.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: One of Oxmyx's men demeans Spock's question whether he is pointing a large gun at him.
  • The Syndicate: Part of Kirk's solution for the mess is forcing the Iotian mobs to form one (the idea being that they'll learn to work together instead of constantly fighting each other), kept together by the threat of the Federation intervening.
  • Take a Third Option: Unable to reverse the cultural contamination that altered the Iotians, and unwilling to provide technology — weapons that Oxmyx or Krako want to finish their Mob War once and for all — Kirk decides to keep the existing power structure in place by imposing the Federation as the biggest Operation taking over the planet's divided Syndicates. With the plan to have the Federation's "piece of the action" paid back into Sigma Iota's development (by future Federation expeditions to the planet) into a more law-abiding peaceful culture.
  • Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, copyright 1992. (It must have sounded more impressive in January of 1968.)
  • Trip Trap: Kirk places a wire from a dismantled radio above the ground across the door, starts yelling and two guards come rushing in and trip.
  • We Need a Distraction: Will this Street Urchin do? He can even give us a Title Drop!
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