Original air date: February 16, 1968
The Enterprise crew are headed off to the planet Ekos to pick up famed cultural observer John Gill, with whom the Federation has lost contact for some time. In a bit of Hero Worship, McCoy and Spock share a poignant discussion about their relationship with the man, with Spock admiring Gill's take on historical events as causes and effects rather than that boring system of dates and events that normal history teaches us.
Things start to get interesting, though, when a nuclear interplanetary missile is launched at the ship from Ekos — technology that shouldn't even be possible for the planet's primitive inhabitants.
Taking high orbit over Ekos, Kirk and Spock beam down in local attire to see what they can find about this turn of events, only to be more baffled when a televised message reveals that not only is the planet an exact duplicate of Nazi Germany, but that John Gill is the planet's Führer. Ambushing a pair of Nazi soldiers in order to dress as the enemy, they attempt to infiltrate the Führer headquarters to get some answers, but are caught and brought in for interrogation. There, they meet a Zeon prisoner by the name of Isak, who explains that the planet had actually been a rather nice place to visit, during the initial rule of the Führer, but turned into a nightmare once the old Nazi prejudices came up - now the Ekosians are on their way to eradicating the inhabitants of their sister planet Zeon in much the same way the Nazis tried to eradicate the Jews and other hated minorities. Using crystal transponders embedded into their flesh, Kirk and Spock manage to free themselves and Isak, and escape into the underground that Isak is a member of. However, before they can prove to the underground that they're friendly, a Nazi task force led by a young woman named Daras — crowned a hero of the fatherland in the same transmission that revealed Gill as the Führer — comes in and shoots one of the underground, threatening to kill them all if they don't comply.
Kirk manages to overpower Daras, but is prevented from killing her by the man she shot; turns out, Daras is a member of the underground, and the raid was an elaborate test to see if Kirk and Spock are friendly. Deciding things are screwed up enough without worrying about the Prime Directive, Kirk comes out and tells the group that Gill is an alien sent to observe Ekosian culture, and that something has gone horribly wrong to make him interfere with the planet's development so radically. With the underground's help, Kirk and Spock break into the headquarters, once more, just in time to catch a televised message from Gill seemingly announcing a "Final Solution" to eradicate Zeon once and for all. However, with the help of a very reluctant (and late to the party) McCoy, they're able to determine Gill is actually being drugged and kept in a stupor; a quick Mind Meld further reveals his second-in-command Melakon has taken over, using him as a figurehead while he wields the real power behind the swastika.
With some drugs to help stimulate him into light consciousness, they're able to get an answer to the multi-million-credit question: why did Gill break the Prime Directive and use Nazi Germany as a template for his interference? As it turns out, Gill just couldn't stand idly by as the Ekosian people were tearing themselves apart by their barbarism, and thought the efficiency of the Nazis could be used to civilize them, if malice wasn't put to the fore, and it worked until Melakon took over. Eventually, Kirk manages to get Gill lucid enough to cancel the Final Solution order before Melakon kills him, who is in turn killed himself. With the Nazi planet now leaderless, all the other Nazis just step down without a fuss, and it'll be a breeze for La Résistance and Zeon to reform a whole planet full of Nazis filled with anti-Zeon propaganda.
Tropes of Force:
- Actual Pacifist: The Zeon are so peaceful that Isak worries that they'll fall to the Ekosians without a fight. Although Isak himself downplays it, as "what he saw in the streets" made him think that he could kill because it was necessary to survive, and indeed he was willing to do so if the cause was important enough (such as murdering the Fuhrer, John Gill, to stop the slaughter of his people). And he does; after John Gill reveals Melakon as a traitor and Melakon guns him down, Isak immediately shoots him where he stands.
- Artistic License – History:
- Spock's conception of History was already outdated in the '60s.Spock: What impressed me most was his treatment of Earth history as causes and motivations rather than dates and events.
- Kirk repeatedly refers to the SS uniforms as "Gestapo," which was the plain-clothes secret police. Gestapo personnel did wear SS uniforms in occupied territory to avoid being mistaken for civilians, but this isn't occupied territory.
- Spock's conception of History was already outdated in the '60s.
- Artistic License – Military: Many of the Nazi uniforms have inaccurate or mismatched rank insignia compared to history. This could be chalked up to Gill (or the Paramount costume department) not being too fussy about the finer details.
- Blatant Lies: The Nazis announce that one of their missiles utterly destroyed an enemy spaceship — that ship being the very un-destroyed Enterprise.Kirk: You look quite well for a man who's been utterly destroyed, Mr. Spock.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Inverted! A human poses as an alien and becomes someone of historical significance.
- Broken Pedestal: Kirk is aggrieved to find that his teacher has become another Hitler. The pedestal is repaired when he gets out of his drug induced haze and denounces the regime, just before dying in Kirk's arms.
- Chairman Obvious: Chairman Eneg demonstrates his firm grasp of the obvious.Eneg: You are not from Zeon.Spock: Obviously.
- Cycle of Revenge: Averted at the end — Melakon kills Gill, while Isak kills Melakon. When another soldier raises his rifle at Isak, Eneg stops him and declares "There has been enough killing."
- Dated History: It was often thought for a while after World War II that Nazi Germany was efficiently run because of its fast ascension from military impotency, collapse of national morale and economic devastation to a world power and scary conquering machine. As more and more research has unveiled, the Third Reich sacrificed any hope of long-term efficiency in order to implement their short-term solutions, and even those needed to be augmented by expansion into the resources of Austria and Czechoslovakia to work. Ironically, this would perfectly tie it back in with their lebensraum attempt into Zeon. The Nazi hierarchy was also hampered by being one of the most backstabbing in history, full of Interservice Rivalry.
- Defector from Decadence:
- Daras is working with the resistance because she believes the Nazi leadership has gone off the rails, a trait she shares with her father, who helped integrate her into the leadership by having them pretend that he'd denounced her.
- Late into the episode, Isak tells Kirk and company that Eneg is one of them, which explains why when he was tasked with finding a spy within the building and stumbled upon Kirk and company earlier (up to no good, certainly, but even being found alone in a room would've been suspicious at that point), he pretended he'd never seen them before/'bought' their fairly obvious Blatant Lies.
- Delayed Reaction: Even after beaming down in an SS uniform and struggling to get his boot on, it takes Bones about half a minute to realize that everyone is wearing Nazi uniforms and ask what the hell is going on.
- Diagnosis: Knowing Too Much: After Spock is able to break through Gill's heavy drugging, Melakon tries to play off Gill's off-schedule attempt to regain control as being tired and ill. Unfortunately for Melakon, Gill has just enough strength to call-off the attack and expose Melakon as the usurping traitor. Unfortunately for Gill, Melakon empties a magazine of automatic rifle rounds into the broadcast booth, mortally wounding Gill. One of the rebels shoots and kills Melakon in-kind.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Gene's not too subtle about anything in this episode. The Space Nazis' scapegoats come from the planet Zeon (Zion) and have names like Isak and Abrom (Isaac and Abraham). The way Melakhon talks about how Spock's physical features are obvious evidence of inferiority also evokes Nazi eugenics.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Kirk and Spock steal the uniforms of two Nazis for a disguise. Unfortunately, they make a mistake in military protocol bad enough to arouse a Nazi officer's suspicions enough for him to order Spock to take off his helmet. When Spock's ears are exposed, both he and Kirk know full well they are screwed.
- Excuse Plot: Meta-wise, at any rate. The episode pretty much only exists because the studio had a bunch of Nazi uniforms already available from various movies so the show could skip making costumes for a week.
- Failed a Spot Check: Kirk and Spock walk right by a Gestapo officer that is standing in broad daylight and are then somehow surprised when he "jumps" out to capture them.
- Final Solution: The plan for a Final Solution is announced midway through the episode.
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: Gee, those Transponders might have come in handy in any of the other 78 episodes in which the landing party's communicators get taken away.
- Human Ladder: Kirk and Spock make one in their escape attempt. Given that they've both been whipped, it's very uncomfortable for the captain, who's bearing the first officer.
- Idiot Ball: A massive one for John Gill for coming up with Fascism as the best way to unite a planet peacefully (which he wasn't even supposed to do; he was supposed to simply observe the Ekosians, not violate General Order One), while he already has an excellent example of one in the Federation itself (which has united Earth for decades already). Though it's interesting to note it worked, as merely an efficient state rather than 'evil Nazis', the latter of which only happened when Melakon drugged him and changed things. Even still, he himself notes in his dying moments that 'even historians can fail to learn from history'.
- Inexplicable Cultural Ties: Not the case, which is noteworthy because that is often forgotten in summaries of TOS, and because the fact that it looks like this is one of the main things that tips off the Enterprise crew that something is seriously wrong despite the fact that only four episodes later they will react to another planet being very similar to an Earth society (in that case The Roman Empire) complete with names and symbols by handwaving it as just an example of natural parallel development.
- I Owe You My Life: Isak, after Kirk and Spock escape with him.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Gill is exposing Melakon's treachery, calling off the attack on Zeon, and promising reparation when Melakon shoots him.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Melakon attempts to analyze Spock's unusual appearance based on the regime's racial theories and declares that he exhibits "a low forehead denoting stupidity" and "the dull look of a trapped animal". Big mistake.
- La Résistance: The Ekosians who disagree with the government's plan to wipe out Zeon.
- The Man Behind the Man/The Man in Front of the Man: Melakon, officially the Führer's second-in-command, combines both tropes when he's revealed to be the one behind the Zeon purges.
- Man Hug: Isak shares one with his brother Abrom after his escape.
- Meaningful Name: Zeon, clearly referring to Zion, the Jewish promised land. Also Isak (Isaac), Abrom (Abraham) and Davod (David) are all based on Old Testament persons. Daras is Sara backwards with an extra letter, and also OT. Eneg is Gene backwards.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: John Gill's New Era Speech. Spock points out that it follows no logical pattern, and considering the man's heavily drugged, it's little wonder.
- The Mole: Daras and Chairman Eneg are both introduced as loyal servants of the regime before revealing that they're working with the resistance.
- Mugged for Disguise: Two Nazi officers were nerve-pinched for disguises.
- Naked People Are Funny: When Kirk asks why Bones hasn't beamed down yet, he's told the Doctor is having trouble getting his Nazi uniform on. Kirk says "I don't care if you have to send him down naked, just get him down here!" Cue Kirk's reaction when he hears the transporter beam whine start immediately after this. (Don't worry ... it was the boot the Doc was having trouble with.)
- No Endor Holocaust: The ending implies that there won't be any anti-Zeonite sentiments left under the population, and that the army leadership will politely step down from power. Given Earth's many examples of what can happen when a political dictatorship is decapitated (as both the puppet leader and actual leader die), things could have gotten ugly very fast. Mind you, a civil war may be bad but might help it ease out of Nazification.
- Non-Lethal Deadly Weapon: Daras fires a gun at Abrom and kills him. After Kirk and Spock grab her, Spock takes her gun away from her. Abrom then gets up, revealing that her gun was filled with blanks. Spock points the gun at Daras, even though it can't shoot her. Perhaps justified by the fact that even blanks can cause serious injury from the range he is threatening her with it. (And from the look on her face when this happens, she agrees.)
- No One Sees the Boss: Because the boss has been drugged into catatonia, and The Dragon has taken over.
- No Swastikas: Averted.
- Percussive Pickpocket: Kirk stumbles into a guard in a corridor; after apologizing and moving on, he reveals to his companions that he lifted the guard's keys.
- Planetary Nation: Melakon is trying to make the planet this.
- Planet of Hats: People from the planet Zeon are identified and arrested because they wear civilian clothes. All the Ekosians we see on screen are Nazi officials.
- Pseudo-Crisis: Our heroes are surrounded by Nazis! (Ad break) But they're with the resistance, so it's okay!
- Puppet King: Melakon keeps Gill drugged and only trots him out to deliver the occasional speech.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: While planetside, Kirk and Spock hear a news report claiming the Ekosians "utterly destroyed" the enemy spacecraft. Kirk jokes that Spock looks quite healthy for someone who's been utterly destroyed.
- Sdrawkcab Name: Chairman Eneg, probably.
- Shirtless Scene: Kirk and Spock when they get whipped. Spock's scars are tinted green.
- Staged Shooting: Used to see which side Kirk and Spock are really on.
- Stock Footage:
- Subterfuge Judo: When Kirk and Spock beam down, they steal some SS uniforms, and intend to waltz right into the Chancellery (Main Headquarters) undercover, except Spock and Kirk do not salute an SS Major properly, and...:SS Major: Lieutenant! Have you forgotten how to salute? [Spock salutes] Your papers.Kirk: Your orders, Lieutenant. He wants to see your orders in the jacket. [Spock begins to open the pocket on his uniform coat] The Lieutenant is a little dazed. He captured several Zeons note singlehanded. One of the pigs struck him before he dropped. I promise that pig will never get up again.SS Major: Good work, Lieutenant.All: Hail to the Führer.Kirk: This is a day to remember, Major! [They start to walk away]SS Major: Lieutenant? Better see a doctor. You don't look well. Your color.Spock: Yes. I shall tend to it, Major.SS Major: [slightly more forceful, suspicious] Lieutenant! Your helmet. Remove it!Kirk: We have urgent business with the Führer. [starts to turn away to enter the Chancellery]SS Major: [steadfastly forceful] LIEUTENANT! Remove your helmet!!![The entrance guards train their rifles right on Spock's head, and with no other choice, Spock slowly takes off his helmet, revealing his pointed ears.]
- Take a Third Option: When Ekosians launch the invasion fleet against Zeon, Daras, the Ekosian resistance fighter, pleads with Capt. Kirk to have the Enterprise destroy it to save Zeon, saying that the loss of Ekosian lives is the lesser of two evils. Kirk balks at that and manages to get Gill to cancel the invasion instead.
- Take That!: At the Nazis predictably:
- McCoy and Spock both comment that Gill's speech sounds incoherent, just a babble of random sentences. And it turns out the Fuhrer was, in fact drugged. Thing is, it doesn't sound too different in structure from a real Hitler speech.
- Melakon is at one point invited to do racial analysis on Mr. Spock. All of his summations are hilariously wrong about Vulcans.
- Torture Is Ineffective: Chairman Eneg puts a stop to the SS Major torture interrogation of Kirk and Spock claiming that is because he knows it's inefficient (the real reason is because he's The Mole).SS Major: Excellency, give me a few minutes with them. I promise you, I'll have—
Chairman Eneg: You've had a few minutes without result. The trouble with you SS is that you don't realize that punishment becomes ineffective after a certain point. Men become insensitive.
- Trojan Prisoner: A couple of times when Kirk and Spock (and later Isak too) don't have enough uniforms to go around, they use the "just taking this prisoner for interrogation" method to get past guard posts.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Yes, Gill actually had good intentions when he recreated Nazi Germany. (As in, their society was considered to be in poor shape anyway, so why not model their government after a different society instead? It just happen to fall apart in a different way....)
- Whip of Dominance: The SS Major is a cruel and sadistic Nazi officer who carries a cat o' nine tails, and personally uses it on Kirk and Spock when interrogating them. He clearly wants to whip them more, but Chairman Eneg puts a stop to it while criticizing the Major for his sadistic inefficiency and saying that Torture Is Ineffective after a certain point.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Kirk is exasperated when Spock's Blunt Metaphors Trauma keeps him on Kirk's post-whipped back for a little too long.Kirk: I ... don't care if you aim at the broad side of a barn. Just hurry, please.Spock: Captain, why would I aim at such a structure?Kirk: [Sighs] Never mind, Spock, just ... get on with the job.