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Recap / Star Trek S2 E23 "The Omega Glory"

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The One Where Kirk Reads The Constitution.

Original air date: March 1, 1968

The Enterprise discovers its sister ship the Exeter in orbit around Omega IV, not responding to hails. Kirk, Spock, Bones and Redshirt Galloway beam straight on over without taking any isolation precautions, and find that the entire crew of the Exeter has been reduced to dust and uniforms. An Apocalyptic Log left behind tells them that if they are hearing this, they are doomed. They are now infected with the same virus that killed the crew and the only possible hope of surviving is to beam down to Omega IV. Kirk and co. beam down in search of a cure and find Ronald Tracey, the former captain of the Exeter, ruling among the Kohms, who are at war with the Yangs.

Tracey has developed a taste for power and immortality, and he's not going to let petty things like the Prime Directive, basic morals or a certain charismatic Starfleet captain stand in his way.

Of all the TOS episodes, this is the one that was made into a ViewMaster set. And in another piece of trivia, "The Omega Glory" script was originally written as one of three potential pilot episodes after the original pilot "The Cage" got rejected by NBC. The aim supposedly being that the three scripts would showcase to the network different things that the series format could do (something that "The Cage" was criticized for not doing). To this end, the show being something of a literal Space Western seems designed to showcase Gene Roddenberry's original format pitch of Star Trek being a kind of Wagon Train to the Stars.

The Omega Tropes:

  • An Aesop: At the end of the episode, Kirk asserts that the Yangs have as much of a right to liberty as the Kohms. When they protest that idea, Kirk roars with authority, "They must apply to everyone, or they mean nothing!" They back down, leaving Kirk to explain to Spock why this lesson was necessary to give.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Kirk gives a very clear summation of the Prime Directive, and is shocked to find that Tracey has abandoned it.
  • All for Nothing: That's what Tracey finds out when Dr. McCoy tells him that the extreme lifespan of the natives is a product of natural evolution and there is no serum to isolate.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: A nuclear war destroyed civilization and the survivors' descendants are divided into Yangs (Yanks) and Kohms (Communists), the Yangs worship the Constitution without understanding its real meaning.
  • All There in the Manual: In the shooting script, the main characters mention the Yangs and Kohms are too close to human to be a coincidence. They speculate they're a remnant of the early space program, setting up the ending where Kirk realizes the Yangs still have a copy of the Constitution. It's not hard to see echoes of the Joseph McCarthy era in Kirk lecturing Americans who have lost their way on what the nation's founding principles mean. But the scene was cut (possibly because it clashes with the timeline), and most viewers just rolled their eyes at the coincidence of an alien planet independently developing the US Constitution.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Exeter's Chief Medical Officer leaves one, which cuts off as he screams in pain and collapses.
    "If you've come aboard this're dead men. Don't go back to your own ship. You have one chance. Get down there. Get down there fast. Captain Tracey is—" (screams and collapses)
  • Artistic License – Biology: Bones vastly overestimates the amount of water in a normal human body, and nonsensically claims that removing all the water from a person's body would leave behind only tiny salt crystals.
    • The idea that Kirk, Spock and McCoy can safely return to the Enterprise because they've been immunised to the virus is ludicrous, because they would still carry said virus and can still kill the crew with it- all they'd truly have done is become asymptomatic carriers, a la Typhoid Mary. Either the entire crew would have had to spend time on the planet as well (and then never interact with any non-crew or Omegian ever again), or the landing party would need to be isolated on their return until the virus was removed or expunged from their system.
    • The notion that the apparent immortality of the natives is due to natural evolution is undermined by the revelation that the natives are in fact human and descendants of human colonisers, and on a rewatch Bones inadvertently implies that healthy living and good medical care are all that is needed for humans to live just as long themselves earlier in the episode.
  • Ax-Crazy: Literally. When the phaser doesn't work, Tracey comes after Kirk with an ax.
  • Bat Deduction: Kirk and Spock realise that the natives are descended from Americans and Chinese astronauts because they think "Yangs" must derive from "Yanks" and "Yankees" while "Kohm" must come from "Communists". They are proven right within seconds as the Yangs bring in an American flag, but this was pure guesswork (and arguably goes against McCoy's earlier insistence that the natives live long lives due to natural evolution and inherent traits), and really the scene would make far more sense if they just deduced this after the flag had been introduced.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sulu and two Redshirts who don't have time to die beam down in the nick of time.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Tracey tries to use the fact that Vulcan hearts are not located in the chest as a way of convincing the Yangs that Spock is a demon.
  • Boring, but Practical: Starfleet Captain Tracey believes that the Omega IV natives' natural immunity to disease explains their abnormally long lifespans, and that the immunizing agents in the planet's ecosystem can function as a Fountain of Youth for the rest of the Federation. Dr. McCoy runs his own tests, and scornfully says the agents might "cure the common cold", but if people want to live longer, they'll get better results from eating healthy and exercising regularly.
  • Cargo Cult: The Constitution and the American Flag are holy relics to be worshiped, while "freedom" is a holy word that Cloud William says should not be spoken by others.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Spock is so deadpan in this episode, it's hard to tell if he's being snarky or serious.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Yangs = Yankees, Kohms = Communists. It's even pointed out In-Universe.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Tracey has Kirk at phaser-point, ready to kill him. He pulls the trigger — and the phaser is out of power.
  • Eagleland: The entire episode is built on this trope, culminating with Kirk reading the Constitution aloud.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: If the Yangs and Kohms are descended from an early Earth colonization effort of American and Chinese astronauts, and the current generation is centuries old (along with parents who are even older), then this would mean that Star Trek would have to be set much further into the future than merely the twenty third century. At least a thousand years for it to be plausible.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Unintentional, but had Gene Roddenberry been more familiar with growing developments in genetic science even in the 60s, he'd have learnt that harvesting immortality from the DNA of the Yangs and the Kohms was totally possible once the right technology had been developed (as it almost certainly will be by the time we're a space-faring civilisation), and thus Tracey was correct in thinking it could be given to the rest of humanity.
  • Forgets to Eat: A comely Kohm lady reminds a hard at work Bones he has to eat.
  • A God Am I: The mere prospect of immortality has given Tracey one hell of a Messiah complex.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: After Tracey learns all his evil deeds are All for Nothing, you can see him snap at the news and proceeds to threaten Kirk for weapons for a pointless fight on a planet they now can leave any time they want to.
  • The Good Guys Always Win: Lampshaded - The natives fully believe this, which is the reason they order a Duel to the Death. A very annoyed McCoy remarks that evil tends to triumph unless good is very, very careful.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted. McCoy thinks his guard is not paying attention and starts to reach for a communicator. As his hand gets near the guard's very large sword stops him. He then acts like he was just reaching for a drink.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Tracey tells the natives Spock literally has no heart (which they "confirm" by listening to his chest) and insists that he's a demon. Immediately McCoy, who ordinarily has no compunctions about joking that Spock resembles one, jumps in to say Spock isn't evil and just has his heart in a different place.
  • Immortality Immorality: Tracey is willing to kill for the immortality he believes he will have on this planet, only for Bones to tell him that it's an evolutionary trait of the natives. All the atmosphere did was eradicate one virus.
  • Inexplicable Cultural Ties: The only plausible explanation for this planet's culture is to have it be yet another alternate Earth (like the ones in "Miri" and "Bread and Circuses"). Having the Yangs and Kohms be a Lost Colony would have worked if only the show wasn't established to be set in the 23rd century. This doesn't allow for the fact that the inhabitants are hundreds of years old (with parents almost double the age).
  • Jail Break: The concrete is old and weak.
  • Kill Him Already!: After Kirk gets hold of the knife and forces Tracy to surrender by holding it to his throat. Cloud William tells him, "Kill him. It is written. Good must destroy evil." Kirk declines, and fully takes control of the situation as Sulu and two security guards beam down.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: After Kirk wins the fight against Tracy, Cloud William kneels to him, thinking him divine. Kirk tells him to stand up.
  • Large Ham: Kirk orders a large one in his impassioned speech on the rights of man.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: Kirk recognized what Cloud William was supposed to be saying when he saluted the flag but after countless generations, the language had become corrupted, the words becoming mere ritual, and losing all meaning.
    Cloud William: "Ay plegli ianectu flaggen, tupep like for stahn—"
    Kirk: "And to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Spock being able to mentally compel someone to do what he wants, without touching them; the only other episodes in which he used similar powers were "By Any Other Name" and "A Taste of Armageddon".
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Rather average-built Jim Kirk (played by 5'9" plus lifts William Shatner) successfully wrestles two much larger men, Captain Tracey (6'3" Morgan Woodward) and Cloud William (6'2" and very heavily-built Roy Jenson), although Downplayed as he struggles to actually defeat either of them and actually stalemates or loses the majority of his fights in the episode.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The way Cloud William pronounces the word "freedom". But it also comes out sounding like Hulk Speak.
    Cloud William: "Free-Dom?"
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Kohms/Yangs are a species of very long-lived folk, due to the planet having had a massive biological war in the past, leaving the survivors to adapt to many lingering poisons and thus lengthening their lives through sheer immunity genetics. To impress Kirk, Tracey calls over a seemingly-young soldier who tells Kirk he's over four-hundred in Earth years. ("His father is well over a thousand," adds Tracey.) Tracey assumes this is due to some youth potion, but to his regret, it is not.
  • Redshirt: Galloway survives the expedition to the Exeter, but is later murdered by Tracey to prevent him warning the Enterprise about what Tracey's up to.
  • Sacred Scripture: The "Worship Words", which are based on the Pledge of Allegiance and the preamble of the Constitution.
  • Send in the Search Team: How the episode begins.
  • Series Continuity Error: Costumer William Theiss misunderstood the chevron insignia worn by the Enterprise crew to be a unit patch for the USS Enterprise and therefore gave the USS Exeter crew their own badge. The actual intent was for the chevron to be akin to branch insignia, worn by all Starfleet starship personnel, but the mistake was noticed too late in production to fix, and spawned a fan theory that every ship in Starfleet had its own patch. This ultimately led to Star Trek: Enterprise erroneously giving crew members of the USS Defiant their own badge in "In a Mirror, Darkly".
  • Shoot the Messenger: After Kirk and company tell him that his crimes were All for Nothing, part of the reason Tracey goes literally Axe-Crazy on Kirk has got to be for telling him that bad news.
  • Skeleton Crew: The crew of the Exeter has been completely dehydrated to dust due to a virus.
  • Sole Survivor: Captain Tracey, after his entire crew is killed by the Omega IV virus.
  • Space Western: Both visually and in terms of the story, it resembles the genre, with the Yangs playing the role of the antagonistic Indians.
  • Stock Footage: The shot of Sulu manning the helm station with an empty captain's chair in the background in mid-Act One is recycled from "Arena".
  • Suddenly Shouting: Kirk briefly loses it when he has to spell it out to Captain Tracey that there is no serum to the extreme longevity that Tracey killed thousands to procure. (It probably doesn't help his composure any that Tracey has just shot Spock and may have killed him.)
    Tracey: You've isolated the serum?
  • Tattered Flag: The one at the end held by the Yangs.
  • Trial by Combat: It is written that good always overcomes evil, so Tracey and Kirk have to prove who's right by fighting over a knife stuck in the floor. Kirk wins, but spares Tracey's life. McCoy points out how this could have gone pear-shaped.
    McCoy: Spock, I've found that evil usually triumphs unless good is very, very careful.
  • Yellow Peril: The Kohms, obviously.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So did they recover the Exeter? With the spaceframe perfectly intact, surely she could be decontaminated and re-crewed.
  • Wrong Line of Work: Captain Tracey is a starship captain, but his knowledge of medical science is limited, and as a result when he learns of the inhabitants' long life-spans, he assumes at first that it's some form of a fountain of youth and/or immortality (obsession and madness didn't help). The moment a trained medical professional comes along and properly examines all the clues, the outlandish claim is instantly dismissed.
    McCoy: Leave medicine to medical men, captain; you've found no fountain of youth! People [here] live longer lives because it's natural for them to!
  • Zerg Rush: Tracey says that the Yangs overpowered them with sheer numbers, and that despite draining four phasers they just kept coming.