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Recap / Star Trek S3 E15 "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

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Bele and Lokai give new meaning to "Black-and-White Insanity".

Original air date: January 10, 1969

While on route to the planet Arianus on a mission to decontaminate its polluted atmosphere, the Enterprise intercepts a Federation shuttle that had been reported stolen from Starbase 4. After disabling the shuttle, its alien pilot is brought on board: though humanoid, said pilot's skin is half ink black, half chalk white, right down the middle. Spock is extremely intrigued, claiming said coloration goes against all genetic theory and that the pilot might be one of a kind.

The captive pilot wakes up and introduces himself as Lokai (Lou Antonio), from the distant non-Federation planet Cheron. However, when asked as to why he stole the shuttle, he becomes evasive and refuses to explain further. After contacting Starbase 4 and informing them they will return the shuttle as soon as the Arianus mission is complete, the Enterprise is suddenly approached by an invisible alien ship on collision course. However instead of colliding, it disintegrates and its pilot suddenly appears on the bridge. Said pilot is apparently the same species as Lokai, having the exact same skin colors only reversed (so much for "one of a kind"). The alien introduces himself as Bele (Frank Gorshin), also from Cheron and Chief Officer of its Commission on Political Traitors. Bele claims Lokai is a fugitive convicted of treason and he has been sent to apprehend him.

The two aliens meet and get into a heated argument, with Lokai claiming Bele's race has enslaved Lokai's and planning on their genocide while Bele claims Lokai's people were "savages" that were "educated" by his own people, and that Lokai has caused his race to engage in violent revolution resulting in the deaths of thousands. Lokai asks Kirk for political asylum while Bele demands that Lokai be handed over to his custody. Kirk refuses to take sides claiming that Lokai is a prisoner of Starfleet (and thus ineligible for asylum) over the shuttle's theft and since Cheron is not a Federation planet Lokai cannot be extradited there. He adds that as soon as the Arianus mission is complete, they will have to make their case at Starbase 4. Bele is displeased at this and uses some mysterious power to take control of the ship, claiming he has been chasing Lokai for "fifty thousand of your terrestrial years" and he won't give up now.

After phasers prove to be useless, Kirk threatens to set off the Self-Destruct Mechanism if he doesn't return command of the ship. Bele thinks Kirk is bluffing to which Kirk responds by ordering the verification of the self destruct sequence by the vocal commands of himself, Spock and Scotty. Only a few seconds away from the end of the countdown does Bele release control. He adds that he will allow the Arianus mission to be completed and requests that he be allowed to bring Lokai to Cheron as soon as it's done. Kirk makes no promises but allows both to walk freely within the ship.

En route to Arianus, Lokai makes his case with the crew, claiming humans have no idea what it's like to be persecuted, and not being impressed when he is informed that persecution did occur in the distant past of human history but mankind has evolved past it. Meanwhile Bele is relayed a message from Starfleet command claiming that Lokai will stand trial on Starbase 4 and that it's likely that he will end up turned over to Bele's custody. Bele doesn't believe it, claiming Lokai will manage to manipulate everyone into releasing him and calling him "an inferior breed". When Spock calls him of the same breed as Bele, Bele points out the difference that Lokai and his "people" are white on the right side while Bele's race is white on the left. Spock's claims that Cheron's people can overcome such differences just like Vulcan once did are interrupted by the Enterprise arriving at Arianus.

The decontamination procedure goes without problems. However, as soon as the course is changed to Starbase 4, Bele hijacks the ship again, this time making sure to burn out the self destruct controls, leaving Kirk and the crew no choice but stand around helplessly while the ship is taken to Cheron. Lokai appears on the bridge outraged at this development and fights Bele, threatening to tear the ship apart though Kirk calms them down. Kirk is given control back once Cheron is in visual range. However, the surface scans pick up a grim sight: completely empty cities filled with unburied bodies, animals and vegetation encroaching on them. Every sapient life form on Cheron is dead, having wiped each other out in a giant race war. The shocked Lokai and Bele promptly turn on each other again, accusing the other's race of being responsible. Kirk pleads with them to stop fighting, claiming that their hatreds are pointless now and that they're welcome to live in the Federation. Kirk's pleas fall on deaf ears and Lokai and Bele take the fight down to the destroyed planet, leaving the crew to ponder on the pointlessness of it all:

Sulu: But the cause they fought about no longer exists. Does it matter now which one was right?
Spock: Not to Lokai and Bele. All that matters to them is their hate.
Uhura: Do you suppose that's all they ever had, sir?
Kirk: No, but that's all they have left. [dejected] Warp factor 4, Mr. Sulu. Starbase...4.

Let These Be Your Last Tropes:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: With everyone on Cheron dead and the conflict rendered totally pointless, Kirk all but drops to his knees, pleading with Bele and Lokai to abandon the hate that has destroyed their world. It doesn't work.
  • All for Nothing: Bele and Lokai's conflict is proven to be for naught when the Enterprise finally reaches Cheron: everyone on the planet is dead, and with them, any reason to keep fighting. Unable to face this, Bele and Lokai resume their chase on the now dead planet, consumed by the hatred that, as Kirk reflects, is all they have left.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • The audience is given very little information about the overall conflict on Cheron. Most of the details come from two obviously biased individuals whose information could be as much as 50,000 years out of date; that Lokai's people have been on the receiving end of racism and oppression is the only thing both of them agree on, and when the Enterprise finally reaches Cheron, everyone is dead, with no indication of how open warfare started or who did what.
    • While Bele claims to have been chasing Lokai for 50,000 years, it's not made clear if they've spent all of that time in space, or if the pursuit started on Cheron before moving out into space. It's only established that they've been gone long enough for their species to be obliterated by war and for nature to start reclaiming Cheron's cities.
    • How justified Bele's accusations against Lokai are is never made clear; Bele is obviously biased, provides no evidence to support his argument, and is suspiciously wary of Lokai getting a chance to voice his grievances, but Lokai never explicitly denies Bele's claims, insists that the Enterprise crew kill Bele, and when they first confront one another, Lokai notably promises revenge, not justice.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Spock describes evolution as always being a move to a "more advanced" state. In reality, evolution simply tailors a species to better survive in its current environment.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Bele does a poor job of representing his people with civility.
  • Bottle Episode: Another one that only takes place on the Enterprise.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Even when he's not shouting, Bele does this when commenting on the idea that humans are descended from apessssss.
  • Coconut Superpowers: No budget for a spaceship model? No problem... it's invisible.
  • Creepy Monotone: Scotty, when reciting his codes to activate the self destruct sequence.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Bele claims that his people are obviously superior because they're white on the left side and black on the right side, while Lokai and his people are obviously inferior because they have the reverse color scheme. He clearly expects Kirk and Spock to agree with him; instead, they both look at him like he's full of crap.
  • Determinator: Bele says he has been pursuing Lokai for 50,000 years and not even the destruction of life on their planet stops him.
  • Dirty Coward: Implied; Lokai, despite later proving himself to be at least nearly as powerful as Bele, repeatedly insists that the Enterprise crew kill him rather than trying to do so himself (despite the fact that Bele has proven able to shield himself from their weapons), and he doesn't contradict Spock's remark that, while Lokai himself is alive, the same can't be said for many of his followers.
  • Doomed Homeworld: Cheron.
  • Downer Ending: A whole race gets wiped out, to the last man, and for once there's not a single thing the Enterprise crew can do about it. They are forced to let the last two survivors chase each other down to the planet to continue the senseless conflict for its own sake.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Spock claims the differences in Vulcan society were resolved peaceably. Future installments and spin-offs would clearly demonstrate the Romulan exodus in the Time of Awakening were anything but.
  • Entitled Bastard:
    • After being dismissive towards the crew of the Enterprise, Lokai is quick to insist on asylum when Bele comes around, entreats the crew for sympathy, and expects them to kill Bele when he demands it, angrily dismissing them when they refuse.
    • Bele, despite providing no proof of his claims, expects the Enterprise crew to surrender Lokai to his custody and to prioritize his desire to bring Lokai to Cheron over their mission to save an entire planet.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Spock's flat delivery leaves no ambiguity in his finding that Bele and Lokai's people have been entirely wiped out:
    Bele: My people... all dead?
    Spock: Yes, Commissioner. All of them.
    Lokai: No one alive?
    Spock: None at all, sir.
  • Everything Sensor: The ship's sensor can detect anything on Cheron down to corpses lying in the street. Makes you wonder why they need an away team most of the other times they visit a planet for research...
  • Fantastic Racism: Not only do Bele's and Lokai's people have this for each other, but they also seem to have a low opinion of mono-colors like our heroes.
  • Fantastic Slur: As they struggle, Bele and Lokai snarl that the other is a "half-white" and a "half-black" respectively.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Discussed between Bele and Lokai. Lokai defends his rebellion on the past oppression of his people. Bele explains that through that he killed innocent people including children just because of the pattern on their face. The Enterprise crew, refusing to take sides in the conflict, consider the entire issue ludicrous, and are ultimately just as disgusted by Lokai as they are by Bele.
  • Grudging "Thank You": Lokai takes a break from yelling at Kirk to thank him for the rescue — and goes right back to arguing.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Somewhat literally.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Every time Lokai and Bele share the screen. Kirk makes it a verbal Mêlée à Trois.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Given that a mutual genocide was the end result of their conflict, this would mean Lokai's people eventually began slaughtering Bele's people indiscriminately thus forfeiting the moral high ground they once had. What started as a struggle for freedom became an excuse to kill based on guilt-by-association reasoning.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Bele describes Lokai and his people as savages who cannot change. As soon as there is the vaguest question of getting what he wants, he jumps right to force and refuses to even entertain the idea that he and Lokai are functionally of the same race, or of abandoning the chase when there is longer any reason to keep going.
    • Despite having suffered racism himself, Lokai has no problem with treating other people with disdain because of how they look, making sure to point out the Enterprise crew's mono-colored skin tone when he isn't trying to play for sympathy. He also considers Bele impossible to reason with, but rejects reason himself, insisting that the crew kill Bele and angrily condemning them when they refuse to, as well as refusing to listen to Kirk's pleas of abandoning his hatred for Bele and his ilk.
  • Implacable Man: A 50,000-year lifespan and the ability to take control of a starship through willpower put Bele in this category.
  • Inspector Javert: Bele's pursuit of Lokai is obsessive enough to make him an example of this trope, but we don't know how justified his accusations against him were.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Bele's ship is sheathed in materials that make it invisible, although it still shows up on sensors.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Bele's claim that Lokai goes looking for sympathy wherever he goes is supported by the fact that Lokai is shown doing exactly that with a gathering of Enterprise crewmen. His point about Lokai being unable to change, while based in bigotry and equally applicable to him is also proven true; when Kirk entreats the two enemies to give up their hate, Lokai rejects him as an "idealistic dreamer" and leaves.
    • Lokai's attempts to garner sympathy with the crew are implied to be more about maintaining his own freedom than serving real justice, but he correctly points out that, having grown up on a world where bigotry among their own race has been consigned to history books, they lack the context to fully understand what he and his people have been through. He's also proven right about Bele being unreasonable; as soon as there's any chance that he might not be able to drag Lokai back to Cheron in chains, Bele jumps straight to the use of force, and Bele proves just as unwilling to abandon his hatred as Lokai himself.
  • Jitter Cam: Every time a red alert sounds in this episode, the camera repeatedly zooms in and out at the flashing light. This was a Shout-Out to the Batman TV series, as Frank Gorshin (the Riddler) plays Bele.
  • Kirk Summation: At the end of the episode, the good captain attempts to sermonize Bele and Lokai about the futility of their battle; pointing out that their entire planet, Cheron, as well as all of the entire rest of their people, have been completely and utterly devastated during their absence as a result of the bickering between the various groups... surely the two Cherons can find a common ground in the wake of this catastrophic event.
  • Last of His Kind: Bele and Lokai discover at the end of the episode that they are the last two remaining members of their species, or (from their point of view) each is the last remaining member of his race.
  • Let Me at Him!: Both ways between our two guests.
    • When they first meet face-to-face at sickbay, Lokai sits there smoldering at Bele until he smugly mentions how he sees how "quiescent" he is; at this, he starts up from the bed and Kirk restrains him...
    • ...and at the other end of their back and forth, Bele, increasingly nettled, gets himself into it at "You're coming back with me to pay for your CRIMES!!!" and goes for him.
  • Motive Decay: Discussed; at the end of the episode, where Cheron is revealed as a dead planet, Uhura and Sulu wonder why Bele and Lokai are bothering to keep fighting, as the reason for their conflict is gone. Kirk and Spock solemnly reflect that it no longer matters; all they have left is their hate.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Kirk and Spock remark that, as far as they can tell, Bele and Lokai are clearly of the same race; not grasping what Spock means by seeing no significant difference between them, Bele remarks on the only obvious physical difference (which side of their body is black).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: For once, Kirk gets to play this, insisting that both aliens go through the Federation first, and firmly staying out of foreign politics.
  • Playing the Victim Card: Lokai shows a habit of doing this even before Bele gets involved; when Kirk takes him to task for stealing a shuttlecraft from Starbase 4, Lokai is angered at even being accused for a crime that he clearly committed and puts Kirk's accusations down to Fantastic Racism (that Lokai himself shows, accusing all monotoned lifeforms of being racist towards him). Once Bele is aboard, Lokai is quick to ask for asylum and try to drum up sympathy from the crew.
  • Powerful and Helpless:
    • After Bele hijacks control of the Enterprise, Kirk makes it clear that he'll sooner destroy the ship than allow it to be taken over, initiating the Self-Destruct Mechanism; as Kirk says, Bele's ability to control the Enterprise is moot if Kirk can simply blow it up. Subverted later on, as Bele proves that he can simply disable the ship's auto-destruct before Kirk can initiate it.
    • Played straight with the episode's conclusion; while Bele and Lokai are both very powerful, with their final clash endangering the Enterprise before they beam down to Cheron, their conflict no longer has any purpose beyond mere hate, as their homeworld is dead along with anything they were ever fighting for.
  • Profiling: Bele is guilty of this while pointing out he is black on the right side and stating, "All of his people are white on the RIGHT side" about Lokai.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The aliens from Cheron have been chasing each other around the galaxy for 50,000 years.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale:

    • The second time Bele commandeers the Enterprise to get to his distant home planet, the trip is way too short; by the time our heroes have finished discussing the fact that the ship has been commandeered, they're there. Bele needn't have taken the trouble to disable the self-destruct mechanism; there wouldn't have been time to enter the activation codes anyway.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Enterprise has one which requires three ship's officers to recite activation codes to the computer.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Spock reports: "Cheron lies between 403 mark 7 and mark 9". So 403 mark 8, then? Maybe 403 mark 7.01?
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Both of the aliens ignore Kirk's appeal, choosing to beam down to their dead planet and finish each other instead.
  • Silly Reason for War: How pretty much everyone on the Enterprise views a war being fought because one side is white on the left side and black on the right, while the other side has it the other way.
  • Slave Race: Lokai's "people" are said to have been this. Notably, Bele doesn't bother to deny it, simply claiming that slavery had been abolished thousands of years prior (which, given the claim that Bele has been chasing Lokai for 50,000 years, might make it a fairly recent occurrence by their standards).
  • Stealth Insult: After Kirk and Spock suggest that the people of Cheron must once have been mono-colored, Bele brings up the theory that some humanoids are descended from apes. Not missing a beat, Spock replies that the actual theory is that they evolved into more advanced lifeforms.
  • Stealth Pun: Cheron is in the southernmost part of the galaxy, in other words, the Deep South.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The close-up of Chekov's hand operating the decontamination of Ariannus is a recycled shot of Kirk's hand from "The Doomsday Machine". (It was also used as Spock's hand in both "Obsession" and "The Immunity Syndrome".)
    • A shot of crewmembers buzzing around in a corridor during red alert is recycled from "The Trouble with Tribbles".
    • The footage of Lokai's shuttlecraft in space, then landing in the shuttlebay is lifted from "The Galileo Seven", creating an error. While they state that the shuttle was stolen from Starbase 4, the designation "USS Enterprise NCC-1707/7" can be clearly seen on its side. This was corrected in the remastered version.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Bele flies an invisible spaceship, can commandeer the Enterprise without physically interfacing with the ship, and (along with Lokai) has a lifespan in the tens of thousands of years, if not more.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • When Bele will not release control of the Enterprise, Kirk activates the ship's self-destruct sequence and tells him that while Bele may control the Enterprise, the final order is Kirk's.
    • Bele and Lokai then try to do this with each other.
  • Title Drop: Not word-for-word, but at one point during Bele and Lokai's struggle on the bridge, Kirk does reference the Enterprise being "your last battlefield". Ironically, and tragically, it seems this will be true of their planet which was already devastated by their races' last battle.
  • Tractor Beam: Used to bring Lokai's stolen shuttle aboard the Enterprise.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: The final chase scene depicting Lokai and Bele running through the corridors of the Enterprise is mixed with stock footage of burning cities filmed after WWII aerial bombing raids, as each visualizes the destruction of their shared home planet. Fred Freiberger stated, "We ran a little short on that show which is why it ended with a chase that went on forever. I thought it was a hell of a creative solution".
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: When Bele makes the claim that he's been chasing Lokai for 50,000 years, he specifies that he's speaking of "your Terrestrial years".
  • Villain Has a Point: While he is clearly using it as a cop out to his own failings as an individual, Bele is right that it's unrealistic to expect utopia in a day, especially with so much bad blood still going on.
  • White Man's Burden: Bele tries to invoke this.
  • You Are What You Hate: Bele does not respond favourably to Spock's theory that his "people" and Lokai's "people" evolved from a common ancestor.


Video Example(s):


Enterprise self-destruct

Kirk, Spock, and Scotty order the U.S.S. Enterprise to self-destruct.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SelfDestructMechanism

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