Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.
A habit I’ve had for a long time come to an end this past Friday. I said goodbye to Rod Gustafson. You probably don’t know who he is. It’d be kinda weird if you did. He is, or rather was a film reviewer for a website called Parent Previews. It’s a pretty niche site. One devoted to both whether or not a movie is good but just as important whether or not a movie is Christian enough for Christians to see with their families. They didn’t review R rated movies. The one exception being the Passion of the Christ, of course. That one they liked.
I’m not Christian but there was something I really liked about the guy. I first became aware of him through a rightwing Christian radio program in Detroit. The Bob Dutko show. I used to listen to a lot of right wing radio. It’s always fascinated by what these people are worried about. He’s one of those folks who has nine dozen kids and thinks the earth is about five thousand years old. He’s no dumb-dumb though. He has a high IQ and he’ll be the first to tell you about.
Every Friday afternoon at around 2:00, Bob turned his show over to Rod to take a look at the movies from “a family friendly, Christian friendly perspective.” In came Rod. There was something engaging about the guy. His taste in movies was, for the most part, atrocious, but I kept on tuning in. Even when I moved away from Detroit I kept on listening online every Friday.
My favorite segments with Rod were always when he was a film reviewer first and a Christian second. Those were the ones I liked the best. Once he told Bob that a particular film contained a bunch of nobodies. To which Bob replied something along the lines that there are no nobodies because God knows every hair on their heads. Gross right. Rod said that God may love them but none of these people had any business being in a movie. I remember on a handful of occasions he’d pan one of those awful Kirk Cameron type movies made specifically to pander to Christians. Often, he’d say that even though there’s nothing objectionable content-wise and that all the messages were good, the movie itself was very bad. I don’t know why, but I loved hearing that. And I’m gonna miss it. Good luck out there, Rod!
Know what else Rod Gustafson wouldn’t be able to recommend? This episode of Trek. It's Bread and Circuses. I’d call it a fucking mess, but Rod would never use that kind of language.
The crew is at a planet that is pre-warp and doesn’t know about life on other planets. So they can’t intervene. On account of the non-interference directive. They go down and it’s a planet based on the principles of ancient Rome. It’s even called Rome. They’ve had a bunch of leaders named Ceasar and they all speak English. Which nobody seems that surprised by. A bunch of horse shit ensues. A bunch of really terrible horse shit. One of their leaders is a former Federation captain. I don’t remember if he was an actual Starfleet captain and I don’t care. I’m not rewatching it. I watched it one and a half times and it was brutal both and a half times.
The former Federation guy thinks this planet is so perfect it must be protected at all costs from future interlopers. So Kirk and his whole crew must stay and die in the pits.
There’s some platitude swapping and Bones and McCoy end up in a live gladiator fight on TV in a painfully long and terribly choreographed fight scene. Then Uhura teaches us that it’s okay because they’ve heard about Jesus. Fin.
Was this a good episode good? No. This one is one of my least favorite ones so far. plus, I adore Uhura, but what the fuck is all this Jesus stuff doing in my Trek? I don’t want to know about the Son of God or whatever. Plus the two planets evolved in exactly the same way to the point where everyone on the planet speaks English and they had a Rome and two guys named Ceasar ruled over it, and also Christianity took hold just like on Earth, but it took an extra two thousand years? What the fuck are you trying to sell me with this bullshit because I am not buying.
|FYI, we'll still be having this debate in 350 years|
You don’t want anyone else to come to your planet? Know what you don’t do, have two Federation ships disappear investigating it. Ships are gonna keep on coming. You think Starfleet is just gonna shrug off the loss of the Enterprise? That’s the flagship, boy. You gotta go see what keeps happening.
|Raise your hands if this is some bullshit|
Who the hell would think that this a perfect planet? There’s legalized slavery and live battles to the death on TV. That’s the opposite of perfect. Yeah, there was no World War 1 or 2, but still. LEGALIZED SLAVERY AND BATTLES TO THE DEATH. I’m not saying that a system that eliminated war doesn’t have some strong points, but if it still has slavery and battle royalés, then maybe continue looking for a slightly more perfect planet.
|I didn't even realize this was a Christmas episode|
This episode plays like a greatest hits. A bunch of other shit from better episodes is thrown into a blender and this is what we got. We’ve got a slave lady wearing tinfoil, we’ve got the crew busting out of jail cells, we’ve got a wine-swilling dandy, and overly long fight scenes. Speaking of which, of all the things that have come a long way since TOS aired fight choreography is definitely one of them. I don’t understand why these have to be this bad. They’re just so clumsy and goddamn are they also long. And the music score is awful.
This planet is being run by a dude from a spaceship. Why are tiptoeing around like the Prime Directive still matters? It has been violated. the planet is being run by a dude from a spaceship. Whether everyone knows it or not the prime directive is out the airlock. Phaser up and interfere.
If you want to watch an even shittier episode where members of the crew are in gladiator matches then go with Code of Honor. This early TNG episode features Tasha Yar in a fight to the death when the wife of the planet's leader challenges her. This episode has the distinction of being one of the most awful Treks of all time. My favorite review of this episode was “you know it wouldn’t be considered that racist if they didn’t hire exclusively black folks to play the aliens.” Yeah, but they did. And it’s jarring. So very jarring.
If you're looking for something better, then go with Tsunkatse. It's not the best one out there, but I like it. It's a VOY episode where Jeri Ryan's Seven fights The Rock. The goddamn Rock. It's a fun episode. It's not awesome, but it's sure as shit better than this one.