The Enterprise finds the USS Exeter still orbiting Omega IV, six months after it stopped communicating with Starfleet. Captain Kirk forms a boarding party with Spock, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Galloway, and beams over to find the ship deserted, save for a few uniforms covered with a crystalline substance — found to be the chemicals of the human body when all water is removed.
The ship's logs show that the Exeter 's landing party contracted a strange disease on the planet and brought it back to the ship. The medical officer's last log, warns anyone watching it that they have been exposed to the disease and will die unless they go down to the planet; returning to their own ship would only spread the disease.
Kirk's party beams to the last coordinates in the Exeter's computer and they find themselves in what resembles a Tibetan village. They see two prisoners, a man and woman, are being prepared for execution by native warriors who appear Asian. Leading the warriors is Exeter Captain Ron Tracey who pauses the execution and greets Kirk. Tracey explains he was stranded when the disease ravaged his ship. He discovered that remaining on the planet confers immunity. He tells the party they will be safe as long as they stay on the planet. Tracey then explains the prisoners are savages called "Yangs" who are waging a war with the villagers, the "Kohms."
The village is attacked by the Yangs and Galloway is injured. McCoy takes him into a hut for treatment while Spock investigates a pile of Yang bodies. He finds phaser power packs, evidence that Tracey is helping the Kohms, a violation of the Prime Directive. Kirk tries to contact the Enterprise, but Tracey confiscates his communicator. When Galloway reaches for his phaser, Tracey disintegrates him. He defends his actions, because the planet offers valuable medical benefits — the people are immune to the disease and they also have incredibly long life spans. He presents a villager who claims to be 462 years old with a father who is over a thousand.
Tracey orders McCoy to investigate the secrets of their longevity and has Kirk and Spock locked up in a crude jail. Kirk is thrown in with the two Yang prisoners. They attack him, but Spock manages to nerve pinch the female and the male stops, concerned. When Kirk plots an escape, he uses the word "freedom." The Yang male objects to an "enemy" using a "Yang worship word." Kirk gets the Yang to loosen the bars of the cell window. Once opened, the Yang knocks Kirk out and takes the woman. When Kirk recovers, he and Spock make their own escape.
Reunited with McCoy, Spock modifies some medical equipment into a makeshift communicator. McCoy believes the natives' immunity and longevity are the result of evolution; the inhabitants developed hardy physiologies as a result of a cataclysmic war. So any infected visitor naturally acquires an immunity after being on the planet.
An angry Tracey destroys the communicator. He demands Kirk to order a supply of phasers from the Enterprise. McCoy and Kirk try to explain that there is no Fountain of Youth, the natives just live long lives. Kirk tells Tracey that his interference has been for nothing. Tracey's mind snaps and he demands Kirk orders the weapons. Kirk calls Lt. Sulu who insists on clarifying the situation before complying. He asks Kirk if he should send a security team, but Kirk refuses to explain, saying the security team is not needed. Kirk then tries to wrestle Tracey's phaser away, but fails. He escapes, but is quickly recaptured. Tracey tries to shoot Kirk, but his phaser is out of power.
The two fight over an axe when Yang warriors arrive and take everyone back to their village. Their leader, Cloud William, turns out to be the prisoner from earlier. Cloud produces a very old American Flag and ancient manuscripts from which he poorly recites the Pledge of Allegiance. When Kirk completes the pledge, the Yangs are shocked. Spock surmises that the cultures may have developed along very similar lines to Earth. Kirk speculates that the Kohms were "Communists" and Yangs were "Yankees." Apparently, the Omegans had a war, similar to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. The conflict resulted in a war that destroyed both cultures many centuries earlier. Even Spock found the parallel between the two worlds to be "almost too close".
The Yangs decide to execute Kirk and his companions, but Tracey claims that Kirk and the others are evil. Tracey tells Cloud that Kirk was cast out of Heaven and claims that Spock looks like an image of Satan in a Yang document. Despite their explanations that the Vulcan is not a devil, Cloud is not convinced and asks Kirk to complete the "sacred words" starting with 'E Plebneesta' from another document. Kirk doesn't understand the words and suggests that he and Tracey duel to the death — since good always triumphs over evil. As Kirk and Tracey begin to fight, Spock notices a communicator near Cloud's female companion, and makes a mental suggestion which causes her to activate it. Soon, just as Kirk subdues Tracey, Sulu and a security detail beam down to investigate the situation. Kirk spares Tracey's life and has him taken into custody to face Federation charges.
The Yangs now believe Kirk is a deity, but he orders them to stand up. He looks over the ancient, crumbling document, which appears to be a distorted version of the American Constitution. Kirk finishes the sacred speech (the Preamble to the United States Constitution) and rebukes the Yangs for allowing the document to degrade. He declares that the words were not just for the Yangs, but for Kohms, as well, declaring that they "must apply to everyone or they mean nothing." Cloud doesn't fully understand, but swears to Kirk that the "holy words" will be obeyed. Before departing, Kirk takes one last proud look at Old Glory.}}
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- Kirk must have an incredibly hard head. While breaking out of a jail cell, a Yang named Cloud William wallops him with an iron bar! Not a light tap, mind you. The guy puts his whole body into it. Would a blow that forceful with an iron bar kill our good captain? Either the bar is made of a soft material that looks like iron, or Cloud William is not as strong as he thinks he is.
- This is one of those classic format science fiction stories exploring a “what if?" scenario—namely, what if the Communists had won a nuclear conflagration? The story would work in a “someone changed history through time travel" or “this is a parallel universe” setting. Unfortunately, it strains the “parallel Earth development" scenario a bit too far. Parallel development of slang (“Yangs” for “Yankees")? Parallel development of a flag identical to that of the United States of America? (Yes, it is a stirring moment when the guy with the flag marches into the room.) Parallel development of the Pledge of Allegiance? Parallel development of the U.S. Constitution—including the calligraphy? Anything's possible!
- At the end of the show, Cloud William swears to Kirk that they will perform the words of the Constitution, and the captain seems very pleased with this response. There's only one problem with this: Cloud thought that the first three words of the document were “E Pleb Neesta." What in the world does “E Pleb Neesta" mean? At this rate, the Yang government will soon take on the qualities of fizzbin (the game Kirk invented in A Piece of the Action). “You can pass a law in Kongruss, except on Mondays when leaves are on the ground.” Most likely a corrupted pronunciation of the phrase “We Pledge Allegiance”.
- While agonizing over Tracey’s interference with the evolution of life on Omega IV, Kirk says that a star captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, his entire crew, and even his ship to prevent a violation of the Prime Directive. Why are Tracey's actions fundamentally different from Kirk’s actions in episodes such as A Taste of Armageddon and The Apple? Don't Kirk's actions constitute interference with the social development of life on those respective planets? Kirk's actions ended the stagnation of social development in both those incidents.
Continuity And Production ProblemsEdit
- Near the beginning of the show, a landing party beams over to the Exeter. Finding only empty uniforms and small piles of crystals, Kirk dispatches Spock to check out the rest of the ship. As McCoy examines a uniform draped over one of the large cylinders in the center of Engineering, Kirk pages the ship. The sequence that follows shows different sections of the Exeter. Astonishingly enough, a shot shows Engineering with all the lights suddenly on and completely empty. Shouldn’t Kirk and McCoy be in this scene’? Or is there another room that looks exactly like Engineering? This could be a reserve engine room, designed to act as a back up in the event of damage to the main engine room. [N 1]
- The actor who plays Tracey turned in another excellent performance in the first-season episode Dagger of the Mind. The two characters could be close relatives – possibly cousins.
- After the entrance of the ﬂag, Kirk stands, but the editors use the reaction shot of Kirk sitting down three more times before finally switching to close-ups that match the captain’s current posture. Kirk may be having trouble getting to his feet, on account of the shock resulting from his recognition of the flag, and the resulting understanding of the dynamics of the situation.
- As part of Spock's discreditetion, Tracey also says that the Vulcan isn't human, that he has no heart. Just as William leans down to listen, the volume of the voices in the surrounding group of people swells. Oddly enough, many of them are speaking Chinese! The Yangs have just defeated the Kohms. Even if they had learned the Kohm language, I doubt that they would be speaking it during their victory celebration. (Evidently the sound effects person reused the voices from the beginning of the show when a group of Kohms were preparing to behead William). The Chinese voices could be from the Khom prisioners.
- As the landing party prepares to leave, there’s a weird spot in the dialogue. Kirk says that they have shown the Yangs that freedom and liberty have to be more than just words. Then he says, “Gentlemen, the fighting is over." Between these two statements, Spock begins to say something, and McCoy looks like he's ready to jump into another discussion with the Vulcan. It appears that the creators cut a chunk of dialogue. It probably contained one of those trademark Spock/McCoy spats seen so frequently at the end of episodes. That would explain Kirk's second statement. Alternatively, Kirk recognised the signs of an impending Spock/McCoy spat, and acted to nip it in the bud before it could begin.
- John A. Lang on Saturday, June 24, 2006 - 6:12 am: Why didn't the Exeter send out a "do not board this ship" warning before they died? If they all saw what was happening, somebody should've done so...especially that last guy seen in the Exeter's logs. The comm system may have been disabled.
- Todd M. Pence (Tpence) on Sunday, August 04, 2013 - 11:01 am: Even though the landing party has developed immunity from the virus after the time they all spent on the planet, aren't they still carriers? Aren't they immediately going to infect the rest of the Enterprise crew, who have no such immunity, after they beam back up to the ship, as the Exeter landing party did before them? Francois Lacombe (Franc0is) on Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - 12:35 pm: It's possible that once the immunisation process if completed, the infectious agent is eradicated from the body and it is safe to go back to the ship. The crew of the Exeter was killed because the landing party went back to the ship before the immunisation process ran its course.
- ↑ Listed under Continuity in the Internet Movie Database entry