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Star Trek TOS - Season 3 - Episode 15

Star Trek TOS - 3x15 - Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Originally Aired: 1969-1-10

Synopsis:
Two survivors of a devasted planet remain committed to destroying one another. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 5.15

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 39 6 9 9 6 18 14 27 46 11 10

Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's a decent episode, even though it could have been better.

Problems
- In the original airing of the episode they reused special effects from The Galileo Seven for the shuttlecraft shots. However in The Galileo Seven, the shuttlecraft bore markings which clearly indicated it as one of the Enterprise's shuttles. Reusing that shot would seem to suggest that the Galileo for some reason was now stationed at Starbase 4, with its registry having never been updated, which didn't make a lot of sense. However, in the remastered version of the episode, new visual effects were added replacing the original shot with a new shuttle named da Vinci with its registry number being SB4-0314/2, clearly indicating that it's a Starbase 4 shuttle.

Factoids
- Lokai and his people hail from what is described as the "southernmost" part of the galaxy. They seem to have extensive knowledge of the Federation which implies that the borders of the Federation and Lokai's planet are relatively close to one another. All this would seem to imply that the Federation occupies what has been arbitrarily designated the south of the Milky Way.

Remarkable Scenes
- Kirk's first conversation with Lokai. I love how blatantly hostile Kirk is.
- Kirk playing mediator.
- I love the scene where the auto destruct sequence was being set. Some interesting camera work there.
- Kirk: "Mr. Spock, is this ship headed for Ariannus?" Spock: "Negative, captain. The Enterprise is now moving in a circular course." Scotty: "And at warp 10 we're going nowhere mighty fast."
- Chekov: "There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class."
- Seeing Cheron a dead planet.
- Spock: "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."

My Review
This episode is an intriguingly stylized satire of racism; black vs. white racism of the real world in particular. The half-moon aliens do a nice job of demonstrating the innate silliness of racial prejudices by creating a racial difference between the aliens that seems so insignificant to us and yet so significant to them as to automatically shame us for ever having acted like them. That's the power of a science fiction story on society: the power of analogy. These aliens would have been a ridiculous analogy in a real world 19th or 20th century debate on race relations, but in the world of Star Trek where many more things are possible they're not so ridiculous after all.

Sure, the whole idea that such a skin pigmentation would ever be favored by natural selection seems patently ridiculous, but Spock wastes no time pointing that out early in the episode. As long as the story itself acknowledges how unlikely such a thing should be before brazenly going with it, I suppose I can live with it. The layers of absurdity are even nicely staggered. At first Spock assumes that Lokai must be one of a kind for his species. Then when the commissioner comes aboard, Spock is amazed and struck with near-disbelief that all their people must have evolved to be this way and it isn't just a fluke.

Likewise, Spock points out one of my favorite medical cliches to pick on: McCoy is once again using Federation drugs on an unknown alien. I loved McCoy's response insisting that most humanoid life forms have similar anatomy; the blood may be slightly different and the organ configuration may be slightly different, but medical principles are largely sound across species. I also loved the fact that McCoy conceded the fact that it's hard to give a prognosis on a totally unknown alien despite the anatomical similarities. This is the sort of careful scriptwriting that should have been present in earlier episodes.

As for the story itself, I enjoyed the details concerning extradition law, which made a lot of sense for the situation. The Federation's policy on trying Lokai for his domestic crime before considering extradition back to Cheron certainly seemed reasonable and I thought the off the record note that the Federation would most likely grant extradition after his trial in the Federation was a nice touch. It added some humanity to the usual faceless bureaucracy.

Sadly that nice detail was somewhat undermined by the fact that neither of the half-moon aliens seemed content to wait out Federation due process and mediation. They've been keeping chase for some 50,000 years and yet they acted with such impatience while aboard the Enterprise. If they've been at it that long, why not wait a short while longer to see the process through to the end legally?

At least the commissioner had the good sense to let Kirk complete his humanitarian mission before irrevocably commandeering the ship for a course to Cheron, but it all could have been done with considerably less fuss. Although the manufactured drama did give us an opportunity to explore that delightfully overwrought self destruct scene. The camera work in that scene was a lot of fun although not all of their directoral experiments were a success. We've also seen the unwelcome return of the camera zooming in and out on the red alert light, which is nauseating and serves no purpose.

You've got to wonder how Kirk even knew the commissioner wouldn't be able to stop the auto destruct sequence when he had already displayed what appeared to be limitless control over the ship's systems by that point. Maybe it was a desperate bluff. The half-moon aliens had some pretty vaguely overwrought technology at their disposal in general. Throughout the course of the episode they displayed immunity to phasers, apparent telepathic control over the ship's navigational systems, and somehow temporarily enhanced the warp drive to safely fly faster than its typical capabilities.

Although the Enterprise itself possessed some pretty overwrought capabilities as well. I cringed a bit when the Enterprise somehow globally decontaminated Ariannus entirely from orbit in the space of a minute or two. That's some powerful tech.

Other logical oddities of the story include the scene when Lokai gets up and walks out of sickbay without anyone noticing. Apparently no one was guarding the Federation's detained prisoner scheduled to be tried for grand theft shuttlecraft. Likewise, it's kind of ridiculous to assume that not a single survivor was left on Cheron. Even a total nuclear war would leave some survivors, huddling together far from the blast sites, living off of subsistence farming or something. Though given the overwrought technologies of the episode, perhaps they were all killed by some kind of super-effective biological weapon released into the atmosphere globally all at once like the Enterprise's Ariannus decontaminator.

One final amusement: you've gotta love the cost cutting tricks in this episode. An invisible ship saving them from needing a ship model, the destruction of Cheron which is actually just stock video from World War II, and the fact that we never actually see the half-moon aliens on the surface of Cheron ever. The Enterprise just cynically leaves orbit and dooms them to their mutual annihilation. I can't blame Kirk for doing that, honestly. They've been such poor guests, why bother saving them from their self-inflicted fate? Indeed it's an effective satire of racism. With more polish I have no doubt that this episode could have easily been worth a perfect or near perfect score.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Steve on 2009-04-17 at 10:29am:
    Best feature: a great performance by Frank Gorshin,an excellent actor and impressionist who was also the Riddler on the original Batman series.
  • From John bernhardt on 2010-01-08 at 4:33pm:
    What made Original Star Trek episodes so entertaining was that most episodes even the weaker and average episodes had some memorable scenes, in this episode it is the dramatic auto destruct sequence
  • From rpeh on 2010-07-16 at 6:00pm:
    One problem: the shuttle "reported stolen from Starbase 4 two weeks ago" has NCC 1701/7 (ie, the Galileo) on its side. Why would an Enterprise shuttle have been stolen from Starbase 4?

    The camerawork focusing in on the eyes during the self-destruct sequence is the most obvious example of Gene Roddenberry's "western in space" view of the series. Remember the final duel in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, released just a couple of years before?
  • From Chris on 2011-06-17 at 6:27pm:
    Just saw this episode the other night. The enhanced version deletes the WWII footage.
  • From Kethinov on 2012-01-16 at 8:44pm:
    Chris, that's not correct. The footage is still there. Examine the chase scene intercut with the fire.
  • From sherry on 2012-02-26 at 2:21pm:
    This one seems we can make a continuation of this show,,,,
    I have been working on it a bit,,,,,

    I call it the last Battlefield continuation

    I started to make a doll I painted her black and pink,,, same color with her hair,,,, I've been doing this for a little while,,, pink and black boots ,,,, I sew her a uniform,,,, I also made a flag for the cheron,,,, and a flag,,, and even symbol,,,,, and I'm trying to make a language as well,,,,, this is a lot of work,,,, I'm trying to pretend they all went underground,,, and that there was only 30 of them while,,,,, I would say that's a pretty good start,,,,, I also have a main character,,, then I'm working on,,,,
    if anybody's interested,,, go to space trek,,, this is where I'm leaving it,,,, they can contact me at ,,sherry63@telus.net,,, anybody's interested,,,,,
  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2012-03-21 at 11:50pm:
    The episode inspires a lot of conversation, but it can't escape the black hole of mediocrity that is the third season. I started to realize this once I saw the lame sequence with the "invisible" ship. Sure, there's some substantial commentary about race relations, but at times it feels heavyhanded. I want to like this episode more than I actually do.
  • From warp factor 10,1 on 2012-08-14 at 6:50pm:
    They must have freaked out every time they looked in a mirror.

    I also wonder what would happen if they intermarried. I'm white and Mrs. Warp factor is black (actually I'm a sort of pink colour and my wife is dark brown), our son, Master Warp factor, has a skin colour somewhere between the two of us. What would hapen with them? Would the two halves, each black with white, produce an all over grey or would they have four vertical stripes? In a few generations they could end up looking like walking bar codes. The checkouts at Walmart would be thrown into total confusion. Alternatively perhaps they could end up like chess boards.

    Despite all this foolishness, and it not being a brilliant episode, in many ways it is indicative of the way Star Trek was a force for good when it was made.
  • From jeffenator 98 on 2014-10-30 at 1:10pm:
    This is one of the episodes when the Enterprise flew faster than warp 9.
  • From Wes on 2016-04-29 at 9:15pm:
    One to add to the "Problems" category:

    Kirk says that Cheron is in the "south" part of the galaxy. What is South in space?

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