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Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 17

A Piece of the Action

Aired Unknown Jan 12, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
170 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise travels to a planet suffering from cultural contamination from an earlier expedition--the inhabitants mimic the culture of 1920's gangland Chicago.

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  • The Enterprise visits a planet with a society that is imitating the mob wars of 1920s Chicago.

    Like "I, Mudd" and "The Trouble with Tribbles", "Action" is another Star Trek comedy, but this time with no science fiction nucleus. Featuring a planet-based story with a razor-thin plot that runs in circles, the episode is a really just a dress-up, playtime opportunity for Kirk and company that fails to reach the heights of "Tribbles" but succeeds as a unique, absurd change of pace.

    It's interesting that Roddenberry, eschewing the normal two directors for the second season, gives the episode's reins to James Komack, who had previously worked on "My Favorite Martian" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show"; but it's a good choice, as he gets energetic performances out Shatner, Nimoy, and guest stars Anthony Caruso and Vic Tayback as crime bosses. Shatner, in particular, seems to enjoy stepping outside his usual role to clown around. Like the episode itself, he gets to be silly and ridiculous, but in a harmlessly entertaining way. To bring the planet of the week alive, Shatner and Nimoy get another chance to run amok on location at the Desilu Culver backlot, with the location shooting serving the series well, coming as it does amongst several other episodes shot completely on stage sets.

    As the episode closes with a joke and a freeze frame of the bridge crew (the only time Star Trek ever employs such a tactic), we're left to wonder if we really just saw a Star Trek episode, and if we'll ever see one like it again. In fact we do, with Nazis in place of mobsters; but that one is far less entertaining.

    TNG would later use its holodeck to do its own story of this kind in its first season episode, "The Big Goodbye".

    Remastered Version: Whereas the original version of "Action" borrows the blue planet sphere from "Wolf in the Fold", the new one gives us an upgraded Earth-like planet that's quite well done. Other than the new shots of the planet and the ship, however, the only other change is a touch up of a city block-wide phaser shot near the end.

  • Don't over-employ "logic"...just enjoy this one

    My dad called me tonight to tell me "A Piece of the Action" was airing on the station that carries oldies television. He let me know by quoting Bela Okmyx into the phone and then quickly hanging up. I dropped my super-important task to go flip on the TV and find it. One hour well spent.
    Twenty-some years later, I still chuckle at Fisbin, Spock's handle on the colloquial ("Check"), Scotty's non-plussed looks as he is threatened, and the bratty kid who gives the episode its title.
    This one is just plain fun. Overanalysis kills everything, ya know - Spock would agree!moreless
  • Flamin' Nora - this one's as bad as it gets

    Where do you start with this epsiode? It has to be the worst STTOS of the lot, doesn't it? I mean, Prohibition Gangsters in Space? Are you guys kidding me?

    Don't get me wrong. I LOVE gangster movies - G-Men, Public Enemy, Little Caesar ... even Key Largo is great entertainment - but I don't want to see gangsters in TREK ...

    OK - I get that it's supposed to be funny. And it is, to an extent, but it has about as much to do with science fiction as The Roaring Twenties.

    It's mildly entertaining but, honestly, "The Trouble With Tribbles" is far more successful TREK comedy than this lame effort ...moreless
  • Not just bad science fiction; it's much more than that.

    Back in the day-when many of us used to watch Star Trek in syndicated reruns in the 70's-every episode was accepted as law; as almost god-given. The plausibility of the ideas or theories presented in the stories was rarely questioned-I mean, hell-that's all there was, man! Three seasons of gospel-and rumors of a second series that were treated with the awe and respect of a second coming prophecy. I, like many other science fiction fans of my generation, were weened on Star Trek: TOS.

    With the objectivity, however, that a few decades brings-as well as with a belly full of canon science fiction-from Asimov to Zelazny-I think I now know what makes a good science fiction story-whether it's a short story, novel, film or tv show. The genre or form or size of the canvass-whatever-shouldn't matter. Good Sci-Fi is simply good Sci-Fi.

    And just maybe, if the producers of Star Trek back then had been able to predict how iconic the show would become to generations unborn and fandom as yet unknown, then maybe they would have taken a little more care with the storywriting in the later two seasons. "A Piece of the Action" is not just bad science fiction; it's much more than that. Historically-looking back to the time in which the episode was written and aired-it is downright irresponsible. I mean, we're at the height of The Vietnam War, and what we need right now is good thought-provoking parables for the cold-war era, like "The Doomsday Machine," "A Private Little War," and others. Some may argue that because "A Piece of the Action" is partly or fully comedic, it should be taken lightly. Well, okay-let's compare apples to oranges for one moment. Consider the film, Dr. Strangelove. Now there's a good science fiction/speculative fiction comedy-and it's responsible-for the time it was made, or for any time.

    Come on! A planet society ruled by gang bosses modeled on 1920's Chicago, where Kirk comes in like a clownish amalgamation of Al Capone and Eliot Ness, and assumes the role of baby-sitter/colonizer/what-have-you; like he's going to convince them all he's the biggest dog on the block with one wide-beam ship's phaser blast (on stun setting, no less), with no real plan at all, and merely send a ship every year to check up on them and collect The Fed's cut. Good luck. I give them three months-tops-before they're back at war with each other again. There was an opportunity here to satirize mid to late 20th century colonialism, and the writers simply missed it.

    I mean-sure, Kirk characteristically goes off the handle sometimes, leaping before he looks. As Christopher Plummer's Chang says of Kirk, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "His record shows him to be an insubordinate, unprincipled opportunist-with a history of violating the chain of command whenever it suited him."

    Chang's assessment may sound a triffle harsh, perhaps-but as can be seen in such examples as the episode under discussion, Kirk does, indeed, have a very maverick way of interpreting The Prime Directive. However, when he simply brushes off McCoy's admission that he left his communicator in Bela's office (thereby, serving to further contaminate Iotian society by providing them with the 23rd century's equivalent to the microchip) with the final line, "Well-in a few years, the Iotians may demand…a piece of our action!" I submit to you that, as another Christopher-this time, Christopher Lloyd, playing Jim Ignatowski, in Season 4 Episode 4 of Taxi, "Jim Joins the Network"-might put it, "Captain Kirk would just never say something like that!"moreless
  • An excuse to show a period drama

    Though this is a funny episode in places - Spock's dialogue for example. I think for a Sci-Fi show this is one of the worst episodes and I'm not suprised Star Trek was going to get cancelled. To make up the required number of episodes the writers were obviously running out of ideas and i'm sure they must have thought; "Wouldn't it be cost saving and fun to do a period episode!" Come to think of it why would they leave a sacred book lying around! I'm sure it would have been in a safe!

    I prefer the episode Patterns Of Force!moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Jay D. Jones

Jay D. Jones

Mirt (uncredited)

Guest Star

Marlys Burdette

Marlys Burdette

Krako's Girl (uncredited)

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Radio Announcer (uncredited)

Guest Star

William Blackburn

William Blackburn

Lt. Hadley (uncredited)

Recurring Role

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • After the opening drive-by shooting McCoy barely looks at the gangster who has been shot, but declares him "dead." Submachine guns are notoriously innaccurate, and there is a chance the man only was hit by one or two bullets. One would think McCoy would at least give the man a cursory look, before making such a final pronouncement.

    • Trivia: Each of the gangs wears a distinctive "uniform" in how they dress. Bela's men wear double breasted suits and fedora hats, while Kracko's men wear bow ties, blazers and skimmer hats. One may assume that Teppo's gang wears single breasted suits and homburg hats.

    • Why was the Horizon carrying a book published in 1992, much less somehow leaving it on the planet?

    • This is the first and only time where a ship's phasers are set on a stun setting and used to stun a group of people.

    • Spock says there's no record of such a culture based on a moral inversion. Actually, the culture in the episode "Mirror Mirror" operates on somewhat similar principles, and Kirk & Co. presumably made a record of it and got some info on its background and history before they returned to "their" universe.

    • Originally Oxmyx and his men had trouble with the concept of transporters, but when Spock and McCoy beam down a second time, one of Oxmyx's men says they can't do anything until they're done sparkling. How'd they know this, when they didn't even know what a transporter was the last time?

    • As Oxmyx says "What government?" he uses a solid blue ball as a cue ball when playing pool. Then with his next shot he shoots a striped ball.

    • When they first arrive, Kirk walks over and touches a bench. Then they cut to a close-up and Kirk walks over and touches the bench again.

    • At the joint meeting, when Kirk points a gun at one of the bosses who asks a question, the camera cuts to a close-up and he's holding the gun pointed upward at a 45 degree angle. Then they instantly cut to another shot and the gun is pointing at the boss again.

    • There's a poster in Krako's office that has his rival Oxmyx on it. Except it spells it "Okmyx." Nonetheless, the official name of the character in the Compendium, the Encyclopedia, and most fan sites spell it "Oxmyx."

  • QUOTES (20)

    • Kirk: Nobody's gonna put the bag on me anymore!

    • Oxymx: (over the phone) Yeah, I've got a lot of nerve. What are you going to do about it?
      Tepo: (gets transported in) Coming over with my boys and we... (whimpers) Mother!

    • Kirk: You got Krako on ice?
      Scotty: Aye, he's here. Mad enough to chew neutronium, but behaving himself.
      Kirk: Okay, baby. Cool him till I flag you.
      Scotty: Flag me?
      Kirk: (whispers) Keep him until I send for him. (normally) We're going to make some old-style phone calls from this locale, so you locate the man on the other end of the blower and give him a ride to this flop.
      Scotty: What?
      Kirk: (whispers) Find the man at the other end of the phone and transport him to these coordinates. (normally) Can do, sweetheart?
      Scotty: Can do, Captain.

    • Kirk: All right, Spocko, cover him.

    • Kirk: Gentlemen. Gentlemen. This, uh, this card game is a kid's game.
      Tepo: You think so?
      Kirk: Oh, yes. I wouldn't waste my time.
      Tepo: Who's asking you?
      Kirk: On Beta Antares IV, they play a real game. It's a man's game, but a little beyond you. It requires intelligence.
      Tepo: Listen, Kirk, I can play anything you can figure out. Take the cards, big man. Show us how it's played.
      Spock : I'm familiar with the culture on Beta Antares. There aren't games...
      Kirk: Spock. Spock. Of course the cards on Beta Antares IV are different,
      but not too different. The name of the game is called, uh... fizzbin.
      Tepo: Fizzbin?
      Kirk: Fizzbin. It's, uh ... not too difficult. Each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets seven.
      Tepo: On the right?
      Kirk: The second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays.
      Tepo: On Tuesday.
      Kirk: Mm-hmm. Oh, look what you got, two jacks. You got a half fizzbin already.
      Tepo: I need another jack.
      Kirk: No. If you got another jack, why, you'd have a sralk.
      Tepo: A sralk?
      Kirk: Yes. You'd be disqualified. You need a king and a deuce, except at night, when you'd need a queen and a 4.
      Tepo: Except at night.
      Kirk: Right. Oh, look at that. You've got another jack! Ha ha ha! How lucky you are! How wonderful for you. If you didn't get another jack, if you'd gotten a king, why, then, you'd get another card, except when it's dark, you'd give it back.
      Tepo: If it were dark on Tuesday.
      Kirk: But what you're after is a royal fizzbin, but the odds in getting a royal fizzbin are astron... Spock, what are the odds in getting a royal fizzbin?
      Spock: I've never computed them.
      Kirk: Well, they're astronomical, believe me. Now, for the last card. We'll call it a kronk. You got that?
      Tepo: What?

    • Scotty: Lieutenant Hadley, check the language banks and find out what a ...
      "heater" is.

    • Spock: I'd advise youse to keep dialing, Oxmyx.

    • Spock: Logic and practical information do not seem to apply here.
      McCoy: You admit that?
      Spock: To deny the facts would be illogical, Doctor.

    • Oxmyx: The most cooperative man in this world is a dead man.

    • Kirk: Now, look, Krako, we're takin' over the whole ball of wax. You cooperate with us, and maybe we'll cut you in for a piece of the action.
      Spock: A miniscule... a very small piece.
      Krako: How much is that?
      Kirk: That's, um... we'll figure it out later.
      Krako: Thought you guys had laws--no interference.
      Kirk: Who's interferin'? We're takin' over. Check?
      Spock: Right.

    • Tough Kid: I'll cut off your head and throw it in your face!

    • McCoy: We're trying to help you, Oxmyx!
      Oxmyx: Nobody helps nobody but himself.
      Spock: Sir, you are employing a double negative.
      Oxmyx: Huh?

    • Kalo: Okay, you three, let's see you petrify.
      Spock: Sir, would you mind explaining that statement, please?

    • Krako: I want to know what happened.
      Scotty: Looks like we put the "bag" on you.
      Krako: I got rights.
      Scotty: You've got nothing. You mind your place, mister, or you'll be wearing concrete galoshes.
      Krako: You mean cement overshoes?
      Scotty: Um... aye.

    • Spock: Must we?
      Kirk: It's faster than walking. Are you afraid of cars?
      Spock: Not at all. It's your driving that alarms me.

    • (after their rough ride in the retro-model car)
      Spock: Captain, you are an excellent starship commander. But as a taxi driver, you leave much to be desired.
      Kirk: It was that bad? (Spock nods)

    • Krako: What do you think, we're stupid?
      Kirk: I don't think you're stupid. I just think your behavior is arrested.
      Krako: I haven't been arrested in my whole life!

    • Oxmyx: You better come back down. Krako's put the bag on your captain.
      Spock: Why would he put a "bag" on our captain?
      Oxmyx: Kidnapped him, ya dope. He'll scrag him, too.
      Spock: If I understand you correctly, that would be a problem.

    • Kirk: Gentlemen, you two have been brooding ever since we returned to the ship.
      Spock: Brooding, Captain?
      Kirk: Brooding, Mr. Spock - a somber emotional state. Do you wish to continue it or discuss it?
      Spock: Captain, I'm neither brooding nor somber.

    • Kid: (to Spock) Where'd you get them ears?

  • NOTES (4)

    • The 2006 TVLand version of this episode cuts out the gag of Spock confidently indicating that he'd be able to reach the Enterprise frequency with the radio broadcast equipment and immediately getting an ad for a gun (voiced somewhat obviously by James Doohan). Instead, it cuts directly to the shot of Uhura answering.

    • This episode was revisited in the Original Nintendo system game "Star Trek: 25th Anniversary." In it you approach the planet and are thrown to unknown space. You have to find out where you are, and collect enough Lythum Crystals to get back. it turns out that they destroyed themselves. There's a little time travel and you have to play a game of Fizbin to get the communicator back.

    • The U.S.S. Horizon is of the Daedalus class.

    • Desilu No: 5149-49.