Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 17

A Piece of the Action

Aired Unknown Jan 12, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (10)

Write A Review
out of 10
171 votes
  • 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!

  • 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 ...
  • 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!"
  • 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!
  • Kirk, Spock and McCoy investigate a planet that has a culture mirroring Earth's gangster culture of the 1920s, the result of an earlier expedition that left behind gangster literature. I have to confess – I like this one!...

    This episode splits the vote amongst fans, and there are many who don't like it. But I have to say, I actually quite enjoyed it, and I find it one of the better later second season instalments.

    To fully enjoy it, you have to take it for what it is – a silly comedy with a very light plot. If you're looking for something deeper and more meaningful then you're looking at the wrong episode.

    Coming just two episodes after the very popular "The Trouble with Tribbles", it is another of the Original Series' few out-and-out comedy episodes. I know I will be very controversial here, and many will disagree, but I actually enjoyed it as much as "The Trouble with Tribbles"!

    The plot itself is very thin, and just an excuse for Kirk and co. to play gangsters for fifty minutes, but if you take it for what it is, then it is good fun.

    Highlights include Kirk's ridiculous made up card game, and Kirk driving. Besides, in what other episode would you find Mr. Spock dressed up as a gangster!

    The cast play it for what it is, a goofy comedy – none more so that William Shatner, who seems to totally get what the episode is, and throws himself into it.

    The episode doesn't match the sharp, polished outings of the first season, but for a later second season episode where the series was starting to lose its shine, it doesn't come off too badly. Just don't expect too much from it.
  • Kirk cheats at cards, Scotty threatens to wear concrete galoshes

    I bought into the comedy. I think when you watch "I Mudd" or "The Trouble with Tribbles" everyone knows it is comedy and they subconsciously know that there will be parts of the plot that simply won't make sense. You're not going to get that intelligent, probing feeling like you get when you watch "Balance of Terror" or "The City on the edge of Forever". I think a few people might have had a small problem with the mixture of the comedy in this episode than they did with "Mudd" or "Tribbles", but I certainly did not. "Check?" "Right".
  • The Federations returns to a planet a hundred years later and discovers that the alien populace have adopted Earth's 1920's mobster lifestyle as their template for self governance.

    Anyway, I just re-watched A Piece of the Action. It had been at least 20 years
    since I last saw this episode and sadly I must admit that the
    episode wasn't the best that Trek had to offer but neither was it the worst. When viewed as a serious sci-fi story it fails miserably, but when viewed as a light comedy, it works.
    The show, however absurd
    the premise, was done tongue in cheek and this was something that I missed the
    first couple of times I watched it. I now officially pull A Piece of the Action out of the bottom 10 list.
  • Gangsta's Paradise!

    One of the best Star Trek epiosdes deals with Captain Kirk, Mr. spook and Dr. MacCoy as they visit a planet that was by gangsters and was stuck in the middle of a gangster war. thje territory is divided between three factions as they battle over turf control. One of the best scenes is when Kirk and Mr. Spook are in gang uniform and I like the way they speak gang talk. The clash of culture is between the federation and the gangsters. I gave it an 8.5 because it the better of the "Star Trek" epiosdes. this is a fun epiosde.
  • This is a poorly written episode. And yet, it still is great. Why? Because William Shatner is, when he chooses to, a great actor.

    The whole premise of this episode was stupid. A ship named The Horizon left a book behind about 1930 New York gangs, and people started emulating them. Are they that easily lead? However, this is the one episode where Shatner shines the most. After he realizes what is happening and gets the plan to fix the interference left by the Horizon (the book), he becomes a character straight out of an old film noir. Plus, it's really funny to see Spock with a tommy gun, a hat, and a pinstripe suit. All in all, this episode is a great one to watch.