Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 25

Bread and Circuses

Aired Unknown Mar 15, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (9)

out of 10
161 votes
  • one of the worst episodes

    *contains some spoilers*

    I enjoy a "parallel development story" occasionally, but at this point in the season (as others have mentioned), it has been done several times and is no longer interesting. It's a little interesting to think about it as an episode of failures (they didn't even escape themselves, someone else does it for them; they don't seem to even consider rescuing the other ship's survivors; - but it still doesn't work for me.

    The final straw was when they decide that the slaves are actually Christians not pagans and they seem amazed they've heard of Jesus. Well perhaps one of the people on the previous Federation ships told them about it (I think they mentioned that the recent revolutions were a new thing so I was waiting for the leader of the rebellion to turn out to also be Federation). Or even if they had their own version of Christianity, I don't understand how the assumption is that that will triumph over the Romans? The runaway slaves live outside the cities, have no resources, power, weapons or the will to fight. It seemed to me the civilization would continue exactly the same as it was.
  • How many "Earth-parallel society" episodes are there?

    After Omega Glory, Patterns of Force and Piece of the Action, Gene Coon asks the Trek audience to buy yet another far-flung planet where the civilisation has evolved along exactly the same lines as Earth. It's a bit of a stretch and - by this point in the second season of what is otherwise the best sf show on tv at this time - it smacks of lazy writing.

    At first, as the story unravelled, I thought I remembered that it was the rogue Captain that had introduced the idea of Roman imperialism to the planet. But no ... it turns out that the planet had invented Roman society all by itself.

    All in all, this episode just kind of lies there feeling sorry for itself. The lacklustre script brings forth lacklustre performances from the cast. Only the banter between McCoy and Spock brings any semblance of life to the proceedings.

    The true test of a decent Star Trek episode is, "Would I recommend this to someone who's never seen the show before?" In this case the answer is, sadly, no.
  • Underrated but much appreciated

    Probably my favorite of the original Trek episodes. It's a parallel world episode to once again cover up a small budget. All we see are Vasquez Rocks and some interior sets, and they even get around not having to include an audience at the televised games by having fake sound effects for the audience.

    So they're clever in getting around the budgeting problems, although the episode does rather feel repetitive if for no other reason then that the landing party gets captured at least three times.

    This episode is differentiated from the other parallel world episodes in that this one is more of a "what if"? "Piece of the Action" and "Patterns of Force" are just "Let's visit these 20th century societies." B&C explores what you'd get with Rome _advanced_ to the 20th century. That helps the audience skim over the fact that the parallels here make no sense, that all of the deity names are absolutely identical from those on Earth. Huh?

    What really sets this episode aside as unique is that... Kirk doesn't win. The Enterprise doesn't dramatically rescue the last survivors of the Beagle (heck, Merik would still be alive if Kirk hadn't shown up). Kirk doesn't lead a slave rebellion. Yes, there's vague intimations that history will repeat itself and the Roman Empire will fall (although Christianity wasn't the only factor in Rome's downfall).

    The fun part is watching Kirk being outsmarted and outclassed at every turn. Logan Ramsey portrays an excellently slimy villain... except he's not really a villain. He's drawn in a few too dimensions to be a flat bad guy (unlike Melakon in "Patterns of Force"). he gives Kirk his "last meal," he offers them a quick death once it becomes clear Kirk isn't going to yield. He doesn't like Merik, but who can blame him? The Proconsul is fighting to preserve his world... and if he can have a little fun along the way, what the heck. Watch him twirl the dagger as the landing party beams away at the end.

    So you've got this 20th century Roman who is able to hold off Kirk and his crew and he basically "wins." That gives him a better track record then the Romulans and Klingons combined: see what I mean about him being an excellent bad guy.

    As portrayed by the underrated William Smithers, another of those "Hey it's that guy!" faces of the 60s, Merik is a tortured guy who realizes too late exactly what he's sold his soul for.

    Shatner gives a decent performance, and of course, McCoy and Spock get some decent scenes, and this episode really shows how they both bicker so much... and can still consider each other friends. The rest of the cast such as it is--Septimus, Flavius, the Master of the Games--are good with what relatively little they're given to do.

    The main plot hole is how the heck do they plan to get 427 crewmen to beam down? Prime Directive or not, one imagines poor Scotty with a skeleton crew sitting in orbit, wondering what to do about the 300 or so crewmen they sent down in the last few days...

    I think some people underrate this episode because not much happens. It's just another "parallel Earth world" episode. Kirk gets captured, and freed, and captured, and captured, but never really does much. If you look at the differences, though, it's clear this episode actually stands some of those "standards" on their head. This world isn't the same as other parallel worlds, and the fact that Kirk doesn't "win" is intentional. Plus it's an interesting world that we don't see enough of (due to the low budget--we see more of the setting in "Patterns" and "A Piece." Check out the Next Gen novel where the Romans become members of the Federation.
  • The Enterprise discovers a society that resembles earth of the twentieth century with an ancient Rome slant.

    This is another one of those parallel earth stories with a sci fi twist. In this case, the planet is just like earth, except the Roman Empire has continued into the equivalent of the twentieth century. Gene Roddenberry and Gene Cone, the two heavyweights of the original Star Trek series, cowrote it, and with their understanding of Trek, the result is a solid, entertaining second season episode. It focuses on Kirk, Spock, and Bones, and has some lovely moments between them as Kirk attempts to deal with this backwards planet that keeps placing obstacles in his path. William Smithers guest stars as Captain Marik and gives a nice performance.
  • The Enterprise encounters a duplicate of Earth where the Roman Empire still exists. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to investigate, and wind up being forced to compete in the barbaric gladiatorial games. Despite a familiar plot, a very good episode...

    This episode suffers straight away from being yet another 'parallel Earth' story. We had already had "A Piece of the Action", "Patterns of Force", and the weak "The Omega Glory" (as well as "Miri" in the first season), and here we get another such tale.
    But it's a shame that this episode comes so close to three of those other examples, as in its own right it is a very good story.

    Indeed the parallel earth concept had been done a number of times before by this point, but here it is at least given some depth and background. The crew puzzle over it and discuss it and debate over it, whereas on some other occasions (think "Miri" in particular) they barely blink an eyelid, and it is never really explained.

    The episode also features another "Starship Captain gone bad". Again, there are similarities, coming so close after "The Omega Glory", but here it is handled with more care, and more believable.

    The "forced to fight in gladiatorial bouts" idea had already been used in "The Gamesters of Triskelion" (produced after this episode, but broadcast before), but this episode does it so much better.

    The episode also features one of the best scenes between McCoy and Spock, and serves as a great showcase of their strange relationship.

    Similarities aside, this is by far one of the better episodes of the later second season. By this point, the series had started to lose its shine, but episodes such as this still make it a great watch.
    I think it could have been a 100% series classic, but the pacing needed tightening up a bit. The final act sags slightly, and the whole Drusilla 'Kirk's personal slave girl' element was not needed. As has already been commented on in other reviews of the episode, would Kirk really lay back and sleep the day away while Spock and McCoy are held prisoner and awaiting execution?!

    All-in-all, one of the best episodes from the end of the second season.
  • Kirk takes his pending execution in stride after he learns he'll get to bed a female first

    The summary above is probably the funniest thing about this episode: Kirk peacefully sleeps the afternoon away under armed guard and certain death for himself and his shipmates, following a good meal and a tryst with a designated female which were to allow him "to die like a man." In the meantime, everyone else under his command attempts to do something to escape the dire situation.

    Other than that oddity (which I suppose really doesn't contradict Kirk's billy-goat nature) this episode qualifies as one of the best, and is by far one of my favorites.

    The plot is fast-paced, the action is exciting, and the interaction between Spock and McCoy exemplifies what we've come to love about their clashing natures. My favorite part about this episode is at the very end, when everyone is back onboard the ship, and they're discussing the fact that the native slaves on the planet were worshipping the sun, and the persecution they were willing to endure because of this sun worship, not to mention how primitive sun worship is for that culture. After listening to their conversation, Uhura tells them that they've got it all wrong. The slaves were not talking about the sun in the sky, but rather the Son of God.
  • Roman Holiday!

    After encountering planet run by gangs and Nazi the Starship Enterprise came upon another plant which was pattern after another period in time...Rome! Captain Kirk, spook and McCoy went down to the planet where they entercounter Romans. the only difference is they got machine guns. and another difference, they had arena battles inside an TV studio with the crowd used as a sound track. In the end, when the three fleed the romans, they are unable to stop their reign of terror,But someone points out that a religion similar to christianity is doing it's job to stop tynnay. a smart episode.
  • At first glance, an episode that seems easy to dismiss as repetitive, but there's some fun things here.

    Kirk becomes embroiled in a situation on a planet that mimic's Earth's ancient Rome, but with 20th century technology.

    I want to say that this story is another example of Season 2's endless repetition of re-cycling scripts of "parallel planet" development and using Hollywood props from the past to easily make an entry for viewers. And in some ways it is. It's not excellent, but has some "extras". I could live with this episode and its interesting satire along with "A Piece of the Action"'s broader comedy and nix "Patterns of Force" and "Omega Glory" as poorer examples.

    There's a little something more here, mostly in Coon and Roddenberry's tongue-in-cheek script, with very well-done references to 60s television and TV marketing - it certainly doesn't advance the story as sci-fi, but it's amusing and entertaining in its own right (and bound to be historical one day). This is also one of the finest episodes to explore the McCoy/Spock relationship - both from McCoy's pleading in his gladiatorial contest to his pointed references to Spock's thinking - "wouldn't know what to do with a warm, decent feeling" - perhaps his harshest allegation of the entire series.

    The biggest failings are almost completely in the context of the whole series. There's just too much of this Earth parallel jazz going on. The references to religion are a little heavy and don't add much either, but that's for all the viewers to judge.
  • Kirk goes to Rome to do a Jupiter VIII TV commercial

    Top ten episode here. Great dialog and story from start to finish. The Claudius Marcus character was one of my favorite evil characters. I've seen this guy on M*A*S*H before where he is once again quite arrogant, except he had a handful of comical lines that he delivered quite well. I'm sure you can imagine that character being quite funny if you put your mind to it. I bought into the Roman world phenomenon. They tried this not as successfully with Nazis (Patterns of Force) before, but this one sold much better. And of course it would be neglectful not to mention the great McCoy - Spock scene in the cell where McCoy chastises Spock for not showing any emotion. This may have been the best representation of that on going feud between the two, which by the way was one of the most compelling aspects of the whole series.
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