Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 25

Bread and Circuses

Aired Unknown Mar 15, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (9)

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  • The Enterprise discovers a society that resembles earth of the twentieth century with an ancient Rome slant.

    It's another visit to an "almost just like Earth" planet, with a 20th Century Roman Empire story providing the two Genes with a forum to satirize the television industry. (The title itself comes from a line by 1st and 2nd Century satirist Juvenal, who used it to describe ancient Rome's practice of providing free grain and entertainment to prevent civil unrest). Curiously, it's an episode that was shot in the middle of the season but was held back in airdate order to second to last.

    Nothing here is fresh and new for the series, but unlike "Patterns of Force" and "The Omega Glory", this one takes the pains to develop a more believable story, inventing "Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development" and finally giving a full description of the Prime Directive. Just as importantly, Gene and Gene build the story on a foundation of character, with the big three anchoring the plot and several guest stars contributing as supporting players. Kirk is clearly Kirk, Spock is Spock, and Bones is Bones, with none of the actors asked to invent new facets to their alter egos simply for the sake of the plot. Within this context, we get some of the defining Spock/McCoy relationship moments, perhaps even surpassing those in "The Immunity Syndrome".

    Yet at its heart, the episode is simply a prison escape story with an easy solution that can be seen a mile away. It's too bad too, because a more developed television parody would be historically interesting. (The television subject of choice, gladiator fights, is overdone by Star Trek anyway. Think how fresh it could be if Kirk and company were to find out the fights were really staged, like pro wrestling matches! It would open the door to examining the reality of televised fiction, and the icing on the cake would be to have a perplexed crew of the Enterprise watch it on their big screen). Instead, the television aspect is dealt with superficially, with a fake set and a few satirical lines about ratings. (Granted, one of these is comic gold that probably had the two Genes rolling on the floor: "You bring this network's ratings down, Flavius, and we'll do a special on you"). And while the producers are wise enough to fill the episode with some fine location shooting (and stock footage of buildings) to contrast the "reality" of the planet with its fictional stage set, "Bread" is just an average episode with some good Spock/McCoy moments a memorable stinger.

    Remastered: There's nothing too fancy here, but there are some nice, little touches. Apart from upgraded shots of the Enterprise, we get to see a little of the wreckage (originally absent) from a vessel the crew is chasing down at the beginning. The featured planet (originally a reuse of.. wait for it... the "Operation: Annihilate!" planet) is replaced with a generic Earth-like globe. (Fortunately Kirk doesn't say anything like, "Mr. Spock, isn't this the same planet we visited last week? And the week before? And. the week before?") The new version, incidentally, has two moons, both of which are added into the background of a long establishing shot on the planet surface. Lastly, CBS Digital added bullet holes to a wall that's fired upon near the end. Unfortunately, a montage of stock footage of buildings, including the easily identifiable Great Dome of MIT, is not replaced with something more unique.

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