Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 26

Errand of Mercy

Aired Unknown Mar 23, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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  • Kirk and Spock try to defend a planet from the Klingons without precipitating an interstellar war.

    Taking its title from a Charles Dickens quote, this Kirk/Spock episode takes its cue from the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, developing a "battle of the super powers" story before ending it all with a bizarre science fiction twist.

    Just as 20th Century America is easier to define by contrasting it with the Soviet Union, Gene Coon better defines Kirk and the Federation by creating a worthy adversary, the Klingons, with John Colicos stepping into the shoes of their leader, General Kor. Named after Officer Wilbur Clingan (1920-2012), who served with Gene Roddenberry in the Los Angeles Police Department, the new alien enemies literally enter the Star Trek universe with guns a blazing and press their advantage throughout the episode, forcing Kirk and Spock (and Sulu on the Enterprise) to play defense. (Curiously, Dr. McCoy does not appear in the episode at all). A planet-based story, Organia is brought to life by the Arab village portion of the Desilu Culver backlot, offering Kirk and Kor a realistic environment to spar. Colicos plays it to the hilt, all but twirling his evil mustache and setting the standard for all Klingon leaders to come. (He also seemingly invents texting, using his fingers to send a message through is communicator late in the episode. Or maybe his character is scrolling through downloaded information. Either way it's quite a thing to see in a 1960s TV show!)

    Meanwhile, everyone overlooks the Organians (not to be confused with the Oregonians), the peaceful aliens caught in the middle. English Shakespearian actor John Abbott deserves special praise for his seemingly simple portrayal of their Ghandi-like leader, using a disconcerting lack of subtext clues to hide the complexity of his performance. In the end, the episode's great irony is how his character forces Kirk and Kor, who have more in common with each other than the planet's inhabitants, to actually develop a respect for each other borne out of their frustration for the locals. (Meanwhile, the Organian leader mentions offhand how the Klingon Empire and the Federation will eventually become friends and work together, which sets up TNG and Star Trek VI some twenty five years ahead of time, as if the franchise had it all worked out from the beginning). It all leads to Kirk being wrong again and learning another lesson, with Star Trek making an ambitious anti-war statement for 1967. This time, however, Spock points out that Kirk has nothing to be ashamed of, which is not only a good message for the good Captain but also for those of us rooting for him.

    Sadly, Kor never returns in the original series. He does, however, appear in the animated series episode "The Time Trap" (voiced by James Doohan) and (reprised by Colicos) in three Deep Space Nine episodes, beginning with "Blood Oath".

    The Organians finally return to the Star Trek universe in a prequel of sorts to "Errand of Mercy" in Enterprise's fourth season episode, "Observer Effect".

    Remastered: With the Klingons pounding the Enterprise in the ship-based sub-story, you'd think there was a lot for CBS Digital to do, but the truth is the writers intentionally keep most of the action on the planet to avoid expensive effect shots. (Indeed, the episode only has a few shots of the Enterprise actually getting hit, borrowing shots of the Enterprise being fired on from "Balance of Terror" and "Arena" to fill things out and artfully avoiding having to show the Klingon ships). The upgraded version does have some nice battle footage, including debris, and even shows the Klingon fleet; but the shots are quick. Down on the planet, most of the footage is as it always was. (Anyone who thought they'd rotoscope in big Klingon foreheads to match the Klingon look in the films, which would probably cost $100 million and take ten years per episode, is out of their gourd). They do touch up the Organian transformation to make it a little less cheesy. They do not, however, change the stock footage used in the original, continuing to use an old shot of Haiti's Citadelle Laferrire as the makeshift Klingon headquarters. Originally this was supposed to be a matte painting, but Roddenberry simply couldn't afford another one. It's too bad the same thing happens again with CBS Digital, because it's obviously a stock shot, and replacing it with a new digital matte would be a big improvement.

  • One of a Kind

    If I'm not mistaken, this is the only episode of TOS (other than the second pilot, Where No Man Has gone Before) that DeForest Kelley did not appear in.

  • Klingons off the starboard bow …

    So, Kirk meets the Klingons for the first time. Not the lumpy-headed fellows who give the federation such grief from STTMP onwards, but swarthy, shaggy-eyebrowed strutting demagogues who think they’re the Galaxy’s hard men. I never did figure out what the rational was for the switch (other that The Motion Picture had a better budget than the Original Series) but, who cares?

    In this, Kirk is sent by the Federation to protect a peaceful planet, Organia from the militaristic machinations of the Klingons who want to set up a base there. The Organians seem blissfully unconcerned that they’re to be invaded by the 23rd Century’s answer to Ghengis Khan and Kirk’s urging them to stick up for themselves appears to fall on deaf ears.

    The twist is that the Organians are highly-evolved energy beings who make stuff happen by thinking about it, so Kirk’s concern was misplaced. The Organians enforce a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons and thus war is averted.

    The episode is most noteworthy for introducing the Klingons rather than for any great dramatic achievements, but nonetheless, great fun.
  • Spock almost gets dissected

    Kor steals this episode in the same way Trelane stole the show in "The Squire of Gothos". A fine piece of acting. "It would have been glorious" And how about his arrogance and subtle delight when talking about the Klingon's "Mind Sifter"? Of all the super beings portrayed in Star Trek, I rather fancied the Organians the most. And the idea of them being so advanced that they didn't even need bodies is quite deep and ingenious in concept. Being a philosopher at heart, I rather like the idea that the human race might be moving in a direction like this. Although it's just a television series, it gives me hope.
  • With the Federation and the Klingon Empire on the brink of war, Kirk and Spock try to convince an overly pacifist planet to side with them and stop the Klingons seizing control of the place. A great episode, most notable for introducing the Klingons...

    This is a great, late first season episode which is most notable for introducing the Klingons – original 'Star Trek's most famous enemies. As with all Original 'Trek' episodes, they look very different from their bumpy headed versions in the big-screen movies and later spin-offs. (No official explanation has ever been given about the change of appearance, but Klingon Worf comments in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" that the Klingons " not discuss it with outsiders"!).

    I found the story to be a very good one, well penned and well performed.
    There are shades of the Nazis, and the persecution of the Jews, as the Klingons take over Organia, especially as they interrogate Vulcan Spock (or 'Vulcanian' as he is referred to here and several other first season episodes).

    John Colicos gives a very good performance as Klingon leader Kor, with great screen presence and a credible adversary to Kirk.
    The Organians are also well performed – all along you wonder why they refuse to fight, and wonder what they are so secretive about.

    Although, as mentioned above, the Klingons have a very different look here, they still have some good costume and make-up work to make them stand out. Kor wears a sash very similar to the one that Worf wore in the first season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.

    In several episodes where the Enterprise has encountered advanced beings, humans have been accused of acting quite savage and barbaric; certainly, here Kirk acts very battle-hungry, and even at one point describes himself as a soldier.

    Also of note is some nice dialogue between Kirk and Spock as they sneak around to blow up the munitions dump, complete with Spock working out 'rough' statistics!

    At the end of the episode, Kirk comments on how it feels to be reminded that humans are not the most advanced race in the Universe. Already by the (near) end of the first season he has encountered many powerful beings, so he should start getting used to it!

    This is also a very rare episode that does not feature DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy. But it is such a good story that it is actually hardly noticeable.

    All-in-all, I really like this story. It has several good twists and good performances.
  • Take your fight somewhere else, we're busy trying to be peaceful!

    One of my favorite "Star Trek" epiosde has something to do with the Kingons. The enemy of Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. Both fractions has come to a planet run by a tribe who has no desire for war. When the two fractions collisde, they got a big surprise. I like the nepisode where the Kirk and the Kingons battled each other and the citzens of the planet has had enough and burn their weapons. they're telling them to take the fight elsewhere. In something conflicts, it doesn't have a volient solution. Can't we all get together. wouldn't kill you if you did.
  • One of the better first season episodes.

    Errand of Mercy is probably best known to Trek fans for introducing the Klingons, and almost as well known for establishing the Organian Peace Treaty. The Treaty would go on to influence the plots of other episodes and of several novels. It contributed the character Kor, who made a number of appearances in the sequel series, Deep Space Nine. For these alone, it deserves mention.

    But the episode stands well on its own. It creates a backdrop against which Kirk and his opposition number Kor can contend in a number of ways, permitting the writers to establish the basic Klingon philosophy. It also showcases Kirk and Spock working together under adverse conditions, revealing a little bit of why these two men are such friends.

    It ends with a Deux Ex Machina, as a number of episodes do, but in this particular case that works. It permits the story to be told against the backdrop of imminent war (adding to the tension) without drastically altering the landscape of the series. Deus Ex Machina is a somewhat hackneyed concept but one must remember there are legitimate uses.

    Not the series' best offering, but certainly in the top several.