Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 15

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Aired Unknown Jan 10, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
155 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise finds itself host to two alien beings from the same planet, who share an intense and self-destructive hatred of each other.

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  • The Enterprise finds itself in the midst of a chase between two aliens who hate each other's race.

    Conceived by Gene Coon after the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles (before being rejected for the first season and resurrected for the third), this ship-based racism episode can seem a bit heavy handed today with its allegory but has some interesting elements that make it worth a viewing.

    With a teleplay by Oliver Crawford (cowriter of "The Galileo Seven"), the seemingly simplistic idea of racism is deceptively layered. Budget cuts require that the two warring factions be condensed to two representatives, but they are more than the oppressed and the oppressor: Bele (Frank Gorshin) sees himself as a policeman and an aristocrat, a precursor to Odo. He attempts to reason with Kirk, Spock, and Starfleet Command, ignoring the "little people". Lokai (Lou Antonio), on the other hand, is the populist and attempts to rally the junior officers to his cause, seeing them as his peers. And yet both their arguments distill down to idea that having white on a certain side of their faces and black on the other side (opposite for each) makes them right. Is the make-up silly? Sure. But the genius in the idea lies in the characters' reaction to it. Lokai and Bele assume it's so obvious that their pigmentation makes them superior that they are stunned when Kirk, Spock, and everyone else don't immediately understand this. It's a sort of perspective that isn't unique to racism, with mistaken assumptions spilling into class, politics, and religion as well. And what's really bold about the episode is that neither the oppressed nor the oppressor is portrayed as "the good guy"; in the end, their hatred is akin to their skin: mirrored reflections of each other that become indistinguishable to the crew of the Enterprise... and ostensibly, the viewer. (It's the Jonathan Swift thing, creating a situation that allows the audience to look in from the outside and see the absurdity for what it is).

    And yet all the same, the episode never attempts to dig deep into its ideas or aspects, content to merely scratch the surface. (In fact, the director had to add some padding at the end to avoid running short). Worse yet, the superfluous Batman-like directing creates a frivolous feel that undermines some of the drama and can be downright distracting, even in a gem of a scene where Kirk and his officers set a countdown for the ship to self destruct (a foreshadowing that finally pays off 15 years later in the third feature film).

    With its talented authors, it's no surprise that "Battlefield" has something interesting to say, and it's nice that like several of the early episodes of the series ("The Man Trap", "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "Charlie X"), the writers don't feel it necessary to end with a joke or a laugh; but in the end, the episode doesn't know how to say what it's getting at.

    Remastered Edition:

    There's actually a surprising amount for CBS Digital to do here. In addition to new shots of the Enterprise, we get an extended shuttlecraft sequence (originally footage lifted from "The Galileo Seven", but replaced here with new shots of a shuttlecraft appropriately bearing Starbase 4's markings) and two planets (originally a yellow tinted version of the "Operation: Annihilate" planet and a reuse of "The Deadly Years" planet, but upgraded here to two more impressive, original spheres with the appropriate damage as indicated by the dialogue).

    Unfortunately, the digital team is unable to do anything about the most ridiculous budget saving concept the original series ever came up: Bele's invisible ship which deposits its pilot onto the Enterprise and disintegrates. (What is this, Wonder Woman?) With the dialogue set in stone, it's impossible to replace it with anything else.

  • Not bad

    This seems quite dated but remember at the time it was made-the black vs White was still a hot topic.

    Despite their alleged skin are alike Lokai claiming to lead armies of Followers and Bele claiming that Lokai and his kind will be kept forever in little districts. The most suspenful part is the duel between Kirk and Bele for control of the ship. The climax is the chase of Lokai by Bele back to planets surfacemoreless
  • Not a bad episode, but pretty goofy

    Yes, this is the "let's explore racism" episode. And the "let's hit you over the head with racism" angle not withstanding, it makes some other good points on the nature of revolution (as noted, Bele seems to have survived his followers quite neatly) and authority (Lokai having a nasty fascist/political streak).

    Performance-wise, Lou Antonio is the better of the two guest stars, both preaching to the crew his litany of hatred, and playing the hot-headed rebel who is also a political self-serving manipulator. Gorshin, unfortunately, comes across as the Riddler. His performance is almost mime-like at times (especially near the end), and other times he's the sneering megalomaniac villain. Still, he gives a good performance as someone who thinks he's from a superior race forced to consort with these "lesser" humans and a Vulcan.

    The costume design does them no favors, though, especially Antonio in his skintight white tights and codpiece. Ugh.

    The main problem is that the Enterprise crew is pretty much passive through all of this. Shatner gets some overly dramatic speeches, and Nimoy seems more emotionless then ever. DeForest Kelley seems to get out while the getting is good: maybe they thought his presence as a Southerner might strike a little too close to home about racism?

    Also maybe it's the fact that even without their hatred, Bele and Lokai are pretty unsympathetic figures. Even before they were torn by the absurdly large 50,000 years of hatred (does such a huge number add anything to the episode?), they were pretty unlikeable jerks. Maybe if they were a law officer and an escaped slave wanted for murder who were gradually twisted into hatred, over a couple of 100 years, rather than a major political officer and the head of the revolutionary underground, they might come across more sympathetic.

    As is often the case in the third season, they seem to spend a lot of time saving planets from disaster (see also The Cloud-Minders) and the 2008 remastery teams wastes an opportunity to show the Enterprise actually... doing something above Ariannus. The upgrade of Cheron's surface is nice, though.

    Jud Taylor's direction is... odd, to say the least. As has been noted elsewhere, he seems to have been inspired by Gorshin's presence to do 60s Batman-style flourishes like tilted camera angles and zoom ins and outs on Red Alert signals. He never did a Batman episode, though, but his style here is unique compared to his other third-season Trek episodes. He also makes pointless self-destruct sequence suitably suspenseful. (And he remains gainfully employed at least through 2004.)

    It's not that the racism angle is that heavy-handed for 60s allegory: in fact, as noted the Enterprise series reused the basic plot decades later. It just has a few too many contrivances. The crew here know all about the legendary semi-mythical Cheron, the two visitors have whatever convenient powers they need, Kirk lets them wander all over the ship, and then they just get off the ship and go ahead and kill each other. It might be some weird argument for the Prime Directive ("They want to kill each other, fine!"), but it still seems odd to just let two advanced beings leave the ship and hunt each other through the ruins (as chilling an image as that might be).

    So B for effort, F for subtlety.moreless
  • Potential that fails and flattens, too bad as I really like the idea here.

    Bele and Lokai from Charon take their personal struggle aboard the Enterprise.

    Here is an episode I wanted to like, a serious 20th century problem transposed into the 23rd century but it's mainly swallowed by 3rd season "Star Trek formula". The set-up is good, blind and ultimately silly racial hatred coming to bear at one point in time. There are an awful lot of similarities to Dr. Suess's tale of "Sneeches", but still. Lokai has some good scenes preaching in the recreation room, Bele has some nasty and pointed dialog as well.

    But all this is obliterated in a poorly-reasoned script and meandering direction. Why is the Federation, familiar with the protagonists' homeworld at the "southern" end of the galaxy unaware of its complete destruction long ago? Why are beings as powerful as Bele and Lokai (able to drive ships with their mind and generate force fields with their bodies) bothering to follow any ship's rules? The back-and-forth direction of the ship's heading needlessly takes away from the main point of the entire show - almost as if any deeper examination of the real issue would be too much.

    Though somewhat progressive in its topic for the 1960s, there is just not enough real follow-up in the execution here.moreless
  • The Enterprise picks up an alien being trying to make an escape in a stolen shuttle craft. Soon, they are also host to another being from the same planet, and find that the pair is intent on destroying each other. An average episode that tackles racism...moreless

    This entirely Enterprise-bound episode is a blatantly obvious take on the issue of racism, no doubt inspired by the Civil Rights movement, which was at its peak in the 1960s when this episode was produced.

    In respect of the plot, its concept is rather similar to the many 'moral stories' of the first season (indeed, the story was originally pitched for the first season, then titled "A Portrait in Black And White"). However, being a third season instalment, it is far less subtle, and lacks the classy feel of those earlier episodes.

    The Cheron beings, half black and half white, are immediately interesting to look at, and arguably one of the most memorable beings from the Original Series; certainly from later on in the show's run anyway.

    However, Kirk and co.'s amazement when the first see Lokai felt slightly wrong; yes he is unusual to look at, but the Enterprise encounters strange new beings and creatures just about every episode; why the particular amazement over Lokai?

    Bele is played by Frank Gorshin, probably best known for playing the recurring Riddler in classic 1960s 'Batman', which had ceased production the previous year.

    Both Gorshin and Lou Antonio have their moments as the respective Cherons, but these are interspread with some very hammy points.

    One thing that did stand out to me was some of the directing – particularly the very dodgy zooming in and out of the red alert lights, which didn't fit with the feel of the episode – or the series in general – at all. In fact, they look like something that would be more at home in the aforementioned '60s 'Batman'!

    The racism plot is handled interestingly, but is not perfect. There are some good parallels to problems on Earth during the black slave period, but these points are let down by the plot generally feeling rather forced, and not as focused as it might have been.

    Without giving too much away, the conclusion is an interesting and rather bleak one, as there seems to be no real solution to the Cheron's dispute.

    All-in-all, this is not a bad episode – there is certainly FAR worse in the third season – and it is well intentioned, but it doesn't have the subtlety or depth that it deserves.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Frank Gorshin

Frank Gorshin


Guest Star

Lou Antonio

Lou Antonio


Guest Star

Dick Ziker

Dick Ziker

Stunt Double (uncredited)

Guest Star

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (16)

    • In one scene Spock, overhears a conversation between Lokai, Sulu, and Chekov in the rec room. But Chekov wasn't seen in the room as early in that scene, it was Sulu and three other crewmen.

    • Spock rather awkwardly says, "Captain, Cheron lies between 4-0-3 mark 7 and mark 9.." In other words... 4-0-3 mark 8. Why doesn't he just say that?

    • When Bele's ship approaches the Enterprise and Sulu says "Brace yourselves!", Hadley is at the navigator's position despite the fact Chekov is at the position before and after. This same shot occurs when the ship approaches the planet Cheron.

    • Budget considerations aside, what's the point of an invisible ship if it can be readily picked up on sensors?

    • Trivia: The registration number of the shuttlecraft in the remastered version is SB4-0314/2, with Starbase 4 marked underneath as well as in its front.

    • All shuttlecraft look alike, including the one seen here. So Sulu saying, "It looks like the one stolen from Starbase 4 two weeks ago" is meaningless.

    • After the whole ordeal of Bele trying to take over the ship and Capt. Kirk coming five seconds from destroying the Enterprise via the self-destruct mechanism, he tells the Bele and Lokai, "I could put you in the brig for this, but I won't because you're new to this part of the galaxy..." What? Bele just tried to take over the ship and Kirk almost blew it up as a result and he's just going to forget about the whole thing and let these two people roam the ship freely? That would be like two people trying to hijack an airplane and then let go afterwards just because they are new to this country. This is quite a serious lapse in ship security and Kirk is pretty much responsible for anything that happens as a result.

    • At the beginning of this episode, the shuttle bay was green when Lokai fell on the floor.

    • When Lokai starts running, in the first close-up you can see a rope in his hand - presumably Lou Antonio and the cameraman are both holding the rope so Antonio can judge how fast to run and keep up with the moving cameraman.

    • Spock walks by the crewmen's lounge as Lokai gives a speech and notices the alien through the partially-opened door. Since when do the automatic doors on the ship stay partially open?

    • In "By Any Other Name" Kirk was reluctant to self-destruct the Enterprise even though the invaders were going to conquer the Milky Way galaxy. In this episode he cheerfully prepares to blow up the ship just because Bele wants to borrow it for a day or two to return a prisoner.

    • Spock tracks the two aliens running through the ship, but fails to notice them enter the transporter room - it's Uhura who finally notices they've activated the transporter from her position.

    • As they run through the ship, Spock says Bele passes rec room 3. We see Lokai run past the rec room. Then Spock says they've both moved to deck 5, and then he calls out "passing rec room 3" again.

    • Kirk gives logs using first stardate 5730.7, and then later 5730.6.

    • Kirk says Cheron is in an uncharted region of the galaxy. Ummm, how does Kirk know about it then? Later Spock identifies its exact position when he says the ship is heading for it. Again, if it's "uncharted" how do they know where it is to figure out this stuff.

    • The stolen shuttlecraft from Starbase 4 bears the Enterprise registry number. (This is corrected in the re-mastered 2008 version.)

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Lokai: I am not a thief.
      Kirk: Well, certainly no ordinary thief, considering what it is you... appropriated.
      Lokai: You're being very loose with your accusations, and drawing conclusions without any facts.
      Kirk: You can try those technical evasions on Starfleet Command. That's where you'll be facing your charges.
      Lokai: I'm grateful for your rescue.
      Kirk: Don't mention it. We're pleased to have caught you.

    • Spock: Fascinating. Two irrevocably hostile humanoids.
      Scotty: Disgusting is what I call them.
      Spock: That description is not scientifically accurate.
      Scotty: Mr. Spock, the word "disgusting" describes exactly what I feel about those two.
      Kirk: That's enough for today. Those two are beginning to affect you.

    • Lokai: So this is justice after Ariannus! You have signed my death warrant. I warned you what to expect. Will you continue to let this mockery of justice go on? If you are partisans of justice, prove it! Kill him!
      Chekov: We are not killers.
      Lokai: What do you do, carry justice on your tongues? You will beg for it, but you won't fight or die for it.
      Kirk: After so many years of leading the fight, you seem very much alive.
      Spock: I doubt that the same can be said for many of his followers.

    • McCoy: I've never worked on anyone or anything like him.
      Spock: Yet, you are pumping him full of your noxious potions as if he were a human.
      McCoy: When in doubt, the book prevails, Mr. Spock!

    • Uhura: It doesn't make any sense.
      Spock: To expect sense from two mentalities of such extreme viewpoints is not logical.
      Sulu: But their planet's dead. Does it matter now which one's right?
      Spock: Not to Lokai and Bele. All that matters to them is their hate.
      Uhura: Do you suppose that's all they ever had, sir?
      Kirk: No. But that's all they have left.

    • Lokai: You monocolored humans are all alike! First condemn and then attack!

    • Sulu: No one knows how he'll act under pressure.

    • Lokai: You're from the planet Earth. There is no persecution on your planet?
      Chekov: There was persecution on Earth once; I remember reading about it in my history class.

    • Spock: The actual theory is that all life forms evolved from the lower levels to the more advanced stages.

    • Spock: Change is the essential process of all existence.

    • Bele: You've combed the galaxy and all you've come up with is mono-colored trash, bleeding hearts and do-gooders. You're dead, you half-white.
      Lokai: [To the crew] You useless piles of bland flesh.

    • Scotty: And at warp 10 that's going nowhere mighty fast.

  • NOTES (4)

    • Star Trek: Enterprise's third season episode "Chosen Realm" also ends on a desolated planet destroyed by its own inhabitants in a long drawn-out war.

    • In the original version, shuttlecraft flight through space footage is recycled from "Metamorphosis." The landing footage is recycled from "The Galileo Seven." The re-mastered 2008 version uses new footage, including a different serial number on the ship's hull.

    • The self-destruct sequence in this episode goes:

      Kirk: Destruct sequence 1, Code 1-1-A.
      Spock: Destruct sequence 2, Code 1-1-A-2-B.
      Scott: Destruct sequence 3, Code 1-B-2-B-3.

      After verified and engaged by the main computer, it awaits the final code for 30 second countdown, which is provided by Kirk as Code 0-0-0-Destruct-0.

      The self-destruct code would eventually be reused in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock by Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov to destroy the Enterprise to prevent Klingon capture.

    • The story for this episode was written by Gene L. Coon under the pseudonymn Lee Cronin.


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