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Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 21

The Return of the Archons

Aired Unknown Feb 09, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
179 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise encounters a seemingly peaceful civilization run by a "benevolent" being named Landru...who intends for them to join his people.

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  • Kirk visits a planet run by a mysterious character named Landru.

    On the surface, "Return" is a good, basic episode of Star Trek. Kirk, Spock and company beam down to a planet to solve a mystery and step by step think their way past the obstacles put in their path. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all get some interesting things to do, the special effects are nifty, and the score, though borrowed from previous episodes, works well. The script even invents the Prime Directive and has a sense of humor, with Kirk getting off a particularly great one liner at the end. Yet for all its strengths, the episode leaves more questions than answers, unwilling to develop its loose ends.

    Like "Miri", "Archons" borrows the Desilu Culver backlot for location shooting and includes very human looking aliens. It's basically a story about the issue of conformity, though you can argue that it also has communist (and drug) overtones. Whatever the case, Kirk's not going to stand for it, stepping into his frequently revisted role as the disrupter of happiness. He doesn't like it when people think they've found inner peace, preferring when humanity is scratching and clawing its way to its goals (unless you can distract him with a pretty woman, in which case he'll probably leave well enough alone). What's fun here is that as Kirk and company try to outthink their opponent, that opponent (who comes into clearer focus as the story moves along) tries to outthink him, turning the episode into a cerebral game of move and countermove that's more interesting than a simple fight.

    Along the way, the "Red Hour", a time of violence, mysteriously comes and goes. Crewmembers, including Sulu and McCoy, somehow fall into the planet's cult. The Lawgivers, a mysterious group of authorities shrouded in robes, carry magic sticks that Spock can't explain. But none of it is explained. It's as if either Roddenberry or Sobelman had some ideas in mind when they were developing the story only to decide later these things weren't worth revisiting. It's a bit of a shame, because the overall plot has a beautiful intelligence to it, and if these loose ends were tied up, the episode would really stand out. As is, it's remembered as more of an oddity, a story with more potential than is delivered.

    Remastered: The only visual effects needed for this story are shots of the Enterprise in orbit, with the original episode lifting these from "The Enemy Within". The new version upgrades them, and gives us a unique planet that matches the surface environment.

  • Poop the Final Frontier

    This episode was poop. It makes no damn sense! Star Trek was such a hit or miss show. There are some CLASSICS and then duds like this one. I just can't get passed the setting and costumes. This show needed a bigger budget and producers hat weren't buttmunching douchebags who sleep with the cast members and fire them.
  • Religous Zealots take heed!

    This might be my most watched episode because I've spent a good part of my life around religious folks and I just *love* the metaphors and comparisons. I also think there may have been a wink towards 1960s drinking culture there as well; l but I can't really prove that... I also can't prove that this wasn't Roddenberry's cheap shot at communism but I never saw the connection until I read a few here. Communism just doesn't rule you like Landrew or (hypothetically for example) the Muslum or Christian religions might aspire to.

    Message: why do you keep doing the same rituals (festival?!) when you know they're self destructive and archaic. Archaic? Archon? Huh!

    Landrew and his followers remind me a lot of my religious contemporaries who are believing in something even less provable. Hey, Landrew *shows up* once in a while!!!

    Of course, the idea of direct resistance to authority was PARAMOUNT to the 1960s..."it seems you simply misunderstood our command - you will come!" - in the 1960s you said "no" for the first time to these guys!

    The opening act ending where Sulu nearly looks into the camera and slowly utters "Paradise!" is one of my very favorite in all of TOS. But another time capsule moment where we wonder today: so without any other data - what the hell would be wrong if Sulu DID think he saw paradise? Got a problem with that?! A very Jack Web shaking his head kind of moment.

    Anyway, the pull the plug thing at the end and walking away I thought was a little cold - but very Mid 60's conservative I guess.

    All in all a great plot that could NEVER had been said *any other way* back then; except safely in outer space. Could the point be said today on moden day television? Maybe not.


  • Kirk and a landing party investigate a world, with parallels to 1900s Earth that seems to be a peaceful civilisation but is being controlled by the unseen 'Landru'. I have to say, I'm the opposite of most reviews – I love this one!...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    I was surprised to find that this episode was held in such low regard by other reviewers, as personally I really like this one. (But I suppose that's part of 'Star Trek's appeal – there are different stories that appeal to different people; something for everybody).

    Much of what I love about this episode is it's quirky nature; the people living as if they were from the 1900s, with strange speech patterns and, of course, 'The Festival'. Such quirkiness could just as easily come from classic British 1960s series such as 'The Prisoner' or 'The Avengers'.

    In particular, the scene where everybody is acting pleasantly, the suddenly the clock strikes twelve and everybody starts going crazy, could easily have been an opening teaser for 'The Avengers'.

    The Festival itself is never fully explained; partly that's a shame, but partly it adds to its weirdness. I suppose it can ultimately be put down to the misguided rule of Landru.

    The episode also has elements of other things I like – a cult (Landru's followers), and even zombies (as the 'hypnotised' civilians slowly march towards Kirk and co., in one of my favourite 'Star Trek' scenes).

    The concept of beings being governed by a misguided computer would be used a number of times again in 'Star Trek' and it's later various spin-offs; there are even vague traces of it in 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' (1979). (If that film had had more of the intrigue of this episode, I think it would have fared much better.)

    If there is anything wrong with this episode, it is that the later stages are a bit too talky and dragged out; the last act or so could have easily been slimmed down.

    But all-in-all, unlike many, I really like this episode. It has quirkiness and mystery too it, and is a great tale in my opinion. Others will disagree.moreless
  • Kirk pulls the plug on a planet’s orderly culture because he couldn’t score during one of their festivals

    There is no way this episode get a better than average rating folks. I can accept the love affair fans have with "Shore Leave" even though I strongly disagree, but this one is terribly draggy with this absorption issue terribly not making sense. I'm so tired of all the episodes where Kirk out thinks a computer. "The Changeling" was reaching a bit, but this one was downright awful. The only thing I got out of it was at some loud parties that I go to, I'll scream out "Festival, festival, festival!" Of course no one knows the reference, but who cares.moreless
Ralph Maurer

Ralph Maurer


Guest Star

Christopher Held

Christopher Held

Crewman Lindstrom

Guest Star

Morgan Farley

Morgan Farley


Guest Star

David L. Ross

David L. Ross


Recurring Role

Sean Morgan

Sean Morgan

Lt. O'Neil

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (16)

    • The U.S.S. Archon must have been launched right around the time Star Trek: Enterprise takes place--around the 2150s, in order to have been lost "more than 100 years ago" at the time of this episode in 2266. Strange that Starfleet waited so long to investigate...

    • Kirk says halfway through the episode that Scotty is now in command. He would have been in command before then.

    • Trivia: This is the first time we hear of the Prime Directive

    • When Kirk goes to destroy Landru, Landru deactivates his phaser. Yet a few moments later, Kirk draws it to fire on a Lawgiver approaching him, despite already knowing it has been deactivated.

    • Kirk states that they are at the planet to find some trace of the starship Archon that disappeared 100 years ago. Later on, once they have get their missing man back, Kirk refuses to leave because he says, "we still haven't found out what happened to the Archon". If the Archon disappeared 100 years ago, what exactly were they hoping to find at this time? After 100 years, all the crew would likely be dead (unless it was a Vulcan ship, which it wasn't). Also, since Landru pulled the Archon into the atmosphere, it would have burned up so there would be no trace of the ship either.

    • Like in so many episodes, Kirk and company make huge generalizations about an entire planet based on a single experience. When Kirk and company beam down to the planet, they are there for a grand total of about three minutes before Kirk looks at all the "absorbed" people and says "If everyone on this planet is like this...". That's a pretty big assumption. Sort of like landing on Earth, seeing five drunk people and then saying "If everyone on this planet is like this!...".

    • You can briefly see a trail of burnt gunpowder leading up to one of the panels that exploded when the Landru computer blew up - the smudge disappears in subsequent shots.

    • Kirk and Spock approach Landru's chamber via a long hallway leading straight up to the doors. But when they enter the chamber, the audience can see the open doors behind them and there's a solid blue wall there instead of the long hallway.

    • There's a flip-shot of Kirk with his part on the wrong side right after McCoy returns to the dungeon.

    • When Landru appears in the dungeon, one of the security guard actors misses his cue and covers his ears a couple of seconds before Landru starts his sonic bombardment and everyone else reacts.

    • When the landing party goes upstairs at Reger's house, the windows are pitch black in the far-shots, but become transparent in the close-ups with Kirk.

    • As Festival begins, the landing party runs for cover. Watch and you can see a big thrown rock bounce off the head of one of the security guards. He doesn't even seem to notice.

    • Reger's light panel initially radiates light in all directions with no shadow, but when he places it on a shelf it casts a shadow.

    • At the beginning of the episode the Lawgivers convert Sulu just by touching him with a staff and it is permanent even at a long distance up in orbit. Why don't they do this later with Kirk's party? Instead, they haul them off to some big absorption chamber.

    • Kirk and his team ignore the Prime Directive by beaming down in plain sight before they know anything about the planet or its inhabitants. In other episodes they always beam down secretly.

    • Landru claims there is no disease on the planet, but later McCoy gives Reger's daughter a shot and the locals act like they know what he's doing.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Landru Computer: I am Landru. I am he. All that he was I am, his experience, his knowledge.
      Kirk: But not his wisdom. He may have programmed you, but he could not have given you a soul. You are a machine.
      Landru: Your statement is irrelevant.

    • (to the Lawgivers)
      Kirk: You can get rid of those robes. If I were you, I'd look for another job.

    • Spock: Predictably metaphysical. I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable.
      Kirk: You would make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock.
      Spock: That is very kind of you, Captain.

    • Spock: How often mankind has wished for a world as peaceful and secure as the one Landru provided.
      Kirk: Yes. And we never got it. Just lucky, I guess.

    • Kirk: Without freedom of choice there is no creativity.

    • Kirk: It's time you learned that freedom is never a gift. It has to be earned.

    • Lindstrom: Just wanted to say goodbye, Captain.
      Kirk: How's it going?
      Lindstrom: Couldn't be better. Already this morning, we've had six domestic quarrels, and two genuine knock-down drag-outs. It may not be paradise, but it's certainly human.

  • NOTES (2)

    • The concept of "Festival" was never explained within the show. It's certainly not necessary to explain everything, and in fact one of Star Trek's strengths was its often tacit assumption that the viewers could figure some things out for themselves. However, one wonders how "Festival" advanced the plot -- why include it at all? There was certainly ample evidence that something unusual was going on prior to this. In his adaptation of the episode, James Blish did provide an explanation. His explanation: Landru's idyllic society lacked population control, so Festival was conceived as an answer, the sort of solution a machine without soul or wisdom might create.

    • The U.S.S. Archon was of the Daedalus class.