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.