Bread and Circuses (Star Trek: The Original Series)
|"Bread and Circuses"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Ralph Senensky|
|Story by||John Kneubuhl (uncredited)|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||March 15, 1968|
"Bread and Circuses" is a second season episode of the original American science fiction television series Star Trek, broadcast on March 15, 1968. It is episode #54, production #43, written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon and directed by Ralph Senensky. Its name is a reference to the phrase "bread and circuses" taken from the Satire X written by the poet, Juvenal. In modern usage, the phrase implies a populace that no longer values civic virtues, the public life, and military (manly) service; instead, the people need only food and entertainment.
Set in the 23rd century, the series follows the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Federation starship Enterprise. In this episode, Captain Kirk and his companions are forced to fight in gladiatorial games on a planet resembling the Roman Empire, that possesses mid-20th century Earth technology.
On stardate 4040.7 the Federation starship USS Enterprise is on routine patrol when it encounters wreckage of the SS Beagle, a survey vessel lost six years earlier. The Beagle was under the command of Captain R. M. Merik (William Smithers), whom Captain Kirk (William Shatner) knew during his academy days. First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) traces the path of debris back to the fourth planet in the previously unexplored FGC 892 System.
The Enterprise soon picks up a television broadcast, with black and white video footage of what appears to be a Roman gladiatorial fight in an arena. The "barbarian" gladiator they see killed is named William B. Harrison, identified by ship's records as one of the Beagle's flight crew.
Kirk forms a landing party consisting of himself, Mr. Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and beams down to the planet to investigate. Soon they are captured by rifle-toting men, revealed to be escaped slaves, who bring the party before their leader Septimus (Ian Wolfe). When the party introduces themselves as "men of peace", Septimus asks them if they are "children of the Sun". The crew wonders how, with the culture so devoted to parallelling Roman history, the inhabitants have become sun worshipers since "there was no sun worship among ancient Romans."[note 1] Septimus explains he was a Senator until he heard the "words of the Sun" and was made a slave. Although another slave, Flavius (Rhodes Reason), suggests killing the landing party, Septimus overrules him and decides the landing party poses no threat.
Kirk finds an uncanny similarities in one of the culture's leaders, Merikus the First Citizen of the Empire, to Captain Merik of the Beagle and believes they are one and the same. Kirk explains to some of the slaves that he wants to meet this Merikus. Flavius then offers to help and leads Kirk to the capital city. The landing team puts on slaves' uniforms and tries to sneak into the city. Along the way, Flavius explains how he was once the greatest gladiator until he, too, heard the words of the Sun. The way of the Sun involves a bond of brotherhood and a commitment to peace; it was hard for the fighter to accept, but "the words were true".
They are soon captured by Roman guards and are placed into the slave pens. Kirk asks Flavius about the culture's institution of slavery. He discovers that a slave who performs well earns health benefits and if he survives long enough, is also compensated in the end with retirement benefits and prestige. McCoy and Spock get into an argument about logic and Flavius asks if the two are enemies; Kirk replies "I'm not sure they're sure". Kirk asks Flavius how long ago the slaves started worshipping the Sun and Flavius says as long ago as the founding of the empire.
Later, the landing party makes an escape attempt while the guards lead them to meet Merikus. Merikus, however, has anticipated their escape and has forces waiting to apprehend them. Once again, the party is taken prisoner and they stand before Merikus and the Proconsul Claudius Marcus (Logan Ramsey) who dismiss the guards and invite the landing team to sit and talk in private.
There, Merikus acknowledges that he is Captain Merik. He explains his ship was severely damaged in a meteor shower and he stopped at 892 IV for repairs. When he beamed down, he met Claudius Marcus who demanded that word of the planet's culture not be divulged to the Federation for risk of cultural contamination. Merik decided to stay and put whatever crewmen who refused to remain behind into the gladiatorial pits where they would certainly be killed. Merik then informs Kirk that word of the planet's society must not leak off the world, and that the Enterprise crew must also remain behind. He tells Kirk to order the crew to abandon the ship and integrate into Magna Roma's culture.
Although he is threatened at gunpoint by armed guards, Kirk refuses Merik's demands and instead he tells Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan), left in command of the ship, "condition green" through the communicator; this is a code-phrase indicating the sender is in trouble, but that the recipient must not attempt a rescue. Angered, Marcus sends Spock and McCoy into the arena for Kirk's defiance.
Spock and McCoy must face off against Flavius and another gladiator, Achilles, under a set of studio lights, television cameras and an obviously fake backdrop of a Roman combat arena. The battle begins as Spock quickly overpowers his opponent, and when McCoy is in trouble, Spock nerve-pinches his opponent ending the fight to a hail of boos and hisses from a pre-recorded "crowd". Spock and McCoy are taken back to the slave pens and Kirk is taken to face execution, which will be televised live.
Kirk goes to his room where a woman, Drusilla (Lois Jewel), is waiting for him who says she is his slave. Elsewhere, Spock and McCoy are placed in another cell. McCoy tries to thank Spock for saving him in the arena, but Spock shrugs him off. McCoy tells Spock he really does care, but is just afraid to show it. Kirk, meanwhile, eats and talks with Drusilla and then goes to bed. Marcus later explains that he arranged it all because he respects Kirk as a real man, equal to the Romans, and wanted him to enjoy his last hours as a man.
In the meantime, Mr. Scott works on a way to disrupt power and communications on the planet while obeying the Prime Directive not to interfere with a planet's society. He blacks out the city just before Kirk's execution. In the diversion, Kirk frees Spock and McCoy but is soon captured again. Merik however, does something unexpected, and signals the Enterprise to have Kirk and his party beamed back. Before he can complete the message, Marcus fatally stabs him for his treachery. Scott understands enough of the message and the landing party dematerializes just as they face a hail of machine gun fire.
Back on the ship, Kirk records a commendation for Scott's action in causing the blackout. Spock again expresses to Kirk and McCoy his failure to comprehend why Sun-worshipping Romans seemed to adhere to a concept of peace; saying it is illogical. He opines that most sun worship is a primitive religion of superstition, with no philosophy of peace behind it. Communications Officer Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) has the answer; she has been monitoring radio transmissions from the planet and informs them that the Empire's spokesman tried to ridicule the belief of these worshipers, but has utterly failed. When Kirk, Spock and McCoy remain uncomprehending she continues, "Don't you understand? It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God." Kirk replies with a note of jubilant humility: "Caesar ... and Christ; they had them both. And the word is spreading only now."
McCoy notes that the philosophy is one of total love and total brotherhood. Spock says, "It will replace their Imperial Rome, but it will happen in their 20th century." Thinking of the continued parallels of this planet's history to that of Earth, Kirk remarks, "Wouldn't it be something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen - all over again."
- ""Star Trek" Bread and Circuses (1968) - Full cast and crew". IMDb. n.d. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: "Bread and Circuses"|
- "Bread and Circuses" at StarTrek.com
- "Bread and Circuses" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Bread and Circuses" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- "Bread and Circuses" at TV.com
- "Bread and Circuses" Review of the remastered version at TrekMovie.com