Bread and Circuses (Star Trek: The Original Series)

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"Bread and Circuses"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 25
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Written by
Story by John Kneubuhl (uncredited)[citation needed]
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 043
Original air date March 15, 1968 (1968-03-15)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"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.


The Federation starship USS Enterprise is on routine patrol when it finds wreckage of the SS Beagle. 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 a planet in a previously unexplored system.

The Enterprise 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, Spock and Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam down to the planet to investigate. They are captured and brought before Septimus (Ian Wolfe), who asks them if they are "children of the Sun". 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 decides the landing party poses no threat.

Kirk tells the slaves that he wants to meet Merikus, the First Citizen of the Empire, suspecting he is Captain Merik of the Beagle. Flavius offers to help and leads Kirk to the capital city. The landing team puts on slaves' uniforms and tries to sneak into the city.

They are captured and placed into slave pens. After a failed escape attempt, they are brought before Merikus and the Proconsul Claudius Marcus (Logan Ramsey), who invites the landing team to sit and talk in private. Merikus acknowledges that he is Captain Merik. When he beamed down he met Claudius Marcus, who demanded the planet's culture not be divulged to the Federation, for fear of cultural "contamination". Merik decided to stay, putting his crewmen into the gladiatorial pits, where most of them would be killed. Merik informs Kirk that the Enterprise crew must also abandon their ship and integrate into Magna Roma's culture.

Kirk refuses Merik's demands and instead tells Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan) that the landing party is in trouble, though no rescue attempt is needed.

Angered, Marcus sends Spock and McCoy into the arena. They face off against Flavius and Achilles. Spock quickly overpowers his opponent and, when McCoy is in trouble, Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on his opponent, ending the fight. A hail of boos and hisses from a pre-recorded "crowd" greets this turn of events. Spock and McCoy are taken back to the slave pens while Kirk is taken to face a televised execution.

Meanwhile, Mr. Scott works on a way to disrupt power and communications on the planet while obeying the Prime Directive and not interfering with a planet's society. Blacking out the city just before his captain's execution, Kirk frees Spock and McCoy but is soon captured again. Merik signals the Enterprise to have Kirk and party beamed back to the Enterprise. 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, Spock again expresses to Kirk and McCoy his failure to comprehend why Sun-worshipping Romans adhere to a concept of peace. He opines that most sun worship is a primitive religion of superstition, with no philosophy of peace behind it. Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) has the answer, based on her ongoing cultural analysis: it's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God."


The planet 892-IV was renamed Magna Roma in the Pocket Books published TNG novel The Captain's Honor in late 1989 [ISBN 0-671-68487-6].


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i ""Star Trek" Bread and Circuses (1968) - Full cast and crew". IMDb. n.d. Retrieved September 13, 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

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