A Taste of Armageddon
|"A Taste of Armageddon"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Joseph Pevney|
|Story by||Robert Hamner|
|Featured music||Alexander Courage|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||February 23, 1967|
"A Taste of Armageddon" is a first-season episode of the original American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It was first broadcast on February 23, 1967, and repeated July 20, 1967. It is episode #23, production #23, and is written by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon, and directed by Joseph Pevney.
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, the crew of the USS Enterprise visits a planet whose people fight a computer-simulated war against a neighboring planet. Although the war is fought via computer simulation, the citizens of each planet have to submit to real executions inside "disintegration booths" to meet the casualty counts of the simulated attacks. The crew of the Enterprise is caught in the middle and are told to submit themselves voluntarily for execution after being "killed" in an "enemy attack".
On stardate 3192.1, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), is en route to planet Eminiar VII in the star cluster NGC 321 (which in reality is a barred spiral galaxy outside the Milky Way Galaxy) to open diplomatic relations with the inhabitants. On board is Ambassador Robert Fox (Gene Lyons), who has been sent to lead the talks and to establish diplomatic relations with Eminiar VII.
Little is known about the culture of Eminiar, or its neighbor Vendikar, except that they have had intrasystem space travel for a few centuries, and there had been a longstanding war between them at the time the cultures were first contacted. Soon afterward, the Federation starship USS Valiant mysteriously disappeared and was reported lost.
As they near Eminiar, the Enterprise receives a priority signal not to approach the planet under any circumstances. Ambassador Fox orders Kirk to ignore the warning and investigate further. Kirk leads a landing party, which includes First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), a yeoman and a security detail, to meet with Eminiar leaders. They are met by a representative, Mea 3 (Barbara Babcock), who escorts them to the planetary council. Both Mea 3 and the council leader, Anan 7 (David Opatoshu), sternly remind Kirk and his landing team they should not have come because the city has just been hit by a Vendikar fusion bomb which has killed half a million people. Curiously, everything in the city seems intact and there is no visible evidence or sensor readings of such an attack ever occurring.
The landing party soon discovers that the war is entirely simulated by computers, which launch wargame attacks and counterattacks, then calculate damage and select the dead. Citizens reported as "killed" must submit themselves for termination, stepping inside a disintegration booth. Anan 7 informs Kirk that the simulated attacks and following executions is the agreed system of war decided by both sides in a treaty with Vendikar. A conventional war was deemed too destructive to the environments and societies of both planets.
According to the Eminians, the computers calculated the Enterprise was destroyed by a tri-cobalt satellite during the last attack, and the entire ship's crew must be terminated within 24 hours. Although the landing team is exempted from execution, they are arrested and held hostage until all Enterprise crew members report to the planet for execution. Mea 3 has also been reported as a casualty.
In an attempt to lure the Enterprise crew down, Anan 7 simulates Captain Kirk's voice and orders the crew to come down to celebrate the newly established diplomatic relations with the Eminiar people. Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan), who was left in command, does not believe it and decides to have the Captain's voice analyzed. When the computer determines it is a fake, he realizes the landing party, and by extension the entire ship, must be in danger.
When Mr. Scott refuses the order, Anan orders the Enterprise to be destroyed, but the ship's shields easily repel the attack. Ambassador Fox insists that the attack was just a misunderstanding when he talks with Anan 7. Anan 7 lies and declares a sensor malfunctioned and it appeared the Enterprise was about to attack. Anan 7 apologizes and extends a warm invitation for the Ambassador to beam down and talk. Ambassador Fox accepts the invitation and orders Scott to lower the shields.
To Fox's indignation, Scott, with Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy's (Deforest Kelley) support, refuses the command, considering the planet's government has obviously captured the landing party, sent a fake message to lure them down, and had just fired on the ship. After threatening to bring Scott up on insubordination charges, Fox and his aide beam down, but are quickly taken into custody by the Eminians and sent to be terminated.
Meanwhile, Spock and Kirk break out of their holding cell by overpowering a guard and stealing his weapon. They also stop Mea 3 from reporting for execution, and destroy a disintegration chamber. Kirk is recaptured by Anan 7 while trying to locate the party's communicators.
Spock and the others disguise themselves as Eminians and rescue Ambassador Fox, destroying another disintegration booth in the process. A chastened Fox accepts that he was dangerously mistaken about the situation and volunteers to fight with the others.
With Captain Kirk in his presence, Anan 7 demands that Kirk order his ship's crew to beam down and accept their fate as determined by the wargame computers. In the background, Kirk yells out instructions to Mr. Scott to follow General Order 24, a full attack on the planet, within two hours. Kirk informs Anan 7 the Enterprise is more than capable of destroying everything on the planet. Anan 7 still refuses and orders the Enterprise destroyed, but it has now moved out of range. Mr. Scott then contacts Anan 7 to say that the planet has been surveyed, and the Enterprise will destroy it by Kirk's deadline if the hostages are not released. In the prevailing state of agitation amongst the councilmen, Kirk manages to overpower the guards and take their disrupters. He orders the guards and the councilmen towards the door when Spock arrives with Ambassador Fox.
Kirk and Spock make their way to the wargame computers. Kirk destroys the entire system while Anan looks on in horror. Anan exclaims that the planet is doomed; with the treaty broken, the people of Vendikar will fire their conventional weapons in retaliation. Vendikar had already complained about Eminiar's failure to comply with the treaty, due to Kirk's interference. Retaliation is now imminent.
Kirk asks Anan if he really thinks that Vendikar is willing to start a REAL war, suggesting that Eminiar is also terrified of actual war. Kirk makes the point that people will no longer step into disintegration chambers, neatly disappearing, but that cities will become ruins and civilizations will be destroyed, that war is a dirty business -- that's what makes it a thing to be avoided. Kirk encourages Anan 7 to call a ceasefire instead so that the two planets, with the Federation's assistance, can learn to coexist in peace. Anan 7 desperately agrees, and Ambassador Fox immediately offers to lead the negotiations. As the Enterprise breaks orbit, Fox reports that the peace negotiations are going relatively well.
In the epilogue, Spock questions Kirk's judgment as a "gamble". Kirk rebuts that there was no gamble -- the Enterprise and both planets win regardless. If the planets had gone to actual war, the same number of people would have died (as the computers realistically counted the number of deaths in a simulated attack), but that the planets would soon have lost the ability to wage war. Kirk also mentions that the Eminians were a very orderly people, and war is a very messy business, implying that he was sure the planets would not launch real weapons at each other.
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a 'B+' rating. He described the story as "one of Trek's classic allegorically powerful, common sense implausible scenarios." Handlen criticised a premise that had "a few too many holes to sustain its attempts at profundity" but praised the story's ambition.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2014)|
The DC Comics version of Star Trek had a storyline called The Trial of James T. Kirk, written by Peter David, which contained follow-ups to many episodes. It was revealed therein that the peace talks broke down, and a (genuine) nuclear war took place—completely obliterating Vendikar, and rendering a third of Eminiar a radioactive wasteland. This was further stated in some of the stories in the various "Strange New Worlds" anthologies, as well as the William Shatner novel Preserver, although these stories are not considered canon.
In current Trek novel continuity, the aforementioned General Order 24 has been rendered invalid under Federation law by the 'Eminiar Amendment' (named for one of the planets in this episode), which specifically forbids the destruction of any planet for any reason.
- The short story "Dulcie and Decorum" by Damon Knight originated the trope of computers fighting virtual wars.
- Handlen, Zack (March 27, 2009). ""The Return Of The Archons" / "A Taste Of Armageddon"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 28, 2009.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: "A Taste of Armageddon"|
- "A Taste of Armageddon" at StarTrek.com
- "A Taste of Armageddon" at the Internet Movie Database
- "A Taste of Armageddon" at TV.com
- "A Taste of Armageddon" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- "A Taste of Armageddon" Review of the remastered version at TrekMovie.com