Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
|"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Jud Taylor|
|Story by||Lee Cronin|
|Teleplay by||Oliver Crawford|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||January 10, 1969|
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is the fifteenth episode of the third season of the original American science fiction television show Star Trek. Written by Oliver Crawford (based on a story by Gene L. Coon, writing under his pen name “Lee Cronin”) and directed by Jud Taylor, it was first broadcast January 10, 1969.
In the episode, the Enterprise encounters two survivors of a war-torn planet, each half black and half white, each committed to destroying each other.
The Federation starship Enterprise is on a mission to help decontaminate the polluted atmosphere of the planet Ariannus, when sensors detect a Federation shuttlecraft that was reported stolen. The craft is brought aboard along with its alien pilot, who identifies himself as Lokai, a political refugee from the planet Cheron. Lokai’s most striking feature is that his skin is ink-black on one side of his body and chalk-white on the other side.
Shortly thereafter, sensors detect another spacecraft in pursuit of the Enterprise. The alien craft disintegrates, but not before its pilot, Bele, transports to the Enterprise bridge. He is colored black and white, similar to Lokai. Bele explains that he is on a mission to retrieve political traitors. His current quarry is Lokai, whom he has been chasing for 50,000 Earth years. Bele is taken to Lokai, and the two begin to argue about the history of their peoples, almost coming to blows.
Bele demands that Captain Kirk take him and Lokai to Cheron. Kirk refuses, telling him he will have to make his case to Federation authorities. Some time later, the ship changes course to Cheron, and Bele announces that his "will" has taken control of the ship. Lokai demands the death of Bele, and Kirk orders both of them to be taken to the brig. Unfortunately, a force field generated by both aliens makes that impossible. With no other way to regain control, Kirk threatens to destroy the Enterprise, and begins the ship’s auto-destruct sequence. In the last seconds of the countdown, Bele relents, and the ship resumes its course to Ariannus.
As Bele continues angrily to press his matter with Starfleet, he reveals the source of his conflict with Lokai. He, and all of his people on Cheron, are black on their right sides, while Lokai's people are all white on their right sides. The distinction is lost on the ship's officers, who leave it for legal authorities at the next starbase to decide, as Starfleet has no extradition treaties with Cheron, and the case requires due process. Once the Ariannus mission is completed, Bele takes control of the Enterprise again, this time disabling the self-destruct system. When the ship arrives at Cheron, Spock can find no sign of intelligent life. Lokai and Bele realize they are each the only ones left of their peoples, who have completely annihilated themselves in civil war. Enraged, they attack each other, their force fields threatening to damage the ship. Lokai breaks away, Bele pursues him, and the two eventually beam down to the planet. The bridge crew remark sadly on their unwillingness to give up their hate.
Although Gene Roddenberry liked it, it was initially rejected by NBC studio executive Stanley Robertson. The look of the aliens Bele and Lokai was decided only a week before filming began, based on an offhand comment by director Jud Taylor. The half white-half black makeup led to criticism of the episode as heavy-handed.
The script evolved from an outline by Barry Trivers for a possible first season episode called "A Portrait in Black and White". The script was accepted for the third season following budget cuts.
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is significant in the Star Trek universe for the first appearance of a self-destruct system (as opposed to an improvised self-destruction process). It did not originate the concept, which appeared previously in the film Forbidden Planet (1956), but the self-destruct system has appeared as a plot device in many subsequent Star Trek stories.
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "C+" rating, noting positively the aliens' makeup and some "good moments", but also noting that these were outweighed by an overpowering message. In their compendium of Star Trek reviews, Trek Navigator, Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross both rated the episode as mediocre, describing its message as obvious and heavy-handed. They did find some redeeming moments, such as the climactic chase to the ruined planet's surface and Gorshin's performance as Bele. This episode is noted as one of the top ten Star Treks that takes on the topic of tolerance.
In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter rated "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" the 11th best television episode of all Star Trek franchise television shows prior to Star Trek: Discovery including live-action and animated series but not counting the movies.
In 2017, ScreenRant ranked "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" the 7th most optimistic episode of Star Trek television, pointing out the crew's reaction at the end.
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 399.
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 197
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 400.
- Dorothy Fontana to Gene Roddenberry, September 28, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, 1966-1969, Box 19, Folder 11, University of California at Los Angeles Library. Dorothy Fontana’s assessment of the script “Portrait in Black and White” September 28, 1966
- "Top 10 Best Star Trek Original Series episodes". SciFiNow. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- Handlen, Zack (February 5, 2010). ""Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"/"The Mark Of Gideon"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
- Altman, Mark A.; Gross, Edward (1998). Trek Navigator. Boxtree. pp. 127–128, 286. ISBN 0-7522-2457-3.
- "Top 10 Star Trek Episodes Dealing With Tolerance". TrekMovie.com. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
- ""Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" - 'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
- Saadia, Manu (September 8, 2016). "The Enduring Lessons of "Star Trek"". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- "Star Trek: 15 Episodes That Will Give You Hope For The Future". ScreenRant. January 10, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
- Kaye, Don (September 16, 2016). "The 17 best Star Trek: The Original Series guest stars (hero or villain)". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- Lesnick, Silas (August 14, 2018). "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". Collider. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
- "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". PopMatters. July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
- Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Mentioned in the Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 21, "The Agreement Dissection." Transcript
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