Episode: 26Title: Errand Of MercyStar Date: 3198.4Writer: Gene L. CoonFirst Shown: 16th March 1967
Being that it’s at least 40 years since I saw these shows presented in the order I’ve now watched them, it was something of a shock to discover that it got all the way to episode 26 before the Klingons first appeared.
It should also be noted that, due to cost constraints, these aren’t the cranial-ridged villains of the movies and later TV shows, but slightly more swarthy adversaries.
Errand Of Mercy is yet another story from the almost endless science fiction conveyor of Gene L. Coon, and draws its inspiration from how small countries are treated by superpowers. As such, it’s often been referred to as the ‘Vietnam’ story. Even as a youngster I got the idea that the Klingons represented the USSR and possibly China to the Federation being America.
With the Federation and Klingon Empire falling out, the Enterprise is dispatched to a planet bordering their territory to avoid it being annexed by their aggressive neighbour.
As they approach the planet Organia, the Enterprise is attacked by a Klingon vessel which is destroyed in the brief battle. Spock and Kirk go to the surface to warn the Organians, who seem unconcerned for their own safety. While they’re there a larger Klingon force appears and the Enterprise is forced to withdraw, leaving Spock and Kirk to hide amongst the populous. The Klingons occupy the planet, and eventually capture Kirk and Spock.
The Organians help them escape, and in retaliation the Klingon commander Kor orders the execution of many civilians. With a Federation fleet approaching, Kirk and Spock decide the best means of defence is attack, and decide to take Kor prisoner.
It’s at this point that the rather strange attitude that the Organians have towards occupation and death is revealed: they’re uber-powerful beings who have the ability to disable both sides at will. They enforce a peace treaty, much to the annoyance of especially the Klingons, and possibly the slight embarrassment of the Federation. Having learned their valuable lesson in humility, they both go about their respective business.
So what elevates this above the background hum of season 1? Probably the performance of the superb John Colicos, who exudes calculated menace as Klingon commander Kor. He returned as this character in the Deep Space Nine episode Blood Oath (1994) along with the two other Klingon commanders from the original series, Kang (Michael Ansara) and Koloth (William Campbell). He then came back for a third and fourth time as Kor in The Sword Of Kahless (1995) and Once More Unto The Breach (1998), respectively.
John Colicos went on to make a decent living out of playing characters with few if any redemptions, being most famous for the duplicitous Baltar in the original version of Battlestar Galactica.
What was slightly disappointing in the original version was that no Klingon ships were visible, only their fire. This has been fixed in the remastered release with some D7-Class cruisers courtesy of the CGI department. There are other small changes but they’re not as easily spotted.
Next up the crew of the Enterprise meet Lazarus in The Alternative Factor.