Episode 22- “A Taste of Armageddon” and fucking the Prime Directive while holding on to disbelief

When I tell people that I blog about Star Trek, I generally get one of three reactions:

1.Oh, I loved that show-women, generally those I think are attractive. Guys that think I give a shit about their opinions.

2. Huh.-people approximately as apathetic as I am about things I do as I am about things they do.

3. Neat, have you gotten to the episodes where they blow something normal into fucking crazy proportions-people who casually watched Star Trek. People who want to talk to me about “Red Dead Redemption.”

Until now, I really hadn’t stumbled across these episodes. I guess “Miri” is a bit of a stretch and “The Return of the Archons” is only out of proportion because there is not enough background information for us to figure out what the fuck is really happening, but for the most part, the problems fit into the established universe and occasionally mirror conflicts and problems that existed at the time of the episodes airing.

“A Taste of Armageddon” is a game changer, but it’s an ambitious and not entirely unsuccessful one. I want to start by saying that it is legitimately a good episode. Its fun to watch, has an intriguing premise, an interesting moral quandary and a conclusion that doesn’t end up just being a kick to the balls. This needs to be said primarily because the rest of this write-up will be spent tearing this episode apart on minutiae.

The Enterprise is transporting Ambassador Robert Fox to Eminar VII to initiate diplomatic contact with the planet and neighboring star systems, as they approach, they receive a message from the planet to proceed no further. Despite Kirk’s misgivings, the Ambassador pushes for the mission to be completed, and they begin orbit around the planet. Worried about the initial message, Kirk and Spock take a couple security guards and a yeoman down to the planet to see what is going on before the ambassador beams down. Kirk leaves Scotty in charge and heads down to see what is going on.

I wonder if anything terrible is happening here.

They touch down on the planet and are greeted by Mea 3, a government official who takes them to Anan 7, who appears to be one of the leaders of the planet’s council. Anon tells Kirk that Eminar is at war with the neighboring planet of Vendikar, a conflict that has been going on for 500 years. When Anan’s assistants tell him of an attack on the city center, Kirk and Spock are skeptical, not having noticed or heard an explosion and making sure that the Enterprise did not pick up any readings of an attack from the enemy planet.

Anan then explains that the two planets conduct all their fighting with computers, one group launches an attack on the other, whose computers tally up how many people are killed and these casualties report to the mysterious disintegration chambers for their deaths. Anan explains that this long of a conflict has allowed both nations to maintain an economic presence and continue cultural growth. Of course, the problem is now that Kirk has parked his ship in Eminar’s space, they are now valid citizens and have been marked as casualties of the war. Anan confines the landing party, and attempts to bring the crew of the Enterprise down for their execution.

The story breaks in two pretty reasonable plots from here. Scotty and McCoy realize that the voice telling them to come to the planet is an impression of Kirk’s and that whatever awaits them is dangerous. Of course, Ambassador Fox believes that the military men should let him get down to the planet to complete the mission. All the while, Anan continues to plot to bring the Enterprise down, to fulfill the contract with Vindikar, so he launches a series of attacks on the ship. Meanwhile, Kirk, Spock and company are stuck in a cell and need to figure out a way to warn the Enterprise and prevent what is happening to the people of Enimar and Mea, who has been labeled a casualty.

It all gets pretty intense from there. After using his previously unmentioned telekinetic powers, Spock lures in a guard and breaks the landing party out of the cell, where they start blowing up disintegration chambers and freeing casualties alike. Anan attempts to track the group down and Kirk does battle with him before being captured. Spock keeps tearing the hell out of Enimar’s war machine and tries to rescue his commanding officer. Eventually, Ambassador Fox heads down to the planet, where, like McCoy and Scotty said would happen, he is captured and taken for disintegration. I guess this is supposed to be one of those moments we cheer for, but I just kind of thought it was a little dumb.

Do not fuck with Spock. Ever.

The whole episode wraps up in the council room. Kirk has been drug in front of the High Council to bring the Enterprise to the planet for their deaths and to answer for the destruction of the disintegration machines in the complex. When Anan tries to contact the ship, Kirk issues order General Order 24, a Starfleet command that preps a ship to destroy a planet, because little did you know, but everyone just flies around in little Death Stars. Scotty gives no hint that this is a bluff and preps the Enterprise to level every city on Enimar.

With only a few minutes before the casualty deadline with Vendikar is reached, Anan starts to get nervous and Spock shows up to the council room to help Kirk take command. In a dramatic flourish, Kirk follows the Prime Directive to the letter and destroys the machine that tallies death and leaves, explaining to Anan that without the horrors of real war, leaders have no reason to attempt to reach peace. Leaving Ambassador Fox behind to attempt to set up peace between the two planets, the Enterprise leaves for more fabulous adventures.

Don't make me combat roll at you.

Now, although it still seems like such an egregious error, I’m willing to generally overlook Kirk’s dismissal of the central code of Starfleet. He’s a livewire, a guy who plays fast and loose with what his idea of right is, and he wants to shove American, I mean Federation, policies down everyone’s throat. His gambit is necessary to prevent more deaths from occurring, but it is such a major disruption to how two worlds have grown over nearly a millennium that it is something of a huge offense.

That really brings us to the real problem with “A Taste of Armageddon” and the beginning of this write-up, which is mainly that this episode is latently ridiculous. I mean, the disintegration chambers are a pretty good idea, and it is a fairly exciting episode with lots of good Kirk and Spock moments throughout, but the plot hinges on totally ridiculous idea. We are meant to believe that 3 million people die on Eminar every year because of the war with Vendikar. This war has been going on for 500 years. That’s 1.5 billion people. On one side.

Get on the phone and call Vendikar.

I know that the whole episode is a Cold War analogy, but it’s just too much of a stretch. There’s no reason to believe that the two planets would not have attempted to reach something of an agreement at any point in the conflict that was ravaging their planets. I understand that there is a level where we should suspend our disbelief, particularly in symbolic science fiction, but the premise has been stretched beyond the point of belief and it calls the entirety of the episode into question.

“A Taste of Armageddon” is quite good, but it rests on an idea that requires viewers to throw away any form of common sense. It forces you out of the story, which is a major mistake for any fiction, but for one that depends on a diverse crew flying around space solving the universe’s problems, it’s a real killer.

Random Notes

“Our haggis is in the fire for sure.” I get it, you’re Scottish.

“The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank!”

No Sulu.

Spock is a real bad ass in this episode, blowing up disintegration chambers, nerve pinching, and leading disguised troops. Damn, it’s good to be a Vulcan.

Next Up- “This Side of Paradise” which sounds like an episode I’ve already seen. My mind is going.

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One thought on “Episode 22- “A Taste of Armageddon” and fucking the Prime Directive while holding on to disbelief

  1. I find it amusing that you can let the prime directive go, but you find the premise of 500 years of lethal war games so absurd. The plot is hardly a new one. The idea that people can hate each other simply because they were taught to (like America against those “pinkos and red commies” or racism like with the Jews in WWII doesn’t seem so far fetched to me. You are just looking at it from your perspective not theirs, a supposed alien one at that. After all, Romulans apparently needed no particularly good reason to hate the Federation. The bad guys here are compared to savages so one would assume their government is “hated” in a similar fashion to Commies here during the cold war. Not everyone feels that way but McCarthism and the sheer fervor of it (or better yet something like religious fervor against witches, etc shows at least some potential for believability especially given the alien factor. We simply don’t have the background and it sounds absurd to us. The idea of preserving society at least makes some sense.

    As for the Prime Directive, it doesn’t apply to space faring races (hence the Federation can fight Klingons, etc.). Later generations implied warp drive but they also wouldn’t contact them without that capability so we can assume they a sufficiently advanced society for sake of argument and so Kirk is merely defending his crew.

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