Series: The Original Series
Air Date: March 15, 1968
Written by: Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon
Directed by: Ralph Senensky
The Enterprise comes upon a planet that has evolved a human culture resembling Rome, except with cars and machine guns.
So the Enterprise is on their way to 892-IV, presumably to find a more suitable name for the planet, when they come across the ruins of the SS Beagle. This merchant ship had been missing for six years, and they discover that the captain was a friend of Kirk's, R. M. Merik. But what's really interesting is when they pick up video transmissions from the planet of a broadcast gladiator match. It would seem that they are Romans with 21th century technology! But wait! There's more! The guy who dies in the gladiatorial match is named and Spock reads his name off of the SS Beagle's manifest. So now they have to go down and investigate a possible violation of the Prime Directive
So they beam down a few miles out of town, knowing that they have to be careful not to violate the Prime Directive themselves, and are immediately captured by slaves. At least they used to be slaves. They seem to have run away and started worshiping the sun. They call themselves "Children of the Sun." One of them is Flavius Maximus, a former gladiator. The runaway slaves are convinced that the Starfleet officers are not Romans when Kirk uses his communicator to talk to his "offshore ship."
|Flavius Maximus, the most flavorful of all the gladiators.|
Taken to a cell, Kirk demands a meeting with Merikus, claiming to be a friend. Which means if he is a friend and the guard doesn't tell Merikus, that'll get the guard in big trouble. Merikus comes along and then takes them all to Proconsul Claudius Marcus. Who happens to know everything about the Federation because Merik has been spilling beans all over the place. He tells Kirk that he has to beam down the entire Enterprise crew where they can either adapt to the Roman lifestyle or fight and die in the games. So Kirk contacts Scotty and gives him a "Condition Green" alert. This tells Scotty that they're in trouble, but he's forbidden to do anything.
|Now doesn't that just rustle my jimmies?|
While Spock and Bones go to a cell, however, Kirk is given a nice room with a nice, hot female slu- er... slave. Kirk, however, refuses to give in to the luxuries of Rome or have the crew beam down and Claudius respects him for it. Respects, but not forgives. Kirk is scheduled to be executed in the arena. So, as Scotty picks up transmissions of Kirk being taken to the arena for killing, he disrupts the studio's power with the ship's phasers and Kirk is given the opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, Flavius dies helping him.
|I ROMAN GARD. I KILL GUD.|
With Merik gone and the rest of the crew of the Beagle integrated into society, there's not much else they can do on the planet. The only thing left is to figure out why there are sun worshipers. This ancient, superstitious kind of religion was not practiced in the ancient Rome they knew and loved, so why imitate Rome perfectly except for that one area? Uhura pipes in and explains that while listening to their transmissions she's figured out that they're not worshiping the sun, rather they're worshiping the Son of God. Kirk muses that they've had a Caesar and they've had a Christ, so their societal evolution will proceed in time.
As a fan of Roman times in general, this episode gives a nice glimpse into how Rome would look in modern times. They're milking the Prime Directive plot device for all they can, to be sure, but, hey, if it works, use it! You gotta remember this stuff was brand new back in these times. This also brings back the question of how Romans came to be on this planet, which I will discuss later in a post about the Preservers. Stay tuned!