(written from a Production point of view)
Returning to a planet last visited by an Earth ship 100 years earlier, the Enterprise finds a planet that has based its culture on the Chicago gangsters of the 1920s.
The USS Enterprise arrives at Sigma Iotia II. This remote planet had been visited by the Horizon in 2168, before the establishment of the non-interference directive. The Horizon was lost shortly after leaving Sigma Iotia II and Starfleet only managed to receive her radio reports nearly a century later, as the Horizon was only equipped with conventional radio.
After planetfall, Uhura informs Captain Kirk that she is in contact with an Iotian named Bela Okmyx who describes himself as "Boss". Okmyx invites Kirk to come down to the planet's surface saying that a "reception committee" will be waiting for him upon arrival. Since the Horizon's visit was before the Federation's Prime Directive against non-interference, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are concerned about what effects the Horizon's crew may have had on the Iotian culture which was just beginning industrialization at the time and have a knack for imitation. The three beam down to find a culture resembling that of Chicago in the 1920s. They are immediately greeted by two men dressed as gangsters who threaten them with Tommy guns.
The landing party surrenders its standard phasers and communicators and are asking questions of the gunmen when a drive-by shooting occurs. One of the gunmen is killed; the other refers to the "hit" being committed by someone named Krako. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are taken to Okmyx's office, where they learn that Okmyx is one of a dozen or so "Bosses" and that he has the largest territory on Iotia. The office contains a book (referred to as "The Book") published in the year 1992 titled Chicago Mobs of the Twenties. Okmyx informs Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that "The Book" was left by the crew of the Horizon, and the landing party correctly deduces that the entire Iotian culture has been formed by "This Book". Okmyx refers to the landing party as "Feds" and tells them he wants the Enterprise to furnish him with "heaters" so he can wipe out all of the other bosses and take total control of the planet. Kirk refuses and Okmyx gives him just eight hours to provide the weapons or die.
Okmyx has the landing party taken to a warehouse under guard. He then takes one of the confiscated communicators and contacts the Enterprise. He threatens to kill the landing party unless the ship provides him with one hundred phasers (which he calls "heaters") and troops to show him how to use them.
In the warehouse the gunmen are playing cards on a makeshift table while the landing party speculates while sitting in the background about the future of the Iotian society. Spock reasons that, although Okmyx's methods may seem deplorable, his ultimate goal is what the Enterprise crew must also work for: Iotia's society must become united or it will break down completely into anarchy. Kirk feels that since a Federation vessel contaminated the culture, it's the Enterprise's responsibility to set things right from this mess the planet's inhabitants are currently in. He distracts one of the gunmen named Kalo with a nonsensical and nonexistent card game supposedly from Beta Antares IV called "Fizzbin" which he makes up on the spot, enabling the landing party to overpower the gunmen and escape. Kirk grabs one of the mobster's Tommy gun and instructs Spock and McCoy to find the local radio station, contact the ship, and have themselves beamed aboard.
Kirk goes off by himself planning on abducting Okmyx and bringing him back to the Enterprise. He is promptly greeted by a new gunman, named Zabo, and is forced to take a ride. Kirk is taken to the office of Jojo Krako, another boss who wants to be in control of the planet. Kirk again refuses to "come across with the heaters" for Krako and is confined to a small room.
Spock and McCoy find the radio station. Spock incapacitated the station's operator with a Vulcan nerve pinch and they manage to contact Lieutenant Uhura and return to the ship. Shortly after, Okmyx contacts the ship through the communicator he stole and informs Spock that Krako has kidnapped Kirk. He offers to assist in getting Kirk back if Spock and McCoy will return to his office. Spock finds it difficult to trust Okmyx but decides to rather than use blatant force.
Using wire from a radio, Kirk rigs a trip line across the doorway and then yells out for help. He knocks out two gunmen and escapes with a machine gun.
- "Ship's log, Mr. Spock reporting. Incredible as it seems, Dr. McCoy and I are once again prisoners of the chief criminal boss of a society patterned after old Earth gangsters."
Okmyx again takes them prisoner, but Kirk arrives and turns the tables. Kirk and Spock dress in the clothes of Kalo and one of Okmyx's henchmen, commandeer a car and set out to "put the bag" on Krako. They are assisted by a small boy who demands "a piece of the action" in exchange for creating a diversion. The boy poses as Kirk's son and pretends to be injured, so Kirk and Spock can incapacitate the guards. They break into Krako's headquarters and appear to be in control until Krako's men gain the upper hand.
Kirk tells Krako that the Federation is taking over and arranges, via an indirect order to Scotty, to have Krako beamed up to the Enterprise to show him what he's up against. They overpower Krako's men in the process and then head back to Okmyx's office where Kirk has Scott locate and transport the other Bosses including Krako. Tepo is successfully transported, though, before more are located, an argument arises and Tepo casts doubt and supposes there aren't more people than just the three "Feds" he sees.
Soon, on the street below, Krako's men try a hit on Okmyx's territory in an attempt to rescue Krako and a gunfight ensues in the street below. The landing party loses their guns once again, and Kirk has the ship fire its phasers on wide stun in the surrounding area to demonstrate their power. The mobsters are now convinced and agree to Federation control with Okmyx as the top boss and Krako as his lieutenant. They call the new structure a syndicate.
Back aboard ship, Spock has concerns about Kirk's solution of having the Federation take a 40% cut of the planet's annual "action". Kirk explains that the money will go back into the planetary treasury to help the Federation guide the Iotians into a more ethical society. Spock has his doubts as to the logic behind Kirk's plan.
McCoy is concerned because he seems to have left his communicator behind somewhere in Okmyx's office. Kirk and Spock speculate that with that kind of technology, such as the communicator's transtator in the hands of the Iotians and with their gift for imitation, the Iotians may one day want a piece of the Federation's action.
"Okay, you three, let's see you petrified."
"Sir, would you mind explaining that statement, please?"
"I want to see you turn to stone. Put your hands over your head, or you ain't going to have no head to put your hands over."
- - Kalo and Spock, as Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive on Sigma Iotia II
"I got the biggest in the world. You know, there's one thing wrong with having the biggest. There's always some punk trying to cut you out."
- - Okmyx, explaining to Kirk that he runs the biggest territory on Sigma Iotia II
"I’m gonna give you just eight hours to get me the things I want. If I don’t have those tools by then, I’m gonna call up your ship and have them pick you up… in a box!"
- - Okmyx, threatening Kirk.
"No, I don't think you're stupid, Mister Krako. I just think your behavior is arrested."
"I haven't been arrested in my whole life!"
- - Kirk and Krako, as Kirk convinces him to join Okmyx
"Nobody helps nobody but himself."
"Sir, you are employing a double negative."
- - Okmyx and Spock, as Okmyx takes Spock and McCoy as his prisoners again
"The most co-operative man in this world is a dead man. And if you don't keep your mouth shut, you're going to be co-operating."
- - Okmyx, threatening Spock
"Logic and practical information do not seem to apply here."
"You admit that?"
"To deny the facts would be illogical, Doctor."
- - Spock and McCoy, after Kirk asks if the computer provided any solutions on uniting the Iotians
"Captain, you’re an excellent starship commander. But as a taxi driver, you leave much to be desired."
"It was that bad?"
- - Spock, after riding in a car with Kirk driving
"You mind your place, mister, or you'll be wearing concrete galoshes."
"You mean cement overshoes?"
- - Scott and Krako, after Krako is beamed aboard the Enterprise
"Are you afraid of cars?"
"Not at all, Captain. It's your driving that alarms me."
- - Kirk and Spock, as they run to the car
- - Tepo, after being beamed into Okmyx' office
"I would advise yas to keep dialin', Okmyx."
- - Spock, talking like a gangster and pointing a gun at Okmyx
"Do you really think it’s that serious?!"
"Serious?! Serious, Bones? It upsets the whole percentage."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, in a few years, the Iotians may demand…a piece of OUR action!"
- - McCoy and Kirk, after McCoy admits that he left his communicator behind in Okmyx’ office.
- Series proposal "Star Trek is...": 11 March 1964 – Mentions story idea "President Capone"
- Story outline "Chicago II" by George Clayton Johnson: April 1966
- Story outline "The Expatriates" by David P. Harmon: 8 August 1967
- First draft teleplay: 16 August 1967
- Second draft teleplay: 5 September 1967
- First draft teleplay "Mission into Chaos" by Gene L. Coon: 28 September 1967
- Revised first draft "A Piece of the Action": early-October 1967, 25 October 1967
- Final draft teleplay by John Meredyth Lucas: 30 October 1967
- Additional revisions: 31 October 1967, 2 November 1967, 7 November 1967
- Filmed: 2 November 1967 – 9 November 1967
- Day 1 – 2 November 1967, Thursday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. Bela's office
- Day 2 – 3 November 1967, Friday – Desilu Stage 10: Int. Bela's office, Warehouse
- Day 3 – 6 November 1967, Monday – Paramount McFadden Street backlot: Ext. Bela's headquarters, City square
- Day 4 – 7 November 1967, Tuesday – Paramount Boston Street backlot: Ext. Krako's headquarters; Desilu Stage 11: Int. Radio broadcasting room
- Day 5 – 8 November 1967, Wednesday – Desilu Stage 11: Int. Krako's headquarters, Krako's office
- Day 6 – 9 November 1967, Thursday – Desilu Stage 9: Int. Bridge, Turbolift, Transporter room
- Original airdate: 12 January 1968
- Rerun airdate: 30 August 1968
- First UK airdate: 7 September 1970
Story and production
- Gene Roddenberry jotted down the idea for this episode – a one-sentence synopsis titled "President Capone" – on the very first page of his very first Star Trek series proposal in 1964.
- Early in the first season, George Clayton Johnson wrote an outline based on this premise, called "The Syndicate". Roddenberry liked it, and hired Johnson to develop it further. Johnson wrote a treatment entitled "Chicago II". However, as he got occupied with developing and writing "The Man Trap", this concept was forgotten. During the second season, then-producer Gene L. Coon discovered the treatment, and decided to use it, as he felt that, after the success of "The Trouble with Tribbles", the series needed more comedy-themed episodes. 
- David P. Harmon and Coon's first draft script, entitled "Mission into Chaos" featured the Romulans trying to exploit the borderline planet Dana Iotia II, which the Federation wants to industrialize. Much to the crew's surprise, the planet is ruled by gangster bosses, based on the book Chicago Mobs of the Twenties. Kirk has to negotiate with Bela Okmyx and the other crime bosses, outsmarting the two Romulan agents, Rorek and Ramo, who try to lure Bela with sending him weapons and troops. At the end, the Iotians agreed to make a treaty, and send an ambassador to the Federation. But since every boss had a vote, they all "naturally" voted for themselves, and hence, they are all beamed aboard the Enterprise to be escorted to the diplomatic talks. 
- No stardate is actually logged in the episode. A stardate of 4598.0 appeared in Bjo Trimble's Star Trek Concordance, apparently using an earlier script version, and the fotonovel provides a closing stardate 4598.7.
- The scene when Kirk puts his feet up on Krako's table and declares that now the Federation is "taking over the whole ball of wax" is reminiscent of a similar scene in Mervyn LeRoy's classic gangster film, Little Caesar.
- This is the only episode of TOS to end in a freeze-frame.
- The Star Trek Encyclopedia (2nd ed., p. 195) refers to the Horizon as the Daedalus-class USS Horizon, which was later seen as a model in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- This episode marks the only time in the entire Star Trek franchise that Kirk calls McCoy by his full nickname: "Sawbones."
- This is also the only episode in which the ship's phasers are set to stun. In "The Ultimate Computer", Kirk has them set at 1/100th power.
- In a homage to this episode, a hard-bound copy of a book beginning with the title Chicago Gangs can be briefly glimpsed on a bookshelf in Travis Mayweather's quarters on board the ECS Horizon in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Horizon".
- This is the first episode in which a site-to-site transport is performed – although due to the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it is not the first time from a historical perspective.
- According to the production report for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "The Communicator", that episode explored a premise hinted at in this episode when Dr. McCoy confessed to leaving behind his communicator on Sigma Iotia II. "The Communicator" picked up on this idea, with a far more serious tone, after Lt. Reed loses his communicator on a pre-warp planet, but he and Archer go back to retrieve it, but things do not go well.
- Before it was decided they would focus on the events of "The Trouble with Tribbles", the Deep Space Nine writing staff toyed with the idea of the DS9 crew visiting Sigma Iotia II and finding they had all imitated the Enterprise crew and wore TOS-style uniforms. The idea even was used in The Worlds of the Federation where the Iotians were shown to have recreated much of TOS era Federation technology of using only their understanding of the transtator. The story was to be both a comedy and a social commentary on the Trekkie phenomenon; however, it was agreed that revisiting the famous "The Trouble with Tribbles" would be more memorable. The original idea was followed up in the final issue of the Star Trek Unlimited comic book series, "A Piece of Reaction", instead.
- Apparently Kirk and Spock failed to learn the dangers of stepping into the path of motor cars from their experience in "The City on the Edge of Forever" as they have a couple of near misses on the roads in this episode.
- George Takei (Sulu) does not appear in this episode.
- This episode contains Walter Koenig's smallest speaking part in TOS, with only one line of dialogue, "Approaching Sigma Iotia II, Captain."
- William Blackburn's character, Hadley, is given his name in this episode. It is also the only episode in which Hadley is referred to by name.
Props and settings
- The landing party wears their number-one type phasers on their right hips, hanging vertically from their belts, emitter tubes downward. This placement is unique to this episode.
- The street seen throughout this episode is on the Paramount lot and can be seen in many television series. The steps leading up to Okmyx' headquarters were used in the Judd Hirsch series Dear John.
- The car that Kirk drove to "put the bag on Krako" had a V-12 engine, as a V-12 emblem is seen on the radiator. It was a Cadillac, probably a 1931 model.  Note the winged radiator cap, which Cadillacs of that vintage had. It is a nod to Chicago crime boss, Al "Scarface" Capone, who had a 1928 V-12 Cadillac. Incidentally, this represents the only time that a member of the crew ever operated any kind of land vehicle during the course of the original series.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook (p. 133), a book on the costumes and art direction of the original series, Herb Solow shows a yellow costume for "Marlys" that he says no one can identify. It is, in fact, the costume Marlys Burdette wore in this episode.
- All of Okmyx's henchmen wear felt fedora hats (although Okmyx wears no hat). Krako and all of his henchmen wear straw boater hats, and all the minor bosses that Kirk has beamed to Bela's office wear bowler hats.
Although this episode officially received no syndication cuts, many local television stations were known to cut small segments at the end of scenes bordering a commercial break. The most common of these was the scene in which Kirk is captured by Krako's men who tell him, "This can either be a taxi or a hearse" before driving Kirk away. Television stations would often omit the last minute of this scene, showing Kirk sitting in the car driving away, and end the scene with Kirk simply saying "I'm beginning to get the idea". (The Star Trek Compendium)
The remastered version of "A Piece of the Action" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 28 April 2007. While the episode required very few new effects, the planet Sigma Iotia II was given a CGI-makeover, now a more Earth-like planet. Aside from orbital establishing shots, new phaser effects were created depicting the block-wide stun implemented from the Enterprise, replacing the more "cartoonish" aspects of the original.
- The next remastered episode to air was "Tomorrow is Yesterday".
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1986
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 26, catalog number VHR 2361, 4 June 1990
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 2.7, 23 June 1997
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 25, 19 June 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 2 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 2 DVD collection
- Bantam Books published a series of novelizations called Star Trek Fotonovels which took photographic stills from actual episodes and arranged word balloons and text over them, to create a comic book formatted story. The eighth installment was an adaptation of this episode which contained a foreword written by Anthony Caruso in the character of Bela Okmyx. He mentions that he was elected president of the planet in a landslide and that he made Jojo Krako his vice president. The arrangement worked out well, he said, as he hadn't heard from Krako since.
- The plot for the Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Nintendo game has the Enterprise thrown outside of known space entering the Sigma Iotia system. When they finally get back, they find that McCoy leaving his communicator behind was responsible for the incident and they go back in time to retrieve it from the gangsters.
- In Shane Johnson's reference book The Worlds of the Federation, in the entry on Iotia, the planet is referred to as being known indigenously as "Okmyx." Johnson also explains that the Iotians's discovery of McCoy's communicator led them to abandon their mobster culture and seize on the opportunity it presented; he adds that the next ship to orbit the planet (which he does not identify) found what, at first, appeared to be a Federation starbase, complete with uniformed personnel and communications on Star Fleet channels. He concludes, drawing this detail from the "Star System Data" booklet that accompanied the first Star Trek Maps, that Sigma Iotia II was subsequently declared a Federation Protectorate, with a cultural rating of E+ on the "Richter Scale of Cultures," and that though no quarantine was imposed, an orbital customs facility was eventually constructed, through which visiting personnel had to be cleared before they were permitted to beam to the surface.
- The events of the episode are recapped in the comic "... Let's Kill All the Lawyers! when Bela Okmyx was one of the witnesses at James T. Kirk's trial. Okmyx revealed at Kirk's trial that the captain's cut of Iotia's "action" was still being skimmed for him. Okmyx also returned Leonard McCoy's communicator (which the doctor had left behind on Iotia), saying that the Iotians didn't do anything with the device and just put it away for safekeeping.
- In DC's second Star Trek series Bela Okmyx is called to testify in the Trial of James Kirk in the issue "... Let's Kill All the Lawyers!".
- The Star Trek: Picard novel Rogue Elements depicts the Iotians as maintaining their cultural fixation with the culture of Chicago gangs even into the late 24th century. In that novel, Cristóbal Rios deals with an Iotian gang, and even purchases La Sirena from them.
- The book Star Trek 101 (p. 19), by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of "Ten Essential Episodes" from the original Star Trek series.
Links and references
- Vic Tayback as Krako
- Lee Delano as Kalo
- James Doohan as Scott
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- John Harmon as Tepo
- Sheldon Collins as Tough Kid
- Dyanne Thorne as First Girl
- Sharyn Hillyer as Second Girl
- Buddy Garion as Hood
- Benjie Bancroft as Iotian passerby
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- John Blower as Swenson
- Nick Borgani as Iotian gang leader
- Marlys Burdette as Krako's gun moll
- Christie as Hood
- Conde as Hood
- Tony Dante as Krako's hood
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- James Doohan as the Announcer (voice)
- Roger Holloway as Roger Lemli
- Jay Jones as Mirt
- Jeannie Malone as Yeoman
- Jim Michael as Bela's hood
- McIntosh as Hood
- Eddie Paskey as
- Clark Ross as Iotian passerby
- Unknown performers as
1992; 2168; .45 automatic; advisor; "all right"; "all the time"; alternative; amplitude modulation; anarchy; Angelo's Delicatessen; arrest; "at heart"; audio; authority; baby blue; baby carriage; bag; Bang Bang; beans; beef; behavior; Bela's office; Bela's place; Beta Antares IV; Beta Antares IV natives; Bible; billiards; blade; block; blotter; blower; blue; blueprint; boater; bolt; book; boss; bowler hat; box; broad; broadcast; brooding; bugged; Buick Master Six; building; business; "business is business"; businessman; buster; button; Cadillac; Cadillac Series 353; Cadillac V-12; Cadillac V-16; car; card game; cart; cement; Chamey's Auto Repair; Chicago; Chicago Mobs of the Twenties; chicken; choice; chopper; Cirl the Knife; citizen; cloche hat; clutch; cold-blooded; communicator; computer; concrete; confusion; contact; contamination; contract; conventional radio; coordinates; criminal organization (aka gang or mobs); cue; culture; darts; dartboard; date; deal; dealer; device; dialing; dilemma; distill; double-barreled shotgun; double negative; dozen; driving; ear; Earth; E.B. Green Portraits; Economy Bus Lines; emotional state; ethical system; evidence; evolution; eye; face; fact; Federation law; Federation of Planets ("Fed"); fedora; feet; firearm (aka gun or hardware); fireplug; fizzbin; flivver; flop; foot; frequency; friend; gear; galoshes (aka overshoes); gangster; garage; gears; "get the idea"; "give the word"; goods; government; guest; gun moll; hand; head; hearse; heater; hello; "hit"; home; Horizon; hostage; hostility; hour; ice; ice cream; ice cream sandwich; idea; ignition; industrialization; information; intelligence; intersection; "in the first place"; Iotian; Iotian language; Jailbreakers, The; job; key; kidnapping; king; kronk; language banks; laundry; letter; lieutenant; logic; machine gun; material; microphone; Milky Way Galaxy; minute; money; month; moral inversion; mouth; name; neighbor; neutronium; night; No parking sign; Northside Territory; "no sweat"; non-interference directive; odds; "of course"; office; "on the level"; order; "out of the question"; pattycake; peanut; pedal; percentage; penny-ante operator; percentages; petrified; phaser; phaser bank; phone; phone call; picture; "piece of the action"; piecework factory; place; planetary treasury; "play a hunch"; "play ball"; player; playing cards; postage due; prisoner; problem; profit; punk; queen; question; radio report; radio set; radio station (aka official station); radius; reception committee; Request Time; result; right; right of petition; roof; Sawbones; scrag; Sigma Iotia; Sigma Iotia II; site-to-site transport; society; sociological computer; sound; Southside Territory; sralk; standard orbit; Starfleet Command; starship; starter; stone; story; street; street light; Studebaker Standard Six; solution; subspace communication; surface; sweat; switch; syndicate; taxi; taxi driver; telephone; Tepo's mother; territory; textbook; thing; Thompson submachine gun; title; tool; toy; transporter; transporter room; transtator; trick; troops; truce; truck; Tuesday; Vulcan neck pinch; US Mail; "wait a minute"; walking; warehouse; weapon; week; wheel; "whole ball of wax"; window; year; yellow
- "A Piece of the Action" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "A Piece of the Action" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "A Piece of the Action" at Wikipedia
- "A Piece of the Action" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
- View online at the CBS website (available in the US only)
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