Kirk and Spock try to protect the planet Organia from the Klingons, but the natives don't want the Federation's help.


Organia in 2267

Acting under coded orders, Captain Kirk takes the USS Enterprise to the peaceful planet Organia. Negotiations with the Klingon Empire are on the verge of collapse, and Organia is the only Class M planet in the disputed area. Whichever power controls the world will have an advantage in the conflict that is yet to come.

Enterprise hit by magnetic pulses


En route, the Enterprise comes under surprise attack, and manages to dispatch the attacker, moments before an all-points relay comes from Starfleet command – Code One alert – war. Kirk's mission is unchanged, but with open hostility, now more difficult.

Act One

Assuming orbit, Kirk prepares to visit the planet, leaving Lieutenant Sulu in charge, with specific instructions what to do in the event the Klingon fleet appears. Beaming down, Kirk and Spock arrive in the midst of a primitive, agrarian society – whose people seem curiously unconcerned about visitors materializing within their midst. They are greeted by Ayelborne. Kirk asks to speak to someone in authority, and Ayelborne tells him "we don't have anyone in authority" – but tells them he is chairman of the Council of Elders, and asks if he might do.

Ayelborne greets the landing party

Kirk, addressing the Council, is confounded. They claim they have no need of protection, no need of defenses. They simply will not believe that the Klingons will subjugate their world and enslave their people, destroying their culture and way of life. Then Spock returns with the results of his cultural survey: there has been no advancement, no progress on this world for as far back as his tricorder can measure. And then the Klingon fleet arrives – a fact councilor Trefayne seems aware of before even Spock can confirm it with his tricorder.

The Enterprise is forced to leave, stranding Kirk and Spock amidst a Klingon occupation army, led by Kor.

Act Two

The Organians provide clothing, but take their Federation visitors' weapons. Kirk is now Baroner, a leading citizen, while Spock is a merchant dealing in kevas and trillium. Kor, disgusted by the constant smiling he sees around him, selects the one unsmiling man he has found to be his liaison to the civil population – Kirk. Meanwhile, Spock is taken to be examined – as a Vulcan, he might be a spy.

Klingon invasion forces on Organia

The examination, performed with the mind-sifter, does not pierce Spock's pretense, and he is released. Kirk has been instructed in his duties as liaison, and both men are released to go about their business. Together, they scheme to teach the Organians how they might resist. To do so, they destroy an ammo dump – and discover the Organians are appalled by the act of destruction. Kirk, thinking they're afraid, scorns their desire to avoid violence; they reply that he simply doesn't understand them. Unfortunately, his impassioned speech is overheard by Kor, who has the Council chamber under surveillance.

Act Three

Ayelborne, learning Kor plans to interrogate Kirk with the mind-sifter, reveals Kirk's identity. Betrayed, Kirk and Spock are imprisoned and threatened. But Ayelborne remains placid, assuring Kirk that no harm will come of it. Kirk and Kor discuss ideology; Kor seems happy that the universe is full of people who don't like the Klingons. He feels that survival must be earned, and relishes the challenge of earning it. Kirk is given just twelve hours to answer questions; after that, he will be subjected to the mind sifter, becoming a vegetable, and Spock will have his mind dissected to check how it is able to resist it.

Kor confronts the Organians

With six hours left, the cell door opens and – Ayelborne steps inside, offering them safety. Somehow, he has invaded the Klingon sanctuary without attracting the attention of the guards there.

Kor is furious, and rounds up hostages to be killed: two hundred hostages immediately, and two hundred more at intervals until the Starfleet officers are returned.

Act Four

Kirk is horrified, and plans to take action to ensure no more deaths occur. After they leave the council, its members have a strange conversation. Despite the horror of it, they will take action to prevent the Klingons and Starfleet men from harming each other. As Kirk and Spock begin their assault on Kor's stronghold, the Organians begin to do ... what?

Sulu leads Enterprise into battle

Kirk and Spock burst in on Kor, and learn the Federation fleet is en route – the destiny of the galaxy will be decided for the next thousand years, very soon. Klingon guards burst in, and just as a fight begins, no one can hold their weapons. Or strike each other. Even Kor's attempt at an improvised weapon fails. All weapons, all bodies, both fleets – are too hot to handle.

Organians in their true form

It is the Organian intervention. They have put a stop to the violence. Instruments of violence are useless; the same condition holds on both fleets. Ayelborne, as he stands before Kirk and Kor, also stands on the homeworlds of the Federation and the Empire. Both sides must agree to cease hostilities, or their armed forces will be neutralized. The Organians are more than they seem – far more. After imposing their will, they demand the departure of their visitors. The discordant emotions are actually painful to the Organians. And then the Organians reveal their real nature: millions of years ago, they were humanoid. But they have evolved beyond the need for physical bodies to become extremely advanced and powerful energy beings. Everything – their bodies, the buildings, all of it – were constructed to provide points of reference for visitors.

Log Entries

  • "Captain's log, stardate 3198.4. We have reached Organia and established standard orbit. No signs of hostile activities in this area."
  • "Captain's log, stardate 3201.7. Mr. Spock and I are trapped on the planet Organia, which is in the process of being occupied by the forces of the Klingon Empire. The Organians have provided us with native clothing in the hopes that we may be taken for Organians."

Memorable Quotes

"War. We didn't want it, but we've got it."
"Curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want."

- Kirk and Spock, as the Federation-Klingon War starts

"I'm a soldier, not a diplomat. I can only tell you the truth."

- Kirk, to the Organian Council of Elders

"Have we a ram among the sheep?"

- Kor, to "Baroner"

"I don't trust men who smile too much."

- Kor

"You don't have to be sheep. You can be wolves."

- Kirk, to Ayelborne

"Always it is the brave ones who die. The soldiers."

- Kor, taking Kirk and Spock as his prisoners

"What would you say the odds are on our getting out of here?"
"Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately 7,824.7 to one."
"Difficult to be precise? 7,824 to one?"
"7,824.7 to one."
"That's a pretty close approximation."
"I endeavor to be accurate."
"You do quite well."

- Kirk and Spock

"We have the right –"
"To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?"

- Kirk and Ayelborne

"It is true that in the future, you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together."

- Ayelborne, to Kirk

"I should say the Organians are as far above us on the evolutionary scale as we are above the amoeba."

- Spock, after the Organians reveal their true forms

"Even the gods did not spring into being overnight."

- Spock, to Kirk

Background Information

Story and Script

  • This episode marks the first appearance of the Klingons.
  • Ayelborne mentions that in the future, the Federation and the Klingons would be friends and work together, both of which become true.
  • The episode title comes from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens: "It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it."
  • In the script, the Klingons were described simply as "Oriental, hard-faced."[1]
  • According to the script, the Organian village was to be modeled on old English villages, with thatched huts and muddy back alleys.
  • This is the first episode in which Sulu is shown sitting in the command chair, although he had previously commanded the bridge from the helm position in "Arena". Scott, who doesn't appear in this episode, had commanded the Enterprise in the absence of Kirk and Spock in "A Taste of Armageddon", in which Sulu didn't appear. The second season would establish Scott as senior to Sulu in the command structure.


  • DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) and James Doohan (Scotty) do not appear in this episode. Along with "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and "The Menagerie, Part II", this is one of only three episodes after the two pilots in which Kelley does not appear. This was also McCoy's last non-appearance in TOS.
  • This was the first appearance of John Colicos as Kor. The character was also set to appear in "Day of the Dove" and "The Trouble with Tribbles", but Colicos was unavailable and other Klingon characters were written in. A script was written for Kor for the fourth season, but the show was canceled after the third season, and he never got his chance to appear again (Kor did appear in TAS: "The Time Trap", but was voiced by James Doohan). Colicos was also the person who gave the Klingons their dark-skinned, mustached look. He said he was going for the "Genghis Khan" look. Makeup artist Fred Phillips agreed on it, and concieved the Klingons in this fashion.[2] He did eventually reprise his role in DS9: "Blood Oath", "The Sword of Kahless", and "Once More Unto the Breach".
  • Colicos was director John Newland's first and immediate choice for the role of Kor. He got the script only two hours before flying to Los Angeles from Toronto, and read it on the plane.[3]
  • Despite his saying so at several conventions, Vic Lundin is not the first Klingon seen entering the Organian Chambers ahead of Kor. Although two Klingons enter before Kor, neither of them is played by Lundin.
  • The unknown actor usually portraying Bobby appears as one of the Klingon Guards outside Kor's office at the end of the episode.


Sets and Props

  • This is one of only two episodes that show an actual Klingon flip-top communicator, which is similar to, but smaller than, the Starfleet version (watch when Kor contacts his fleet). The other episode is "Elaan of Troyius". The communicator was recycled from the Eminian version from "A Taste of Armageddon".
  • Also recycled and reworked from "A Taste of Armageddon" are the sonic disruptor pistols, first used here by the Klingons and later by the Romulans.
  • The boxes in the Klingon munitions dump were spray-painted corrugated cardboard containers.
  • The main gate to the Organian village, where Ayelborne greets Kirk and Spock was previously the gate to the Rigel VII castle in "The Cage". The stairs on which Spock and Kirk phaser the Klingon guards are the same set where Christopher Pike battled the Kaylar in the original pilot. Location filming for both episodes were done at the "Arab Village" portion of the famous 40 Acres backlot.
  • The entrance of the Klingon headquarters is the same building as the main gate to the Organian village, filmed from a longer distance and different angles.
  • The scene where Kirk and Spock stun the guards and break into the Klingon headquarters was filmed at sunlight using a "day-for-night" filter.
  • The view of the citadel at the beginning of Act One is a stock footage shot of the Citadelle Laferrière in Haiti.



Enterprise fires phaser bursts

  • The shot of Enterprise hit by magnetic pulses was a stock shot of energy bolts hitting the ship, the corresponding live-action sequences used a buzzing electric effects theme – that would be reused for the Klingon Bird-of-Prey firing effect in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The shot of Enterprise firing was also a reuse, this time the white bolts shot out of the ship are said to be phasers, even though in other appearances the same effect represents photon torpedoes.

Other Information

  • This is the last episode in which the term "Vulcanian" is used to refer to Vulcans. Both "Vulcanian" and "Vulcan" are used at different points in the episode: Kor uses "Vulcanian" and the Klingon lieutenant uses "Vulcan", both in reference to Spock.
  • A comic book published by IDW Comics in April 2007, "Against Their Nature", told this story from the Klingon point of view.
  • The Bantam paperback Star Trek: The New Voyages included a story called "Mind Sifter" which described the horrific aftereffects of the Klingon torture instrument on Kirk.
  • A reference to the events of this episode would appear in the DS9 episode DS9: "The Sword of Kahless", when Jadzia Dax introduces Worf to Kor, Worf tells Kor he had heard stories about Kor since he was a child including Kor's confrontation with Kirk on Organia.


  • In the Star Fleet Universe it is explained that the Organians' powers only work within their own solar system and thus they were unable to truly prevent large scale wars. Their actions in the episode to stop the Federation-Klingon war were largely a bluff. Eventually they would enlist the Interstellar Concordium to impose order on all of the local races.
  • However, TOS comics, set between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, contradict this. The comics claim that the Organians prevented the two powers from going to war at all. Eventually a war does break out, courtesy of manipulation by Yarnek and the Excalbians. Kirk eventually convinces the Excalbians and the Organians to fight each other, and as the Organians disappear, they lose control over the Federation and the Klingons.

Production Timeline

Remastered Information

The remastered version of "Errand of Mercy" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 12 May 2007. The episode was heavy in new effects, with unique CG shots of Organia from orbit, replacing the stock footage used to represent other planets including Alfa 177, M-113, and Gothos. The Klingon battle was significantly expanded, with shots of a fleet of D7-class battle cruisers bombarding the Enterprise with blue-colored weapons fire. The Organians themselves were also modified, with more refined computer graphics inserted into the episode that remained true to their original appearance. [4]

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Guest stars


Uncredited co-stars


amoeba; antimatter pods; Armenia; arrested culture; Baroner; Belgium; Chairman; citadel; Code One alert; Council of Elders; D7 class; engineering control; environmental control; kevas; Klingon Empire; Klingon attack ship; magnetic pulse weapon; military dictatorship; mind-sifter; Organia; Organian; Organian goat; Organian Peace Treaty; Qo'noS; quarterly physical; Richter scale of culture; screens; sheep; sonic grenade; Special Occupation Order 4; Starfleet Command; trillium; Unit XY-75847; wolves

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