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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Patterns of Force redirects here; for the unseen namesake prop book, please see Patterns of Force (book).

The Enterprise, searching for a missing Federation historian, discovers that the historian has apparently contaminated the cultural development of the planet where he was assigned as a cultural observer to have it follow the societal path of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and '40s.



The National Socialist uniforms on Ekos.

The USS Enterprise heads for the planet Ekos to locate a missing cultural observer, John Gill, a noted historian and brilliant history teacher who had been one of Kirk's instructors at Academy. Spock and McCoy reminisce about his style of approaching history as a matter of causes and motivations, rather than simply dates and events.

While approaching the planet, the Enterprise is attacked by an old-style chemical rocket with a thermonuclear warhead – technology of whose development the planet is not yet supposed to be capable. Kirk has Chekov destroy the rocket with the ship's phasers. McCoy notes that the missile is generations ahead from where they should be technically. Kirk surmises that they may have had help – and Spock glances at Gill's photo.

Act One

Fearing that Gill's mission has been compromised in violation of the Prime Directive of non-interference with developing planets, Kirk and Spock beam down to Ekos. Before they do, they have McCoy insert subcutaneous emergency transponders, dependent on crystalline rubindium, into their forearms, to locate them for retrieval in the event they cannot use their communicators. Kirk orders that Scotty beam them up at the appointed time if they fail to contact the ship, no matter what their condition may be.

Upon beaming down, Kirk and Spock find a culture almost identical to that of Germany during its Nazi period of the 1930s and 40s, right down to the uniforms, salutes, persecution of another ethnic culture – in this case the inhabitants of the neighboring planet Zeon, and the concept of the Führer – John Gill himself. Stealing some SS uniforms, Kirk and Spock attempt to infiltrate the Führer's headquarters but are quickly captured when Spock is forced to remove his helmet, revealing his pointed Vulcan ears.

Act Two

Kirk and Spock are stripped to the waist and interrogated by an SS-Major, who lashes them cruelly with a whip; this, however, is interrupted by Chairman Eneg, who chides the SS guard for not realizing that punishment is effective for only just so long.

Left with their wounds still open, they find themselves imprisoned next to Isak, a Zeon underground member who explains how the Nazi movement began on Ekos, coinciding precisely with the time of Gill's arrival. Improvising a crude cutting-torch laser from the rubindium crystals from the transponders Kirk had had McCoy insert, at a subcutaneous level, into the skins of their forearms before beaming down, the trio then make their way to the SS laboratory, where Kirk pickpockets the keys from a guard; they manage to escape and retrieve two disassembled communicators from a SS laboratory. Kirk and Spock are able to steal SS uniforms again and leave, hauling out Isak in a stretcher. Later, the three return to the underground's base. There, Isak is greeted by his brother, Abrom, and told of the death of his fiancée, Uletta. In the midst of this, a squad of Ekosian stormtroopers (led by a woman) arrives, intent on arresting the entire lot. She apparently shoots Abrom dead and plans to "finish the job" by killing Kirk.

Act Three

When Kirk and Spock intervene to help the underground workers, it is revealed that the woman, Daras (who they recognized from a propaganda broadcast they viewed earlier), is an Ekosian member of the underground and the storming was a test to see if the two strangers could be trusted – once Kirk and Spock responded to her apparent murder of Abrom by her holding at gunpoint, those gathered realized that the two strangers were definitely on their side and put an end to the ruse. Kirk and Spock then reveal who they really are and why they are there.

The next opportunity to get to the Führer, they decide, is an upcoming speech in the chancellery in which Isak suspects war will be declared on Zeon (the "Final Solution"). To infiltrate the chancellery, Kirk and Spock accompany Daras and Isak (in Nazi disguise) to Führer headquarters posing as a Nazi documentary crew to try and reach Gill. Kirk, Spock, Isak, and Daras walk down a corridor pretending to film a record of the Führer's final solution speech. During this, Spock catches a glimpse of John Gill in a guarded room, seemingly drugged. Kirk tells Spock that they need Dr. McCoy. Kirk hides inside a cloakroom with Spock and asks Lieutenant Uhura to have McCoy beamed down from the Enterprise, however, they learn from Daras that the transmission was traced, prompting a search party. The doctor joins them dressed in a Nazi colonel's uniform who complains the ship's computer got the measurements on his boot wrong. Before he could answer, two guards led by Chairman Eneg barge into the cloakroom.

Act Four

Kirk and Spock infiltrate the Nazi Headquarters

Gill as Fuhrer

With seconds to think, Kirk quickly says that the colonel is drunk and his presence in a drunken state would embarrass the Führer. Eneg accepts their explanation and explains they're conducting a search and leaves, leaving Spock puzzled why Eneg didn't recognize the two of them. With McCoy now joined with them, the group listens to a speech by Gill, followed by another from his deputy, Melakon, pledging the destruction of Zeon which is already taking place as he speaks. Meanwhile, the three are able to sneak into a broadcast booth and find Gill, heavily drugged. McCoy is able to partially revive Gill with stimulants, but Spock must use his mind probe talents to attempt to make Gill able to communicate.

Meanwhile, they overhear Melakon announce the commencement of the Final Decision, the genocidal invasion of Zeon. Daras pleads with Kirk to have the Enterprise intercept and destroy the invasion fleet as a last resort. Kirk is unwilling considering that would mean the deaths of thousands of Ekosians, as well as numerous underground Zeons who have infiltrated the Ekosian forces to attempt to interfere with their operations. Daras rationalizes that would be the lesser evil than to permit the murder of millions on Zeon, but Kirk is determined to help both populations who are equally victims of Gill's interference.

Eventually, Spock is able to establish contact with Gill and they learn the truth; Gill had taken matters into his own hands on Ekos, which he had found to be in a condition of anarchy. He tried to help by encouraging the Ekosians to adopt Nazi Germany as a model, believing they could embrace its efficiency while eschewing its sadistic or xenophobic aspects. Kirk is appalled by Gill's naivete, but Spock points out that the Nazis' phenomenal recovery from Germany's economic and political collapse following World War I might make it a compelling example even for a gentle man such as Gill. Unfortunately, Melakon saw an opportunity and drugged Gill, installing him as a figurehead leader and orchestrating the Ekosians' slide into violent militarism and racial hatred.

The search party, led by Eneg, steps into the room, and Kirk quickly pretends they foiled an assassination attempt by Spock. They convince Eneg to present him to Melakon, which also convinces Isak that he is a member of the underground resistance. While they distract Melakon, Kirk struggles to revive Gill to a sufficiently coherent state. Gill is finally able to broadcast a message halting the invasion and declaring Melakon a traitor. Melakon takes an MP40 machine gun from a guard and shoots Gill through the broadcast booth curtain to silence him. Isak, in turn, shoots Melakon twice with a Luger, killing him instantly. As Gill dies in Kirk's arms, he tells the captain that the Prime Directive was the right way all along. Meanwhile, Eneg takes control of the government, declaring, "There has been enough killing. Now we'll start to live the way the Führer meant us to live." He plans to go on the airwaves with Daras to offer a new way of life for both Ekosians and Zeons.

Back on board the Enterprise, Spock expresses confusion as to how a man as logical as Gill could make such a mistake as emulating the Nazis. Kirk says the problem was not simply the Nazis themselves but giving any one individual so much power. McCoy remarks how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; Spock dryly points out several examples from Earth history of just that mentality and Kirk cuts off their argument by saying, "Gentlemen, we've just been through one civil war; let's not start another." Kirk then orders Ensign Chekov to plot a course and break out of orbit around Ekos as quickly as possible.

Memorable quotes

"Our missiles utterly destroyed the enemy."
"You look quite well for a man who's been utterly destroyed, Mister Spock."

- Ekosian Newscaster and Kirk, on the missile attack on the Enterprise

"You should make a very convincing Nazi."

- Spock, commenting on Kirk's Gestapo uniform

"Lieutenant? Better see a doctor. You don't look well. Your color."
"Yes. I shall tend to it, Major."
"Lieutenant! Your helmet. Remove it!"

- SS-Major uncovering a disguised Spock

"I…don't care if you hit the broad side of a barn. Just hurry, please."
"Captain, why should I aim at such a structure?"
"Never mind, Spock. Just…get on with the job."

- Kirk and Spock, before breaking out of their jail cell

"If we adopt the ways of the Nazis, we're as bad as the Nazis."

- Isak, after learning of Uletta's death

"Captain, I'm beginning to understand why you earth men enjoy gambling. No matter how carefully one computes the odds of success, there is still a certain… exhilaration in the risk."
"Very good, Spock. We may make a Human of you yet."
"I hope not."

- Spock and Kirk, on the Human thrill of risk-taking

"Doctor McCoy is having difficulty with that uniform, sir."
"Send him down naked if you have to! Kirk out."

- Uhura and Kirk, before McCoy beams into the cloakroom

"Planet... fragmented... divided. Took lesson from... Earth history."
"But why Nazi Germany? You studied history; you knew what the Nazis were!"
"Most efficient state....Earth ever knew..."

- John Gill and Kirk, on why Gill violated the Prime Directive

"Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears. Definitely an inferior race."

- Melakon to Daras, on Spock

"Even historians fail to learn from history…they repeat the same mistakes. Let the killing end, Kirk. Let--"

- John Gill's final words

"For so long I've prayed for this. Now I'm sorry."
"So was he."

- Isak and Kirk, after Gill's death

"It is time to stop the bloodshed…to bury our dead."

- Eneg, as the war between Ekos and Zeon (apparently) ends

"Gentlemen, we've just been through one civil war; let's not start another."

- Kirk, as Spock and McCoy debate Gill's mistake

Background information

Production history


  • During the first season, Paul Schneider wrote a story outline entitled "Tomorrow the Universe" about the Enterprise encountering an alien planet adopting Nazi ideology and forming its own "Third Reich." Schneider began to develop the story further; however, when Lucas came up with his very similar idea of "Patterns of Force," it was deemed much better than Schneider's story, which was scrapped. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two)
  • John Meredyth Lucas wrote this episode out of his fascination with the functioning of totalitarian regimes (especially Nazi Germany) and their ability to stay in power. [1] William Shatner quoted him to Chris Kreski, in Star Trek Memories, as saying that "it was fun to write a well-meaning Nazi, a guy who for the right cause completely fucked everything up. Y'know, we started with the question, 'How the hell did Nazism get past the shits and the street gangs and take root among the basically decent people? How did sane, reasonable adults come to buy into this bullshit?' The answer seemed to be because it was efficient and because, in a society beset by all kinds of problems, it may have seemed like a feasible necessity. So it becomes feasible, and the people take that leap."
  • An early draft of this episode had the source of cultural contamination arriving aboard a small "Ambassador-class" vessel called the Magellan. The name was later applied in TNG to the Ambassador-class of ships in the mid-24th century.
  • No stardate is logged in the episode. Bjo Trimble gave it a stardate of 2534.0 in her Star Trek Concordance, apparently using an earlier script version.
  • Based on the details of the episode's shooting schedule, at least two scenes were trimmed for unknown reasons; both scenes were filmed on 29 November 1967:
    • Act II, Sc. 39-41. When Kirk and Spock exit the Chancellery they rounded a street corner and entered an alley. With the removal of this scene, two storm troopers and two trooper guards and apparently a Jeep did not appear in the episode as filmed.
    • Act III, Sc. 46. When the cars pulled up at night and unloaded at the Chancellery, it was indicated that more officials were seen being dropped off before Kirk's group drive up in Sc. 47. Namely missing from the scene were two storm troopers, along with an SS officer general and his wife, whereas only the SS Gestapo general and his wife were seen entering as was noted.
    • In addition to these scenes, the shooting schedule indicates that there were, among the reception party crowd, two waiters that appeared throughout, however no such individuals appeared in the episode.
  • Eneg's name is an inside joke – it is "Gene" backwards. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (2nd ed., p. 136)) The name "Zeon" is a take on "Zion," while "Abrom" corresponds to "Abraham", "Davod" to "David", and "Isak" to "Isaac"; "Daras", reversed, is almost "Sara".
  • Star Trek 12 contains a novelization of this story by James Blish and J.A. Lawrence.

Sets and costumes

Ekosian Chancellery on Paramount lot.jpg Desilu production staffer Bill McGovern slating of the Ekosian Chancellery scene.jpg
The location of the Ekosian Chancellery at Paramount, where Desilu staffer Bill McGovern slates a scene
  • The headquarters of the Nazi Party in this episode are the redecorated offices of Paramount Pictures during the 60s, including the building where Lucille Ball ran Desilu. Paramount office buildings were also used as locations in "Assignment: Earth", and a short newsreel scene in "Bread and Circuses".
  • The underground area is the same set as was used for "The Devil in the Dark".
  • All the Nazi uniforms used in this episode are taken from Paramount's costume storage, and were previously featured in many of the studio's World War II-era films. [2] Many of them featured mismatched epaulets, collar tabs, and other rank-identifying insignia. However, McCoy's collar tabs, bearing a single silver oak leaf, correctly identify him as a colonel, as Kirk had ordered. Several uniforms, such as Kirk and McCoy's, show cuffbands reading "Adolf Hitler". They represent members of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, special bodyguards of the Führer.
  • On the archive file photograph shown by Spock in the teaser, John Gill is wearing Commissioner Ferris' jacket from "The Galileo Seven".

Two "Ekosians" look down from an upper window

  • The front of the Ekosian Chancellery has all of its windows and shutters closed, for the real world reason that the actual building was an active office of Paramount Pictures with daily business going on inside while the film crew and actors were shooting the exterior on 29 November 1967. (To Boldly Go: Rare Photos from the TOS Soundstage - Season Two, p. 191) Even so, two individuals who appear to be curious Paramount Pictures employees can be seen looking down on the courtyard from an upper window.


  • This is the second mention of Nazi Germany in Star Trek, the first being in "The City on the Edge of Forever". However, in "Mirror, Mirror", Scott did compare Hikaru Sulu's security system to "the ancient Gestapo".
  • This episode discounts the previously established theory of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development, which was established to explain the similarities seen in "Bread and Circuses". In this case, Kirk observes that "The chances of another planet developing a culture like Nazi Germany, using the forms, the symbols, the uniforms of twentieth century Earth are so fantastically slim," which Spock described as "virtually impossible." But John Gill had contaminated the development of Ekos's culture by introducing a modified version of Nazism to the planet, thereby breaching the Prime Directive, and hence Hodgkin's Law might not have been applicable here.

Cast and characters

Special visual effects

  • The attacking Ekosian missile on the viewscreen of Enterprise was reused footage of the Orion scout ship from "Journey to Babel" earlier in the season.
  • In a change from the stock explosions used throughout the second season, an animated nuclear blast was created for this episode.
  • V-2 rocket footage from World War II Germany is used in the newscast showing Ekosian missile.
  • In one of the sequences of news footage, all of which consisted of stock shots and stock footage, a car with Adolf Hitler accompanied by soldiers is used to represent John Gill as the Führer on the planet Ekos. The sequence is a use of stock footage from Triumph of the Will, the infamous Nazi propaganda film for whose production Leni Riefenstahl was responsible.


  • Because the subject matter of the nation's Nazi past was deemed too serious and too sensitive a topic for light TV entertainment, this episode was withheld from broadcast in its two original runs by the German stations that aired TOS – the public ZDF network in the mid-1970s and the private Sat.1 network in the late 1980s/early 1990s – and resulted that "Patterns of Force" became the only Original Series episode not to be aired in Germany. Only in 1996 was the (dubbed) episode finally shown as "Schablonen der Gewalt" on German pay TV, shortly after the first time German-language release on VHS the year previously, and included on all subsequent DVD/Blu-ray Disc season sets. On 4 November 2011 it was finally shown on the public network channel ZDFneo as well. ([3]; TOS Season 2 DVD-special feature, "Red Shirt Logs: Bjo Trimble on censorship") During the first two German runs of TOS in the 1970s and 1980s, many former Nazis were still alive; during the third run in the 1990s, the former East Germany experienced a wave of neo-Nazi violence after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • The episode's thesis, which Professor Dr. Gill espoused and which Spock corroborated, was that Nazi Germany was the "most efficient" state that was ever known in Earth history. But this notion, widely accepted after World War II and even at the time of the episode's original broadcast on American television, has now been largely discredited. The historian William L. Shirer, in particular, has noted that the Nazi hierarchy was actually a tangled web of hostile competition, with many of its high officials being bitterly opposed to each other. Consequently, their respective jurisdictions often overlapped and/or collided. Hence, this conflict actually reduced or even, in some cases, completely negated governmental efficiency in Nazi Germany.

Remastered information

The remastered version of "Patterns of Force" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 19 May 2007. While the episode required very few new effects, an entirely new shot of the Enterprise phasering the Ekosian warhead was substituted. In addition, Ekos was given a CGI-makeover as a more Earth-like planet, with new orbital shots of the Enterprise, and the rubindium crystal beam was refined.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references



Guest stars


Special appearance by




Uncredited co-stars


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