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(written from a Production point of view)

The Enterprise discovers a planet where the population act like zombies and obey the will of their unseen ruler, Landru.



Lieutenants Sulu and O'Neil are undercover, wearing clothing of the style worn on Earth in the late 19th and early 20th century, and dispatched to the surface of the Earth-like planet Beta III to learn what became of the Archon, which disappeared there one hundred years earlier.

Having been recognized as outsiders on the streets, Sulu and O'Neil draw the attention of two sinister figures dressed in brown, hooded monk-like robes: the lawgivers. Pursued, the officers call for beam-out, but O'Neil flees before they are to be beamed up. Only Sulu is retrieved, but not before he falls victim to the power of the leading lawgiver's staff. Upon materializing in the USS Enterprise's transporter room, he is in a strange mental state – stating to Captain Kirk that the planet below is "Paradise, my friend. Paradise…"

Act One[]


"Your daddy can put them up can he?"

Captain Kirk beams down with a larger landing party – all wearing clothing in the style of those worn by Sulu and O'Neil – to investigate. Spock, Dr. McCoy, sociologist Lindstrom, and two security guards, Leslie and Galloway, form the balance of the landing party. Immediately upon being beamed down, Spock notices a strangeness in the people they encounter; a kind of contented mindlessness expression on their faces. Then, at six o'clock, the red hour strikes – the beginning of the Festival, a period of debauchery and lawlessness on the streets. Fleeing, the landing party bursts in on Reger, Hacom, and Tamar. They had been told by Bilar and Tula, two passersby, that Reger could rent them rooms for after Festival. Their questions seem to terrify Reger. They are given rooms and retreat from the mayhem outside, trying their best to get a few hours' sleep.

Betan lawgiver

A lawgiver points his staff.

The Festival ends at six the next morning, with the townsfolk simply stopping their acts of havoc and violence; and going on their way as if nothing had happened. Reger, learning the landing party did not attend Festival, concludes they are not of the Body, and asks an astonishing question: "Are you Archons?" The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Hacom and two lawgivers, the robed servants of the mysterious Landru. The leading lawgiver, who speaks with a strange inhuman-sounding voice (even though he and his fellow lawgiver appear to be Human), command the landing party to accompany them to the absorption chambers, to be absorbed into "the body."

Act Two[]

Kirk, acting on a hunch, defies them – and causes confusion. He'd correctly concluded this society is built around obedience, and might not be ready for any disobedience. Taking advantage of their confusion, Reger guides the crew to a place he knows, where they will be safe. But on the way, Landru employs a form of mass telepathy on the townsfolk to command an attack, which is easily repelled by the landing parties' phaser fire. Among the attackers is… the missing Lieutenant O'Neil. Reger warns against bringing him along, but Kirk cannot bring himself to abandon a member of his crew. He orders Leslie and Galloway to take the still-unconscious O'Neil with them over the strenuous objections of Reger.

Through his tricorder, Spock discovers a source of immense power, radiating from a point near the landing party's location. Reger tells Kirk about the arrival of the first Archons: many were killed, many more were absorbed. And then he drops the bombshell, mentioning casually that Landru pulled the Archons from the sky… Kirk contacts the Enterprise, and learns that heat beams are focused on the ship. Scotty, in command of the Enterprise, reports that her shields are able to deflect them, but nearly all ship's power is diverted to this purpose. Communications are poor, escape is impossible, and the orbit is decaying. If Kirk can't put a stop to the beams, the ship will be destroyed in less than twelve hours. Worse, contacting the ship enables Landru to discover and stun the landing party with an intense sound.

Act Three[]

The landing party awaken in a cave-like cell, but McCoy, Galloway, and O'Neil are missing. Kirk begins to think of ways to get out of their cell. He asks Spock about the lawgivers' inability to cope with the unexpected. Spock, noting that in a society as well organized as Beta III's appears to be, he cannot see how an oversight like that can go on uncorrected. He does find one thing interesting; the lawgiver's reaction to Kirk's defiance was similar to a computer's when fed insufficient data. Kirk disputes that the lawgivers are computers, not Human. Spock replies that they are quite Human, it is just that there are facts missing currently as to why they behave like computers. Soon after, McCoy and Galloway return – and they have been absorbed, with McCoy speaking similarly to the way Sulu had on the Enterprise. Evidently, this is the fate that awaits the entire landing party. Lawgivers appear, demanding Kirk accompany them, and this time, Kirk's refusal results in an immediate death threat. Spock was correct; the orderly society has now corrected a flaw.

Kirk is taken to a futuristic room: the absorption chamber. There, a priest named Marplon will oversee Kirk's forcible induction into the Body. Spock attempts a Vulcan mind meld with McCoy but is unsuccessful. Lawgivers summon Spock, who is taken to the same place, and there encounters Kirk, now mindlessly happy.

Act Four[]

Spock learns that Marplon was Tamar's contact and is part of the same underground to which Reger belongs. Marplon intervened to prevent both Kirk and Spock from being absorbed, and returns their phasers to Spock. Spock, acting as instructed, makes his way back to the cell, pretending to be as mindlessly happy as Beta III's inhabitants.

Discussing Landru and his society, Kirk and Spock reach the same conclusion: the society has no spirit, no spark; Landru's orders are being issued by a computer. Kirk decides the plug must be pulled. Spock is concerned this would violate the Prime Directive, but Kirk opines that the directive applies to living, growing cultures, of which this is not. When Reger and Marplon join them, Kirk demands more information: the location of Landru. Reger reveals that Beta III was at war, and was in danger of destroying itself. Landru, one of the leaders, took the people back to a simpler time. And, Marplon claims, Landru is still alive.

Spock and Kirk fire phasers

"Let's have a look at the projector."

Marplon takes Kirk and Spock, disguised as lawgivers, to a chamber, the Hall of Audiences, where Landru appears to his acolytes – or, at least, a projection of him does. There, Landru regretfully informs them that their interference is causing great harm, and that they, and all who knew of them, must be killed, to cleanse the memory of the Body. Blasting through the wall, Kirk reveals the truth: an ancient computer, built and programmed by the real Landru 6,000 years earlier before he died. This computer, now calling itself Landru, and speaking with the Human Landru's voice, was entrusted with the care of the Body, the society of Beta III. To that end, it has enslaved all members of that society, and those who visit, in a thralldom of happiness that is stagnant and without creativity.

Kirk and Spock discuss this with the Landru computer, asking it difficult questions it has evidently never had to answer; questions about whether its approach to creating the good is really creating evil. Ultimately, they convince the computer that it is the evil, and that it must destroy the evil – and it does so, exploding and ceasing to function. From now on, the inhabitants of Beta III must find their own answers.

Kirk leaves a team of specialists, including Lindstrom, to help restore the planet's culture "to a Human form".

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"Are you Archons?"

- Reger, to Kirk and the landing party

"Landru seeks tranquility. Peace for all. The universal good."

- Landru, appearing before Kirk's landing party

"Then you will die."

- Lawgiver and Kirk

"This is a soulless society, Captain. It has no spirit, no spark. All is indeed peace and tranquility – the peace of the factory; the tranquility of the machine; all parts working in unison."

- Spock, on the society run under Landru's influence

"You will be absorbed. Your individuality will merge into the unity of good, and in your submergence into the common being of the body, you will find contentment, fulfillment. You will experience the absolute good."

- Landru

"Mr. Spock, the plug must be pulled."

- Kirk, on destroying Landru

"Captain, our Prime Directive of non-interference."
"That refers to a living, growing culture… do you think this one is?"

- Spock and Kirk, Kirk cheerfully violating the Prime Directive

"I cannot answer your questions now. Landru… he will hear!"

- Marplon

"Isn't that somewhat old-fashioned?"

- Kirk, after Spock punches a lawgiver

"Snap out of it. Start acting like men!"

- Kirk, to Reger and Marplon

"He's still alive. He's here, now. He sees, he hears. We have destroyed ourselves! Please… no more."

- Marplon, speaking about Landru

"You said you wanted freedom. It's time you learned that freedom is never a gift. It has to be earned."

- Kirk, to Reger and Marplon

"Without freedom of choice, there is no creativity. Without creativity, there is no life."

- Kirk, to Landru

"You are the evil! The evil must be destroyed!"

- Kirk, inducing Landru's self-destruction

"If I were you, I'd start looking for another job."

- Kirk, to the lawgivers

"I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable."
"You'd make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock."
"That is very kind of you, Captain."

- Spock and Kirk

"How often mankind has wished for a world as peaceful and secure as the one Landru provided."
"Yes. And we never got it. Just lucky, I guess."

- Spock and Kirk

Background information[]

Production timeline[]

Story and script[]

  • This episode started out as a candidate to be the first Star Trek pilot, alongside "The Cage" and "The Women" (aka "Mudd's Women"). After the former was chosen by NBC, Roddenberry's story idea rested for more than two years. Freelance writer Boris Sobelman later picked up Roddenberry's original story, and developed it further, retitling it "The Return of the Archons". (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One [page number?edit])
  • According to the trivia section on the video release, "The Archons" was a club Gene Roddenberry belonged to at school.
  • A subplot involving Lindstrom falling in love with a local girl was cut from the episode's final draft script. [1]
  • Just why Festival takes place, or how frequently it occurs, is never made entirely clear. However, in his write-up of the episode in Star Trek 9, James Blish describes Reger telling Tula as he consoles her during the aftermath, "It's over for another year."
  • This episode marks one of four times Kirk is able to "talk a computer to death". He also talks a computer to death in "The Changeling", "I, Mudd", and "The Ultimate Computer". A similar theme of a population controlled by a machine is also shared with the Season 2 episode "The Apple".


  • This episode has the only teaser to fade out with a close-up on George Takei. The first-act opening is also unique, featuring Kirk's log narration playing over three different shots of the Enterprise in orbit around Beta III.


  • Bobby Clark, who leaps through a window and then cries out "Festival! Festival!" has his only speaking role in the series in this episode. A frequent stunt performer on the series, he can also be seen as one of Chekov's vaporized henchmen in TOS: "Mirror, Mirror".
  • Some of Harry Townes' dialogue was dubbed by Walker Edmiston. (citation needededit) Edmiston also dubbed an unnamed lawgiver, who runs into the hall of audiences after Landru was destroyed by Kirk. [2]
  • The character of Hacom (played by Morgan Farley) speaks with an unusual rhythm and accent not shared with the other Betans. This is most noticeable when he, Reger and Tamar meet the Enterprise crew. He says "Then how come you here?" (even though the other Betans use the verb "to be" in their speech)

Sets and props[]

Music and sound[]

  • To ensure the becalmed Beta III civilians moved at the same time as each other, prerecorded drumbeats were played on the exterior set then muted during post-production. ("Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor", Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault special features)


  • This is the first episode in which Scotty assumes command of the ship.
  • This is the first mention of the Federation's Prime Directive. Confusingly, a second Prime Directive is discussed later in the episode; that of Landru's society, when Landru states "The good of the Body is the Prime Directive." This is mentioned by Landru and Kirk several times during a conversation, while the Federation's Prime Directive is mentioned only once.
  • The crew of the USS Cerritos return to Beta III 113 years later. (LD: "No Small Parts")


  • The preview trailer gives the stardate for this episode as 3192.1 (versus 3156.2, in the episode's dialogue).


Video and DVD releases[]


Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]




Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt double[]


3733 BC (6,000 years ago); 2167; absorption; absorption chamber; aiding; "all right"; analysis; answer; antenna; Archon; Archons; Archon crew; atmosphere; Beta III; Beta III city; Betans; Body, the; "Bones"; building; C-111 system; choice; communing; compassion; computer; concept; consciousness; contact; contentment; creativity; crime; culture; data; device; direction; directive; disobedience; door; effect; emergency; emergency bypass circuit; enemy; engineering; Engineering Officer; evil; "excuse me"; experience; face; facial expression; factory; fear; Festival; freedom; freedom of choice; friend; gift; good; good will; Hall of Audiences; happiness; harm; hate; headache; health; heat rays (heat beams); hour; Human (Human being); hypersonic; individuality; job; joy; key; knowledge; landing party; Landru; law; lawgiver; leader; lighting panel; logic; lovers' quarrel; machine; maximum security establishment; memory; metaphysics; million; mission; orbit; paradise; peace; perfection; place; plan; power; Prime Directive; programming; projection; prophecy; red hour; Reger's house; result; robe; room; scouting party; search party; sensor beam; shore party; sleep; society; sociologist; soul; sound wave; "stand by"; status report; Stone Age; stranger; surface; "take it easy"; telepathy; theory; thing; thousand; traitor; tranquility; truth; Underground; understanding; universe; Valley, The; Vulcan neck pinch; war; wisdom

External links[]

Previous episode produced:
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Star Trek: The Original Series
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Previous episode aired:
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Next episode aired:
"Space Seed"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"The Alternative Factor"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"A Taste of Armageddon"