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 dispatched to the surface of the planet Beta III to learn what became of the Archon, which disappeared there one hundred years earlier. Recognized as outsiders, they draw the attention of the lawgivers. Pursued, the officers call for beam-out, but only Sulu is retrieved, and he is in a strange mental state.
Captain Kirk beams down with a larger landing party to investigate. Spock, Dr. McCoy, sociologist Lindstrom, and two guards, Leslie and Galloway, form the balance of the landing party. Immediately, Spock notices a strangeness in the people they encounter; a kind of contented mindlessness. Then the Red hour strikes – the beginning of the Festival, a period of debauchery and lawlessness. 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.
Festival ends the next morning. 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 lawgivers, the robed servants of the mysterious Landru. The lawgivers command the landing party to accompany them, to be absorbed.
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 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 to command an attack. Among the attackers is... Lieutenant O'Neil. Reger warns against bringing him along, but Kirk cannot abandon a crew member.
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. 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. Worse, contacting the ship enables Landru to discover and stun the landing party.
They awaken in a cave-like cell, but McCoy, Galloway and O'Neil are missing. Then McCoy returns – and he has been absorbed. 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. The orderly society has 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. Lawgivers summon Spock, who is taken to the same place, and there encounters Kirk, now mindlessly happy.
Spock learns that Marplon is part of the same underground to which Reger belongs. Marplon intervened to prevent both Kirk and Spock from being absorbed, and returned their weapons. Spock, acting as instructed, makes his way back to the cell.
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. 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.
Marplon takes Kirk and Spock 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 machine, built and programmed by the real Landru 6,000 years earlier. This machine, now calling itself Landru, 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 Landru, 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 it that it is the evil, and that it must destroy the evil – and it does, exploding in a burst of pyrotechnics.
Kirk leaves a team of specialists, including Lindstrom, to help restore the planet's culture "to a Human form".
- "Captain’s log, stardate 3156.2. While orbiting planet Beta III trying to find some trace of the starship Archon that disappeared here a hundred years ago, a search party consisting of two Enterprise officers were sent to the planet below. Mr. Sulu has returned, but in a highly agitated mental state. His condition requires I beam down with an additional search detail."
- "Captain’s log, stardate 3157.4. The Enterprise, still under attack by some sort of heat rays from the surface of Beta III, is now being commanded by Engineering Officer Scott. The shore party has been taken by the creature called Landru."
- "Captain’s log, stardate 3158.7. The Enterprise is preparing to leave Beta III in star system C-111. Sociologist Lindstrom is remaining behind with a party of experts who will help restore the planet's culture to a Human form."
"You, you did it. They knew we were Archons. These are the clothes they wear, not these!"
- - Sulu
"You're not of the Body! You're not! You're not of the Body!!"
- - McCoy
"Are you...are you...Archons?"
"What if we are?"
"It was said more would follow! If you are indeed - "
"We must hide them, quickly! The Lawgivers!"
"We can take care of ourselves."
"Landru will know! He will come!"
- - Reger, Kirk, and Tamar
"Then you will die."
- -The Lawgiver and Kirk
"Now – about Landru..."
"There was war, convulsions – the world was destroying itself. Landru was our leader; he saw the truth. He changed the world. Took us back – back to a simpler time, a time of peace and tranquility."
- - Kirk and Reger
"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
"Mr. Spock, the plug must be pulled."
"Landru must die."
"Captain – our prime directive of non-interference..."
"That refers to a living, growing culture; you think this one is?"
- - Kirk and Spock
"Isn't that somewhat old-fashioned?"
- - Kirk, watching Spock take out a lawgiver with a punch in the jaw
"He's still alive. He's here, now. He sees, he hears. We have destroyed ourselves! Please, no more.'"
- - Marplon, speaking about Landru
"Of course; it had to be."
- - Kirk, after Landru is revealed to be a computer
"I am Landru."
"Landru is dead! You are a machine! A question has been put to you - answer it!"
- - Landru and Kirk
"Is this truly Landru?"
"What's left of him, after he built and programmed this machine 6,000 years ago."
- - Marplon and Spock
"Landru! Guide us! Landru!"
(Kirk reaches for phaser)
"Unnecessary, captain; they have no guidance – possibly for the first time in their lives."
- - Lawgivers and Spock
"You must create the good; that is the will of Landru, nothing else."
"But there is evil!"
"Then the evil must be destroyed - that is the prime directive. And you are the evil!"
"I think! I live!"
"You are the evil! The evil must be destroyed. Fulfill the prime directive. You..."
"Landru, help me!"
"... are the evil. Fulfill the prime directive!"
"Help me. Help me. Help me, help me, help..."
- - Kirk, talking Landru to self-destruction
"Well, you're on your own, Marplon; I hope you're up for it.(to Lawgivers) You can get rid of those robes... If I were you, I'd start looking for another job."
- - Kirk, after the destruction of the Landru computer
"How often mankind has wished for a world as peaceful, and secure, as the one Landru provided."
"And we never got it. Just lucky, I guess."
- - Spock and Kirk
- 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' dialog was dubbed by Walker Edmiston.
- The sound of the clock chimes in the town is different in the DVD version of this episode than on the old video cassettes. A small piece of Scotty's dialog is also missing; when he is declaring that the Enterprise will "burn up, one way or the other", the words "burn up" cannot be heard.
- Spock is seen sleeping with his eyes open in this episode.
- Just why Festival takes place, or how frequently it occurs, is never made entirely clear.
- According to the trivia section on the video release, "The Archons" was a club Gene Roddenberry belonged to at school.
- 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.
- The absorption console that Marplon uses appears later, with modifications, as Norman's relay station in "I, Mudd", a control panel on Memory Alpha in "The Lights of Zetar", the housing for the cloaking device in "The Enterprise Incident" and the Elba II force field control panel in "Whom Gods Destroy".
- The cell in this episode shows up later in TOS: "Errand of Mercy" and "Catspaw".
- The location for this episode strongly resembles Culver City. Since Desilu owned the Culver sets in the mid-60s, this could very well be where it was shot. This location is now part of Universal Studios.
- Christopher Held (Lindstrom) is beaned by a softball-sized prop rock while escaping the Festival-enraged crowd, but keeps running, so as not to ruin the take.
- This is the first mention of a Prime Directive (though what's mentioned here is not the Prime Directive).
- The hole that Kirk creates to reach Landru is of the same shape as the Guardian of Forever.
- This episode marks one of four times Kirk is able to "talk a computer to death". This skill is also used in "The Changeling", "I, Mudd", and "The Ultimate Computer" (with an honorable mention going to "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", in which Kirk's arguments get Ruk the android so riled up he suicidally attacks Korby).
- Story outline by Gene Roddenberry, 20 July 1964
- Story outline by Gene Roddenberry, 22 July 1964
- Story outline by Boris Sobelman, 28 August 1966
- Outline, 29 August 1966
- Outline, 14 September 1966
- First draft script, 1 November 1966
- Final draft, 10 November 1966
- Filmed early to mid-December 1966
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1985.
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 12, catalogue number VHR 2305, release date unknown.
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 1.8, 2 December 1996.
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 11, 23 May 2000.
- As part of the TOS Season 1 DVD collection.
- As part of the TOS Season 1 HD-DVD collection.
- As part of the TOS Season 1 Blu-ray collection.
Links and References
- Brioni Farrell as Tula
- Sid Haig as First Lawgiver
- Charles Macauley as Landru
- Jon Lormer as Tamar
- Morgan Farley as Hacom
- George Takei as Sulu
- James Doohan as Scott
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Sean Morgan as O'Neil
- Ralph Maurer as Bilar
- David L. Ross as Guard
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Bobby Clark as Shrieking Townsperson
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Barbara Webber as Dancing Woman
- Unknown actor as Osborne
| Previous episode produced:|
"Tomorrow is Yesterday"
| Star Trek: The Original Series|
| Next episode produced:|
"A Taste of Armageddon"
| Previous episode aired:|
| Next episode aired:|
| Previous remastered episode aired:|
"The Alternative Factor"
|TOS Remastered|| Next remastered episode aired:|
"A Taste of Armageddon"