Star Trek TOS: A Novel Concept: Diplomacy through Mercy

Image Courtesy of Dorab Wolfe-Herring on YouTube:

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 1, Episode 19


Kirk and most of the heavy hitters were lured to Cestus III with promises of a delicious meal, but unsurprisingly, it was a trap, and the planet was not as advertised. Cestus III was obliterated. 

Spock picked up the scent of creatures on Cestus III — but no humans — so Arena was guaranteed to be eventful after a lighthearted 45-second introduction. The crew was actively bombed, a first for Star Trek to date. It should be noted Kirk and Spock were incredibly calm as bombs nipped at their heels. 

Kirk, true to form, showcased his keynote leadership skills, instructing Sulu to protect Enterprise at all costs — even if it meant Kirk and the men perish on Cestus III. Harold, a Cestus native who survived the alien onslaught, told Kirk he did not lure anybody to the planet.

So, Kirk was tricked. And he responded with an uncharacteristically hawkish announcement. Enterprise was going to war. Spock advised against it — not logical enough — but the captain was unusually bloodthirsty because of how badly Cestus III was ravaged. Kill or be killed. 

Image Courtesy of Dorab Wolfe-Herring on YouTube:

In the most suspenseful episode since The Corbomite Maneuver, the Enterprise was engaged in a cat-and-mouse race with an alien ship. You might recall that episode ended in tricky fashion, with a kid-like man as the lovable culprit. 

Alas, the aliens made contact, and they were not impressed with Kirk’s perceived knack for violence. The aliens were called Metrons, and they whisked Kirk away from his ship onto an asteroid — of all places — for some sort of showdown with a reptilian. Mind you, this isn’t even one of those psychedelic episodes like Shore Leave. Thankfully, the reptilian’s acumen for fighting was utterly pathetic. He moved like a geriatric human, a true embarrassment to reptilians everywhere. The rapscallion was strong, though. 

The molasses-moving reptilian was called a “Gorn,” and Kirk lamented a lack of weapons to combat the Gorn’s strength. Meanwhile, back on Enterprise, the crew contemplated ways to save their leader — or if that was possible at all. Spock and friends were assuredly allegiant. 

For weapons, Kirk found colossal jewels that would have come in handy on Earth. He even dropped a little analogy on their value, countering he would trade all the wealth for a real weapon. Money is worthless if there is no economy — is the takeaway. 

The standup alligator had Kirk dead to rights but was too slow to finish him off. The Metrons, with a self-professed display of empathy, broadcasted the events on the asteroid because they knew Kirk’s crew was found of him. A strange bit of gratitude by a hostile alien species. 

It turned out the Gorn could talk — he sounded like the Undertaker from WWE — so the reptilian and Kirk had a little chat. The Gorn blamed Kirk and his crew for infringing on Cestus III, implying all of the destruction earlier in the episode was an act of self-defense. There’s the “villain side of the story” evident in nearly every Star Trek episode. 

Kirk realized he could play MacGyver on the asteroid, constructing an improvised explosive device while Spock and company watched on from the edge of their interstellar seats. And because the Gorn moved as fast as your great grandmother, Kirk had the time to build the weapon. Kirk’s bomb detonated, maiming the reptilian. But he refused to kill it formally. 

The God of Metrons appeared — dressed in a woman’s dress but speaking in a deep voice — explaining his awe of Kirk’s mercy.

The verdict? Diplomacy works. The Metrons and Kirk will do business down the road after a peaceful resolution. Arena left the viewer with hope that man can eventually achieve a state of nonviolence, albeit probably one thousand years from now.

Good luck. 

Themes: Mercy, Diplomacy over Violence 

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).