Star Trek TOS: Organians Fight Klingons with Nonviolence
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 27
Errand of Mercy
The first-ever mention of “Klingons” opened Errand of Mercy. Then, Enterprise was absolutely rocked with a nuclear-like exploding to its exterior. The Klingons were ready for war. Kirk and Spock together rued the idea of war — furthering the case for Star Trek’s peaceful overtones — but both agreed that retaliation was probably required.
Kirk and Spock, just the two of them, beamed down to Organia with a plan to warn the planet’s inhabitants of the Klingon’s impending invasion. Except the people of Organia didn’t care. They were oblivious and unafraid. Kirk pled with men to realize the stakes, yet his stern warnings were ignored by the agrarian people. Spock observed the civilization on Organia seemingly never changed. Their processes were the same all of the time — forever.
The Organians scoffed at Kirk’s pleas of advantageous nation-building. Meanwhile, with Sulu in charge back on Enterprise, the Klingons attacked. In addition, Klingons swarmed Organia, so Kirk and Spock had to dress like Organians to blend in — even though Spock looks like, well, Spock.
Of note: The Klingons were the first whole society to threaten Kirk and the crew’s well-being. Previously, a hodgepodge of rogue machines, creatures, aliens, and isolated enemies posed danger. This was an army.
The Klingons possessed a conquering swagger in the vein of the old British Empire — ruthless, imperial, and far-reaching. Still, the agrarian members of Organia were casually unaffected.
Kirk and Spock were nearing enslavement, plain and simple. As a “compromise,” Kor, the presumed leader of the Klingons, gave Kirk 12 hours to disclose all of Enterprise’s deployments. If Kirk did not honor his end of the ultimatum, the Klingons would put him into a vegetative state.
The episode is a commentary mixed with anti-war ambitions and how to fend off a subjugative, formidable force. Roll over and die, staying true to wholesomely peaceful ideas? Or follow Kirk’s lead and fight back? How much violence is okay, when anti-violence people bump up against enslavement and death? That’s what Errands of Mercy contemplated.
With the help of the Organian leader, Ayellborne, Kirk and Spock were freed from imprisonment, royally pissing off Kor. The Klingon leader responded with a dire penalty — surrender Kirk and Spock back to their custody or watch hundreds of Organians die.
Kor verbally skewered Kirk for his commitment to mercy, an odd speech as Kirk and Spock managed to get Kor in a dead-to-rights situation.
The climax occurred when Organians revealed the ace up their sleeve. Weapons were not operational on Organia, a real kick in the head to Kor’s imperialism. Ayellborne offered a thoughtful, pacifistic speech, explaining his people remained safe because of a commitment to nonviolence (with the actual tools to prevent it).
Ayellborne also stated that his people (him, too) were once human. But after a thousand or so years of generational maturation, they achieved a nonviolent utopia.
Spock concluded by stating humans’ stance on the evolutionary ladder was embarrassing compared to the Organians. Staying alive sans senseless war will do that.
Themes: Anti-War, Mercy
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).