Star Trek TOS: One Thing and One Thing Only, Outsmarting Nazis
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 21
Patterns on Force
An unmanned probe with a warhead (Spock’s words) entered Kirk’s life at the beginning of Patterns of Force, and away we go.
The warhead was thermonuclear, but luckily, Enterprise phased it into oblivion. However, now the crew was tasked with learning just how this weapon arrived in their orbit. The implication was a missing cultural analyst, John Gill, had something to do with it.
In street clothes, Kirk and Spock beamed down to Ekos. And, of course, Spock’s Vulcan ears were covered. Wouldn’t you know it? Down on Ekos, Nazi soldiers were present. Ekos was basically Germany from the early-to-mid 20th century.
Here’s the catch: The once-revered John Gill was evidently the Fuhrer of Nazi Ekos. Something was goofy. To blend in and avoid immediate detection from Nazy Ekosians, Spock dressed up in full SS garb. Before too long, both Kirk and Spock were waltzing around in Nazi gear, complete with Swastika arm patches.
One of the generals sniffed out Spock’s out-of-the-ordinary appearance, asking him to remove his Nazi helmet. Out came the ears, and Spock was revealed as a non-Nazi. On to imprisonment.
Kirk and Spock were whipped — Kirk’s blood was red, and Spock’s was green. This was the first time in the series Spock was rendered shirtless. In jail, Kirk and Spock spoke with another prisoner, learning the plight of “Zeons,” who were very obvious parallels to Jewish people.
With some Spock-infused trickery, Kirk, Spock, and an extra prisoner broke free from jail. Part of the ruse involved getting Kirk back in an SS outfit. The group connected with some Zeon cast-offs, but they were quickly apprehended by the Nazis again — this time led by a blonde woman. And at the woman’s urging, the Nazis killed an innocent Zeon — wildly on-brand for a Nazi.
Kirk and Spock regained the upper hand, promptly informing the blonde Nazi of Gill’s identity. Gill was a member of the Federation, so he shouldn’t have claim to the Fuhrer leadership.
Using the woman as a pawn, Kirk and Spock decided to infiltrate a Nazi event to get a word with their pal, Gill. This is when the plot became Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. One of the Zeon prisoners was willing to commit suicide to sabotage Nazis at the event. Sound familiar? This episode was assuredly tapped by Tarantino — who’s been rumored to have interest in an eventual Star Trek adaptation film — for Inglorious Basterds inspiration.
Spock snuck a glance at Gill, who appeared drugged or emotionless. Kirk requested a beam-down from McCoy to evaluate Gill’s medical condition. McCoy obliged. Then, a Gill speech was broadcast to the collection of Nazis — but it was apparent Gill’s lips weren’t moving.
This was shade from Star Trek writers on just how easily some people — or entire civilizations — are duped by a maniacal leader they desperately want to believe.
A drugged Gill revealed the Nazi experiment interested him because Nazi Germany was so damn efficient until they started killing people. He hoped to cultivate a Germany-like rise to power without the killing. But his authority was usurped by an actual Nazi — because that’s what actual Nazis do.
Before the resolution of the episode — a confession by Gill to his constituency — the guy really in charge took some racist shots at Spock, insulting his appearance and alien heritage.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – McCoy
All in all, this was the Nazi episode.
Themes: The Nazi Parable
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).