Star Trek TOS: The Absurdity of Race and Hatred
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 15
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
A bacterial invasion on a nearby planet named Ariannus needed decontamination from Kirk and his Enterprise crew. As the ship set course to Ariannus, Kirk noticed a previously stolen Starfleet ship, grabbing the attention of the crew. The thieved vessel was rerouted to Enterprise so Kirk and the gang could inspect.
A man whose face and skin was dyed black and white (like a mime) stumbled out, and the plot thickened. Upon inspection of the body, McCoy surmised the skin was not modified – that was just his race. The working theory was that he was a mutant of sorts.
The man – or alien – awoke, holding a combative attitude toward allegations he stole the ship. His name was Lokai. Kirk let up on the interrogation, pivoting to a welcoming tone of “we’d like to get to know you.” Lokai wasn’t impressed.
Soon after, the Enterprise suddenly intercepted the course of an invisible ship, narrowly averting a full collision. The result? An alien from the almost-colliding ship beamed aboard – and he had the same skin tone as Lokai, mime-like.
The new guy, Commissioner Bele, arrived to “reclaim” Lokai, whom he deemed as a traitor. Kirk lectured Bele on due process, causing the guest to smugly obey.
When Lokai and Bele exchanged words, Lokai bemoaned slavery while Bele argued that he was actually enslaved. Lokai requested political asylum from the Federation – he was serious about this slavery thing – to the chagrin of Bele. The alien commander stormed out of the conversation.
Then, Enterprise was hijacked by an anonymous force, which turned out to be Bele’s “mental powers.” Bele fully took over Kirk’s ship because the Starfleeters’ chief weapons, phasers, were ineffective against the alien captain. Everyone bickered about the course of Enterprise. Kirk raised the stakes when he announced the order of the ship’s self-destruction if necessary.
Bele didn’t believe the threat, calling it a bluff. So, Kirk turned the situation over to his computer, giving the command to self-destruct after a patented countdown sequence. This put Bele up against it, pressuring him to outsmart the computer with his mind control.
Kirk called off the collective suicide, but at least Bele knew he held the upper hand. Meanwhile, Lokai absolutely insisted the death of Bele was required. Instructed at both aliens, Kirk proffered a stern speech about antiviolence while warning to two to avoid tomfoolery during the rest of their stay on Enterprise.
Speaking more rationally after the annihilation bluff, Kirk and Spock determined the Lokai-versus-Bele beef was rooted in “race” as Lokai’s face was black on the left side and the right side for Bele. Yes, as something as simple as that.
As Enterprise approached Ariannus – per the original decontamination plan – Bele somehow snuffed out the computer controlling possible self-destruction. Again, Bele controlled the vessel. Lokai reaffirmed his frustration and demanded safe haven from Kirk. That pissed Bele off, and Lokai and Bele began to wrestle.
Bele rerouted the ship to his home planet (also Lokai’s). But it was totally ravaged by holocaust – everyone killed each other out of hate. That enraged both Bele and Lokai. Their solution? They beamed down to home to their planet, Cheron, continuing to fight upon arrival.
Even the utter destruction of their homeland could not cure their mutual hate. Kirk was not impressed with their decision-making – especially after they declined offers from Kirk to live with the Federation free of tyranny.
Kirk’s solution? He left the two aliens there. By Kirk’s standard, it was pretty ruthless. But he was massively repulsed by the hate in their souls.
The takeaway from Let That Be Your Last Battlefield was the portrayal of absurdity that arises from the senseless of hate, particularly when it’s derived from skin color. This was a Star Trek dramatization of slavery and racism – and how senseless those evils can be.
Themes: The Absurdity of Hate and Racism
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).