Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, June 2, 2014

Season 2, Episode 43 "Bread and Circuses"

"Bread and Circuses"
Production Number: 43
Air Order: 54
Stardate: 4040.7
Original Air Date: March 29, 1968



We start out with a couple of interesting shots. The first establishing shot is looking down on the saucer section of the E, followed by a panoramic shots of everyone on the bridge staring at Kirk and Spock at the science station. Spock is examining some debris in space, and determines that it's from the SS Beagle, a Federation ship missing for 6 years. There are no signs of bodies, so they guess that the crew made it off safely. The captain was a guy named Merrick, a dude Kirk knew at the academy. Apparently, this guy flunked out in fifth year and became a civilian pilot.
Spock suggests that they check the nearby planet for survivors, and oh hey, guess what? It's another Earth clone. The science officer says that their tech looks 20th century. No atomic power, but good road systems.



Uhura reports that she is picking up transmissions from the planet. Not directed at them, just broadcasting. They put it on the viewscreen, and it turns out to be a news show. The newscaster talks about how there has been a rash of disobedience among the slave population, while the picture shows guys struggling to be subdued by SS creepers with guns. They switch to sports, and two guys go at each other with swords in front of a fake-ass arena painting. After all of the cool matte painting backgrounds we've been given, this one seems to fall really short.
The crew of the E cringes while crowds on the tv cheer, and one guy runs the other one through. In the next shot, the fighters are wearing full gladiator garb. Then they lose the transmission.
"The fuck?" asks Kirk. "What is this, 20th century Rome?"



The OT3 beams down into BFE Surface, which in no way resembles the hills in southern California. Spock does a scan, and begins announcing atmospheric content.
"It's called smog," interrupts Bones. Spock seems mildly delighted that Bones is up on his Earth history.
I wonder what it was like, being a ST actor, standing in the Los Angeles area, playing a man from the future commenting on smog that's similar to what they had in Los Angeles, 200 years earlier, on another planet. One of these days, I'm going to get an ass-bearing tunic and a black box on a strap, and wander around the mall, scanning shit and remarking how fascinating it is to observe the social complexities of shopping with a BFF for cute tops.
They start walking and Bones says that at some point, he'd like to say "fuck the Prime Directive" and just appear on an under-developed planet as the archangel Gabriel. He suggests that Spock should appear with a pitchfork. They're not paying any damn attention, so of course they get shot at from the surrounding hills. A dude yells at them to stay still.
"Hey," muses Spock, "they speak English."
Of course they speak English. This show was filmed in Murica.
A group of guys with guns comes out to take their weapons. Oh my fucking fuck - is that guy wearing Daisy Dukes and flip flops?



Daisy Dukes is Flavius, and he and others take the OT3 to meet a guy named Septimus, who is also hidden away in the hills. Septimus and Flavius argue whether or not the OT3 are Roman spies, then Kirk says that they are not Romans, but are from far away, and looking for some people. Flavius asks if they are slaves, like themselves. Septimus asks if they are sun worshipers, also like themselves. Bones gives a diplomatic version of "hell no". Actually, based on Kirk's reply to Apollo in "Who Mourns For Adonais?" I would hazard a guess that most of the crew are either agnostic, atheist, or MYOB.
Gonna pause here real quick. All of the slaves are dressed in grey pants, flip flops (the 20th century gladiator sandal?), and short-sleeved grey sweatshirts with five sections of chain stenciled on them. I freaking love that chain stencil, you guys. Not only does it quickly mark the wearer as being a slave, it's like... a logo. A slave logo. What could be more perfect that forcing 20th century slaves to wear shirts with slave logos on them? It's elegantly designed, too. Three full-view pieces of chain linked by two side-view pieces. Good for you, costume guys. This almost makes up for the fucking butterfly wings on the cocktail waitresses last week.

Also, when I paused the video, Flavius had gone
all Blue Steel.

To prove they're not Empire spies, Kirk takes out his comm and calls Scotty, asking the engineer to scan and count how many people are in their direct vicinity. Scotty returns the correct number, which is proof enough for Septimus, who says that the Empire doesn't have the tech to do what Kirk just did.

Kirk's Log 4040.7: "So we're kickin' it in a cave with some runaway slaves. Now I'm gonna quote some crapola about a law about parallel planetary development, that was made up by the dude who wrote this episode. Said law says that this planet is like 20th century Earth, only Rome never fell. I wonder how this law holds any water. Sounds like iffy science to me."

Septimus tells Kirk that he used to be a senator and worship Roman gods, but then he joined the sun religion, and they made him a slave for it. Kirk says that they need to go into the city to look for their friend Merrick. All of the slaves cringe. Merikus, as he is known, is a giant dick here, as well as First Citizen. He became Lord of the Games almost 6 years earlier.
"Soooo, if this dude that you hate is the same dude, then we need to haul him away for violating the Prime Directive. Will you help us?" asks Kirk.
The slaves leave to chat.
"It's weird that they worship the sun," remarks Bones. "There were no sun worshipers in ancient Rome."
Ummmmm.... yes. Yes, there were. Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to write inaccurate episodes of Star Trek, apparently. Also: as non-Starfleet Federation, is Merrick actually held up to the same standards as Starfleet? I didn't think the PD applied to those not in the service.
The slaves return, and tell the OT3 that Flavius will take them into the city. Flavius gives them blessings of the sun or something, which is followed by a series of shots depicting the OT3 in slave clothes, walking under the sun.


Kirk in cut-offs, Kirk in cut-offs, Kirk in cut-offs...


Awww-wwww, sad trombone.
So they're hiding behind a tree, shooting their mouths off, and not paying any damn attention again, when they get shot at by the police... right after Septimus told them to be careful. Because there are police everywhere. These guys are acting like that one friend that everybody has, who speeds through the bad part of town in the middle of the night, with one headlight out, then is shocked when he gets pulled over.

So Kirk does a voice-over bit about how they've been taken captive by the cops in a 20th century ancient Rome, and there's a crappy image montage of Roman-designed buildings with modern cars. This planet, way out in BFE Space contains a Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Also, even though they speak English and have Roman names, they write on their buildings in French. Points for trying, Budget.


The cops toss our boys in jail, and Kirk tells the head cop that he wants to talk to Merikus, name-dropping his own name in the process. The cop agrees to run it by Merikus, on the off-chance that Kirk is important, and the cops leave. Flavius tells the OT3 that there have been some uprisings among the slaves over the centuries, but that they've won rights to medicine and pensions, so the fights are quick to die down. Slaves have access to health care and pensions? Shit, I'd be a slave there. Sign me up!
Bones says that the system is logical, and Spock tells him to STFU, because "logical" is his word. They start a fight. Flavius asks Kirk if Spock and Bones are enemies. Kirk says that he thinks they might be frenemies.

Damn, what is it about Leonard Nimoy in t-shirts? Skinny
nerds, man. Can I see this model in a pair of glasses, please?

Flavius says that sun-worship is based on the ideology that all men are brothers. He struggles with it because he was a famous trained gladiator for a long time before joining the sun religion. Plus, dude has a short fuse. He tried to start shit with the cops when they were taken in. The guards return for Flavius, taking him to the arena to fight.
"Fuck you guys. I'm peaceful now," he says. But he goes with them anyway.
The head cop says the trio is to go with him. Kirk perpetuates the lamest ruse ever, which is "my friend is ill". He did that the week before last with Mudd and the Alice androids. So the dumbest cops ever go in to help Bones, who is doubled over, and Kirk and Spock start a fight. Spock pinches a guard, making for this awesome screencapture:


But once the fight is over and the trio wins, they find themselves surrounded by guards with guns. "Merikus" is standing there with the proconsul. You know how there are three types of gay stereotypes portrayed? Sweet gay, funny gay, and dickishly evil asshole gay? The proconsul is the latter. You kind of hate him instantly.


The proconsul, in all his glittery glory, says that he is looking forward to seeing the trio in the arena.
Dramatic music!
 Merikus and the proconsul take the trio back to the proconsul's quarters. I actually really like this set. It's simple, but it comes across as lavish enough for the audience to get the point.



Merikus says that his ship was damaged by a meteor, and they landed on the planet. The proconsul stumbled upon them, and convinced them not to broadcast that they were different. Merikus decided that it would be easiest to avoid war by blending into the population. Those of his men that were able to adapt, did so. Those that weren't died in the arena. Ah, I wondered when we would cycle back around to that: Merrick's ship was called Beagle , as was the ship on which Charles Darwin discovered and researched his theory of evolution, which was about adaptation. Subtle, Star Trek. Good job.
Kirk is pissed that Merick sent his men into the arena. Bones starts another argument with Spock. The proconsul gives Kirk his comm back and orders him to order his crew to beam down to the surface to live.
"Why the hell should I?" asks Kirk. "I could have them beam down with phasers and blow your crazy ass away."
"Yeah, but you won't," oozes the proconsul. "You won't violate your Prime Directive." He sets armed guards on Kirk, and orders him to call Scotty.
"Dude," sighs Merikus, "just do it. You know they'll send a search party, and when those guys don't come back, they'll send another. They'll all end up here eventually."
Kirk pauses, then calls Scotty to say cheerfully, "Condition green - all is well!"
"Great," says Merikus. "Now you're gonna die in the arena. Told you so."
Dramatic music and commercial break!


Scotty's Log 4041.2: "Kind of screwed. 'Condition green' means that the away team is in trouble, but I can't do a damn thing about it."
Scotty mad-dogs Chekov while giving his log entry, making me wonder why the hell he might be angry with the little Russian boy. He then gives Chekopv directions that suggest that he has an idea, but is not going to reveal the details until the last minute, when the USS Mary Sue saves the day.


Remember when I bitched about how the matte background painting wasn't up to par? It wasn't supposed to be. There is no arena, and we're not supposed to believe that there is. The games are a fucking reality show. There isn't even a real audience, just crappy sound effects, applied by a sound guy. I feel like this episode was selected for filming because it was cheap: a planet that it is exactly like Earth, and which they can film in Los Angeles; the buildings are all ones of Roman design which exist in current places, and it didn't matter that the cars and people were modern, because this was supposed to be a mash-up of Rome and the 20th century; and finally, television studio inception. They didn't need to building a studio, they could just pull the camera back a little further than usual. I feel like I should give them credit for saving money in these ways, but... I really hate reality shows. There's even fucking voting too, dammit.
"Hi, I'm Claudius. Vote for me to win, because I have the best moves with the sword. Text #Claudius  to 248363!"


Kirk, the proconsul, and Merikus take seats on a nearby dais. A door to the side slides open, and here come Spock and Bones, looking terribly pathetic with their little swords and shields. The opposite door opens, and in walks Flavius and some other gladiator. They're dressed to the nines in armor and shit, but then assistants put conquistador helmets on them. Conquistador helmets with English knight visors. Sigh. Minus points again, Costuming Department.


They start the fights, and Spock tries not to hurt his gladiator, who is putting up a good fight. The Pon Farr music plays in the background while the sound effects guy goes to town with the booing and cheering dials. Flavius is attempting to not injure Bones, and is giving him the gladiator version of a slap fight... with swords. A centurion on the sidelines whips Flavius multiple times, yelling that he'll bring down the ratings by not giving Bones a sound thrashing. Flavius tries harder. Seeing that Bones requires help, Spock easily takes down his dude, then pinches Flavius. The centurion calls foul.


The proconsul is supposed to make a decision on the fight, but dickishly passes to Merikus. Merikus passes the buck back. The proconsul defers to Kirk. Kirk remains silent, and the proconsul finally sends the boys back to jail, and Kirk back to proconsul quarters. More dramatic music before the commercial break, but being sent to proconsul quarters isn't that exciting.

Kirk is forced into the proconsul's quarters by armed guards, and encounters the Roman's slave girl. I... I don't even know what to think about this anymore, Star Trek. It's certainly sluttier than the matronly blue cotton slave dress you had her wearing earlier. I don't really have to mention that she's wearing the lucite kitten heels, right?


Kirk thinks it's a trap, and declares that it won't work. Drucilla, the slave girl, convinces him that she's there to serve him, and that's all the convincing that Kirk needs to do her.
Down in the jail, Spock is testing the strength of the bars "for the fifteenth time", as Bones points out. The good doctor attempts to awkwardly thank Spock for saving his life in the arena, and Spock gives him the Vulcan version of "you're welcome". He brushes it off as being logical, because the loss of the ship's surgeon would make duty less efficient for the whole ship. Bones grabs him and yells at him for being cold and logical again. Good lord, the subtext here. I mean, I'm sure it's unintentional, but I would totally ship this. They try to brush it off as being worried about Kirk, but there seem to be a few too many knowing glances in this scene.


When Kirk wakes up the proconsul is there, but Drucilla is not. One of the comms is missing. The proconsul has Merikus pat Kirk down for it, then promptly dismisses Merikus because his dick isn't big enough to be able to join in the conversation with "real men". Once they're alone, the proconsul tells Kirk that he gave Drucilla to Kirk for the night because Kirk is going to die soon, and he wanted him to spend his last few hours doing manly things, like sticking it to his slave. Yaaaaayyyy, women being exploited as sex gifts. My favorite! The proconsul promises Kirk and the boys speedy executions on television, with fabulous ratings. Also, in color!

Scotty's Log: "Gonna aim some secret weapons at the surface."

In the tv studio, the centurion Claudius is getting ready to kill Kirk. But Flavius runs in to attack Claudius, and some dick cop with a machine gun rushes forward and mows him down. Dude, what are you doing?! An epic battle between Flavius the Converted and Claudius the Asshole would have brought in killer ratings! Anyway, Kirk manages to escape because Scotty briefly turned the lights off, and now Kirk's got the machine gun to boot. He rushes downstairs and blows the lock off the jail cell, which opens nicely, despite the fact that the lock is not the least bit damaged.


They're soon surrounded by guards, the proconsul, and Merikus. The proconsul orders a fight to the death with swords, and then tell Merikus, once again, that his dick is too small. Merikus gets back at him by using the comm he stole to call the E for a beam-up for the trio. Unfortunately, the proconsul stabs him in the back - literally - and Merikus falls down dead. Kirk gets the comm, relocks all three of them back in the jail cell, and they beam up as the proconsul tries to shoot their disappearing figures.

Kirk's Log 4041.7: "Scotty gets a commendation for blacking out the city. He saved us, but he didn't violate the PD."

On the bridge, Spock is confused as to why the slaves would engage in sun worship.
"You guys are morons," says Uhura. "I've been listening in on the broadcasts. Wrong sun. They mean Jeebus. The Son."
"That makes sense," says Bones. "Brotherhood and love and stuff. They just did this way later than on Earth."
I wonder: how did the Jeebus on this planet do as compared to Earth? If that fake-ass parallel planet thing is to be believed, not well.

This concept is weird. Like, I feel like it would make a good AU story, but to have it happen on a random planet somewhere is not really believable. Also, did anyone else notice that we now have two alien races that follow the Roman ideal? Anyway, points for that Beagle thing, and points for the title, which talks about trading freedoms for food and entertainment. Star Trek always picks good titles, even when I'm not paying any damn attention and get shot by them.

*******


Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 12
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 6
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 19
Total crew deaths thus far: 35

Whoa. Three weeks without a crew death. Is that some kind of Enterprise record?
One civvie down.
*******

Twice now I have been asked by friends to have bubble tea with them. I agreed both times. And I walked away both times with a quizzical brow. I can't seem to form an opinion on it. I think last time I got something fruity. I was slightly weirded out by the tapioca balls. This time I ordered matcha milk tea. Again, I was slightly weirded out by the tapioca balls. It's not that they're bad. I think they're taro. I think. They're black, but they taste like vanilla. They're chewy, like extra firm Jell-o. The milk tea appears to be more of a milkshake, but it's actually pretty light and refreshing. It's good.


Here's a quick how-to if you've never had a bubble tea (and I wish someone had given me this information before my first one). Firstly, the bubble part of bubble tea is not actual bubbles, like carbonation. It's little balls of tapioca. They come in different flavors, but that black one is fairly popular. Again, it doesn't taste like black. It's vanilla-y. You can also get jellies, which are pretty much slivers of Jell-o in different flavors.
Because of the opaque nature of the bubble tea, it looks like a milkshake, like it should be thick. It even comes with a jumbo straw like a milkshake. But a bubble tea is milk and tea, so it's thinner. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that you will have to suck extra hard to get the bubble tea up the straw, as you might with a milkshake. Instead, the milk tea will come shooting up the straw to be inhaled by your lungs, and to be further shot through your sinuses and out of your nose. What's more, it will be accompanied by tapioca balls, which are just big enough to choke you if you suck a line of twenty or so up through that straw at once. So there you are, choking to death on your tapioca balls while milk tea dribbles from your nostrils, and all of your friends are laughing at you.
Take care, friends. Sip that drink, and chew the tapioca carefully. Death By Bubble Tea is a bit... kawaii.



Tora, the House Feral


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