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Star Trek - Bread and Circuses

episode 2.25
Raumschiff Enterprise - Brot und Spiele

USA 1968
produced by
Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry (executive) for Desilu, Norway Corporation/NBC
directed by Ralph Senensky
starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, William Smithers, Logan Ramsey, Ian Wolfe, William Bramley, Rhodes Reason, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Bart La Rue, Jack Perkins, Max Kleven, Lois Jewell
written by Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, created by Gene Roddenberry

TV series
Star Trek, Classic Star Trek, Star Trek (original crew)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

On the trail of a wrecked ship, the Enterprise encounters a so far uncharted planet that has developed to 20th century standard, industrially, but ideologically it's reminiscent of Ancient Rome: Slavery still isn't abolished, gladiators still fight to death in the arena, and even the uniforms of the authorities are more reminiscent of the Roman Empire than anything else. What's worrying though is that the captain of the wrecked ship Merik (William Smithers) is that civilisation's "First Citizen", so has in all probability broken the Federation's Prime Directive of non-interference. Thus, Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam down to the surface, to first run into some escaped slaves who believe in some new Christian-like god and are in the process of forming a rebellion, and they help our heroes enter the capital - where they are apprehended before long and get to meet Merik ... who turns out to be nothing more than a puppet for pro-consul Claudius Marcus (Logan Ramsey), who has pretty much forced the position of First Citizen onto Merik. And now Claudius Marcus wants to force Kirk to beam the whole crew down from the Enterprise just so his planet remains uncharted a few more years. Of course, Kirk refuses, even when Claudius Marcus lets Spock and McCoy fight in the arena - but they win, also because gladiator Flavius (Rhodes Reason) is secretly on their side.

Claudius Marcus lets Kirk enjoy a night with his favourite slave Drusilla (Lois Jewell) with the plans of executing him on live television the very next day. But Flavius interferes with the execution, then Scotty (James Doohan) creates a power blackout from aboard the Enterprise to help Kirk escape, and when he and Spock and McCoy are finally cornered by Claudius Marcus and company, Merik slips Kirk a communicator so he can call the Enterprise to beam them up - even if Merik is killed in the process ...


Now on pure logical terms, this episode makes little sense - after all, why would a planet have developed as earthlike without outside inflluences, but that's a flaw in premise this episode shares with many of the series. That aside, Bread and Circuses is a lively romp with many fights and chases, and even if the ending, when our heroes just escape and don't resolve anything, is a bit of an anticlimax, it's high in entertainment value.


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review © by Mike Haberfelner


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