Sunday, January 18, 2009

Episodus Maximus

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“Bread and Circuses”

This is a fun episode, full of humor, including a satirical look at TV, swordplay, some great villains, and a hot blond bombshell to top it all off.

I think the gang at CBS Digital went a little bananas in inserting a pair of moons into practically every new space shot - and even when Kirk and company beam down during the day. It was a little in your face. The CGI bullet holes in the concrete wall at the end are a nice touch though.

One thing I do find odd is that after visiting so many worlds with inhabitants and cultures that paralleled earlier human development (for example Miri, Return of the Archons, Wolf in the Fold and, especially, Omega Glory), writers Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon chose this episode to attempt to explain those similarities by invoking something called “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development” to account for why this planet has a Roman civilization and English-speaking populace. Then they never bring up Hodgkin’s Law again in future episodes.

The casting in this episode is top notch. Logan Ramsey is perfectly slimy and manipulative as Pro Counsel Claudius. Rhodes Reason is suitably honest and brave as Flavius. Future Mr. Atoz Ian Wolfe is the gentle leader. Lois Jewell in the small role as Drusilla the slave girl puts so many other similar TOS actresses and characters to shame. And special mention must be made for William Smithers as Merricus, the former Capt. Merrick. You can believe, from his bearing and intelligence, that he came THIS CLOSE to becoming a starship captain. A quick look at imdb shows Smithers had a long career in television beginning in the 1950s, often appearing in the major shows of each ensuing decade, shows like Peyton Place, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Ironside, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Dallas. Being a child of the TV Generation, I watched many of those shows, but I don't recall Mr. Smithers in any one of them. Sad, because I think he was really terrific here.

The gladiatorial games shown in this episode presaged the brutal and bloody mixed martial arts fighting that is quickly replacing boxing and pro wrestling as “the people’s” favorite fighting game. The satire is spot on, without being silly, when the fully costumed Roman centurion handler whips at the reluctant gladiator Flavius, telling him if his poor performance brings the network’s ratings down they will do a special on him. That’s the kind of lampoon of the television industry at which the short-lived series Max Headroom was so good.

There is the great scene between Spock and McCoy in the jail, where McCoy hits on exactly what it is that drives Spock. It’s one of the most perfectly acted moments of the series. Too bad practically everything changed when they went into the third and final season.

You would think this episode would have created some controversy among Christian groups with the reveal at the end that the “sun” the ex-slaves worship is Christ, the Son of God. Christians believe there is only one God and He only has one Son. Here, He has a second Son.

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to for the Star Trek screencaps.

1 comment:

  1. That last looks like how George Lucas would have "enhanced" the scene for his STAR TREK Special Edition. There is no scene so well done that it cannot be well OVERdone in the post production upgrade process.

    Love the coffee bit...