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We now live in a campy “Star Trek” episode

When I saw this picture of a fur-and-horns-clad Trump-inspired right-wing rioter who’d broken into the Capitol today…

…I was reminded of The Omega Glory, a particularly campy installment of the original Star Trek series. Here’s a scene from that episode:

Here’s a summary of that episode from Women at Warp:

The Enterprise discovers the USS Exeter in orbit around Omega IV. The crew is revealed to have died except for the captain, who remains on the planet. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Unlucky Red Shirt #12 beam down to the planet and find Prime Directive-violating Captain Ronald Tracey. He has made friends with the “Kohms,” an “Asiatic” group in conflict with the savage Aryan “Yangs.” Tracey believe he has found a “Fountain of Youth” with the planet’s population, but it turns out it’s just evolution/natural selection following a devastating war with biological weapons. It turns out that his crew would have lived if they had stayed on the planet a bit longer. Kirk and Co. eventually discover that the Yangs and Kohms are parallels to the “Yankees” and “Communists” of the 20th Century Earth. The Yangs, after a decisive victory over the Kohms, celebrate by bringing out a tattered U.S. flag, pulling out a Bible, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.

Cue record scratch noise.

After a few random fights scenes between Kirk and Tracey, Kirk soon triumphs, Tracey is arrested, and the Yang chief pulls out a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Jim next gives a classic Kirkian speech about the power of words, the Constitution, and the good ol’ US of A in general, and the Starfleet crew leave those freedom-loving Yangs to begin living out the words of that foundational American document. The camera slow pans to the Star Spangled Banner hanging in the corner and credits roll.

The Yangs were about to kill the Enterprise landing party until they overhear Kirk mention one of their “worship words”: Freedom. A dialogue ensues, and Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy discover that the Yangs — who are really just a bunch of angry, violent white people who engage in cultural appropriation and symbol idolatry — simultaneously worshipped the U.S. Constitution and did not know what its words meant.

In the episode, the Yangs believed that only “chiefs and sons of chiefs” could speak the “holy words”:

YANG CHIEF: Chiefs and sons of chiefs may speak the words, but the Evil One’s tongue would surely turn to fire. I will begin. You shall finish. Ee’d plebnista norkohn forkohn perfectunun.

KIRK: Those words are familiar. Wait a moment.

The Yangs, in their worship of the document, had turned “We the people” into the gibberish “Ee’d plebnista”, a bunch of nonsense syllables that they spoke out of rote, without any sense of their meaning.

In the end, Kirk recognizes the words that the Yangs have mangled, and gives one of those speeches:

YANG CHIEF: When you would not say the holy words, of the Ee’d Plebnista, I doubted you.
KIRK: I did not recognise those words, you said them so badly, Without meaning.
YANG ELDER: No! No! Only the eyes of a chief may see the Ee’d Plebnista.
KIRK: This was not written for chiefs. (general consternation) Hear me! Hear this! Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying We the People. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.” These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!

As a geek and sci-fi aficionado, I had always considered this episode one of the worse entries in the Star Trek oeuvre, and most certainly one of the least realistic.

Today’s news proved me wrong.

3 replies on “We now live in a campy “Star Trek” episode”

So, I’m not the only one who thought of this episode when I saw the insanity play out yesterday?

It’s also poignant that “We the people” is now widely misused. Ee plebnista indeed. I’ve been thinking about it for years.
The episode was highly critical then, but there was no electronic media to re-see it and get more than a superficial understanding. I saw it first run and took the garbled orthodoxies and chiefs as skewering self-styled patriots who can barely mouth bumper sticker slogans as “holy words” (then: my country right or wrong, for example) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, encouraging blind patriotism and withholding or distorting the truth as shown later in the Pentagon Papers, for example. Kirk’s “…for everyone! Or. It. Means. Nothing.” is a loose paraphrase of the beginning of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech, a topic Roddenberry was very interested in.

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