Star Trek : Bread and Circuses

March 24, 2014 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest blog by Siblings and Mindless-Droid


“My world, Proconsul, is my vessel, my oath, my crew.” – Kirk

Sister: Bread and Circuses is this week’s Star Trek episode. You can read a summary of the episode here, watch the short TV spot for the remastered episode, or spent an entire minute watching the original television advertisement.

While searching for survivors from the S.S. Beagle, (a Federation vessel with a name that is perhaps a nod to the HMS Beagle,) the Enterprise arrives at planet 892 IV, where the civilization closely resembles that of Earth’s ancient Rome—or at least a Rome having progressed to technological levels approximating those of Earth’s twentieth century, complete with magazines and television containing ads for Mars Toothpaste and showcasing live gladiator battles.


After beaming down to the planet, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are captured and then befriended by people who are know as “Children of the Sun,” peaceful dissidents who have set aside their society’s violence at the cost of being exiled and hunted. While trying to discover what has happened to the Beagle’s crew, Kirk discovers that the destroyed ship’s captain, R. M. Merik, has become the right-hand man to the empire’s Proconsul, Claudius Marcus.

Provided with disguises and a gladiator-turned-pacifist guide by the sun worshipers, Kirk and his fellow officers head out on foot for the nearby capitol city to investigate, only to be captured again, this time by the government. When Kirk confronts Merik, he discovers that the former captain allowed the proconsul to enslave the Beagle’s crew and send any who would not conform to the planet’s culture into the arena as combatants, where many of them were slaughtered.

Proconsul Marcus expects Kirk to order his crew down a few at a time, trusting in the captain’s adherence to the Prime Directive to prevent him from attempting to fight on a large scale. Rather than pass on such an order, Kirk uses an innocuous sounding phrase to alert Mr. Scott to the fact that the landing party is in trouble, but that he is not to interfere. Immediately, Scotty begins planning a blackout, which he figures will not disturb the culture below.


Upon discovering that Kirk is not about to endanger his crew, Marcus orders McCoy and Spock to fight a pair of gladiators in the arena. However, the pair end up breaking one of the main rules of engagement and are returned to their cell, where they are left to wonder what has become of their captain. The two spend a great deal of time disagreeing with each other and slinging insults, but eventually the conversation returns to their greatest point of agreement, Captain Kirk, and we see that both are worried about him.

In true James T. Kirk fashion however, the captain has won so much respect from Proconsul Marcus that the Imperial leader decides to provide Kirk with good food and a beautiful woman. After allowing some hours of pleasure, Marcus informs the captain that he is to be executed tonight on television.

Luckily, just as the execution is about to take place, Mr. Scott blacks out the city, and Kirk grabs an opportunity to fight free and return to the cell holding Spock and McCoy. What looks like a hopeless fight for the trio is suddenly ended when ex-captain Merik reveals a communicator that he has stolen from Marcus, which he uses to contact the Enterprise, telling them to beam up the landing party by using the position of the communicator. Marcus stabs Merik but it’s too late for him to recapture or kill Kirk and co. as they retreat to their cell and Merik tosses the communicator in after them.

Safely aboard his ship again, the captain listens as his officers wonder about the gentle nature of the sun worshippers, as usually sun worship is a primitive and superstitious affair. Lieutenant Uhura enlightens them with the information that she has been monitoring the planet’s radio transmissions, and that these people don’t worship the sun up in the sky, but the son of God. And so the Enterprise cruises off amongst the stars again, as its officers spend a moment musing over how interesting it would be to watch what will be happening on planet 892 IV in the next few decades.


In this episode the Star Trek producers were given permission to borrow props and costumes from the Paramount storage vaults, thus enabling the television shows of 20th century Rome to be populated by men wearing Ancient Roman style clothing. Of course, behind the cameras we see others in the episode dressed in perfectly normal attire for the 20th century. In an attempt to show the slaves inferior status, their masters apparently only provide them with unhemmed shirts that are without shoulder seams running along the top of the shoulder. Actually, I wonder about those seams, as most modern t-shirts are constructed differently than those in the episode, so either, that is how t-shirts were constructed in the 1960’s, that is how the costume designers attempted to make them look futuristic, or that it is because the Starfleet uniforms we see the characters wear week after week look as if they use a similar shoulder seam construction method. Okay, I’m way over thinking this. And the “babe” of the week was dressed just like all the other scantily clad women on the show, instead of in something remotely ancient Roman.


Dang, why do I have so much fun watching Dr. McCoy deck a prison guard?

When Captain Kirk hacks at the Centurion in the area with a sword, I wondered if that was the goriest moment to have happened off-screen. Usually, everything is keep “clean” through the use of phasers and fists, occasional bouts of sword waving do occur, but I don’t remember actually hearing anyone get hit with one… Probably just poor memory ability on my part.

Brother didn’t watch most of the episode this week, instead opting to play with our younger sisters during the television timeslot. However, I did not watch alone as Dad joined me. Naturally we both enjoy this time together, but we also can’t help but annoy each other a bit too, with most of the disagreements springing from the fact that Spock is his favorite character and Dr. McCoy is mine. 😀

The first time I ever watched the episode I was surprised when at the end of the episode it turned out that the “Sun Worshipers” turned out to be this world’s version of Christians, (“Son Worshipers.”) They work hard to reinforce the wrong idea in the episode by prominently including the sun in several shots. It is a little frustrating that Christianity is treated as just another philosophy for men to follow rather than a religion, but it is lovely to hear it generally spoken of as a force for good in the world, an event that doesn’t happen much on television anymore. (And yes, just to be clear, both Brother and I are Christians.)


Mindless-Droid: Bread and Circuses was a much better episode then I remember. First it is another of the episodes that takes advantage of Hodgkin’s Law of parallel worlds a writer’s device that Gene Roddenberry came up with. A quote from memory alpha “The “Parallel Worlds” concept makes production practical by permitting action-adventure science fiction at a practical budget figure via the use of available “earth” casting, sets, locations costuming and so on. As important (and perhaps even more so in many ways) the “Parallel Worlds” concept tends to keep even the most imaginative stories within the general audience’s frame of reference through such recognizable and identifiable casting, sets and costuming.” This time the parallel was Rome. When they arrived at the planet Spock says it is almost identical to Earth except for the arrangement of the land masses. They probably stayed away from making it identical since that was done in the first season episode Miri.

Next you have another Captain who disregards the prime directive although this time it is not a starship captain. Merick actually points this out as Spock and McCoy are in the arena fighting and the Pro Counsel is trying to break Kirk. Kirk also once again proves he would sacrifice himself for the lives of his crew. His statement that “My world Proconsul, is my vessel, my oath, my crew” was a statement to this effect. The Enterprise crew also proves itself as Scotty finds a way around the Prime Directive and Kirk’s order to not mount a rescue or take any other action.


I like the subplot of the friendship between Spock and McCoy during this episode. We get to see their usual verbal sparring. Even Flavius notices when he asks Kirk “Are they enemies, Captain?” and Kirk responds “I’m not sure they’re sure.” McCoy even calls Spock a pointed-eared hobgoblin but then you get that one poignant moment between them that shows they are friends as they both show their concern for Kirk.

While doing some research for the episode I read that the episode parodied the television industry with the fake catcalls in the arena and the director telling Flavius that they would do a special on him. I would like to ask those involved if the scene with Kirk and Drusilla is another little parody. Did Kirk break the fourth wall when Drusilla enters and say she is for him and he looks toward the camera and it looks like he’s thinking are they really trying the beautiful slave girl trick on James T kirk? Really?


Merick’s sacrifice at the end was quite obvious with the foreshadowing of the Pro Counsel demeaning him. I do like that it was Uhura that pointed out that the son was the son of god since her name comes from the Swahili word Uhuru which means freedom. One other thing why do they always take Spock along on these missions when they know he is going to cause a problem to explain. All in all though a good episode and no red shirts were harmed during the making of this episode.