Another comedic episode! The Enterprise travels to a world that was visited a century earlier by an early human space vessel that never returned to Earth. And since the world is almost a hundred light years from Earth, the radio messages from the original flight have just reached Earth. Now Kirk must determine whether the earlier contact has had any detrimental impact on the inhabitants.
They contact the planet and are instructed by a local leader named Bela Oxmyx where to transport for a meeting. When Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive they are taken prisoner by Oxmyx’s men who are dressed as prohibition-era gangsters and armed with Thompson machine guns. While traveling to Oxmyx’s office they are waylaid by a carload of rival gangsters who spray machine gun fire at them. We are shown that this world is a replica of 1920’s America and organized as a constant war of gangs fighting it out for supremacy. When they get to Oxmyx’s headquarters we find out that the earlier ship had left a book on 1920’s gang history and the inhabitants of this world have adopted it as a textbook on how to organize their society. Oxmyx demands that Kirk provide him with a supply of phasers to allow him to conquer all his enemies and take over the whole planet. Kirk refuses and the three of them are taken prisoner.
After that the story is a series of escapes and captures by Kirk, Spock and McCoy from Oxmyx and his rival, Jojo Krako, as they attempt to figure out a plan to repair the damage done to this world’s culture. Eventually by using a show of force with the Enterprise’s phaser weapon set on a wide area stun setting Kirk convinces the mob bosses that they are outmatched and must knuckle under to the Federation. He sets up Oxmyx as the head boss with Krako as his lieutenant and ends the violence between the gangs. And to make it seems legitimate to these criminals he demands 40% of the “action” from the mobsters that will be collected annually by a Starfleet vessel.
Alright so that’s the plot but it’s just an excuse for a costume farce. And as that it’s enjoyable and somewhat funny. Once Kirk figures out that he’ll have to deal with the gangsters on their own terms he adopts an awful New York accent and starts using the gangster slang. “We’ll put the bag on Krako;” “put him on ice;” “we won’t give you the heaters;” and “we’ll give you a piece of the action.” Once he adopts this persona, even stealing some clothes from the mobsters for himself and Spock, Kirk (Shatner) hams it up and even attempts to get Spock to talk the slang with limited success. And, of course, these slips by Spock are for laughs which actually work. Later on, we get Spock critiquing Kirk’s lack of skill driving a manual transmission automobile, which is also kind of funny. And the other bit is Kirk trying to convey instructions to Scotty over the communicator in this patois. Inevitably he has to translate it into normal English for Scotty. But when Scotty finally has one of the mob bosses on the Enterprise, he attempts to use some computer-based research into the period slang by threatening the boss with a pair of concrete galoshes. The mob boss looks contemptuous and asks him if he means cement overshoes. Scotty looks crestfallen but gives him his Scottish “aye.”
As I’ve made clear previously, I consider any Star Trek episode that plays it for laughs as a welcome change. When the characters are actually allowed to make their characters somewhat three-dimensional it provides something to keep our interest. Nimoy playing Spock playing a gangster is probably as good as Spock is going to get. Even the very end of the episode goes for laughs. Back on the ship McCoy admits that he lost his communicator on the planet. Kirk acts alarmed and says based on this race’s cleverness at reverse engineering things eventually they would come after the Federation and “want a piece of our action!” There is a fair amount of “Bowery Boys” style fight scenes that give Shatner a chance to embarrass himself but this episode is basically rated based on the success of the comedy.
I’ll call this an 8 // 4.