In this episode the Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission to a star system with an advanced civilization. But when they attempt to communicate with the planet they are warned off. Ambassador Fox, the head of the mission, orders Kirk to make contact and of course Kirk and Spock head down to the surface leaving Scotty in charge. When they reach the surface, they are met by a typically beautiful woman named Mea 3 (played by a young and petty Barbara Babcock who later on was Grace Gardiner on the 1980s NBC show, Hill Street Blues). While the planetary leader Anan 7 is explaining to Kirk about a 500-year-long war that is still going on, an attack takes place between the planet they are on and their enemies on the third planet from their sun. But when Kirk speaks to the Enterprise, they tell him that their sensors show that no attack occurred. Spock figures out that the attack is just a computer simulation that is played between the strategic computers on the two planets. Anan 7 confirms this and explains that whatever the calculated damage turns out to be those located in the affected areas are declared casualties and have a day to report to a disintegration chamber. Anan 7 explains to Kirk that by allowing a million self-inflicted casualties every year both sides sustain their infrastructure and thereby ensure that the war will go on indefinitely.
Unfortunately, in the latest “attack” both Mea 3 and the Enterprise are virtual victims. Anan 7 arrests Kirk and Spock and orders them to send their entire crew to the planet to be disintegrated. When they refuse Anan 7 uses a voice simulator to impersonate Kirk and tell Scotty to send the entire crew down to the planet. Scotty, of course, figures it out and puts the ship on a war footing and raises the shields. The planet’s offensive weapons are brough to bear on the enterprise but the deflector shields hold. Meanwhile the imbecilic Ambassador Fox contacts the planet and believes Anan 7 when he says it was all a misunderstanding. Fox orders Scotty to drop the shields but he refuses. Ambassador Fox beams down to the planet to conclude a treaty and is immediately marched off to the disintegration chamber. But luckily for him Kirk and Spock escape from captivity and rescue him and Mea 3.
Now Kirk puts his plan into effect. He destroys the disintegration chambers and finishes by blowing up the computers that report casualties with the enemy. Anan 7 is in despair and tells Kirk that the enemy will stage an actual nuclear attack. Kirk informs him that two worlds that have kept a gutless fake war going for 500 years will be so frightened by actual war that they’ll both negotiate a peace rather than get their hands dirty. Ambassador Fox volunteers to assist them in the negotiation.
I like this episode. Anan 7 is such a sniveling cowardly bureaucrat that every time he calls Kirk a barbarian you can’t help but like Kirk more. Kirk shows resolve and ingenuity. Scotty also displays courage and grit when he disobeys the chain of command and refuses to lower the shields at the order of that other idiotic bureaucrat Ambassador Fox. This is a solid 8 episode. Kirk does some brawling and tumbling around but he’s not particularly comical so there isn’t a high Shatner mockery score. Let’s call this an 8 // 2.