Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura go down to a planet whose inhabitants are called Halkans. Maybe the planet is called Halka, but who knows? The Halkans are lame looking pacifists who refuse to let the Federation mine dilithium crystals on their planet because they might use it for violence. The guy who plays the head of the Halkan Council had a strange looking head and is dressed like a girl as far as I could tell.
Kirk tells them to think it over and he calls the enterprise to beam them up. There is an ion storm (of course) raging in space and as the party is beaming up, they first appear in the Enterprise transporter room then disappear again. Immediately afterward we see the landing party materialize in the transporter room but something is wrong. The landing party is wearing uniforms that differ from normal. Uhura has a bare midriff and the men have different shirts and all of them have daggers on their thighs. Also, the ship has some kind of strange insignia and Mr. Spock is sporting a beard.
Kirk figures out that they aren’t on their own Enterprise and plays along with Spock concerning their apparent surprise. He claims that the transporter malfunction has shaken them up and they need to go to sickbay for Bones to examine them. Meanwhile we observe that on this Enterprise any mistakes are punished by means of a torture device called an “agonizer.” Using the computer Kirk discovers that in this universe the Federation is an Empire and Halkans will have to be massacred to pay for their refusal to allow mining of their dilithium crytals.
When the crew find out that Kirk declines to wipe out the Halkans they see their chance to overthrow him. Chekov and his followers attack Kirk as he heads for his cabin. Luckily one of Chekov’s men turns on the conspirators and disintegrates them with his phaser leaving Chekov to be hauled off to the “Agony Booth” where he should have been allowed to die but Kirk eventually spares him and sends him to confinement in his cabin.
Kirk and his landing party figure out that an ion storm has somehow cause a rift between parallel universes (of course) and their only chance to return is to trigger the same phenomenon artificially. To set this up Scotty and McCoy go to the engineering area and at the critical moment Uhura will have to throw herself at Sulu to distract him from his security board so he won’t notice the engineering changes. As soon as it is clear she then slaps Sulu across the face and pulls a knife on him to escape his very un-Takei-like behavior.
Meanwhile Spock has informed Kirk that even though he would prefer not being Captain he will be forced to assassinate Kirk if he does not comply with the Empire’s order to annihilate the Halkans. When Kirk reaches his cabin, he finds the Captain’s Woman, Marlena lounging on his bed and acting very familiar. She demonstrates the Tantalus Field device that Kirk uses to disintegrate his enemies at a distance. Kirk fences words and wrestles with her a little to show her he is still interested in her as a partner.
When Kirk and his group meet up in sickbay prior to going to the transporter Spock shows up and attempts to arrest the Captain but a fight ensues and eventually Kirk smashes a sculpture of a human skull over Spock’s head and knocks him unconscious. While McCoy stays in sickbay to save Spock’s life the rest of the group heads to the transporter room there they are met by Sulu and his hit squad who intend to kill Kirk and Spock and take over the ship. Marlena uses the Tantalus field and kills all the assassins except Sulu whom Kirk knocks out.
Meanwhile back in sickbay Spock regains consciousness and overpowers McCoy and uses the Vulcan mind meld to find out what is going on. Back at the transporter Marlena shows up and tries to force the landing party to take her along. Uhura overpowers her and takes away her phaser. Spock and McCoy show up and Kirk tells Spock that he should use the Tantalus Field to take over the ship and work to turn the Empire into a more logical and benign Federation. Spock allows the landing party to leave and they end up on the Federation Enterprise.
In the final scene on the bridge Bones tells Spock that he thought the beard was a distinct improvement for Spock. Spock informs them that the naked aggression and open dishonesty of the other landing party was distinctly refreshing. Finally, a new officer Marlena shows up and after an obvious look of recognition by Kirk that Spock notes, Kirk dissembles and says that she seems like a “nice, likeable girl.” And he thinks they might become friends.
Here was a chance for Chekov and Sulu to have some fun and be bad guys. Even Uhura was able to get some screen time playing around with Sulu and even getting tossed around during the fight with Spock. Kirk and Spock got to wrestle and tumble around sickbay and Scotty and McCoy also were given a few scenes. There was one scene on the real Enterprise where Spock is having the fake landing party tossed into the brig and fake Kirk is trying to bargain with Spock for his release, promising him power and threatening to string him up by his “Vulcan ears” if he doesn’t.
All in all, it’s kind of a fun episode. Let’s call it a 7. As far as Shatner mockery points, Kirk does swagger around in his sportier more swashbuckling uniform and he does act goofier than usual but I wouldn’t say more than a 5. That makes this a 7 // 5.