Holy absurdity Batman, here we go again with “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development.” It wasn’t enough to have Yangs and Kohms in the episode The Omega Glory. Now we get a planet that has the Roman Empire. But wait there’s more. Rome survives into the twentieth century and their version of General Motors advertises for their latest car model, the Jupiter 8, by sponsoring televised gladiatorial games on their version of Wide World of Sports. Oh the pain, the pain.
Six years earlier a merchant ship the “The Beagle” went missing. Captain R.M. Merik commanded the ship and is known to Kirk because he washed out at the academy because he was a doofus. The Enterprise finds the wrecked ship and Kirk, Spock and McCoy head down to the planet to find the crew. There they are immediately captured, of course, and we find out that Merik is now emperor and called Merikus (nice latinizing). And he’s persecuting the Sun worshippers.
Blah, blah, blah, Spock and McCoy are forced into the gladiatorial arena. Blah, blah, blah, Kirk is enticed by the pretty blonde slave. Blah, blah, blah, Scotty uses some engineering rigamarole to save the landing party when they’re about to be skewered. Merik dies nobly after being a cowardly worm for the last six years. Landing party escapes and leaves the planet alone because of the prime directive. Spock jibber jabbers about the illogic of sun worship and Uhura corrects them that it isn’t “the sun up in the sky, it’s the Son of God.”
Great googly moogly. They must have had nothing. Okay, as parody there is some value here. When the gladiator Flavius fails to convincingly attack McCoy in the arena one of the roman legionnaires whips him and threatens to have a special episode on television devoted to his death in the arena. The tv announcer at the gladiatorial show is obviously done for laughs and is actually quite funny as satire of live tv production. He has dials to allow him to add in cheering, boos, catcalls and laughter. So as comedy the show has some value. But what are the science fiction fans to make of this. I guess that Star Trek had devolved into Gilligan’s Island.
The scenes with Kirk and the blonde slave girl allows at least a modicum of Shatner mockery value so I’ll give the episode a 4 // 5.