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Star Trek – Patterns of Force (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Patterns of Force is a rather strange little episode, the type of weird and iconic adventure that Star Trek tended to do quite well. It’s very much an off-the-wall adventure, of the kind that none of the spin-off shows would attempt. “Planet of the Nazis” is a concept that belongs alongside other second-season episodes like “Planet of the Romans” or “Planet of the Gangsters.” It’s a very goofy premise, one that requires considerable suspension of disbelief before the episode even starts.

And, yet, despite the many serious problems with Patterns of Force, this is an episode that very clearly and very forcefully has something to say. Reflecting the world in which it aired, Star Trek is a show that is largely defined by the Second World War. In The City on the Edge of Forever, it was revealed that the Second World War had to happen to beckon the bright and optimistic future of Star Trek. Almost forty years later, the final televised season of the franchise would return to that idea in its opening episode.

"Computer, query. What is Godwin's Law?"

“Computer, query. What is Godwin’s Law?”

Kirk’s “final frontier” was Kennedy’s “new frontier” extrapolated centuries into the future, an optimistic and very American vision of what the twenty-third century might hold. Given that the show aired two decades following the end of the Second World War, the conflict that made America the most powerful global superpower, it makes sense that the conflict should cast a shadow over Star Trek. Various members of the production had served in the conflict, and it remained part of the national consciousness.

So an episode pitting Kirk and Spock against honest-to-goodness space Nazis seemed inevitable.

"Well, there goes syndication in Germany..."

“Well, there goes syndication in Germany…”

Of course, there are very serious flaws with the script for Patterns of Force, even before we consider the Naxi iconography and imagery. The script is not subtle. The persecuted minority literally come from the planet “Zeon.” The Zeon characters all have names derived from Judaism. Isak is obviously Isaac, while Abrom is an abbreviated Abraham. Not only have the people of Ekos constructed a perfect mirror of Nazi Germany, they have also found the perfect people to persecute.

There’s also a sense that script for Patterns of Force has been heavily padded out. Over the course of Patterns of Force, Kirk and Spock wear three different sets of Nazi uniforms, implying a sequence of familiar captures and escapes that echo the padding in By Any Other Name. Even Kirk seems a little frustrated by how often they are repeating the same beats. “Get into the uniform and hide those ears again,” he instructs Spock.

"This is a nice cap. I feel like I need two more to complete the set."

“This is a nice cap. I feel like I need two more to complete the set.”

Patterns of Force spends considerable time stalling, trying to keep Kirk and Spock away from Gill until the final act. So they are captured and they escape, and they join the underground resistance. Once they arrive at the lair of the underground resistance, they are caught up in a fake sting operation to test their loyalty. The sequence also (conveniently) provides a nice suspenseful act break without requiring any real stakes. It’s a painfully contrived sequence.

This is to say nothing of the ending, which seems to imply that all of the damage that Gill has done to the people of Ekos and the relationship between Zeon and Ekos can be conveniently reversed with a single heart-felt speech. Sure, Melakon is dead, ending his reign of terror. However, one of the core themes of Patterns of Force is that systems like the system on Ekos tend to support brutal dictators and are prone to exploitation.

"At least the wardrobe tips we picked up in The City on the Edge of Forever are useful..."

“At least the wardrobe tips we picked up in The City on the Edge of Forever are useful…”

As such, it seems a bit feckless for the Enterprise to just fly off back to the stars after the death of the two most prominent members of the regime and to assume that that Nazi party can dismantle itself cleanly and efficiently. Eneg and Daras might hope to fix the damage themselves, but this is not something that goes away. After all, the publication and subsequent banning of the infamous “Brown Book” in West Germany during the mid-to-late sixties demonstrated that those wounds were still open.

Of course, the Federation doesn’t really have any moral authority when it comes to helping Ekos recover – this was damage inflicted by a Federation observer. At the same time, it seems weird that Kirk makes no offer of assistance or that the Federation does not offer to send support to help repair some of the damage done to Ekos and Zeon by Gill. The script for Patterns of Force has a lot of fundamental story problems, in terms of basic structure and providing a satisfactory ending.

If only the script were this focused...

If only the script were this focused…

And yet, despite all that, Patterns of Force has some interesting things to say. The episode just makes it quite difficult to see what exactly those things are. It is very tough to see past the Nazi iconography, after all. The show’s version of history is… clumsy, at best. In You’re Doing It Wrong, Michael Lewis observes:

Unlike A Piece of the Action and City on the Edge of Forever, which we might dismiss as being historically unlikely, it’s more than a little tempting to treat Patterns of Force as something that comes closer to the historical truth about Nazi Germany, since historians generally agree that Adolf Hitler’s personal magnetism and powerful speaking skills were important factors in the Nazis’ rise to power. Where Star Trek’s writers get it wrong in this episode is their stress on a powerful leader being the only cause of Nazism and the Holocaust: the historical record clearly demonstrates the importance of other factors as well.

However, in defense of Patterns of Force, the episode seems to realise this. Gill is regarded as a great historian, with Spock praising his “treatment of Earth history as causes and motivations rather than dates and events.” However, it would seem impossible to divorce the two.

"Ain't no party like a Nazi Party..."

“Ain’t no party like a Nazi Party…”

“Causes and motivations” are very good for sketching out the psychology of history – for understanding why and how a particular society could make the decisions that they make at that particular time. However, it is impossible to boil history down to something as simple as “causes and motivations”, if only because society is not a single homogenous entity. Different sections of society – and subsections within those sections – all have their own complex “causes and motivations.”

“Dates and events” are important because they provide a sense of context for history – there are any number of complex factors, not always directly related to one another, that serve to push a particular society down a particular path. Spock’s observation about Gill’s approach to history seems to suggest that Patterns of Force isn’t really about history. Based on what we learn of Gill here, he seems more like a sociologist than a true historian.

The chains of history...

The chains of history…

Patterns of Force is aware of its own absurdity and nonsensical elements. Landing on a set on the studio backlot, Spock tries to explain why it looks so familiar. “The Ekosians are humanoid, so there is apt to be a similarity in architecture,” he suggests – which doesn’t really explain too much. After all, there is a radical divergence in architectural styles across the planet Earth, to say nothing of the unconventional architecture we’ve seen on worlds like Vulcan.

Similarly, Kirk points out how eerily perfect the Nazi cosplay happens to be. “The chances of another planet developing a culture like Nazi Germany, using the forms, the symbols, the uniforms of twentieth century Earth are so fantastically slim,” he observes. Spock agrees, “Virtually impossible, Captain, yet the evidence is quite clear.” Although there is a reason for this, it invites the audience to wonder why Gill didn’t change the iconography slightly, or tweak the imagery, or why the people of Ekos didn’t have their own spin on some of the visuals.

"Work the camera..."

“Work the camera…”

However, this seems to get to the point of Patterns of Force. Despite the emphasis on Gill’s role as a historian, Patterns of Force isn’t actually about history. This is why we can forgive the rather clumsily historical errors here, like Gill’s suggestion that Nazi Germany was “most efficient state Earth ever knew.” As Bodie A. Ashton points out, this is a historical fallacy:

It was in this context that Hitler would eventually rise to power and, certainly, the logic of the conclusions drawn (as much by the fictitious John Gill as by real, established names in the field) seems impressive. In 1933, on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power, official unemployment stood at six million. Within a year it had been halved, and by 1937 fewer than one million Germans were without jobs. In order to raise the employment figures, the regime had begun a number of public works schemes, including the famed Autobahn motorways. Several thousand kilometres of road were built in a few short years, and the Autobahnen alone had employed over 150,000 Germans in gainful work. The number of welfare recipients soon fell by more than 60 percent in large cities. Indeed, by 1936, Germany was in such a strong economic position that Berlin was able to host a triumphant Olympic Games, complete with all the pageantry expected of the situation, and German Zeppelin airships criss-crossed the Atlantic as symbols of renewed German might. The design of the so-called “People’s Car” (Volkswagen), which would open motoring to the masses, was another crowning achievement of the regime’s economic policies. Away from industry, too, the economy had improved. Agricultural production gained from strength to strength throughout the 1930s, and by 1939 output was some 71 percent higher than it had been in 1933 – no doubt an amazing achievement. In short, Germany’s economic recovery, it is claimed, was a miracle, a Wirtschaftswunder before the term had been coined, and at the heart of this were Hitler and his ministers.

This logic is seductive, but it is based on faulty assumptions. Let us first address the question of the motorways. The Autobahn project certainly employed over 100,000 people, and the country was soon festooned with bitumen and bridges. These projects, however, were not entirely of the Nazis’ making. The first Autobahn – Hamburg to Basel – was begun in September 1933, but it had been in the works for years; only the more pressing matters of combatting the hyperinflation of the early 1920s had prevented the successive Weimar governments from implementing the plans. It is also worth noting that, though it was begun in 1933, the Hamburg-Basel corridor was not completed by the time construction work was suspended due to the outbreak of war in 1939. It would not be finished until the 1960s. In any event, while the Autobahnen were successful insofar that they were built, and that they employed more than 100,000 otherwise unemployed Germans, the plan had been for the projects to employ over four times as many people as they actually did. On their own terms, then, the Autobahn projects were, at best, only qualified successes.

But even if the motorways were built, they were useless without traffic. Here we have an illustration of the strange nature of Nazi economics, or the difference between image and reality. In 1939, the prototype of the Volkswagen was demonstrated by Hitler himself in Berlin, but the car did not enter production at all under the Third Reich, in spite of the Führer’s pledge to have a million of them built every year. Without this “People’s Car”, the Reich had begun building a system of roads that were inaccessible to most Germans, since motoring was an unaffordable luxury. At the height of the Autobahn building phase, in 1935, for every sixty people in Germany there was just one automobile, compared to one for every twenty in France, or one for every twenty-five in Denmark; in the United States, one person out of every five owned a car of their own.

To be entirely fair, this view was commonly held into the sixties, even if it has since been revised and reassessed. It turns out that Gill is a pretty crappy historian – as if deciding to model an entire culture on Nazi Germany were not evidence enough of his questionable approach to his craft.

"Sadly, my facial massage does not appear to be doing any good..."

“Sadly, my patented Vulcan facial massage does not appear to be doing any good…”

It would be quite comforting to believe that the Nazis were an organisation of unparalleled efficiency. If the Nazis were that good at running a fascist state, the rest of the world could feel more at ease about their complacency. However, as Roderick Stackelberg observes in Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany, the Nazi ethos did not lend itself to efficient governance:

Certainly the Social Darweinist ethos of competition and struggle for power that pervaded the party promoted friction and jurisdictional distputes, often resulting in inefficiency, duplication of tasks, and conflicting priorities. The system offered plentiful opportunities for self-promotion in the name of the national interest. Nazi officials were often personally corrupt, using the powers of their offices for material gain. Hitler’s own unbureaucratic style of working, his aversion to official routine, and his indifference to detail added to the incoherence of the system.

So the entire historical premise of Patterns of Force is completely baseless. Nazi Germany was not an efficient state. However, Patterns of Force is not a story about historical accuracy any more than The City on the Edge of Forever is, or A Piece of the Action. It is not even about our relationship to history in the same way that The City on the Edge of Forever could be said to be.

The Reich stuff...

The Reich stuff…

Much like The City on the Edge of Forever is clearly informed by the public mood around the Vietnam War, Patterns of Force reflects contemporary politics and realities more than any accurate semblance of history. Like the other “alternate Earth” stories from the second season – Bread and Circuses and A Piece of the Action – this is allegory. It is heavy-handed allegory trading in iconography that exists within living memory for most contemporaneous viewers, but it is definitely allegory.

To be fair to Patterns of Force, while its portrayal of the Nazi regime is hardly nuanced or sophisticated, it is also not entirely cartoonish or superficial. Star Trek did not have the budget to depict concentration camps in 1968, and it seems unlikely NBC would have allowed it. However, there is a casual brutality to it all – Melakon’s casual explanation of Spock as inferior, the brutal beating of Isak in broad daylight, the scarring of Kirk and Spock under “interrogation.” In other words, this may not be Schindler’s List, but it is not Hogan’s Heroes either.

Injecting a little excitement...

Injecting a little excitement…

Patterns of Force aired in February 1968. At that point, cultural attitudes about Nazi Germany were shifting. As Marc Hieronimus reflects in Hitler is Fun, pop culture’s depictions of Nazi Germany were a lot freer and looser than they had been before:

After a period of dark and grave representations, writers and film directors began to depict the mythical, apocalyptic, mundane, kitsch, or otherwise seductive elements of Nazism; the very amalgam of kitch and death so typical and peculiar for Nazi ideology, where discourses and representations of family luck and tradition went together with those of purity, health, power, and invincibility on the one hand and of downfall, ruin, and death on the other. The reproach against the generation of culprits whose acts were tried in the Auschwitz Trials and discussed broadly in public, a smoldering generational conflict, and the 1968 atmosphere of departure spurred filmmakers like Alexander Kluge, Hans Jurgen Syberberg, Helma Sanders-Brahms, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder to try new ways of dealing with the Nazi past.

Most obviously, Mel Brooks would release The Producers a month after Patterns of Force aired, demonstrating that there was more opportunity for storytellers to play with and explore the associated iconography than there had been before. (Brooks has conceded that the film’s treatment of Hitler generated some controversy at the time.)

"Vere is the grail?"

“Vere is the grail?”

As Saul Friedlander noted in his Essay on Kitsch and Death, it was becoming a lot easier to talk about Nazi Germany in popular culture, with the late sixties opening up avenues of discourse and debate about that dark chapter in German history:

At the end of the war, Nazism was the damned part of Western civilization, the symbol of evil. Everything the Nazis had done was condemned, whatever they touched defiled; a seemingly indelible stain darkened the German past, while preceding centuries were scrutinized for the origins of this monstrous development. A sizable portion of the European elites, who two or three years before the German defeat had made no secret of their sympathy for the new order, were struck dumb and suffered total amnesia. Evidence of adherence, of enthusiasms shared, the written and oral record of four years of coexistence with it, and indeed of collaboration, often vanished. From one day to the next, the past was swept away, and it remained gone for the next twenty-five years.

By the end of the Sixties, however, the Nazi image in the West had begun to change. Not radically or across the board, but here and there, and on the right as well as the left, perceptibly and revealingly enough to allow one to speak of the existence of a new kind of discourse.

It has been suggested that West German Chancellor Conrad Adenauer proscribed “the sleep cure” for his country, stiffling debate and discussion of Nazi Germany. Now that a generation had passed since the end of the conflict, such matters could be discussed.

The march of history...

The march of history…

However, by the late sixties, it was not just possible to discuss this uncomfortable chapter of history, but necessary. The sixties had seen a surge in the neo-fascist movement, with a number of right-wing political organisations emerging across Europe. As Richard Griffiths notes in Fascism, these parties began to gain political ground:

Though, in the immediate post-war period, a number of small parties of the extreme Right grew up in most countries of Europe, they were remarkably unsuccessful, and attracted only an infinitesimally small portion of the population in each case. It was in the sixties that successful movements of the extreme Right began to emerge across Europe; and since that time there have been frequent Press ‘scares’ about the possible advent to power of such movements – a fear that recently became reality with the success of Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria.

It appears that Gill may not be the only person who has failed to learn from history. While nobody was quite establishing a facsimile Nazi state in 1968, there is a sense that Patterns of Force‘s concerns are not completely unfounded.

Captivating television...

Captivating television…

The fracturing of the Freedom Party of Austria in 1967 (with more right-wing elements founding the National Democratic Party) had served to make the organisation more palatable to the mainstream. That same year, Georgios Papadopoulos had established a military junta in Greece, with the support of America and and other democratic powers. The influence could even be felt in more established and stable democracies. In April 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell would deliver his infamous “rivers of blood” speech in Birmingham.

However, these shades of neo-fascism are not unique to the political right. In Liberal Fascism, author Jonah Goldberg argued that fascism not a political position that can be defined on the traditional left/right spectrum, but instead a philosophy of leadership that can take root within any ideology. It is, as Kirk describes it in Patterns of Force, “the leader principle.” It is the fantasy of the benign dictator – something that can appeal to liberals as much as conservatives. After all, even Kirk romanticised Khan in Space Seed.

It'll do in a pinch...

It’ll do in a pinch…

It is clear that Gill is infatuated with the idea of a strong authoritarian government, one that can unite the people of Ekos and provide a clear sense of purpose. When Kirk wonders what might have motivated Gill, Spock replies, “Perhaps Gill felt that such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism.” Of course, Gill fails to understand that system is itself designed to encourage and enable sadism. People like Melakon will always thrive in a structure like this, regardless of best intentions or lofty goals.

Eulogising Gill, Kirk reflects, “He drew the wrong conclusion from history. The problem with the Nazis wasn’t simply that their leaders were evil, psychotic men. They were, but the main problem, I think, was the leader principle.” McCoyexplains it to the viewers at home too slow to follow along, “What he’s saying, Spock, is that a man who holds that much power, even with the best intentions, just can’t resist the urge to play God.” Spock, master of sarcasm, points out how heavy-handed that moral is. “Thank you, Doctor. I was able to gather the meaning.”

Tunnel vision...

Tunnel vision…

To be fair, while this is all rather on the nose, it is a point worth repeating. It is tempting to write off the horrors of Nazi Germany as some sort of grotesque aberration – the result of the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Similar to the “it could never happen here” sentiment, this dismissive attitude glosses over the lessons that need to be learned about Nazi German. “Adolf Hitler was a terrible man” goes without saying, but “maybe we need to consider our relationship with authority structures” is a bit more nuanced.

All of this leads to possibly the shrewdest twist in Patterns of Force. Having beamed down to Ekos and infiltrated the Nazi Party, Kirk and Spock finally manage to confront John Gill. However, they discover that John Gill is not so much playing the role of Adolf Hitler as the Wizard of Oz. It’s a deliciously brilliant and ironic twist, not least because it predates Wicked by almost three decades. It’s almost enough to excuse the other faults with the clumsy script.

He's certainly a whizz...

He’s certainly a whizz…

In some respects, Patterns of Force plays The Wizard of Oz as a fascist fairytale, something that Gregory Maguire would develop further when he wrote Wicked in the mid-nineties. Certainly, Patterns of Force invites the viewer to make the comparison, with Kirk and Spock (and the supporting characters they pick up along the way) all embarking on a quest to visit a wisened old man who might be able to explain this crazy world to them.

Gill is a man who fell from the sky and declared himself ruler of a strange civilisation. He delivers pronouncements to the populace via media technology while remaining hidden himself. Kirk is surprised that Gill does not make his big speeches in person. “They watch him on the big screen,” Daras explains. “He broadcasts from the booth for security.” Kirk notes, in another echo of The Wizard of Oz, “They’ve got the booth curtained off.” Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The historian is history...

The historian is history…

As they sneak around inside the Nazi Party headquarters, Kirk and company are shocked to discover that Gill is not a wizard at all. He’s not even the Fuhrer. One could go a step further and suggest that Gill is as much a learned historian as Professor Marvel is a qualified professor. He is a huckster, a con man, a fraud. At the end of the episode, Kirk and his crew beam back to the Enterprise as eagerly as Dorothy and the Wizard return to Kansas, leaving this strange world in the care of a bunch of people they just met.

This wry subversion excuses the bluntness of the Nazi iconography – this is The Wizard of Oz but with swastikas, a striking juxtaposition. It suggests that the notion of the “benign dictator” is such a common concept that it barely registers unless its wearing a brown shirt and offering a Nazi salute. Patterns of Force is never subtle, but there are moments when it seems quite shrewd. It takes an impressive amount of self-confidence to cross a classic American fairytale with the Third Reich.

I love you even the cameras are branded, in case Kirk and company might be exposed by using a non-Nazi video camera...

I love you even the cameras are branded, in case Kirk and company might be exposed by using a non-Nazi video camera…

Patterns of Force does benefit from a sense of humour about itself. It is never as glib as A Piece of the Action – after all, the subject matter is a bit heavier – but there’s a sense that Patterns of Force never takes its absurdity too seriously. Kirk and Spock get to trade affectionate barbs quite frequently and wryly, while McCoy beams down struggling to get into his Nazi uniform. At one point, Eneg and the guards catch our heroes locked together in a cupboard, which is a delightfully awkward moment for all involved.

Similarly, The episode also benefits from superb performances by the central ensemble. In particular, William Shatner is having a great deal of fun playing Kirk. The sequence where he and Spock arrange a jailbreak is played as light comedy amid everything else going on, providing perhaps the most Shatner-esque line reading in the show to date. “You realise that the aim will of course be very crude?” Spock confirms. Kirk, in agony, replies, “I! don’tcareif you hit the broad… side of a barn.”

"Captain, explain to me this concept of Naziploitation?"

“Captain, explain to me this concept of Naziploitation?”

It’s a thing of beauty, and movements like that prevent Patterns of Force ever seeming too stuffy or overwhelming. After all, this is an episode about Nazis… in space! As such, little bit of pulp and a little bit of camp never go entirely astray, even juxtaposed against the beating of Isak in the street or Melakon’s very casual brutality. Lightening the mood a little was a shrewd decision from the writing staff.

Even with this in mind, Patterns of Force doesn’t necessarily work as an episode of Star Trek, but does have a lot of clever and worthwhile things to say about authority and power. It’s a heavy-handed episode that occasionally threatens to bludgeon the audience into unconsciousness, but it also offers a clever commentary on contemporary politics and romantic fantasies. The result is often more itneresting than it is successful, but Patterns of Force is an episode that is too frequently and too easily overlooked in assessments of Star Trek.

You might be interested in our other reviews from the second season of the classic Star Trek:

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting a link to The Myth of Nazi “Efficiency” by Bodie A. Ashton. I found it to be fascinating reading.

    In any case, excellent analysis of “Patterns of Force.” I had never thought to draw parallels to The Wizard of Oz, but it is an insightful observation.

    “It suggests that the notion of the “benign dictator” is such a common concept that it barely registers unless its wearing a brown shirt and offering a Nazi salute.” Very well said. I immediately recalled some of the admiration by American political pundits in the recent past for Vladimir Putin. The images of the autocratic Russian President confidently astride a horse, bare-chested, seemed to almost mesmerize some of these American commentators. The implication seemed to be “Why can’t WE have a manly, strong, decisive leader like that, instead of someone like Obama, who overthinks things and wants to be diplomatic and who always seems to be wavering?” Never mind that Putin is a brutal authoritarian who has suppressed free speech, persecuted homosexuals, invaded the Ukraine, and his policies have now resulted in the Russian economy going into free-fall. Some people would just rather have a ruler who is powerful and commanding and makes a country appear strong than a true representative of the people who considers all sides of the issues and attempts to govern in a fair manner.

    • I was quite proud of spotting The Wizard of Oz thing! I was joking at first, but was surprised how well it ended up sticking.

      The benign dictator is a surprisingly common fantasy, on both sides of the spectrum, and in just about every Western context. The British House of Cards actually captures the sense of that appeal perfectly.

      • Oh, I agree, it is a common fantasy on BOTH sides of the political divide. At the risk of a generalization, comic book creators and readers are, on the whole, more liberal than conservative. So it interesting how many writers and fans seem to bend over backwards to try to paint Doctor Doom (from the pages of Fantastic Four and various other Marvel titles), the iron-fisted monarch of Latveria, as a well-intentioned extremist whose flaws unfortunately keep him from truly benefitting the world. There have even been readers who have screamed bloody murder when someone writes Doom committing some horrible act, arguing that he is supposed to be an “honorable” figure. The fact is, Doom is a monster with a monumental ego who wants to totally wipe out free will. In his own mind he sees himself as a noble, heroic figure. But the reality is that he is a ruthless tyrant whose supposed benevolence will take a back seat the instant someone defies him.

        On my own blog, I have likened Doctor Doom to Khan Noonien Singh. They are similar characters. Just as Khan’s charm & charisma initially blinded Kirk to his true, dangerous nature, the same applies to Doom, who has a talent for putting his best face forward, causing both fictional characters and real-life readers to express misplaced admiration for him.

      • That’s a great point.

        I’m a huge fan of Mark Waid’s take on Doctor Doom, which seems to have surprised a lot of fans. To paraphrase Waid, if Doom thought that slaughtering a baby would somehow prove he was better than Reed Richards, he would do it. (I can’t help but suspect that Byrne’s more sympathetic take on Doom is largely responsible for that dissonance.)

        I also like Nolan and Morrison’s take on Talia Al Ghul, suggesting that she’s not simply a patsy for her father, but a character with her own agency and her own accountability for her decisions.

  2. Interesting analysis.

    One thing I’ve always wondered about — both Shatner and Nimoy are Jewish. What must it have been like for them to run around wearing Nazi uniforms for so much of this episode? Did the writers even consider what they were asking these guys to do?

    • I wonder that myself. That said, must of the writing staff – I know Roddenberry and Coon for sure, not sure about Lucas – served in the Second World War. I certainly suspect they would not have been entire cavalier about using Nazis themselves. But it’s obviously a completely different level of concern for Shatner and Nimoy. So I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

  3. This Tv Tropes page sums up it up well:
    “Sure, they might be brutal and genocidal, but at least they can make trains run on time and all that good stuff… only, the actual Nazis couldn’t even do that. With military resources spread across four completely separate services that had to be actively bullied by Hitler into cooperating (Heer, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, SS)note , four economic institutions which competed for limited resourcesnote , two General Headquarters note , two intelligence services (Abwehr, SD) that never shared information and occasionally offed each other’s agents, two civil services and two courts (one regular/normal, one SS), and five atomic bomb programs that shared no information or resources with each other Nazi Germany was actually one of the most inefficient states in history – and that’s not even accounting for the gross corruption. In Real Life, the only thing efficient about dictatorships is their total control of the media, which they use to portray themselves as being extremely efficient (and benevolent) despite their crippling factional in-fighting and endemic corruption.”


    “It suggests that the notion of the “benign dictator” is such a common concept that it barely registers unless its wearing a brown shirt and offering a Nazi salute.”

    Sad to say, this statement is a little naive, with the dramatic rise in hate crimes in America, and the alt-right movement giving Trump the Nazi salute, Trump many supporters have little else to say but “Stop crying racist.” or “We’re not all racist”. Rather then putting a stop to this new rise in Fascism, it’s just uncomfortably accepted, because Trump will bring jobs, and that will apparently solve everyone’s problems.

    • Yeah. It’s an episode that certainly seems more pointed and relevant in this day and age. Nowadays, we don’t even recognise it when there’s leaked footage of it giving a Nazi salute.

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