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The Return of the Archons - Recap

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Lieutenants Sulu and O’Neil are on the planet Beta 3, disguised as natives as the planet is at a late 19th century stage of development. Men in hooded robes, carrying staves, close in on them from several directions. Sulu calls up to the ship to request beam up while O’Neil panics and runs away. One of the men touches Sulu with his staff and the lieutenant’s face turns blissful just as he beams away. Kirk and McCoy go to the transporter room to find Sulu totally under the sway of the alien influence and saying that he is part of “the Body.”

Stand tight. They'll beam us up.
Run. You know what they're capable of.

The Enterprise has approached Beta 3 looking for a starship, the Archon, that went missing a hundred years ago. Kirk takes down a new landing party of Spock, McCoy, socialist Lindstrom, and two security guards, all wearing appropriate local garb. The locals are all in the same mental state as Sulu: mindlessly peaceful. A man, Bilar, greets them and asks if they are in town for Festival. Kirk agrees to fit in and Bilar directs them to a boarding house run by Reger. He asks Reger’s daughter Tula to take them over, but then the clock tolls 6 p.m. and everyone on streets go berserk, screaming and attacking and raping each other. The landing party closes ranks and gets to Reger’s house. Reger and his two friends Tamar and Hacom are there, and wonder why the landing party isn’t part of Festival. Tamar makes a mild joke about the fact the “Lawgivers” are omniscient and Hacom storms off to report them to the local authority, “Landru.”

Surely, Hacom, they already know. Are they not infallible?
You mock them! You mock the Lawgivers.

Reger gives them a room but is further surprised when Kirk announces he has no intention of participating in Festival. He leaves them and they watch outside for the rest of the night as the carnage continues. Promptly at 6 a.m. the next morning, everyone suddenly reverts to their normal, placid behavior and goes on as if nothing had happened. Tula staggers in and McCoy gives her a shot. Reger and Tamar realize they didn’t participate in Festival and must be “Archons.” Reger talks about a prophecy, but Hacom returns with two of the hooded Lawgivers. They casually kill Tamar with their staffs for mocking Landru, then demand that Kirk and the others come with them for “absorption” and obedience to the will of Landru. Kirk refuses and takes one of their staves, but it’s nothing but a hollow rod: Spock concludes it’s some kind of transmission device. The Lawgivers appear immobilized by Kirk’s refusal to obey, appear to go into brief paralysis, then repeat the request. Kirk disarms them and while the Lawgivers are paralyzed with indecisiveness over this unexpected act, Reger takes them outside to a place of safety. En route, the townsfolk all turn into mindless zombies and come at them, and the landing party is forced to stun them. One of the fallen citizens is O’Neil, and Kirk insists on taking their missing man with them.

I don't want to hurt them. Warn them back.
They're in the body. It's Landru.

Reger takes them to an underground cellar and lights the place using a high-tech panel, which he says came from before the time of Landru, some six thousand years ago. He says that when the “Archons” arrived 100 years ago, Landru forced them to either undergo absorption or die. Reger is one of the few that can resist absorption and he was part of an underground cell with Tamar and a third man, who only Tamar knew. O’Neil starts to recover consciousness but Reger warns that Landru can track them through any part of the Body. Kirk orders McCoy to keep the lieutenant unconscious and talks to Reger about the Archons. Reger reveals that Landru pulled the Archon down from the sky, and Kirk calls Scotty to discover the ship is under attack from heat beams from a nearby power source. They have to divert warp engines to the shields and can’t divert any energy to break or maintain orbit. In a few hours the ship will plummet out of orbit. Kirk tells Scotty to do what he can but then Spock detects a sensor beam trained on their location. The projected image of an older man, Landru, appears on the wall before them. He tells them that they must be absorbed to ensure the peace and tranquility of the Body, and ignores anything they try to say. A high-pitched sonic attack is then beamed at the landing party, rendering them unconscious.

You have come to a world without hate, without fear, without conflict. No war, no disease, no crime,
none of the ancient evils. Landru seeks tranquility, peace for all, the universal good.

Kirk and the others wake up in a dungeon without their equipment, and with Bones and a security man gone. Spock deduces that the Body functions like some kind of computer, and the Lawgivers reacted as if they had insufficient programming when confronted with resistance. Before he can speculate further, the Lawgivers come back with McCoy and the security guard, who are both blissfully content and now part of the Body. The Lawgivers take Kirk with them, threatening to kill him when he refuses as their “programming” has been altered. Kirk goes with them to the absorption chamber where a robed man, Marplon, tells him to prepare for absorption.

Dr. McCoy, what will happen to him?
He goes to joy, peace, and tranquillity. He goes to meet Landru.

The Lawgivers get Spock next and take him to the chamber. A smiling Kirk greets him and is taken back to his cell, and Spock is clamped to the wall to await absorption. Marplon pretends to activate the machinery but assures Spock that he and the captain are safe, but he was unable to get there in time to help McCoy and the other man. Marplon is the third man in Reger’s resistance cell and tells Spock to play along, and he’ll help them later. He gives Spock their phasers and the Lawgivers take him back to the cell. Spock and Kirk plot secretly while trying to avoid McCoy’s attention, and Spock concludes that Landru must be a computer, given the programmed nature of the Lawgivers. As a computer, Landru has devised a logical yet sterile means of accomplishing peace. Kirk insists that the society is not developing and they are within the Prime Directive to interfere by shutting down the computer.

Lawgivers! Traitor! Traitors!

Marplon brings Reger in and they explain that Landru brought peace to Beta 3 when it was in the midst of a major upheaval. McCoy notices them talking and calls out to the guards, so Kirk and Spock are forced to render him and the converted security guard unconscious, then dispose of the Lawgivers when they come in. Marplon gives them their communicators and they contact the ship, where Scotty warns they only have six hours until the ship enters atmosphere. Marplon insists that Landru is still alive and speaks from the Hall of Audiences, and Reger panics now that it is time to take a stand. Kirk knocks him out and the three of them go to the Hall, disguised as Lawgivers.

No! No! I was wrong! I submit! I bear myself to the will of Landru!

The image of Landru appears before them and tells them they must surrender, again ignoring anything they say. Kirk and Spock burn through the wall and find a giant computer complex, but “Landru” deactivates their phasers. It insists that it was programmed with the memories and knowledge of the original Landru but Kirk notes that it is merely a machine and demand an answer to the question: is it preserving the good of the Body? The computer is unable to answer and Kirk pressed his case, insisting that it has stifled creativity and the Body is stifled under its control. Faced with the illogic of its own position, Landru shuts down and the Lawgivers are released from its control. The heat beams are cut off and the Enterprise regains orbit just in time.

You must create the good. That is the will of Landru, nothing else.
But there is evil.
Then the evil must be destroyed. That is the prime directive, and you are the evil.

Later the Enterprise leaves orbit, with Lindstrom and a sociological team staying behind to help the population adjust. The sociologist assures them that the people are getting back to normal and fighting and arguing like normal people. Even Spock has to admit the idea of a computer-controlled society is one he finds distasteful, and Kirk notes that Man wasn’t meant for paradise.

How often mankind has wished for a world as peaceful and secure as the one Landru provided.
Yes. And we never got it. Just lucky, I guess.