investigates a system containing two civilizations; the outer planet, Zeon, has a relatively high technology and a peaceful civilization. The inner planet, Ekos, has a warlike civilization plunged into anarchy. Federation historian John Gill is living as a native, studying Ekos from the inside. For six months the Federation has attempted to reach Gill without success. Now it has dispatched the Enterprise
to learn why Gill does not answer. The approaching Enterprise
comes under attack by Ekosian missiles sophisticated enough to detect her and armed with thermonuclear warheads. They represent technology far in advance of what the Ekosians should have. Kirk and Spock beam down with subcutaneous transponders so they may be beamed up in case of trouble. The ship will remain outside of detection range until three hours have passed; then it will return for the landing party.
I never met John Gill, but I studied Earth history from his textbook.
I knew him very well. He was my instructor.
Almost immediately, Kirk and Spock see three men seize and haul off a fugitive--three men wearing Earth Nazi uniforms. Then a nearby outdoor screen plays a report. They learn about their “destruction” by an Ekosian missile, and see a young woman named Daras decorated as a hero of the Fatherland. They then learn that John Gill is the Fuehrer of this reinvented Nazi society. It is now clear something has gone very wrong with Gill’s mission. Kirk plans to disguise the pair as Nazis to gain access to Gill. This plan fails when an officer demands Spock remove his helmet.
Do you recognize those uniforms?
Mid-20th century Earth. The nation state called Nazi Germany.
They are tortured and interrogated, first by the officer who captured them and then by Eneg, Chairman of the Nazi Party. When they reveal nothing, Eneg orders them held for an hour so their suffering may prod them into cooperating. In the cell Kirk muses over his memories of John Gill. He doesn’t understand how the gentle man he remembers from his Academy days could become a Nazi. Spock discusses the Nazi hatred for Zeon with a Zeon prisoner, Isak. This hatred serves as the glue that holds together Ekosian society.
You are not from Zeon.
Digging their transponders from under their skin, Kirk and Spock construct a crude laser and burn their way out of the cell. Isak offers to guide them to the SS laboratory, where they hope to retrieve their gear. Kirk pickpockets a guard en route and they enter the laboratory using his key. There they discover that their phasers have been sent elsewhere and their communicators disassembled. The guard discovers the key theft and returns; Isak demonstrates that although a peaceful man he can be violent when circumstances require it. Spock suggests a temporary retreat and Kirk reluctantly concurs. Isak takes them to friends hidden in the storm drains. Among these are Isak’s brother Abrom. Abrom is angry and grieving. He tells Isak that his fiancée was shot down in the street and lingered for five hours while passersby spat on her. Even shocked and grief-stricken, Isak realizes his people must not adopt the ways of the Nazis. He convinces his friend to harbor the Federation officers.
She lived for five hours while they walked past her and spat on her.
Kirk and Spock are taken to a refuge where Spock sets to work assembling a communicator. Nazi soldiers led by Daras burst in just after he completes it. She offers the men a chance to explain themselves. When Abrom tells her he is responsible for these people, she demonstrates what the Nazis do to responsible Zeons: she shoots him. Kirk manages to turn the tables on her and Isak quickly reveals that the encounter was a ruse to ensure the Federation men weren’t Nazi spies. Daras is an Ekosian disgusted by what her people have become. Her father had been close to the fuehrer, but had seen the changes and where they were leading. When he objected, Deputy Fuehrer Melakon ordered his death. He denounced his daughter for his betrayal to help her gain the confidence of Melakon, so that she might continue his fight.
I alone am responsible for what happens here.
Do you know what we do to responsible Zeons?
Kirk learns that Melakon has largely taken over and that the Fuehrer sees no one. However, there's a speech that evening. If Daras, a hero of the Fatherland, can get Kirk and Spock past security they can see Gill and learn what went so wrong. Daras is shocked to learn the Fuehrer is an alien and initially assumes he was sent to destroy them. Kirk reassures her this is not the case and that Gill’s acts represent a grave crime in the Federation-–one for which he must answer. Daras agrees to escort the men to the chancellery building.
He was sent here to observe, not to interfere. Something went wrong, and that's why we're here, to find out and to correct.
Posing as a documentary crew, Kirk, Spock and Isak enter the chancellery building with Daras. They catch a glimpse of John Gill. He is the Fuehrer, but there is something very wrong with him. Finding a cloakroom, Kirk calls the ship and requests McCoy’s help. However, the Ekosians detect the transmission and begin a search of the building. McCoy, kitted out as a Gestapo colonel, beams down. Chairman Eneg and two soldiers burst into the closet. Kirk and Spock pass McCoy off as drunk, telling Eneg they brought him into the closet so that he wouldn’t embarrass himself. Eneg tells them they’re right to be cautious as there is a spy in the building. Despite having seen Kirk and Spock in the detention center, Eneg fails to recognize them here.
Computer made a mistake in the measurements. The right boot's too tight.
There's a logical way to proceed. Point your toe, apply equal pressure to either side of the boot, and push.
There's no time for emotionalism.
Gill’s speech begins; he broadcasts from a tiny booth. His mouth is hidden behind a microphone, and he barely moves. McCoy thinks he's drugged. Slipping out of the room and down the hall, the Federation team overpowers the guards outside the broadcast booth. Gill’s speech ends and Melakon takes the podium in the auditorium next door. Inside the booth McCoy confirms that Gill is drugged but can’t identify the drug without a medi-comp. Communicating with the ship is dangerous since the Ekosians can detect such transmissions. But without knowing the drug administering an antidote is dangerous. McCoy tries a general stimulant, as Melakon’s tinny voice announces a massive pogrom: the elimination of Zeons from Ekos, and the launching of a space fleet against Zeon itself. Except for those trapped on Ekos, the Zeons are peaceful people whose warlike period ended centuries earlier-–they’ll be no match for the aggressive Ekosians.
Ten minutes ago, on our Fuhrer's orders, our troops began their historic mission. In the cities, the eliminations have started. Within an hour, the Zeon blight will forever be removed from Ekos.
Desperate to awaken Gill, Kirk orders Spock to try a mind meld. Daras pleads with Kirk to destroy the Ekosian fleet. Kirk allows that the Enterprise
could probably do that, but suggests that the act might save Zeon but would leave Ekos no better off. It would only delay the inevitable at the cost of murdering many thousands of Ekosians and Zeons aboard that fleet. Spock finally rouses Gill enough to answer questions. From the semi-conscious Gill, Kirk learns how it started. Gill saw that Ekos was fragmented. He attempted to employ the Nazi efficiency benevolently to unify the planet. It worked at first. Ekos began to develop the efficiency of Nazi Germany without the sadism. Then Melakon began to take over and gave Gill the drug. For several years Gill has been a figurehead, and Melakon has been the real power.
Quite true, captain. That tiny country--beaten, bankrupt, defeated, rose in a few years
to stand only one step away from global domination.
But it was brutal, perverted, had to be destroyed at a terrible cost. Why that example?
Guards burst in, again led by Chairman Eneg. Spock removes his helmet; Isak and Daras claim Daras is again a hero of the Fatherland, for she has caught a Zeon attempting to assassinate the Fuehrer. Isak makes it clear that Spock must be taken to Melakon--and Eneg complies. Only after he leaves does Isak reveal why: Eneg is a member of the underground. Everyone except Kirk leaves the booth. Their job is to stall while Kirk attempts to rouse Gill so that Gill can somehow prevent the slaughter. Outside, Melakon expounds on the various genetic defects Spock’s physical characteristics demonstrate.
Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears. Definitely an inferior race.
And then Gill breaks in with a new speech. Kirk has succeeded. Gill declares that Ekos has been betrayed by a self-seeking adventurer, recalls the fleet, and declares Melakon a traitor. Seeing his hopes dashed, Melakon grabs a machine gun and shoots through the curtained window into the booth, hitting Gill several times. Isak immediately shoots Melakon, and before the killing can escalate, Eneg seizes control of the situation, telling the gathered officials that it is time to live the way the Fuehrer, and not Melakon, meant for them to live.
There's been enough killing. Now we'll start to live the way the Fuhrer meant us to live.
Gill dies, his last words a warning: "Even historians… fail to learn from history. They repeat the same mistakes… Let the killing end." Later, Kirk muses that the problem with the Nazis went beyond their evil leaders. The problem was the leader concept itself. If one man possesses so much power, he will inevitably misuse it. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely". Darn clever, these Earthmen, wouldn't you say?
Yes. Earthmen like Ramses, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan.
Your whole Earth history is made up of men seeking absolute power.