is sent to find the missing S.S. Beagle
. They find its wreckage drifting in space but no bodies. They follow the path of the debris back to a nearby system where they discover a near-Earth planet with two moons. Uhura picks up old-style “television” transmissions and they pick up broadcasts from what seems to be a modern-day Roman Empire. The Empire’s slaves are rebelling while gladiatorial games are broadcast planetwide. The crew overhears a broadcast of the last “barbarian” being killed in the arena and realizes it’s a crewman from the Beagle
Now turning to the world of sports and bringing you the taped results of the arena games last night. The first heat involved amateurs. They're petty thieves from city prison. Conducted, however, with traditional weapons, it provided some amusement ... for a few moments.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down near the largest city to investigate and are quickly captured by a band of runaway slaves, led by the elderly Septimus and the former gladiator Flavius. The ex-slaves say they now worship the Sun rather then the false Roman gods. Kirk proves to them that they are strangers from a distant land and they agree to let Flavius take them to the city to look for their missing people. Kirk mentions the captain of the Beagle
, Merik, and Septimus warns them the only Merik they know is Merikus, First Citizen of the Empire. En route to the city, Roman policeman arrest them and quickly identify the Enterprise
crewman as “barbarians.”
What do you call those?
I call them ears.
Are you trying to be funny?
The four men are imprisoned but Flavius is taken back to the arena to fight. The Enterprise
men quickly organize a prison break but are easily thwarted by Roman policemen led by Proconsul Claudius Marcus, and… Captain Merik. Merik is now Merikus, and gained a position of power in return for betraying his crew. Claudius has a private meeting and reveals that Merik has told him about the Federation, and the Romans want to avoid outside “contamination.” Claudius also knows about the Prime Directive and enjoys taunting Kirk with the fact that he can neither beamed down armed guards or have the Enterprise
fire on the city from orbit. Claudius demands that Kirk order his crew to start beaming down but instead the captain gives Scotty a coded warning telling him that they’re in trouble but he’s not to do anything. Scotty isn’t happy at the order and prepares to target the city’s power systems.
Scotty, if you have a fix… stand by, Scotty.
Claudius has Spock and McCoy placed in the arena for a televised match that they’re not expected to survive, while Kirk is forced to watch unless he starts ordering landing parties down. Spock holds his own but McCoy is forced to fight against Flavius, enraging the man against his will by his poor showing. When Flavius goes berserk and tries to kill McCoy, Spock disposes of his man and then knocks out Flavius—a violation of the rules. Claudius lets them live so he can use them as leverage against Kirk.
Need any help, Doctor?
Whatever gave you that idea? Of all the completely... ridiculous... illogical questions... I ever heard in my life!
Kirk is taken to Claudius’ quarters while Spock and McCoy are reimprisoned. McCoy tries to thank the emotionless Spock and when Spock is unresponsive, McCoy taunts him about his lack of feelings, then admits he’s concerned about Kirk too. Meanwhile, Kirk is left with a slave girl, Drusilla, and they spend a pleasant afternoon together despite the fact he suspects a trap. Later Drusilla leaves and Claudius arrives to explain that he wanted to treat Kirk like a man, unlike the cowardly Merik. Claudius notes that one of the Enterprise
men’s communicators is missing but Kirk doesn’t have it. Claudius then explains that Kirk is to be killed in a televised execution to show that the Roman Empire won’t tolerate defiance.
Would you leave us, Merik? The thoughts of one man to another cannot possibly interest you.
Kirk is led to the arena to the slaughter but Flavius escapes and is shot down. Taking advantage of the distraction, Kirk grabs a gun… just as Scotty temporarily overloads the city’s power systems. The captain escapes from the blacked out arena and gets to the cells, freeing Spock and McCoy. Claudius and Merik arrive with the guards, who draw swords to fight in the close quarters rather then hit each other in the crossfire. The Enterprise
men make a valiant fight of it but are outnumbered… until Merik redeems himself by using the communicator he stole to signal the Enterprise
for a beam up. Claudius stabs him, and with his dying breath Merik throws the communicator to Kirk and the others, who are beamed out just ahead of a barrage of machine gun fire.
I pity you, Captain Merik, but at least watch and see how men die.
Back aboard the Enterprise
, Kirk gives Scotty a commendation for his actions and they wonder at the one aberration in this odd parallel Rome: the existence of a Sun God. However, Uhura reveals that she’s been monitoring signals and the slaves actually worship the Son of God. The Enterprise
crew realize that this version of Rome will also have its God of Peace and will eventually change for the better.
I'm afraid you have it all wrong, all of you. I've been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion, but he couldn't. Well, don't you understand? It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the son of God.