Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is the fifteenth episode of the third season of the original American science fiction television show, Star Trek. It was first broadcast January 10, 1969, on NBC and repeated August 12, 1969. It was written by Oliver Crawford, based on a story by Gene L. Coon (writing under his pen name "Lee Cronin") and directed by Jud Taylor. The script evolved from an outline by Barry Trivers for a possible first season episode called "A Portrait in Black and White". The script was accepted for the third season following budget cuts. The episode guest-stars Lou Antonio and Frank Gorshin (the latter best known for his role as The Riddler in the Batman live-action television series).
|"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Jud Taylor|
|Story by||Lee Cronin|
|Teleplay by||Oliver Crawford|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||January 10, 1969|
In the episode, the Enterprise picks up the last two survivors of a war-torn planet, who are still committed to destroying each other aboard the ship.
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On stardate 5730.2, the Federation starship Enterprise is on a mission to help decontaminate the polluted atmosphere of the planet Ariannus, when sensors track a Federation shuttlecraft reported stolen from Starbase 4. The craft is disabled and brought aboard along with its strange alien pilot, who is found injured and taken to sick bay. The man later awakens and identifies himself as Lokai, a political refugee from the planet Cheron, who requests asylum. Lokai's most striking feature is that his skin is half black and half white, the two halves split perfectly down the center of his body. Science Officer Spock remarks that his physiology may be "one of a kind".
Shortly thereafter, sensors detect another spacecraft in fast pursuit of the Enterprise. Curiously, the craft remains invisible to all but sensors and sets itself on a direct collision course with the ship. Moments later, Spock reports that the invisible craft has disintegrated and deposited an "alien presence" aboard the ship. Captain Kirk turns to see the alien pilot who has beamed himself directly to the bridge. The second alien identifies himself as Bele. Like Lokai, Bele is half black and half white, with the color divided by a line through the exact center of his face. However, the sides of Bele's black and white skin are reversed from those of Lokai, a difference which seems inconsequential to the Enterprise crew, but of great importance to Bele, Lokai, and, apparently, their civilization.
Bele explains he is a police commissioner from Cheron and is on a mission to retrieve political traitors. His current quarry is Lokai, whom he has been chasing for what Bele claims to be 50,000 Earth years. Bele then instructs Captain Kirk to take him to see his "prisoner". Bele is taken to Lokai, but Lokai reacts fearfully to Bele's presence and strongly demands he be taken away. The two aliens begin arguing about slavery and racial segregation, and almost attack each other.
Kirk decides to ignore their heated arguments and returns to the bridge. Bele soon follows and demands that Kirk change course to Cheron. Kirk refuses, informing him that Bele's mission is no concern of his, and that he has more urgent matters to attend to. He allows Bele and Lokai to remain aboard and tells them he will drop them off at Starbase 4 once the mission is complete "and let them sort it out."
Tired of Kirk's commands, Bele invokes a strange power that takes control of the ship and steers it toward Cheron. Lokai comes to the bridge and demands that Kirk kill Bele and grant him asylum. Kirk refuses and calls security to escort the two off to the brig. However, both aliens generate a personal powerful force field that resists both phaser blasts and the guards' physical attempts to subdue them.
With no way to return control, Kirk threatens to destroy the Enterprise. Bele believes Kirk is bluffing until Kirk activates the ship's auto-destruct sequence with the voice code approval of First Officer Spock and Chief Engineer Scott. Bele nervously watches as the countdown nears zero, then the alien finally relents control in the last seconds. Kirk cancels the auto-destruct and changes course back to Ariannus.[note 1]
Kirk informs Lokai and Bele that they are to be treated as guests, provided they do not further interfere with the operation of the ship.
Once the Ariannus mission is completed, Bele takes control of the Enterprise again, but this time he deactivates the auto-destruct in the process and sends the ship to Cheron. Once there, the two aliens find the planet's population completely wiped out by a global war fueled by insane racial hatred. Both Lokai and Bele stare silently at the destruction on the monitor and realize they are the only ones left of their race (or, as they see it, their “races”).
Instead of calling a truce, the two beings begin to blame each other for the destruction of the planet and a brawl ensues. As the two aliens fight, their innate powers radiate, cloaking them with an energy aura that threatens to damage the ship. With no other choice, Kirk sadly allows the two aliens to chase each other down to their obliterated world (using the transporter) to decide their own fates, consumed by their now self-perpetuating mutual hate. Forlorn, Lt. Uhura asks if their hate is all they ever had. Kirk ruefully says, "No — but that's all they have left."
The script for the story was developed from a story outline written by Gene Coon under his pen name Lee Cronin. Although Gene Roddenberry liked it, it was initially rejected by NBC studio executive Stanley Robertson. The look of the aliens Bele and Lokai was decided only a week before filming began, on the basis of an offhand comment from director Jud Taylor. The half white, half black make up led to criticism of the episode as heavy-handed.
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is significant in the Star Trek universe for the first appearance of the starship computer-controlled self-destruct system that requires the entry of three separate verifying authenticators by three of the ship's officers and a final execute command by the captain. It is this system that Admiral Kirk used in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock to destroy the Enterprise to prevent her capture by the Klingons.
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "C+" rating, noting positively the aliens' makeup and some "good moments", but also noting that these were outweighed by an overpowering message. In their compendium of Star Trek reviews, Trek Navigator, Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross both rated the episode as mediocre, describing its message as obvious and heavy-handed. They did find some redeeming moments, such as the climactic chase to the ruined planet's surface and Gorshin's performance as Bele.
In contrast to these opinions above, many fans of the show strongly believe this to be one of the finest episodes of Star Trek because: 1) it starkly elevates the issue of unjust racial bigotry, which made it then and continues to make it extremely socially relevant, and 2) unusually, it ends on a very bitter note - i.e. nothing is "resolved" (e.g. at the end of the show, there is no happy conclusion due to some action or interaction of the crew).
- This exact same auto destruct sequence is later used in the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock with Kirk, then Scott and Chekov giving the three codes.
- Dorothy Fontana to Gene Roddenberry, September 28, 1966, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, 1966-1969, Box 19, Folder 11, University of California at Los Angeles Library. Dorothy Fontana's assessment of the script "Portrait in Black and White" September 28, 1966
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 197
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 399.
- Solow & Justman 1997, p. 400.
- Handlen, Zack (February 5, 2010). ""Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"/"The Mark Of Gideon"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
- Altman, Mark A.; Gross, Edward (1998). Trek Navigator. Boxtree. pp. 127–128, 286. ISBN 0-7522-2457-3.
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