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 detect a Federation shuttlecraft that was reported stolen. The craft is brought aboard along with its alien pilot, who identifies himself as Lokai, a political refugee from the planet Cheron. Lokai’s most striking feature is that his skin is black on the left side of his body and white on the right side.
Shortly thereafter, sensors detect another spacecraft in pursuit of the Enterprise. The alien craft destroys itself, but not before its pilot, Bele, transports to the Enterprise bridge. Bele is similar in appearance to Lokai, but black on the right side. Bele explains that he is on a mission to retrieve political traitors. His current quarry is Lokai, whom he has been chasing for 50,000 Earth years. Bele is taken to Lokai, and the two begin to argue about the history of their peoples, almost coming to blows.
Bele demands that Kirk take him and Lokai to Cheron. Kirk refuses, telling him he will have to make his case to Federation authorities. Some time later, the ship changes course to Cheron, and Bele announces that his “will” has taken control of the ship. Lokai demands the death of Bele, and Kirk orders both of them to be taken the brig. Unfortunately, a force field generated by both aliens makes that impossible. With no other way to regain control, Kirk threatens to destroy the Enterprise, and begins the ship’s auto-destruct sequence. In the last seconds of the countdown Bele relents, and the ship resumes its course to Ariannus.[note 1]
Once the Ariannus mission is completed, Bele takes control of the Enterprise again, this time disabling the self-destruct system. When the ship arrives at Cheron, Spock can find no sign of intelligent life. Lokai and Bele realize they are each the only ones left of their peoples. Enraged, they attack each other, their force fields threatening to damage the ship. Lokai breaks away, Bele pursues him, and the two eventually beam down to the planet. The bridge crew remark sadly on their unwillingness to give up their hate.
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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