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Bread and Circuses

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Title : Bread and Circuses Rating : 2
First Aired : 15 Mar 1968 Stardate : 4040.7
Director : Ralph Senensky Year : 2267
Writers : Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry Season : 2
Rating : 2.5000 for 2 reviewsAdd your own review
Reviewer : Indefatigable Rating : 2
Review : And here we are investigating alternative Earth history again. This time, it's the Roman Empire, and they have "Hodgkin's Law" as an explanation. Of course, if it was a *complete* Earth parallel, the patricians would speak Latin and the plebeians and slaves would speak Greek, but that would have needed subtitles. As for the setting, it did not feel entirely Roman, more a veneer stretched over a clearly American setting. I'm not sure about the Sun/Son thing either. The story fitted together fairly well, but the way Marcus intended to draw the Enterprise crew down in an attempt to prevent "contamination" did not seem well thought-out. It would have made more sense if the self-serving Marcus was after advanced technology for a power grab. Merik's end - a knife in the back - was the most Roman moment in the whole story. The writers seemed to be thumbing their noses at their network bosses on several occasions; "nothing so crude as television" and the gladiator bout scene with it's applause/booing effects. New VFX, we have a planet with a supercontinent on one side and a massive ocean on the other, plus two additional moons, otherwise nothing special. Overall, not bad, but not good either.
Reviewer : Platonian Rating : 3
Review : This episode certainly has its weaknesses -- many weaknesses. The preposterous notion of "Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development" is a very good example. But, this is canon, so we have to accept it, however nonsensical it may be. What I *like* about this episode, and why I gave it three stars, is the idea that the Roman state per se never fell, that much of the misery and suffering that followed the collapse of Rome in our world never took place (at least this is what is suggested in the episode). It's perhaps a bit simplistic to agree wholly with Gibbon that Christianity was the main reason for the debilitation of the Roman state, not being good for the "Roman fiber" as he said. Nonetheless, religious irrationalism and fanaticism did mortally wound the intellectual heart of the Roman and Hellenistic worlds, making science and other rational inquiry anathema and heretical, unless in service to orthodox dogma. Such was the case with Byzantium, the Christian take on the Roman state. Hardly something worth emulating. I've heard speculation, from Carl Sagan among others, that the Western world could have "skipped" the Dark Ages, perhaps all of the Middle Ages, had Rome not fallen to barbarism and irrationalism. By this, we would be 1000 years ahead of where we are now. Perhaps, we'll never know. But perhaps these folks on planet 892 IV were able to do just that. No evidence to that effect was clearly presented in the episode, but Spock does suggest that 892 IV did not have the three world wars that Earth had in the Trek universe. That alone seems a good reason to believe that the maintenance of the Roman state, without the pernicious influence of Christianity, was a good thing on balance. Now, to paraphrase Suetonius, so much for the good things about the episode. Now, the monstrous things. The writers decided that the introduction of Christianity by the "People of the Son" was just what the Roman state on planet 892 IV needed to make everything "just right"? This is utter nonsense. Plunging 892 IV into the Dark Ages, as likely as not to happen, is a good thing? What were they thinking? This seems utterly alien to Gene Roddenberry's ideas about religion. I've seen speculation that this episode was a "bone" the series threw to the conservative religious types who didn't like the "Godless" attitudes often expressed in TOS, attitudes pretty much in line with Gene's own beliefs. Yet, there are some jabs at all this hooey. Flavius Maximus, good "brother of the Son" that he is, wants to murder Kirk, Spock and McCoy when he first finds them. No questions, just off them. Nice ethics, guy! You probably would have enjoyed murdering Hypatia here on Earth for her "evil ways" – of being a scientist, and a WOMAN scientist at that, and NOT a "good Christian"!
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