A Piece of the Action
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
12 Jan 1968
Season Ep :
Kirk's attempts to use the car are hilarious indeed... but I find it hard to believe that in such a lawless society the owner left the keys in it! And in any case, why not have the Enterprise beam him to his destination?
As our quotes section shows, Krako at one point claims that he's never been arrested in his life. But this raises an interesting point... if this culture is indeed based on old Chicago, then does that include systems of government, police and courts? Krako's line seems to indicate that it does, and certainly one would expect a book about the 1920s mobs to mention a good deal about law enforcement efforts, government corruption, etc... but if that is so, then Kirk's actions here amount to aiding an overthrow of the elected government! I mean, imagine if a bunch of space aliens with advanced technology had turned up in the actual 1920s Chicago and told the mobsters there that they must take over the planet. Bit of a nightmare scenario, really, yes?
Great Moment :
Kirk's on the spot invention of Fizbin is my favourite of the many Great Moments in this episode.
Body Count :
One of Oxmyx's men is killed in a "hit" shortly after the landing party arrives.
Ships phasers can be set to stun - and this episode is the one and only time this facility has ever been used.
Gene Roddenberry jotted down a two-word premise for this story - "President Capone" - on page 1 of his very first Star Trek series proposal in 1964.
This episode suggests an origin for McCoy's nickname of Bones - Kirk calls him "sawbones", an old nickname for a Doctor. This is at odds with the 2009 alternate timeline Star Trek movie, in which the nickname appears to stem from McCoy's claim this wife took everything but his bones in the divorce.
When the Deep Space Nine staff hit on the idea of having their characters put into an original series setting, their first take on it was to have the DS9 crew visit Sigma Iotia II and find that they had adopted the clothing, technology and mannerisms of the Federation after Kirk's visit, just as they had imitated Chicago gangsters earlier. In the end it was decided to revisit "The Trouble with Tribbles" using time travel.
The original idea was followed up in the final issue of the Star Trek Unlimited comic book series, "A Piece of Reaction", instead.
However, the idea of the Iotians imitating the TOS era was subsequently used in the Star Trek comic story "A Piece of Reaction", with the TNG crew revisiting the planet.
The Enterprise arrives at Sigma Iotia II, a planet visited by the Starship Horizon in 2168. The Horizon was lost shortly after departing from the planet, and it has taken a century for Starfleet to receive her distress call and reports. Since the visit to Sigma Iotia II was before the Prime Directive was created, the crew are interested to see if any cross-cultural contamination may have occurred.
Uhura contacts an Iotian named Bela Oxmyx, who describes himself as the "Boss"; a title Kirk presumes to refer to some kind of planetary authority. Oxmyx invites Kirk down to the planet, assuring him that a reception committee will meet him on arrival. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to find a culture resembling that of Earth's 1920s Chicago - and the reception committee comprising two gangsters with sub-machine guns who take them prisoner!
As they are taken in to see Oxmyx, one of their captors is killed by a rival gang led by Krako. Oxmyx orders a reprisal before explaining the situation to Kirk - he is the most powerful of a dozen or so rival "Bosses" who each control a sizeable territory on the planet. He further explains that Iotian society is based on "The Book", a historical text about the Chicago Mobsters of the 1920s which was left behind by the Horizon when it departed.
Oxmyx states his demands; he wants advanced weapons from the Enterprise which he can use to conquer the other territories and unite the planet. When Kirk refuses, Oxmyx gives him a deadline - he has eight hours to provide the weapons, or he will be killed.
The three officers are taken to a nearby warehouse and held under guard. Oxmyx uses one of their communicators to hail the Enterprise and demand the weapons from Scotty, along with troops to train his men in their use.
In the warehouse, Spock notes that whilst his methods are inappropriate, Oxmyx has the right goal - the planet must indeed be unified if it is to make further progress. Kirk agrees, and states that since the Federation created this problem then it is their responsibility to help solve it - which they cannot do whilst confined. He sees that the guards are playing a card game to pass the time and introduces them to "Fizzbin", a card game which Kirk invents bizarre and complicated rules for as a way to distract them. This enables the officers to overpower the guards and escape. Kirk sends Spock and McCoy to find a local radio station and use it to signal the ship and return to orbit. Meanwhile he attempts to capture Oxmyx himself. Unfortunately Kirk is quickly captured again, this time by Krako's men. A rival Boss, Krakow makes much the same demands of Kirk for advanced weapons and then locks him up.
Spock and McCoy find a radio station and beam up to the Enterprise. Oxmyx contacts the ship to inform them that Kirk has been captured by Krako and offers to assist in getting him back if Spock and McCoy beam down to his office. Spock orders the ship's phaser banks set to stun and the beams down with McCoy - only to be captured at gunpoint once again!
Meanwhile Kirk again escapes, knocking out his guards and capturing a weapon. He arrives at Oxmyx's headquarters and frees his officers. With McCoy holding Oxmyx, Kirk and Spock adopt native garb and make their way to Krako's headquarters to capture him. The attempt fails, and Kirk and Spock are captured once more.
Kirk informs Krako that the Federation is "taking over" the planet and demonstrates his power by having Krako beamed up to the ship. He and Spock overpower Krako's men and go back to Oxmyx's office; once there Kirk decides to take control of the situation by having Oxmyx telephone the other bosses in turn, allowing the ship to zone in on their location and beam them to Oxmyx's office when each answers the phone. With the Bosses assembled, Kirk demands that they agree a deal where they will work together as a united government on the planet. The Bosses all argue about it, doubtful of the "Feds" power to enforce its will on their world. At that moment a group of henchmen begin to attack the headquarters to try and recover their bosses. Kirk has Scotty fire the phasers on the group, rendering them all unconscious.
With this demonstration of power the Bosses agree to make Oxmyx the head of the planetary government, with Krako as his lieutenant and the other Bosses next in line. They also agree that the Federation will have a 40% cut of the planet's "action" each year, much to Spock's bemusement. But Kirk states that the money will be directed into the planetary treasury to fund efforts to guide the Iotians into a more ethical society.
As they prepare to depart, McCoy confesses that he lost his communicator in Oxmyx's office. Spock states that the device contains transstator technology, which is the basis for most Federation technology. With that kind of technology available, and their tendency for mimicry of outside contamination, Kirk wonders if one day it might be the Iotians who are demanding a piece of the Federation's action!
What a fun episode this is! The premise here is rather lightweight and silly - can we really believe in an alien species whose desperation for mimicry is so great that they remodel their entire society after a single book? It's a little absurd. And Kirk's behaviour here is pretty outlandish, too. At the very least he pretty much takes sides in a civil war, strongarming the sides into bargaining with threats of violence. And Spock and McCoy don't make any great complaint about it, either! It's a little out of character for them.
That said, the above complaints aren't really a big deal because this is an episode that isn't meant to be taken very seriously. It's all just a thin excuse to get Kirk and his men into 1920s Chicago, much as the Dixon Hill episode "The Big Goodbye" is. But the TNG episode falls flat because the absurd premise of the holodeck gone wrong is used in a serious
situation, where a man is left dying and a mission severely threatened. Here, whilst guns are indeed waved around an awful lot, and even used on occasion, that's not the point of the episode. The whole thing is played for laughs, with very little serious about it. And on that level, it works very very well indeed.
The remastered version has the usual improved effects; most notably a new and vastly improved Sigma Iotia II, and an improved shot of the Enterprise phasers hitting the street.