Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) discover that Captain Merik (William Smithers), commander of the long-missing Starfleet vessel S.S. Beagle, has become "First Citizen of the Empire" in a re-creation of ancient Rome on an obscure, unnamed planet. Under orders from the Emperor, Merik forced his own crew to die in gladiator battles and lured other Starfleet personnel to the same fate. Now with Kirk, McCoy, and Spock in hand, the Emperor's barbaric (and televised all over the planet) amusements carry on another day. While the script takes a swipe or two at the sometimes less-than-elevated tastes of global audiences, the episode's most interesting idea is the existence of a long-suffering cult of sun worshippers, a parallel to the suppressed Christian groups in Roman times. For Trekkers, however, this one is full of the essentials: a surreal premise, a hostile planet, lots of fighting, and Scotty (James Doohan) on the bridge. --Tom Keogh
"Journey to Babel"
Years before George Lucas knocked us out with his wildly imaginative bar scene in Star Wars (in which a broad mix of exotic creatures mill about), Star Trek did much the same thing in "Journey to Babel." Serving as a transport for a variety of extraterrestrial diplomats, the Enterprise becomes a warp-capacity hotel for truly eclectic visitors. (Director Joseph Pevney credits the makeup artist with this episode's impressive array of alien species.) The story finds murder committed aboard the ship and an attack on Captain Kirk (William Shatner), all in an effort to sabotage the imminent signing of a peace treaty. But against this mystery is an even more curious family drama featuring Spock's conflicts with his parents, the Vulcan ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard), who disapproves of his son, and his human wife, Amanda (Jane Wyatt). Story editor Dorothy Fontana wrote the script after deciding it was time to show us the oft-mentioned mother and father of the Enterprise's first officer (Leonard Nimoy). We can thank her for inventing all the fascinating details of a complicated family relationship that ultimately became crucial to a couple of feature films and even a memorable episode of The Next Generation. --Tom Keogh