Classic Star Trek was set in the 23rd century but it didn’t stop Captain Kirk and the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise from spreading the word about universal freedoms and the documents that proclaimed them. On one occasion Kirk even saved a planet full of Yankees and Communists from destroying each other and in the process, taught them the value of the U.S. Constitution the Yankees had so carelessly discarded.
Now before you ask yourself, did the writers of Star Trek drop acid (definitely a possibility as the show was produced in the late 1960s), let me remind you that Star Trek often tackled contemporary issues by hiding them in science fiction tales. These allegories weren’t always so well-disguised (as is obvious in this episode) but they could still tell an entertaining story while exploring various themes including war, racism, and even the dangers of biological warfare.
One such tale was “The Omega Glory” which begins with the U.S.S. Enterprise discovering the U.S.S. Exeter, a starship with a dead crew. After beaming down to a nearby planet, Kirk discovers Ron Tracey, the ship’s captain, who apparently has gone batshit-crazy and discovered that the same disease which croaked his crew also bestows immortality on the planet’s inhabitants. The only problem is that no one can leave the planet. The enterprising Tracey (no pun intended) decides Kirk’s chief surgeon Dr. McCoy can isolate the longevity aspect and formulate a cure for the disease.
Over time, Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy discover two warring factions, the Yangs and the Kohms, and learn they are on a parallel Earth (one of several which seemed to occasionally pop up during the series) where a biological war destroyed civilization sometime in the 20th century. Tracey has allied himself with the Kohms, including using his advanced weaponry to flash-fry the opposition. This is a grave violation of the Prime Directive, the rule all starship captains abstain from interfering in the affairs of primitive planets (with a few exceptions Kirk usually used during his various adventures).
In a speech that only Captain James T. Kirk could deliver, the starship captain reminded everyone around him of the power of the United States Constitution.
“The Omega Glory” is often mentioned as one of the Original Series’ top ten episodes and while I’m saving that analysis for when I cover Trek’s 55th anniversary this Fall, it’s definitely worth checking out.