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The Omega Glory

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at June 2, 2006 - 8:54 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Omega Glory' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When the Enterprise encounters the Exeter in orbit around Omega IV, an away team including Kirk, Spock and McCoy discovers that the entire crew appears to be dead but the captain, who remained on the planet after the away team brought a deadly pathogen aboard. Discovering that they are also infected, the team beams down to the planet and meets Captain Ron Tracey, who tells them that the planet offers natural immunity and that the peaceful Kohm village in which he lives is under attack by the violent Yangs. Kirk discovers that Tracey has used his phaser to affect the balance of power on the planet, and when Tracey demands more phasers from the Enterprise, Kirk formally arrests him, accusing him of violating the Prime Directive. Tracey, who believes that the virus infecting them might hold the key to longevity like that of the Kohms, wants McCoy to isolate a serum that will give humans longer lifespans and justify his interference. Kirk and his crew are taken prisoner by the Kohms, but are captured in a Yang attack. In the Yang stronghold, Kirk and Spock discover that they are on a parallel Earth following a Third World War won by the Communists - the Kohms - and that the Yankees, the Yangs, have hidden away as a sacred text the US Constitution. When Kirk demonstrates not only that he can defeat Tracey in single combat but that he can recite the words, the Yangs agree to heed his message of freedom, and the crew finds it can return to the ship, having been cured by exposure to the planet's atmosphere.

Analysis: Because of the last fifteen minutes, "The Omega Glory" must be classed as one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever, but until it falls completely apart, it's rather enjoyable in a campy, superficial way. This is the only episode I can think of where Kirk gets knocked out not once but twice and by both sides of the conflict, and William Shatner plays his scenes with a sour, grumpy expression as if Kirk has a headache throughout, even before the dialogue has degenerated into the nonsense at the end when Kirk attempts to make a case for truth, justice and the American way. Tracey's character is written as so over-the-top crazy that Shatner can emote to his heart's content and Kirk still seems calm and rational.

That said, the episode doesn't start badly; there's a crisis with another starship, a rescue mission in which Kirk learns (or should learn) the hazards of beaming both the captain and first officer into a potentially hazardous situation, the catastrophic discovery there (very well-paced, letting the audience begin to guess that those salt crystals are the crew bodies before McCoy confirms it), the realization that the Enterprise crew could share the same fate, the beamdown into the middle of what appears to be a public execution and the discovery that Captain Tracey controls the events and has used his phaser in front of the natives. Tracey seems surprisingly stable for a man who has lost his entire crew - compared to Matt Decker, at least - but soon the extent of his madness becomes clear, as the landing party is taken prisoner and told they can never leave the planet.

Tracey needs McCoy's help isolating the agent that has allowed the Kohms to live for centuries, so he can't kill Kirk and Spock outright, but he can use their lives as bargaining chips, and can use Spock and McCoy to keep Kirk from trying to inform his crew of what's going on. McCoy makes it look as if he's going along with Tracey's plan - he is genuinely curious about the virus that has trapped them on the planet - but he's not afraid of his powerful Kohm guard and is ready to knock him out if he gets a chance. Sulu picks up on the fact that there's trouble and refuses to cooperate with Tracey's demands through Kirk for more weapons.

But it's not clear what triggers Sulu's suspicions, and the episode begins to degenerate once Kirk discovers that the savage Yangs use "freedom" as a worship word. Sirah, the Yang woman, seems to exist solely as a device, first so Kirk can grab her and demonstrate his non-savagery by releasing her (he is repaid for this by being conked over the head by Cloud William), then so Spock can intrude upon her mind and use her to retrieve a communicator. We hear that there are thousands upon thousands of Yangs massing for an attack on the Kohm village - which does indeed seem peaceful and stable, and Tracey's initial decision to ally himself with them doesn't seem that much more outrageous than Kirk threatening to blow up Eminiar 7 or destroying Landru. He has to be portrayed as mad for power and wealth as well as having exercised the bad judgment of using phasers to shoot Yangs, but it's still hard for me to judge him as harshly as Kirk does given his ongoing sympathy for John Gill after the stuff he pulled on Ekos - Tracey's wish to cure all human disease still seems relatively sane compared to a history professor making himself Fuhrer.

And then there's the distorted playing of the Star Spangled Banner as the American flag is brought in by the Yangs, Cloud William's near-unbearable reading of the E Plebnista and Kirk's even worse reading of the Preamble to the US Constitution (I can excuse Shatner's awkwardness somewhat with the words - having been raised in Canada, he didn't have to memorize it in grade school like I did - but the fist-waving is a little much under any circumstances). As if the rah-rah patriotism isn't enough, Tracey drags God into the proceedings, insisting that Kirk is the Evil One and everyone can tell from Spock's pointed ears (fortunately the Holy Bible is also a sacred text of the Yangs, though not in the same place of honor as the E Plebnista). It's frankly embarrassing - the single combat so that good can defeat evil (though it allows McCoy to utter the great line about how evil often wins unless good is very careful), the symbols of American patriotic glory without any sense that the Yangs understand any better after Kirk's speech what they mean, the weirdness of the fact that we get no indication of the Kohms as communists except racially...there's an icky racism in play in which the "Americans" are ethnically white Anglo-Saxon in appearance. The American-born actors on Star Trek are a lot more diverse than that!

"The Omega Glory" seems derived from several previous episodes, and the timing of its airing is particularly unfortunate because it follows those of which it is most reminiscent. The crew of the Exeter has been reduced to essential body elements without water, which it turns out has been caused by a genetically engineered disease that has greatly increased life expectancy for the survivors. The latter storyline is very reminiscent of the one from "Miri", and the bodies being reduced to chemicals is a lot like what the Kelvans did so recently in "By Any Other Name", turning crewmembers into hexagonal forms composed of their essential elements and brain patterns. But the bigger problem is that "The Omega Glory" is a parallel Earth storyline of the sort that Spock said in the just-seen "Patterns of Force", where he claimed that the odds of a replica of Nazi Germany developing on its own right down to the uniforms was infinitesimal.

In "The Omega Glory", we're asked to buy a parallel Earth so perfect that the same Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, which would be fine if we got some explanation of how these Yangs and Kohms came to be there -- did they leave our Earth at some point in a secret launch like Khan's and establish rival bases on this planet from which they fought World War III? Is this entirely a parallel universe the Enterprise has somehow discovered? There's no explanation whatsoever, which renders everything very silly. There are some entertaining scenes, but given the overall quality of Star Trek's second season, there's also a lot in "The Omega Glory" that's inexplicable, even inexcusable.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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