Star Trek Re-Watch: “Day of the Dove”

Day of the Dove
Written by Jerome Bixby
Directed by Marvin Chomsky

Season 3, Episode 7
Production episode: 3×11
Original air date: November 1, 1968
Star date: Armageddon

 

Mission summary

An Enterprise landing party beams down to planet Beta XII-A with phasers drawn, responding to a distress call from a Federation colony that they can’t find. Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Ensign Chekov, and the redshirt are oblivious to the glowing mass of energy hovering suspiciously nearby, instead focusing on the Klingon battle cruiser that arrives on the scene.

Before Enterprise can engage them in battle, explosions cripple the Klingon ship from within. Its commander, Kang, and four other Klingons join Kirk’s team on the planet. Kang smacks Kirk with his disruptor pistol and accuses him of faking a distress call to ambush them with a new Federation weapon. With 400 of his own crew dead and a disabled vessel, he demands they surrender Enterprise. Kirk refuses and suggests that the Klingons tested a weapon on the colony and wiped out all trace of it. Chekov add his two cents: he launches himself at the Klingons, screaming about how they killed his brother Piotr at Archanis IV. The Klingons torture him, which encourages Kirk to cooperate with them. Kang rubs it in a little: “A Klingon never would have surrendered.”

Kirk orders Spock to beam them and their guests aboard. But he presses a panic button on his communicator (is it a stick-up?) to let his first officer know what’s really going on. They beam everyone up (closely followed by the glowy thing on the planet) but only Kirk and his men materialize on the transporter pads. Scotty holds the Klingons’ patterns in suspension until a security team arrives to arrest them. Enterprise also begins evacuating survivors from the Klingon ship, including a female Klingon.

KANG: My wife, Mara, and my science officer.
MARA: Kang, what has happened?
KANG: More Federation treachery. We are prisoners.
MARA: What will they do to us? I’ve heard of their atrocities, their death camps. They will torture us for our scientific and military information.
KIRK: Apparently you have a few things to learn about us. Detain them in the crew lounge. Program the food synthesizer to accommodate our guests. You’ll be well-treated, Kang.
KANG: So I have seen.

Meanwhile, their glowing stowaway wanders the ship’s corridors undetected, and subspace communications are blocked, leaving the crew to figure out what’s happening without the sage advice of Starfleet. Ever the voice of reason, Spock insists that the Klingons couldn’t have harmed the colony—they were nowhere near it at the time. But Chekov is unconvinced, and surprisingly McCoy agrees: “What proof do we need? We know what a Klingon is.”

After they destroy the crippled Klingon ship, which was leaking dangerous radiation, communications remain blocked. Uhura throws a tantrum on the bridge—which is understandable because that’s her only job—while the glowy thing looks on. Then the ship makes an abrupt change in speed and course: heading at warp 9 out of the galaxy. (Again!) Scotty can’t do anything to shut down the engines, and it gets worse when emergency bulkheads trap 392 crewmen in the lower decks.

Kirk thinks Kang is behind all this and sucker punches him in the rec room. The Klingons are able to arm themselves when various objects spontaneously transform into swords—including the phasers Kirk and his security guards are holding. Kirk and his men cross swords with the Klingons and escape into a turbolift, with only one of the redshirts, Lt. Johnson, getting stabbed in the process. Not bad, but the day is still young. Back on the bridge, Spock belatedly realizes that none of this makes any sense.

SPOCK: Captain, neither the Klingon technology nor ours is capable of this: the instantaneous transmutation of matter. I doubt that they are responsible.
KIRK: Any other logical candidate?
SPOCK: None. However, if they had such power, would they not have used it to create more effective weapons and only for themselves?

Good point, Spock! Since the ship is running itself, Kirk tells Scotty to free the trapped crewmembers and sends Sulu down to Auxiliary Control. Chekov wants to take revenge on the Klingons for the death of his brother, but Kirk won’t let him out to play. He runs off the bridge anyway, brandishing a sword. Sulu’s confused though: Chekov never had a brother. (Shouldn’t Kirk or Spock know that, what with personnel records?)

The escaped Klingons discover a copy of the The Enterprise Technical Manual and decide to take over Engineering, since it’s the thing to do. Scotty reports that the bulkheads are somehow impervious to phaser torches and every weapon in the armory has been transformed into swords, lances, and other “antiques.” He grabs a Scottish claymore and joins Sulu, just in time to be attacked. Of course, they lose Engineering.

At least Spock has made some progress on figuring out their situation. He exercises his higher math skills to determine that the Enterprise crew and the Klingons each have exactly thirty-eight people in play on each side, and sensors detect an extra, unknown life form of pure energy—rarely a good sign. Even the ship’s uncannily intelligent computer can’t figure out what’s happening, but it’s enough to convince Kirk that they’re all being punk’d by an alien, and he decides they need to form a truce with the Klingons. McCoy shows up on the bridge and flips out when he hears the plan.

MCCOY: Truce? Are you serious? I’ve got men in Sickbay, some of them dying. Atrocities committed on their persons, and you talk about making peace with these fiends? If our backs were turned, they’d jump us in a minute. And you know what Klingons do to prisoners. Slave labor, death planets, experiments!
KIRK: McCoy?
MCCOY: While you’re talking, they’re planning attacks. This is a fight to the death. We’d better start trying to win it!
SPOCK: We are attempting to end it, Doctor. By reason, preferably. There is an alien on board which may have created this situation.
MCCOY: Who cares what started it, Mr. Spock. We’re in it! Murderers. We should wipe out every one of them!
KIRK: The alien is the real threat. That’s the enemy we have to wipe out.
UHURA: Sickbay calling, Doctor. There are more wounded men requiring your attention.
MCCOY: How many more men must die before you two begin to act like military men instead of fools?

Kirk’s stunned by the doctor’s uncharacteristic outburst–he hasn’t been this upset since T.R. Knight left Grey’s Anatomy. Kirk calls Kang to make peace, but the Klingon commander switches off life support. So, that’s probably a no. Scotty’s the next person to turn up crazed on the bridge. He accuses the captain of dooming them all and starts insulting poor, innocent Spock. The Vulcan gives as good as he gets and is about to bash the engineer’s head in when Kirk breaks up the fight. “What are we saying? What are we doing to each other?” he asks. Then he finally groks what is happening.

KIRK: Two forces aboard this ship, each of them equally armed. Has a war been staged for us, complete with weapons and ideology and patriotic drum beating? Even, Spock, even race hatred?
SPOCK: Recent events would seem to be directed toward a magnification of the basic hostilities between humans and Klingons. Apparently, it is by design that we fight. We seem to be pawns.
KIRK: But what’s the game? And whose? And what are the rules?

Power suddenly returns to life support and the bridge, enabling Spock to track down their alien antagonist to Engineering—which also happens to be where Chekov is lurking. The mad Russian attacks a Klingon and Kang’s wife Mara, and is in the midst of sexual assault when Kirk pulls him off her and knocks him out. Horrified, Kirk carries Chekov to Sickbay, accompanied by Spock and a silent Mara. There, they learn that the injured crewmen are miraculously healing so they can continue fighting, including Lt. Johnson. The doctor’s also coming to his senses and he apologizes for his earlier rudeness.

Kirk, Spock, and Mara go alien hunting and soon corner the glowy thing in a corridor. Lt. Johnson finds them and starts a sword fight. Spock subdues him with a neck pinch and observes that the glowy thing had a healthy red glow during the tussle, but its energy levels decreased when Johnson went sleepytime. Kirk spells it out: “It exists on the hatred of others.” The little guy has been manipulating them all into a conflict with the Klingons, one that will never end unless they can get rid of it. Scotty interrupts with some more bad news: the dilithium crystals are going to burn out in twelve minutes.

Kang still won’t talk, so Kirk takes a desperate measure and uses Mara as a bargaining chip: he threatens to kill her if Kang won’t respond. The Klingon commander calls his bluff, but Mara is so surprised that Kirk isn’t actually going to kill her that she questions all the propaganda she’s heard about the Federation. She agrees to help him get through to Kang, and they risk a tricky intra-ship transport to Kang’s coordinates in Engineering. Kirk and Mara arrive unarmed, but Kang won’t listen to his wifehe sees the tunic that Chekov tore and assumes that she’s been…compromised. Mara tosses Kirk a sword and he spars with Kang while he tries to point out the glowy thing watching them. The captain finally tosses aside his weapon:

All right. All right. In the heart. In the head. I won’t stay dead. Next time I’ll do the same to you. I’ll kill you. And it goes on, the good old game of war, pawn against pawn! Stopping the bad guys. While somewhere, something sits back and laughs and starts it all over again.

Mara pleads with her husband, and at last Kang relents. He drops his weapon and calls a ship-wide truce with Kirk. With the fighting over, Spock proposes that “good spirits might make an effective weapon.” Kirk shoos the glowy thing away, and they all start laughing until the alien leaves the ship. And they all lived happily ever after.

Analysis

The hate vampire (it sparkles!) in “Day of the Dove” upstages the manipulative Melkotians from “Spectre of the Gun,” resulting in an even less coherent plot—sadly accomplished with far less artistry. Since the glowing cloud of energy of the week can transmute matter, control people’s minds, heal people, plant false memories, alter the laws of physics, and do pretty much whatever else the script calls for, anything can and does happen to keep the story moving. There are few rules governing this creature’s existence and its interactions with humanoids, except that it feeds on hate and is willing to expend huge amounts of energy to ensure a steady supply of it—surely a biological inconsistency. Sometimes it can be seen and sometimes it can’t, and it can move through walls except when it’s convenient for it to be cornered. There’s little attempt to make any aspect of this story believable or compelling, and the episode lacks meaningful character development; Kirk and the others are essentially puppets, of both the alien and the script, acting and speaking to fulfill an agenda and merely responding to external stimuli with few opportunities for agency.

It’s odd that an episode that demonstrates the dangers of listening to propaganda without questioning the truth is itself so strongly propagandistic. Though Star Trek often excelled at encouraging political and social change under the guise of science fiction, it occasionally delivered its messages with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Here, it’s clear that we’re meant to learn that war is bad, that we must work together regardless of race or belief if we’re ever to make peace. This is a high ideal, appropriate for Star Trek, but it’s also too obvious to be truly effective—no one likes to be preached to, least of all the choir.

In Roddenberry’s future, the only way humans would express “race hatred” and violence is under alien influence (except in all the episodes where this is their natural inclination). Chekov’s vendetta against the Klingons and his attempted rape of one of their women is particularly uncomfortable, however evocative it is of actual war crimes. That may be the point, but it’s especially hard to watch because Chekov would never act this way under normal circumstances. And yet, they all get over their false behavior easily. McCoy merely apologizes for his prejudices, and all is forgiven. We never see Chekov’s reaction to his treatment of Mara, but she seems strangely unperturbed by the experience. On the other hand, I kept thinking about the dinner scene from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where the Enterprise crew’s reactions to their Klingon guests are not far off from their portrayal in this episode.

The episode is further marred by the fact that once again Kirk is strangely equipped to hold onto his reason even when being controlled by an alien intelligence. Sulu karate chopping a Klingon while armed with a katana almost made me wince as much as Chekov’s assault of Mara; sure, he could be trained in martial arts, but it seems almost too easy to fall into that stereotype, which the show’s creators so carefully avoided in the first season. This episode ends with a belly laugh as so many do, but it’s just as forced as the rest of the episode. The trick reminded me a bit of the “dust bunnies” from the anime film My Neighbor Totoro, which are also cast out of a house by feigning cheerfulness, but somehow the concept was easier to accept in a children’s film steeped in supernatural mythology.

The episode does have some good points. Not only is this the first time we see Klingon women, one of which also happens to be a science officer, but Mara gives us some interesting insight into the Klingon’s warrior mentality:

We have always fought. We must. We are hunters, Captain, tracking and taking what we need. There are poor planets in the Klingon systems, we must push outward if we are to survive.

It’s also interesting to see Kirk trick the Klingons when he beams them up to the ship, and this episode introduces us to intra-ship transport, which becomes much less hazardous in later Star Trek shows—although, these additions to the canon can also be looked at as convenient plot devices that essentially change the rules to reach the conclusion.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 2  (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: War bad. Peace good. Grunt.

I’m all for mildly transparent social messages but this had the subtlety of a jackhammer symphony. They took what could be an interesting idea–wizard’s chess, anyone?–and instead turned it into a childish metaphor reduced and then reduced some more into a stultifying and incoherent moral lesson. (Ironically, the episode rages against propagandistic lessons!)

More egregiously, I felt it conflated war with the individuals who fight in it. Repeatedly, “race hatred” and overt bigotry are cited as the reasons the Federation-Klingon War exists–and while that may be true on an individual level, it’s a) impossible to know how widespread that really is–most of the Federation people we meet seem to be fine folk; and b) probably completely irrelevant to the actual reasons the two groups are at war with one another. Mara makes clear that the Klingon expansion (which so irks the Federation and we see firsthand in “Errand of Mercy”) is a political necessity for their empire. I suspect it is the encroachment on territory and aggressive colonization that has sparked the war with the Federation, not simple bigotry. I’m not saying wars don’t happen because of sheer hatred, but that seems extremely unlikely in this particular instance. The lesson, then, that we could all make peace if we simply stopped fighting, struck me as particularly naive.

That said, individuals can make a difference in a war–we see that in “Balance of Terror”–but the circumstances of this episode were so self-contained I don’t see the wider effect. Working together to fight a menacing space douche is a worthy goal, but not necessarily applicable to global peace. If it had dealt more maturely with issues of war–made a distinction between soldiers and empires, demonstrated or even implied that this event positively improved relationships between the factions–perhaps I could forgive the awful production elements.

And are they awful! There’s so much hamminess in the performances that the episode oscillates between inappropriate seriousness and outright self-parody. DeForest Kelly displays some of his worst acting here since “Spock’s Brain,” barking his lines madly (and yet, half-heartedly), and then about halfway through the episode just giving up. Doohan doesn’t fare much better, and Shatner! Don’t break my heart like this…  Need I even comment at this point on the music? Still, it’s like Wagner compared to the godawful fight choreography. It just felt campy and wholly inappropriate for what should’ve been–not somber, but not completely outlandish, either.

I am a nitpicker by nature, but I felt completely justified with this one. If the Klingons can selectively cut power to part of the Enterprise, why didn’t our guys try that earlier? Why do they keep grabbing Mara’s arm and dragging her around like some kind of deadweight, even after she’s agreed to cooperate? How does no one notice this GIANT GLOWING BALL whose physical limitations vary from scene to scene (can it go through walls? How does it get cornered?). And worst of all, why does Mara shout to Kang that it’s a trap after seeing the alien herself with her own two eyes. Her whole attitude changes when Kirk doesn’t kill her, but how is that relevant to the giant sparkly death ball she has just seen? (Also? Giant sparkly death ball. ’Nuff said.)

It’s not without its (all too rare) charms. I enjoyed the way that Kirk manages to trick the Klingons into getting onboard the ship (he does not, in fact, lie–he is very precise in his language). Kang’s response that “We have no devil, Kirk” is a line for the ages, and the brutal man-punch that Kirk delivers when they all arrive in the transporter bay is probably the primary reason I’m not rating this a warp 1.

There’s one question I really want answered: why are the Klingons suddenly in layers of brown face paint? In the movies and all of the next generations the Klingons are obviously black: they’re often played by black actors and unfortunately saddled with a lot of black stereotypes (they’re violent and aggressive!), but even when played by white actors their makeup and appearance was convincing enough to hide their race. I have no idea if that was the intention in the original series. When we covered “Errand of Mercy” we mentioned that the script was going for a more Asian/Mongolian look, and in “The Trouble With Tribbles” they’re very clearly white, with no face paint at all. This is the darkest we’ve ever seen the Klingons. What prompted the change? Did the creative team decide to make them black between the first and third seasons? Or is that not the aim at all, in which case the face paint is an unfortunate coincidence that unwittingly evokes the problematic history of blackface? I can’t imagine any makeup artist, producer, or director oblivious to such an obvious first impression. What the hell was going on there?

Torie’s Rating: Warp 2

 

Best Line: KANG: Out! We need no urging to hate humans. But for the present, only a fool fights in a burning house. Out!

Syndication Edits: None

Trivia: John Colicos was meant to reprise his role as the Klingon Commander Kor, but when he became unavailable Michael Ansara was cast as a new character, Kang, who later joined Kor on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Blood Oath”) and encountered Captain Sulu in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Flashback.” This likely explains why Kirk and Kang already seem to know each other.

Bixby’s original script called for the Klingons and Enterprise crew to sing songs and join in a peace march to drive the alien away. This likely would have had the same effect on viewers.

According to Bixby’s son Emerson, Bixby asked James Doohan to pronounce the word “Vulcan” to suggest a stronger adjective when he shouts at Spock on the bridge, which obviously slipped by the ship’s censors.

This is the only Star Trek episode to feature Klingon women and intraship beaming, as well as Sulu’s only visit to Engineering and the Jefferies tubes.

The Klingon agonizer used on Chekov is the same used in “Mirror, Mirror.”

Other notes: This episode establishes much of the layout of the Enterprise decks in show continuity, including the location of Engineering at the forward section of the secondary hull, the location of crew quarters in the saucer section, and the existence of an emergency manual control in a Jefferies tube.

Michael Ansara (Kang) also appeared in major genre shows of the time, including The Outer Limits (“Soldier,” written by Harlan Ellison), “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” “The Time Tunnel,” “Lost in Space,” “Land of the Giants,” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” More recently, he provided the voice of Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond.

In Greg Cox’s Q Continuum novels, the alien entity in this episode is named (*), part of a gang of space douches that includes Gorgan (“And the Children Shall Lead“) and “God” from Star Trek V.


Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 6 -“Spectre of the Gun.”

Next episode: Season 3, Episode 8 -“For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

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About Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson

EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is forthcoming from Pyr. TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.