Armageddon [1998]

Volume 12 in the classic Star Trek series on DVD begins with "Space Seed," which introduced Khan Noonien Singh (a viperlike Ricardo Montalban) to Trek lore. The trouble begins when Kirk & crew discovers a derelict ship and its crew of 70 supermen aboard, all in suspended animation. Led by Khan, these strange people turn out to be the product of genetic experimentation in the 1990s and instigators of a so-called Eugenics War, i.e., the Third World War on Earth often mentioned on various Trek programs. Though displaced from his more violent time and place, Khan quickly overcomes his disorientation and shifts into conqueror mode, quickly overtaking the Enterprise with the aid of a comely Federation historian who is swooning at his feet. As any Trek fan knows, "Space Seed" inspired Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, regarded by many as the best of the Trek feature films. "A Taste of Armageddon" is one of classic Trek's occasional, obvious metaphors for the absurdity of the then-cold war between East and West. Gene Lyons stars as a Federation ambassador named Fox, who boards the Enterprise to reach the planet Eminiar VII, where he hopes to negotiate a peace treaty with the inhabitants. Instead the crew of the Enterprise gets caught in the middle of an interplanetary war between Eminiar and neighboring planet Vendikar. The twist is that the war is being fought on computers, and compliant residents of those "destroyed" areas obediently report to disintegration chambers, where their "virtual" death is made literal. When the Enterprise is "hit" in one of these simulations, both the warlords of Eminiar VII and Ambassador Fox fully expect Capt. Kirk & crew to report to the disintegration center. The feisty Kirk has other plans, of course. And while the madness of this controlled armageddon makes a suitably surreal satire of the arms race in the 1960s, the story also evoked the endless, daily reports of body counts during the Vietnam war, with no resolution in sight. Aside from its parable aspect, however, the episode gave Kirk one of his earliest and most compelling scenes of Kirkian preachiness in a bold monologue about peace, reportedly written and rewritten numerous times by series producer and indispensable creative hand, Gene L. Coon. --Tom Keogh

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