Episode: A Taste of Armageddon – Season 1, Episode 23 (1967)
Director: Joseph Pevney
Teleplay: Gene L. Coon and Robert Hamner
Story: Robert Hamner
The Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission to Eminar VII when it “accidentally” becomes embroiled in an interplanetary war. I say “accidentally” because the planet sends them a message to please, please stay away, but dick diplomat Robert Fox (Gene Lyons) makes Kirk go anyway.
Transporting to the planet, Kirk and Spock learn that Eminar VII is at war with its neighbor Vendikar, but hostilities take place entirely inside computer simulations. The casualties are very real: ancient treaty obligations require that “killed” citizens report for voluntary disintegration. It isn’t long before the Enterprise falls victim to a purely figurative Tri-Cobalt Satellite and the whole crew is marked for death! Kirk and the landing party are taken hostage to assure compliance, but with Scotty in charge back on the ship, you can guess how that plays out.
Were you worried that Kirk might go a whole episode without handling a woman, violating the Prime Directive, or punching local law enforcement? Sleep easy True Believer: in the course of a madcap prison escape he does all three, mixing shit up like he’s on rails. We learn that Spock can control minds through walls, and our Captain proves equal to splitting hairs when it comes to voluntary disintegration. It’s a charming local custom until some hot lady (Barbara Babcock as Mea 3) tries it, then Kirk is all ready to drop General Order 24 on a bitch. That’s the one where the Enterprise smokes every population center on the planet.
Cue a rampage of terrorism and property damage that leaves Eminar’s military computer in ruins. As council leader Anan 7 (David Opatoshu) explains, this doesn’t mean the imaginary war is over. Once Eminar stops cooking its own people, the real missiles start to fly automatically. Kirk has a ready rejoinder: “Whelp, you better call up Vendikar and figure all this out while I break for high orbit! Here’s an extra asshole ambassador for ya, just in case.”
This Cold War allegory makes a point: without full hostilities, it’s easy to overlook the peripheral casualties that add up year after year. When we become inured to violence, violence becomes the endemic norm.
Still. Eminar and Vendikar have a treaty that has narrowed the scope of their war for 500 years. The very real alternative is the complete destruction of both planets. But like every episode where Kirk encounters relative social stasis, his reflex is to induce global anarchy. There is no balanced status quo that our Captain doesn’t equate with sterile tyranny.
What if Kirk and the gang stopped by a grocery store on 21st century Earth? “Are you telling me that if one of your citizens doesn’t have any of these arbitrary paper ‘dollars’ of yours, you simply refuse to give him food? With a fiat currency system that allows you to print as much money as you want, you still allow – nay, require! – your poorest citizens to starve to death?”
He’d judo-chop Paul Volcker and have us back on the Gold Standard inside ten minutes.
 How does this not show up on a guy’s resume? “Well, I guess I could always just make the guy on the other side of this wall open the cell door and hand us his weapon. Because by the way I can do that with the power of my mind.”
 This is an adequate clue to exactly where in his space pants Kirk stores his real Prime Directive.