Some while ago, inspired by this post of Orwell’s Picnic, I invested a considerable amount of money in a box set of Star Trek – The Original Series, and never looked back. A minor irritant, however, was that I could only receive the delivery of the DVDs in person, showing my ID, because they were age-restricted (cue the hassle of making an appointment with the delivery service, getting up in the early morning on Saturday, and the embarrassment of signing for age-restricted DVD packed in discrete brown envelope…)
This week I watched the one (!) episode out of 79 that earned the whole lot an ‘age 16 rating’ in Germany (nothing but definite p**n gets anything worse here, according to my – admittedly extremely limited – knowledge).
It is this:
Patterns of Force. The Enterprise is looking for a historian who was sent to observe a primitive civilization, and who, as it turns out, was so appalled by the Ekosians’ local squabbling that, non-interference directive or not, he decided to do something about it, though, to put it mildly, not with the best historical judgement.
Not to get me wrong: the episode may be in rather bad taste and has a number of glaring faults. One is the fact that most of the characters believe the National Socialist state was an efficient, though psychotic and evil, one, which is of course utterly wrong (Albeit, apparently, an opinion that was held at the time in the States [add Star Trek fandom source I am too lazy to look up here]). Another one is that if the generally kind and good historian (Gill, I think) just wants to copy what is good (?) about the Nazis, why does he import symbology, troop types and the like wholesale?
Still, from there on, it is pretty much ‘Some anvils have to be dropped‘. The Space Nazis are probably the most unalloyedly evil evil guys in the whole of TOS. First thing we see is them battering an apparently harmless civilian in way as brutal as not otherwise shown in TOS normally. The absolutely pacifist ethnic group to be eliminated (from a neighbouring planet with the best of intentions and behaving nobly throughout) come from the planet Zeon, and have names such as Abrom, Isak and Davod. The Space Nazis, leaving dying people in the street and mocking them, plus preparing wholesale annihilation of the Zeons both on their own and the Zeons’ home planet, are also rather foolish: easily taken in by the valiant resistance double agents, and enthusiastic about the meaningless aggressive catchphrases Gill, now a mindless drugged puppethead of an evil Second in Command, spouts out. Probably the least attractive evil guys in TOS, IMHO.
So what we get is Kirk and Spock, after escaping from their prison cells, running around in SS uniforms to save the day by deceit, the morbid fascination about watching them doing this lying in the utter opposition of what they and these uniforms stand for. O.K., there is the rather blue-eyed ending assuming that Gill dead and the whole madness unmasked, everyone will be reasonable again (but then again, that was about the hope of the Stauffenberg assassination attempt, and oh if it just would have worked!).
The fact that the episode was not shown in German television until decades after the original airings, and then late at night (if ‘in rather bad taste’ was a criterion, what about ‘The Empath‘?), should elucidate to non-Germans the depth of the German National Trauma, that allows none but the most chest-beating reference to 1933-45, no fun made about that period, nor any light entertainment, be it ever so obvious about who the really, really bad baddies are. Just so that you think before you make you next Nazi/Hitler joke while we are listening.