Star Trek: Season 2, Episode 25

Bread and Circuses (15 Mar. 1968)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 803 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 2 critic

The Enterprise crew investigates the disappearance of a ship's crew on a planet that is a modern version of the Roman Empire.



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Title: Bread and Circuses (15 Mar 1968)

Bread and Circuses (15 Mar 1968) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Episode complete credited cast:
R.M. Merrick / Merikus
Logan Ramsey ...
William Bramley ...
Rhodes Reason ...
Bart La Rue ...
Announcer (as Bart Larue)
Jack Perkins ...
Master of Games
Max Kleven ...
Lois Jewell ...


While searching for the crew of a destroyed spaceship, the Enterprise discovers a planet whose oppressive government is a 20th-century version of Earth's Roman Empire. Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet the rebels, seemingly sun worshipers, but are soon thereafter apprehended by the regime. The missing Captain Merik is revealed as the "First Citizen" and a pawn of the regime, but he and the rebels ultimately help Kirk and company to escape. Back on the Enterprise, Uhura observes that the crew's understanding of the rebels as sun worshipers was not completely accurate. Written by MGR

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

15 March 1968 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon wrote this episode's teleplay from a story by playwright and television writer John Kneubuhl. However, Roddenberry and Coon received sole writing credit for the episode. See more »


Dr. McCoy makes reference that ancient Rome did not worship the sun, which is untrue, since the Romans did in fact have a cult and temples dedicated to Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), which was also the patron deity of Roman soldiers. See more »


Merik: This is not an Academy training test. This is for real. They're taking you to die.
See more »


Referenced in Star Trek (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

A Tragic Ending Worthy of Conrad
10 February 2011 | by (Troy, NY) – See all my reviews

What makes this episode memorable to me after nearly forty years is not the tired, clumsy gladiator swordfights -- and certainly not the historically dubious tributes to Christianity as a religion of peace.

The power of this episode actually comes from the backstory of the minor villain, Merrick aka "Mericus." The real theme of this episode is the redemption of a man who once dreamed of being a Starship Captain, like Kirk, but was doomed by a single moment of cowardice to a lifetime of self-loathing. This is basically a retelling of LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad, with perhaps a dash of THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCES MACOMBER by Ernest Hemingway.

The clues come right away that Merrick is disgusted with himself. He's supposed to be questioning Kirk but really he's the one begging to be heard out, to be absolved. "Lots to talk about, Jim. Lots to explain." Later, when Kirk is absolutely ice-cold under pressure, watching Spock and McCoy face death in the arena, Merrick helpfully points out, "Proconsul, he commands not only a space ship, but a star ship. A very special ship, and crew. I once tried for such a command." Poor Merrick does everything but break down and bawl here. "I coulda been a contendah!"

The truly vile specimen in this episode is the proconsul, a fat little man who never gets tired of rubbing salt in Merrick's wounds. Watch how he makes Merrick pat Kirk down for weapons like a flunky. And listen for that little dig, "the thoughts of one man to another cannot possibly interest you, Merrick." All this stuff is a lot more hateful -- and closer to everyday life for most of us -- than sending men to die in the arena. And it's all the more grim in that this repulsive punk of a proconsul is still alive at the end, and will presumably live to die in bed, evil and unpunished. Tough stuff.

But in the end, what real uplift this episode provides is not Uhura's asinine speech about "The Son" but watching Merrick grab that communicator and shout, "Enterprise, lock on to this transmission. Three to beam up -- ACK!!!!"

Merrick lived a coward, but dies a hero -- in a tragic ending worthy of Conrad.

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