Star Trek (1966–1969)
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Bread and Circuses 

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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Episode complete credited cast:
Claudius Marcus
William Bramley ...
Bart La Rue ...
Announcer (as Bart Larue)
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

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Release Date:

15 March 1968 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The DVD and earlier VHS editions of this episode contain what is probably the best McCoy/Spock dialogue of the series, which was always edited out in syndication. See more »


Kirk tells Septimus and Flavius that he knows one of the Beagle's crew ("our friends") was recently seen in the city. He proceeds to name Captain Merrick. But the news report they had watched said nothing at all about Merrick. It named (Beagle first officer) William B. Harrison. See more »


Capt. Kirk: Captain's log, stardate 4040.7. On the surface of Planet IV, System 892, the landing party has won the confidence of what obviously is a group of runaway slaves. They dwell in caves not far from a large city, wear rags, live under primitive conditions; but they are creatures of a heavily industrialized 20th-century type planet, very much like Earth - an amazing example of Hodgkin's law of Parallel Planet Development. But on this Earth, Rome never fell. A world ruled by emperors who can trace ...
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Referenced in Muppets Tonight: Andie MacDowell (1998) 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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