Star Trek (1966–1969)
23 user 4 critic

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:
Logan Ramsey ...
William Bramley ...
Rhodes Reason ...
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?


This was one of the first second-season episodes filmed, but the penultimate one aired. See more »


Max Kleven is billed as "Maximus", but his character is referred to as "Achilles" in the arena fight. See more »


Policeman: Four fleeing fish. A fine haul.
See more »


Referenced in Futurama: Where No Fan Has Gone Before (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

The Romans have always been the Strongest
30 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

By this point, we begin to see a pattern in Roddenberry's approach to Trek science fiction; he's not interested so much in cosmic concepts as he is in addressing social & political concerns of the present day through the filter of the Trek universe. He's not concerned with believable science fiction concepts in presenting other worlds which should have very different evolutionary stages from our own history. Hence, we've had the virus-stained 'Satan Bug/Omega Man world' ("Miri"), 'gangster world' ("A Piece of the Action" - admittedly a comedy), Nazi world ("Patterns of Force") and 'World War III world' ("Omega Glory"), all just like our own Earth except for a shift in their history to differentiate them. The proper way was to present stories in a parallel universe, but this was a space travel show, so Roddenberry was kind of stuck by his own premise (he includes a brief mention of 'Hodgkin's Law' here to explain the parallel development). Now we have 'Roman Empire' world, a rather effective precursor to the films "Westworld" and "Rollerball" - the title refers to keeping the populace, the mob, satiated with blood sports.

On this world, the Roman Empire never fell, as if continuing for several hundred more years rather than falling apart as it did on our Earth in the 4th - 5th centuries. Gladiatoral combat is on display again (not as silly as in "Gamesters of Triskelion"), now shown on TV rather than the old-time arenas. Cops or Centurians run around with machine guns, wearing motorcycle helmets (see also "Soylent Green" in 1973), but still have swords for the sake of tradition. Slavery has evolved, as well, with most slaves complacent due to an extension of some meager benefits over the centuries (again, a more effective presentation than the cheesy "Gamesters..."). Quite a few concepts were thought out, including some commentary on religion, and most of it comes across as a serious, adult approach. Indeed, there's a coarseness to much of this episode, an edge, reflecting the cruelty of the culture

  • this empire was a much earlier version of the brutal Nazi regime,

after all.

As we've become accustomed to by now, the main trio (Kirk,Spock,McCoy) are the ones who beam down to muck about in this intriguing yet dangerous culture. What comes as a surprise is that they actually adhere to the precepts of their Prime Directive in this one and it shows how tough this directive can be - ironic as this was the time I was kind of hoping Kirk would decide non-interference be damned (again) and lay waste to a city or two in teaching that fat proconsul a lesson in power; the episode succeeds in repelling the viewer to such an extent with all the unpleasantness on this planet that you wouldn't mind the Enterprise 'going Roman' on a few key establishments. The edginess extends to the Spock-McCoy relationship, in that fateful scene when McCoy spells out Spock's fear of living in their jail cell (both appear to accept that death is inevitable for them this time - it is that grim); McCoy's verbal attack appears to be a personal triumph for him but is he so successful at it because he knows what a death wish is like? The scene recalls their tension in "The Immunity Syndrome."

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