Star Trek (1966–1969)
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The Return of the Archons 

Seeking the answer to a century-old mystery, Kirk and crew encounter a vacantly peaceful society under a 6000-year autocratic rule that kills all those it can't absorb.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Brioni Farrell ...
First Lawgiver
Charles Macaulay ...
Karl Held ...
Lindstrom (as Christopher Held)
Sean Morgan ...


The Enterprise travels to Beta III to learn the fate of the U.S.S. Archon, gone missing a century earlier. One member of the landing party disappears, and one returns in a strangely blissful state. Kirk beams down with another landing party; amidst the chaos of "Festival" their hosts asks if they are "Archons." To learn more, Kirk must convince Betan citizens to disobey Landru, the man who has ruled them for 6,000 years - or find those who already resist. But with the Lawgivers everywhere, that task is going to be difficult... Written by CommanderBalok

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Release Date:

9 February 1967 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The episode was adapted into issue nine and ten of IDW's alternate reality Star Trek: Ongoing comic series. See more »


The crew just beamed down in the town. There is a wide shot of the street. There are Electric or phone poles in the background, rising above, beyond the buildings. Yet when they are taken to the room where they will stay, their host lights a gaslight. See more »


Marplon: It is done.
Mr. Spock: Joy be with you. Peace and contentment.
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Referenced in The Purge (2013) See more »


Theme From Star Trek
Written by Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

Better Hurry - it's almost The Red Hour
14 July 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Some rather deep and sophisticated concepts were presented in this episode, quite sophisticated even for this show; the drawback was an unexciting narrative, even a drab pace. The Enterprise had already arrived at a planet before the episode begins, on one of those investigative searches for a lost Federation ship from a century prior. The planet's inhabitants all seem to be in a perpetual state of vapid, almost mindless contentment, walking about in a happy daze on the streets of a pleasant town. Well, perpetual until the big clock strikes a certain hour - then everyone goes crazy raping & pillaging (I wonder who cleans up these messes afterward?). The people here are no more than wind up toys, following the telepathic command of a hidden ruler named Landru. It's one of those 'group-mind' premises prevalent in sf, especially in the sixties. There are no real individuals left, only a 'body' composed of many cells, each pretty much the same as the next one. This proposes that when free will becomes too intoxicating and mankind nearly destroys itself (i.e. self-induced holocaust), then something may step in to regulate our will to avoid extinction - a cosmic Gandhi turned benign dictator, if you will.

However, as with every body, there appear certain strains or viruses attacking from within. The rebels here work in groups of 3 and are apparently resistant to the absorption techniques imposed by Landru. It's interesting that these rebels are all old men, perhaps having developed some immunity over time, but they're not so much into rebelling as crying for some saviors to come - like the 'Archons' from a 100 years ago. Kirk has to coerce these guys into helping him find this mysterious Landru, while avoiding being absorbed. My favorite scene lets actor Kelley show what a good actor he really was after McCoy gets absorbed into the body. No one else was able to capture that self-satisfied contentment as well as he did and it was all the more unsettling when, after pointing an accusatory finger, he attacked Kirk in rage ("You're NOT of the BODY!") - I tell you, you can't pay for better entertainment sometimes. The 4th act, unfortunately, is anti-climactic, with a pat use of anti-machine logic by Kirk to get some circuits sputtering (see later episodes such as "The Ultimate Computer" and "The Changeling"). I did appreciate the guest turn by actor Thatcher who appears late in the episode - I'll always remember him from the best Sinbad movie.

Now we come to the real crux of this story - the complete disregard of the Prime Directive, that supposedly unyielding law which governs the ethics of the Federation. It states that such Federation envoys as the Enterprise crew may never interfere with or change another culture. Well, maybe it wasn't a COMPLETE disregard: Spock does remind Kirk of the directive towards the 4th act. Kirk dismisses this law with a couple of sentences, that it only refers to a growing culture, which this isn't. Oh, really? Perhaps now we understand the attraction of going off into space as a starship captain - you get to play God on occasion. Not a bad way to spend one's time - as Kirk would do again; remember "The Apple" and, very soon, "A Taste of Armageddon"?

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