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"Star Trek: The Return of the Archons (#1.21)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Star Trek" The Return of the Archons (1967)

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20 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

You are not of the body...

7/10
Author: Ken Hower from Granite Bay, CA
6 July 2006

This is the word of Landru! "You will be absorbed...your individuality will merge into the unity of good."

This episode always makes me wonder if this was the inspiration for the BORG. The planet has 1 ruler/leader, who's name is Landru. But he is really just a computer. This was a common theme in the original Star Trek...computers gone awry. In the episode all citizens must become "of the body". If they aren't "of the body", they are pointed out, or busted by those of the body. Once "assimilated", all citizens feel joy, peace and contentment. The BORG obviously take this concept to another level, but the similarities are very apparent.

In the projection of Landru...he says "you are an infection" to Kirk and crew. Very Borg like indeed.

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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Self-defense, conflicting Prime Directives and how to outsmart an omnipotent power

7/10
Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
16 April 2007

Return of the Archons is one of those episodes of TOS which, whether you like it or not, sticks with you. It is one of the franchises first attempts to deal with dystopian subjects and takes place almost entirely on a planet inhabited by people whose lives are regulated in all respects by the mysterious force known as Landru. Sulu sets this up by becoming the first member of the crew to become absorbed by 'the body'. He is transported back to the ship in the same state of idiotic bliss as the inhabitants of the planet, and begins babbling the praises of Landru. Takei's acting makes this opening scene very memorable and sets a disturbing tone.

The Archons were crew members of the USS Archon, a federation ship which arrived at this planet long ago. Today, the Archons live only as a legend of resistance to Landru and 'The Body' - his regulated, brain-washed society. The story is well written and smartly conceived. Within the first 20 minutes, the episode gives us a taste of the body's folk-lore, language, and regulatory systems.

This episode incorporates some comic elements early on - mostly the typical human vs vulcan theme - but the humor dies down as the bridge crew begins to understand the threat they are facing. Landru sees all, is beginning to absorb all, and is pulling the ship out of its orbit. Kirk, Spock and a small landing party must violate the prime directive to save their ship and the catatonic society they have encountered. But they frankly don't even know where to start.

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15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Better Hurry - it's almost The Red Hour

7/10
Author: Bogmeister from United States
14 July 2006

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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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"Your individuality will merge into the unity of the Good".

9/10
Author: classicsoncall from United States
24 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Back when I was watching these Star Trek episodes as reruns in the Seventies, I would never have considered the political and societal implications of an episode like 'The Return of the Archons'. For anyone watching these shows as a youth, the stories seem primed purely for entertainment. The same could be said for an earlier series, my all time favorite, The Twilight Zone. Yet in many of his stories, Rod Serling took a definite stand against the encroaching authority of the state, and both subtle and not so subtle intrusions against individual freedom and liberty. Perhaps his strongest statement in that regard was the TZ second season episode 'The Obsolete Man', and to a lesser extent, 'Eye of the Beholder', even though that latter one is generally remembered for representing something entirely different.

I have no idea what Gene Roddenberry's political leanings might have been, but one gets a strong hint with 'The Archons'. The summary line quoted above, when studied for it's deeper subtext, contains the ultimate promise of the uber-Socialist. One's freedom and individuality, as demonstrated by the spirit of Landru, is a machine's concept of perfection, one of peace and harmony, but sadly no soul. Although the conundrum presented by Captain Kirk to the machine logic of Landru is a bit awkward, it isn't hard to demonstrate that lacking a freedom of choice, there is no creativity, and ultimately, no life. At least no life that can express joy at it's own existence, only those distractions brought on by a manufactured 'Red Hour', or as I came to the conclusion while watching, a Mardi Gras on steroids.

There's also Roddenberry's intriguing symbolism of 'the three', those elder statesmen if you will, who were immune to 'absorption'. The idea I take away here is that only the oldest residents of Beta III were able to remember the way things used to be prior to the arrival of the first starship, the Archons, a hundred years earlier. In that context, Reger (Harry Townes), Hacom (Morgan Farley) and Marplon (Torin Thatcher) were the last line of defense before The Enterprise arrived to keep alive the traditions of the past. They were among the last remaining citizens who understood that 'freedom is never a gift'.

I could probably go on and on with this subject, the seed of a college thesis is at the core of this story. However I'd like to wrap up with another reference to Rod Serling and his own unique vision. There was a fourth season TZ episode entitled 'The New Exhibit'. In that one, a museum caretaker brings home a murderers row of wax dummies representing infamous killers in history. Near the end of the story he admonishes one of his figures for killing a guest who came to his home. The name of the murderer using a garrote - it was Landru!

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Curious episode that works in odd way

7/10
Author: mlraymond from Durham NC
20 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Return of the Archons is one of the Star Trek episodes I didn't much care for years ago, but has grown on me.The characters and themes seem close to the edge of outright silliness at times, but somehow, it works. The sense of a genuinely strange society, that the Enterprise crew have stumbled onto, is conveyed well. Seeing Captain Kirk dressed as if he were on his way to the gunfight at the OK Corral is odd enough to be memorable, along with the medieval dungeon they find themselves in, the hooded robes and staffs of the Lawgivers, and the obscure lingo about the Body, etc.

It's certainly imaginative and creatively done for a low budget TV show. Charles Macaulay, as the mysterious, seemingly benevolent Landru has such a marvelous voice and presence that I wish his character could have had more screen time.

One of the most oddly memorable scenes is that that of their host Reger showing the landing party to their quarters, and the following scene of them waking the next day, with Kirk sleeping standing up in a blanket, and Spock lying on his back in a bunk bed. The incongruity of the solemn Spock sleeping in a bunk bed is an image that tends to stay with me.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Quite a mix of sophisticated thinking and comic book resolution

6/10
Author: sheenarocks from United States
25 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a rather strange episode of Star Trek. It could have possibly been a great one. Someone above mentions how the Red Hour aspect of the story is never explained. I suspect that this is because something was either left out or cut out of the final script. It is a very interesting idea, that the content, happy folks of this society must periodically have "Festival" which... Blows off steam? Keeps the pressure cooker from boiling over with joy? I suspect it was something like this, something explained in the original script and a very interesting and deep concept for the show.

Another thing not explained (or perhaps I missed this) is the "hollow tube" weapon. When it is discovered that this weapon is just that, a hollow tube with no mechanical parts, it appears this is another little detail that was left out of the final script--why and what then caused it to kill and control? Another tantalizing plot device, like the Red Hour, that could have, if given the time (i.e., longer than 60 minutes), made for a very exciting and well-thought out episode.

Unfortunately, the ending is one of those human versus computer things where, of course, Kirk wins out while reasoning with the evil computer, causing it to destroy itself. A common and really ridiculous plot device that was perhaps changed in the final script also.

In all, not a bad ST episode but it could have been much better.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The will of Landru

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
3 August 2013

One of my favorite of the Star Trek prime episodes is this one. A great lesson to be learned when humankind thinks it has found the perfect society and seeks nothing else.

This story has Lieutenant Sulu getting beamed back aboard the Enterprise in a rather dreamy like state like he was a member of some cult. When a larger away team led by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy go down they find a society frozen in time and completely submerged in a philosophy of peace and non-violence. Except of course for the 'festival' when ones baser impulses get to run amuck.

The people on Beta III as this planet is known to Star Fleet are held in thrall by the will of an ancient philosopher named Landru. And before Landru died he found a way to see his teachings were carried out. What it involved was nothing less than the stamping out of individuality.

Back when I saw this episode in its first run I was taking Far Eastern history in college and we learned about Confucius and his influence on Chinese culture. He did not speak in fortune cookie aphorisms as those old Charlie Chan films would have you believe. But he did have a lot of wise things to say and we in the west could profit by some of it. So great was his influence that it guided the culture. And so great was the respect he was held in that it was thought in that society all wisdom began and ended with him. I don't think Confucius himself ever thought so and he certainly did not have the advance technology that Landru had and built 6000 years earlier for his planet.

Only with individuality comes new ideas, bad and good and over time we find out what the good is. A great lesson taught to us by Gene Roddenberry, courtesy of Star Trek.

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11 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Sure it's stupid and often makes no sense, but I still enjoyed the episode

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
6 December 2006

The idea of a planet where everyone is "absorbed" and become like one giant group of cooperative zombies is pretty cool, so the basic concept isn't bad. And the idea that this Landrew character is sort of like "Big Brother" and watches and controls everything is also pretty exciting. However, the execution of the episode isn't all that great--particularly the whole "red hour" segment. At the red hour, every one of the very peaceful and placid people of the planet become raving maniacs and run amok--this NEVER was explained and didn't fit into the plot at all. I really think they added it because someone thought the episode was dull and thought "let's add a cleaned-up version of an orgy to keep the viewers awake". Well, it just irritated me. And, overall, the episode was very watchable but far from memorable. The show just needed more fun and energy.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"This is a soulless society..."

10/10
Author: poe426 from USA
3 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unlike its contemporaries (teleshows like LOST IN SPACE, for instance), STAR TREK often tackled contemporary beliefs- in this case, religious zealotry. THE RETURN OF THE ARCHONS holds up as a fairly bold examination of the absolute mindlessness of The True Believer(s), of the willingness to bend oneself to the will of someone (or someTHING) beyond one's ken (a view even more valid Today than it was in 1967!). The eerie, dreamlike state of the True Believers, underscored by some of the creepiest music ever done for the show, speaks (volumes) for itself. There's not a bad performance to be found, and Charles Macauley (who played the greatest Dracula of them all in BLACULA) is spot-on as the enigmatic Landru- and DeForest Kelly is great as a McCoy who has gotten religion.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Sulu and Bones get brainwashed… will Kirk and Spock be next?

8/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
4 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the opening scene Sulu and another crewmember are investigating the mystery of the Archon, a ship that disappeared a century ago, in a town that is reminiscent of the late nineteenth century but there is something odd about the people; they act more like automata than human beings. The two officers are cornered by robed men and Sulu is touched by their staffs just as he beams out; back on the Enterprise he starts to behave like the inhabitants of the planet. To find out what happened Kirk leads a full away mission to the planet and discover a strange society were almost everybody has been absorbed into 'The Body' by a leader known as Landru and those who for whatever reason haven't been absorbed are in danger of being killed in the interest of 'the greater good'. If Kirk and his team are to avoid being absorbed they will have to discover the truth behind Landru.

This is a fine episode takes us into a rather disturbing society; outwardly it looks almost Utopian but it quickly emerges that the minority who haven't been absorbed live in fear of being discovered by those who have; the latter behaving like brainwashed religious zealots. The society's uniformity isn't totally boring though; every so often they have 'Festival' when they are released from control and run wild. There is a greater than usual sense of threat as the opening shows a major character being effected rather than just killing of some red-shirt we have never seen before and Sulu is only the first to be effected. The ultimate discovery about the true nature and defeat of Landru are a little disappointing now but I suspect it would have seemed better when this first aired in 1967. Overall a good episode set on an interesting world.

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