Bread and Circuses
One of the best of the original Star Trek series was the episode Bread and Circuses. First broadcast on March 5, 1968 during the second season, it was one of the parallel worlds episodes involving an earth like alien world, caused by Hodgkin’s Law of Planetary Development and Roddenberry’s Corollary:
The “Parallel Worlds” concept makes production practical by permitting action-adventure science fiction at a practical budget figure via the use of available “earth” casting, sets, locations costuming and so on.
The episode contains a sharp satire of the world of sixties television:
ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Live and direct from City Arena, and in colour, we bring you Name the Winner, brought to you tonight by your Jupiter Eight dealers from coast to coast. In just a moment, tonight’s first heat. We’re in a taped commercial, Proconsul. Forty seconds, then we’ll be back live.
(Claudius, Merik and Kirk take seats on a raised platform. Kirk is manacled, and there are two armed guards behind him. Spock and McCoy are brought out by two guards in full traditional dress.)
ANNOUNCER: Stand by. Ten seconds. And first tonight, ladies and gentlemen, a surprise extra. In the far corner, a pair of highly aggressive barbarians. Strong, intelligent, with strange ways, and I’m sure full of a lot of surprises. And facing them, two favorites here from previous encounters, Achilles and Flavius. (The canned applause is turned up by a bored sound effects man) Victory or death? And for which of them? Well, ladies and gentlemen, you know as much about that at this moment as I do because this is your programme. You name the winner.
FLAVIUS: I don’t mind fighting, but why you?
VOICE [OC]: Begin!
(Achilles takes on Spock. They are well matched. McCoy is against Flavius, and doesn’t know what to do with a short sword.)
ANNOUNCER: Flavius may be getting off to a slow start, but he’s never disappointed this crowd. A close one. The barbarian with the pointed ears seems to be in trouble.
SPOCK: I tell you I’m well able to defeat you.
ACHILLES: Fight, barbarian!
MERIK: Most of my men went the same way. I hoped I would feel it less with yours.
SPOCK: I do not want to injure you.
(The cat-calls and hisses are amplified. Flavius gets a taste of the whip.)
MASTER: Fight, you two. You bring this network’s ratings down, Flavius, and we’ll do a special on you.
The episode is most notable for its respectful treatment of Christianity as noted in the video above. Chuck Colson has a good video on the episode:
Christianity has had so much of an impact on this globe that it is almost literally unthinkable to attempt to imagine how it would have developed in the absence of Christ and His followers. H.G. Wells, the novelist and historian, was a stone cold atheist, as well as an anti-Catholic bigot, but he summed up the role of Christ well in purely secular terms:
I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.