Captain's Blog pt. 59: Day of the Dove

Jerome Bixby first outlined this story in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive and Walter Cronkite declaring the war unwinnable. He revised it a few times over the course of that year (1968) against a backdrop of further escalations, bombings, assassinations, demonstrations, protests, love-ins, and sit-ins.

By the time it premiered on the first day of November, the same day as George Harrison's Wonderwall Music, some $77 billion and 17,000 American lives (and some 236,000 Vietnamese ones) had been consumed in Southeast Asia.

Script/ Theme: (7/ 7.5  of 10/10) Bixby's original ending had the Klingons and Enterprise crew driving the entity away by singing songs and having a peace march. The production staff talked him out of it. I'm glad and sad about that at the same time. More than a few moments remain where the theme shoves the script out of its way in a similar vein, but for the most part it successfully walks the line between message and Trek S.O.P.

I've often wondered what Starfleet makes of Kirk's Captain's Logs. At times (such as in "The Lights of Zetar") he fills them with these philosophical observations or poetic reflections that are in no way relevant to the mission. Other times, he sounds like he's updating Starfleet as it happens (such as in, well, all the time.) Is he just being a good storyteller? Arranging the details to captivate his audience?

Only a handful of times in the whole series, though, is there stuff like this:

"Captain's Log, Stardate... Armageddon. We must find a way to defeat the alien force of hate that has taken over the Enterprise, stop the war now, or spend eternity in futile, bloody violence.

So fanciful! And helpful of him to be so blunt about the underlying message. I love it. I always picture some entry-level administrative assistant at Starfleet whose job it is to type these things up always eye-rolling when he or she sees "Kirk, Enterprise" in his or her inbox.

"Has a war been staged for us? Complete with weapons and ideology and patriotic drum beating?"  

"Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen," indeed.
This most recent re-watch left me wondering where the "Day of the Dove"s are these days. We saw a few on Battlestar Galactica, but for the most part, 21st century TV entertainment seems content to (loudly) miss the still-painfully-topical point of this episode on an hourly basis.

The ship-out-of-control/ engines-about-to-burst bit is Trek Trope 101, but it actually serves the theme quite well. As it does in "The Immunity Syndrome." And elsewhere, of course, but that's another one where not controlling the ship/ dilithium depletion is emblematic of theme.

The Enterprise isn't the only thing flying out of control at dangerous speeds, once the characters start ranting. But these moments ("Then transfer out! FREAK!" etc.) are insanely quotable. (Particularly while driving.) As you probably have picked up on by now, I prefer my Trek to have random spikes in intensity or theatricality.

Visual Design: (1 of 3). I'm generally opposed to using the term "blackface" for Klingons in TOS. Orientalism notwithstanding, it just doesn't make enough sense for me to apply the term to Trek. They're aliens and stand-ins for Commies. But from a strictly visual standpoint, it sure jumps out these days:

"Those were the times," as Frank Reynolds might say. 

(Incidentally, my wife assumed Worf was a white actor in blackface for at least the first 3 or 4 episodes of TNG we watched together. That still cracks me up. I didn't catch on until she referred to that "fake brown guy." I had to show her Michael Dorn's imdb page for her to believe me.)

This is one of the "just use the sets and costumes you already have" Season 3 episodes, and the entity itself is equally recycled:

All of it is put to good use, but visually, it's not one of the more exciting episodes.

Guest: (4 of 3) Susan Howard went on to later fame in Dallas. Here she plays Mara. 

You'll notice this eye make-up motif on pretty much every non-Starfleet female guest star in Season 3.
She does a good job. Is her part any good? It's okay. But most of the points I assign for this category are based on Michael Ansara's strong performance as Kang. (Recently deceased, may he RIP.) The script originally called for Kor's return, but when John Colicos was unavailable, the part was rewritten for Ansara.

 "This is Kang. Cease hostilities."
With wife Barbara Eden.

Internal Logistics: (2 of 3) There are a few of what Phil Farrand calls "equipment oddities"  in this episode. (Doors and panels are moved to accommodate the shot, Sulu fails to notify the landing party that the Klingons are beaming down, etc.) But I subtracted a point mainly for the savage blade-war scenes of the secondary cast.

It's fun and all (though most of the fight choreography is pretty goofy, particularly how abruptly they stop fighting.)
And perhaps this is unfair (as it's mainly a TNG-and-beyond inspired observation) but I don't think Starfleet would be able to hold their own against Klingons with edged weapons. It's their thing.
Scotty notwithstanding. And Kirk, of course. Both are adept at every method of combat and with every weapon from every century.
Scotty grabs a Claymore. Of course.

Kirk and the Gang: (28 of 10) Everyone gets an over the top moment (or several) in this episode. Except Spock (naturally) and Sulu.

Sulu gets to crawl around in a Jeffries Tube for the first and only time, though.
Chekov's rage and attempted rape are awesomly funny and incredibly uncomfortable, respectively.

I suspect it didn't take much to not just get Shatner over the top but rolling across No Man's Land and judo-kicking the barbed wire. The Theater of the Absurd was built for William Shatner.

Double shoulder grab.
Sudden head turn.

Kirk's signature physical moves, delivery and reluctance to leave the frame plus the general madness of the dialogue combine to ensure legendary status for this sequence. Rarely do the stars align quite like this.

"Is this what's in store for us...?
"From here on in? Violence?

I love how everyone's reaction to feelings of bigotry or thoughts of violence is as if they've been eradicated from the future so completely that the very contemplation of them is shocking. As a personal code/ way of life, arguably, sure, (though it contradicts several of Kirk's wrap-up speeches from other episodes) but they've been exposed to it enough (and explained it to other people) dozens of times by this point in the series. Still, it's a nice thought, and maybe even especially comforting to an America mired in Vietnam, police riots in Chicago, and political assassinations. 

The more things change.

Memorability: 2.5 of 5.

Total Points Awarded: 52


  1. I love this episode! Most of my affection comes from Michael Ansara's flawless performance. He comes across as more of a physical threat than Kor, but he could not quite reach Kor's level of pure evil. I'm okay with that. I cannot say enough positive things about Ansara's role here. He may have done more for establishing the Klingon race in the minds of fans than anyone else.

    Kang's byplay with Kirk as they are laughing the entity off the Enterprise is awesome. He gets in a not-good-natured backslap on Kirk and you *know* Kirk wanted to hit him back but restrained himself. I always liked that scene.

    Checkov's attempted rape of Kang's wife was chilling. It made me wonder if, deep down, he felt like that and just managed to suppress it the rest of the time. That was a pretty daring scene when you think about it. Can you imagine that happening now? He would probably be written off the show soon thereafter.

    (It's worth noting that Kirk's evil twin tried the same thing with Janice Rand in "The Enemy Within." My reaction was very similar to Chevkov's scene here. Did Kirk really harbor rape fantisies about Rand?)

    Good episode and good review.

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed. Couldn't agree more about Ansara as Kang. (And yeah that backslap is great.)

      The attempted rape stuff could never happen now, you're right, at least nothing like it happens here or in Enemy Within. Energy-beings/transporter-doubles or not, no way. (And "Enemy Within" ends with Spock more or less telling Rand... actually, I'll just get into that one when I get to it, but oh yeah, lots of eerie discomfort coming our way when we do.)

  2. So many great (and creepy) moments in this episode:

    "This is Kang...cease hostilities...disarm..."

    "If you don't like it, then transfer out! FREAK!"

    Kang bitch-slapping Kirk without preamble.

    "You don't die...yet..."

    Kirk's subsequent slapping-around of Chekhov.

    The hilarious sword-waving fight choreography (and I'm glad someone else noticed the awkward way they just stopped fighting).

    This episode is densely-laden with great Trek moments.

    Ansara really did carry this episode to heights it couldn't have reached otherwise. He has a cool menace about him that no other actor playing a Klingon has had, in my opinion. Out of all Klingons, from all the series and movies, Kang is the one that always struck me as truly dangerous. The "All Wrestlemania all the time" modern Klingons usually strike me as more than a little ridiculous. Ansar's take on them gave a glimpse into a very different kind of Federation rival, much as Mark Lenard's Romulan commander was a different type of threat than the later, Next Gen versions who seemed more likely to project an air of smug self-satisfaction than Lenard's world-weary competence. Ansara's Klingon was an interesting counterpoint to Lenard's Romulan, which would have made for a very interesting Trek had those portrayals been used as templates for those aliens as the series went along.

    1. Good points/ comparison, there. I like the analogy, and I think it works.

      My favorite Klingons are probably Kor, Kruge, and Kang. I tend to shuffle one of them around.

      (Well, Worf, too, but I guess I just mean for bad guys. Of them, Kang is as you say, a much different type than the others. Even he and Kor have intriguing differences. Patton and MacArthur, or something.)

  3. There really ISN'T much of this type of topicality on television anymore, is there? Or at least if there is, I don't know about it. (This past Monday's "Under the Dome" was a mild exception, with its gun-buyback subplot. It didn't put the topicality to good use, but just seeing it at all made it feel a little edgy.) Television badly needs a new sci-fi show to step up and fill that void.

    "I love how everyone's reaction to feelings of bigotry or thoughts of violence is as if they've been eradicated from the future so completely that the very contemplation of them is shocking." -- Yes indeed, and here is yet another way in which The Undiscovered Country kind of doesn't work as a Star Trek movie. Watching an episode like this one -- or Balance of Terror -- makes the racism subplot of that film seem like it was beamed in from some other series altogether.

    1. Couldn't agree more on that last point. That is exactly it - it just doesn't fit.

      (Spock voice) Comparing and contrasting the salience between the gun buy-back UTD episode and "Day of the Dove" would be, I imagine, a highly illuminating exercise. Like you say, it doesn't put the topicality to good use; you're never in much danger of getting a viewpoint that can't be reduced to "trust your leaders and love your first responders and armed citizens are dangerous" in 2013. All Hail Discordia.

  4. Another episode I loved as a kid. Not so much now.

    I liked the premise. I liked the action. Even Chekov's delusional rants were entertaining. But that ending! Oh, that ending hurts my senses so badly these days.

    All in all, not a bad episode. I just can't stand watching the final scene. Thank God the network nixed Jerome Bixby's "Love In" ending. That might have been worse than Spock jamming with the hippies.