Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. (I don't know which is worse: this terrible episode, or the knowledge that there is at least one worse episode still coming...) This episode goes beyond bad to reprehensible. Our regular characters have nothing to do, and are unchanged by what happens. Our guest stars have mysterious powers and force fields and really bad clothes and make-up.
It was meant as another allegory, I'm sure. The civil rights movement was in full bloom, which may explain why no one stepped up and said that the emperor had no clothes (or is that gray, too tight tunics?). The garbage spouted by these two characters is substantially beneath what Trek is capable of. Subtlety is nonexistant. They get out the club and start whacking. These are political speeches barely concealed as sci-fi.
The lone saving moment is the tension of the self-destruct sequence. It's a marvelous idea, and a great bargaining tool. I'm choosing not to wonder why it has never been used before now -- despite the fact that there have been many similar circumstances. I'm also choosing to ignore how easily it was disabled just a few short scenes later. I'm also ignoring the extreme close-ups on the various characters' eyes. OK, that's a lot to ignore, but the sequence is still pretty intense. Taylor's direction is over-the-top all the way through, including a very strange pulsating zoom on the red alert signal. Maybe everybody just had a little bit too much coffee while making this. Or perhaps they imbibed a bit too much in the Captain's drinking room, a fine addition to the Enterprise sets (which I don't think is ever seen again).
The costumes are horrible, and desperately in need of someone to tell Antonio to pull down his shirt, which seems to constantly ride up. And the make-up is so stark that it can't be seen as anything but extreme make-up. The characters are cartoons, fantasy creations which do not belong on Trek. Frankly, this episode would have been more entertaining if Gorshin had come as the Riddler (similar outfit).
And then there's the running. And the gratuitous decontamination (which Kirk orders repeated "for maximum effect"), which could not rid this episode of its stink despite some fine effects work for the sequence. And there's Lokai's invisible -- and thus essentially free -- spaceship. And there are those convenient personal forcefields. Oh, the humanity...
Some would say that this episode is forgiveable because its heart is in the right place. But Roddenberry wanted the writers to have something to say, then say it with elegance. There is nothing elegant about this episode. This one just plain stinks.
Rating: Very Bottom (7)