49 "A Piece of the Action"

(airdate: January 12, 1968)

Story: David P. Harmon      Teleplay: David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon
Director: James Komack

Bela Okmyx: Anthony Caruso
Kalo: Lee Delano

Jojo Krako: Vic Tayback
Tepo: John Harmon

Zabo: Steven Marlo

Stardate: Unknown [The back of the video release suggests 4598.0; this appears to derive from Bjo Trimble's Star Trek Concordance, which may have gotten it from an earlier draft of the script.]

Captain's Log: The Federation recently received an old report from the Horizon regarding a planet they'd visited called Sigma Iotia II, so the Enterprise is sent to follow up. However, it seems that when the Horizon departed, they left behind a book called "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties" that the Sigma Iotians have been using as a blueprint for their society for the past hundred years. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy thus become embroiled in a turf war, as two bosses, Bela Okmyx and Jojo Krako, try to force the Enterprise to beam down a supply of phasers. After realizing that the bosses won't work together, Kirk decides to speak to them in terms they'll understand, informing them that the Federation is taking over Sigma Iotia II (thanks to their superior weaponry), and that all the bosses are going to be working as one gang, with the Federation receiving a cut of the proceeds. With the planet now united, the Enterprise heads on its way - although McCoy realizes he left a communicator behind, which the imitative Iotians may be able to study...

Whoops!: Shatner's gangster accent is perhaps a tad too exaggerated [although one could probably make the argument that this is actually Kirk who's hamming things up if one really wanted to]. As Spock explains to McCoy that there's no comparable situation to Sigma Iotia's in the Federation records (starting at about 22:45), the panel seen behind him is incredibly dusty, although it looks like someone's made a half-hearted attempt to clean some of the dust off.
     The geography of Sigma Iotia II is a little weird. We're told that the entire planet is divided up into roughly a dozen major territories (a number that already seems small), and that Bela Okmyx controls the largest territory - and yet Krako's territory appears to be a short drive away from Okmyx's; in fact, Krako's portion is called Southside Territory, which rather suggests it's part of the same city as Okmyx's. Is the usable land on Sigma Iotia II really small? Is the population concentrated in a handful of cities? Or do all the bosses simply choose to live near each other?

Classic Lines: "The most cooperative man in this world is a dead man."
     Spock gets some understated snark, including "Captain, you are an excellent starship commander, but as a taxi driver you leave much to be desired" and (after Kirk asks him if he's afraid of cars) "Not at all, Captain. It's your driving that alarms me."
     Scotty: "You mind your place, mister, or you'll, you'll be wearing concrete galoshes." Krako: "You mean cement overshoes?" Scotty: "Um...aye."
     And a number of other lines, in a script that chooses to quietly sparkle.

Library Computer: Sigma Iotia II is a blue-white planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy with an industrial civilization. One hundred years ago, an [Earth] ship called the Horizon made contact with the Sigma Iotians. [The Enterprise is described as being from the same "outfit" as the Horizon, which might mean Starfleet or could just be a simplification for the sake of the Sigma Iotians. We've hedged our bets here with "Earth".] The Horizon didn't have transporter capability, so they landed on the planet instead. [It's possible this means the Horizon itself landed on Sigma Iotia II, but it's equally plausible that they sent down some sort of shuttlecraft.] They found a civilization at the beginnings of industrialization, and they described an intelligent and imitative culture. The Horizon, operating before the Non-Interference [Prime] Directive was in effect, unwittingly contaminated their culture when they left behind a set of books, including things like textbooks on how to make radios, as well as a history book, "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties." The Horizon transmitted their report on Sigma Iotia II via conventional radio (which meant it took a hundred years for the Federation to receive it), as they didn't have subspace communication capabilities; the ship was lost with all hands soon after. [It's possible this is the same ship seen in the Enterprise episode "Horizon", although the details there don't quite line up.]
     The Sigma Iotians seized upon "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties" - a book originally published in 1992 - as the blueprint for their culture. They therefore transformed into a morally inverted society, ruled by various criminal organizations, all led by "Bosses". The general population paid a percentage to the gang who ruled their territory, and in exchange the gang provided services such as public maintenance and laundry - this setup is the planet's equivalent of an organized government. The part of Sigma Iotia II we see looks like a standard American city from the 1920s or '30s, with men dressed in suits, wearing fedoras, bowlers, boaters, and other hats, and openly carrying what appear to be Thompson-style submachine guns, while the women are dressed in dresses and mid-length skirts, wearing cloche (bell-shaped) hats and carrying handguns. Technology seen includes motor cars, record players, typewriters, old-style telephones, radio broadcasting equipment, and vacuum tube-based receivers (including a console radio and a "tombstone"-style table model).
     At the time of the Enterprise's visit, the planet was primarily ruled by roughly a dozen bosses, each controlling a large chunk of territory (although there are bosses with smaller pieces of territory - but they're apparently likely to be absorbed by the larger bosses). The boss who controlled the largest amount of territory was Bela Okmyx, an older man with greying, slicked-back hair and glasses. [Everyone in this episode pronounces "Okmyx" as if it were "Oxmyx", but a poster in the episode (as well as the "Final Draft" of the shooting script) spells it with a "k". The credits simply go with "Bela".] Okmyx wanted Kirk's help to take over the other territories by supplying him with phasers. Okmyx had a white hardback copy of "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties", embossed with gold lettering, that he referred to simply as "the Book". Okmyx was apparently neglecting the needs of his people; two women complained to one of Okmyx's lieutenants, Kalo, that the streetlights were poor and that they hadn't had a laundry pickup in three weeks. Okmyx's men all appeared to wear fedoras. Okmyx distilled his own liquor. [It's never explicitly stated, but given that the '20s were the time of Prohibition, which was itself largely responsible for the increase in organized crime in Chicago, it's reasonable to assume that Sigma Iotia II has also enacted at least the trappings of Prohibition.]
     Bela Okmyx's biggest rival was Jojo Krako, the boss of Southside Territory. He was also an older man (although not as old as Okmyx), with thinning black hair. Krako's lieutenant was a man named Zabo, and Krako's men all seemed to wear boaters. Krako had bugged all of Okmyx's communications, allowing him to know what Okmyx was planning. He had dealings with a man nicknamed Cirl the Knife. Krako also had an identical-looking copy of "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties" [thus suggesting these are mass-produced versions, rather than the original].
     Given the contamination on Sigma Iotia II, and with no logical way to resolve the dilemma of a morally inverted society (as the Enterprise's sociological computers had no record of such a society existing), Kirk chose to speak to the Iotians in terms they understood; he arranged for all the bosses to be brought together and announced that the Federation was taking over the whole planet, forming a syndicate with Okmyx in charge and Krako as his lieutenant, with the other bosses (such as Tepo, an older man in a black pinstripe suit and a bowler hat) involved in lesser capacities; in exchange, the Federation would take a cut of 40%. In reality, Kirk planned that the Federation's cut would be placed in the planet's treasury in order to guide them back to a more ethical system.
     The phaser banks on the Enterprise can be set to stun, and are capable of knocking out everyone outside in a one-block radius. [This is the only time during the original series that we see the ship's phasers can be set to stun - but see "The Infinite Vulcan" for an example during the Animated Series.]
     The rules of the made-up game "fizzbin", according to Kirk: each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets seven. Then the second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays. Two jacks consists of a half fizzbin; the player then needs a king and a deuce, unless it's night, in which case a queen and a 4 is needed. Getting a third jack would be a shralk, which would disqualify the player. That being said, Kirk seems delighted for Kalo when he is in fact dealt a third jack, noting that if he'd been dealt a king, he'd get another card (unless it's night, in which case he'd give the king back). The last card is called a kronk. Kirk tells Kalo that what he wants is a royal fizzbin, but the odds of getting one are astronomical. Kirk states that the game is from Beta Antares IV, and that the cards there are slightly different. However, despite what Kirk tells Kalo, the culture on Beta Antares IV does not have games like fizzbin. [Actually, Spock starts to voice his objection before Kirk explains the rules, so it may be that the Beta Antareans don't have games that use cards, or possibly games at all.]
     Sigma Iotia II has broadcast radio. There is a band called the Jailbreakers, who had had their latest recording played on a program called "Request Time" when Spock and McCoy listened in. One of "Request Time"'s sponsors is a gun manufacturer named Bang Bang, who claimed to make the "sweetest little automatic in the world".
     The transtator is the basis for every important piece of equipment aboard the Enterprise.
     Dr. McCoy thinks he accidentally left his communicator in Okmyx's office. [To date, nothing on screen has dealt with the potential ramifications of this, although Enterprise did a story, "The Communicator", about a similar mistake.]

Final Analysis: "Now look, Krako, we're takin' over the, uh, whole ball of wax. You cooperate with us and, uh, maybe we'll cut you in for a piece of the action." The last of the original series' comedy episodes is perhaps a bit drier than the other two, but that doesn't mean this isn't a winner. It's nice to have an Earth-like culture explicitly laid out as the product of cultural contamination, rather than coincidence, and the decision to set up the gangster society before shifting into outright comedic mode is smart. Witty and charming, and with a cast clearly enjoying themselves, "A Piece of the Action" is a lot of fun.

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