Star Trek, S01E21, The Return of the Archons
It begins with Sulu (who we now know is gay, but when I watched this episode as a kid I had no clue) and some random crewmember desperately calling the ship asking for emergency beam up. But there’s a really long delay before someone activates the transporter, and by that time it’s too late, this robed guy touches Sulu with a long rod and Sulu becomes this mindless religious fanatic.
So Kirk, Spock, and a bunch of random crewmembers beam down to the planet to figure out what’s going on, and to find out what happened to the USS Archon which disappeared here a hundred years ago. The question of why it took Starfleet a hundred years before they could finally spare resources to investigate the Archon’s disappearance is never explained. Perhaps because Starfleet is a huge inefficient bureaucracy?
They wander around a quaint 19th century style town where everyone is a mindless religious fanatic like Sulu, but then at exactly 6 PM everyone goes crazy and they start fighting and having sex. We don’t exactly see anyone having sex, but I assume that’s what was really going on and explains why “Landru,” the god of this world, lets his people run wild for twelve hours every so often. It’s so they can reproduce.
The religion is very reminiscent of Catholicism. Star Trek was a very atheist show, because it shows every planet having a stupid religion, and the smart non-religious people of the Enterprise look down upon the idiocy of the natives. I credit Star Trek for opening my eyes to the fallacy of religion when I was a little kid. Thank you Gene Roddenberry.
Then they stay overnight at an inn. I wondered why they didn’t just beam back to the Enterprise to go to sleep. How did they pay for the inn if they didn’t have any local currency?
It was a lucky coincidence for Kirk and Spock that two of the innkeepers were not brainwashed by Landru, and they give them some help, but despite the help the Kirk, Spock, and the other random crewmembers are captured and put into a medieval-looking prison. Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise, Scotty is on the bridge and the ship is under attack from “heat beams” coming from the planet surface which prevent the ship from leaving orbit.
Eventually, Kirk and Spock figure out that Landru is a computer, and Kirk leads the computer down a logic trap, and faced with cognitive dissonance, the computer starts smoking and then flames come out of it. I am 100% certain that when we eventually do create sentient machines, you won’t be able to destroy them by out-logicking them in a verbal conversation. But Gene Roddenberry or whoever was writing these scripts really loved that plot device, I recall a whole bunch of episodes where Kirk took down the evil computer by leading it into a cognitive dissonance trap.
This is said to be the first episode where the “Prime Directive” is mentioned, and thus the first episode where Kirk ignores the Directive to get results, as he does in every other episode where the Prime Directive is brought up. In this case, Kirk makes up the rule that the Prime Directive doesn’t apply when the society is run by a computer with mind-control powers.