That Which Survives-Only the Sulu fan club (he features prominently here) could disagree that the best thing about this episode is Lee Merriweather-and she plays an automaton! A lot of the old tricks are here, like Kirk outsmarting a computer (come to think of it, even the computer console looks familiar!).
Basically, this should have been a half-hour show (actually it shouldn't even have been a show). Senseless dialogue is contrived, both on the planet and on the Enterprise, just to pass the time until the next commercial. Hard to find a worse episode, in my opinion.
Tidbit: For the remainder of the show, the final credits would
feature the 2nd season theme music. While this is a very minor detail in itself, it seems symbolic of other changes. The episodes become more formulaic as the parties concerned begin to see the writing on the wall for the show. The absence of new music, as budgets draw tight, also contributes an increasingly stale and defeatist feel to the late episodes. (1 star)
Let that be your Last Battlefield-This episode, employing actors done up in half-black, half-white face makeup, is a none-too subtle statement about race relations. While Star Trek is to be commended for not ignoring controversial issues, the show's forays could be grossly oversimplistic; this episode is a case in point. Most viewers will have gleaned the difference between Lokai and Bele long before the crew becomes aware. This is also another talky episode, and while the actors do a good job expressing their choler through some truly acrimonious exchanges, the viewer gets the idea pretty fast.
The second half of the episode is not without its plusses though. The auto-destruct sequence was a nice touch, as were the montages of burning cities (which must have struck a cord in early 1969, as today). The conclusion leaves the viewer with much to ponder, both specifically about Bele and Lokai's fate, and more generally about hatred's powerful momentum. One other welcome aspect was the fact that the Enterprise and her crew were basically powerless here. This thankfully (in my opinion) spares us the need for a pat conclusion to such a complex problem. On the other hand, it is interesting to ask whether a first season episode would have been so pessimistic. The answer is almost certainly no. But a lot had changed in two years, and not just in the Star Trek universe. (3 stars)