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Errand of Mercy (episode)

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"Errand of Mercy"
TOS, Episode 1x27
Production number: 6149-27
First aired: 23 March 1967
Remastered version aired: 12 May 2007
28th of 80 produced in TOS
26th of 80 released in TOS
30th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
26th of 728 released in all
USS Enterprise-D7 face off
Written By
Gene L. Coon

Directed By
John Newland
3198.4 (2267)
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Kirk and Spock try to protect the planet Organia from the Klingons, but the natives don't want the Federation's help.



Magnetic pulse impacts shields

Enterprise hit by magnetic pulses

Coded orders to the USS Enterprise disclose that negotiations with the Klingon Empire are on the verge of collapse. The Enterprise is ordered to Organia, a peaceful, Class M planet in the disputed area, to prevent the Klingons from using it as a base.

En route, the Enterprise is fired upon, but destroys its attacker while sustaining minimal damage. Lt. Uhura receives a Code One alert from Starfleet: War with the Klingons has begun and Captain Kirk resolves to reach Organia "before the hammer falls."

Act One

TOS planet high orbit

Organia in 2267

Assuming orbit, Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, leaving Lt. Sulu in charge, with specific duties "to the Enterprise, not to us" and, if outnumbered, to avoid combat but warn Starfleet.

Kirk and Spock find a primitive, agrarian society whose people seem curiously unconcerned about visitors materializing within their midst. Ayelborne welcomes them, but tells Kirk "we don't have anyone in authority." But, as Chairman of the Council of Elders, he invites them to the Council chambers.


Ayelborne greets the landing party

However, the councilors tell Kirk they have no need of protection nor defenses; they do not believe the Klingon invasion poses any threat to their people or their culture. While they recess to discuss Kirk's offer, Spock discloses that the culture has not advanced for as far back as his tricorder can measure; Organia is "an arrested culture."

The Council's discussions result in no change, and they can see no benefit to affiliation with the Federation. Then the Klingon fleet arrives – a fact councilor Trefayne seems aware of before even Spock can confirm it with his tricorder.

The Enterprise is forced to leave, stranding Kirk and Spock amidst a Klingon occupation army, led by Kor.

Act Two

The Organians provide Kirk and Spock with native clothing, but take their weapons. Kirk is now Baroner, a leading citizen, while Spock is a merchant dealing in kevas and trillium. But Kor assumes that Spock is a spy and takes him for questioning. When Kirk protests, Kor decides that Kirk is "a man I can deal with" as his liaison to the civil population.

Klingon invasion of Organia

Klingon invasion forces on Organia

The examination, performed with the mind-sifter, does not pierce Spock's pretense, and he is released. Kirk has been instructed in his duties as liaison, and both men are released to go about their business. They destroy a Klingon ammo dump – and find that the Organians are appalled by the violence. Kirk tells Ayelborne that the Organians can resist a military dictatorship, but Ayelborne replies that Kirk simply doesn't understand them. Unfortunately, Kor has the Council chamber under surveillance and hears everything.

Act Three

Ayelborne, learning Kor plans to interrogate Kirk with the mind-sifter, reveals Kirk's identity. Betrayed, Kirk and Spock are taken prisoner and threatened. But Ayelborne remains placid, assuring Kirk that no harm will come of it. Kirk and Kor discuss ideology; Kor is pleased that the universe is full of people who don't like the Klingons. Kirk is given twelve hours to answer questions; otherwise, he will be subjected to the mind-sifter, becoming a vegetable, and Spock will be dissected to determine how he can resist it.

Kor, 2266

Kor confronts the Organians

With six hours left, the cell door opens, but it is Ayelborne, offering them safe passage back to the Council chambers, where he assures them the Klingons will not come. Kirk cannot understand how their betrayer is now their rescuer.

When informed of the escape, Kor is furious, and rounds up hostages to be killed: two hundred immediately, and two hundred more at intervals until the Starfleet officers are returned.

Act Four

Kirk plans a suicide assault on Kor's stronghold that evening to save Organian lives. The Council returns the officers' phasers, then confer privately that, "Of course, we cannot allow it."


Sulu leads the Enterprise into battle

Darkness falls, and Kirk and Spock begin their assault, resolving to stun and not kill, as "we're after the top dog." They disable a Klingon lieutenant whom Kor has sent to round up the next two hundred Organians, and gain entry to Kor's office. Kirk doesn't plan to kill Kor; Kor wants to discuss the prospects for war, on the surface and in space. For example, even Kor's office is under surveillance.

But, as Klingon troops stream in, everyone's weapons become too hot to handle – and the same is true on every ship in both warring fleets. Ayelborne and Claymare enter Kor's office, apologize for being forced to intervene, but announce that they have put a stop to the violence.


Organians in their true form

Ayelborne states that, as he stands before Kirk and Kor, he also stands on their homeworlds. Both sides must agree to cease hostilities, or their armed forces will be immobilized. While insisting that nobody wants war, Kirk seems equally annoyed at its interruption as Kor. Ayelborne tells them that their races will eventually become fast friends and will work together. Claymare says the visitors' discordant emotions require that they leave. Ayelborne discloses that the Organians are millions of years beyond the need for physical bodies. They have evolved into advanced and powerful energy beings, and the outward appearance of Organia was solely to provide points of reference for visitors.

Log Entries

  • "Captain's log, stardate 3198.4. We have reached Organia and established standard orbit. No signs of hostile activities in this area."
  • "Captain's log, stardate 3201.7. Mr. Spock and I are trapped on the planet Organia, which is in the process of being occupied by the forces of the Klingon Empire. The Organians have provided us with native clothing in the hopes that we may be taken for Organians."

Memorable Quotes

"War. We didn't want it, but we've got it."
"Curious how often you Humans manage to obtain that which you do not want."

- Kirk and Spock, as the Federation-Klingon War starts

"I'm a soldier, not a diplomat. I can only tell you the truth."

- Kirk, to the Organian Council of Elders

"Have we a ram among the sheep?"

- Kor, to "Baroner"

"I don't trust men who smile too much."

- Kor, on the Organians

"You don't have to be sheep. You can be wolves."

- Kirk, to Ayelborne

"Always it is the brave ones who die. The soldiers."

- Kor, taking Kirk and Spock as his prisoners

"What would you say the odds on our getting out of here?"
"Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately 7,824.7 to one."
"Difficult to be precise?"

- Kirk and Spock, before attacking two Klingon guards

"Today we conquer! Oh, if someday we are defeated...well...War has its fortunes. Good and bad."

- Commander Kor (2267)

"We have the right –"
"To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?"

- Kirk and Ayelborne

"It is true that in the future, you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together."

- Ayelborne, to Kirk

"I should say the Organians are as far above us on the evolutionary scale as we are above the amoeba."

- Spock, after the Organians reveal their true forms

"Well, Commander, I guess that takes care of the war. Obviously the Organians aren't going to let us fight."
"A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious."

- Kirk and Kor

"Even the gods did not spring into being overnight."

- Spock, to Kirk

"You and I have nothing to be ashamed of. We did, after all, beat the odds."
"Oh no, Mr. Spock, we didn't beat the odds, we didn't have a chance. The Organians raided the game."

- Spock and Kirk

Background Information

Story and Script

  • This episode marks the first appearance of the Klingons. Story editor Dorothy Fontana thought the Klingons were made the regular adversaries of the series because they didn't need any special (and expensive) make-up like the Romulans, whom she thought to be much more interesting. [1]
  • Ayelborne mentions that in the future, the Federation and the Klingons would be friends and work together, both of which become true.
  • The episode title comes from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens: "It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it."
  • In the script, the Klingons were described simply as "Oriental, hard-faced."[2]
  • According to the script, the Organian village was to be modeled on old English villages, with thatched huts and muddy back alleys.
  • This is the first episode in which Sulu is shown sitting in the command chair, although he had previously commanded the bridge from the helm position in "Arena". Scott, who doesn't appear in this episode, had commanded the Enterprise in the absence of Kirk and Spock in "A Taste of Armageddon", in which Sulu didn't appear. The second season would establish Scott as senior to Sulu in the command structure.


  • DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) and James Doohan (Scotty) do not appear in this episode. Along with "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and "The Menagerie, Part II", this is one of only three episodes after the two pilots in which Kelley does not appear. This was also McCoy's last non-appearance in TOS.
  • This was the first appearance of John Colicos as Kor. The character was also set to appear in "Day of the Dove" and "The Trouble with Tribbles", but Colicos was unavailable and other Klingon characters were written in. A script was written for Kor for the fourth season, but the show was canceled after the third season, and he never got his chance to appear again (Kor did appear in TAS: "The Time Trap", but was voiced by James Doohan). Colicos was also the person who gave the Klingons their dark-skinned, mustached look. He said he was going for the "Genghis Khan" look. Makeup artist Fred Phillips agreed on it, and conceived the Klingons in this fashion.[3] He did eventually reprise his role in DS9: "Blood Oath", "The Sword of Kahless", and "Once More Unto the Breach".
  • Colicos was director John Newland's first and immediate choice for the role of Kor. He got the script only two hours before flying to Los Angeles from Toronto, and read it on the plane.[4]
  • The tall Klingon lieutenant who returns Spock to Kor's office following the level 4 mind scan, was played by actor, Victor Lundin. Lundin's character can also be seen in Kor's office reporting the escape of prisoners Kirk and Spock. Victor also appears in a scene as the Klingon which Kirk chokes into submission with a belt cord; followed by Spock's administration of an incapacitating neck pinch. One of Lundin's most notable roles just prior to this timeframe was the part of Friday on the film, Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
  • The unknown actor usually portraying Bobby appears as one of the Klingon Guards outside Kor's office at the end of the episode.


Sets and Props

  • This is one of only two episodes that show an actual Klingon flip-top communicator, which is similar to, but smaller than, the Starfleet version (watch when Kor contacts his fleet). The other episode is "Elaan of Troyius". The communicator was recycled from the Eminian version from "A Taste of Armageddon".
  • Also recycled and reworked from "A Taste of Armageddon" are the sonic disruptor pistols, first used here by the Klingons and later by the Romulans.
  • The boxes in the Klingon munitions dump were spray-painted corrugated cardboard containers.
  • The main gate to the Organian village, where Ayelborne greets Kirk and Spock was previously the gate to the Rigel VII castle in "The Cage". The stairs on which Spock and Kirk phaser the Klingon guards are the same set where Christopher Pike battled the Kalar in the original pilot. Location filming for both episodes were done at the "Arab Village" portion of the famous 40 Acres backlot. [5]
  • The entrance of the Klingon headquarters is the same building as the main gate to the Organian village, filmed from a longer distance and different angles. [6]
  • The scene where Kirk and Spock stun the guards and break into the Klingon headquarters was filmed at sunlight using a "day-for-night" filter. [7]
  • The view of the citadel at the beginning of Act One is a stock footage shot of the Citadelle Laferrière in Haiti. [8]



Enterprise fires phaser bursts

  • The shot of Enterprise hit by magnetic pulses was a stock shot of energy bolts hitting the ship, the corresponding live-action sequences used a buzzing electric effects theme – that would be reused for the Klingon Bird-of-Prey firing effect in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The shot of Enterprise firing was also a reuse, this time the white bolts shot out of the ship are said to be phasers, even though in other appearances the same effect represents photon torpedoes.

Other Information

  • This is the last episode in which the term "Vulcanian" is used to refer to Vulcans. Both "Vulcanian" and "Vulcan" are used at different points in the episode: Kor uses "Vulcanian" and the Klingon lieutenant uses "Vulcan", both in reference to Spock.
  • A comic book published by IDW Comics in April 2007, "Against Their Nature", told this story from the Klingon point of view.
  • The Bantam paperback Star Trek: The New Voyages included a story called "Mind Sifter" which described the horrific aftereffects of the Klingon torture instrument on Kirk.
  • A reference to the events of this episode would appear in the DS9 episode DS9: "The Sword of Kahless", when Jadzia Dax introduces Worf to Kor, Worf tells Kor he had heard stories about Kor since he was a child including Kor's confrontation with Kirk on Organia.
  • Kevas and trillium are later mentioned in DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" as a tribute to this episode. Also, a 1970s Star Trek fanzine was named "Kevas and Trillium". (The World of Star Trek)
  • David Hillary Hughes can be seen saying "Ach du Lieber!" in a first-season blooper reel. (citation needededit)


  • In the Star Fleet Universe it is explained that the Organians' powers only work within their own solar system and thus they were unable to truly prevent large scale wars. Their actions in the episode to stop the Federation-Klingon war were largely a bluff. Eventually they would enlist the Interstellar Concordium to impose order on all of the local races.
  • However, TOS comics, set between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, contradict this. The comics claim that the Organians prevented the two powers from going to war at all. Eventually a war does break out, courtesy of manipulation by Yarnek and the Excalbians. Kirk eventually convinces the Excalbians and the Organians to fight each other, and as the Organians disappear, they lose control over the Federation and the Klingons.
  • In the 1970 novel Spock Must Die!, the Klingons envelope Organia with an energy shield in order to neutralize the Organian's abilities to prevent war between the Klingons and the Federation. Eventually the plot is discovered and the shield is disabled, restoring the Organian's imposed interplanetary peace.

Production Timeline

Remastered Information

The remastered version of "Errand of Mercy" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 12 May 2007. The episode was heavy in new effects, with unique CG shots of Organia from orbit, replacing the stock footage used to represent other planets including Alfa 177, M-113, and Gothos. The Klingon battle was significantly expanded, with shots of a fleet of D7-class battle cruisers bombarding the Enterprise with blue-colored weapons fire. The Organians themselves were also modified, with more refined computer graphics inserted into the episode that remained true to their original appearance. [9]

Video and DVD Releases

Links and References


Also Starring

Guest Stars


Uncredited Co-Stars


all-points relay; amoeba; antimatter pods; Armenia; arrested culture; Baroner; Belgium; Chairman; citadel; Code One alert; Council of Elders; D7 class; Earth; engineering control; environmental control; Federation; governor; kevas; Klingon Empire; Klingon attack ship; logic; magnetic pulse; military dictatorship; Milky Way Galaxy; mind-sifter; Organia; Organian; Organian goat; Organian Peace Treaty; Qo'noS; quarterly physical; Richter scale of culture; screens; sheep; sonic grenade; Special Occupation Order 4; Starfleet Command; tree; tricorder; trillium; Unit XY-75847; Vulcan; Vulcan (planet); Vulcan neck pinch; wolves

External link

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