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Patterns of Force (episode)

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"Patterns of Force"
TOS, Episode 2x23
Production number: 60352
First aired: 16 February 1968
Remastered version aired: 19 May 2007
53rd of 80 produced in TOS
50th of 80 released in TOS
31st of 80 released in TOS Remastered
50th of 728 released in all
Spock and Kirk are discovered by the Nazis
Written By
John Meredyth Lucas

Directed By
Vincent McEveety
Unknown (2268)
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The Enterprise, searching for a missing Federation historian, discovers that the historian has apparently contaminated the cultural development of the planet where he was assigned as a cultural observer to have it follow the societal path of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and '40s.



Kirk dressed in Nazi attire

James T. Kirk in a Nazi uniform

The USS Enterprise heads for the planet Ekos to retrieve cultural observer John Gill, a brilliant history teacher; Spock and McCoy reminisce about his style of approaching history as a matter of cause-and-effect, rather than simply dates and events.

While approaching the planet, the ship is attacked by an old-style chemical rocket with a thermonuclear warhead – technology of whose development the planet is not yet supposed to be capable.

Act OneEdit

Fearing that Gill's mission has been compromised in violation of the Prime Directive of non-interference with developing planets, Kirk and Spock beam down to Ekos. Before they do, they have McCoy insert subcutaneous emergency transponders, dependent on crystalline rubindium, into their forearms, to locate them for retrieval in the event they cannot use their communicators.

They find a culture almost identical to that of Germany during its Nazi period of the 1930s and 40s, down to the uniforms, salutes, persecution of another ethnic culture – in this case the inhabitants of the neighboring planet Zeon, and the concept of the Führer – John Gill himself. Stealing some SS uniforms, Kirk and Spock attempt to infiltrate the Führer's headquarters but are quickly captured when Spock is forced to remove his helmet, revealing his pointed Vulcan ears.

Act TwoEdit

Kirk and Spock are interrogated by an SS-Major; this is interrupted by Chairman Eneg, who chides the SS guard for not realizing that punishment is effective for just so long.

Left with their wounds still open, they find themselves imprisoned with Isak, a Zeon underground member who explains how the Nazi movement began, coinciding with the time of Gill's arrival. Improvising a crude cutting-torch laser from the rubindium crystals from the transponders Kirk had had McCoy insert, at a subcutaneous level, into the skins of their forearms before beaming down, the trio manage to escape and return to their base. There, Isak is greeted by his brother, Abrom, and told of the death of his fiancée, Uletta. In the midst of this, a squad of Ekosian stormtroopers (led by a woman) arrives, intent on arresting the entire lot. She apparently shoots Abrom dead and plans to "FINISH the job!"

Act ThreeEdit

When Kirk and Spock intervene to help the underground workers, it is revealed that the woman, Daras (who they recognized from a propaganda broadcast), is an Ekosian member of the underground and the storming was a test to see if the strangers could be trusted – once Kirk and Spock responded to her apparent murder of Abrom by her holding at gunpoint, those gathered realized that the two strangers were definitely on their side and put an end to the ruse. Kirk and Spock then reveal who they are and why they are there. They also learn that a fleet of space vehicles is preparing to depart from Ekos to carry the war of extermination to Zeon – their final solution.

Kirk and Spock accompany Daras and Isak (in Nazi disguise) to Führer headquarters posing as a Nazi documentary crew to try and reach Gill; Dr. McCoy later beams down from the Enterprise and joins them in a Nazi uniform.

Act FourEdit

Once inside, they listen to a speech by Gill, followed by another from his deputy, Melakon, pledging the destruction of Zeon. The three are able to sneak into a broadcast booth and find Gill, heavily drugged. Partly revived by McCoy, they learn the truth; Gill had taken matters into his own hands on Ekos, which he had found to be in a condition of anarchy. He had organized the planet using (what he thought was) the efficiency of the Nazi system, but had tried to prevent it from sliding into sadism. Unfortunately for his plans, however, Melakon had begun a takeover and had begun drugging Gill, leaving what now remained of Gill as a figurehead; the direct result was that Melakon has been the real power on Ekos for years. Isak, meanwhile, learns that Eneg is a member of the underground resistance.

With time running out before the Ekosian fleet reaches Zeon, Kirk struggles to revive Gill to a sufficiently coherent state. Gill broadcasts a message halting the invasion and declaring Melakon a traitor. Melakon takes an MP40 machine gun from a guard and shoots Gill through the broadcast booth curtain to silence him. Isak, in turn, shoots him twice with a Luger, killing him instantly. As Gill dies, he tells Kirk the Prime Directive was the right way all along. Meanwhile, Eneg takes control of the government, declaring, "There has been enough killing. Now we'll start to live the way the Führer meant us to live!" He then (presumably) goes on the airwaves with Daras to offer a new way of life for both Ekosians and Zeons.

Back on board the ship, Spock expresses confusion as to how a man as logical as Gill could make such a mistake emulating the Nazis. Kirk says the problem was not simply the Nazis themselves but giving any one individual so much power. McCoy remarks (in quotation of John Dalberg-Acton, First Baron Acton) how power corrupts; Spock dryly points out several examples from Earth history of just that mentality--and Kirk cuts off their argument by saying, "Gentlemen, we've just been through one civil war; let's not start another." Kirk then orders Ensign Chekov to plot a course and break orbit around Ekos as quickly as they can.

Memorable quotesEdit

"Our missiles utterly destroyed the enemy."
"You look quite well for a man who's been utterly destroyed, Mister Spock."

- Ekosian Newscaster and Kirk, on the missile attack on the Enterprise

"You should make a very convincing Nazi."

- Spock, commenting on Kirk's Gestapo uniform

"Lieutenant? Better see a doctor. You don't look well. Your color."
"Yes. I shall tend to it, Major."
"Lieutenant! Your helmet. Remove it!"

- SS-Major uncovering a disguised Spock

"I...don't care if you hit the broad side of a barn. Just hurry, please."
"Captain, why should I aim at such a structure?"
"Never mind, Spock. Just...get on with the job."

- Kirk and Spock, before breaking out of their jail cell

"If we adopt the ways of the Nazis, we're as bad as the Nazis."

- Isak, after learning of Uletta's death

"Captain, I'm beginning to understand why you earth men enjoy gambling. No matter how carefully one computes the odds of success, there is still a certain... exhilaration in the risk."
"Very good, Spock. We may make a Human of you yet."
"I hope not."

- Spock and Kirk, on the Human thrill of risk-taking

"Doctor McCoy is having difficulty with that uniform, sir."
"Send him down naked if you have to! Kirk out."

- Uhura and Kirk, before McCoy beams into the cloakroom

"Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears. Definitely an inferior race."

- Melakon to Daras, on Spock

"Even historians fail to learn from history...they repeat the same mistakes. Let the killing end, Kirk. Let--"

- John Gill's final words

"For so long I've prayed for this. Now I'm sorry."
"So was he."

- Isak and Kirk, after Gill's death

"It is time to stop the bury our dead."

- Eneg, as the war between Ekos and Zeon (apparently) ends

"Gentlemen, we've just been through one civil war; let's not start another."

- Kirk, as Spock and McCoy debate Gill's mistake

Background information Edit

Production timelineEdit

Story Edit

  • No stardate is logged in the episode. Bjo Trimble gave it a stardate of 2534.0 in her Star Trek Concordance, apparently using an earlier script version. This episode was filmed in early December 1967.
  • John Meredyth Lucas wrote this episode out of his fascination with the functioning of totalitarian regimes (especially Nazi Germany) and their ability to stay in power. [1] William Shatner quoted him to Chris Kreski, in Star Trek Memories, as saying that "it was fun to write a well-meaning Nazi, a guy who for the right cause completely fucked everything up. Y'know, we started with the question, 'How the hell did Nazism get past the shits and the street gangs and take root among the basically decent people? How did sane, reasonable adults come to buy into this bullshit'? The answer seemed to be because it was efficient and because, in a society beset by all kinds of problems, it may have seemed like a feasible necessity. So it becomes feasible, and the people take that leap."
  • During the first season, Paul Schneider wrote a story outline entitled "Tomorrow the Universe" about the Enterprise encountering an alien planet adopting Nazi ideology and forming its own "Third Reich". Schneider began to develop the story further; however, when Lucas came up with his very similar idea of "Patterns of Force", it was deemed much better than Schneider's story, which was scrapped. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two)
  • An early draft of this episode had the source of cultural contamination arriving aboard a small "Ambassador-class" vessel called the Magellan. The name was later applied in TNG to the Ambassador-class of ships in the mid-24th century.
  • Eneg's name is an inside joke – it is "Gene (Roddenberry)" backwards. The name "Zeon" is a take on "Zion", while "Abrom" corresponds to "Abraham", "Davod" to "David", and "Isak" to "Isaac"; "Daras", reversed, is almost "Sara". With respect to the "Eneg" name, Walter Koenig attempted to repeat this inside joke several years later when writing for Land of the Lost. It was to be the name of the Altrusian character in that show. However, somehow the name got mistranscribed as Enik.
  • This is the second mention of Nazi Germany in Star Trek, the first being in "The City on the Edge of Forever". However, in "Mirror, Mirror", Scott did compare Sulu's security system to "the ancient Gestapo".
  • Star Trek 12 contains a novelization of this story by James Blish and J.A. Lawrence.

Sets and costumes Edit


The location of the Ekosian Chancellery at Paramount

  • The headquarters of the Nazi Party in this episode are the redecorated offices of Paramount Pictures during the 60s, including the building where Lucille Ball ran Desilu. Paramount office buildings were also used as locations in "Assignment: Earth", and a short newsreel scene in "Bread and Circuses".
  • The underground area is the same set as was used for "The Devil in the Dark".
  • All the Nazi uniforms used in this episode are taken from Paramount's costume storage, and were previously featured in many of the studio's World War II-era films.[2] Many of them featured mismatched epaulets, collar tabs, and other rank-identifying insignia. However, McCoy's collar tabs, bearing a single silver oak leaf, correctly identify him as a colonel, as Kirk had ordered.
  • Several uniforms, such as Kirk's and McCoy's, show cuffbands reading "Adolf Hitler". They represent members of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, special bodyguards of the Führer.

Two "Ekosians" look down from an upper window

  • The front of the Ekosian Chancellery has all of its windows and shutters closed, for the real world reason that the actual building was an active office of Paramount Pictures with daily business going on inside while the film crew and actors were shooting the exterior. Even so, two individuals who appear to be curious Paramount Pictures employees can be seen looking down on the courtyard from an upper window.
  • This episode makes a common mistake about Nazi Germany common to televison takes on the Third Reich. Kirk tells the Enterprise to outfit McCoy as a Gestapo Colonel. The Gestapo were the national secret police force (Geheime Staatspolizei), who were more like the FBI and did not wear uniforms, but plain clothes. Hogan's Heroes often made the same mistake with Major Hochstetter, who wore the SS uniform, but was repeatedly referred to as "Gestapo".

Cast and characters Edit

  • This episode marks the only time, in any Star Trek series or film, that actor Leonard Nimoy is seen on camera not wearing a shirt.

Special visual effects Edit

  • V-2 rocket footage from World War II Germany is used in the newscast showing Ekosian missiles.
  • In a change from the stock explosions used throughout the second season, an animated nuclear blast was created for this episode. It could be faulted for a possible scientific error--the micropressure of space is commonly held to make visible explosions impossible. However, the attacking V-2 rocket might have been carrying oxidizer along with its fuel, whose oxygen content could permit visible explosions. (This is not known ever to have actually been tested.)
  • The attacking V-2 rocket on the viewscreen of Enterprise was reused footage of the Orion scout ship from "Journey to Babel" earlier in the season.
  • In one of the sequences of news footage, all of which consisted of stock shots and stock footage, a car with Adolf Hitler accompanied by soldiers is used to represent John Gill as the Führer on the planet Ekos. The sequence is a use of stock footage from Triumph of the Will, the infamous Nazi propaganda film for whose production Leni Riefenstahl was responsible.

Controversies Edit

  • Because the subject matter of the nation's Nazi past was deemed too serious a topic for light TV entertainment, this episode was withheld from broadcast by the German stations that aired TOS until 2011. During the first German run of TOS in the 1970s, many former Nazis were still alive; during the second run in the 1990s, a wave of neo-Nazi violence was just sweeping the former GDR. (citation needededit)
  • Austrian state-owned TV, on the other hand, did broadcast it, although untranslated with German subtitles. (Translation of the other episodes was done in Germany and bought by Austrian TV stations.) Southernmost Germany in range of Austrian TV broadcast thus could watch the episode. In Germany a translated version was aired in the mid 90s, but only late at night. There was a home video release, however, and the newer German DVD and Blu-Ray sets contain the episode. The fact that the episode was only dubbed 20 or so years after the other shows is obvious by the sound of the dubbing voices which have clearly aged. Especially Gerd Günther Hoffmann's (Kirk's dubbing voice in most of the Star Trek TV shows and films, and also Sean Connery's) voice has notably aged and the Kirk in this episode sounds more like the one in Generations than that of the rest of the TV show. (citation needededit)
  • The episode's thesis, espoused by Gill and corroborated by Spock, that Germany, and especially Nazi Germany, was the "most efficient" state ever known in Earth history, was a popular notion in 1960s America. It is, however, strongly denied by modern historians; these point to the many bloated, competing bureaucracies with ill-defined jurisdictions that existed in that period, mostly financed with stolen and expropriated funds. (citation needededit) Also, as they observe, nearly every official in Nazi Germany was the bitter enemy of nearly every other; likewise, the political strongman who had ruled the original Nazi Germany regime, Adolf Hitler, who had been bored with the details of day-to-day governing and was thus willing to leave them largely to his subordinates, considered nearly every such subordinate his bitter enemy.

Remastered informationEdit

The remastered version of "Patterns of Force" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 19 May 2007. While the episode required very few new effects, an entirely new shot of the Enterprise phasering the Ekosian warhead was substituted. In addition, Ekos was given a CGI-makeover as a more Earth-like planet, with new orbital shots of the Enterprise, and the rubindium crystal beam was refined.

Video and DVD releasesEdit

Links and referencesEdit


Guest starsEdit

Special appearance byEdit


Uncredited co-starsEdit


Alexander the Great; anarchy; barn; Bonaparte, Napoléon; "Bones"; Caesar, Julius; cancer; catalepsy; Chancellery Detention Center; coma; cultural contamination; cultural observer; Daras' father; Deputy Führer; drugs; Earth; Ekos; Ekosian; Ekosian Chancellery; Ekosian missile; excellency; Federation; Final Solution; Führer; Führer's Special Documentary Corps; gambling; Gestapo; Gestapo Command Headquarters; Hitler, Adolf; Human history; hypnosis; Iron Cross; kilometer; Leader Principle; Kuan, Lee; logic; MP40; medi-comp; microphone; millimeter; National Socialist Party (Nazi, Nazi Party); pig; Prime Directive; projectile weapon; psychosis; radio; Ramses; rubindium; Secretary; SS; space fleet; standard orbit; Starfleet Academy; subcutaneous transponder; suicide; swastika; swine; transponder; Uletta; Vulcan mind probe; Vulcan neck pinch; Zeon; Zeon (planet)

External links Edit

Previous episode produced:
"Return to Tomorrow"
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2
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"The Ultimate Computer"
Previous episode aired:
"Return to Tomorrow"
Next episode aired:
"By Any Other Name"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"Errand of Mercy"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"Shore Leave"

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