TOS: S1 – E26: Errand of Mercy

This was a blah episode, slow-moving, and dull. But when it aired, back in the late 1960s, it must have been revolutionary. As the Vietnam War raged, Errand of Mercy told a similar story of a planet caught in the middle of two powers — the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The Federation was not unlike the United States, while the Klingons represented the terrible Soviet Union. As the story played out, the similarities to the real-life drama in South Asia and Organia became very clear.

STARDATE: 3198.4

We join the Enterprise as the ship streaked through space. Kirk got a message that negotiations with the Klingons have broken down, and Starfleet suspects a sneak attack. His orders were to ensure that Organia did not fall into Klingon hands. 

Spock informs the Captain that humanoids are living on Organia. Still, they rate only D-minus on Richter’s scale of cultures. As Kirk was lamenting that Organia was like a Belgium in space (just a weak and innocent bystander who would get trampled by stronger powers), the ship fell under attack. 

Klingons! The Enterprise fired back, and the Klingon ship appeared to have exploded. Sulu could not detect the enemy vessel. Uhura announced that Starfleet announced an all-points bulletin, Code One — which meant war!

Kirk ordered Sulu to lay in a course to Organia, as Spock warned that negotiating with the Organians would be time-consuming. 

When they arrived at Organia, Uhura announced that a fleet of Klingon ships had been seen, but their present location was unknown. 

Kirk told Sulu that he would be in charge while the Captain and Spock were on the surface. Kirk warned Sulu that at any signs of the Klingon fleet, he would take the Enterprise to safety, leaving himself and Spock on the planet. Sulu argued, but Kirk told him not to fight the Klingons.

On Organia, Kirk and Spock beamed just outside of a medieval, castle-like structure. They were welcomed by a human male, who spoke perfect English, named Ayelborne (John Abbott). Kirk asked to see someone in authority. Ayelborne said there was no authority, but he was the chairman of the Council of Elders. He took Kirk to the council chambers, while Spock wandered around the village.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said Kirk. “I’m a soldier, not a diplomat. I can only tell you the truth.”

Kirk presented his case to the council of working with Starfleet or the Klingons. The councilmen rejected Kirk’s offer of protection. No matter how much he argued, they did not seem to care. He eventually started to yell at them.

John Abbott as Ayelborne
John Abbott as Ayelborne. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said Kirk. “I’m a soldier, not a diplomat. I can only tell you the truth.”

They asked to be excused while they mulled over Kirk’s offer. Spock came to see him and informed the Captain that the inhabitants of Organia had not made any technological progress for centuries. 

They rejected Kirk’s offer. He then offered Starfleet’s science and technology — ending disease, hunger, and hardship. As they were about to tell him to leave, Sulu contacted Kirk, telling him that the Klingon fleet had arrived, and the Enterprise was under attack. Kirk ordered the Enterprise to leave. 

Ayelborne told Kirk that they’d now have to keep them safe. Somehow, the council members knew that the Klingons had beamed to the surface and that they were armed. 

The audience then got a glimpse of Klingon soldiers marching in the town square. Kirk and Spock were now wearing Organian clothes, but Ayelborne took their phasers.

NOTE: I am so glad that the crew on The Motion Picture made the Klingons to what we know today. These Klingons were just white guys with brown make-up, crazy eyebrows, sparkly pants, and mustaches. These “aliens” did not age well and are somewhat cringe-worthy. To me, they look like they were modeled after the Flash Gordon villain, Ming the Merciless.

The Organians said they had nothing to fear from the Klingons. Just after they said that, a Klingon walked in. 

“I am Kor, military governor of Organia,” he said. Kor (John Colicos) then asked who Kirk was. The Organians said Kirk was a leading citizen. 

John Colicos as Kor
John Colicos as Kor. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

NOTE: Kor would appear other TOS episodes, the Deep Space Nine episode “Once More Unto the Breach” and even on The Animated Series

Kor walked around Kirk and asked where his idiotic smile was. Kor said that Spock might be a Federation spy (since Vulcans were members of the Federation). Kirk objected, and Kor turned to him with enjoyment. Kor was happy that at least one of the Organians had a spine.

He told the Organians that they were now subjects of the Klingon Empire, and any violation of the rules will be punishable by death. Kirk resisted but eventually told Kirk that he would serve as an intermediary. Ayelborne promised they would have to trouble.

Kor said that Spock would be interrogated. If they found that Spock was lying, he would be killed. 

The Klingons gave Kirk a list of new ordinances for the Organians to live under. They interrogated Spock, and he was able to beat their technique. They called it the “mind-sifter,” which can record all thoughts in a man’s mind. They released Spock.

Kor told Kirk to keep the people in order, or he would be killed.

While they walked out, a Klingon shoved Kirk. Spock stopped him from fighting back. They walked off and plotted how to get the Organians to rise up against the Klingons. 

Spock and Kirk
Spock and Kirk in their Organian clothes. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

That evening, the duo snuck into the Klingon’s weapons storage area. Kirk disabled a guard, and Spock set off an explosion of the weapons. 

Later, Kirk admitted to the Organians that they blew up the weapons. The Organians were not happy. Kirk suggested that the Organians create a guerrilla-style resistance. Ayelborne said that Kirk did not understand his people. 

As Kirk lectured the Organians for not having a backbone, Kor watched, via a security camera. Soon he, and his troops arrived. Kor said that Kirk would be killed after the mind-scanning device. Ayelborne said there was no need for this, and revealed that Kirk was the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise

Kor was delighted.

“I had hoped to meet you in battle!” Kor said to Kirk. Ayelborne apologized for revealing who Kirk really was. Kirk was incensed. Kor ordered Spock away, and said that he and Kirk would have a ‘talk.’

In Kor’s office, he offered Kirk a drink. Kor wanted to talk and said that he admired both Starfleet and Kirk. Kor knew that Kirk destroyed the supplies. 

Kor said that the Federation and Klingons were alike — on a planet of sheep, they were two tigers. He asked Kirk about the location of the Starfleet ships. Kirk laughed and said that he would not comply. Kor said that he would dissect Spock’s brain to learn why he was able to beat the mind scanner if Kirk did not comply.

He gave Kirk 12 hours to comply. The Klingons threw Kirk into a jail cell with Spock. Even while they counted down their time left, Kirk and Spock tried to figure out a way to escape. 

All of a sudden, Ayelborne appeared and set them free. He said the Klingons meant to do them harm, and the Organians would not permit this. Ayelborne offered them safety but brought them to council chambers. 

The Klingons realized that Kirk and Spock escaped. Kor ordered they “implement special occupation order number four.”

In the council chamber, Kirk raged against the Organians, who said that violence was unthinkable.

Kor’s voice broadcast across the city, ordering that Kirk and Spock be returned. He announced that 200 Organians had been killed. The councilmen were unfazed. Kor said that 200 more would be killed and more after that unless the Federation spies were returned. 

Spock and Kirk pleaded for the phasers to be returned. Ayelborne returned them. Kirk said that they did not like the Organians or their ways, but they would show that there were some things worth dying for.

Ayelborne and his councilmen tried to figure out a way to stop Kirk and Spock from the violence they intended to inflict.

After they debated the odds of success, the duo stunned two Klingon guards with their phasers. Ayelborne and his men began to meditate.

Kor was enraged when the deadline came and went, and the Organians did not produce their escapees. He ordered his men to round up 200 more victims.

Sulu was left in charge as acting captain. This was the first time, but would not be the last. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Sulu was left in charge as acting captain. This was the first time, but would not be the last. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Kirk used his rope belt to attack a Klingon to determine where Kor’s office was. Once they got him to talk, Spock pinched him out. They burst into the office, and Kor told them that a Federation fleet was on the way to the planet at that moment. Kor said that a Klingon fleet was also on its way.

Kor said Kirk should kill him, but Kor said that was the human’s weakness. He offered them a drink, to toast the Klingon’s inevitable victory. Kor said that the reason he was so good at his job was because he was under constant surveillance. 

Just then, a group of Klingons burst in, but before they could fire, they dropped their weapons due to extreme heat. On the Enterprise, the crew on the bridge jumped out of their chairs because of the heat. Kirk tried to fight Kor with his fists, but could not due to the heat. 

In walked Ayelborne and his councilmen. They said they could not permit the violence, and they put a stop to it. They said that all weapons were now 300 degrees, including weapons on both fleets. 

Kirk contacted Sulu, who confirmed this news. Ayelborne said that he was now standing on Earth and the Klingon homeworld, saying the same thing that he was saying to them. He would stop the war. 

“What happens in space is none of your business!” said Kor. 

“Fascinating!” said Spock. “Pure energy. Pure thought. Totally incorporeal. Not life as we know it at all.”

Ayelborne said that unless they both stood down, then all forces would be paralyzed. Kirk said that they had the right to wage war. Ayelborne countered, and pointed out that he was defending the right to the Klingons and Starfleet to have war.

Ayelborne pointed out that in the future, the Klingons would become fast friends and would work together. 

NOTE: This came true! I wonder how much this particular episode influenced the creation of The Next Generation’s Worf. 

He then asked them to leave and explained that they had evolved from humanoid form. Ayelborne began to glow like a sun. They disappeared. 

“Fascinating!” said Spock. “Pure energy. Pure thought. Totally incorporeal. Not life as we know it at all.”

NOTE: To all of us who grew up in the 1980s, this quote by Spock is linked forever to the song “What’s On Your Mind” by Information Society. Millennials and younger, please take a moment and listen below. Dr. McCoy also has a word or two at the start of the song from I, Mudd:

Spock said that the castle and everything else was probably a creation as well. 

“A shame captain,” said Kor. “It would have been glorious!”

“I should say that the Organians are as high above us on the evolutionary scale as we are to the amoeba,” said Spock.

Kirk said that was the end of the war.

“A shame captain,” said Kor. “It would have been glorious!”

Back on the Enterprise, Spock asked Kirk why he was acting so restrained after leaving the planet. Kirk said he was embarrassed because the Organians stopped them from fighting a war, which they did not want.

Spock said it took the Organians millions of years to evolve. “Even the gods did not spring into being overnight,” said Spock. He said that at least they beat the odds. Kirk said that they did not. He noted that the Organians had the game rigged.


I was unimpressed by this one. Almost bored. But, as I said, this episode probably meant a massive amount to those who watched it. Especially those who were against the Vietnam War. It felt like, in the end, the Organians being super-beings was almost a cop-out, what is commonly known as a Deus ex Machina

RATING: 2.5 out of 5


Directed by: John Newland
Written and Produced by: Gene L. Coon
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Associate Producer: Robert H. Justman
Music composed and conducted by: Alexander Courage
Script Consultant: D.C. Fontana
Director of Photography: Jerry Finnerman
Art Directors: Roland M. Brooks and Walter M. Jeffries


William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock


John Abbott as Ayelborne
John Colicos as Kor


George Takei … as Sulu
Nichelle Nichols … as Uhura
Peter Brocco … as Claymare
Victor Lundin … as Lieutenant
David Hillary Hughes … as Trefayne
Walt Davis … as Klingon Soldier
George Sawaya … as Second Soldier

Film Editor … Bruce Schoengarth
Assistant to the Producer … Edward K. Milkis
Assistant Director … Michael S. Glick
Set Decorator … Marvin March
Costumes created by … William Theiss

Post Production Executive … Bill Heath
Music Editor … Jim Henrikson
Sound Editor … Douglas H. Grindstaff
Sound Mixer … Carl W. Daniels
Photographic Effects … Westheimer Company
Script Supervisor … George A. Rutter
Music Consultant … Wilbur Hatch
Music Coordinator … Julian Davidson
Special Effects … Jim Rugg
Property Master … Irving A. Feinberg
Gaffer … George H. Merhoff
Head Grip … George Rader
Production Supervisor … Bernard A. Windin
Makeup Artist … Fred B. Phillips, S.M.A.
Hair Styles by … Virginia Darcy, C.H.S.
Wardrobe Mistress … Margaret Makau
Casting … Joseph D’Agosta
Sound … Glen Glenn Sound Co.

A DesiLu Production in association with the Norway Company

Executive in Charge of Production … Herbert F. Solow