TOS: S1 – E21: The Return of the Archons

The Return of the Archons
The Return of the Archons | Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

STARDATE: 3156.2

We begin the episode with Mr. Sulu running on a street on planet Beta-III, wearing human clothes from the 18th Century. Sulu and Lt. O’Neil were trying to get away from human men dressed in brown hoods, who were carrying some weapons. Sulu beamed up, but just as his atoms were breaking down, he was shocked by the weapon.

Sulu disoriented
Mr. Sulu was disoriented when he beamed back to the Enterprise. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

When Sulu appeared on the Enterprise, he spoke about Archons, someone named Landru, paradise, and seemed utterly disoriented.

Captain Kirk, in his log, explained that the Enterprise was at Beta-III looking for remnants of the U.S.S. Archon, which disappeared 100 years ago.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and three others beamed back to the surface to investigate further. As they walked through the town, all who they encountered acted very friendly, yet expressionless. They also wore 18th or 19th Century Earth clothes and spoke perfect English.

They stopped and spoke to one man, who assumed they were from “the valley” and were in town for the “festival.” When the clock struck 6 p.m., all of the townsfolk started screaming and fighting in the streets.

The away team ran into an apartment to wait out the chaos. Kirk started asking about Landru, and the meaning of the festival to the owner of the place, who was named Reger. The crew received more questions than answers.

The next morning, the men in robes appeared and killed one of the men who the crew stayed with. A friend reported that he disobeyed.

The men in robes then turned to Kirk, accusing him of disobeying and not being a part of “the body.” They told him that they would soon be “absorbed.”

Kirk said they would not go anywhere… and the men in cloaks didn’t know how to react. They ordered Kirk again, who refused again. Suddenly, the Lawgivers stood still — it was explained that they were “communing with Landru.”

The crew then escaped to a safe house. On the way, they had to use their phasers to stun several townspeople, who attempted to stop them. They found O’Neil en route and dragged him along.

Reger revealed a glowing panel, which he said was from the time before Landru. Reger said that it could have been six thousand years old. Spock detected power radiating from “everywhere.”

McCoy said that O’Neil would soon wake. Reger said that he could not, as he had been “absorbed.” Reger explained that when the Archons first came, they were out of control and not in line with Landru.

Reger also revealed that there was an underground who was working against the forces of Landru. He was a part of this “underground.”

He said that Landru pulled the Archons out of the sky. Spock said that the readings indicated a power capable of holding a starship. Kirk then learned that a “head beam” was attacking the Enterprise. Scotty said they could not leave orbit or warp away, and that the ship would burn up in 12 hours due to these heat beams.

Spock reported that Landru was scanning them with sensor beams. Then a hologram of a human male dressed in gray and copper robes appeared before them. Kirk spoke to Landru, but he didn’t respond. Spock figured that this was merely a projection, and there was no way to communicate.

The men in robes then turned to Kirk, accusing him of disobeying and not being a part of “the body.” They told him that they would soon be “absorbed.”

Landru told them that this was a society of goodness and peace, without any of the ancient evils. He said that the crew would soon be absorbed into the collective being.

Suddenly, the crew crumbled to the floor, overcome by hypersonic signals.

When they woke, they appeared to be in some prison, but now they were unable to leave and did not have their weapons or communicators. McCoy was missing.

Soon, the Lawgivers in cloaks returned with McCoy, who had been “absorbed.” He now asked Kirk how he could help them, and said that he knew everyone through Landru.

Later, the men took Kirk to the absorption chambers. Kirk found himself strapped to the wall, and a man walked in to begin the procedure. As the captain exited, he greeted the next victim (Spock) in the same strange manner as the townsfolk had earlier.

Spock in the chamber
Mr. Spock was taken to the absorption chamber when suddenly … Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Spock too was strapped in, but before anything happened, the man running the machine spoke. He said his name was Marplon, and that he was the third member of the underground. He’d been too late to save Sulu and McCoy, but he stopped Kirk from being “absorbed” as well.

He returned the phasers to Spock and told him to behave in the same manner as Kirk did earlier. Spock rejoined Kirk in prison, and they kept up the act in front of McCoy.

Spock said the society was like a machine. When things were disrupted, the people in this order waited for instructions from … Landru. Spock said there was no “Landru” in the human sense.

Kirk then told Spock that “Landru must die.” Spock reminded the captain of The Prime Directive, which ordered that there must be no interference in the natural order of an alien society. Kirk said that didn’t apply here.

Then, Marplon and Reger entered the cell. They returned Kirk’s communicators. Kirk said that they must get more information about Landru. McCoy heard them and began screaming “traitor.” He then tried to strangle Kirk, who used a wrestling move to silence the doctor.

Two Lawgivers arrived in the cell. Spock and another crewman took care of them. They took the cloaks from the guards and demanded that Marplon and Reger take them to Landru.

Scotty signaled that the ship had just six hours until the orbit deteriorated.

Marplon and Reger told the story of Landru, who was a savior-figure, who brought peace to their planet centuries ago. They believed that Landru was still alive and that he watched even now.

Reger decided that he did not want to take down Landru, and he lost his cool and started yelling for the Lawgivers. Spock used a neck pinch to knock him out.

Soon, Marplon took Spock and Kirk to the “Hall of Audiences,” where Landru was. They entered, and Kirk called for Landru, saying that they were the Archons. The Landru hologram appeared. He said that they had caused great harm, and that obliteration was necessary “for the good of the body.”

He said the memory of their presence must be excised, and all who they interacted with will be killed. Kirk tried to reason with Landru, but Spock noted that it was a mere projection. They fired phasers at the projection, and they found a supercomputer, which created Landru.

Spock said that it made sense. The computer created this society, what it thought was perfection, but it had no soul.

They readied their phasers, and as they aimed, Landru disabled them. The computer said that soon they would be disabled as well. Kirk told the computer that Landru died 6,000 years ago. The machine said that it was Landru — his experience and knowledge. Kirk said that was true, but all without wisdom.

Kirk asked Landru what “the good of the body” was. The machine could not answer. Kirk said that Landru was killing the body, and after a series of additional questions, Landru could not explain anything more.

Two Lawgivers arrived, asking for guidance, and they observed.

The computer said that it reserved all creativity in society. Kirk said that was evil, and that its prime directive was to destroy evil. The computer started to ask for help, but as it did, smoke billowed out, and it self-destructed.

Kirk called Scotty, who said the ship was fine, and that Sulu returned to normal. Kirk and the party returned to the ship. As they left, Kirk noted that they left behind a sociologist to help restore a healthy culture to the planet.


You know, it’s a shame about this episode. Here are the problems:

  • Yet another “Another Earth” with no explanation
  • How are there biological humans in another part of the galaxy — who spoke perfect English?
  • We never found out what happened to the Archon crew (did they get assimilated, or die?)
  • Why was the Enterprise looking for them all of a sudden?
  • Why did the people riot in the streets? Did Landru tell them to fight every once in a while at 6 p.m.?

This was not one of the better episodes. At least we get a glimpse of the Prime Directive… it’s first appearance!

Roddenberry was said to be an atheist, and this episode seemed like a clever commentary on religion. Landru was like Jesus, and the computer was the teachings of Jesus, which may or may not be relevant 2,000 years later. The episode said that teachings of a long-dead prophet should not run society today.

But, the times when this aired was dominated by fear of the Soviet Union, so there’s a dash of state control. Landru, the machine, kept all creativity to itself, which is much like the Soviets (and Nazis) did. We now see that creativity, dictated from a central state, is not real creativity. That’s why the society was so strange.

RATING: 2 out of 5


Directed by: Joseph Pevney
Teleplay by: Boris Sobelman
Story by: Gene Roddenberry
Produced by: Gene L. Coon
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Associate Producer: Robert H. Justman
Script Consultant: Steven W. Carabatsos
Music composed and conducted by: Alexander Courage
Director of Photography: Jerry Finnerman
Art Directors: Roland M. Brooks and Walter M. Jeffries


William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock


Harry Townes as Reger

Torin Thatcher as Marplon

DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy


Brioni Farrell … as Tula
Sid Haig … as First Lawgiver
Charles Macaulay … as Landru
Jon Lormer … as Tamar
Morgan Farley … as Hacom
Christopher Held … as Lindstrom


George Takei … as Sulu
James Doohan … as Scott
Nichelle Nichols … as Uhura
Sean Morgan … as O’Neil
Ralph Maurer … as Bilar
David L. Ross … as Guard

Film Editor … Fabien Tordjmann
Assistant to the Producer … Edward K. Milkis
Assistant Director … Gregg Peters
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 … Jack F. Lilly
Photographic Effects … Film Effects of Hollywood
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