Star Trek – The Return Of The Archons

★★★ 1/2 February 09, 1967 Season 1 Episode 21

If you want to see where we are…and you missed a few…HERE is a list of the episodes in my index located at the top of my blog. 

This show was written by Boris Sobelman and Gene Roddenberry

At the start of this one, you are in complete confusion. It takes a good while to get a grasp of what is happening and why. Even when the story becomes clearer, there are things that just don’t make sense, such as the 6 o’clock craziness (Red Hour) that grips the people of Beta III, or the robed guards’ electronic-sounding voices.

In the episode, Lieutenant Sulu gets beamed back aboard the Enterprise in a rather dreamy state like he was a member of some cult. When a larger away team led by Kirk, Spock, and Bones goes down they find a society frozen in time and completely submerged in a philosophy of peace and non-violence. Except of course for the ‘festival’ or Red Hour when everyone runs amuck. 

The Return of the Archons - Star Trek 1x21 | TVmaze

The people on Beta III as this planet is known to Star Fleet are held in thrall by the will of an ancient philosopher named Landru. His teachings were carried out. What it involved was nothing less than the stamping out of individuality. It reminded me of some of the cults out there. You were not part of the teachings…you were not welcomed and get punished.

There were a few things that weren’t explained. The “Red Hour” when everyone when bonkers. My thought is…it was a way for society to release its primal urges of sex and violence in a controlled way so that it may function as Landru intends. The hooded guards had hollow tubes for wea

From IMDB:

All the regulars on the show were quitting smoking at the same time, so many chewed gum instead. Director Joseph Pevney was becoming increasingly upset, because he had to cut to remind the cast not to chew gum during the shoots. As a prank for a large scene, William Shatner went around handing out bubble gum to the cast, crew and 60-80 extras, and had everyone blow a bubble right after the director hollered “Action”. Sid Haig reported the director “almost passed out”. (Source: Sid Haig’s phone interview with “The Shlocky Horror Picture Show” for a television airing of Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Ever Told (1967).)

Contains the first mention of the Prime Directive of noninterference, which the plot brings up only so that Kirk can violate it.

The word Archon was the title of certain Greek heads of state, most famously in the Athenian Republic. It comes from Greek root “arch”, meaning “leader, highest, chief”, which can also be found in the English words monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy; all of these are present in Landru’s society.

The location scenes for this episode were filmed at the 40 Acres backlot in Culver City, the same place where Star Trek: Miri (1966) and Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever (1967) were shot. Best known for their use as Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show (1960), the sets on this section of the backlot were originally constructed to portray 19th century Atlanta for Gone with the Wind (1939).

In the dungeon, Kirk and Spock subdue Landru’s guards, Spock punches the guard in the face with his fist instead of using the Vulcan neck pinch. Kirk even comments “Isn’t that old-fashioned?” This is the first instance of Spock hitting another character in the face with his fist.

Bobby Clark, who leaps through a window and then cries out “Festival! Festival!” has his only speaking role in the series in this episode. A frequent stunt performer on the series, he can also be seen as one of Chekov’s vaporized henchmen in Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror (1967).

When Kirk tells the Enterprise “Materialization complete” upon beaming down, this, along with the third season episode Star Trek: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (1968), marks the only time that any landing party informs the ship as a matter of course that transportation has been effected.

Just why Festival takes place, or how frequently it occurs, is never made entirely clear. However, in his novelization in Star Trek 9, James Blish describes Reger telling Tula as he consoles her during the aftermath, “It’s over for another year.”

The computer that ruled Beta III would be seen again (slightly modified) in the first season episode Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon (1967).

The absorption console that Marplon uses appears later, with modifications, as Norman’s relay station in Star Trek: I, Mudd (1967), a control panel on Memory Alpha in Star Trek: The Lights of Zetar (1969), the housing for the cloaking device in Star Trek: The Enterprise Incident (1968), and the Elba II force field control panel in Star Trek: Whom Gods Destroy (1969).

This episode started out in July 1964, as a story outline by Gene Roddenberry entitled “The Perfect World” (later retitled “Paradise XML”, “Visit to Paradise”, and “Landru’s Paradise”), which was a candidate to be the first pilot, alongside Star Trek: The Cage (1966) and “The Women”. After the former was chosen by NBC, Roddenberry’s story idea rested for more than two years. In August 1966, freelance writer Boris Sobelman picked up Roddenberry’s original story, and developed it further, retitling it “The Return of the Archons”



Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to the planet Beta III when one member of a reconnaissance party disappears and the other, Mr. Sulu is beamed up in a strange state of contentment. The citizenry appears calm and respectful except when the Festival begins – where everyone apparently goes mad and delves into wild abandon and debauchery. By the next morning, all is calm again and the elders tell of Landru, who is in control and is the lawgiver. With McCoy absorbed into the local society, Kirk and Spock set out to find just what or who Landru is.


William Shatner … Captain James Tiberius ‘Jim’ Kirk
Leonard Nimoy … Mister Spock
Harry Townes … Reger
Torin Thatcher … Marplon
DeForest Kelley … Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Brioni Farrell … Tula
Sid Haig … First Lawgiver
Charles Macaulay … Landru
Jon Lormer … Tamar
Morgan Farley … Hacom
Karl Held … Lindstrom (as Christopher Held)
George Takei … Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
James Doohan … Lieutenant Commander Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott
Nichelle Nichols … Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Sean Morgan … O’Neil
Lev Mailer … Bilar (as Ralph Maurer)
David L. Ross … Guard
Bill Blackburn … Lieutenant Hadley (uncredited)
Bobby Clark … Betan Townsman (uncredited)
Frank da Vinci … Brent (uncredited)
Lars Hensen … Betan Townsman (uncredited)
Eddie Paskey … Lieutenant Leslie (uncredited)
Ron Veto … Harrison (uncredited)


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

13 thoughts on “Star Trek – The Return Of The Archons”

    1. Some of it…it also forshadows Jim Jones in a small way. Other Star Trek fans seem to like this one a little more than I do…but I did like it.


  1. When I watched this I felt the guy who owned the house they stayed in was not happy that his daughter was being forced to participate in the Red Hour. Not a particularly good episode imo which makes it one of the very few I didn’t care for.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It has some plot holes for sure, but there is some nice droll moments and comments emerging more and more from the main players. I think this is one of the reasons it still resonates all these years later, a warm human element of friendship, even with Spock!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it wasn’t the best…I was surprised that a lot of fans love this episode. I’m watching the second season now…just saw the one with the M-5 computer…I really like that one.

      Liked by 1 person

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