A look back at Star Trek A Piece of the Action
On January 12, 1968 the Federation muscled in on notorious gangster Bella Okmyx’s territory and demanded a Piece of the Action.
Do you remember the first time you saw A Piece of the Action? Sure The Trouble with Tribbles was a light comedy, but A Piece of the Action was something special.
When I was younger, I didn’t always appreciate Star Trek The Original Series, sure I liked it, I had my favourite episodes like Balance of Terror, but I never really fully appreciated the campier elements, I suppose it was in part I’d been accustomed to both the newer shows and movies of the day or on the other end of the spectrum the comedy shorts of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Somehow Laurel & Hardy always appealed more than the camp that was Gunsmoke or The Munsters. Although I will admit a fondness even at a young age for Get Smart and Batman, yeah, Adam West’s Batman.
It was the first time I watched A Piece of the Action that I felt I got Star Trek. I’m not sure why, it is a unique and standalone episode with nothing really to connect me to the series. Looking back on it as I re-watched it this week it made me wonder if it had something to do with seeing Spock let his guard down a little more than in other episodes, seeing him as being the Leonard Nimoy I knew from The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and Mission Impossible, all things I’d seen him in before I was really into Star Trek. Or just the pure joy that William Shatner seemed to have in getting to play Kirk playing a gangster.
Either way, it stuck.
A Piece of Enhancement.
More from Redshirts Always Die
Along with re-watching the episode this week I also had the experience of seeing it in the remastered format for the first time, I only recently acquired Season 2 of The Original Series and season 3 of Star Trek The Next Generation in this format. They look great in HD.
It’s well pastime for me to augment my entire collection with the Remastered HD cuts, I’m so far impressed with how they have treated The Original Series in remastering it. I had the George Lucas worries when I first learned of their pending release but I think that may have been unfounded.
This only reinforces my earlier sentiment that It’s time for an HD release of Star Trek Deep Space Nine!
A Piece of the Pitch…
From the very beginning A Piece of the Action seemed destined to be a part of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry had originally included it with the first pitch for the series back in 1964, although at that point it was just a one line synopsis and the title President Capone. By the time they were into production on the first season the title changed to The Syndicate and later to Chicago II and the episode was being given a full treatment until another episode that was in pre-production took the writers focus away from the project.
With the success of the lighter The Trouble With Tribbles the producers pursued the funnier, mafia based story for production during the second season. The episode was renamed, again, this time to Mission into Chaos, and featured Romulan agents in a battle of wits with their Federation counterparts both vying for a treaty with Bella Okmyx and the other bosses.
Fortunately, with each name change the episode evolved more and more into the story we came to know and love. I have a strong feeling that, as much as I love the Romulans, the story would have been much weaker for their presence.
“Not at all, Captain. It’s your driving that alarms me.”
We typically see episodes of future-set shows return, somehow, to the real world present day. Assignment Earth brought the Enterprise to 1968, the same year it was produced, but A Piece of the Action essentially brought them back to the 1920s right into the middle of a Chicago Mafia war, although in this case it was actually the planet Sigma Iotia II, a place known for being ‘imitative’, which had only been previously visited by The Horizon, a ship which was lost shortly after leaving Sigma Iotia. Unfortunately for our crew the Horizon had left a copy of a book called ‘Chicago Mobs of the Twenties‘ which in the gap between visits had shaped their entire civilization into a mob based government.
In a fantastic easter egg in the Star Trek Enterprise episode Horizon you can spot that book in Nora’s quarters when travis goes to visit her aboard the ECS Horizon.
Rather than go through a blow by blow recap of the episode I’ll just point out that this episode features some of the best one-liners in Star Trek history, from Kirk getting into character to Bella throwing out threats its end to end entertainment.
This episode also features two unique features, it’s the only time the ships phasers are set to stun. Yes, they stun one other time, but that’s with “1/100 power” not “Stun”, and it was the only episode of the series to end with a freeze frame which came after a lost communicator prompted Kirk to wonder if the people of Sigma Iotia II would one day come looking for a piece of their action.
I know I’m not the only one hoping to see them revisited again in the future. Who knows what the communicator could lead them to? In one book they become their own Federation, nearly indistinguishable from the one we know. How great would that be as the R-Rated Quentin Tarantino movie? Mobsters running “the Federation”.
Now I’ll leave you with the rules for the greatest card game ever made, Fizzbin.
Each player gets 6 cards, except the player on the dealer’s right who gets 7, the second card is turned up except on Tuesday…. You know what, I’ll just let Captain Kirk explain instead….