Story Outline by John Kneubuhl
March 17, 1967
report & analysis by David Eversole
The Enterprise discovers a planet which, in land-water ratio, is almost identical to Earth. However, the Asia Minor section has no Judea. A spaceship’s buoy is found in orbit and brought onboard. It is from an Earth ship, lost years ago. The buoy’s tape reveals there were three survivors when the ship crashed on that planet; the man who recorded the message and two other men, one named Gema, the other named Jeroth. The final line states: “Gema has been eaten by wolves.”
Kirk, Doc and Sulu beam down. It is night and they are in dark woods. They hear the howls of nearby wolves. They attempt to leave the woods silently, but it is soon evident that they are being stalked. Suddenly the wolves charge them. They fire their phasers, killing the lead wolves, but others pursue. The landing party dashes through the forest, the remaining wolves closing steadily on them, until they find themselves in an alley with concrete buildings on either side. Two beams of light bear down on them. They jump aside as something ROARS past. “An internal combustion vehicle!” says Sulu.
They run down the alley and now footsteps are heard in addition to the wolves. The homo sapiens pursuing them have flashlights, which move closer. The wolves stop at a command and the flashlights move closer until we see that the men are Roman soldiers. Kirk is relieved until the men coldly disarm them and lead them away—prisoners.
On the Enterprise, Spock and the others are concerned. But not enough time has elapsed to send another landing party after Kirk, Doc and Sulu. And since they have not had contact since they beamed down, they would not know where to start looking for them.
Kirk attempts to reason with the Roman Chief of Police, but this officious, petty man will not listen, and throws them in jail. The “feel” of the room is classical Roman in nature, but the “décor” is similar to 1967 Earth. It is as if the Roman Empire lasted into the twentieth century.
The Chief takes the landing party’s weapons and communicators to a palatial room and gives them to the Cicero-like Pro-consul, who wears a close-fitting hooded cowl. The Pro-consul idly flips a communicator open, as if examining it, and contact is immediately made with the Enterprise.
Spock quickly takes coordinates and is about to speak, but on the planet below the Pro-consul closes the communicator and tosses it aside, breaking contact.
Kirk, Doc and Sulu look out their window to see what looks like huge lamps being wheeled down the alley on chariots. Kneubuhl lets his readers know that, unknown to the landing party, they are huge Klieg lights. They theorize that Gema was eaten by the wolves in the forest. Probably Jeroth is dead as well, and the third man escaped back to their crashed ship, made the recording and shot the buoy into space. He is probably dead also, though they hope that he and Jeroth may be alive, prisoners here as they are.
A slave brings them food. Doc asks if the slaves have ever revolted and the slave is offended. He tells them all slaves love being slaves. They love the “dignity of work, of service, of learning and teaching, of philosophy, of music-making…” When the slave is asked about Gema, Jeroth, and the third man, he becomes silent.
The Pro-consul asks to see the landing party, and reveals himself to be Jeroth.
Jeroth explains that the other two men, as well as his entire crew, were killed by the Romans. He was spared because of his tremendous technical knowledge. At first a slave of the Emperor, he rose fast to become a Pro-consul. He is the Emperor’s “pet” as a matter of fact. Kirk threatens action by the Enterprise, but Jeroth knows very well that Kirk’s orders from Earth prohibit him from interfering with life on other planets. He sends them back to jail, promising that in the morning he will be “merciful.”
The Pro-consul leaves, enters another room and comes face to face with Spock. Jeroth knew that by opening the communicator, the ship above would get a fix on their coordinates and send a rescue party. Spock did just that, and he and his party have also been captured. Spock recognizes Jeroth, who now removes his close-fitting hood to reveal… pointed ears. He is a Vulcan.
We learn Jeroth’s backstory. Unlike Spock, he never adjusted to life on Earth, and is incurably bitter. He resents Spock simply because Spock did adjust. Jeroth leaves, promising Spock that he will see him tomorrow.
The next day Kirk, Doc and Sulu are led from their jail to another building, and we realize that they have been on a movie lot all along. At a soundstage, they are taken inside to an arena set, where a camera crew is preparing to film. Kirk is given a short-handled, three-pronged spear for his left hand and a sabre for his right. Doc and Sulu are made to kneel to one side, drawn arrows aimed at their throats.
Jeroth explains that the old Roman games in the arena are now televised. The crew of his ship died on this set, torn apart by beasts. In fact, Gema was not attacked by the wolves in the forest (actually a backlot), but right here in the studio.
Kirk’s opponent is revealed to be Spock!
Rules are set out. One must kill the other within a three-minute time limit (clocks on the wall with Roman numerals), or the arrows will be shot into Doc’s and Sulu’s throats. Kirk and Spock fight. Kirk whispers something to Spock. Suddenly Spock goes down and Kirk drives his sword through his heart. Spock is “dead.”
Gladiators move in to remove Spock’s body, momentarily setting their weapons aside. When they grab him, Spock makes his move. Kneubuhl reminds us that Spock’s heart is not where an Earthman’s is, and that his fantastic strength allows him to go at least three hours before the sword wound takes its toll on him. Spock makes “mincemeat” of the gladiators, and Kirk, Doc and Sulu join in the fight.
The major battle is between the two Vulcans. Spock’s wound does weaken him and Jeroth is getting the upper hand, “But, perhaps with Kirk’s help, Jeroth is bested… and the Earthmen now have a hostage for their escape.” Kirk rounds up all his men and equipment. Jeroth struggles hopelessly and is killed and the Earthmen make their escape back to the Enterprise.
This is a very scanty, 8-page outline, up front with big bold attention-grabbing sights (the Romans, the revelation of the television set), but little rational explanations for why and how. At least the final episode made some attempt to explain the Romans. Here there is none. The Roman Empire simply exists on this world without a Judea. But it is no goofier than “The Omega Glory” or “Patterns of Force,” I suppose.
This story began as a premise devised by Gene Coon and Gene Roddenberry. They gave it to John Kneubuhl to develop. He took it through two story outlines and two drafts of a script. When asked for another rewrite, Kneubuhl, citing illness, requested he be released from his contract. Coon and Roddenberry then devised an almost totally new story based on their original premise. That is what finally aired.
Coon wrote a letter to the Writers Guild of America, West, asking that Kneubuhl not be given story credit for the final episode. The request was granted.
For more on the meaning of the phrase “bread and circuses,” from the poem “Satire X” by the poet Juvenal, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses
John Alexander Kneubuhl (July 2, 1920 – February 20, 1992) was an American-Samoan writer and Polynesian historian. He wrote for television series such as “The Fugitive,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Wild Wild West,” “The Invaders” and “Hawaii Five-O.” At the request of producer Gene L. Coon, Kneubuhl was denied credit for his work on “Bread and Circuses.”
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