What was the plan in "Errand of Mercy"?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by MAGolding, Sep 5, 2019.

  1. MAGolding

    MAGolding Captain Captain

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    So what was Starfeet's plan in sending the Enterprise to Organia at the time when they did?

    I say that upon consideration the plan to deny Organia to the Klingons seems to have zero probability of succeeding. In Part One I show why it seems doomed to fail, and I Part Two I discuss a theory of how it could possibly work.

    PART ONE OF TWO: The Fatal Flaw:

    The episode opens with:

    Then a Klingon ship attacks and they destroy it. And then:

    The first act opens with:

    It is assumed that Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet's surface just a few minutes after this, but it is possible that something happened off screen to delay that event by hours or days. Possibly they spent a lot of time trying to locate a community that might possibly be the capital of Organia, and possibly Kirk eventually gave up and more or less randomly selected a community to visit.

    Anyway, the next scene shows Kirk and Spock beaming down to an Organian community, which Spock later describes as a mere village.

    So when Kirk and Spock beam down to negotiate with the planetary government of Organia - if Organia even has one - they choose a village. That implies that the village is the largest community, or possibly the only community, detected by survey ships that have scanned Organia. Or by the Enterprise.

    So it seems a little odd they don't wonder how Organia can have a society advanced to the medieval level with such a tiny population. In any case, if that is the only village then it is the obvious place to negotiate. If Organia had what looked like a population of many millions spread over distant continents as well as what seemed to be a medieval level of communications and transportation there wouldn't be any place they could assume was the capital,

    Ayelborne leads Kirk to the council chamber:

    In the next scene the council members sit down around their table and Kirk begins trying to persuade them to accept the Federation's offer of help. This scene should be just a few minutes after Ayelborne suggested they go to the council chambers to talk, unless something happened off screen to delay the beginning of the meeting.

    And this is all that happens between the beginning of the meeting and the arrival of the Klingons:

    After a few more lines of dialog, there is a commercial break and then a new act begins:

    After a few more lines of dialog the Klingons enter the council chamber for the first time.

    So apparently a few minutes, maybe about 10 or 15, of action and dialog happen between stardate 3198.4 and 3201.7. A difference of 3.3 stardate units should equal several hours or days, but we don't see more than about 10 or 15 minutes of events happening. So it is possible that there are one or more time skips where hours or days pass off screen between stardate 3198.4 and stardate 3201.7.

    And remember what Kirk said after it was realized that the Klingons had arrived at Organia:

    Kirk seems to be saying that if the Organians had listened to Kirk and accepted his offer when he first made it the Klingons would have been driven off.

    But Kirk doesn't mean that the Enterprise and the Federation couldn't fight in the Organian system without the permission of the Organians. Because later in the episode the Enterprise returns to the Organian system as part of a Federation fleet that fights what may be the main Klingon battle fleet without anyone in the Federation fleet asking or getting permission from the Organians:

    And Kirk didn't think that the Enterprise by itself could drive off a Klingon fleet let alone their main battle fleet. When Kirk and Spock were getting ready to beam down to Organia:

    And when the Klingon fleet arrived:

    So Kirk didn't believe that the Enterprise by itself, the way it was configured at the moment, could defeat an entire Klingon fleet, but seemed to believe that if the Organians had agreed to accept Federation help the Enterprise could have quickly done something that would have made it possible to drive off the Klingon fleet.

    PART TWO OF TWO: ONE POSSIBLE THEORY:

    So my theory is that Kirk was counting on the hypothetical high capacity cargo transporters that might have been part of the regular equipment of the the Enterprise or possibly installed for this mission, and the hypothetical cargo which the Enterprise might have been carrying for this mission. Possibly the Enterprise could have rapidly deployed a powerful defense system in mere minutes once the Organians agreed to it.

    My theory is that once the Organians agreed to accept Federation defense help, the Enterprise would have rapidly zoomed in a complex pattern thousands of miles high around the planet Organia, the high capacity cargo transporters beaming down complex machines to evenly spaced locations in the oceans or fresh water lakes and rivers of the planet.

    Each machine would float in the water and automatically suck in water. Transporters in each machine would beam hydrogen atoms out of the water molecules and into high powered fusion generators, releasing oxygen and other atoms into the water and air. The fusion generators would fuse massive amounts of hydrogen into helium which would be released, and massive amounts of energy would be generated to power the transporters that were taking in hydrogen atoms and anti gravity engines on smaller machines that were part of the bigger machines.

    Each of the smaller machines would zoom straight up into outer space and take position thousand of miles above Organia, hovering in position and powered by an energy beam from the fusion generators below which were constantly grabbing more hydrogen to fuse from the water. And each of the smaller machines hovering over Organia would be constantly scanning for Klingon ships, ready to start generating its section of a force shield that would surround the planet Organia and prevent any Klingon ships from landing on Organia, or transporting anything or anyone down to Organia, firing weapons through the force shield to strike Organia.

    So possibly Kirk and Starfleet Command expected that the Enterprise could set up such a defense system within minutes of the Organians agreeing to be defended by Earth, but Federation and Starfleet rules prohibited stating the set up until the Organians gave permission.

    So why didn't Starfleet Command send a ship to Organia with such a rapid deployment defense system sometime in the weeks, months, or years, when relations with the Klingons deteriorated and it became more and more evident that the Klingons would take over Organia to use as a base to invade the Federation if war started.

    Probably because Federation law had a catch 22. The Federation could only legally assist a planet with planetary defense once the planetary government agreed to accept such help. But most planets with low technology levels wouldn't have planetary governments because it would be impossible to govern an entire planet with such low levels of communications and transportation technology. And possibly it took the Federation a while to decide that the low population and small populated area reported on Organia indicated it was possible that there could be a single government on Organia even with medieval technology.

    And there would be a bigger catch 22 in Federation Law. The Federation was only allowed to make contact with societies which had already been contacted by interstellar travelers or which had already reached a certain specified level of technological development, and Organia seemed to have medieval technology that was low enough that contact would be prohibited. So possibly Starfleet had been hoping for months or years that non federation space travelers would make contact with Organia and thus lift Organia's Prime Directive protection.

    But probably there was an exception clause to the Prime Directive authorizing contact with otherwise protected societies when it was necessary to protect both the Federation and also the society being contacted. And of course being conquered by the Klingons would be bad for the Organians and if war came the Klingons would certainly disregard the Federation ban on contact with Organia and use it as a base against the Federation, thus making contracting the Organians and protecting them from the Klingons good for both the Federation and the Organians.

    So possibly the Federation Council gave Starfleet Command permission to contact the Organians and protect them from the Klingons when the negotiations with the Klingons were about to break down.

    And possibly the defense system for Organia was not ready to load onto the Enterprise until soon before the episode began and so they couldn't have been sent any earlier.

    So what do you think?
     
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  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I rather think Kirk never attempted to contact any "planetary government" of Organia, quite possibly accepting the likely scenario where there was none. Instead, his small team beamed down at a random location A to instigate resistance there, and would then have beamed down to further locations B through Z to do the same there, had it not been for the fact that the Klingons fought Blitzkrieg and arrived so early on that Kirk's ship was driven away before anything much got done.

    The surface action after this is pretty much Kirk making lemonade out of rotten plums. He's stuck at this one location, and even there his efforts to turn the locals into nuisance suicide bombers fail miserably. But what he finds at this nondescript village is nevertheless tailor-made to satisfy his expectations and, to some extent, his wishes - so suddenly the place sprouts a castle and a government of some sort. And once that illusion is in place, the Klingons see it, too, thus homing in on this first-among-equals dung heap and meeting the heroes. (Not to say they wouldn't have secured half the planet, when all it takes to subdue a settlement is a half-squad.)

    The assignment clearly never was all that crucial to UFP strategic thinking, or else more assets would have been sent to deal with it. But Kirk throughout TOS handles the dirty and the menial, and now gets to salt the fields on this primitive world to inconvenience and perhaps slow down the Klingons. A fitting way to utilize a ship that clearly can't go toe-to-toe with Klingon battlewagons!

    What do the Klingons want with the place to begin with? There's nothing there that would make a starship perform better in war. It might be all about the troops, then: a place with free air, free beer and free women would support the forward push. And that the locals can fight without any sort of technological assistance, by using poisons, concealed blades and fires, say. Having the natives put up a resistance will deny the planet from the Klingons quite effectively in that sense - troops coming in for R&R will find themselves fighting instead, and not even fighting the way Klingons in the greater Trek context enjoy fighting, so the whole strategic significance of the place is lost and an asset to boost troop morale is turned into a quagmire that saps it.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  3. johnnybear

    johnnybear Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Kirk and Spock went to Organia to organize the people into a resistance movement! That is what so angered him and Kor for that matter how they weren't interested and kept claiming there was no danger coming to them and only to Kirk and Spock!
    JB
     
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  4. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    I think you've done an excellent job of intellectual heavy lifting to make the episode make sense. :bolian:

    Your added content could make "Errand" hold up as the basis for a novel, and one that educated fans don't cringe over.
     
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  5. BK613

    BK613 Commodore Commodore

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    I don't think the Organians are above some mind games to ensure that anyone arriving at their planet would see THAT village as the civic center of the planet. Not in small part to contain the discordant nature of such visitors to a single isolated area.
     
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  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Then again, any area would probably the like any other - there would not be real castles or villages anywhere, and the Organians wouldn't feel particularly bad or good about the visitors choosing X over Y.

    Yet the Federation was under the impression that Organia was a real medieval world (an impression mentioned and then challenged by Spock's closer observations on the illusory society), so apparently the Organians projected a plausible image to the outside universe. And that would not include a "civic center of the planet", as those would not be part of any realistic medieval setup...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    In the episode it was noted Organia was an important strategic location between the Federation and the Klingon Empires. I believe that was the reason why both sides wanted to set up a base there.

    Now we know the Federation does not 'occupy' other worlds. They would need their permission to set up a base there. That does put them at a disadvantage when it comes to the Klingons, who just come in and take over.

    As to why the Enterprise was the only ship in the area at the time? Well, that's a good question. Esp. if Organia was indeed an important strategic location. You'd think Starfleet would have sent a ship long before hostilities broke out to secure Organia for the Federation. Instead, war breaks out seemingly around the time the Enterprise is sent to Organia. That would seem to indicate poor planning on the part of Starfleet's brass. The only thing I could think of is maybe negotiations were going in a positive direction and then quickly deteriorated catching them off guard.

    As to how both Kirk and Kor were lucky enough to end up where the council of elders is stationed? Well I figure it's one of two things. Perhaps the village they ended up at is the more densely populated region--perhaps other regions are more sparse. Or scenario may be that Ayelborne and his 'council' just appeared there to be sort of the ambassadors to talk to offworlders. We know they are non-corporeal beings so it's certainly possible they would take the form of leadership, or ambassadors, to communicate with off-worlders. And perhaps some mental trickery was involved as BK noted above to 'encourage' aliens to travel to that particular village.

    The real world reason? Well, the episode would obviously have been different if it were modified to make more 'real world' sense. Sometimes I find, with a lot of Star Trek episodes, that it's best not to probe too deeply into episodes. Some episodes can be a house of cards that will fall apart if you look at them too closely ;).
     
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  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Hmh? We never learned that the Feds would want a base there. It's merely "ideally located for use", although we never learn what type of use the Klingons might be considering, and whether the UFP would be considering any use at all.

    It's so difficult to see any significance to this worthless ball of dirt that Starfleet sending even a single ship is the mystery here. Surely there are more planets in need of attention in the "we are on a thousand planets and spreading" Federation?

    Well, a medieval planet could not have traveling ambassadors - but OTOH a medieval planet would not have planetary representatives of any sort, and would be unlikely to comprehend the existence of offworlders to begin with. So the heroes and villains would be unlikely to think in those terms, and would need different rationalizations for stumbling onto a bunch of seeming leaders.

    That the planet would have population density variation is dubious, too, as we have little reason to think the planet is even populated to begin with!

    In this particular case, real-world production limitations actually nicely serve the story. When the heroes beam down, they necessarily do so in the middle of an open area where there is zero movement (because the optical effects could not cope with showing beaming if there were extras moving in the background). Yet immediately thereafter, a buzz of activity appears. A most natural thing if the place is purely illusory and those peasants and their donkeys spring to existence at that very moment, solely to please the eyes of our heroes.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Ok, according to "Memory Alpha" the Enterprise is sent to Organia to 'prevent the Klingons from setting up a base of operations there". I believe you can infer Organia has some strategic value. But that seems to indicate it's more important for Kirk to prevent the Klingons from setting up camp there, but not necessarily for Starfleet to set up a base camp there. Perhaps it's more strategic for the Klingons to set up a camp there than Starfleet.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Or perhaps it's contrary to Starfleet doctrine or UFP policies to set up a camp there, even if any generic player (including the Klingons) would desire to establish a base. Or then it takes a Klingon mindset to think that a base would be worthwhile.

    While the dialogue only ever speaks of the Klingons wanting a base, Spock does say that the place is "ideally located for use by either side". We just can't easily figure out what that use might be.

    Say, if somebody during the Cold War said "This place in the Fulda Gap is of tremendous strategic importance" while pointing a finger on a map, we'd readily agree - strategic locations would be a natural part of tank warfare. Perhaps the general would wish to set an extensive antitank gun emplacement there, or a minefield, or something? If it then turned out that the specific spot had nothing but a vast expanse of daffodils to offer, though - no natural cover, no constricting rock formations, nothing - we'd be left reeling, the same way Organia leaves us wondering what possible value this location could have when there's nothing in that location.

    If the idea is to stop starships from coming through, then the planet is worthless - the enemy can simply fly past it. If the idea is to build a support base, what can it offer in the way of support when it has no natural resources or facilities, and why would the enemy bring those resources and facilities to the planet if it can just as easily carry them along or set them up in empty space?

    Which is why the "taverns and wenches for the troops" idea occurs, as the planet would have those even if it had nothing else. But is it really necessary to have a R&R planet for an invasion force that attempts to storm the enemy and is apparently making an exceptionally swift move here, taking Starfleet by surprise? Would the spearhead of an armored formation today rush through enemy lines with the primary objective of setting up a beer tent and an outdoor stage for entertaining the troops to come?

    But we learn that Klingons think differently of war; if we didn't realize it already, the first season of DSC drives the point home. The primary strategic aim of the whole campaign in "Errand of Mercy" might indeed be to let the troops have fun!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. johnnybear

    johnnybear Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Obviously Organia was in the dead space between both camps and for the Klingons to set up a fully fledged base there might mean quick sneaky attacks upon Federation planets close by!
    JB
     
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  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    What good would the base do there? Why not just send the ships themselves? Having them stop at Organia would only slow them down. That is, why wait until after the war to make those sneaky attacks when you can do it all at once when there's only this one cowardly starship blocking the way?

    Organia might make for a fine base. But if Klingons can take Organia so trivially, supposedly they can take much more, too. Rommel didn't come that close to defeating the British in North Africa by stopping to celebrate easy victories or to fortify the spoils.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commodore Premium Member

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    I think @MAGolding had a good post here. Errand of Mercy is an excellent episode. I'd place it in my top 25-30 for sure and it is by far my favorite episode in which Scotty does not appear (which includes both "Vulcan" episodes). It is also either my favorite or close to my favorite "Kirk + Spock but no McCoy" landing party episodes. Shatner and Nimoy are excellent and I love Kirk's character development, even if it is at odds with some of what we see in the rest of S1. Kor/Colicos is, of course, fantastic.

    However - while it was likely glossed over because of time limitations, I always thought the backstory needed a bit more development. I like MAGolding's theory and, like Zap, agree that it could make a great novel, particularly considering the later importance of the Organian Peace Treaty to Star Trek.

    Put Scotty in the center seat - no offense to Sulu - or on the planet with Kirk and Spock, and add a few more lines explaining that (e.g.) space is like an ocean or something and the Klingons can bottle up the Federation by taking over Organia, and this would be in my top 10, I think.

    By the way, I have no problem with figuring that the Organians made their illusion such that the village seemed to be the right place to beam down, for whatever reason. But even if the Starfleet crew had selected a different beamdown point, Ayelborne and the others could have just appeared there. What's less clear is why the Klingons beamed down to the same spot as Kirk & Spock, but again, perhaps the Organians made it seem like the place to be. Or they simply teleported Kirk & Spock to where the Klingons beamed down, or guided the Klingons to where they were. Since it was all an illusion for the convenience of the "guests," it didn't really matter.
     
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  14. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Maybe not. They could have wanted a base to launch attacks from. Not so much as a stopping point, but a starting point. Also a supply depot and a base of operations as far as planning attacks. Sometimes it's a good idea to have a more localized based of operations rather than waiting for orders from your home port.

    Plus Klingons liked to take over worlds at that time, strip the world of its resources and enslave the population. It was their modus operandi.

    That's sort of how I figured it. The Organians were way past us on the evolutionary chain. I don't find it hard to imagine that they can 'influence' visitors to come ashore at a particular place. It probably doesn't matter where. And I agree Kirk and co. probably could have landed anywhere on the planet an encountered Ayelborne and the council, since they could have appeared anywhere (perhaps a combination of factors). Or perhaps the Organians only appeared on one part of the planet and where Kirk and Kor beamed down was roughly the center of the population (if I wanted to meet with a new species, I'd probably start at what seemed the middle of a populated area of the planet). Any or all of those could be right (while it would have been nice to have a more clear picture of that angle of the story--probably at the end of the day it wasn't vital to the story--sometimes it's just easier to accept it as is).
     
  15. Phaser Two

    Phaser Two Commodore Premium Member

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    Fully agreed. :beer::beer:
     
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  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I guess the episode can only benefit from us thinking of the two alien cultures as sufficiently alien. The Organians would have none of the characteristics of the culture they pretend to be - no castles from which to rule the surrounding populance by terror, say. And the Klingons would not think twice about squandering an entire war by stopping a lighting-fast attack in order to secure a base for decades to come.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. johnnybear

    johnnybear Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Let us not forget that Organia was in the disputed area! The solar system Organia was in might be close by to Sherman's Planet, another world and area also in dispute with the Klingons and according to Kor, the Federation had tried to hem them in and choke their trade routes as well! :klingon:
    JB
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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  18. Henoch

    Henoch Commodore Premium Member

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    If the Klingons really wanted fair trade with the Federation, then they need to stop conquering helpless planets. Sounds simple (unless you're Klingon :klingon:). After the Organian Treaty, it looks like this is exactly the case; we see the Klingons "competing" with the Federation in developing trade on planets (though they still try and cheat a little: what's a little sabotage among friends :whistle:). Here's four examples:
    1. Capella Four in Friday's Child
      • The rare mineral topaline, vital to the life-support systems of planetoid colonies, has been discovered in abundance here. Our mission, obtain a mining agreement.
    2. Sherman's Planet in The Trouble With Tribbles
      • Quadrotriticale is the only earth grain that grows on Sherman's Planet. We have several tons of it here on the station. It's very important that grain gets to Sherman's Planet safely. Mister Baris thinks that Klingon agents may try to sabotage it.
    3. Neural (Tyree's Planet) in A Private Little War
      • You will be rich one day, Apella, beyond your dreams. The leader of a whole world. A governor in the Klingon Empire.
    4. Troyius/Elas planets in Elaan Of Troyius
      • Common stones? Now I see why the Klingons are interested in this system.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
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  19. MAGolding

    MAGolding Captain Captain

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    One way the Enterprise could have denied the use of Organia to the Klingons would have been to destroy the surface of Organia. Blast Organia with photon torpedoes and phasers until the atmosphere consisted of burning hot combustion products, super hot steam, and vaporized surface materials, and the entire surface was molten lava. That should deny use of Organia to the Klingons.

    I quote:

    And:

    http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/27.htm

    So the Enterprise apparently reached Organia about 3.3 stardate units before the Klingons did.

    And how much time is there in a TOS era stardate unit? Guesses might vary from about several stardate units per Earth day to one stardate unit exactly equaling one Earth day to about several Earth days in one stardate unit. So 3.3 stardate units should have been at least several Earth hours and possibly was several Earth days.

    So that seems like Kirk had enough time to render Organia uninhabitable and useless to the Klingons as a base before the Klingons arrived. Or at least get a good start on the project. But there is absolutely no evidence that they began to attack Organia to render it useless to the Klingons, and much evidence from various episodes that such an action would have been a violation of various Federation and Starfleet laws, rules, regulations and ethical codes of conduct.

    So Kirk seemed to have believed that it would have been possible to set up a planetary defense system before the Klingons came if the Organians had agreed to it soon after Kirk made his offer.

    So if Kirk's mission wasn't to make Organia useless to the Klingons by destroying the surface of Organia (and all life on the planet), and if the Enterprise had to retreat when a Klingon ship did arrive at Organia and so was not considered powerful enough to defend Organia by itself, exactly what was Kirk expected to do at Organia?

    And one possibility was that a fleet of cargo ships was following the Enterprise but stopped some distance short of Organia to wait for a signal from Kirk. If Kirk made an agreement with the Organians to defend Organia from the Klingons Kirk would signal the cargo ships to come to Organia and the Starfleet Engineers aboard would swiftly set up a planetary defense system with the equipment they brought. And it was hoped that the planetary defense system would be powerful enough to defend Organia from a Klingon attack. Or a least hold off a Klingon fleet attacking Organia until a superior Federation fleet could arrive and defeat the Klingons.

    But after Ayelborne agrees to take Kirk to the council chambers to discuss matters, the scene then cuts to:

    And in my humble opinion only about five to fifteen minutes should have passed between Kirk starting to tell the Organians about the Federation offer to defend Organia and the arrival of the Klingon fleet. Fans who have copies of "Errand of Mercy" should be able to time the interval. I don't think that would have been enough time for cargo ships to arrive and for a planetary defense system to have been set up.

    But Kirk starts to say:

    From his tone I don't get the impression that Kirk was starting to say "If you had listened t o me it wouldn't have made any difference since the Klingons got here too soon for us to do anything." Instead Kirk's tone indicates that Kirk was starting to say: "If you had listened to me we could have defended Organia against the Klingons but now it is too late.

    So my post number one in this thread contains a theory that possibly the Enterprise carried a cargo of automatic machines that could have set up an instant planetary defense system in the few minutes before the Klingons arrived if the Organians had agreed to it.

    And it seems tome that such a theory is the only type of theory that could justify Kirk saying that the Klingon occupation could have been prevented if the Organians had agreed to Federation help.
     
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  20. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    What do starships need with a planet?

    As a "base" I mean?

    Can't they just rendezvous at a point in space, then attack?