Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR ~ Errand of Mercy
Negotiations with the Klingon Empire are breaking down, war is immanent. Whilst the federation fleet gathers, one heavy cruiser is sent ahead to the future battlefront. The Enterprise is heading for the planet Organia, single inhabitable world in the contested area. Whoever contains Organia has a major strategic position in the coming war.
En route, the Enterprise comes under surprise attack. Thankfully, given the tensions, deflector screens were already raised. They retaliate, the heavy cruiser's weapons ploughing through space. The Klingon vessel that attacked them was not in the same class. The withering fire punches through the enemy shields, and secondary explosions contort its hull. The Klingon craft explodes violently.
Seconds later, a subspace message reaches the warship: Code One Alert. The two empires are now officially at war.
They arrive at Organia, and the Enterprise assumes orbit. Kirk and Spock transport down, leaving Sulu in charge, on a war footing. The two arrive in what appears to be a primitive, agrarian society. Strangely, although they materialise in a crowded market, no one seems to bat an eye, and they are greeted casually.
. Kirk asks to speak to someone in authority, but is told "we don't have anyone in authority". The person greeting him says his name is Ayelborne, chairman of the Council of Elders, and asks if he might do.
Shortly afterwards, Kirk is in the council building, addressing the council. It is a larger building than the others are, but surprisingly; it is not the castle atop the hill overlooking the village. That, stands empty, abandoned, yet in pristine condition.
Kirk is not doing very well. He has tried to explain the danger the Organians are in, honestly, and openly. He has spared no details, and pleads to allow the federation to build a defence outpost on the planet, to preserve Organian culture, their way of lifer, their future as free beings.
The Organians simply will not believe that the Klingons will subjugate their world and enslave their people, destroying their culture and way of life. They claim they have no need of protection, no need of defences. At that moment, Spock appears, with the results of his cultural survey: there has been no advancement, no progress on this world for as far back as his tricorder can measure.
At that moment, the Klingon advance fleet decides to arrive. Six D7-class battle cruisers leading it, facing off against a single heavy cruiser; the Enterprise. Sulu has no choice, and tactically withdraws, intending to return with more ships, and liberate the planet.
The D7s take up defensive formation around the planet, and transports full of troops begin depositing an army on the planet. Faced with overwhelming odds, the Enterprise's commanders have no choice but to hide amongst the populace. The Organians provide clothing, but take their weapons. Kirk is now Baroner, a leading citizen, while Spock is a merchant dealing in kevas and trillium.
Commander Kor leads the army. He, like Kirk and Spock, is helpfully guided to the Council, by happy, smiling Organians, who greet the invaders profusely, even when the Klingons kill some of their number. By the time he reaches the Council, Kor is sickened with happy, smiling imbeciles, and is joyous himself at meeting Baroner - a man with no smile, and hate in his eyes.
Kor selects the one unsmiling man he has found to be his liaison to the civil population. At the same time, the Vulcan merchant is taken to be examined top see if he is a spy.
The examination, performed with the mind-sifter, does not pierce Spock's pretence, and he is free to go - but not to leave the planet. Kirk has been instructed in his duties as liaison, and both men are released to go about their business. Together, they plan to teach the Organians about resistance. Seizing some Klingon weapons; specifically two disrupters and some grenades, they target an ammo depot, and demonstrate that two triggered grenades in a large pile of high-tech explosives, creates one massive bang.
The next morning, the Organians are appalled and condemn the act of violence, asking Kirk and Spock never to do anything like that again. Kirk assumes that they are afraid of reprisal, and scorns their desire to avoid violence. They reply that he simply doesn't understand them. This is not the best way to find out that Kor has the Council chamber bugged.
Kor is delighted to have two Federation prisoners, and imprisons both. Ayelborne remains placid, assuring Kirk that no harm will come of it.
Kirk and Kor discuss ideology; Kor seems happy that the universe is full of people who don't like the Klingons. He feels that survival must be earned, and relishes the challenge of earning it. Kirk is given just twelve hours to answer questions; after that; he will be subjected to the mind sifter, which will extract information from his mind, turning him into a zombie in the process.
Six hours later, with the guards seemingly oblivious, the cell door swings open on its own, and Ayelborne steps in. He is not a prisoner; he has come to escort them out.
When the escape is discovered, Kor is furious, and rounds up 200 Organians to be publicly executed by disrupter fire. 200 more are to be killed every hour until the Starfleet officers are returned.
Once informed by the unmoved Council, Kirk is horrified, and plans to take action to ensure no more deaths occur. Both leave the council, and after they do, its members converse. They agree that this empire versus empire war is unacceptable, and they will have to put a stop to it.
Kirk and Spock burst in on Kor, and learn the Federation fleet is en route, in full force. It will meet the Klingon fleet head-on in the sky above Organia, and the destiny of the galaxy for the next ten thousand years will be decided. Klingon guards burst in, and a phaser vs disrupter fight begins. Suddenly everyone drops their weapons, howling in pain. In space above the world, twelve heavy cruisers, six battle cruisers, and countless other vessels on both sides, are immobilised as weapons and engine controls become so hot they burn the operators' skin.
The cause is the Organians. They have put a stop to the violence. Instruments of violence are useless. Ayelborne steps into the room on the planet the fight was occurring in. He tells Kirk and Kor that as he stands before them, he also stands upon the soils of Earth, and upon the soil of the Klingon home planet, before the councils of both worlds, both empires.
Both sides must agree to cease hostilities, or their armed forces will be neutralised. The Organians are more than they seem - far more. After imposing their will, they demand the departure of their visitors.
Then they drop the bombshell. No Organians were killed. No one has died in millions of years. They have evolved beyond the need for physical bodies. Everything on the planet, from physical bodies to buildings, was constructed to provide points of reference for visitors.
The war is over, now leave, all of you.
Whilst this episode does not offer any glimpses into the technologies of virtual reality, it does in a way, offer a glimpse into the seeming randomness, if an encounter is not properly managed.
The Organians created everything physical on their world, to accommodate visitors. Castles were formed even though their population never used them. An agrarian society with no history was created, and people went about their daily routines with no fear of consequence, not even changing them when a mob of strangers came in and began butchering everyone.
Ironically, this interpretation of VR, absurd as it is, is the one that most MMOs have adopted as their own. Narrow-perception townsfolk who will happily smile, and wave, and greet you kindly, whilst you bloodily slaughter their entire family in front of them.
It drove Kor mad, because of its shallowness. It drives MMO players mad too. This is why they need such high player counts to survive; because when few people are on, the NPC interaction would drive you to drink.
When you can kill one, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, and still be greeted with a smile, a nod, asked if you might like to buy some trinket, well, it gets old, fast. Nothing ever changes, nothing ever can. Everything is still exactly the same for when the next person comes along.
There is in MMOs, as with Organia, absolutely no way of creating a lasting mark on the society. Left alone, they will cycle through the same routines over and over again, into infinity.
This has to change; there has to be change, or the gameworlds lose out in the end. Some are starting to realise this, but most, especially the largest, are still sausage factories, and that state can only continue with visitors for so long.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, or augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.