Watch the ‘Star Trek’ Episode With a Plot Similar to ‘The Purge’

By  · Published on June 2nd, 2013

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.

I’m taking a couple liberties with this week’s Short Starts. For one thing, the video I’m sharing is not a short film, although it’s one of the original Star Trek episodes that has that one-off feeling of being based on a short story. The other main liberty is that this 1967 episode, “The Return of the Archons,” is not officially related in any way to the movie I’m tying it to. But many people see the plot of the new thriller The Purge as being similar to that of “Archons.” As the imaginary judge inside my brain said in response to the idea, “I’ll allow it.”

The sci-fi concept of The Purge is that in ten years time the U.S. has developed a bonkers strategy for dealing with crime. One day each year Americans are allowed to commit any crime they like without consequence, and their victims are allotted no help of any kind. Illogically, the existence of this “purge” has drastically reduced the crime rate for the rest of the year. In this Star Trek story, the Enterprise crew visit a planet in which there is constant peace except during the “Red Hour” of a Festival period, when citizens are given free will and allowed to be as bad as they wish. The episode is said to be inspired by Philip Jose Farmer’s novel “Night of Light.”

I haven’t yet seen The Purge, so I’m not sure how far it gets into any commentary on the idea of free will and individualism the way “Archons” does. The movie seems kinda silly and incredibly cynical about mankind to me. The Star Trek story, meanwhile, has a few interesting ideas about utopia, order, contentment and calculated reasoning over soul-driven passions and instincts. Sadly, according to Rob Hunter’s review of The Purge, there isn’t so much substance to be found with the idea there. You may still wish to check it out for yourself, but definitely watch “Archons,” either before, after or instead of the new film. You can do so for free (with commercial interruption) via Hulu right here:

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.