'A Taste of Armageddon' is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. As the episode begins, the Enterprise has been assigned to transport an ambassador- Mr. Robert Fox- to the planet Eminiar VII to establish diplomatic relations. Not much is known about this planet; 50 years before, an earth ship had made contact and reported back that Eminiar VII had developed space travel, and was at war with the nearby planet of Vendikar. Unfortunately, soon after this, the earth ship disappeared and was listed as "lost in space". Ambassador Fox's mission is to reestablish contact and, if possible, open diplomatic negotiations with Eminiar VII, because the planet has become strategically important to the Federation.
When they enter orbit, Lt. Uhura picks up a signal being broadcast from Eminiar VII, warning them not to approach the planet for any reason. Captain Kirk is planning to obey and leave orbit, but Fox demands that he ignore the message and continue the mission. Kirk points out that it's their planet, and that they have the right to refuse contact, but the Ambassador asserts his authority and orders Kirk to transport him down to the planet. Kirk reluctantly complies, but tells Fox that he will not be allowed to beam down until Kirk takes a team down and determines that it's safe.
Kirk leaves Scotty in command of the Enterprise and beams down to the planet's surface with an away team consisting of Mr. Spock, a yeoman, and a couple of security guys. They are met by a representative of the governing council, Mea 3. She welcomes them politely, but tells them that they shouldn't have come for their own safety. She then takes them to the Council, which is led by Anan 7. He again tells them that they should have stayed away, due to the ongoing war with Vendikar. Kirk is surprised- they're still at war after 50 years? Anan 7 informs him that they've been at war for 500 years, and average about 3 million casualties annually. Kirk points out that they hide it well: their cities are beautiful and their society highly advanced, showing no signs of prolonged warfare.
Before they can talk further, alarms start going off, and the council members all rush into a room full of computers and view screens, and Kirk and his team are told that Vendikar is attacking. Staring at one of the screens, Mea 3 gasps and says that there's been a hit right there in the city. Puzzled, Kirk asks Spock if he can hear any explosions, and when he responds negatively, orders Yeoman Tamura to scan for any radiation. There is none, and when he contacts the Enterprise, Scotty tells him no weapons or bombs of any kind have been deployed from Vendikar. As they try to figure out what's going on, one of the councilmen points at a screen and says to Anan 7 rather obscurely, "...just as it happened fifty years ago." Hmm... what could that mean? What happened fifty years prior to... oh. The "attack" over, Anan 7 orders a retaliatory strike, then returns to speak to the Enterprise party. Kirk reasonably enough wants to know if this is some sort of elaborate farce.
Anan 7 responds sharply that it's no joke: half a million people have just been killed. Losing patience, Kirk points out the obvious- nothing has actually happened. As the counter attack is launched, Spock clues into what's going on- the war is fought by computers: targets selected and hit- and casualties calculated- theoretically. Kirk, still not quite getting the full implications of this, says that computer simulations don't kill half a million people. Anan 7 responds matter-of-factly that, their deaths having been registered, the "casualties" have 24 hours to report to the disintegration booths for termination. Seeing Kirk's bemused expression, Anan 7 elaborates: they've been at interplanetary war for 500 years, something which no world could withstand without complete civilizational destruction. To prevent this, they and their enemy agreed to a type of warfare which would kill people, but leave their societies, their cities- their civilizations- in tact. Kirk is incredulous; he can't believe that the people of Eminiar VII would placidly accept being termed 'casualties' and walk into disintegration chambers with unquestioning obedience. Anan 7 says that his people have a highly developed sense of duty and, oh- while he's on the subject- the Enterprise, a legitimate target since it was in orbit around Eminiar VII, has been classified as "destroyed" and all of Kirk's crew has 24 hours to report for disintegration.
Kirk's "Someone's gonna get a whuppin' " look.
Somehow anticipating that Kirk wouldn't be on board with this, Anan 7 has called for a security team and the landing party is taken into custody to act as hostages if necessary. They are confined in a comfortable but locked room with a guard outside the door. Mea 3 drops by to solicitously inquire if they need anything. Kirk demands to see Anan 7, but Mea 3 says that he's busy with the casualty lists- so many disintegrations, so little time. Unsympathetic, Kirk snarls that Anan 7 is going to have more casualty lists than he knows what to do with if he (Kirk) has to put up with much more of this. Mea 3 is aggrieved by their uncooperative spirit- don't they understand duty? Kirk says her duty doesn't include walking into a death chamber but she replies, actually it does- she's been termed one of the casualties.
Kirk can't understand how her life can mean so little to her that she'll obediently kill herself because the government tells her to. For her part, Mea 3 can't understand how he can't see that it's better for their people to die than their society. If she or anyone else refused to "do their duty" Vendikar would have no choice but to resort to traditional weapons of war, forcing Eminiar VII to do the same, and then where would they all be? Since Kirk remains stubbornly opposed to having his crew killed for the good of the state, she sadly leaves.
Meanwhile aboard the Enterprise, Scotty and Dr. McCoy-who is on the bridge to make sure he can have his say in what goes on- are concerned because the away team hasn't checked in. To their relief, Uhura reports that Captain Kirk is contacting the ship. She puts him on the bridge speakers: he says that Emimiar VII has agreed to full diplomatic relations, and has invited the crew down to the planet for shore leave. On his order, the entire crew is to beam down, and a team from Eminiar VII will run the Enterprise while everyone's on leave. Scott says that he'll start organizing this, but really has no intention of doing so... he knows something's up: Kirk would never let anyone else get their hands on his Precious. Scotty runs a computer analysis of Captain Kirk's voice message and it confirms his suspicions- it is an imitation.
On Eminiar VII, Spock is employing a Vulcan telepathy technique to plant the suggestion in the guard's mind to unlock the door. When he does so, they overpower him and escape with his gun. As they move through the hallways, they happen upon what is obviously one of the disintegration booths; people are filing in and being vapourized. As they observe from around a corner, Mea 3 walks by, on her way to the disintegration booth. Kirk grabs her and prevents her from doing so, while Spock walks up to the booth, nerve pinches the guard, and warns the rest of the people gathered there to move away.
To Mea 3's horror, Kirk shoots and destroys the disintegration booth. The Eminians, unused to real violence, run away in terror. When Anan 7 is informed of the away team's escape and destruction of the booth, he panics and orders his men to open fire on the Enterprise. Fortunately, however, Scotty was prepared for such an action, and had the shields up, so the attack is ineffectual.
Kirk and co. return to the room they had been imprisoned in, reasoning it will be the last place anyone will look for them. Kirk decides that the best way to save his ship and crew is to put a stop to the war, once and for all. To this end, he asks Mea 3, whom they've brought with them, to provide him with a layout of the complex they're in- specifically, where he can find Anan 7. She is reluctant to cooperate, so he is forced to employ the power of the Kirk Speech to enlist her aid. Of course it works, and Kirk goes off to confront Anan 7 and get back their phasers and communicators.
On the Enterprise, under attack by Eminiar VII, Scotty discusses with McCoy what the best course of action is. They can't fire phasers with the shields up but, Scotty muses, he could lob a few photon torpedoes at them. Unfortunately, Ambassador Fox turns up on the bridge and forbids Mr. Scott to make any counter attack. He's sure that this is some sort of misunderstanding. He contacts Anan 7 and politely asks why they're shooting at the Enterprise and why they've seized the landing party. Anan 7 assures him that this has all been a big mistake, chalking it up to their paranoia about being attacked from space. He tells Fox that he is ordering a ceasefire, and invites him to beam down, promising to have Captain Kirk and the others there when he does. The attack on the Enterprise immediately stops. Fox, basking in the glory of his diplomatic prowess, orders Scotty to lower the shields so that he can transport down to the planet. Scotty, however, refuses to do so, leading Fox to threaten to have him charged with insubordination. Mr Scott holds firm- he won't lower the shields, and Fox storms off the bridge.
Kirk finds Anan 7 alone in his quarters and demands the return of their communicators and phasers. Because Anan is an old guy in a two-tone pantsuit rather than a pretty girl in a wispy tunic, Kirk forgoes gentle persuasion for the more direct approach- a gun pointed at the Councilman's chest. Anan 7 takes his time about giving Kirk the location of their belongings, first waxing philosophic about man's predatory nature. Of course, his sudden chattiness is a cover for his covert action of pressing a button summoning security.
Kirk suspects something of the sort and forces Anan 7 to exit the room ahead of him, pushing him into one of the guards before having a punch- up with them, which he unfortunately loses. He is taken into custody and dragged off to the council room. Meanwhile, Ambassador Fox has finally badgered Mr.Scott into beaming him and his aide down to the planet. They are met by Anan 7, who regretfully informs them that they are being taken immediately to a disintegration chamber. Fox is shocked- don't they know who he is? Weren't they completely won over by his mad diplomacy skills? Reality slowly sinks in as the guards quick-march the two men towards the nearest death chamber.
While this is going on, Mr. Spock has managed to contact the ship, and finds out that Fox has transported down. He tells Scotty to take the Enterprise out of reach of Eminiar's disruptor beams, then goes in search of the Ambassador. He locates Fox just as he is about to be shoved into the disintegration booth, rescues the two men, and blows up the chamber.
In the council chamber, Anan 7 has received word of the latest disintegration booth destruction and is having a bit of a melt down. Nothing is going as planned, they are far behind in their death quotas, and Vendikar is getting antsy. Unused to dealing with any push back, let alone actual rebellion, the council is floundering. Anan 7 rages at Kirk, accusing him of being a monster because he is placing the good of his crew over that of both the populations of Eminiar VII and Vendikar. Doesn't he realize this will mean real war, with all of it's horrors? Kirk is unmoved, surveying Anan 7's agitation with grim amusement. He remarks that the idea of actual war seems to frighten the councilman. Anan 7 snaps back that it would frighten any sane man, and Kirk responds thoughtfully that he supposes it would.
In desperation, Anan 7 contacts the Enterprise. Kirk throws himself forward, shouting to Scotty to implement General Order 24 in two hours. As Kirk is grabbed by the guards, Anan 7 tells Mr. Scott that if the crew doesn't give themselves up, the hostages will be killed. Kirk tells him that it won't matter: in two hours the Enterprise will destroy the entire surface of Eminiar VII. Anan 7 is unable to deal with the added stress, and Kirk takes advantage of his distraction to break free and grab a couple of guns. At this opportune moment, Spock and the rest of the away team arrives with a chastened Ambassador Fox in tow. The security men herd the compliant council out into the hallway as Kirk and Spock enter the war room and blow up all the targeting and casualty-calculating computer systems.
Anan 7 is beside himself- do they realize what they've done?! Kirk replies that he's given them back real war, with all of its associated horrors. Now that Eminiar VII has broken the terms of war, Vendikar will be forced to retaliate... Kirk ironically suggests that Anan 7 should probably start building bombs. He pauses for a second to let that thought sink in, then suggests an alternative: contact Vendikar and sue for peace. He says that it's likely that the people of Vendikar are just as terrified of, and horrified by, the thought of an actual war. Ambassador Fox offers to act as an intermediary, and Anan 7 agrees to try this plan. Kirk contacts the Enterprise, and the away team beams aboard.
Back on the bridge of the Enterprise, they receive a communication from Mr. Fox saying that the peace negotiations are going well. Spock remarks that Kirk took a big chance by intervening in the war... it could have literally blown up in his face. Kirk says that he played a hunch; he figured that the two sides would opt for peace because they were not physically or mentally prepared for the toll of an actual war. He points out that the Eminians had an extremely neat and tidy culture, and war is a very messy business. Spock says that Kirk almost makes him believe in luck, and Kirk grins and replies that Spock almost makes him believe in miracles. They all share a laugh- except Spock, of course- and fly off to their next adventure.