‘Let that Be Your Last Battlefield’—Star Trek Racism Episode


Lokai and Bele

Lokai and Bele

Let that Be Your Last Battlefield is a famous anti-racism episode from the original Star Trek Series, featuring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock.  In the episode, two members of a strange alien race board the Enterprise.  Each alien’s face is half white and half black, divided straight down the center, with one crucial difference between them:  one alien, Lokai, is white on the right side, while the other, Bele, is white on the left side.  Bele has apparently been perusing Lokai, who he considers to be a dangerous political traitor and the member of a subservient race, for the equivalent of nearly 50,000 years.  The crew of the Enterprise are quite baffled by Bele’s assertions of superiority, claims resting on nothing more substantial than which side of his face happens to be white.  Bele’s and Lokai’s entire society is structured on the basis of this incredibly important divide, with Lokai’s people being subject to heavy discrimination and prejudice.  Seizing command of the Enterprise, Bele attempts to complete his mission and take Lokai back to their home planet.  When the ship arrives, Bele and Lokai are devastated to learn that their people have all been slaughtered during a racially-motivated war.  Rejecting Kirk’s pleas for rapprochement, Lokai and Bele are soon locked in a fight to the death.  Beamed back to all that their remains of their shared civilization, they presumably perish alongside the long-dead victims of the same prejudice and hatred that has destroyed their world.

Lokai and Bele Locked in Their Fight to the Death

Lokai and Bele Locked in Their Fight to the Death

Viewing the original Star Trek episodes in 2011, I find many of the plots to be tired and worn.  The original Star Trek series may have been groundbreaking and innovative when it first came out, but the plots have been repeated so many times over the years between 1969 (when the series went off the air) and 2011 that many of them have lost their original impact and flair.  Let that Be Your Last Battlefield is one such episode that does not suffer for the passage of time—the episode’s message is as relevant today as it was fifty years ago.  My only criticism of the episode dealt with the alien’s makeup:  I personally felt they should have used different colors, as the use of black-and-white felt a bit too heavy-handed.  They could have achieved the same effect with a different combination of colors, and the allegory would have been a bit more subtle and, in my opinion, ultimately far more effective because, at the end of the day, the colors don’t matter.  All that matters is the meaning that we ascribe to them.



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