In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode A Piece of the Action which aired on January 12, 1968, Star Date 4798.0.

Story Synopsis

The crew of the Enterprise attempts to make contact with the inhabitants of planet Sigma Iotia II, and Uhura puts Kirk in communication with Boss Oxmyx. The intelligent and imitative inhabitants of Sigma Iotia II have built a culture around the book Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, which was published in 1992 and  which was accidentally left behind a hundred years ago by the S.S. Horizon. The Horizon was subsequently lost in space, and its report only reached the Federation one month previously because it was sent by conventional radio instead of sub-space communication. At the time of the Horizon’s visit, the noninterference directive was not in effect, so Kirk, McCoy, and Spock wonder what sort of “contamination” they will encounter when they beam down to the agreed upon rendezvous point: a street intersection next to a yellow fire hydrant. Upon arriving, they are held at gunpoint by Oxmyx’s men, but are taken safely to the Boss after a machine gun attack by rival boss Krako.

Oxmyx reports that there are a dozen or so Bosses across the planet, each controlling his own territory. He asks Kirk to supply him with weapons so that he can take over the planet and becomes upset when Kirk tells him that this is impossible. Oxmyx has his men escort Kirk and his party to a warehouse and hold them prisoner, then uses Kirk’s communicator to demand that Scott beam down a supply of phasers within 8 hours or he will “burn” the landing party. Kirk wrangles his way out of imprisonment by pretending to teach the Ioshans the card game “Fizzbin.” Having thus distracted the guards, Kirk and Spock overpower them. Kirk instructs Spock and McCoy to use the radio station to contact Scotty and beam back to the Enterprise. Unfortunately, as soon as Kirk leaves the warehouse, he is kidnapped by some of Krako’s men.

Jojo Krako, who is Boss of the southside territory, also wants heaters and instruction on how to use them and offers Kirk one third of the proceeds of their use. He is not amused when Kirk suggests a sit-down conference to discuss planet-wide unification, and has his men notify Serl the Knife that he may have a job. Oxmyx learns about Kirk’s capture and contacts the Enterprise. By promising a truce, he gets McCoy and Spock to agree to beam down to discuss how Kirk can be freed. Before beaming down, however, Spock instructs Scotty to set the ship’s phasers on wide dispersion stun for the region surrounding their beam-down point. As Spock suspected, he and McCoy are immediately taken prisoner. However, Kirk has been able to escape from his prison cell by pretending to be hurt, then subduing his guards. He makes his way back to Oxmyx’s office and frees Spock and McCoy. He also forces two of Oxmyx’s men to exchange clothes with himself and Spock, and the two make their jerky way to Krako by stealing a manual-transmission auto.

While staking out Krako’s place, Spock and Kirk are accosted by a young hoodlum who offers to help them with the “hit” in exchange for a piece of the action. He distracts the men guarding the door by pretending to be hurt. Kirk and Spock pretend to be his family, and then overpower the unsuspecting guards. Once inside, however, they find that they have been expected and are being covered by machine-gun wielding gangsters.

Kirk convinces Krako that the Federation is moving in and tells Krako that he will be cut in for a piece of the action if he cooperates. He then has Scotty beam Krako up to the Enterprise, although Scott is initially perplexed by Kirk’s gangster lingo. Kirk then gives the same story to Oxmyx and has him call the other Bosses. Scott locates the people on the other end of the phone line and transports them all to Oxmyx’s chamber. They seem to agree to unification under the Federation, which will receive a but then demand to see proof that Kirk and Company actually have some muscle backing them up.

At this point, a hit begins on Oxmyx’s men, and Krako used the opportunity to again take Kirk, McCoy, and Spock hostage. He does grant Kirk a last transmission to the Enterprise, which Kirk uses to tell Scott to stun the battling gang members using the ship’s phasers. The Bosses are impressed by this display, and agree to Kirk’s original proposal, with Oxmyx as head Boss and Krako as his Lieutenant. Spock has reservations about the idea of leaving a criminal organization in charge, and also wonders how Kirk plans to collect a 40% cut every year, but Kirk pooh-poohs his objections.

As the Enterprise is leaving, however, McCoy realizes that he has left his communicator behind in Bella’s office. The communicator contains a transtator, the integral part found in all machinery found of the Enterprise, so it is very likely that the imitative Iotians will have made impressive technological progress the next time they are visited by the Federation.

 Fun Fact

This episode had two actions unique to all of TOS. First this episode marks the only time in the entire Star Trek franchise that Kirk calls McCoy by his full nickname: “Sawbones.” Second, this is also the only episode in which the ship’s phasers are set to stun.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. The written word still holds power.
  2. Can you communicate in local vernacular?
  3. How do you select your Board of Directors?


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for A Piece of the Action Piece of the Action