Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) discover that Captain Merik (William Smithers), commander of the long-missing Starfleet vessel S.S. Beagle, has become "First Citizen of the Empire" in a re-creation of ancient Rome on an obscure, unnamed planet. Under orders from the Emperor, Merik forced his own crew to die in gladiator battles and lured other Starfleet personnel to the same fate. Now with Kirk, McCoy, and Spock in hand, the Emperor's barbaric (and televised all over the planet) amusements carry on another day.
While the script takes a swipe or two at the sometimes less-than-elevated tastes of global audiences, the episode's most interesting idea is the existence of a long-suffering cult of sun worshippers, a parallel to the suppressed Christian groups in Roman times. For Trekkers, however, this one is full of the essentials: a surreal premise, a hostile planet, lots of fighting, and Scotty (James Doohan) on the bridge. --Tom Keogh