#51: Bread and Circuses
In case you forgot: It's Roman times with television, with Christianity thrown in as a bonus plot twist.
This episode has always felt like a script that could have been really cool and awesome if it didn't have to go through the assembly line sausage factory that was TOS filming. Televised gladiatorial combat as entertainment? Within the realm of possibility—contemporary audiences can't seem to get enough of things like The Biggest Loser or Big Brother. A culture where slavery is still the norm? For sure. It's not like we don't still have slavery today, after all. But society that's just a straight Roman empire clone with TV thrown in? Come on, Genes. You can do better than that.
The whole Sun/Son switch-up at the end is what sours this episode for me the most, though. Whenever religion crops up in TOS (or any kind of progressive science fiction from the middle of the century), it just sucks. It seems like token attempt to placate the more conservative, Christian viewers at the time, and it's at total odds with Roddenberry's original vision of the future: "everyone is an atheist and better for it."