Bread and Circuses (Star Trek: The Original Series)

"Bread and Circuses" is the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, broadcast on March 15, 1968. It is episode #54, production #43, written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene L. Coon and directed by Ralph Senensky. Its name is a reference to the phrase "bread and circuses" taken from the Satire X written by the poet, Juvenal. In modern usage, the phrase implies a populace that no longer values civic virtues, the public life, and military (manly) service; instead, the people need only food and entertainment.

"Bread and Circuses"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 25
Directed byRalph Senensky
Written by
Story byJohn Kneubuhl (uncredited)[citation needed]
Cinematography byJerry Finnerman
Production code043
Original air dateMarch 15, 1968 (1968-03-15)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Ultimate Computer"
Next →
"Assignment: Earth"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 2)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

In the episode, Captain Kirk and his companions are forced to fight in gladiatorial games on a planet resembling the Roman Empire, but possessing mid-20th century Earth technology.



The Federation starship USS Enterprise is on routine patrol when it finds wreckage of the SS Beagle. The Beagle was under the command of Captain R. M. Merik (William Smithers), whom Captain Kirk (William Shatner) knew during his academy days. First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) traces the path of debris back to a planet in the previously unexplored system 892.

The Enterprise picks up a 20th-century-style television news broadcast, reporting in English on a slave revolt. The next report shows footage of what appears to be a Roman gladiatorial match. The planet's culture is thus revealed to be a kind of 20th-century Rome. An announcer refers to the "barbarian" gladiator William B. Harrison, identified by ship's records as one of the Beagle's flight crew.

Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam down to the planet to investigate. They are captured and brought before Septimus (Ian Wolfe), who asks them if they are "children of the Sun", to the surprise of McCoy, who does not know that there were ever sun-worshipers in Rome. Septimus explains that he was a senator until he heard the "words of the Sun" and was made a slave. Although another slave, Flavius (Rhodes Reason), suggests killing the landing party, Septimus decides the landing party poses no threat.

Kirk reveals that he is looking for Captain Merik, who the slaves suggest is Mericus, Master of the Games. Flavius, a former gladiator, offers to help and leads Kirk as his party to the nearby city. They are soon captured and brought before Mericus, who is in fact Merik, and the Proconsul Claudius Marcus (Logan Ramsey), who invites the landing party to sit and talk in private. Merik relates that when he met Claudius Marcus and came to know his culture, he agreed that the planet should be protected from cultural contamination at all costs. Merik decided to stay, putting his crewmen into the gladiatorial pits, where most of them would be killed. Merik informs Kirk that the Enterprise crew must also abandon their ship and integrate into the planet's culture. Kirk refuses Merik's demands and instead signals to Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan) in code that the landing party is in trouble, and that no rescue attempt should be made.

Angered, Marcus sends Spock and McCoy into the televised arena. They face off against Flavius and Achilles. Spock quickly overpowers Achilles and uses a Vulcan nerve pinch on Flavius, ending the fight to a hail of pre-recorded boos and hisses. Spock and McCoy are taken back to the slave pens while Kirk is sentenced to a televised execution the next day. As the execution broadcast begins, Mr. Scott uses a low-power phaser burst to cause a power blackout, allowing Kirk to free Spock and McCoy. The landing party is cornered before they can escape from the cell block in the television studio. Merik signals the Enterprise to beam Kirk and party up, and is fatally stabbed by Claudius. The landing party is beamed out just as the guards open fire.

Back on the ship, Spock expresses surprise at a sun-worshiping cult preaching universal brotherhood, opining that most sun worship is primitive superstition, with no such philosophy behind it. Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), having monitored the planet's communications all this time, has the answer: "It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God."

Firearms used in the episodeEdit

The submachine guns used by the Roman guards in the episode are Danish Madsen M-50 submachine guns.[1]


The planet 892-IV was renamed Magna Roma in the Pocket Books published TNG novel The Captain's Honor in late 1989 ISBN 0-671-68487-6.

In the book Star Trek: Star Charts from 2002 (ISBN 0-7434-3770-5), Magna Roma is listed as having attained mid-21st cent. technology by the time period of Star Trek: TNG, which in the Star Trek universe would make the system eligible for membership in the United Federation of Planets.

An episode titled: Bread and Savagery is listed (#11) for the internet Star Trek fan film series known as Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Phase II. That story uses the same setting and follows-up on the plot started here in this TOS season 2 episode.


  1. ^ "Madsen M50". Retrieved September 25, 2016.

External linksEdit