The Omega Glory is one of those episodes of Star Trek that is recognized as being notably preposterous. The problem with this episode is that the writers took a great idea, built on it, and then sent it down the crapper in what can best be described as one of the dumbest ideas in Star Trek history.
It all begins innocently enough when Kirk and friends find the Exeter, a lost Starfleet ship, orbiting Omega IV. When Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Lt. Redshirt… er, Galloway, investigate, they contract a disease that forces them to the planet’s surface in order to survive. There, they run into Captain Ron Tracey, who unbeknownst to the Enterprise crew, has gone batpoop crazy. Of course, he seems pretty lucid in the beginning, but he soon reveals himself to be quite unhinged. Being evidently stranded on the planet, Tracey has wasted no time joining forces with the native Kohms, the de facto oppressors on the planet, and trying to help them defeat the Yangs, the “less civilized” culture. When Kirk figures our what’s going on, he goes on the offensive, and does what he can to stop Tracey, no matter how many Galloways he has to throw into the fray. Sorry, Galloway. Anyway, as it turns out, the Yangs aren’t quite as uncivilized as they seem, and here’s where it really goes off the rails. Once the Yangs capture Kirk and Tracey and are passing judgement on them, they produce what turns out to be a copy of the freaking American Constitution. How did this tribal culture on a distant planet get a copy of such a document? How do they have American flags? What can I say, it was the sixties, man! Seemed like a good idea at the time. In the meantime, Bones has figured out that staying on the planet indefinitely isn’t necessary to avoid death from the disease. A body just needs to stay long enough to acclimate itself to the disease and be able to build an immunity to it. He also finds that, contrary to Psycho Ron Tracey’s deluded assessment, the planet is not a fountain of youth. The locals live to obscene ages because that’s how they’ve evolved. Anyone just visiting would not experience the same gift.
The crazy thing about this episode is that it’s actually really good for the first 30 minutes or so, and then it just goes completely sideways. Clearly, the writers were going for something very American and patriotic, but it just makes zero sense. I love actor Morgan Woodward’s dignified to maniacal portrayal of Tracey, and the whole idea of the episode is actually pretty great. But it’s the last several minutes that people remember, and it’s too bad. it could have been one of the greats.
When I pulled this episode, I was a little concerned about in which direction I would go for writing the song. All I knew was that I didn’t want to make fun of it, because without the ending, it was really solid Trek. I also didn’t want the song to have anything to do with the ending. Let’s just forget that ever happened, right? So with what was left, I just found myself drawn to the Captain Tracey character. Who knows what made the man go bananas in such a relatively short amount of time, but I really enjoyed his ability to be able to completely mask his crazy and just be on point there when the enterprise crew first lands. He was like a demented Mr. Roarke welcoming unwary travelers to his Not-So-Fantasy Planet. Thinking about that sent me off on a direction for the song.
The song is from the point of view of Captain Tracey at the time he’s welcoming Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Galloway to the planet. I almost imagined it as a scene from a musical, but in welcoming the newcomers, he’s kind of spilling all the beans at the same time. He knew they’d be found, but he’s sorry it was by somebody he likes. He talks about how great it is there and that there’s just a little bit of war. No big deal. It’s all under control. And he goes on like this throughout the song, occasionally pausing to be welcoming, but never really losing that sense of ominous truthfulness, like at the end of the chorus, where he says, “Welcome to Omega, where the disease won’t let you leave, and no one will save you.” It starts out nice and takes a turn pretty quickly, which is how I see the character himself. The end of the song has a short interlude that I added that is meant to represent a defeated Tracey. At the end of the episode, Kirk has triumphed, and Tracey is ushered off to face Federation justice. I see this as almost a kindness for Tracey, as he is technically saved from the planet (and himself). I feel like being removed from the situation would help to heal the man’s mind, but it’s also melancholy in that he has committed grievous crimes. I imagine the vocal in the interlude as representing what’s going on in Tracey’s head. It’s a melancholy sound, but it’s also calming, whereas the rest of the song is fairly riotous. That’s what I was going for anyway, and it feels right to me.
I did plant a not-so-hard-to-find Easter egg in the song for anyone who pays attention. If you’re a fan of the series, you may recognize Captain Tracey as Dr. Simon Van Gelder from the first season episode, Dagger of the Mind. Having written a song for that episode too, and focusing a large portion on Van Gelder, I wanted to throw in a little tribute in this one. Like I said, it’s not subtle, so see if you can pick it out.
This is one we’ve been playing for a while now, and it’s one of my favorites of mine to play live. It came together quickly and has evolved nicely, but I think the recording will offer its own take on the song that anyone who is already a fan of the song will really enjoy. I can’t wait to get it in your earholes!
Five Year Mission
The Omega Glory
Written by Chris Spurgin