** (2 stars out of 5)
'Bread and Circuses' begins with the search for the S.S. Beagle on planet IV of Star System 892 (because yesterday they ran out of star system NAMES). Beagle's captain was R.M. Merrick, who Kirk knew at the Academy. Merrick was dropped in his 5th year (Since we later learn Starfleet Academy is a 4 year program, I think I see why they dropped him).
Planet IV is a 20th Century Rome. T-Shirts replaced togas. Cars replaced chariots. Slaves are in revolt and TV studios make live bloodsport broadcasts in black & white.
After some token muttering about the Prime Directive, McCoy (I hope sarcastically) declares his wish to land someplace and pretend to be an angel. Or that Spock could get a pitchfork...
At peace for 400 years, this Roman World didn't have the 6 million deaths of Earth's WWI, the 11 million of WW2, or the 37 million of WW3.
But they still made all the same technological advances, speak & write in English, and they had their own Julius Caesar by THE SAME NAME. In accordance with Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development this makes sense somehow.
Proconsul Marcus bribes Kirk, hoping the Captain will do as Merrick did and order his crew down into the arenas. The bribe is a night with a slave girl. It is STRONGLY implied Kirk took this bribe. I believe I speak for everyone when I say 'Ick'.
Kirk's execution will be in FULL COLOUR! Scotty blacks out the studio from orbit. Merrick saves the Starfleeters, but is stabbed to death by Marcus for his treachery.
Uhura pipes up with a tidbit from her radio monitoring. The local peaceniks called the Children of the Son aren't Sun Worshippers, they are referring to the Son of God... Jesus Christ. His two thousand year old message of brotherhood and peace is only now bringing down the despots.
Our crew smile fondly and wish they could stay to see it happen again.
Yeah, those sure were twenty awesome centuries! Earth's Son Worshippers and their stifling of other philosophies made this planet a paradise so long ago we forgot how wonderful it all was! Thank God for the Holy Wars that forced everybody alive from one end of the galaxy to the other to believe in anything they liked... as long as it was Christianity.