This weekend Universal’s The Purge opens in theaters, and the film’s central premise - the idea that once a year people are allowed to commit any crimes they want for 12 hours - may be familiar to fans of Star Trek. After all, it’s quite similar to the original series episode Return of the Archons. And that’s not a coincidence.
When asked if Return of the Archons was in fact an inspiration for The Purge, writer/director James DeMonaco smiled and told me, “That’s what my dad brought up when I told him the idea. My dad forced me to watch [the original Star Trek] over and over.”
In Return of the Archons Kirk and company beam down to a planet whose populace is tightly controlled by a computer called Landru. At 6pm everybody goes mad, killing and raping, as a way of letting off steam in the few hours that Landru isn't all up in their shit. That event is known as Red Hour, which is where hardcore Trekkie Ben Stiller got the name for his production company. This episode is also the first time the Prime Directive is ever mentioned (Kirk breaks it).
DeMonaco said that Star Trek wasn’t the only influence - “Battle Royale was always in my head,” he told me - but it was a big one. He didn’t mind getting called on it.
“I’m happy people are picking up on it,” he said. “I hope people see the parallel.”