Another pairing of great if mismatched episodes. I guess the idea was to pool dissimilar episodes rather than the episodes which seem like slight variations on a single idea (like sending the crew to planets ruled by modern day versions of Nazi Germany or Imperial Rome).
In "A Piece of the Action", the crew journeys to Iotia, a planet whose inhabitants prove incredibly resourceful and adaptive. Based upon a single book on 1920's Gangsters left behind by a previous starship, the Iotians have modeled their entire culture to resemble Jazz-era Chicago - Tommyguns, mob-molls, hits and all. Landing on Iotia to open contact, Kirk and crew find themselves in the middle of a gang war. The episode is funny without being too campy (forgetting that this is the story requiring the heroes to sneak around a Paramount backlot in period costume). Kirk struggles to unite the warring gangs for the good of the planet without taking sides and without becoming another hit. The last shot is classic - leaving open the possibility that the Iotians may one day demand a piece of the Starfleet's action.
In "By any other name", the Enterprise is hijacked by the Kelvan - an advanced race of beings from the Andromeda galaxy. Having been marooned when their ship was crippled by the energy barrier at the rim of our galaxy (the same barrier that has made appearances in "Where no man has gone before", "Is there no truth in Beauty" and the fifth Trek film), the Kelvan took on the shape of human beings. Their actual forms - immense being with many tentacles and huge brains - would have trouble managing turbolifts. Once past the barrier, the Kelvan use their advance technology to reduce much of the crew into small styrofoam boxes, and otherwise keep the remaining crew in submission. Their mission is to reach their home galaxy and return to ours with a massive invasion force. This is a great episode, combining some subtle wit and quick thinking with some matchless direction. In one excellent cut, Scott, Spock and Kirk weigh their options enroute to the bridge. With the Kelvan homecoming a possible harbinger of invasion, the crew realizes that more than their own lives are stake. Yet, against the Kelvan technology, only a single plan is available and suicidal at that. "The Kelvan will be stopped here", Spock intones gravely "and so will we." Kirk is about to respond in fury - there's got to be something else we can do - when the door opens. None of the nex-gen episodes can touch that moment. Get this DVD.