The episode starts at a present day, in this case in the 1960s, detecting an unknown object. As the teaser ends we see that that object is the Enterprise. We are off to a strong start that is a good teaser.
Given that the Enterprise is nearly 300 meters long, not to mention not remotely aerodynamic, it should really raise a few more eyebrows. Nevertheless a fighter is sent up to investigate.
When we see the Enterprise Kirk informs us how this happened but it is also revealed that they do not yet know when (sic) they are. Incidentally I am not going to bother telling you the technobabble. The result is more important than the babble.
It isn’t long before they detect the fighter. They are lucky the pilot didn’t notice the English letters on the hull.
Kirk orders a tractor beam to hold the fighter in place. Unfortunately the beam is too strong and the craft is destroyed.
I like this scene very much. Firstly they acknowledge that the fighter’s weapons could still be a threat. Secondly to Kirk the tractor beam is harmless but to the old fighter, so much less advanced, it is an effective weapon.
Before the fighter is destroyed they beam the pilot aboard. His name is Captain John Christopher. It is noted that Kirk is speaking English.
I would like to take a detour for a moment.
Language in science fiction is always a bit problematic and, broadly speaking there a three approaches:
The most basic is that characters simply learn each other’s languages. This is how Babylon 5 handles things. There is some technological assistance used too. In one episode Sheridan mentions that it took hours to translate a particular alien’s language during first contact.
Star Trek has the universal translator. This device is basically magic. Not as much in TOS but later it is able to translate from the first word an alien says.
Then there are other shows that ignore the language issue completely. This is done in Stargate SG-1. Everyone is able to speak English as soon as they meet people from Earth. However in one episode in particular it is observed by Jonas Quinn that he would be ‘very surprised’ if a woman from 50 million years ago understood English. What is hilarious about that statement is that Jonas himself should not have been able to speak English when the team first met him.
I mention this here because while Kirk does speak English he would speak a future version of English – you only have to have studied Shakespeare to know how much language changes. I know that is the most nitpicking statement I could make but I just don’t have much to say about this episode.
We get a brief moment of Captain Christopher noticing a female crewman. I tried to google the history of women in the American armed forces but, to be honest, it seems a tad confusing. It looks like women were permitting in the US Navy in the 1940s but were not on combat ships till much later. It doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this episode but I find Captain Christopher’s double take interesting.
I am not sure why Kirk thinks it is a good idea to show this man from the past around the ship! Then again I am not a Starfleet officer so what the hell do I know! Maybe Kirk has realised what Spock soon tells him – that they cannot send Captain Christopher back because of his knowledge of the future.
This doesn’t seem like a solid reason. Yes he has seen the Enterprise but that doesn’t translate into being able to build a transporter or something else. He could start writing a science fiction TV show though.
Interestingly in this episode Kirk refers to the Enterprise as belonging to the United Earth Space Probe Agency. To the best of my knowledge this is the only time that is mentioned. It seems a bit of an odd name for manned missions.
In a rather, to my mind, interesting bit of world building we find out that the Enterprise computer now has a personality. And it might even have some level of sentience. The computer calls Kirk ‘Dear’ The reason given is that the computer was overhaled by a planet dominated by women.
Then we get the main dilemma of the episode. Spock discovers that Captain Christopher is going to have a son and because of his significant role in history the Captain has to be returned.
We also find out that Scotty has repaired the ship. Of course they have nowhere to go in the 1960s. How will the Enterprise get back to is own time?
In the meantime they need to reduce the amount of harm done to the timeline. The air force has records of the Enterprise. Kirk and Sulu beam down to destroy those records.
I like that when they get to Earth Sulu is interested in something as mundane as a notice board. It is a nice way to illustrate how different Earth of the past is.
I do however have to question why they beamed into a corridor and not directly into the room they wanted.
While the landing party is down on Earth we get a nice scene in the transporter room. Spock and McCoy are present and waiting for the landing party to return.
McCoy is worried about the landing party. Spock is calm. Which is a Tuesday on the Enterprise. The scene ends with McCoy pestering Spock that he should be working on his time warp calculations. Spock responds: ‘I am’.
As someone who struggles with basic maths this is so impressive. Although trying to live up to be like Spock is a pretty tall order.
Kirk and Sulu are discovered. Spock signals at that moment and the Air Force man is accidentally beamed aboard. It is okay though the music tells us that this is a funny situation not a dangerous one.
The Air force Man is practically frozen in place. Is Spock really that scary? I kid of cause. After all the Air Force man has probably never seen Star Trek!
The episode is good at building up the problems. We have the inciting incident of the Enterprise being stuck in the past, then Captain Christopher, and now not only do we have a second invited guest but the landing party is stuck on Earth.
(Incidentally it is a shame they didn’t know to pick up a couple of whales.)
More air force people arrive. Kirk puts up a good fight, because Kirk, but he is subdued meanwhile Sulu is able to make it back to the ship with the tapes.
I liked that during Kirk’s interrogation he tells the truth – at least in a manner of speaking.
FELLINI: I am going to lock you up for two hundred years.Fellini and Kirk (Star Trek: TOS – Tomorrow is yesterday)
KIRK: That ought to be just about right.
As I said previously this is yet another indication that the original series is set in the 22nd century.
A rescue mission is put together consisting of Spock, Sulu, and Captain Christopher. Christopher accompanied them as he knows the layout of the base.
At least that is the theory. Captain Christopher wants to remain and manages to get the drop on the landing party. Kirk informs him that he will go home but in their way. This is not enough for the Captain but fortunately Spock was prepared for this and is able to nerve pinch him.
Then we come to then end of the episode. To the best of my knowledge this is the only time in Star Trek that time travel is employed in this manner. The Enterprise is able to travel back in time and beam their two guests back to before they were beamed up. Therefore there is no worry about contamination of the timeline because it never happened.
Wibbly wooberly timey wimy is the only explanation.
After travelling back in time, and returning their visitors, the Enterprise is then shot forward in time. The usual Trek stuff happens the shaking of the ship and what not. Then the Enterprise returns to its own time.
I am not really rating these episodes out of ten. When I get to the end of TOS I am planning to rank all the episodes from best to worst. So where does this episode lie? It is average. It is not an episode I would recommend if someone asked me about the best of Trek but it is also by no means bad.
The episode is entertaining, it has some good humour, and it holds your interest. However for me it doesn’t have that extra oomph that makes it great.
That is all for this review.
I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.