Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: Return to Tomorrow

The Original Series, Season 2
"Return to Tomorrow"
Airdate: February 9, 1968
52 of 80 produced
49 of 80 released
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise finds the disembodied consciousnesses of the last three survivors of an ancient and powerful civilization on a distant planet. They tell them a tale of how their great civilization was destroyed by their own arrogance and ignorance. They wish to take over the bodies of three Enterprise crewmen for a short while to experience life one last time before consigning themselves to practical eternity in android bodies they will build for themselves. This plan poses great risks for Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Mulhall, an astrobiologist aboard the Enterprise. Will these powerful entities return the crew's bodies to them? Will the Enterprise become the latest casualty in a millennia-old conflict?

Tell us, oh Orb of Wisdom, who is the hammiest of them all?


Kevin: The story is here is a pretty strong science fiction one. The idea that consciousness could be mechanically transfered and stored outside the body is one we will obviously revisit in Search for Spock, so Spock's amazement seems out of place, or maybe he's just surprised that someone else has the same skill. We also get a basic, if not entirely well developed, discussion of what risks are worth taking and what sacrifices are worth making in the name of advancing humanity.

Matthew: I thought that aspect, fleshed out in their board room scene, was pretty good. Another VERY Roddenberry idea in this episode was that these beings were somehow progenitors of humanoid life on other worlds. This episode was chock full of ideas, and gets high marks for that even if it doesn't follow through completely on all of them.

Kevin: One of my favorite parts of the story is how Sargon, Thelassa, and Henoch pick up where they left off almost immediately, in several ways. Sargon and Thelassa's romance and Henoch's plotting serve several purposes well. It belies their conceit of how advanced they think they are, and it makes sure they remain interesting as characters.

Matthew: Definitely some good drama here between the three survivors. It's too bad hat we didn't get a little deeper insight into what the original conflict on their world was. Nonetheless, the portrayal of it given to us in the three personalities was definitely interesting to watch.

Kevin: The solution is just a tad too cute for its own good. Where was Nurse Chapel's consciousness when Spock was inhabiting her? Could Henoch make a transfer from body to body? How did Sargon stop him? I did enjoy the little scene between Chapel and Spock. That was nice. It adds some layers to their interactions. I also, in spite of myself, enjoyed the fact that Sargon and Thelassa left Kirk and Mulhall's bodies mid-kiss. It was a cute moment.

Matthew: I found it odd that they would so quickly come to the conclusion that they should dissolve into non-existence. It seems strange that their society would go to such great lengths to preserve their beings for the future, only to let themselves float away on the cosmic wind at the end. I don't know how this could have been developed in a more realistic way, but I do know that I wanted it to be.

Kevin: As with other episodes that touch on the issues of android-based immortality and at what price you purchase advancement, it feels like this didn't go far enough. Sargon's eventual selflessness and self-awareness was nice, but I felt short of the conference scene where Kirk sold the whole enterprise (he he) to the command staff, it felt like we forgot to discuss the implications of what these aliens represented and offered.


Kevin: Not for the first time, and not for the last time, Leonard Nimoy deserves an unlimited amount of praise for his performance. He imbued Henoch with a wonderful physicality. The way he leaned on a door frame or took Thelassa's hand was really interesting, if only because it's such a wonderful contrast to regular, unleaded Spock.

Matthew: Unfortunately, now, whenever Nimoy smiles and leans jauntily, I imagine him singing the "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

Kevin: This is one of the first times I am going to say this, but Kirk went off the rails here. Especially when he was first inhabited by Sargon looked like he was auditioning as an extra in the video for the Divynils "I Touch Myself" video. Diana Muldaur, as Dr. Mulhall, did a pretty good job. I particularly liked the conflict and progression of her decision as Thelassa to keep, then not keep Mulhall's body. She was the most personable of the three, neither imperious and all-knowing like Sargon, but not eeeeeeeevil like Henoch.

Matthew: It wasn't my favorite Shatner performance ever, but it didn't bug me as much as it did you. "Be a guy who has been immaterial for millennia, upon inhabiting a new body." This is a tough acting job to ask of anyone. Diana Mulduar, on the other hand, was very good. She's a good actress, and I never disliked her in TNG Season 2. Plus, she's kinda not hard on the eyes in her TOS appearances.

Kevin: As I discussed above in the writing section, I did like the extra screen time Nurse Chapel got, even if it did at point get a little crazy. Individual moments between Spock and Chapel and Henoch and Chapel were quite effective, and well acted all around.

Production Values

Kevin: I liked the spheres. They weren't a revelation in props, but they were good, and I liked the different strength of lights for crew. I didn't like the altered voices. How were they doing that exactly? It's the same vocal chords. I think it would have been a credit to the actors to be able to convey a different character without a bass machine.

Matthew: I loved the design of the spheres and of the underground sphere bunker. The Sphere holder, pictured above, was very fifties modern, in a good way.

Kevin: I really loved the android. It look sophisticated by the standards of the 1960s, but still looked somewhat hideous. I shared Thelassa's revulsion at the idea of inhabiting it forever. The use of an android instead of a gynoid was particularly effective in conveying in a moment what they were giving up.

Matthew: Any time we get to see the Sick Bay lab set, it's A-OK with me. It deepens the set and makes it seem like a place where real science takes place.

Kevin: The purple pain flames were certainly the hokiest effect of the hour, but they are a forgivable sin.

Matthew: For what it's worth, I thought they looked cool, and I'm glad they didn't replace them in the remaster.


Kevin: I am going to give this a 4. It's a neat idea that is at least adequately executed with some acting by Spock and Muldaur that really sell both the characters and the idea of the episode. Kirk's somewhat hammed-up performance and a too neat ending keep this from a five. If nothing else, the scene between Henoch and Thelassa in the presence of the completed android perfectly encapsulated the writing and the acting in the episode and elevates to at least the upper quartile of episodes.

Matthew: This is definitely a 4. It has a solid sci-fi story, good acting, and good production values. It hits all of the bases of excellent Trek. It doesn't knock it out of the park by really developing any of these aspects into a true "wow, that's cool" moment. But it is consistently entertaining and above average, and I never skip past it when I'm doing a TOS run-through. That makes it an 8 from both of us.

1 comment:

  1. I shouldn't have watched the old TOS blooper reels on Youtube ( before seeing this episode, 'cause all I did was giggle for the whole scene where Kirk speaks for Sargon. I kind of liked not knowing the exact dynamics of how the soul-swap happened (I assumed the swapee was in the orb, but lacked the mental abilities to communicate) or what powers the orb-people had; the speed of the plot distracts from the usual questions about why the top officers are putting themselves at such risk and hammers home the sense of urgency. People are working in a panic, but the feeling that everything's got to be now, and there isn't time to ask a lot of questions works to the ep's advantage. Nimoy carries that through by doing really great job as the villain, and it was actually pretty intimidating to see how easily Spock's abilities and the crew's implicit trust for him can be put towards nearly getting Kirk killed.