Friday, August 27, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: All Our Yesterdays

The Original Series, Season 3
"All Our Yesterdays"
Airdate: March 14, 1969
79 of 80 produced
78 of 80 released
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise travels to the planet Sarpeidon to inform its inhabitants that its star is about supernova. They find the planet deserted save one man, a Mr. Atoz working with several duplicates of himself in a vast library. Instead of books however, the library houses what appear to be portals to Sarpeidons past. The people of Sarpeidon have fled into their world's past to escape the nova. Kirk becomes separated from Spock and McCoy when they all inadvertently travel through the portals. Kirk is imprisoned as a witch in the era he lands, and Spock and McCoy find themselves trapped in Sarpeidons long past ice age. With them is a prisoner from another era, a beautiful young woman named Zarabeth. What secrets is Zarabeth hiding? Will the crew be able to get home before the Enterprise is forced to leave the imminent nova?
I volunteer to discover the secrets Zarabeth is hiding...


Kevin: This episode has a lot going for it on the science fiction front. The idea of using time travel for a one way trip is one largely unexplored in Star Trek. It's normally done to prevent or ensure events that might interfere with the "proper" timeline. I like that not only do we see time travel used to save people in the present, from Zarabeth we learn it could be used as an insidious form of punishment. It's easy to imagine this as the ultimate historical or recreational tool repurposed for other uses. They don't discuss what, if any, impact the modern Sarpeidon residents would have on the future. Perhaps the "preparation" ensures they don't alter the timeline. In a way, I'm glad they didn't. It could have ended up bogging down the episode if we had to worry about the sanctity of the timeline.

Matthew: This may just be my absolute favorite science fiction conceit of the series. In fact, I've only come across it (one way time travel, that is) in one other sci-fi story, the roughly contemporary "Hawksbill Station" by Robert Silverberg (who also happens to be my favorite SF author). I am not implying any relation to this episode, but it does have a government use time travel to the distant past as a way to imprison dissidents. Anyhow, the much more evocative and interesting idea here is to escape into your own culture's past to bypass a sun going nova. Wow. Real science fiction! Would it be better if they discussed whether these travelers could alter the timeline and cause a paradox that invalidates the travel itself? I think a line from Mr. Atoz would have sufficed. It's not a fatal omission. I'm going to chalk it up to a quantum sum-over-histories model a la TNG's "Parallels." I had practical questions about the number of people sent back, but they are relatively unimportant. There are also questions about the evolution of language, infectious diseases, etc., but I recognize this is a 52-minute teleplay on a show that's about to be cancelled.

Kevin: The idea that because Spock is five thousand years in the past, he is taking on the qualities of contemporary Vulcans is a little silly, but it's not a fatal flaw. Mr. Atoz (best librarian name ever) makes it clear some sort of prep work is necessary, and without it, any reason for Spock's behavior is pretty plausible. Spock and McCoy get relatively few moments alone at all, and even fewer that are not focused on their roles as Kirk's right and left hand, so it was great to see a conflict that existed only between the two of them.

Matthew: Some small details nag. The explanation for Spock's behavior is one. He also says they are a million light years away from Vulcan. But honestly, I was so on board with this episode from the get-go, with the concept and the emotional story line, that I'll apologize for any nagging detail. It was late. The dog ate the first draft. Who knows? When an episode is this good, who cares? UCLA Librarian Jean Lisette Aroeste was the original author of this story idea, and it demonstrates two things - more women should have been writers, and more unsolicited scripts should have been accepted. TNG builds on that idea and had much more open story submissions.

Kevin: The emotional story at the core of the episode is really fantastic. Spock's sorrow when he thinks that Zarabeth has been dead for millennia is palpable and more than a little heartrending.

Matthew: Yes, we've seen it before ("This Side Of Paradise,") but this is a better sci-fi story, so I'm willing to forgive a little revisiting. I wish it had been indicated that they spent more time in the past, like a few months (similar to VOY "Gravity") as it would have made the emotional core all the better. To me, that's the main flaw - everything was tied for some reason to the time-frame of the TOS present. I guess they would die if they stayed, or something. But it would have been better if they had been able to spend all the time they wanted in the past. Then, the issue of both needing to step through together would have been even more poignant. But it's a minor quibble. Everything in this story worked, even if sticklers like me could still have questions left over.


Kevin: Mariette Hartley had to portray a lot of emotions in a short span, and I would say she succeeded. She had to be earnest, lonely, passionate, sad, resigned and all wrapped in a thin layer the slow march to insanity that solitude causes. I found myself feeling a great deal of empathy for her, and was surprising affected by her sacrifice to send McCoy and Spock home.

Matthew: Hartley was great. She has a really interesting voice, a kind look (face wise, anyway, the rest of her inspired decidedly unkind thoughts, at least on my part), and definitely showed her character's emotions in an effective way.

Kevin: Shatner does a pretty okay job, but I don't think the script gave him too much challenging stuff here. Nimoy and Kelley gave some A-class performances, among the best of the series. Unlike other outings, everyone's reactions felt natural and the increase in their aggression perfectly organic.

Matthew: I thought Shatner was very natural as he stepped in to save the damsel in distress. I also liked the guest star who was in his timeline, the Prosecutor, played by Kermit Murdock. His horror upon being discovered and the conflict he had in preserving himself by selling Kirk down the river was great.

Kevin: I liked Mr. Atoz. He balanced the slightly absent-minded mien of the quintessential librarian with the urgency of the situation well.

Production Values

Kevin: I am going to assume the 17th Century set was a use of a standing set on the lot, and it looked pretty good. For such a simple set, the ice age was well done. It gave the impression of size and of being barren. The library also milked a few small sets well to give the impression of a larger complex.

Matthew: The ice age cave was incredible. It was just so visually interesting. Easily the best cave they've ever had on TOS. The ice age exterior looked good, too, ad was mixed well with stock footage in the library. I liked the old world Europe set, though I would have appreciated more to make it look alien. Oh, well.

Kevin: The costume people deserve an Emmy not for best costume per se, but for best reveal. The huge fur coat covering the Racquel Welch cave go-go outfit had to be the highest impact outfit in the series.

Matthew: The way Zarabeth's costume was revealed actually made me laugh out loud, and then promptly revise my Trek's Hottest Women post.


Kevin: I'm gonna say this isn't an episode you tend to think of when you think of THE BEST, but that's not this episode's fault I've decided. Everything is going for this episode. You've got a nifty, and novel, science fiction set up that provides a back bone for a compelling emotional story. This is an enthusiastic 5.

Matthew: This episode is easily in the top decile. It fires on all cylinders, and only contains minor flaws which do not interfere with enjoyment. This is a 5 all the way, and it vaults its way into my top ten list on the strength of its sci-fi concept. The emotional character moments are icing on the cake. That makes it a 10 from the both of us.

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