As I watched “Journey to Babel,” it occurred to me that none of the crew of the Enterprise have any sort of family issues aside from Spock. Heck, most of the crew doesn’t even seem to have any relatives. True, we saw Kirk had a brother, sister-in-law, and a nephew, but he barely saw fit to say much about them before or since. Heck, he barely mentioned them in the episode they appeared in. We’ve seen a lot of former love interests, but no parents, siblings, or even a stray second cousin. There is, of course, one exception. And, of course, it’s Spock. True, it might be interesting to see how the emotionally austere Vulcans handle family, so here we are.
Of course, future TV series will show other relatives. It’s just the original crew didn’t seem to have family issues to worry about.
Spock’s parents, however, are worth the trouble. We’ll see a lot more of Sarek (returning guest star Mark Lenard) in the future than his wife Amanda (veteran TV actress Jane Wyatt), but they both add some color to Spock. Spock is the character that seems to get the best sort of attention this way. Why care about the past or background of characters like Kirk, McCoy, or Scotty? They’re human and had no doubt normal human childhoods. The audience knows what those are like. Spock is from Vulcan, so his childhood and indeed his entire existence is a new experience. Those are always fun to explore.
Plus, he doesn’t share much. The Enterprise is transporting a group of ambassadors from a variety of worlds to a conference. The topic is admitting a new planet to the Federation. The last ambassador to pick up is the Vulcan, and after Sarek and his wife board, Kirk asks Spock if he’d like to just drop down and visit his family before they leave. Sarek has already been rude to Spock, but Spock characteristically doesn’t mind. So, it’s to Kirk and McCoy’s general surprise when Spock simply informs the pair that Sarek and Amanda are his parents.
Now, simply having some family drama isn’t enough. There’s intrigue aplenty involving the ambassadors. Not all of them want this new planet in the Federation. Sarek gets into an argument with one. True, it’s a Vulcan argument and Sarek doesn’t get angry or anything, but the other guy does. And then that guy ends up dead in a manner that suggests a Vulcan. Sarek, being a Vulcan with no alibi, does agree with the logic of the situation when Kirk questions him. Fortunately for Sarek, the ambassador has a heart ailment. That’s also unfortunate. He’ll need surgery. McCoy knows on a theoretical level how to do that, but not in practice. And he’s going to need a lot of Vulcan blood. Even if he had a lot, Sarek has a rare blood type. The only match on board is, of course, Spock.
Will the act of saving his father’s life bring the two together? You know, having seen the episode, I can’t say. Sarek’s thoughts on the existence of Starfleet is a bit all over the place. He mostly wanted Spock to simply attend the Vulcan Science Academy. Kirk points out to Amanda that Starfleet actually offers more opportunities to a scientist than Sarek’s alma mater, and she doesn’t disagree. Furthermore, Sarek’s thoughts (feelings are the wrong word) on Spock’s career choices are varied. He doesn’t approve of Amanda’s telling potentially embarrassing stories from Spock’s childhood to McCoy. Not so much because he’s her son, but because he’s a Starfleet officer who deserves a certain level of respect.
By the by, Amanda is a great character here. We see a private scene between the two where they touch fingers in a way that suggests Vulcan PDAs, and she rages when Spock doesn’t immediately lie down and let McCoy set up a blood transfer. And Spock isn’t doing this out of anger at Sarek. No, a spy stabbed Kirk in the back, putting Spock in command. Spock knows the regulations state that under normal circumstances, he should hand off authority to Scotty. But with the ambassadors on board, plus an unidentified ship flying around and attacking the Enterprise, this is not normal circumstances. Kirk opts to pretend to be well enough to command in order to get Spock to go to sickbay, and then transfer power to Scotty.
Scotty, it should be noted, never appears in this episode. Kirk ends up defeating the alien menace himself with some well-timed orders. Spock, for his part, figures out who the culprits are before McCoy has him sedated.
So, Spock took some experimental drugs to increase his blood production to save his father. McCoy managed to successfully do the operation. Kirk could barely stand when he got back to sickbay. McCoy even revels that he gets the last word in by telling both Kirk and Spock to shut up and stay in bed. Did Spock and Sarek come to an understanding?
Oddly enough, yes, but not through the expected means. Spock and Sarek start discussing the logic of the situation, and Amanda decides she’s just had enough. Considering how much more attention Sarek gets in the future over Amanda, I really dug the way the show used both characters. Amanda can’t take the cold Vulcan logic anymore. She tells off both her husband and her son, prompting Spock to just ask Sarek why he married her in the first place.
Sarek, in what may be the closest a Vulcan gets to telling a joke, answers that it seemed logical at the time.
Then he and Amanda do the finger touch again. For such a simple gesture, it sure does have a sweet air about it. Vulcans may be many things, but “sweet” isn’t usually one of them. However, seeing that, yeah, longstanding Vulcan couples can love each other is nice. Seeing Spock (I guess) reconcile with Sarek is nice. And seeing family drama exists across species lines, well, that sure is nice too.