May 22, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”

How much can knowing the future hurt? Captain Kirk has to figure that out for an Air Force pilot stuck on the Enterprise.

It had to happen.  I had to eventually get to an episode where, quite frankly, nothing stood out.  It’s not a bad episode, but “Tomorrow is Yesterday” also doesn’t offer any truly memorable moments.

It tried with a running gag about the Enterprise computer suddenly having a breathy, flirty tone, but that was just sexist and sad.

Why is the computer suddenly calling Kirk “dear” and trying to seduce him?  And not because all women seem to want to on this show?  Well, there’s an explanation that the Enterprise stopped for some repair work on a planet dominated by women, and they felt the computer wasn’t feminine enough.  So, you know, that was what someone thought a woman-dominated society would be like.  What man wrote this episode anyway?

Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana?

Now it’s even crazier.  I’ll just blame 60s era sexism and move on.

That is only a running gag in some scenes.  The main plot has the Enterprise blasted back in time to 1969 around the time of the moon landing.  How did that happen?  Something about a high gravity black star.  Also, probably looking to save some money on production costs.  Just a guess.  Gene Roddenberry and company may have intended this episode to be a part two after “The Naked Time” made time travel a thing.  If so, it does not matter.  The Enterprise is in a low enough Earth orbit to be seen with standard radar and the like.  An Air Force pilot goes up to take a look.  Problems occur.

What kind of problems?  Well, Kirk has the man’s jet trapped in the tractor beam, and then beams the guy onto the Enterprise when the jet breaks up.  Yes, Kirk saved his life, but he also made the life of everyone involved a lot more complicated.  The pilot, one Captain John Christopher (a man with two first names), has seen the future.  Or, at least, he knows something of the Federation will exist.  If he goes back, even if he’s a good man, other people who learn what little he knows could alter future history.  That could make things worse.

Captain Christopher isn’t a bad guy here.  He sympathizes.  But he has a wife and kids back home.  And even though history shows Christopher himself isn’t going to do much of anything worth noting, his son will.  That son will be the first man on Saturn.

Saturn is a gas giant.  That guy sounds a lot more impressive already.

Oh, and the son hasn’t been born yet.

What follows is Kirk and the crew trying to get Christopher back along with destroying any evidence that the Enterprise was even there.  That doesn’t sound too tough.  Christopher himself is only so-so helpful.  Yes, he agrees that knowledge of the future would be bad, but he also will do anything to get home to his family.  He’s a consummate military man, but also a consummate family man.  Helping Kirk and Sulu sneak around a military base to destroy some tapes?  He’ll do that.  Try to sneak off the first chance he gets?  He’ll do that too.  He doesn’t even get mad when he gets caught.  What do we make of a guy like that anyway?  His final departure shows he’s actually a bit friendly to Kirk, but he sure made things more difficult half the time.

By contrast, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty also accidentally nab a nameless M.P.  That guy just freezes up and never leaves the transporter room.  Offered anything, he asks for chicken soup.  Not a steak?  Or a stiff drink?  What an odd request.

As it is, Scotty gets the engines repaired and Spock figures out how to get home.  They even figure out how to use the transporter to return the two guys from the 60s to the exact moment they first discovered the Enterprise or its crew without having any knowledge of the future.  The transporter sure can do amazing things when it isn’t doing horrible things.

And all this adds up to…not much.  It’s not a bad episode.  Heck, I’ve seen worse.  At least I remember seeing this one before, and there are some pretty bad ones still to come.  Heck, the next time this show visits the 60s is pretty dire.  Christopher is only as helpful as the plot demands.  Kirk does get captured and interrogated by the local authorities, but that feels like a time filler.  Spock is there mostly for the two visitors to react to to varying comic effect.  He does have a good line about not believing in “little green men,” but that’s about it.  “Tomorrow is Yesterday” is a very standard episode of Star Trek, with a good plot, scientifically questionable conclusion, sexist humor, and the crew behaving like themselves.  After the last two episodes, a pair of series highlights for season one, we settle back down to average.

I’m actually fine with that.  Besides, there are still plenty of great episodes still to come, better than any I have written up thus far.  If this is an average episode, then Star Trek turned out to be a pretty tight show all told.