“Will the last one through the time machine please turn out the lights?”
The sun of the planet Sarpeidon will explode in less than four hours, destroying everything for hundreds of millions of miles around. Since long-range scans show no intelligent life on the planet in need of rescue, Captain Kirk thinks it would be a good idea to go there and nose around for a while just before the big bang.
Who knows, maybe the Prime Directive has a special exemption in these cases for looting or something.
Enterprise’s sensors failed to detect one Mr. AtoZ (A-to-Z! And he’s a librarian! Get it? Get it?) as does Spock’s tricorder. Like many "Star Trek" aliens, AtoZ speaks perfect English but is incapable of communicating in an assertive manner, thus motivating a "Three’s Company" plot – that is, one in which nothing would happen if anyone directly asked or answered the simplest of questions (such as "Where exactly did you come from, especially you there with the pointed ears which we Sarpeidonites noticeably lack?" or "Where exactly did everyone go and exactly how?")
In short order, Kirk finds himself in seventeenth-century Sarpeidonite England, defending a Sarpeidonite Irish thief from a mob and getting imprisoned for Sarpeidonite witchcraft. Spock and McCoy take a wrong turn and wind up in the Sarpeidonite Ice Age with a young woman named Zarabeth, who evidently shares a couturier with Loana from "One Million Years B.C." and who wants to jump Spock’s bones.
If you’re keeping score, make that Spock: 1, Kirk: 0
It’s McCoy’s turn to be the deductive and logical one this week, pointing out to an increasingly twitchy Spock that the Vulcan is thinking with a different set of nerve endings than usual.
With the aid of another time refugee, Kirk manages to return to his own time, where he beats a septuagenarian in hand-to-hand combat. Spock returns with McCoy, and Enterprise warps out just before Mr. AtoZ‘s replicas get fired in an unfortunately literal way.
“If my agent calls…”
Mariette Hartley looking fetching in a skimpy outfit, Nimoy’s tough-guy delivery of Spock’s threats to McCoy and Kelley’s reading of the line “Five thousand years before you were born!” are chief among the few pleasures of this lackluster paint-by-numbers episode. At this point in the third season everyone working on “Star Trek” was a few weeks away from unemployment, and distraction from the work on the stage seems evident in many ways. While Nimoy and Kelley do give the silly story their best, Shatner walks through what little he’s given to do. Chomsky’s direction is listless and unconvincing. That last is particularly noticeable in the little bits of physical action scattered through Shatner’s scenes: a swordfight resolved when Kirk’s opponent obviously simply drops his sword on cue, Kirk “overpowering” his jailer with a little spin that would get him booted from an early round of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Basic story logic is muddy at best in “All Our Yesterdays.” For one thing, every other human being on the planet has gone into the past, yet AtoZ is hanging around until the last instant before Armageddon for…what, exactly? There’s no good answer other than “He’s waiting to meet Kirk and Spock so the story can happen.”
A great deal is made of the need for folks to be “prepared” by the “Atavachron” before they journey into the past, lest they die; conversely, once so prepared they will die immediately upon their return to the “present.” This plot point apparently is supposed to justify Spock’s emotional regression during his sojourn to Sarpeidon’s Ice Age, yet aside from a moment in which Spock (and Spock alone) stands next to the Atavachron while conversing with ATOZ there’s neither opportunity nor any evidence that he or McCoy are processed in any way that Kirk is not. Further, the fact that neither of them suffers any ill effects upon returning to the present suggests that they were not prepared by the machine – in which case, why did Spock get so worked up back there in the cave? One can, I suppose, make up explanations for all of that and on a good week it might be worth the effort. “All Our Yesterdays” doesn’t provide satisfactions sufficient to excuse the writer and director for not doing their jobs.
One feels for Hartley. Her character exists in order to provide a romantic interest in the story for Spock, yet in too many scenes her part consists of staring demurely into the middle distance while Spock essentially talks to himself. Damn but she does look good doing it, though.
All in all, this one’s worthwhile mainly for having inspired two good novels by A.C. Crispin and having given Brent Spiner something to tease Hartley about decades later when she interviewed the “Next Generation” cast for “Good Morning, America.”
Find out what Spock left on Sarpeidon
The New Effects
There are only a few new effects shots this week: a new close angle of Enterprise sighting down the length of the port warp nacelle as the ship approaches Sarpeidon, matched planet orbit shots of Enterprise, and a new shot of Sarpeidon’s sun exploding.
Enterprise itself finally looks, these days, as it always should have. The hull colors, plating and specular reflectivity are pretty persuasive. Where planetary globes are concerned CBS Digital seems to be striving for more realism than earlier in the project, with mixed results. Sarpeidon is so Earth-like that comparisons with actual space photography of our world are inevitable, and what can be thus seen is that the CBS rendering is rather painterly rather than photorealistic. While given a specific geography rather than vague general features, Sarpeidon largely lacks realistic variations in specularity from land to ocean or the angle-of-incidence light scattering that the atmosphere should create.
Much realer…but real enough?
The new supernova shot closing the episode is marvelous. The beginning formation of a new nebula is particularly striking. Overall, however, one would expect a brighter flash from the initial explosion – after all, such explosions can be among the brightest objects in Earth’s sky even when occurring half way across the Galaxy.
All things considered, this is a rare instance in which the new effects are immediately the best things in the episode…other than Mariette Hartley’s eyes, which are their own kind of special effect.
Side By Side
video edited by Rick Kelvington