Review: Amok Time Remastered

Angry Red Planet
Warned by McCoy that Spock is acting a little "off," Kirk is forced to agree after the Vulcan assaults Nurse Chapel with a soup bowl. Spock awkwardly explains that he’s in the grip of an irresistible sexual urge and that he’ll die if he doesn’t mate Real Soon. Kirk can easily relate to this, so he defies Starfleet orders to return Spock to his home planet. Vulcan is the most PC planet in the cosmos: a world of unemotional, rational, pacifist vegans. It’s logical, therefore, that we are introduced in short order to:

  1. A masked executioner
  2. T’Pring, a betrothed woman who desires another man and enters into a murder conspiracy rather than be seen to defy conventional social mores
  3. Stonn, a co-conspirator so full of lustful rage that he can’t help blurting out unhelpful clues to his complicity ("No, I was to be the one!")
  4. T’Pau, a planetary ruler so smug and bigoted that she indulges in playing lethal "gotcha!" with naive strangers ("Des combad ees to de deat")

One is left to wonder why these Vulcans can’t behave with the emotional restraint, integrity and open-mindedness of that cute T’Pol and her countrymen on “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Spock winds up fighting Kirk. Unlikely as this seems, it’s a lot more gripping than watching Spock in a death struggle with the third walk-on Vulcan from the left. McCoy saves the day by doping Kirk in contravention of the International Olympics Committee rules for Koon-ut-kal-if-fee.

In the end Kirk gets to live, Spock gets better, T’Pring gets Stonn and T’Pau gets punk’d. There’s no way that T’Pau would hold McCoy’s little bit of chicanery against Starfleet or the human race, of course. That’s like suggesting that Tony Soprano would whack a guy for talking to the Feds. So, she covers Kirk’s hinder with Starfleet.

Like they were really gonna discipline him just for disobeying direct orders. Again.

"Why do they call it love when they mean sex?"
The thousands of popular stories written by the cohort of American science fiction authors who came up through the pulp magazines and early paperback markets of the 1940s and 1950s are the very foundation of the original "Star Trek." Theodore Sturgeon was among the most talented and influential of that group. A brilliantly original short story writer and novelist, he assayed a number of television assignments over the decades but only "Amok Time" stands out as more than an average work-for-hire product (my apologies to admirers of giant white rabbits and strafing biplanes everywhere).

His decision to portray the Vulcans in a way opposed to what audiences might reasonably have expected based upon what they’d been told in previous episodes was inspired. It’s certainly reflective of one of his own noteworthy observations: "Nothing is always absolutely so." Today, of course, he’d be pilloried from some quarters for violating a season’s worth of "canon" about Vulcan behavior and culture ("It’s twenty-odd episodes worth of research, how lazy can he be?").

If anything, he might well have taken his charge here from Nurse Chapel’s single remark in "The Naked Time" to the effect that "the men from Vulcan treat their women strangely." Evidently, the women from Vulcan return the favor.

Sturgeon’s vision of life on Vulcan strengthens and deepens the internal conflicts which had already made Spock the most fascinating of the Trek characters by placing them in the context of the world from which he springs. Not only is Spock torn between his Vulcan and human heritage but also now we see him as the product of a culture with its own deep fissures and unexamined contradictions. He chooses to identify with the self-declared "rational" culture in which he was raised rather than the supposedly chaotic civilization of his mother’s family, but it’s his Vulcan biology that drives him to behavior that he finds too humiliating to reveal to his human shipmates. Sturgeon includes a line of dialogue – "I’d hoped that I would be spared this" – suggesting in an ironic fashion that Spock might have been banking on his human heredity to enable him to be more rational and dispassionate about his sexuality than most of his people.

All real human cultures negotiate a complicated balance between their expressed ideals and mythologies about themselves and the actual ranges of behavior and beliefs of the individuals who live in them. Love and sexuality, in all varieties, were the central themes of much of Sturgeon’s work. "Amok Time" is all about such ideas and experiences, specifically in the context of a society that denies and suppresses them. Written for a heavily content-and-language restricted medium, in an America undergoing revolutionary changes in what would be considered acceptable sexual behavior and discourse – a liberalization which he was very much a part of both personally and ideologically – Sturgeon was mature enough a writer to examine the ultra-repressed Vulcans he created with intelligence and empathy rather than simply derisively portraying them and their culture as hypocritical. This subtlety of understanding, as much as anything, is what marks "Amok Time" out as one of the best of the original "Star Trek" episodes. The story speaks with undiminished authenticity across the decades, in marked contrast to such airily self-congratulatory polemics as "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."

Most notably, no screenwriter but Sturgeon ever has written dialogue for "Star Trek" that as succinctly articulates the commonplace truths of human experience as Spock’s nearly elegiac observation on the conundrum of desire: "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting."

The Effects – What’s Changed?
CBS Digital has got the deep space exterior and orbital shots of the Enterprise down solid at this point, much as they’ve been acing the planetary globes from the beginnings of TOS-R. In the case of those planets, though, they seem to have moved on from approximating the look of TOS planets toward attempting more fully realistic worlds. This week Vulcan is represented as almost a kind of alternate Mars in coloration and detail, but with a polar ice cap that’s probably bigger than Earth’s arctic right now. Aside from the ice, this Vulcan is consistent with its visualization in the Trek movies and later TV series.

Speaking of consistency, there are several shots of a beautiful matte painting showing the arena from a distance overhead. The entire area is revealed to be the flattened summit of a mountain overlooking a nearby city. That city closely resembles and probably represents Shi’Khar as first shown in the "Yesteryear" episode of the animated "Star Trek" series, and the elevated arena itself is very much like the temple where T’Lar reunites Spock’s body and soul in "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock."

Unless I’m mistaken, this episode thus becomes the first instance of the original series’ visual effects being adjusted in such a way as to bring them explicitly into line with Trek continuity created in the decades, movies and series that followed.

There’s a super-close flyby of the Enterprise that’s quite showy – i.e., "look how close we can get to the mesh without it looking CG." People will doubtless argue whether it does or doesn’t. For my money, it looks pretty much like I’d expect the original eleven-foot Datin-built model to look if photographed so close up (and I’ve spend quite a bit of time looking at that very model from a similar distance, behind glass in the gift shop of the National Air and Space Museum a few miles from my home). That said, the attempt does underscore the lack of detail on the original practical model – it wouldn’t have looked like a real big spaceship from that distance, and neither does the mesh.

A Vulcan-style homey background has been added to the image of the child bride T’Pring that we see on the viewer in Spock’s quarters. It’s a nice touch that makes it look a lot less like her folks popped over to the Shi’Khar Sears to take advantage of the $19.98 family photography special one Easter afternoon after church.

What’s Left Alone
The featureless cyclorama sky over the Vulcan arena, obviously. This would have required an enormous and impractical amount of rotoscoping. The folks at CBS Digital also don’t appear to consider "correcting" Trek’s occasional editing glitches as part of their mandate, probably a good thing. Last week, that would have involved fixing the "flopped" close-up shot of McCoy in "The Doomsday Machine." In "Amok Time" there are several continuity errors (in the strict filmmaking use of the term) involving the players in the Vulcan sequences. My favorite is the juxtaposition of a shot where Spock crosses the arena to hit the gong and is followed by T’Pring. She makes it maybe a quarter of the way across the arena behind him before we cut to a close-up of her still standing with the wedding party, then beginning her cross again.

It’s thus canonically established that Vulcans can be in two places at one time. J.J. Abrams, take note.


more: Amok Time Screenshots & Video 

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Great review!!
CBS-digital keep pushing the envelope!!

I am holding out hope for the DVD that when spock smashes the viewscreen in his quarters they add CG smoke and sparks when he smashes it. That alone would be worth the price of admission and it would be damn funny too. Do it CBS!!

I had just noticed that for the first time yesterday when T’Pring started to cross and then was just standing there before crossing again. I guess I wasn’t seeing things.

Well a distinct improvement, in my opinion, over past reviews by this author. He demonstrates a wealth of knowledge of Theordore Sturgeon and Star Trek in general, and the bulk of the review is thoughtful. Consistent with past reviews, however, is the opening of the review, which to me, and apparently not to some others, is flippant and simply takes cheap shots (easy to take, but to what end?) at Star Trek. For example:
“Like they were really gonna discipline him (Kirk) just for disobeying direct orders. Again.”
Is it clever to make fun of Kirk? How original.
Anyway, I don’t want to get negative because the review is good overall- thoughtful and informative.

apparently Vulcans never carried logic into their intimate relationships.Big letdown if your looking for exposition on a totally “logical”race.

Awesome job CBS-D, Okudas and Rossi. Grabbing a city from the animated series? WICKED COOL! I would have never noticed so thanks to the reviewer for pointing that out!!

Great review by the way! Love the use of humor! I really enjoy your reviews!

Anyone know what episode is next?

It’s just remiss of the writer that He came up with this maniacally primitive dimension to Vulcans.Like Vulcans being the logical race that they are never made provision for reproduction.This is where Star Trek’s fantasy meets reality and fails in a staggeringly campy way.

one must always rememeber that star trek has always been on the cutting egde of technology and i for one love how the CBS-D crew is attempting to bridge the gap between TOS episodes and the feature films. the angles, the matte paintings and shot selection with the new CGI are wonderful. we are getting top quality effects, hd remastered episodes and all delivered under a strict budget and deadlines. keep up the good work, and boldy go!

Great review. I like your tone here and in previous reviews, Anthony. While we all indulge in series worship to some degree, it’s good to remember that this is a long waking dream, replete (

And they also left alone the goof where Kirk and McCoy are talking to T’Pau and we see Spock in the background, casually leaning against a wall when he is supposed to be in the Blood Fever.

loved the ep. though E should have movement in the windows… think canon is broken even here, since Spock should murdalize Kirk and Amanda would have do be nearly celebate.

I used to try that explanation on girls… “I am in the grip of an irresistible sexual urge and that I’ll die if I don’t mate Real Soon.”

After hearing “Then drop dead!” a few times I gave up on it.

#6… I don’t get it. Or perhaps you don’t? It’s one or the other….

another entertaining and informative review DRB…well done

‘Des combad ees to de deat’ indeed. Always thought she should say ‘sucka’ after that bit of ‘gotcha’

RE: spockariffic what ep is next
check out our info page on TOSR:

but the answer is “Paradise Syndrome”

Mmmmm Mirimani

No cgi needed for Mirimani.

Thanks for a fantastic review, Sr. Bailey!

That Spock line always gets me when I read it or hear it spoken- about having not being as pleasing as wanting. What a perfectly measured dig by Spock to his double-crossing lady friend. Of course, Spock was not trying to hurt her feelings, but still there was an element of a cold-wet slap across the face to the line. Not quite as harsh as “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” but no less poetic.

gotta say you’re quite sarcastic with your reviews but they are pretty funny and you make some good points in this one :)

Favorite quote from the review:
“..he’s in the grip of an irresistible sexual urge and that he’ll die if he doesn’t mate Real Soon. Kirk can easily relate to this…”

It’s not a polar ice cap, ya big dummy. It’s a large white sands desert.

I say it’s an ice cap and I say the Hell with it. :lol:

it’s a floor wax

no it’s a desert topping!

Too sarcastic for my taste. I look forward to Jeff Bond’s next review.

I’m with steve623, (#22) about the sarcasm, although like I said it is a big improvement over last time, and has a lot of good points once you get past the sarcasm. At least he didn’t talk about how the uniforms look like pajamas or how William Shatner overacts. His sarcastic comments are less than informative or original, or even funny, to my taste (what’s in the next review, the uniforms look like pajamas or perhaps he’ll make fun of Shatner’s overacting?) But if you close your eyes over that stuff, he does have good things to say.

It’s carbon dioxide in the xenosphere, Vulcan is a tad arrid, kinda Dune like, Arrakis like even.

the sleep has awakened!

Great review, very insightful about Sturgeon’s touch.

I also picked up this time on the “I hoped I might be spared this” line, which went some way towards easing my disbelief that the logical Spock would get himself into this mess, for lack of planning: Couldn’t he have seen this coming, and planned a Vulcan vacation in advance? But yes, it would make sense that he expected his half-human side to pull him through.

The only thing unconvincing is what easy leeway Spock gets at the end of the show. The “Jim!” grin is of course a classic Trek moment. But no one seems very bothered that Spock carved a gash on the Captain’s chest and risked plunging Altair VI into instability with his poor ponn farrplanning. They’re ready to get back to work; maybe Kirk is just so delighted by McCoy’s BALCO tricks that he says, to hell with it.

“In the end Kirk gets to live, Spock gets better, T’Pring gets Stonn and T’Pau gets punk’d.”

Great line.

Another great review, DB.

The biting humor (the “sarcasm”) doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s not the kind of sarcasm that shows disdain for the topic, it’s the kind that humorously shows intimate knowledge of the topic — knowledge that, really, he wouldn’t have if he didn’t love the show. My friends and I have been major Trek fans (and fans of other equally revered works) for decades, and we always talk about it with this sort of tone. (Of course, we also talk about each other with this sort of tone, so make of that what you will.)

#24 — “xenosphere”?

Funny review. I love DRB’s lighthearted jabs. Nice to know I’m not the only one who’s ever thought of them.

Re: Vulcan Mating Rituals. It may not have been in the sliced-up-for-syndication version, but I’m sure that in the uncut episode, someone remarks that it’s strange for such a logical race as the Vulcans to have such…uhhh…”passionate” mating rituals. I think McCoy explains that it seems to be payback for the total supression of their emotions. The mating rituals are a release valve (much as it can be for humans), but since the Vulcans are so stoic, it’s become a matter of life-or-death for them.

By the way, I don’t think it was ever stated explicitly (pardon the pun), but this episode only states that Vulcan males MUST mate every seven years. That doesn’t mean they CAN’T mate outside of that cycle, it just means that when the pon-farr is upon them that they have to. It’s kind of like filling your car up with gas. You can do it whenever you want, but you have to when the fuel gage reads the tank is empty or suffer the consequences. It’s a poor analogy, but it’s the first one I thought of.

Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to watching this show more every week, especially now that CBS Digital is really kicking in with some creativity and freedom in their work. I think the powers-that-be there have finally realized that they have some real artists working with them and they’re allowing them to stretch out and expand their vision of what the new FX should look like. I’m loving it and can’t wait to see more.

By the way, Dennis, I believe the phrase is spelled “KUN-a-ta-KAL-i-FEE” (emphasis capitalized). Oh my, that’s probably my geekiest moment on these boards. I’ve gotta go lie down.

Yet another verdose review, where the author attempts to impress with his unlimited knowledge of everything and at the same time takes shots at Star Trek, while throwing in accolades to his fav “Enterprise.”

Frankly, I’m sick of seeing Star Trek reviewed by someone who is more concerned with mocking the mores of the time, while winking and nodding to the present sexual……”Freedoms?”

Can’t we get a reviewer that will give a straight review about the merits of the episode and not drag his liberal, view of life into the mix?

Theodore Sturgeon was one of my favorite authors of Trek episodes and I highly recommend “The Joy Machine.” A novel transferred into the Trekverse after its original debut, but you know, I didn’t care whether the author was a drunk and I don’t care if he was gay, straight, or bi. It’s not relavent.

I would prefer to see the episodes reviewed by someone who likes the episodes and doesn’t look for every reason to poke a stick in the eye of the fans.

OK Dennis, we got it, you liked Enterprise and you like to rip on Star Trek. Give it a rest.

Loved the review! Great thoughts and a great episode.

This is slightly off topic, but someone wanted to know which “spock-orific” episode was next and I just noticed that I can’t find Operation: Anihilate on the schedule.

Dennis: > “Koon-ut-kal-if-fee”
Buckaroohawk (#29): > “KUN-a-ta-KAL-i-FEE”

Sorry Buck, the spelling Dennis used is the long-accepted one.

“Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” is the spelling used in
articles about Amok Time at

AFAIK that spelling is also listed in the TOS DVD scene index.

I don’t have a copy of the Amok Time script.
(Dennis, have you got a copy?)

The oldest dated written reference that I have is the fact that
“Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” was the name of a Trek fanzine in the late ’70s.

(I also happen to know the same spelling was used in a
Microvax Star Trek game in the ’80s.)

(Have I out-geeked, or at least out-googled you yet?) ;-)

On the other hand, “Kunat Kalifee” remains a popular alternate.
(That was the spelling listed in the 1992-1993 unofficial
“Star Trek Spelling List” compiled by Neil Green, Joshua Laff, et al.)

But if dis combad ees to de deat,
“Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” is the winner.

#30 – I find your criticisms a little bizzarre. The review above is a strongly positive review, written by someone who clearly likes the episode. It seems obvious to me that Bailey’s mention of “Enterprise” was a tongue-in-cheek putdown of that series’s portrayal of the Vulcans, rather than an actual “accolade.” He’s using irony.

And I may have missed it, but where exactly in the review does he “drag his liberal, view of life into the mix”?

I’m confused.

I’ve often wondered how Spock’s uncontrollable biological need to fly across the galaxy get his end away disappears after a fight with Kirk!

Some of the comments after these reviews are, frankly, astonishingly bitchy. Are people jealous of not being able to write reviews here themselves?

The remarks were not ‘sarcastic’ (Sarcasm: from Greek sarkasmos, ‘to tear flesh’ is sneering, jesting, or mocking a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony intended to insult or wound.)

There was some gentle humour in the review that was very funny and showed the writer likes the series about which he’s writing. And where did he say the author was a drunk, gay, straight, or bi?

My other assumption about the decision to add new shots of the arena is that the big complaint where Amok Time is concerned has been that we see nothing much of the Vulcan landscape.

If CBS-D can address certain flaws such as that, then they definitely should! Also, where continuity errors are concerned, we don’t know that these editing errors might not be sorted for the eventual HD-DVD/Blueray releases. As an editor myself, I’d want to change them. Removing a few erroneous frames here and there can’t kill ‘canon!!’ ;)

Frankly, the editors should look through all the nitpickers’ guides and books like The Star Trek Compendium to find out where all the errors are and remove them!

Thanks for the review Dennis! :)

I liked this review. Thoughtful and the quips fit.

As a kid, I was always hoping there would be another mating cycle to see how differently everyone might have handled it. “Nurse Chapel – please report to the Hydroponics Lab”

re 30: seriously man, you take a relatively innoccuous review, and tear the reveiwer a new one. I prefer an objective reviewer to one slanted either which way. Let’s see some non Trek watchers reveiw it and get a totally unbiased opinion…

re 21: either way… it’s delicious!

re the episode and effects… No complaints from me this week. Love the ep,and the effects were very nicely done.


#28 Cranston,

woops a daisy, I intended “Exosphere,” not Xenosphere, that’s what too many cokes and too little sleep do for you, either way, the joke fell flat hah hah.

The point being even an arrid inhospitable desert world such as our favorite Vulcanians domecile on would have carbon dioxide at the polar regions, the nice layer was a stark contrast to the oranges and reds.

I sort of wish “The Motion Picture” Directors edition had not “corrected” the oversight of adding companions in orbit of Vulcan, that matte painting was powerful and , oh hell I love that movie, everything about it made everything so familiar look and feel so “alien.” Klingons for example, have looked like shit ever since. I loved those white eye contact lenses and swarthed hairstyles. Orson Welles narration of the commercials was spot on when he said “It will alter your perception of the future, by taking you there.”
Star Trek adventures after that first film may have been more fun, engaging, humourous, and popular, but NEVER since has the future been so brilliantly captured on celluloid. That film is a JOY to see.
I digress, back to my point, I wish that hadn’t of been corrected so that the remastered team could have included these companion worlds around Vulcan. I don’t recall if Spock ever had any dialogue alluding to Vulcan having moons or such.

Spock says at some point in TOS that Vulcan has no moons. TMP certainly feels like the future. Even the humans seem alien!

I hope the characterisation of the Klingons will be corrected at some point to being more like the TMP versions: they were so sinister and, clearly, wily and intelligent!

De air is de air. What can be done?
Ain’t no stinkin’ ice caps on Vulcan. It’s white sands, alright.

Hmm. They sit around a dank bridge, shout an alien language to each other, open fire on a mysterious cloud, and then get, ah, ‘downloaded’ into the Vejur mainframe.

Oh yes, those TMP Klingons. Very intelligent. And certainly their panic is sinister.

And Spock specifically said Vulcan had no moons in response to Uhura in the episode ‘The Man Trap.’ It’s, ironically, part of a punch-line about how thoroughly unromantic his race is.

Great review. I always loved that this episode in that it gave more depth to Vulcans/Spock in that a very logical race had this highly emotional part to them. It makes logical sense that something like sex would bring a strong wild emotion out of most races. Overall a fun ride and I dug the new effects by CBS-D.

Great review, man.

Thanks for the insight on Sturgeon.

P.S. While I do enjoy Jeff Bond’s reviews very much, I’ll take Bailey sarcasm over Altman vitriol any day of the week!

Kegan. Dude, they’re aliens!! Why the obnoxious sarcasm? This a discussion forum, not a dick-swinging contest!

I’d hardly say the Klingons panic. Mark Lenard’s commander is clearly intelligent (rather than the TNG-style bombastic oaf!) and is the Klingons sitting in a low-lit bridge any different from the crew of the Enterprise sitting in a low-lit bridge in most of the films?

Hey Dennis… Great job!

Your review is informed, light-hearted, well-written and clearly shows you did your homework. Your observations, via Sturgeon’s writing, on Vulcan culture are acute, insightful and caring. Moreover, whether extolling the episode’s virtues or taking a jab with “tongue firmly implanted in cheek”, it is clear you have a great love for the show.

I’d like to hear from the CBS artists if they intended the white area to represent an ice cap. It makes sense. The planet could not support life without some source of water.

I agree that the TMP Klingons seemed much more intelligent than the others we have seen. They were restrained and deliberate. Although the Commander barked his orders, they is typical. But the subtle interaction between the Commander and his first officer, the professional and subdued manner of the bridge officers, all spoke of a higher caste of Klingons than what we have seen since.

And they operated the equipment by simply touching the screens, not smashing huge buttons and switches.

I wish some of that imperial aloofness had been retained instead of the Viking boorishness we saw come later.

And I meant, “this is typical,” not “they is typical.”

Thanks for all the kind words and compliments about the review. :)

On the subject of “Koon-ut-kal-if-fee,” there do seem to be a couple of accepted spellings so I went with the way Sturgeon spelled it in his script.

As far as biases are concerned: I like “Star Trek” and I like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and I like “Star Trek: Enterprise” and quite a bit of other stuff that Desilu and Paramount have called “Star Trek.” Ain’t nuthin’ to it. ;)

ill take this review…entertaining and funny…over some DDOC worshiper ranting about George Lucas anyday