Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, June 15, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode Two: Yesteryear

"Yesteryear"
Air Order: 2
Star Date: 5373.4
Original Air Date: September 15, 1973


Historical fun fact: Georgie was running for a seat on the city council of Los Angeles when this show aired, and his political opponents were all up in arms over the fact that there was a law stating that political candidates had to get equal air time regarding campaigns. They claimed that this show would count as part of that time, so instead of airing "Beyond the Farthest Star" first, they hung onto it until December, and showed "Yesteryear" as the first episode of the animated series, as this episode did not feature Sulu.



*******

 Kirk's Log 5373.4: "We're orbiting the planet where the Time Vortex is, because we're helping out some researchers doing work on it."


Holy crap, dude. The first shot we get after the E in orbit is Bones with two researchers: a severe-looking woman with a pink streak in her hair, and some kind of living gargoyle. I guess "way to take advantage of animation, Star Trek"? Not gonna lie, it's a little much. That guy looks less like Star Trek and more like Narnia.
So Kirk and some Red hop out of the Time Vortex, and Kirk starts going off about how fascinating it is to be on Orion at the beginning of time, but then Spock climbs out and Bones asks, "Who is that guy?"
"Um, that's Spock? The first officer? The guy you yell at and sometimes share tender moments with?" says Kirk. "You know, Spock?"
"Nope, don't know him," replies Bones.
Kirk calls for a beam-up, and they transport back to the E.
"Who's that?" Scotty asks when they reappear on the transporter pad.
"The hell?" demands Kirk. "That's Spock, the first officer!"
The door slides open, and some Andorian comes in. "No, I'm the first officer," he says. "I'm Thalin, I've been first officer for five years."


"Um, some shit has gone down with the Guardian of Forever," surmises Spock. "Something went down, and now I don't exist in the same way."

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "What Spock said."

So a meeting has been called with Kirk, Spock, Thalin, and that Random Red. The Red says he can't find anything that was changed while they were in the Vortex, and Spock points out that it only has to do with him, because only Kirk remembers him, and nothing else has changed. 


The saddest-looking gold shirt ever calls in with some info that Kirk asked him to find. It seems that no one named Spock has ever worked for Starfleet. Sarek is still an ambassador, but he and Amanda split when their son died, and she was killed in a shuttle accident on her way back to Earth. Spock died at seven. We end the meeting with a bit of dramatic music, and a shifty-eyed look from Thalin.


Back on the surface, Kirk is asking the researchers if anyone was using the Vortex while they were inside. Pink Streak says they were scanning it for Vulcan history, and Gargoyle says that the death of Spock was recorded during the kahs-wan, the Vulcan rite of maturity. Spock rattles off a date, which the Gargoyle confirms, and Spock relays back that on that date, he was out in the desert by himself, and a cousin rescued him from a wild animal attack. He barely recalls the cousin. 
"Did this dude look like you now?" Kirk asks.
"Yeah..." says Spock. "I guess I went back in time to save myself before, but I didn't do it this time because we were bumming around Orion instead, so I died."
"That sucks," says Kirk. He turns to the Vortex. "Hey, Guardian. You heard that shit. If Spock goes into his own timeline, can he fix this without that butterfly crap happening?"
"Totes," replies the guardian.
Kirk comms for Vulcan cosplay clothes for Spock.

Something you don't really notice in shows like TOS is the lack of empty
space on the sets. Anytime they had to build an outdoor set it's cluttered with
rocks and plants to disguise the fact that there's a back wall in the studio.

Spock turns to Thalin. "So, sorry, but I'm gonna take my position back, cuz, you know, I like being first officer, and also, I don't want my mother and I to die."
"Naw, bro, it's cool," says Thalin. "Andorians are kind of dicks, but we believe in family." He and Spock exchange Vulcan hand salutes, and Scotty beams down a bag with period-style clothing for Spock. This is the cool thing about the future, friends: you can just procure cool clothes without having to spend weeks hunched over a sewing machine.
So Spock tells the Guardian where and when he wants to go, then steps through the Vortex into the city of Shikahr.

Y'all, check out Vulcan, you guys. It looks like concept art. Nice.


Spock's Log 5373.5, "subjective time" : "Gone home, even though they say you can't."

He immediately encounters a bunch of fucking asshole Vulcan shits who are teasing his younger self and calling tiny Spock "emotional Earther." Firstly, try to say "Earther" out loud without whining. It's like trying to say "Auror" without sounding like you have a mouth full of marbles.
Secondly, they're yelling at him for being emotional. I know Vulcans don't just go from birth to stoicism, but they're displaying a lot of angry emotion toward him. And they start in with the "Yo mama so Terran" jokes. They're also ragging on him for not knowing how to give a Vulcan neck pinch. Damn, seven seems young for that kind of self-defense skill. Anyway, they push him over the edge, and he lunges at them like a rabid dog. But he misses and face plants, and they run away laughing.

I'd like to slap the pointy off their ears.

"Sorry you saw my son getting his ass kicked," says Sarek, who comes up on regular-sized Spock unexpectedly.
"It's cool," says Spock. "I'm your cousin Selek, distantly related. I'm going to the family shrine."
"Oh, that's a trek," says Sarek. "You should stay with us until you are ready to go again."
"Awesome," says Spock. "All of the Airbnb listings for Shikahr looked sketch."


                                     
Back at the house, Sarek pulls Spock aside and tells him that he needs to get his shit together and choose whether he is going to be a Vulcan, or a human with weird ears. He says that soon Spock will go through the kahs-wan, and will prove himself to be a good Vulcan, and that Sarek believes that he can do it. Sarek's parenting skills are kind of all over the place.
Big Spock is watching them talk through some kind of window or something. I dunno. All of the houses seem to be giant glass bubbles or plant-less terrariums or something. Amanda comes in, and gives Big Spock another sort of apology for her kid being different. This sucks. Why are these people constantly apologizing because their kid doesn't fit in? Are Vulcans really that dickish? Frankly, it seems like anybody who picks on a kid for things beyond his control is an asshole. Stop apologizing to them.
Amanda confirms that Little Spock will undergo the kahs-wan next month, and Big Spock is confused, because the date that he saves himself is tomorrow.

Here is where this show reminds me of Scooby-Doo: why the hell
is Amanda standing in the typical Daphne stance?

Sarek finishes his talk with Little Spock, telling him that he has to survive ten days and nights without food, water or weapons on Vulcan's Forge. Shit, son. That seems like a lot to ask of a seven-year-old. I feel like most cultures that do this sort of thing wait until puberty. I guess Vulcans need to know if you're drinking the kolinahr Kool-Aid right the fuck now. It sounds like a lot of kids fail the first time and are allowed a do-over, but if you do, people will give you shit for it the rest of your life. For something that goes down before you reach the tender age of ten. Sarek tells Little Spock that he has faith in him, then he leaves.
Little Spock is consoled by his pet sehlat, I-Chaya.
OH MY GOD, I WANT ONE!

Why do Vulcan boys dress like male strippers?

Remember when Amanda tells Bones about Spock's pet sehlat, and she describes it as "a fat teddy bear"? Dude, this is like a bear-lion hybrid, with big-ass fangs and Vulcan ears. Also, it looks snuggly. I bet it has hella-soft fur. So Little Spock tells I-Chaya that he is concerned that he's not a real Vulcan, and I-Chaya makes "it's all good, bro" noises, because there's no way that I-Chaya is apologizing to anybody for his boy.

Spock's Log 5373.9, subjective time: "Sooo, looks like something else has happened to change the timeline, because I totally remember the exact date that I saved myself, even though everything else about the event seems fuzzy to me. But my mother says that the kahs-wan isn't for another month, so I'm off somewhere. I swear to Zod, I did not step on a butterfly!"

Big Spock is awake doing his log entry when Little Spock sneaks through the courtyard, now dressed in a robe rather than his stripper clothes. He has decided to do the test now, to prove to himself that he can do it later. What a dumbshit. You're going to prove that you're a Vulcan by doing something twice? Please tell me why making more work for yourself is logical. I-Chaya makes some "don't go" noises at him, but he takes off anyway. I-Chaya follows.
"Oh, shit, forgot about that," says Big Spock. "I took off early."
Big Spock follows I-Chaya.

Later, Little Spock turns and admonishes I-Chaya for following him, saying he is "too old and too fat" to follow him. He finally shrugs and keeps going. The shrug is awesome.

Little Spock raises the roof.

Spock's Log: "Headed for the Langon Mountains to prove to myself that I was a strong Vulcan, and not some namby-pamby human."

Amanda calmly informs Sarek that both this new guy and their kid have vanished. Okay, Amanda. I know you're living on Vulcan, among Vulcans, but as both a human, and that kid's mother, you have the right to panic. Amanda says she doesn't think that "Selek" would harm Spock, but their seven-year-old is missing and Sarek responds with, "Yeah, but he's weird. Okie-dokie. I'll alert the authorities" in this even tone that's more suited for saying things like, "Oops, I dropped this bit of tomato on the floor while making dinner. Oh, well, I'll clean it up."


Out in the mountains, Big Spock crests a crag to find that Little Spock has been cornered by this:


I want one of those too!
Big Spock goes running, but here comes I-Chaya to the rescue, because I-Chaya is the shit. There's a battle that's about as epic as one can get with cheap animation, and I-Chaya is felled by the le-matya. Big Spock jumps on the le-matya's back and takes it down with a Vulcan neck pinch.



Little Spock jumps off his rock and hugs the now-upright I-Chaya and thanks Big Spock.
"Mother says I should always say thank you," he says.
That's right, Spock. Because who is the shitty parent? Not Amanda.
"Um, we should GTFO before that thing wakes up," suggests Big Spock.
They leave the le-matya.
As they are walking away, we get down to the crux of the matter: Spock's parents are sending him mixed messages. Sarek wants Spock to be a good little Vulcan, and Amanda wants that too, but it sounds like there's some ambiguity about it.
"You've noticed that she can be emotional, and it embarrasses you, and you worry when you see that in yourself," notes Big Spock. When pressed for the reason why he knows this, Big Spock replies, "There is human blood in my family line also. It is not fatal."
It's kind of a funny line, but I still feel bad for Little Spock.


"So here's the deal," says Big Spock. "Humans and Vulcans have the same set of emotions. Vulcans just control them in ways that humans do not. It brings a kind of serenity to us."
This is as close to "be proud of both of your heritages" as we're gonna get, so I'll take it.
I-Chaya, who has been following them, collapses.
"He is dying from his wounds," says Big Spock. "The le-matya has poisoned claws."
Odd dramatic music... Awkwardly-handled commercial break.

Spock's Log: "Recap from a moment ago."

"Okay, so, he needs a healer," says Big Spock. "He's too big to move, so we have to bring one here."
"I'll do it. I'll run across the desert and get a healer," says Little Spock. "He's my pet, and my responsibility. Please stay with him."
Little Spock takes off.
"This sucks," says Big Spock. "You being wounded wasn't part of the original event," Big Spock tells I-Chaya. He decides to help with the pain, and pinches the sehlat to help him sleep.


We see Little Spock running across the desert at night. The show tries to build some drama by showing us that, up ahead, there's some kind of plant with vines or a tentacle creature that's probably dangerous, but when it grabs Little Spock, he just kind of pushes it away.


Okay, so when Little Spock reaches the healer's house, he explains the situation, and the healer is hesitant. Why? Because apparently, two years earlier, Spock played a practical joke on someone. Star Trek, haven't we talked about this before? About establishing reasons for characters to do things that are completely out of character? In order for Spock to have played a practical joke on someone, he needs to have had a reason to find such a thing amusing. This kid, while confused and emotional, lacks the sardonic humor that Vulcans seem to have. Also, practical jokes are rarely played on someone by one kid. Even when it appears to be the work of a solitary spawn, there are almost always other spawn egging him on it the shadows. And we've already established that Little Spock has no friends except I-Chaya. I find this "practical joke" issue to be bogus.
He finally gets the healer to come with him by saying, "Okay, you heard about that. But have you ever heard that I'm a liar? Because I'm not fucking lying now."




They head back to Big Spock and I-Chaya by way of the healer's hovercraft thing, and the healer examines the sehlat.
Big Spock congratulates Little Spock on making the desert crossing efficiently, and LS explains that he was doing it for I-Chaya, who had apparently been Sarek's pet before his.
"What if he dies?" LS asks.
"He might," says Big Spock. "Death is part of life. It happens to everyone. But we should only mourn when that life is wasted. I-Chaya's life was not wasted."
"So you have a shitty decision to make," says the healer. "I can prolong his life, but it will be painful, because he is past the point where the le-matya antidote will work. Or we can put him down now and allow him to rest."
You're killing me, Star Trek.
Little Spock takes a long pause and a deep breath, and says with conviction,"We shall let him die with peace and dignity."
And he hugs I-Chaya when the healer gives the shot.


Back at home, Little Spock apologizes for "causing trouble" but says that it was "necessary."
"The fuck?" asks Sarek. "How the hell was it necessary?"
"I had to chose the direction that my life would take," he explains, as though he's eighteen and not freaking seven. "I want to follow the Vulcan way of life."
"Okay," says Sarek, who seems relieved that his kid has not chosen to become a Terran freak. "We'll have I-Chaya brought back home from the mountains."
"I have some business to attend to with schoolmates," Little Spock says by way of excusing himself. "My cousin taught me the Vulcan neck pinch."
And that, apparently, is how a Vulcan announces that he is about to kick some ass.



"So that's my cue to go," says Big Spock. "I guess I'm the kind of guy who blows into town, saves a kid from dying in the desert, then leaves just as mysteriously."
"Cool," says Sarek. "You can stay with us again if you come back through here."
"Yeah, probably won't," replies Big Spock. "But do me a favor, and try to understand your kid better."
"That's a weird request, but I'll do it," says Sarek.
Um, yeah, We all know how that turns out, but maybe he gave it the old Vulcan Academy try anyway.

A few moments later, Spock hops out of the Time Vortex, and Kirk asks how it went.
"Fine. Everything is now the same, except... a pet died."
"Psssht, that's nothing," shrugs Kirk, who is a complete asshole.
"Maybe to some," replies Spock.

They beam up, and Bones is waiting for them, admonishing them for screwing around on Orion.
"I'm finishing up crew physicals, and you're next, Spock," he says in irritation. "You know I have to re-calibrate my machinery for a Vulcan?"
"You're in luck," quips Spock. "If things were different, you'd be re-calibrating for an Andorian."
"Is that a joke?" Bones scoffs. "Vulcans don't joke."
See? Bones gets it.
"Times change," Spock answers.
And the E leaves orbit.




So with the exception of the "practical joke" snafu and the hate-filled little dicks that were teasing young Spock, this episode was actually pretty good. Sometimes I think that the writers really don't have the best grasp of what it actually means to be Vulcan, and that's what I typically use to measure out of character moments. But Big Spock's explanations to Little Spock of what it means to be a Vulcan were actually spot-on, so that excuse really doesn't cut it.
What's more important here is the real-world application of understanding one's children and oneself. Amanda understands Spock, but she sometimes sends mixed messages. Sarek doesn't get Spock, but has faith in his abilities to arrive at the correct conclusions. What Little Spock is missing from both is the guidance to achieving the right answer. We know that Spock gets there in the end, but it seems as though much of his journey is done alone. When dealing with his humanity, his choices are to accept, celebrate, or reject that half. He finally decides to accept it, and move forward from there.
Maybe it's because it's Pride Month, and maybe it's because so many of my friends have been engaged in on-going struggles against their parents' idealized versions of themselves, but this episode still rings true as far as that goes, and probably always will. As long as people have children, they will have hopes and dreams for those children that don't match up to what the offspring actually wants. And those same offspring will struggle to figure out how to maintain a relationship with those parents, while remaining true to themselves.
Another bonus here: the death of I-Chaya. Not that it was a good thing, but that it wasn't shied away from, especially after Gene Rod was advised by TV executives that he should.
"No way," he said. "The episode is more poignant with the death of the pet sehlat, and kids are more resilient than you think."
Good on you, Gene Rod. You know who else didn't shy away from that kind of thing? Mister Rogers. And Sesame Street. Both shows were well-aware that if you offer kids information in a straight-forward way, they will understand, even if parts of the process are shrouded in mystery. In this episode, Little Spock learns that he has a friend in I-Chaya, even if his classmates treat him like garbage. Then he gets another lesson when his rash choice to run off got that only friend killed. It is then topped off with Spock having to make the decision to end a friend's suffering over his own happiness. 
Are these tough issues to deal with? Absolutely. But Star Trek didn't tip-toe around them. Could I-Chaya have lived, the way the execs wanted? Yep. But then we would have ended up with a missed opportunity, and Gene Rod would have been "dumbing down" the show for the audience the execs thought Star Trek had. Which he refused to do. TV exces will always insist that shows be dumbed down for kids, which is how we end up with shitty kids' shows. The ones that work on all levels are the ones where dumbing down does not occur. Gene Rod refused to make a dumb show, even if everyone expected the animation and Saturday morning time slot to make it so.


*******

Wendy's has a trio of teas that they mix behind the counter specially (meaning: not available from their fancy new fountain machines). I decided to give the Tropical Green Tea a shot. They're made by the Honest Tea people, and it looks like they brew it at the restaurant. It's pretty good, heavy on the green tea flavor, but light enough that when you drink it, you don't feel weighed down.
I would recommend this more than the fancy fountain, which takes some getting used to in order to figure out how to work the thing. (It isn't super-complicated, but will time you out if you don't make your choice quickly enough.) However, the Honest Teas do cost more than the fountain, because it's considered a specialty drink.







"Play with me, Mo!"
"No, I'm busy."

1 comment:

  1. "Sarek pulls Little Spock aside and tells him that he needs to get his shit together and choose whether he is going to be a Vulcan, or a human with weird ears." I laughed. But it would have been an interesting "what-if" episode, if they had shown a Spock who had chosen the human path. The Spock in the reboot movies kind of feels like he leans more towards that than original Spock ever did.

    I've always hoped they would do an episode where he got turned human for some reason, and how he and everyone else would react to that situation. McCoy's reactions would be great I'd imagine.

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