All Our Yesterdays
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
14 Mar 1969
Season Ep :
Spock tells Zarabeth that he comes from a world "millions of light years away". Our galaxy is no more than a hundred thousand light years from end to end, and Spock has previously demonstrated amazement at the thought of intergalactic travel in anything less than millennia. He can't be millions of light years from home.
When Zarabeth offers Spock meat to eat, she comments that there is "not much else to eat around here," which Spock thinks is perfectly reasonable. One hesitates to speculate on the nature of an alien biology, but it really should be impossible for animals to comprise most of the food. After all, what are all these animals eating? The base of any ecology should be a mass of plant life, with animals comprising significantly less mass. One might speculate that this isn't true on Sarpeidon, or that the plantlife is inedible to the natives but not to the animals, but it seems odd that Spock would so readily agree to the idea.
Body Count :
Writer Gene Lysette Aroeste was a librarian at UCLA when she wrote her first Star Trek episode.
The interior of the Enterprise is never seen in this episode.
The planet Sarpeidon is due to be destroyed when its sun Beta Niobe goes supernova. The Enterprise arrives to investigate, but finds that the inhabitants of the local civilisation have all vanished. Since they lakced space flight capability this is a significant mystery. On beaming down, Kirk finds himself in a library manned by the mysterious Mr Atoz. Atoz usas a machine called the Atavachron to throw the Enterprise officers into the distant past; Kirk to an era similar in technology to Earth's middle ages, Spock and McCoy to a much more distant ice age past where they encounter a single resident, Zarabeth. It becomes apparent that the Sarpeidons had an andvanced time travel technology, which they have used to send their entire population into the past. Zarabeth was sent to a desolate time by a tyrannical leader named Zor Kahn as punishment when two of her kinsmen attempted to assassinate him.
Spock finds himself having greater and greater difficulty in controlling his emotions, apparently reverting to a more primitive state of mind to match his surroundings. Meanwhile Kirk desperately searches for a way to return to the future. He is eventually successful with the help of a local inhabitant who has escaped to this time through the Atavachron, and helps Spock and McCoy to trturn in turn. Together the officers manage to escape the library and depart on the Enterprise just as the supernova blows.
A potentially interesting idea, this episode is let down by several silly touches. It's intriguing to see a civilisation which is capable of routine time travel, yet so apparently unconcerned with altering the timeline - no matter how careful people are once they arrive at their destination, sending what must presumably be a civilisation of millions if not billions back in time must surely guarantee massive disruption to history. Perhaps they take the view that the disrupted history is the way things are actually "supposed" to happen - in general Trek plotlines involving time travel tend to break down if subjected to more than passing scrutiny, and in any case analysis frequently depends on which one of several models of time travel are adopted.
Where the episode falls down most is in the idea of Spock "reverting" due his presence in the past. There's no inherent reason why this should be so - your mental state is a product of the time you live in to an extent, but only in that your culture tends to influence your formative experiences and so produce inherent biases. This episode seems to claim that cave men were cave men not because they hadn't advanced any further yet, but rather because there is something about the year 1 million BC that just made people act like cave men - patent nonsense.
About the only way to excuse it is to claim that the atavachron was able to scan Spock, determine what his people were like some thousands of years ago, and reprogram his brain somehow to make him more like that - possibly a mechanism built in to make people fit in better with the eras they had chosen to escape to. But whilst that's just vaguely within the realms of possibility, you have to wonder why McCoy doesn't spend his time wanting to go out hunting mammoths if this is the case!
It's also rather strange that Sarpeidon's past so closely resembles Earth's past. Look at the time Kirk is in - they have the same clothing, same manner of speaking, similar architecture, even witch trials! I know Trek has dipped the "same as Earth" idea many times, but here they don't even try to offer any excuse.
Sending criminals into the distant past is an interesting idea, I must admit. You have to think that the authorities are very careful about it though - send too many political opponents to one spot and they could found an entire society dedicated to assassinating you when are finally born!