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Friday, February 22, 2019

Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 19. "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"

A spaceship appears over Omaha, Nebraska in current day U.S. (1960s). The ship is the Enterprise.

Near Starbase 9, a black star's gravity had pulled their ship in, but when they broke away at max warp speed, they ended up here without warp capabilities. The U.S. scrambles a jet to investigate. The Enterprise hear the pilot commanded to force the ship down until other jets arrive, forcing Enterprise to use a tractor beam even though it would break up the plane, so Kirk beams the pilot aboard to spare his life.

Analysis with spoilers:
When the Enterprise goes back in time and they discover when they are, there is a hilarious, poignant, and meta joke quote (see the exchange below) about the Enterprise crew being in the late 1960s, which they are in and out of this story. These lines do for the actors what they should do on the audience: remind them that they are both in the future and in their own present, help them to stand outside their own time period and its preoccupations.

The American pilot, Captain John Christopher [a nod to Christopher Columbus? more likely to the British SF, Nebula-nominated, Guardian-prize children's writer, John Christopher, the pen name for Christopher Samuel Youd] is beamed aboard. Kirk speaks to Christopher with his face almost all in shadow except his eyes, perhaps mirroring Christopher's knowledge of Kirk and the Enterprise. There will be another scene below where Kirk speaks in shadow, but not as much.

Christopher is surprised to see a woman on the ship (cue: sexy music). At the time, women served in the military as air traffic controllers, clerks, intelligence officers, nurses, and physicians.

The pilot states he didn't believe in little green men and immediately meets pointy eared Spock who also states he doesn't believe in them (cue: humorous music).

Captain Kirk tells the pilot that the spaceship is from the future. Spock joins in to say the pilot has learned too much and cannot be returned to Earth or the pilot might alter the future. (If that's the case, Kirk should have kept his mouth shut--with Spock's aid. Or better, beam the guy off his own plane and back down to his own planet. But then there wouldn't be a story.)

The pilot argues that removing him from Earth would change the future. Spock shakes his head. Christopher is too unimportant or has made an "irrelevant contribution"--a blunt if unkind summation of one's life. Scotty reports that they too cannot go home, having nowhere to go (no Federation yet).

The pilot attempts to escape and force himself to be beamed to Earth. Captain Kirk stops this with a punch that knocks the pilot out.

Spock learns that Captain Christopher will have a son, Shaun Geoffrey who fly out to Saturn, so Christopher must be returned to Earth. The Earth captain says he doesn't have a son. (cue: humorous music) "Yet," they admonish the pilot. Sly grins.

Two more problems: There are records of Captain Christopher's flight proving the Enterprise's existence. Also, the Enterprise still lack a way to get back to their own time. Maybe, Spock suggests, they could reverse the process that got them there. (Surely, considering how useful this option always is, this should be at the top of every list.)

So Kirk and Sulu beam down to retrieve Earth's records of their existence. However, they are caught by a security guard. They hand over their equipment, presumably triggering an emergency signal that causes the guard to be beamed aboard the Enterprise, complicating time paradoxes further. Meanwhile, Kirk and Sulu search for and grab recorded evidence, but they've triggered an alarm bringing three more guards in. To give Sulu time to finish up, Kirk has his typical brawl (with some laughably bad leaps at Kirk) before he's apprehended. Sulu has disappeared.

Only Captain Christopher knows where to beam to get Kirk from Security. This doesn't make sense if the Enterprise can sense life and its own equipment. Nonetheless, Spock bows to Christopher's demands though he admits he trusts Christopher only so far.

The away team subdues the security guards holding Kirk, but Christopher uses the commotion to nab a security guard's gun and demand to be left on Earth to be with his family. Now Kirk speaks to Christopher in partial shadow (just the top of the head this time), so Christopher understands Kirk less than he thinks he does--not recognizing that Spock would circle around to pinch him unconscious and not seeing that Kirk and Spock's plan is better for all humanity although they don't reveal their plan until later. Perhaps they could have prevented this if they'd told their plan to begin with so Christopher might have been less anxious about getting back.

Now the Enterprise will slingshot around the sun which will send the Enterprise far enough into the past that they can beam the Earthlings they have on board and it will be as if they never knew they'd been off the planet.

Problem #1: How do they go backward in time for a little bit and then start going forward? What triggers this change?

Problem #2: If it's so easy to time travel at this technology level, why isn't happening more often?

Problem #3: If all they needed to do was travel back in time and beam Christopher back in his old cockpit, why didn't they do that instead of going down to the base? If they were trying to correct alternate universes, that doesn't seem to align with their thinking they can transport Christopher back.

Problem #4: Why won't Christopher and the security guard remember what they've experienced if everyone else on the Enterprise does?

Problem #5: If they replace Christopher and the guard, where do the replaced bodies go? What happened to the Enterprise that was there? Did their travel in time erase the crew's past? If so, why is Kirk so relieved to be home?

This episode is fun if you don't peek at the man behind the curtain.
  1. Kirk: "Manned moon shot? That was in the late 1960s."
    Spock: "Apparently, Captain, so are we."
  2. Captain Christopher: "Too bad, Captain. Maybe I can't go home, but neither can you. You're as much a prisoner in time as I am."
    1. The Enterprise computer has been given a sexy female computer voice. The ship has no programmer on board to repair it.
    2. An overly convoluted time paradox Gordian knot, which could have been solved by cutting through the knot.
    3. The Federation's fleet has a total of twelve ships like the Enterprise.

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