In the twenty-third and penultimate episode of the third season of Star Trek, Spock, Bones, and Kirk arrive on a planet to help evacuate residents in advance of a star going supernova, and THERE IS NO WAY I WAS EVER GOING TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
HOLY SHIT, THIS WAS SO GREAT. There’s just so much potential here in “All Our Yesterdays,” and I don’t mean that to suggest that this is disappointing. It’s not! Rather, the worldbuilding in this episode alone made me want so much more. The idea of a society preventing their extinction by TRAVELING TO THE PAST makes my brain hurt and it’s so beautiful. Through this ingenious premise, this show fucks me up.
Despite that I’ve got a ton of movies and four full series to watch, this particular episode made me sad about the end of this journey. This is why Star Trek has been such a compelling show for millions upon millions of people. It can be a vehicle for social commentary at times, and it can take us to fantastical places. Somehow, this episode feels like the best of the best. It’s emotional (MORE EMOTIONAL THAN I WAS READY TO HANDLE), it’s suspenseful, and it packs one hell of a punch, all within this incredible sci-fi setting.
But let me start first with the premise of “All Our Yesterdays” before I turn into a puddle of feelings about Spock. The writers don’t go too far with the time travel aspect of this episode, and I appreciate that. This is one of those cases where I found it far more interesting when the show just let our imagination handle most of the work. All we know of Sarpeidon (WHICH WAS A REALLY DISTRACTING NAME IF YOU HAVE PLAYED THE NEWEST BORDERLANDS GAME, OH MY GOD) is that the planet is about to be wiped out of existence by a star going nova. And I think that was a brilliant choice, as it adds to the weirdness and the surreal nature of what these characters go through. The only exposure to this world is through the Library, Mr. Atoz, and the two glimpses of the past. Yes, the show did that thing again where they just made it look like Earth, and that’s incredibly lazy. In this case (as with another trope), I was willing to forgive this because the story itself was so exciting. Sticking Spock/Bones and Kirk in two vastly different moments of Sarpeidon’s history was ridiculous, and I was UTTERLY IN SUPPORT OF THIS.
That’s because this surprised me. In most other episodes, Kirk would have been given the “love” story, and Spock would have been in the scenes where he used logic to convince the Constable to help them. But Jean Lisette Aroeste’s script swaps the expected roles for both of these men, and the result is electrifying. Admittedly, I think Spock and Bones’ roles are WAY more interesting, but I loved getting the chance to see both parties discover the possibility that they were permanently stuck in time. I loved seeing how they reacted. I loved that this episode more or less poked fun at Kirk’s need to rescue damsels in distress. (Seriously, none of this would have happened if Kirk hadn’t bolted through the portal after hearing someone scream.) And I did find Kirk’s interactions with the Constable to be pretty damn fun. While he’s not a terribly detailed character, the episode helped me to understand why the Constable wouldn’t bother returning to the past.
I felt that dynamic was necessary as a foil to what happened to Zarabeth. The more I think about Zarabeth’s fate, THE SADDER I GET. This woman was sentenced to a life of loneliness in a place where her loneliness would be guaranteed. But not her death! No, her crime for merely associating with the wrong people was a trip to Sarpeidon’s Ice Age, complete with all the supplies necessary to survive. THAT IS SO FUCKED UP, Y’ALL. Zor-Kahn wanted to ensure that she was alive for a long time, just so she could suffer.
In that sense, I think that this episode is ultimately fairly sympathetic towards Zarabeth. It doesn’t excuse her for lying to Spock and Bones, and Bones gets a chance to criticize her for risking their lives, all in the hope that she might not be lonely anymore. Which is an understandable thing for her to do! I can’t even fathom this kind of solitude, and Zarabeth survived it for YEARS. Hell, who knows how long she’s been stuck in that Ice Age WITHOUT A SINGLE PERSON TO TALK TO?
And yet, it’s Leonard Nimoy who steals the show, and this might be my favorite performance of his. I have no real idea how the upcoming movies (NEXT WEEK OH MY GOD) function within this universe, but I’m so sad that my time with Leonard Nimoy as Spock is coming to an end. Look what he does here! Look what this script ALLOWS him to do! By establishing the concept of “preparation” – that a person’s body must be prepared on an atomic level to specific periods of Sarpeidon’s past – we get a chance to see Spock decompose, returning to a form of his species that wasn’t committed to logic or shunning emotion. That includes one of the most horrifying scenes in the entire show: Spock getting angry. After Bones levels a fairly common Vulcan insult on Spock, Spock reacts in fury, and it’s so horrifically alien and bizarre and I AM NEVER GOING TO BE OKAY. Look, I have complained a lot about how this show relies on the idea of instantaneous love as a plot point. How many times in this season alone has Kirk been given a story like this? However, this episode contains perhaps the only use of this trope that doesn’t rub me the wrong way. After spending his life without ever expressing his human side, Spock de-evolves, and it all comes spilling out of him. Anger, jealousy, rage, and violence. These are things we’ve almost never seen from this character, and now he’s going through all of them, one after another.
Is this stretched beyond believability? A little bit, I think. But the story itself is so fascinating because it gives the audience the chance to see something else in Spock. It’s a rare opportunity, and it’s one I appreciate greatly. Gah, how am I about to be done with this show? THIS SNUCK UP ON ME OUT OF NOWHERE.
The video for “All Our Yesterdays” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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