|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season One: Ep. 1.19 “Tomorrow is Yesterday” – (Original air date: Thursday, January 26, 1967)


Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Tomorrow is Yesterday.”

  • On this day in history – This is just tragic timing, but the Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed the day after this episode aired, when a fire broke out in their spacecraft during a launch pad test. Unfortunately, their historic flight was alluded to in the episode, which, in an alternate history, would have been the first manned mission to the moon.
  • On that same Friday, January 27, 1967, the US, USSR and UK sign the Outer Space Treaty prohibiting weapons of mass destruction from space.
  • Tomorrow is Yesterday” is an episode that I know I’ve watched before, but not as often as some of the others. Maybe it wasn’t in as heavy rotation as “Miri” or “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
  • This is another TOS time travel show, taking the Enterprise crew back to the late 1960s, which was, conveniently, when this series was being filmed.
  • Ironically, this series itself is like a time machine, taking all of us back to the 1960s. That’s as philosophical as I’m likely to get today, folks.
  • This episode opens as an Air Force radar technician notices a blip over their Omaha installation. It’s a UFO. Stock footage of a jet taking off follows, a quick shot that reveals that the UFO is the USS Enterprise, and that’s the end of our teaser.
  • It seems that I’m frequently reminded of Twilight Zone while watching these old episodes. This one reminds me of that TZ episode about the pilot who goes to the future, from WWI, I think. Same thing here, only the opposite.
  • Ping, ping, ping, ping. Shatner monologue, boldly going and so forth, strange theme music and opening credits.
  • Remember way back in May, this year, when we talked about the episode “The Naked Time”? Remember when our heroes discovered a secret formula for time travel involving a cold restart implosion? I’ll bet that’s how our favorite Federation starship found itself in the past this time. Don’t you agree?
  • We would lose that bet. It seems the Enterprise was en route to Starbase 9 when they got sucked into the gravity well of a “black star.” They had to use all their warp power to pull away from the star, but “like snapping a rubber band” they were sent hurtling through space out of control. As Act One begins, they aren’t sure where they are, let alone when.
  • At first I thought “black star” was being used instead of the more familiar “black hole.” As it turns out, a black star is a theoretical star built using semiclassical gravity as an alternative to a black hole. This according to a quick Google search. Also, Saturn was referred to as “Black Star” in ancient Judaic belief, and “Blackstar” was the title of David Bowie’s final album.
  • So, Kirk’s Enterprise crew learns a second method of time travel, accidentally.
  • Everyone is dazed, but there are only minor casualties. Warp engines are non-operating, and the helm is sluggish, according to Sulu.
  • Uhura can raise nothing on normal Starfleet channels, but she’s picking up another frequency.
  • Here is where we hear the news about the first manned Moon shot, which Kirk says was in the late ’60s. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be true, as I mentioned earlier.
  • Spock reports some type of craft approaching from below them. He’s wearing one of those stainless steel honey spoons in his ear again.
  • This is the USAF jet. The pilot describes the starship as it climbs in the atmosphere very fast.
  • Kirk orders Scotty to lock a tractor beam on the aircraft and hold it out there.
  • Spock warns that this type of aircraft might be too fragile to take the tractor beam. Of course, our favorite Vulcan Starfleet officer is correct. The aircraft breaks up and the pilot is beamed aboard the Enterprise.
  • Kirk greets the pilot in the transporter room. The pilot gives name, rank and serial number. He’s Captain John Christopher. Never mind the serial number.
  • Kirk is careful not to give Capt. Christopher too much information about the future. You know, so as not to corrupt the timeline. Then, he allows the jet pilot to come with him to the bridge, when the proper thing to do for everyone’s sake would have been to knock out the pilot with a sedative until they could decide what to do with him.
  • Christopher asks Kirk if they are part of the Navy. Kirk says they are a combined service, and that their authority is the United Earth Space Probe Agency.
  • While the UESPA is referenced in Trek series and movies going forward, most of this is serious retconning. The UESPA was one of several names given in early episodes for the agency governing the Enterprise and its crew before writers finally settled on “Starfleet.” It can all be very confusing, and you can find a lot of chatter about it on the Internet, if you are so inclined. I’m whistling past it.
  • Kirk tells Christopher that they’re from the future and then he introduces him to Mr. Spock. Kirk doesn’t act like a man who’s worried about the timeline.
  • Spock announces that he’s run a computer check on all historical “tapes” concerning Captain Christopher. He announces that they show no record of any relevant contribution by John Christopher. This is pretty cold, Spock.
  • Kirk explains that they can’t take the risk of Christopher reporting what he’s seen. Christopher says that he has a wife and two children; what about them?
  • Scotty reports that the engines should be repaired in about four hours. But, he points out, they have no where to go in this time.
  • Christopher takes a moment to gloat. Maybe he can’t go home, but it looks like his captors can’t go home either. End of Act One.
  • Later, Spock contacts Kirk and says he has new info regarding Capt. Christopher. Kirk tries to contract Christopher and discovers that he’s trying to escape. Kirk goes to the transporter, easily disarms Christopher and knocks him out.
  • In sickbay, McCoy asks what Kirk plans to do. Are they just going to sit there and wait for the eventuality of their supplies running out and power dying? Good question, Bones.
  • Kirk says if they take Christopher back to their time, he’d be useless. Archaic. Which also seems to be a harsh assessment. Is Kirk saying that the man, who is bright enough to pilot a jet aircraft, couldn’t be trained to live in the future?
  • Spock joins them and admits that he made an error in his computations. Capt. Christopher’s son, Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher is destined to head the first Earth-Saturn probe, which is a rather significant contribution.
  • Of course, Christopher doesn’t have a son yet. His two children are therefore, by deduction, girls.
  • Spock says that Capt. Christopher must be returned to Earth, so that he can have a son.
  • Capt. Christopher is cooperating with them now. Spock has tracked the plane wreckage to south Nebraska. Christopher had turned on his wing cameras, though. He says that Air Defense Command will process the film quickly, and that they probably have recordings of his radio transmissions as well
  • Kirk says they have to go down and get those reports and photos, so that there will be no evidence to support him if Capt. Christopher feels duty bound to report what he saw.
  • Christopher wants to go down with them, but Kirk says they can’t risk him possibly getting hurt and upsetting the timeline. To help them, the Air Force captain sketches a layout of the place for them instead, showing them where to find the records section and photo lab.
  • By the way, Spock mentioned that he has a theory on how to get them back to their own time. He’s working on the computations. I bet it’ll work.
  • Kirk and Sulu beam into the Air Force base. It’s the 498th Airbase Group.
  • They break into “Statistical Services,” commenting on the primitive computers as they are stealing the tapes. They are caught by a Security Police sergeant, who makes them hand over their belts and bag. Then the soldier is beamed up to the ship after opening one of the communicators.
  • Whimsical music plays as the sergeant stands on the transporter pad, frozen in fear and shock.
  • Kirk tells Spock to keep their new visitor in the transporter room as Act 3 begins. Then he and Sulu go and steal the recently developed movie film from a darkroom. Of course, they set off silent alarms.
  • They’re not very good at this. Just sayin’.
  • There’s the obligatory brawl with some security officers. Kirk is caught, but Sulu manages to beam back to the ship with all of the “evidence.”
  • Back on the ship, Scotty says that the warp engines are ready for re-firing.
  • Down on the surface, Kirk is being interrogated. One officer threatens to lock him up for 200 years. The whimsical music plays again as Kirk says, “That ought to be just about right.”
  • You see, Kirk is from about 200 years into the future, from the late 1960s perspective.
  • Capt. Christopher insists on beaming down with the rescue party, which is Sulu and Mr. Spock. Only Spock and Sulu will have weapons, phasers set on “heavy stun force.”
  • The security officer beamed up earlier remains stunned in the transporter room. The transporter technician gets him some chicken soup from a food dispenser we’ve never seen before or since in the transporter room.
  • Kirk is rescued, of course. But, Capt. Christopher has other plans. He gets one of the guard’s gun and refuses to beam back up with the Enterprise crew. Time for an act break.
  • Winston tastes good like a cigarette should. Softens your hands while you do the dishes. You’re soaking in it.
  • Back for Act 4. Spock takes out Capt. Christopher with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Then all four officers beam back to the ship.
  • The Enterprise does a slingshot maneuver around the sun. Ship chronometers begin to go backward as they approach the sun, then forward again as they head back towards Earth.
  • Capt. Christopher and the security sergeant are somehow beamed back to their relative times and positions while the ship is still hurtling through space. Christopher is beamed back into the cockpit of his fighter jet prior to it being torn apart by the tractor beam. The sergeant is placed back on the base, where there is now no reason for Kirk and Sulu to have been there.
  • I’m a little fuzzy on how this works. I thought using the transporter while moving at warp speed wasn’t something that was done. At least not back in Kirk’s time. Plus, in order to transport Christopher back to his jet before it was caught in the tractor beam, wouldn’t his earlier self already be in the cockpit? Are versions of Captain Christopher from two different times somehow merged into one? Similarly, you would think the airbase sergeant would also run into the earlier version of himself.
  • Time travel gets complicated.
  • What is that you’re saying? I should just accept this and move on? Done.
  • The Enterprise begins braking as it nears their century. Somehow, they get it right and don’t overshoot their mark. Plus, the bridge crew gets to do a lot of leaning to indicate a bumpy ride. The Enterprise is home.

I like this episode. The story itself doesn’t seem so fresh fifty years later, although I’m sure it seemed more so in 1967. We’ve seen variations on this same story on different series over the years. I’ve mentioned before that I’m curiously drawn to time travel stories, and this one has some logical flaws, especially in the concluding sequences, that nag at me but don’t really lessen my enjoyment of the episode.

I like the notion of trying to protect the timeline. I like time travel as a possible explanation for UFO sightings. I even like the heist aspects of this episode as Kirk and Sulu botch their stealth mission onto the Air Force base.

This episode earns 3.5 out of 5 stars from this reviewer. Not quite on the All-Time Best Trek list, but a good episode anyway.

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