|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.1 “Amok Time” – (Original air date: Friday, September 15, 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 “Amok Time.”

  • On this date in history: Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” is mercifully finishing up its four-week run at the #1 spot on the Billboard 100. I don’t really care what Billie Joe and his girlfriend threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. This song knocked the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” out of the #1 spot, and that’s the real crime here.
  • Besides, I always assumed it was a baby.
  • In the UK, Engelbert Humperdinck ruled the radio waves with “The Last Waltz.”
  • Pop culture events that happened around this date include the birth of Harry Connick Jr., the jazz musician and actor, on September 11, and of comedian Louis CK on September 12,
  • Two days after this episode aired, on Sunday, September 17, two important televised musical performances occurred. The Doors performed “Light My Fire” on The Ed Sullivan Show, with Jim Morrison famously refusing to alter the lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better,” earning a permanent ban from the show; and, The Who performed “My Generation” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (on CBS, like Sullivan), setting off an explosive that injured Keith Moon and made Pete Townshend permanently deaf in one ear.
  • This is the first TOS episode of the second season, marking the move from Thursday nights to Fridays.
  • It’s the second episode written by science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon. With “Amok Time,” I feel that Sturgeon redeemed himself for “Shore Leave.”
  • This was an important episode in establishing the Vulcan culture. In addition to presenting the concept of pon farr, it also had the first use of the Vulcan salute and the words “live long and prosper.” The episode also helped establish the setting of the planet Vulcan itself.
  • In the teaser, Dr. McCoy asks Kirk if he’s noticed anything strange about Mr. Spock. He’s become increasingly restive. McCoy would describe him as “nervous” if he wasn’t a Vulcan.
  • Nurse Chapel comes by with food on a tray. McCoy remarks that it’s Vulcan plomeek soup. He also adds: “You never give up hoping, do you?”
  • Plomeek soup or broth shows up again in several Trek series. Since Vulcans are vegetarians, it’s safe to assume that plomeek is some type of plant indigenous to Vulcan. I’ve always thought of it as a type of vegetable broth, which exists in both bland and spicy varieties.
  • McCoy’s “you never give up” comment refers to Chapel’s romantic crush on Mr. Spock, which first appeared in season one’s “The Naked Time” when she was experiencing polywater intoxication. The remark seems heartless, at best, and sexist, at worst.
  • Mr. Spock hasn’t been eating, and she just happened to notice. She takes the plomeek soup to Spock’s quarters.
  • After Nurse Chapel enters Spock’s quarters, McCoy tells Kirk that, when he suggested that Spock should get a physical, the unemotional first-officer told him that McCoy would cease prying into his personal affairs or Spock would certainly break his neck.
  • Immediately following this bombshell, Chapel rushes out of Spock’s quarters and the bowl of plomeek soup crashes against the far corridor wall.
  • Poking and prying!” an enraged Spock says. “If I want anything from you, I’ll ask for it!” Nurse Chapel’s feelings are not reciprocated.
  • Spock joins McCoy and Kirk in the corridor and asks the captain for a temporary leave to the planet Vulcan. He’s even short-tempered during his request.
  • Spock is exceedingly grumpy. I get it. End of teaser.
  • A quick aside: at some point, Spock was promoted from lieutenant-commander to commander rank. I think this is the first episode where he is obviously a commander.
  • Kirk is inclined to grant Spock his leave. But, he receives orders from Starfleet that the plans for inauguration ceremonies on Altair VI have been moved up seven days, so they no longer have time to make the detour to Vulcan beforehand.
  • Kirk gives his apologies to Spock and promises he’ll get his leave as soon as they are finished. Spock says that he understands.
  • Later, in his quarters, Kirk seems to be having second thoughts. He contacts Chekov and asks how late they will be arriving at Altair VI if they increase speed to maximum and divert to Vulcan just long enough to drop Spock off.
  • Chekov doesn’t understand the question. The Enterprise is already on course for Vulcan. Just as Mr. Spock ordered.
  • Kirk confronts his first officer about the unauthorized course change. Spock doesn’t deny doing it, but says he does not remember giving the order. Spock asks the captain to lock him away. He does not wish to be seen in his current state.
  • Kirk orders him to report to sickbay.
  • McCoy has been ordered to give Spock a thorough physical.
  • A brief bridge scene follows, with some witty banter between Sulu and Chekov discussing how their course keeps changing from Vulcan to Altair VI and back.
  • A related aside: Chekov has been wearing a wig since the season started, while his own hair was growing out. The showrunners were going for that Davy Jones/Beatles mop-top look with Chekov, but Walter Koenig’s hair wasn’t long enough.
  • After McCoy gets the results of Spock’s physical, he tells Kirk that they have to get Spock to Vulcan within the next eight days, or he will certainly die. There’s a growing imbalance in Spock’s body functions, analogous to huge amounts of adrenalin being pumped into the human bloodstream. Spock won’t share what the cause is, but if it isn’t stopped somehow, the physical and emotional pressures will kill him.
  • McCoy says Spock knows what’s going on, but “he’s as tightlipped about it as an Aldebaran Shellmouth.” I believe this is our one and only mention of the Alderbaran Shellmouth, but I’ve always imagined they were delicious with a little hot sauce and horseradish.
  • This seems like a good place for an act break. End of Act One.
  • Use Aer-O-Wax Floor Wax for wall to wall plastic shine, wall to wall plastic protection. Visine is the modern eye drop that gets the red out. Andy Griffith recommends Birds Eye green peas and sautéed mushrooms. “They’re goo-ood!”
  • Spock is staring at a picture of a young Vulcan girl on his computer monitor, but turns it off when Kirk enters his quarters.
  • As Act Two begins, Spock finally spills the beans about pon farr, even after telling Kirk it’s something that can’t be shared with outworlders. It seems Vulcans are driven to mate much like the salmon on Earth—or, for that matter, the giant eel-birds of Regulus V—and during this time, when they are effectively in heat, they lose their freakin’ minds.
  • I’ve paraphrased a little.
  • Spock doesn’t say it occurs every seven years here. I’m not sure if it’s mentioned in this episode or not, but that was my understanding of pon farr.
  • Kirk defies Admiral Komack‘s orders and lays in a course to Vulcan again instead of heading straight for Altair VI. He’s willing to risk his career for his friend.
  • Nurse Chapel visits Spock in his quarters again to tell him they are heading for Vulcan. Spock attempts to make up for his previous rude behavior by asking her to make more plomeek soup for him. Nurse Chapel is thrilled to do so.
  • He threw the last bowl at her, if you will recall. Now he’s telling her to get back to the kitchen and make some more. Such a gentleman.
  • As the ship approaches Vulcan, Spock tells Kirk and McCoy that there is a brief ceremony on the planet surface. By tradition, the male Vulcan is accompanied by his closest friends. He wants Kirk and McCoy with him.
  • On the bridge, after obtaining permission to assume standard orbit around the planet, a beautiful Vulcan woman appears on the viewscreen.
  • Spock says, “T’Pring, parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place.”
  • Uhura says that she’s lovely and asks Spock who she is.
  • Spock: “She is T’Pring. My wife.”
  • This shocks everyone. Especially Nurse Christine Chapel. End Act Two.
  • As Act Three begins, we get our first look ever at the planet Vulcan. I’ve mentioned before that I’m watching the remastered episodes for this project. I know that the establishing shot of the meeting place here is a CGI addition, but it looks great.
  • Turns out that Spock calling T’Pring his “wife” was just dramatic overstatement. They haven’t seen each other since they were seven years old, when they were ritually betrothed to one another. In human terms, they’ve just been engaged since then.
  • Kirk and McCoy are here, we think, to witness the actual marriage ritual. It is called the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. The female Vulcan presiding over the ritual is T’Pau, one of the most famous and respected Vulcans alive, and the only person to turn down a seat in the Federation Council.
  • But, of course, the ceremony is not destined to go smoothly. T’Pring announces that she doesn’t want to marry Spock and invokes the kal-if-fee, in which Spock will have to fight for her.
  • With Spock deep in plak-tow, the blood fever, Kirk is unable to speak to him. T’Pau gives Kirk and McCoy the opportunity to leave now if they choose not to stay for the challenge ceremony. Kirk chooses to stay, of course.
  • And then is chosen by T’Pring to be her champion. Which means he has to fight Spock for the right to marry T’Pring.
  • That’s seriously messed up. Spock is better off without this conniving, backstabbing wench.
  • The male Vulcan named Stonn objects to T’Pring’s choice of champion. Of course, he’s the one T’Pring really wants to marry, not that halfbreed Spock. Kirk and McCoy figure that out, and, thinking Spock will be too weak in his current state to defeat Stonn, Kirk accepts the challenge. The reasoning is that, if he refused the challenge, T’Pring would then choose Stonn.
  • Only after accepting the role of T’Pring’s champion is Kirk informed that this is to be a fight to the death. Dunh-dun-Dunnnnh!
  • Here we get an Act Four. Kirk and Spock begin their combat using lirpas, a melee weapon with a half-moon blade at one end and a weighted club, a counterweight, at the other. Spock goes on the offensive slicing Kirk’s tunic and lacerating his captain’s chest. Kirk somehow manages to avoid a killing blow and disarms his first officer.
  • The combat is temporarily halted.
  • McCoy complains that the Vulcan air is too hot and thin for Kirk. He asks T’Pau’s permission to inject the captain with a tri-ox compound to help compensate for the atmosphere and temperature. T’Pau grants this.
  • The battle continues with something called the ahn woon. These are leather straps with metal balls at the end. Spock demonstrates how to use the weapon by quickly incapacitating Kirk and then strangling him to death.
  • McCoy pronounces Kirk dead and then asks Spock, who’s now in command, what his orders are. Spock says to return with Kirk’s body to the Enterprise and he will follow shortly. He also says to have Chekov plot a course to the nearest Starbase where Spock will surrender himself to the authorities.
  • Before he leaves, Spock asks T’Pring why she has been such a heartless bitch.
  • I’m paraphrasing a bit.
  • Long story, short. She wanted Stonn, not Spock.
  • Even though T’Pring is now Spock’s by right, he doesn’t want her. He gives her to Stonn, with the warning that having her may not be as pleasant as wanting her. Sick burn.
  • T’Pau tells Spock to live long and prosper, but he says he will do neither. He has killed his captain and his friend. Aww. Poor Spockie.
  • Back on the ship, in sickbay, Spock tells McCoy that he will resign his commission immediately, of course. McCoy keeps trying to interrupt, to tell him something important, but Spock won’t allow him to speak. He says he will offer no defense for the crime he has committed and that he will order Mr. Scott to take immediate command of this vessel.
  • Kirk enters the room, saying “Don’t you think you better check with me first?”
  • Captain!” Spock exclaims, a huge cheese-eating grin on his face. “Jim!”
  • The grin disappears quickly as Spock realizes he’s allowed too much emotion to reveal itself on his face.
  • Kirk explains that McCoy injected him with a neural paralyzer, not a tri-ox compound. McCoy managed to fool everyone by simulating Kirk’s death. That Bones McCoy is a wily ol’ country doctor.
  • As a result, Spock didn’t get married. It seems that murdering your best friend completely negates the effects of pon farr. Spock is no longer experiencing the genetic drive to mate.
  • That doesn’t seem right, somehow. But, it happened just now, so it’s canon.
  • Very quickly, we learn, via a communication from Admiral Komack, that Kirk isn’t in trouble for disobeying orders because T’Pau put in a request for Kirk to make a detour to Vulcan. Komack couldn’t turn down T’Pau.
  • Our customary bantering outro is conducted from sickbay in this episode.

In case you have any doubts, this is another one for my All-Time Best Trek list. A solid 4 out of 5 star outing, and a great jumping off point for Season Two.

This is the first Trek episode that begins to give Spock a deeper backstory, both personally and culturally. Much of what we eventually learn about Vulcans, as a race of people, builds upon this foundation.

Thank you for this, Theodore Sturgeon. Live long and prosper. Okay, Sturgeon’s really dead, so that’s probably not appropriate.

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