|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.10 “Journey to Babel” – (Original air date: Friday, November 17, 1967)

TrekJourneytoBabel

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 “Journey to Babel.”

  • On this date in history, the song “To Sir with Love,” by Lulu, still rules the US charts. Over in the UK, The Foundations’ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” still reigns supreme.
  • The #1 song on the US R&B Charts is “Soul Man,” by Sam & Dave. This was Sam Moore and David Prater. Except for Aretha Franklin, no other act had as much success on the R&B charts during Sam & Dave’s Stax years (1965-1968). Sam & Dave would go on to win a gold record and an R&B Grammy for the tune.
  • I sang it in the shower this morning.
  • Soul Man” is #2 behind “To Sir with Love” on the regular charts. Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” rides close behind at #3. Another good music week.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson holds a press conference on this date and says we’re doing well in Vietnam. This isn’t exactly the truth, but LBJ may not have known this at the time.
  • Or he may have. People lie.
  • The previous Monday, on November 13, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmell was born. He used to be the cohost on Win Ben Stein’s Money in the late 1990s, and was also cohost on The Man Show, with Adam Corolla, in the early 2000s. He also used to date Sarah Silverman. He’s done all right for himself.
  • Journey to Babel” is one of the TOS episodes that made my 10-List: Essential Star Trek Original Series Episodes. I will explain why in a minute.
  • During the teaser, the USS Enterprise is in orbit around the planet Vulcan. They are picking up the Vulcan delegates to add to the 114 ambassadors and dignitaries already on board. Starfleet is ferrying this esteemed group to a planetoid known as Babel, where there will be an interplanetary conference to consider the petition of Coridan to be admitted to the Federation.
  • Coridan is apparently rich in dilithium. But, several of the races on board the ship have laid claim to the Coridan planets, which means not everyone wants the system admitted to the Federation. Ooooh. Political drama. I bet George Lucas liked this episode.
  • We get to see Kirk, Spock and McCoy in full dress uniform in this sequence as well. Snazzy.
  • The Vulcan ambassador, Sarek, comes on board with his human wife, Amanda Grayson. Kirk offers to have Spock give them a tour of the ship, but Sarek asks, rather rudely if you ask me, if someone else can give them the tour.
  • Sensing that his First Officer has been soundly dissed, Kirk suggests that Spock may want to go planetside to visit with his parents. He has all of two hours before they’re scheduled to leave.
  • No need, Captain. You see, Sarek and Amanda are Spock’s parents.
  • Duhn-dun-Duhnnn!
  • Now, that’s a teaser.
  • A couple of things bother me about it, though. Even if Kirk didn’t know the names of Spock’s parents, you would think the fact that Ambassador Sarek was married to a human woman would have been a clue. I’ve been under the impression that mixed marriages aren’t exactly common on Vulcan. As a halfbreed, Spock was virtually an outcast.
  • I know it was established in the first-season episode “This Side of Paradise” that Spock’s father was an ambassador and his mother a teacher. I just can’t recall if this was said in front of Kirk or just when he was cloud-watching with Jill Ireland.
  • Yeah, I know. The reveal at the end of the teaser is more effective than a captain’s log voiceover telling us that Spock’s parents have come aboard. It just doesn’t seem likely that Kirk wouldn’t have known. It makes him seem less intelligent than we’re consistently told he’s supposed to be.
  • Also, calling the conference site Babel seems a little too on-the-nose, doesn’t it? Dorothy Fontana was always a good writer, but this Biblical allusion is too cute and obvious in a story about different galactic races coming together for a conference.
  • This is the first appearance of Mark Lenard as Sarek, a role he will continue to play for the rest of his life. But, it’s his second appearance on Star Trek. He was the Romulan Commander in the excellent first-season episode “Balance of Terror,” which also, probably not coincidentally, made my list of essential TOS episodes. The Romulan Commander was never officially given a name, but is known in some circles as Keras, which is Sarek spelled backwards.
  • Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mom, is played by Jane Wyatt, who was perhaps best known as the mom on Father Knows Best. Ironically (or perhaps not), the previous week’s episode, “Metamorphosis,” featured Eleanor Donahue, who was also in Father Knows Best as Betty “Princess” Anderson, the daughter of Jane Wyatt’s character.
  • I wonder if this was a bigger deal in 1967, a kind of mini-crossover event. Placing the episodes together in the lineup might have been a stunt.
  • As Act One begins, Kirk is taking Ambassador Sarek and his wife on a tour of the ship. We discover that Spock and his father haven’t been on speaking terms for 18 years. The source of the estrangement was Spock’s decision to join Starfleet rather than attend the Vulcan Science Academy. Fathers and sons, am I right?
  • Sarek excuses himself and needs to go to his quarters to rest. He orders his wife to continue the tour with Kirk.
  • Yeah, that’s right. He orders her. Robert Young never spoke to Jane Wyatt that way. Well . . . not exactly. These were different times.
  • Then we get a reception of the delegates on board the ship.
  • This is the first appearance, in our real timeline, of the antennaed, blue-skinned Andorians and the pig-nosed Tellarites. The Andorians will appear earlier in the Star Trek chronology in their appearances on Star Trek: Enterprise. So will Tellarites, as far as that goes, but the Andorians will be much more important to that series. I kinda liked Shran.
  • The Tellarite ambassador is a pushy fellow named Gav. He pressures Sarek to find out how he’s going to vote on Coridan. Sarek deflects the questions with practiced ease.
  • This is the scene where we discover, from Amanda, that Spock had a pet as a child. A sehlat, which she describes as a fat teddy bear. Spock is quick to point out that Vulcan “teddy bears” have six-inch long fangs.
  • However, we don’t find out that Spock had an older half-brother named Sybok, whose mother was a Vulcan princess, or an adopted sister named Michael, because, in all honesty, nobody had thought of this yet.
  • Some drama is injected into this Trek Mos Eisley Cantina scene when we discover that the Enterprise is being followed by an unidentified vessel, which does not respond to hails.
  • On the bridge, Kirk orders an intercept to examine the vessel more closely. The unidentified vessel makes a run at the Enterprise at Warp 10 (which is foolishly fast during this period) but it doesn’t fire.
  • Later, Ambassador Sarek has another confrontation with Gav, telling the Tellarite that he would vote in favor of admitting Coridin to the Federation. He alludes to illegal Tellarite mining operations in the system. Kirk actually has to break up an altercation between the delegates.
  • Later, Gav’s lifeless body is discovered stuffed up a Jeffries tube on Deck 11.
  • End of Act One.
  • As Act Two begins, this is now a murder mystery worthy of Agatha Christie. Not exactly a locked room mystery, but certainly a remote location mystery, on a Federation starship, with multiple suspects.
  • Whoo-eee. We’re having some fun now.
  • McCoy’s examination of Gav’s body reveals that his neck was broken in a very unique way. Spock concludes that the manner of death was from a form of Vulcan martial arts known as tal-shaya. This makes Ambassador Sarek the prime suspect.
  • To sweeten the plot a bit, we discover that Sarek has a cardiac defect that is causing him to become increasingly ill. He claims he was meditating alone on the ship’s observation deck at the time of the murder.
  • That should be a simple matter to determine from the ship’s security logs and cameras. Right? No one says this, so maybe not. McCoy takes Sarek to sickbay.
  • Meanwhile, Uhura determines that a communication signal is being received inside the ship, but can’t pinpoint the location.
  • McCoy claims to have limited surgical experience on Vulcan physiology, which may be true. Also, he requires a large amount of a rare Vulcan blood type, T-negative. After much discussion about it, Spock nominates himself as the blood donor, taking a drug to stimulate blood cell production.
  • While this medical drama keeps unfolding, Kirk is stabbed by the Andorian delegate, Thelev. Kirk passes out, signalling an act break, but not until he captures Thelev.
  • As Act Three begins, Thelev is in the brig and Kirk is in sickbay. Spock now claims he can’t participate in Sarek’s surgery because of his duty to the Enterprise. His commanding officer is out of commission, which leaves Spock, as first officer, in command.
  • There have been plenty of occasions when Spock and Kirk were both absent from the ship on away missions. Spock didn’t seem to have trouble relinquishing command during those times, even though the correct person—Scotty—wasn’t always left in charge.
  • It’s almost as if Spock wants Sarek to die.
  • By the way, where is Scotty? I haven’t seen him in this episode.
  • Spock puts Thelev to the question, but even under a verifier scan (whatever that is) and a truth drug, the Andorian doesn’t crack.
  • Kirk reassumes command before he’s fully healed from his stabbing, and orders Spock to surgery. Kirk intends to pass command to Scotty (who still hasn’t been seen on-screen). In the meantime, however, the alien vessel comes closer.
  • Uhura picks up the signal and reveals that it’s being received in the brig. Kirk orders a red alert and tells security to search Thelev.
  • Thelev’s antenna breaks, revealing a transmitter used to communicate with the intruder vessel.
  • As Act Three comes to a close, the intruder vessel is attacking the Enterprise with ineffective phaser attacks. McCoy is afraid he’ll lose both Sarek and Spock during the attack.
  • In Act Four, McCoy doesn’t lose his patients. But, Sarek does go into cardiac arrest as the power goes out in sickbay.
  • Thelev is revealed to be an imposter. He is an Orion disguised as an Andorian. His transmitter was located in his antenna.
  • Kirk ends up defeating the secret Orion ship by pretending to be dead in the water, and then firing upon the ship, which then self-destructs.
  • Sarek is also saved, but before the end of the episode, Kirk collapses again and must take a bed in sickbay. McCoy is finally able to have the last word in an argument.

Journey to Babel” didn’t make the Essential list of TOS episodes because it was one of the top-10 best episodes in quality. From a story standpoint, it was okay, but nothing special. From a mythology aspect, however, it introduced the Sarek-Spock dynamic, which has been important to the series ever since. Plus, it introduced Andorians and Tellarites.

I still like this episode. 4 out of a possible 5 stars.

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