Sep 1 2009 2:34pm

Star Trek Re-Watch: “Amok Time”

“Amok Time”
Written by Theodore Sturgeon
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Season 2, Episode 1
Production episode: 2x05
Original air date: September 15, 1967
Star date: 3372.7

Mission summary
Something’s wrong with Spock! At least that’s what Dr. McCoy thinks, since Spock hasn’t eaten in three days and he’s a little edgy. Captain Kirk assumes his first officer is just being moody again, even after Spock throws a bowl of plomeek soup at Nurse Chapel. But then the Vulcan requests a leave of absence to visit his home planet, which definitely demands explanation.

Spock claims Chapel deserved mistreatment for being nice enough to bring him homemade soup that he didn’t ask for, but Kirk couldn’t care less about his misogynistic opinions, he’s more interested in the request for shore leave: “In all the years that I’ve known you, you’ve never asked for a leave of any sort. In fact, you’ve refused them.” Spock won’t share his reasons, but it seems pretty important and he obviously needs a vacation. The usually controlled Vulcan can’t even keep his hands steady. Kirk finally agrees to divert the Enterprise from its mission to Altair 6.

Unfortunately, the inauguration of the new president of Altair 6 gets moved up a week, which means the Enterprise doesn’t have time for a detour after all. Starfleet Command insists that their presence at the ceremony is important as a show of support, but Kirk decides they can just arrive fashionably late after dropping Spock off for spring break. Chekov informs him that Spock has already ordered them back on a course for Vulcan. What the hell, Spock?

Kirk has a word with Spock in the turbolift, but the Vulcan still offers no explanation. He doesn’t remember giving the order, continues to refuse to answer any questions, and asks to be locked up. Sounds like someone needs a trip to Sickbay, not Vulcan—and that’s exactly where Kirk tells him to go. Spock eventually submits to an examination. The prognosis isn’t good: McCoy determines that Spock will die in eight days if they don’t get him back to Vulcan:

There’s a growing imbalance of body functions, as if in our bodies huge amounts of adrenalin were constantly being pumped into our bloodstreams. Now, I can’t trace it down in my biocomps. Spock won’t tell me what it is. But if it isn’t stopped somehow, the physical and emotional pressures will simply kill him.

Back in his quarters, Spock is looking at pictures of young Vulcan girls on his computer. When his boss shows up, he hurriedly blanks the screen. Kirk orders him to tell him what’s going on, but Spock insists it’s not something that can be shared with non-Vulcans. Kirk promises confidentiality, and Spock gradually opens up, in the awkwardest possible way.

SPOCK: It has to do with biology.
KIRK: What?
SPOCK: Biology.
KIRK: What kind of biology?
SPOCK: Vulcan biology.
KIRK: You mean the biology of Vulcans? Biology as in... reproduction? Well, there’s no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees.
SPOCK: The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain.

If Kirk knows anything, it’s...biology. But Spock tells him about something surprising: pon farr, “the time of mating.” During pon farr, Vulcan males essentially lose their reason and are compelled to return to their home planet to mate, or die. You know, like salmon. “But you’re not a fish, Mr. Spock,” Kirk observes, proving he does know some biology after all.

Kirk wants to help, but Admiral Komack refuses his request to bring Spock home. Unable to explain why it’s important, Kirk decides their mission wasn’t all that vital anyway and chooses friendship over command. They set course for Vulcan...again. This time for real! Meanwhile, Nurse Chapel sneaks back into Spock’s quarters as she sometimes does, and they almost acknowledge their feelings for each other. Now it’s okay for “Christine” to make soup for him. The only thing that could complicate things is if she finds out Spock is married—which he is, and she does. She’s on the bridge when his wife, T’Pring, calls to confirm their hot date.

Spock bucks tradition and invites Kirk and McCoy as best men to his wedding, though the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee, which translates as a “marriage or challenge,” isn’t for outworlders either. They beam down to Vulcan, which is noticeably warm and has thinner air than Earth, immediately causing Kirk and McCoy some discomfort. Spock bangs a gong and the marriage party arrives, accompanied by an elderly woman carried in a chair, T’pau, “the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation Council.” Spock apparently comes from an important family, so important that none of them are in attendance. T’Pau presides over the ceremony and provides necessary exposition to Kirk and McCoy, but just like a Vulcan she omits the important details. Better than nothing though, since Spock is unable to speak while under the influence of plak-tow, the blood fever.

The ceremony begins and the bride chooses kal-if-fee, the challenge. In accordance with ancient tradition, when Vulcans once killed to win their mates, T’Pring has the right to choose a champion to fight Spock for possession of her. Even more surprisingly, she selects Kirk as her champion. What?

Her bodyguard Stonn cries foul, because he wants her. At Spock’s labored protest, T’Pau offers Kirk an out, but he decides to accept the challenge out of friendship and pride, thinking he can incapacitate Spock without really hurting him. Besides, T’Pring is kind of hot. Once he accepts, T’Pau reveals that it’s a fight to the death! Oops.

Kirk and Spock first battle with lirpa, long poles with a blade on one end and a rounded club on the other. Kirk barely survives that round, his shirt suffering the most injury. McCoy complains that it’s an unfair match because the air is too thin. “The air is the air,” T’Pau says, “What can be done?” She allows the doctor to inject Kirk with a “tri-ox compound” to make him breathe more easily and even the odds, and the match resumes with ahn-woon, bola-like leather straps with weighted ends. Kirk goes down for the count pretty quickly and Spock chokes the life out of him. McCoy beams up to the Enterprise with his body and orders from the now coherent Spock to prepare a course for the nearest Starbase, where he will turn himself in. But first he demands T’Pring reveal her evil, but logical, plot:

You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.

That’s pretty cold. Satisfied with her explanation, if not sexually, Spock is done there. T’Pau bids farewell: “Live long and prosper, Spock.” He responds, “I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend.”

Or has he? Spock goes to Sickbay and discovers that Kirk is alive after all! He’s thrilled, but quickly covers it when everyone else notices that he’s happy. It seems that McCoy dosed Kirk with a “neural paralyzer” to make it look like he was dead. Things get even better, because T’Pau has asked Starfleet to divert the Enterprise to Vulcan, granting Kirk a “Get Out of Court Martial Free” card, the least she could do after killing its captain. And with that, things can finally return to normal...

MCCOY: There’s just one thing, Mr. Spock. You can’t tell me that when you first saw Jim alive that you weren’t on the verge of giving us an emotional scene that would have brought the house down.
SPOCK: Merely my quite logical relief that Starfleet had not lost a highly proficient captain.
KIRK: Yes, Mr. Spock. I understand.
SPOCK: Thank you, Captain.
MCCOY: Of course, Mr. Spock, your reaction was quite logical.
SPOCK: Thank you, Doctor.
MCCOY: In a pig’s eye!


Astute viewers will notice a few changes to the show in the second season. First of all, the opening theme music is now the familiar vocal arrangement as sung by soprano Loulie Jean Norman, rather than the orchestral version used in previous episodes. Also in the opening titles, DeForest Kelley now receives a long-overdue credit as Dr. McCoy, and as a sign of Gene Roddenberry’s diminishing involvement with the show, he now receives a “Created By” credit. Writers and directors are also credited along with the episode title from here on. The biggest change in the series is the appearance of Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov, such a fixture on the Bridge for the next two seasons that most people don’t realize he wasn’t there the whole time—but even Khan made that mistake. Probably less noticeably, stripes have been painted in intervals across the corridors.

There are so many excellent things going on in this episode, I hardly know where to begin. Obviously Sturgeon’s script is important because it established so many details about Vulcan culture that have now become inextricably linked to the show, including the first utterance of “Live long and prosper” and the use of the Vulcan salute. This is the first visit to Vulcan in the series, and it’s treated as a momentous event, with more than the usual care paid to the red and rocky scenery and a dramatic musical cue when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down. In one of many subtle directorial touches, Kirk and McCoy sweat heavily on the hot planet, while Spock remains dry and comfortable. (As opposed to the not-so-subtle directorial touches, such as the crazy angles, zooms, and quick cuts that mark the beginning of the ceremony.)

Since this serves as the foundation for later Vulcan-centric episodes, and particularly the films—mainly I, III, and IV—it’s a good thing they got so much of it right from the start. Vulcan phrases are archaic and beautiful, as in the greeting between Spock and T’Pring (“Parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched.”), and the elaborate marriage ritual is just complicated and insane enough to seem real. I really like the explanation of their relationship as “less than a marriage but more than a betrothal.” Sounds like a domestic partnership. I don’t know what’s going on with T’Pau’s (Celia Lovsky) heavy accent and thees and thous, but she brings the appropriate gravitas to the ceremony.

This episode gives Leonard Nimoy another rare opportunity to act out of character, and as always he pulls off an amazing performance. When Kirk questions him at the beginning of the episode, he clenches a stylus in a trembling fist behind his back, showing how much of an effort it is to control his emotions. He shows a wide range of feelings: anger, shame (when describing pon farr), gentle yearning (in his talk with Nurse Chapel), horrified realization (when he kills Kirk), and joy (when he finds Kirk alive).

Though Kirk and Spock’s friendship is explored many many times in the series and movies, this is perhaps the first time where we clearly see how important they are to each other. Kirk lies awake in his quarters struggling over whether he should help Spock, before ultimately deciding to change course (then finding out that Spock has already ordered it). Later, when the stakes are even higher, he defies orders to save his friend’s life, prefiguring stealing the Enterprise in ST:III to return to the Genesis planet in search of Spock. Kirk is such a military man, and loves command and his ship so much, this is pretty much the ultimate sacrifice. This gives their battle against each other in the kal-if-fee even more tension and drama. I’m sure this line helped fuel the fantasies of theKirk-Spock fanfic writers: “Ah, yes, the girl. Most interesting. It must have been the combat. When I thought I had killed the captain, I found I had lost all interest in T'Pring.” Hmm.

There’s also a fair bit of continuity, as the series starts to build on its own history. Kirk tells Spock, “You’ve been called the best first officer in the fleet,” hearkening back to McCoy’s comment in “Operation: Annihilate!” Spock’s family is important, but we won’t see how important until “Journey to Babel.” This is the first time we see the rest of Spock’s quarters, which have some funky decorations. And seeing T’Pring portrayed as a pouty and sexy Vulcan makes Enterprise’s T’Pol seem a little less outlandish. A little.

One of my favorite moments is when Chekov and Sulu discuss the constant changes in course, which gives us a glimpse into what it must be like for the underlings following orders, who may not have any idea of what’s happening or why. And the sex talk between Kirk and Spock is also one of the more delightful scenes in the episode, and is surprisingly frank given the kids watching at home in the days before cable television and the internet.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 6 (on a scale of 1-6)


Torie Atkinson: What a fantastic season opener! And thanks to Eugene for pointing out all the changes from Season 1 to Season 2. I was stunned by the abrupt entrance of Chekov. They don’t bother to introduce him at all, but the Sulu/Chekov scene gives us from the get-go a good sense of his character. The other minor character I loved here was Nurse Chapel—her affection is so transparent and sweet. I love that when Spock throws her soup against the wall, you still see the stain of it there in the next scene! Hurrah for continuity.

As for the episode, I can now forgive Theodore Sturgeon for “Shore Leave.” This episode is brilliant and tense from start to finish. We finally get a glimpse at the Vulcan culture, and I love how alien it is. Vulcan sexuality is, well, weird. Spock tries to make analogies to other species (the “giant eelbirds of Regulus Five” and Earth’s salmon) but Kirk rejects the analogy:

KIRK: But you’re not a fish, Mister Spock. You’re—
SPOCK: No. Nor am I a man. I’m a Vulcan.

But as alien and unusual as it feels, it makes perfect sense. Vulcans have elected to be a repressed species, and for a Vulcan to fall victim to uncontrollable hysteria is both shameful and embarrassing. Spock doesn’t want anyone to see him like this—it feels like weakness, like barbarism. The pon farr is deeply illogical, and even the Vulcans’ attempts to bury that in complicated, rigidly organized rituals fail to erase the sheer absurdity of it. Their sexuality is as taboo as our own, but not for the same reasons. I was reminded a lot of the Next Generation episode “Sarek,” which features another Vulcan—Spock’s father, actually—who loses control of his emotions in a display that is similarly embarrassing and shameful. It feels like an entirely plausible extension of the path Vulcans have chosen.

This episode, for me, epitomizes what was missing in the Abrams film. Here we see a strikingly different and alien approach to reproduction, but one that shares our deeply held feelings of privacy and intimacy. The specifics are bizarre, but the feelings of sexual shame and taboo are familiar. I was deeply bothered that new!Spock’s Vulcanness is entirely subsumed in his humanness. They gave him an entirely conventional—read: human—sexual relationship. They took away an essential part of what makes him an alien, of what makes him fundamentally different and strange and weird. The point to me was always that those things are okay—friendships transcend that, and we can be close to people who don’t share in our culture or completely understand our rituals. Instead, new!Spock’s alienness is sacrificed on the altar of human hegemony. I’d rather have this Spock any day.

Final trivial thought: Who would’ve won the Star Trek: American Gladiator hamster ball race? My money’s on Sulu.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 6 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: Lots of good ones, but I’ve liked this quote ever since I saw it on a poster of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek”:
Spock to Stonn: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

Syndication Edits: A reaction shot just before Spock asks for leave on Vulcan. Kirk’s “Spock... I’m asking you,” just before he says “What’s wrong?”; Kirk resting in his quarters just before he calls the bridge; Kirk leaving his quarters when he learns the ship is on course for Vulcan; Kirk giving a destination of “Deck 5” before he talks to Spock in the turbolift; Spock wandering the halls to Sickbay, arguing with McCoy, and submitting to an examination; After walking into Spock’s quarters, Kirk reiterates McCoy’s report and demands to know why (which eliminates a continuity problem of Spock dropping the stylus then holding it again); Spock refusing to explain his situation to Kirk under direct order; After learning about pon farr, Kirk walks around Spock’s desk and promises to help, then leaves (which eliminates a production problem, where Spock’s sculpture apparently catches fire in the background); Reaction shots from McCoy and Kirk when he decides to disobey orders, and Chapel approaching Spock’s bed; Chapel telling Spock they’ll be at Vulcan in a few days (which eliminates another error, where Kirk has ordered them to Vulcan at warp 8, which could not be sustained for days); Reaction shots and close-ups when the marriage party arrives; T’Pau asking Spock who will pledge Kirk and McCoy’s behavior and his answer; McCoy smirking after Kirk and Spock leave for the Bridge in the last scene.

Trivia: Gene Roddenberry screened “Amok Time” for the first time at the 1967 Worldcon in New York over Labor Day weekend, nearly two weeks before it aired as the second season premiere. By then, fans had already heard rumors about an upcoming episode taking place on Vulcan.

As told by Nimoy, he originated the Vulcan salute when he felt the episode needed a unique greeting, basing it on a gesture used in Jewish High Holy services. Celia Lovsky (T’Pau) was the first actor who had to force her fingers into this position, since she couldn’t perform it naturally. Can you?

In the original script, Kirk didn’t need T’Pau’s help smoothing things over with Starfleet. Instead, he was friends with the officials on the other planet where the ceremonies were to take place and asked them for a delay; this planet was called “Fontana IV” in homage to Trek writer D.C. Fontana. In this early script, ahn-woon meant “unarmed combat.”

Walter Koenig is wearing a wig in this episode, as he did in several others shot before this one, while his natural hair grew to proper Monkee-length. This episode apparently marks Spock’s promotion from Lieutenant Commander to full Commander, judging by the nameplate on his door and the greeting from Vulcan Space Central; he probably deserved it after risking blindness in the previous episode. “Amok Time” was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1968 for Best Dramatic Presentation, as were several other episodes, but lost to “City on the Edge of Forever.”

Other notes: The combat music (composed by Gerald Fried) debuted in this episode reappears in several other episodes and is one of the more famous scores from the series. It is frequently used to parody Star Trek in pop culture, including the film The Cable Guy and episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama (where it serves as the national anthem for Zoidberg’s planet). Spock’s bass guitar theme was also utilized as his leitmotif in many later episodes.

One of the better known Star Trek bloopers can be seen in this episode. Shortly after T’Pring chooses Kirk as her champion, there are several long shots of Kirk talking with T’Pau. Nimoy can be seen casually leaning against a wall in the background with his arms clasped behind his back, unaware that he’s in the shot.

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 2 - “Who Mourns for Adonais?” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.
Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.

Eugene Myers has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines (writing as E.C. Myers). He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult novels.

Torie Atkinson is a professional Star Trek geek enthusiast. When not watching Star Trek, she edits some blog thingy.

Bill Siegel
1. ubxs113
Yay! Star Trek re-watch is back! Thanks you two!

Edit: Hell yes I can do the salute!
Torie Atkinson
2. Torie
Oh yeah, you commenters should note here whether or not you can do the Vulcan salute or whether you have to force your fingers apart.

I can do it! :)
Eugene Myers
3. ecmyers
@ 2 Torie

I can do the salute too, with both hands! :)
Michelle Turner
4. viridian
I can do the Vulcan salute, but I'm way better at it with my left hand. Which is weird, since I'm right-handed.

BTW, I am rewatching these too. I blame you two.
Kurt Lorey
5. Shimrod
Yes! I can.

Forgot to mention that Stonn played several Romulans as well, IIRC.
6. trekkiechick
Ooh, the rewatch is back!

I love this episode. Vulcans are just inherently cool, and the whole Kirk and Spock friendship is one of my favorite things about the series.

For more (non-canon) info about the coolness of Vulcans, read Spock's World by Diane Duane.

And of course I can do the Vulcan salute without help!
Torie Atkinson
7. Torie
@ 5 Shimrod

That reminds me... does this mean that Romulans go into pon farr?
8. WonderGirl
I can do the salute with both hands. w00t! Reminds me of this old commercial for some kinda painkiller, in which Leonard Nimoy, about to speak at a con, was struggling with arthritis and afraid that he wouldn't be able to get his hand to cooperate. . . .
9. Yonatan Zunger
@7 Torie: IIRC they don't; the Romulans followed a sufficiently non-repressed course that they just act like that all the time.

Also, there's the infamous (and possibly apocryphal? I can't verify) bit of trivia about how TV Guide summarized the episode: "Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and almost kills Captain Kirk." Ah, slash.
Marcus W
10. toryx
I can do the salute naturally with both hands too. Hmm...given the number of people who have already said the same, you have to wonder if it's part of a geek gene or something.

Anyway, like virtually any other Trek fan I love this episode too. I can't help but be bothered, though, by the tidy ending. "Yeah, my blood is going to boil me alive and kill me if I don't get laid...whoops! Killing the Captain solved the problem for me!"

I just don't buy it. Poor Spock should have at least gotten a "reward" to send him on his way.
Dan Sparks
11. RedHanded
I can do the left hand easily but the right hand takes some concentration and much hand shaking is involved.
12. Janice in GA
Heh. To this day I use T'Pau's line ("The air is the air. What can be done?") whenever I'm confronted with something I can't change/get out of. Complete with accent.

Vulcan salute with both hands? Yup.
13. Mercurio2
Welcome back!

In your lengthy discussion of the plot you don't mention how Spock seems soothed by the rubbing between his fingers. When I watched this episode as a small kid, I always wondered what the big deal was: someone rub the poor Vucan's fingers, for God's sake! (Is that innocence or uber-geekiness? Let's just call it innocence.)

T'Pau is indeed an imposing figure, her costume and accent adding to the alien mystique. I believe that Star Trek: Enterprise initially wanted to include this character as a regular cast-member, but settled on a different Vulcan. (Also, wasn't there a rock band that took the name T'Pau?)

I agree that it always seemed that Chekov was on the bridge -- for all three seasons.

Thanks for your great comments, as usual. I agree that this one was a 6 out of 6.
j p
14. sps49
Both hands.

Chekov (nor any other new crew face) shouldn't get special mention; it's a big shipand I'm sure watchbills and qualifications still exist.

My DVD says Lawrence Montaigne (Stonn) was being kept as a reserve in case Nimoy bailed. Maybe, but his two appearances were wooden, especially compared to Nimoy's understated skill.

T'Pau is obviously of importance, but I always assumed she was family to Spock. Is it just me? However, this evidence of matriarchy/ either sex leadership doesn't jibe with the question to T'Pring asking if she is prepared to become the property of the victor. Maybe that is only if you are "won" via combat?

I do not like T'Pau's speciesist attitude, either. When she asks Spock whether his blood is thin and "are thee human", it sounds like the word human is almost spat out. A lesson from the other side of the fence?

T'Pring reminded me of Torie- her little smile anticipating the half-naked man-wrestling brought a laugh!

To the death- Really? Nobody could mention that first?

I really liked the score, the camera work on the arena, The Jingle Guys, and other participants. Crazy angle may have been driven into the grount by the (ack) Batman series, but the rapid cuts and angles here worked for me.

T'Pring liked the spectacle, too; her lips were parted during the fight. Fighting for your woman is one thing, but I think she was getting off on it a little too much.

This episode brought out very good performances from the actors, too. I can still see Kirk's wtf? expression at the ahn woun in his hands. Good thing the final weapon wasn't something more immediately lethal- could McCoy have reattached a severed head? And what did the participants think when they eventually learned that Kirk was still alive?

I felt Spock's line to T'Pring, including between the lines, was "Explain (you skank). T'Pring may be proud of her logic, but I don't think she has heard Kirk's reputation.

I wanted to end my post there, but what was Chapel doing at the reveal? How much does she know, now?
Eugene Myers
15. ecmyers
@ 14 sps49

McCoy did ask Chapel to leave at the end, though I figured that was more so he could ask Spock about T'Pring than to protect his secret. I suspect she knows a lot, but all the information is protected under patient confidentiality.
16. ChrisG
Hurray! It's back. I must admit that I feared the worst.

As to the salute, yes, I can do it with both hands, though oddly, I find it a little tougher to do with the right than the left.

As to the episode, that moment of joy Spock shows when he sees Kirk alive stuck in my mind from my earliest viewing. I think it emphasized that the struggle Spock had with the pon farr is just an exaggerated form of what he must always deal with.

As to Vulcan logic, that T'Pring must go to such trouble to get a divorce seems illogical compared to both parties deciding based on mutual preference whether or not to continue the relationship. But that did reinforce the alienness that Tory mentioned.

Great commentary guys, as usual. I'm looking forward to more.
17. Michael S. Schiffer
I have no idea if it was intended, but T'Pau's actions all through are consistent with her being basically hostile to the Federation and Vulcan's involvement with it. She cooperates in setting up a situation in which one of two Starfleet officers will have to kill the other, withholding that crucial fact till Kirk is already committed. Her prior claim to fame is turning down a seat on the Federation Council. And she's contemptuous of Spock's humanness and offended at the idea of "outworlders" at the ceremony. About the only exception is her putting in a word about the ship's detour... but if that's put under scrutiny, then so is her involvement in Spock's deadly assault on a superior officer.

Of course, as we'll see in "Journey to Babel", even Vulcan's most celebrated diplomat is kind of a jerk, so maybe that's just what qualifies as acceptable interstellar relations in the 23rd century. But there were occasional hints of a less consensual origin for the Federation than they ultimately settled on. (E.g., the exchange between Spock and McCoy in one episode to the effect of "My father's people were spared the dubious benefits of alcohol." "Oh. Now I know why they were conquered.") I sometimes wonder if T'Pau's characterization was meant to echo that.
18. lane arnold
---glad we purged your body of those tentacles at the end of the first season, spock---the baby could have looked like fake vomit with tweezed eyebrows----love that mask on the executioner-----
Maiane Bakroeva
19. Isilel
Was it ever explained why Spock couldn't have just... remedied matters with some willing woman on the ship?

And why he first had an episode so late?

And how nearly killing Kirk substituted for the mating?

Anyway, I am a Big fan of TOS, which I have seen after TNG and liked more despite the often obtuse plots and painfully fake scenery, mainly because of the chemistry between the big 3.

Liked all the Vulcan stuff particularly - a pity that there wasn't more of it.
20. DemetriosX
Nice to have this back. I can do the salute with both hands, though I had to learn how. I trained myself to do it when I was in high school.

T'Pau's accent and archaisms: There are lots of possible explanations for this. It could be that they are speaking Federation standard out of courtesy for their guests and she doesn't speak it all that well (which could tie in nicely with Michael S. Schiffer's theory @17). Alternatively, she could be from a different part of Vulcan, where they talk like that. Sort of like how some people from Yorkshire still say thee and thou. ("Lots of planets have a north!")

This really is an excellent episode, probably in the top 5, but it really does have a couple of plot holes you could pilot a bird-of-prey through. First and foremost, how is it that Starfleet doesn't know about this? Surely, the Vulcans would inform Starfleet Command about something that can so seriously affect operations. There are ships in the fleet with entirely Vulcan crews; don't they constantly have to reroute to Vulcan because of this? Vulcans obviously find this embarrassing (as Torie pointed out), but embarrassment is itself an emotional reaction. Failure to discuss this is not logical.
Richard Fife
21. R.Fife
both hands since I was 5.

Anywho, Glad your back and kickin. Nothing to really add that hasn't been said, but I will say that yes, I definately agree that this is an awesome way to start the new season.
Torie Atkinson
22. Torie
Yes! Geek gene in action! Live long and prosper, folks.

@ 9 Yonatan Zunger

Snerk. That's pretty hilarious.

@ 13 Mercurio2

You're right! There is a band. Were they any good?

@ 14 sps49

I don't think we're supposed to assume it's any kind of matriarchal society, just that she happens to be the Grand Poobah at the moment. I agree that the ritual itself of possession/conquering implies a comfortable sexism that isn't represented at the time of the episode. I attribute that to being representative of this "uncivilized" past. I think.

And hey! I'm no T'Pring! She's such a jerk! Though I was impressed that Kirk's shirt got ripped in fewer than five seconds. That's talent. It's like he's practiced or something.

@ 16 ChrisG

I think it emphasized that the struggle Spock had with the pon farr is just an exaggerated form of what he must always deal with.

Very insightful. I like that idea and agree completely.

And yeah, the complicated divorce is really illogical, but I'm again willing to handwave it away as "uncivilized past" that they're kind of stuck repeating.

@ 17 Michael S. Schiffer

Interesting point--you make a persuasive argument. I think that the snootiness of the Vulcans feeling they're more civilized or better than the humans is on display here, and it's a testament to Spock that he rejects that kind of arrogance. Mostly. :)

As for the conquered line, didn't they say later that his people were never conquered? I think they retconned that.

@ 19 Isilel

Well theoretically he couldn't just go Conan on Nurse Chapel because he fully ascribed to the Vulcan ritual and wanted to fulfill his cultural obligation to T'Pring. He wants to be Vulcan, and be part of that culture, and fulfill his expectations as a Vulcan.

@ 20 DemetriosX

I think the thees and thous and archaic language is supposed to indicate that she's the closest thing to a priestess/religious figure they've got. Oh, and the plot holes are atrocious. Why will he die? We know how *tribbles* breed but not Vulcans?
23. Michael S. Schiffer
@22 Torie

Certainly as Vulcan and the Federation were subsequently developed, there was no conquest. And Vulcan was, in any case, established as more advanced than Earth, so it would have been tricky. (Though in TNG the Romulans were supposedly going to make a credible attempt to conquer the planet with 5,000 troops, so maybe Vulcan's generally nonmilitary focus is a serious vulnerability. :-) ) But this is the first episode in which we start learning much at all about Vulcan, so it seems at least possible that they were experimenting with other ideas. (Or, for that matter, that different writers were assuming different backstories-- I don't know how detailed series bibles were in those days, or if they even existed.)

@20 Demetrios

By the same token, some of those plot holes depend on information the viewer (and likely the writers) didn't have at the time. I don't think we hear about the all-Vulcan ship until later that season ("The Immunity Syndrome"), and I think it's treated as unusual. Spock is generally quite isolated as a Vulcan in Starfleet, and while he's never identified as the only or first one (as far as I recall), I don't think it's inconsistent with the way he's portrayed and treated up to "Amok Time". McCoy, at least, doesn't have much Vulcan medical information, so in addition to Vulcan secrecy that implies that Starfleet hasn't cared for many Vulcan patients.

If the usual trend at this point is either a humans-only Starfleet or segregated ships, that would help explain why they're so much at a loss. Even if there are Vulcan-only ships like the Intrepid, the staffing could be handled as an internal matter, rotating crew planetside regularly to ensure that no one ever spends seven years away from Vulcan, with everyone knowing better than to question a claim that it's "necessary" to leave. And unlike Spock, they wouldn't have any hope/expectation to be spared Pon Farr, so they could make arrangements further in advance.

(Speaking of which, do Vulcans-- or half-Vulcans-- just enter full maturity very late? You'd think Spock would have had multiple cycles before his current age.)
24. Michael S. Schiffer
@22 Torie

Certainly as Vulcan and the Federation were subsequently developed, there was no conquest. And Vulcan was, in any case, established as more advanced than Earth, so it would have been tricky. (Though in TNG the Romulans were supposedly going to make a credible attempt to conquer the planet with 5,000 troops, so maybe Vulcan's generally nonmilitary focus is a serious vulnerability. :-) ) But this is the first episode in which we start learning much at all about Vulcan, so it seems at least possible that they were experimenting with other ideas. (Or, for that matter, that different writers were assuming different backstories-- I don't know how detailed series bibles were in those days, or if they even existed.)

@20 Demetrios

By the same token, some of those plot holes depend on information the viewer (and likely the writers) didn't have at the time. I don't think we hear about the all-Vulcan ship until later that season ("The Immunity Syndrome"), and I think it's treated as unusual. Spock is generally quite isolated as a Vulcan in Starfleet, and while he's never identified as the only or first one (as far as I recall), I don't think it's inconsistent with the way he's portrayed and treated up to "Amok Time". McCoy, at least, doesn't have much Vulcan medical information, so in addition to Vulcan secrecy that implies that Starfleet hasn't cared for many Vulcan patients.

If the usual trend at this point is either a humans-only Starfleet or segregated ships, that would help explain why they're so much at a loss. Even if there are Vulcan-only ships like the Intrepid, the staffing could be handled as an internal matter, rotating crew planetside regularly to ensure that no one ever spends seven years away from Vulcan, with everyone knowing better than to question a claim that it's "necessary" to leave. And unlike Spock, they wouldn't have any hope/expectation to be spared Pon Farr, so they could make arrangements further in advance.

(Speaking of which, do Vulcans-- or half-Vulcans-- just enter full maturity very late? You'd think Spock would have had multiple cycles before his current age.)
j p
25. sps49
Torie, the similarity came only during the fight. Sorry! :) (And Kirk does get lots of practice.)

I srsly don't think combat is a good substitute for the wedding night, but apparently it did end the Vulcan!adrenalin imbalance. T'Pau did say the plak tow would last until the fight was over.

And yeah, Spock must be the only (half) Vulcan isolated from other Vulcans. Poor planning and wishful thinking on Spock's part.

This is still a favorite episode for me, right up there with "The Doomsday Machine".
Kage Baker
26. kagebaker
HAH! Finally, a use for my twenty years of teaching Elizabethan English as a Second Language!

English once had a formal and an informal mode of address, like other languages (French Vous/Tu, Spanish Usted/Tu, etc.) The Formal was You; the informal was Thou. English gradually dropped the intimate informal and it only survives in a few places like rural England and among some few groups of American Quakers.

T'Pau gets her grammar wrong; she should have said "Thou hast prided thyself on thy Vulcan heritage," NOT "Thee". I used to use this example in class to drum into my students' heads the difference between Thee and Thou. And then one day one of Ted Sturgeon's sons was in my class and explained that his dad had simply been going for an archaic effect. I felt like a punctilious twit... oh, what the hell, I still think people should use archaic grammar correctly.

So it's "Thou hast entered Star Fleet" but it would be "I sent thee a bottle of Saurian Brandy", OK?

Anybody want to run their pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue by me for critique?
27. DemetriosX
kagebaker@26: In Sturgeon's defense, some of the groups which still "thou", particularly among American Quakers, do use thee for all cases. Now, I have no idea how much exposure he had to any Quakers, let alone those who still said thee, and it could certainly be that he just got it wrong, but he may have actually seen it used that way.
28. Brian3
Or, as Robert Louis Stevenson put it, "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."

For me, this is the one really successful episode in Star Trek, for the reason that Torie mentions, that it allows Spock to be alien, and that his friendship with Kirk transcends their being alien to each other. This is implied very nicely in the chess scene in one of the first episodes.

Where Star Trek as a franchise doesn't work, for me, is where it departs from this, and makes Spock into a Pinocchio figure whose problem is that he needs to grow up and become more like us. Tom Shippey has a nice article in the London Review of Books called Burbocentrism, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v18/n10/ship01_.html, that nails this sort of issue.
Kage Baker
29. kagebaker
Quakers certainly do use "thee" incorrectly in movies, most notably in Ray Bradbury's otherwise excellent script for Moby Dick.

Maybe it's just that science fiction writers of a certain age never read much Old Version King James Bible or Shakespeare. Or maybe American Quakers developed their own particularly ungrammatical usage of the informal pronoun. Maybe both.

The whole reason Quakers used informal "thou" instead of formal "you" was to address all men as equal friends. Then, of course, mainstream English left the whole question behind, and now they just sound quaint...
Church Tucker
30. Church
Both hands. Trained myself during recess in kindergarten. Even better, my better half and I do the Sarek/Amanda 'touching fingers' thing. Super geeky, but you have to be a pretty big geek yourself to pick up on it.

I believe Spock said that he had resisted the Pon Farr for several cycles, it just got to be too much for him (and sort of explains his fiance's reluctance.)

And all this could have been avoided if Chapel could make a decent bowl of Plomeek soup....
31. ***Dave
@14 sps49 - Given the importance of Spock's family, it may very well be that the whole women-chattel-to-the-victor thing is similar to the rules and regs regarding Earthly royals, with arranged marriages and property-based titles and roles and so forth being traditions that most Vulcans would not have to deal with. Despite their logic and rationality, ritual and culture are a major part of Vulcan life.

@19 Isilel - I've always had the sense that, once the cat was out of the bag (or the chance of getting to Vulcan seemed gone), Spock was contemplating Nurse Chapel as "any port in a storm." After all, his own father proved that human ladies were at least passably suitable. Once he learned that Kirk was taking them to Vulcan, that was that.

As to why killing Kirk snapped Spock out of it -- well, clearly it would be a huge cognitive and emotional shock to realize what he'd done. In conjunction with working off all that "adrenaline" during the fight, it would seem to be enough to let his logical mind take back over.

I wonder, sometimes, whether the whole pon farr thing is sort of like Landru's "Festival" -- a culturally-driven emotional catharsis, perhaps accompanied by or triggered by physical cues, but not quite the "to the death" thing that the Vulcans allow themselves to make it. It's as if they said, "Well, y'know, there's no helping it, it's our crazy time, so we might as well go at it whole hog," excusing themselves from any of the embarrassing emotionality that ensues.

@20 Demetrios - No, it's not logical that it would be kept a secret. But, then, Vulcans are about 90% logical and 10% refusing to admit that they are only 90% logical. They're hyper-rational about everything except for the really embarrassing stuff which they simply deny (as a small example, note Spock's repeated attempts, including the end of this ep, to deny/lie about episodes where he is clearly emotional).

It seems unlikely that *nobody* would know about it until now, but I can well believe that Vulcans wouldn't openly admit it to anyone except under duress. Heck, maybe that's the very reason why they only actively joined Starfleet, if they could have their own segregated starship.

(Both hands, easily.)
32. alreadymadwithponfarr
Reminds me of high school where we figured our buddy was going through a version of pon farr. Only difference was pon farr occurred every seven years. He had pon farr for seven years.
- -
33. aanko
I can do the salute too, with both hands.
34. CarolynH
A really good episode, this. The only thing that bothered me a bit then--and still does--is that Spock was so obviously out of it with the whole pon farr thing, but T'pring totally wasn't. For some reason that didn't seem right to me. Seems weird to me that the males go all goofy, and the female didn't at all--even though she preferred Stonn for some unknowable reason.
Torie Atkinson
35. Torie
Hey folks,

Popping in to let you guys know that my laptop's HD just died and I lost today's review. To avoid tearing the next person I see to pieces, I am not going to try and re-create it just yet, so there will be no re-watch post today.

Deep breaths, Torie. Deep breaths.
Torie Atkinson
36. Torie
@ 34 CarolynH

I thought that was weird, too. Apparently in ST: Enterprise they showed that it did affect women, just at different times, had T'pol go into pon farr. But I didn't see that (and am glad I didn't).
j p
37. sps49
Torie, you must be really freaked out by your hard drive failure. I can think of no good reason for anyone to use ST:E as a reference (the horror!)
Eugene Myers
38. ecmyers
@ 36 Torie

Wouldn't it be awkward for men and women to go through pon farr at different times? Damn, I'm going to have to dig out that episode now! Or not.
39. NomadUK
I have nothing to add, except my own 'Welcome back!'

Oh, and, both hands, no sweat. Always could.
Torie Atkinson
40. Torie
@ 37 sps49

I'm not proud.

@ 38 Eugene

Well, yes, but Enterprise wasn't exactly phenomenal about thinking these ideas through to their natural conclusions.

@ 39 NomadUK

Thanks! And clearly it's a geek gene.
41. Michael S. Schiffer
@38 ecmyers

While it's doubtless awkward, it's not unheard of. Male elephants seem to have much the same problem. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musth:

"Although it has often been speculated that musth is linked to rut, this is unlikely because the female elephant's estrus cycle is not seasonally-linked, whereas musth most often takes place in winter. Furthermore, bulls in musth have often been known to attack female elephants, regardless of whether or not the females are in heat. Connections to dominance behaviour have also been speculated."

(Unlike Pon Farr, musth doesn't seem to kill elephants directly, though the behavior it causes can result in their or others' deaths.)

Younger elephants are apparently prevented from entering musth by the presence of older males. We could speculate that that was why Spock hadn't experienced it before, and allowed himself to think that he wasn't subject to it-- until he removed himself from the presence of older male Vulcans by serving on a human-crewed ship.
Melissa Ann Singer
42. masinger
Both hands, and I've no idea when I learned it. Plus I can do the separation thing between pointer and the rest, and pinkie and the rest, and I can fan out pinkie and pointer and keep middle and ring together. If that isn't geek-ness, I don't know what is.

There's a recipe for plomeek soup on my fridge, found on the internet by my daughter. We're waiting for a cool and not-too-busy weekend to make it, since there's lots of prep (veggie chopping) involved. And trying to figure out if using purple potatoes will give the soup the proper shade or if we'll need to add food coloring.
Marcus W
43. toryx
I feel your pain, Torie. There's nothing like doing a lot of writing and careful analysis and then losing it.

And, of course, having a hard drive fail is pain even without that. I recently lost a substantial portion of my music and video library from a hard drive crash. Oh, the pain.
44. ksampino
One of the analyses questioned where the accent came from. The Vulcan accent is actually Viennese. Celia Lovsky was a Viennese actress (and the wife of Peter Lorre) and the accent is her real accent. I think it actually works considering that one could imagine speaking English with a Vulcan accent.

Oh, and I can do the Vulcan salute with both hands, thank you. Can do it better with my right hand than my left, and I'm left-handed.
45. Book Girl
Doesn't it make sense that they go into pon farr at the same time? This might just be me, but I always figured that it was a bit like a birthday, or wedding anniversary. It's something that happens at a different time for each person. Wouldn't it be really annoying if every male Vulcan all had to go home at once for pon farr? Maybe I'm just missing something.

(I can do it both hands)
Paul Joseph
46. ottonia
The concept was intriguing in the original Star Trek, but I don't remember it coming up in Next Generation. It did happen in Voyager and Enterprise, but they let it get out of hand. Supposedly Torez had an issue with a Vulcan crew member and neither one of them were on Vulcan at the time. In Enterprise, T'Paul always seemed to be on the verge of going crazy. Frankly, I think they should have left it alone or found a more realistic cure. Just my opinion as a Star Trek Fan.
47. Nemo
I always figured that Spock's pon farr was T'Pring's fault. She got all enamored with Stonn and the telepathic marriage link triggered Spock's reaction.

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