Mar 4 2010 6:32pm

Star Trek Re-Watch: “Journey to Babel”

“Journey to Babel”
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Season 2, Episode 10
Production episode: 2x15
Original air date: November 17, 1967
Star date: 3842.3

Mission Summary:
Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are putting the finishing touches on their dress uniforms as the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives at Vulcan to pick up a delegation of ambassadors. These delegates from across the Federation are headed for a neutral planet code-named “Babel.” The planet Coridan, a small, poorly defended world rich in dilithium, has petitioned the Federation for admission, and a conference is being held to discuss their application. Tensions are already startlingly high when the Vulcan party comes aboard, lead by Ambassador Sarek, the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, joined by his human wife Amanda. Spock, in a charming moment, tries to teach Dr. McCoy how to do the proper salute but McCoy’s attempts are utter failures.

Sarek greets Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy warmly (for a Vulcan...), but turns a cold shoulder to Spock. The captain is a little perplexed but shrugs it off and offers to have Mr. Spock take him for a tour of the ship. The ambassador immediately declines the offer. Awkwardly, Kirk invites Mr. Spock to visit his parents while they are in orbit around Vulcan.

SPOCK: Captain, Ambassador Sarek and his wife are my parents.

Ouch, awkward! Too bad Kirk didn’t actually read Mr. Spock’s personnel file.

Kirk decides to lead Sarek’s tour himself and brings him and his wife to engineering where Spock is working. Mrs. Sarek lingers behind her husband to catch a word with Spock. She’s disappointed that he has not visited in four years, but when Sarek notices her, he commands her to join him at his side. He’s kind of pushy. Kirk again tries to show off the competency of Spock by asking him to explain the ship’s engineering computers—but Sarek explains that he taught Spock about computers, and Spock wasted that knowledge by joining Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Science Academy. He then turns and leaves, telling Kirk to finish the tour with only his wife.

Frustrated, the captain tells Mrs. Sarek that he cannot understand Sarek’s behavior, and Amanda gives us a little bit of insight into her son:

AMANDA: You don’t understand the Vulcan way, Captain. It’s logical. It’s a better way than ours. But it’s not easy. It has kept Spock and Sarek from speaking as father and son for eighteen years.
KIRK: Spock is my best officer, and my friend.
AMANDA: I’m glad he has such a friend. It hasn’t been easy on Spock. Neither human nor Vulcan. At home nowhere except Starfleet.

But before he can learn anything more, Kirk receives a page from Uhura, who tells him that an indecipherable signal is being sent to someone on the Enterprise.

Later, at the ambassadors’ buffet table, we get our first glimpse of two new and important races: the Andorians, blue and antennaed, and the Tellurites, pig-faced and aggressive. The Tellurite ambassador Gav confronts Sarek directly with demands to know how he will vote on the Coridan petition. Sarek and Kirk deflect his comments, but it’s clear that the Enterprise must arrive soon, before something terrible happens. Dr. McCoy has other questions on his mind, and he asks Amanda for some juicy tidbits to use against Spock:

MCCOY: Spock, I’ve always suspected that you were a little more human than you let on. Mrs. Sarek, I know about the rigorous training of the Vulcan youth, but tell me, did he ever run and play like the human children, even in secret?
AMANDA: Well, he, he did have a pet sehlat he was very fond of.
MCCOY: Sehlat?
AMANDA: It’s sort of a fat teddy bear.

I knew it! Sehlats, however, are unlike teddy bears in that they are alive and have six-inch fangs. I bet it’s still cute.

From the bridge, Chekov informs the captain that an unidentified vessel has approached the Enterprise. Don't worry, we’ll get back to this.

Close quarters aren’t doing much to help the diplomatic situation, external threat or not, and things finally bubble over. We get a glimpse of Sarek dropping something into his own drink just as Gav approaches him and renews his demands for an answer. Sarek acknowledges that Gav will not wait for the council meeting and reveals that the Vulcans favor admission into the Federation. Furious, Gav attacks Sarek, who easily repels him. But Kirk breaks up the fight, and Gav threatens “payment” for Sarek’s “slander” before skulking away.

It seems that Gav has overdrafted, though, and not much later he is found dead and stuffed into a Jeffries tube. Ouch.

Dr. McCoy finds that his neck was broken with extreme precision, and Spock offers that only a Vulcan would know how to do that, implicitly recommending his own father as a suspect. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy seek him out in his quarters but find only Amanda, who says that he has been in private meditation. When Sarek returns he confirms her story, but admits that he is a logical suspect. Just then, he collapses in pain. McCoy’s limited understanding of Vulcan physiology tells him only that Sarek has suffered a cardiovascular episode, and they move him to sickbay.

In sickbay Sarek reveals that this is the fourth of his episodes—what are essentially heart attacks. Amanda is taken aback that he never shared with her, but there are more pressing things at hand. Sarek may need surgery, but to survive it he would need an incredible amount of compatible blood. None is available in the Federation blood bank (what, are delegates from Transylvania aboard?), but Spock is a match. The amount of blood required is too much of one person, though, and McCoy tries to find another way to save Sarek. But Spock volunteers for an experimental drug that will increase his blood production, allowing him to generate enough blood to save his father’s life if surgery becomes necessary. McCoy is skeptical, and doubtful of his own abilities given his inexperience with Vulcans, but Spock insists that it is the only logical thing to do.

Meanwhile, we get what has been sorely lacking these past few episodes: man-fighting! Fully clothed, alas. Captain Kirk and an Andorian wrestle in the corridor in a splendidly choreographed sequence. Kirk is clearly the stronger opponent, but the Andorian pulls a knife and stabs Kirk in the back. Kirk is able to kick him unconscious and call for help before collapsing to the floor.

Kirk is totally incapacitated, and Spock takes command of the ship. It is at this moment that Sarek takes a turn for the worst. McCoy can wait no longer—he must operate or the ambassador will die. But Spock refuses to provide blood for the transfusion, arguing that with the captain incapacitated his first responsibility is to the ship, and that he must do what his duty demands: interrogate the Andorian and lead the crew through this crisis. McCoy vehemently objects, but Spock will hear nothing of it and heads to the brig.

He questions both the prisoner (who looks positively sullen) and the other Andorian aboard, who knows little about his aide. But Spock knows that the murder, the unidentified vessel, and the attack on the captain must be related.

SHRAS: You suggest a plot. How could it profit us to harm the captain?
SPOCK: I do not know. There is no logic in Thelev’s attack upon the captain. There is no logic in Gav’s murder.
SHRAS: Perhaps you should forget logic and devote yourself to motivations of passion or gain. Those are reasons for murder.

Back in his quarters, Spock is visited by his mother Amanda, who pleads with him to turn command over to someone else and help his dying father. She argues that nothing is as important as his father’s life, and that his duty is to his father. But Spock is committed. Crying, she tells him that if he does not help his father she will hate him for the rest of her life. Spock remains unmoved, and she slaps him before storming off.

Kirk awakens in sickbay and McCoy explains the situation with Sarek and Spock’s refusal to help him. Kirk is not surprised, but knows he must do something to save both his ship and the ambassador. He convinces the doctor to help him pretend that he has recovered—or at least pretend enough to convince Spock to go through with the procedure, so that Kirk can then turn over command and recover in his quarters.

The ruse works, and Spock begins the procedure. But before he goes under he realizes something about the alien ship! Ah, too late. Kirk will have to figure it out on his own.

The Andorian prisoner attempts to escape the brig, and security subdues him with a stun. But when he collapses one of his antennas breaks off, revealing a receiver! The Enterprise comes under fire from the unknown ship, and Kirk realizes that his place is on the bridge. He sends for the prisoner and tries to maintain control as the Enterprise is assaulted left and right by this alien vessel. Meanwhile McCoy is trying to keep a steady hand as sickbay’s power goes out and they get tossed around with each incoming hit. Having used up auxiliary power, Kirk has only one trick left up his sleeve. He redirects all power to make it appear that the Enterprise is dead in the water, luring the alien ship. When it is within range he orders his crew to fire all phasers, incapacitating it. They are safe, and Sarek’s surgery is completed.

Uhura opens hailing frequencies to allow them to surrender, but the alien ship explodes before their eyes. The “Andorian” prisoner explains that their orders were to self-destruct—as were his own. He collapses in the arms of two security guards. Kirk finally collapses and is taken to sickbay.

There, Spock and Sarek are recovering nicely, and Spock tells the captain that they will find the “Andorian” to have been an Orion. The Orions, had they suceeded, would have been in the perfect position to shrift Coridan of its dilithium. Kirk thanks Spock for his help, and for his generosity, and Amanda asks Sarek to thank his son for what he did:

SAREK: Spock acted in the only logical manner open to him. One does not thank logic, Amanda.
AMANDA: Logic, logic! I’m sick to death of logic. Do you want to know how I feel about your logic?
SPOCK: Emotional, isn’t she?
SAREK: She has always been that way.
SPOCK: Indeed? Why did you marry her?
SAREK: At the time, it seemed the logical thing to do.

Isn’t it cute when men bond over silly, irrational women?

Spock offers to return to duty, but Dr. McCoy demands that both he and the captain remain in sickbay until they are fully recovered. He delights in his power over them:

KIRK: Doctor McCoy, I believe you’re enjoying all this.
SPOCK: Indeed, Captain. I’ve never seen him look so happy.
MCCOY: Shut up. (to Kirk) Shh. Shh! (to camera) Well, what do you know? I finally got the last word.


Along with “Amok Time,” “Journey to Babel” sheds a little bit more light on Spock and his culture. We learn of Spock’s alienation from his father, who is a respected ambassador; that this alienation stems from his rejection of the Vulcan Science Academy in favor of Starfleet; that he is reasonably close to his human mother, who bears so much affection for him; that he was tormented as a child and does not feel at home anywhere but Starfleet; and that Spock has to practice very hard to suppress the human side of him. What’s brilliant about this episode isn’t that it tells you all these things, but that it shows you all these things through little touches and a fantastic performance from Mark Lenard.

Lenard is really outstanding here. He’s able to convey with a blank face everything from amusing irritation (to Gav), to silent pride and love (to Spock). I think my favorite scenes were perhaps those of his with Amanda. His gesture of love, the two fingers touching two fingers, has a tenderness that betrays his unemotional exterior. And when she says she loves him, as illogical as it is, he smiles—something Amanda notes that Spock hasn’t learned to do. His anger (irritation?) at Amanda for humiliating Spock with the teddy bear bit (again, awesome!) isn’t anger but instead concern and care for his son’s reputation. He loves Spock, and it seems that only pride (very human, of course) has kept them apart. I think this episode goes a long way to explaining the Romulans, because we see clearly that Vulcans are capable of passionate emotion, but, as Spock explains, have chosen a philosophy and lifestyle that is perceived to be superior.

Father and son are not so different: I like that when Spock learns of the murder of Gav he remarks with his trademark “Interesting,” and when they confront Sarek with the news he, too, says only “Interesting.” Sarek cracks the same kinds of jokes as Spock, if you can call their unusual form of dry comeback joking (GAV: “I must speak to you!” SAREK (almost with resignation): “It seems unavoidable.”). And they reunite in the end by teasing the woman they both (admittedly or not) love. It’s clear by Spock’s incredible willingness to risk his life that he loves his father, a very human feeling; but that love is not stronger than his oath of command, and it’s his Vulcan, logical side on display for that bit of ridiculousness. (Phil Farrand in the Nitpicker’s Guide and Allan Asherman in The Star Trek Compendium both hypothesize that Spock’s ultra-Vulcan performance here is an attempt to impress his father. I like this interpretation and certainly think it has an element of truth to it, but I also think it’s more sincere than that.)

The final confrontation between Amanda and Spock is heartbreaking and perfect. She is so desperate to see some part of herself within her son, to feel connected to him somehow, and to get him to acknowledge that all that she represents—emotion, love, humanity, and passion—are meaningful to him somehow. It doesn’t work, because it wouldn’t, and I was shocked and impressed that the show didn’t devolve into sentimentality there.

I have two complaints that, given the rest of the episode, seem kind of trivial, but they did bother me. First, I don’t buy that Spock wouldn’t save his father under the circumstances presented. Sarek is clearly a very important ambassador and I think his death would have consequences that Spock couldn’t ignore as a commander. Moreover, he doesn’t make a compelling argument for why anyone else can’t command. Kirk himself agrees to do so immediately (he doesn’t, of course, but I chalk that up to the fact that once you get on the bridge it’s hard to pry yourself away). Second, the plot of the story hinges entirely on the right people being incapacitated at the right time. Sarek, Spock, Kirk. Each piece falls like a domino and I had to ignore the contrivance of it all.

Also of note: this is the first time we see the Andorians and the Tellurites, who, with the Vulcans and the Humans, founded the Federation of Planets. I’ve seen Andorians in the spin-off series but this was my first look at them in the original. They look GOOD. Fantastic, really. I was very impressed with their makeup. The Tellurites, though? Easily the worst-looking aliens we’ve seen so far in the original series. (Yes, yes, Season 3 is before me—I said so far).

The good news is that it looks like we’re getting back on track with the real reason we’re all here: half-naked man-fighting! It was fully clothed this time, but I’m hoping for some wardrobe malfunctions in the coming episodes. It’s only logical.

Torie’s Rating: Warp Factor 5 (on a scale of 1-6)


Eugene Myers: I think a lot of fans probably identify this episode as “the one with Spock’s dad.” The introduction of Sarek is definitely significant, but I was surprised at how many other things are going on in this episode. So many things. I knew there were a bunch of diplomats involved, but I mistakenly placed the events at an off-ship conference, never mind that they’re obviously on a journey to Babel. I vaguely recalled Sarek being implicated in a murder investigation, but I had completely forgotten the fake Andorian, which is probably the other thing fans most associate with the episode. So I was intrigued by the mysteriously powerful ship tailing the Enterprise and caught up in Sarek’s illness and Spock’s moral and philosophical dilemmas.

“Journey to Babel” is one of the more popular episodes of the original series. I remember liking it a lot, but this time around I found it strangely contrived. It’s generally advisable to raise the stakes and introduce conflict and complications for maximum dramatic effect, but D.C. Fontana might have pushed too far. Not only is Sarek a murder suspect, but he needs emergency heart surgery! Not only is Spock the only person who can donate blood, but he can’t because Captain Kirk is abruptly incapacitated at the worst possible time. There’s a spy on board transmitting secret communiques, and the ship’s under attack! Spock figures out what the enemy ship’s unusual power utilization curve means, but before he can tell everyone the secret to life, the universe, and everything, Nurse Chapel drugs him unconscious.

Any one of these plotlines could easily fill out an hour—and they have—but put them all together and the episode is crammed full of story but drained of meaning. I would have liked a quieter focus with Spock earning his father’s respect, which seemed to be the gist of it. Because we’ve seen Spock’s conflict over his mixed heritage before, it’s not particularly interesting, although at the time this episode was broadcast, that sehlat had not yet been beaten to death. Amidst all of the drama, I wanted more about the delegation’s debating over welcoming Coridan into the Federation and the complex politics involved, but much of this was unfortunately glossed over.

I was so lost throughout the episode, and frustrated that they weren’t adequately exploring the “A story” of Sarek and Amanda’s relationship with Spock, that I kept being distracted by the other flaws. Kirk didn’t do even cursory research on the Vulcan ambassador before he arrived? And why didn’t Spock mention this little detail? Obviously it was for the big reveal in the teaser, but that surprise had zero impact on me even on my first viewing, since I’d already seen Sarek in the films.

It seemed like everyone pronounced Sarek’s name differently; at one point, I swore McCoy referred to Amanda as “Mrs. Surak,” but I blame his occasional southern accent for that one. And when Kirk and the others go to question Sarek, they burst into his quarters without ringing the doorbell! Is that appropriate treatment for a diplomat and his wife, even if he’s a suspect? What if Amanda had been changing clothes or they were in the middle of something private? (Instead, we get a gratuitous topless shot of an increasingly chubby Kirk.) There was also the moment where Kirk asks Spock to explain the computer systems to Sarek, though he knows it will make his science officer uncomfortable. Maybe he’s being a jerk, or maybe he just doesn’t know how the computers work.

I hate to say it, but a lot of the Vulcan culture also rubbed me the wrong way. I bristled at how Sarek dominated Amanda, even if she took it in good spirit and explained it as the Vulcan way. “My wife, attend.” Seriously? I don’t remember him treating his second wife Perrin this way in TNG. I mean, even Kirk is offended by Sarek ordering Amanda around. And ever since seeing Vulcan mating rituals in Star Trek III, the whole finger-touching thing Vulcan couples do seems...wrong. It’s like watching Ferengi rub their ears on DS9, but at least Amanda wears a glove. I guess touching fingers is like kissing? You wouldn’t think Vulcans would be into PDA.

In addition to some slight nitpicks—the color of the ship’s phasers changed from blue to red in different scenes, McCoy’s medical scanner seems to be smoking in one shot, and Kirk keeps grabbing his left arm in pain even though he was stabbed in his lower back—there was one big disappointment for me. Instead of allowing Spock to stick by his decision or change his mind and help his father, Kirk tricks him into returning to Sickbay. Thus the resolution is about Kirk’s sacrifice instead of Spock’s. Moreover, it makes Spock seem unreasonable and illogical because Kirk is content to turn over the Bridge to Scotty, and even leaves Chekov in charge later; however, he does insist on staying when the enemy attacks.

And yet, there are a lot of terrific things in this episode. I liked seeing all the different alien races in one place, even if some of them are less convincing than others. It was great when McCoy complained about his dress uniform, a recurring theme in Star Trek, and struggled with the Vulcan salute. I loved the scene where Kirk tries to comfort Spock on the Bridge, but Spock deliberately misunderstands him. The final scene in Sickbay is brilliant, showing familial affection with playful teasing, and paralleling Spock’s blood family with his adopted one of Kirk and McCoy. The doctor’s meltdown is delightful, along with his somewhat meta comment about finally getting the last word.

Two other observations. I noticed a sign posted by the shuttlebay that read “Warning: Automatic Doors.” Uh, aren’t all the doors automatic? (Except maybe the one in Spock’s quarters.) Did someone hit the Starfleet with a frivolous lawsuit that made them post these useless warnings everywhere? Or does someone at Utopia Planitia have a cousin who makes signs?

Spock identifies the Vulcan method of breaking someone’s neck as “tal-shaya,” which means a merciful death. Is this related to the name of the Romulan secret service, the Tal Shiar, which was anything but merciful?

Eugene’s Rating: Warp Factor 4

Best Line: SPOCK: Humans smile with so little provocation.

Syndication cuts: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy walking down the corridor (how exciting!); some shots of the Galileo stock footage; a fantastic quickie shot of a bunch of redshirts tugging on their uniforms in an attempt to primp before the ambassadors; Spock discussing the alien vessel and Uhura’s attempts to contact it; the alien ship’s first flyby; a shot of the Tellarite seated in the reception area before Sarek enters; Spock explaining what the alien ship can’t be after telling Kirk that worry is a human emotion, and Uhura’s next report on the signal; a bit of Chapel walking around (but she’s so pretty!); part of the discussion about the experimental Rigelian drug; the beginning of the fight between Kirk and the “Andorian”; Spock’s log after the commercial break summarizing Kirk’s condition; Chapel calling over McCoy and the beginning of the operation; part of the alien battle, with Kirk preparing to fire torpedoes; reaction shots from Sarek’s operation; and the exchange between Kirk and Chekov about shield 4 buckling.

Trivia: In the original draft of the script, the Vulcan delegates beamed aboard the Enterprise. It turns out that they blew their whole budget on make-up for the various aliens, though (especially the Andorians, who were not only expensive but required several sets to include the stuntmen), so they had to settled for stock shuttlecraft footage from “The Galileo Seven.” The original draft also tell us that Sarek and Amanda have been married for 38 years (you can now guess Spock’s age), that Sarek was an astrophysicist before he became a politician (another common streak between them), and that Sarek’s father had been Ambassador Shariel, a famous Vulcan (which implies that perhaps Sarek wished his son to become an ambassador, because Amanda says that Sarek followed in his father’s footsteps and he wanted this for his son as well).

Miss Jane Wyatt, as she is credited, was ridiculously famous and perhaps the most illustrious person to have appeared on Star Trek, Joan Collins not withstanding. She was a huge stage star since the ’30s. She appeared in Lost Horizon and was the mother on Father Knows Best.

The actor playing the Tellurite couldn’t see anything through the small eye slits, and raised his head to try and peer out. This gave the Tellurites the impression of arrogance, which happened to be fitting. The Tantalus Device appears in McCoy’s quarters.

Other Notes: Sarek and Amanda appear again in Star Trek III, but the real appearance of note is the Next Generation episode “Sarek,” written by Peter S. Beagle. In the episode, the aging Sarek’s ability to control his emotions has been slowly eroded by a disease called Bendii syndrome. Knowing that he cannot complete a crucial negotiation without an emotional pillar, he mind-melds with Picard, who bears the emotional tidal wave of longing, regret, passion, and anger that Sarek has repressed in his life. It is an incredibly powerful episode and Lenard should’ve won an Emmy for it. It’s also one of my favorites.

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 11 - “Friday’s Child.” 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.

Torie Atkinson will definitely be re-watching “Sarek” before the week is out.

Eugene Myers wonders why Paramount hasn’t started making plush sehlat toys. You know, for kids! They’ll sell Borg teddy bears but not bears with fangs?

j p
1. sps49
Enterprise-D was build in Utopia Planitia; I believe this one was on Earth. San Fran, maybe? (god, not Iowa!)

Spock correctly sees his choice as deserting his post (needs of the many) to help his father (needs of the few). I don't fault him; it is a difficult position with only one real choice. Kirk can delegate more easily- the CO doesn't spend all his time on the bridge, after all- but when things really happen, he stays in his chair.

I am gladdened that these early explorations are recognized as the first ones, despite the fact that many now have seen the original series after the later ones. In the early 70's I recognized Amanda's subordinate status (in public; maybe they have a Sea Folk style marriage) as very different from my parents. Equality was apparently not practiced by everyone.

And yes, the Tellurite makeup has been laughed at since the 60's. Thanks for the insight intothe actor's difficulty and solution; I knew about the silver contacts in Where No Man Has Gone Before but not this.
William Frank
2. scifantasy
Now that you've seen this, you may want to track down Diane Duane's novel Spock's World, which is both about the history of Vulcan and about Spock and Sarek's relationship (along with an arguably-main story about Vulcan considering withdrawing from the Federation). Especially worthwhile because it says, flat out, "No emotions? Pull the other one, it has bells on." Vulcans have emotions, the point is made over and over; they merely control them. (Or try to.)

It's a worthy follow-up to both "Babel" and "Amok Time," and works well in synch with "Sarek" and the "Unification" two-parter from Next Generation.
John Ginsberg-Stevens
3. eruditeogre
Despite its problems, I enjoy this episode. It gives you a feel for the composition of the Federation, both in terms of species and diplomacy. The inconsistencies that Eugene point out detract a bit from the episode, But despite these, and the over-packed plot, I liked what it tells us about Vulcans in general, and Spock and Sarek in particular. It would have been great if they used Amanda to better effect.

I want a plush sehlat too.
4. WonderGirl
I do like this episode, but one little thing has been bothering me since the last time I watched it. . . .

AMANDA: When you were five years old and came home stiff-lipped, anguished, because the other boys tormented you saying that you weren't really Vulcan.

Somehow, it seems to me that "tormenting" someone due to his ancestry would be considered terribly illogical. Possibly I'm wrong about this, but, eh, might as well see if anyone else feels the same.

When I was in grade school, I once tried to make a plush sehlat by cutting out a couple of "fang" triangles from a sheet of paper and sticking them inside my teddy bear's mouth with tape. . . .
Eugene Myers
5. ecmyers
@ 4 Wondergirl

Somehow, it seems to me that "tormenting" someone due to his ancestry would be considered terribly illogical.

I completely agree, but I guess Vulcan kids are just as vicious as humans. They essentially showed this in the new ST movie, and I believe it appears in Fontana's animated series episode "Yesteryear." As others have pointed out, Vulcans do have emotions, and it stands to reason that kids would not be as adept at controlling them at a young age. Plus, Vulcans are very judgemental and prejudiced, especially of humans.

Your story about making your own sehlat is so adorable! Any pictures? :P
Eugene Myers
6. ecmyers
Torie, I like the similarities between Sarek and Spock that you pointed out. I also thought that Spock was trying to be extra Vulcan in this episode, but in addition to trying to impress his father, I assumed he was being more careful with his emotions because it was a tense situation.
7. EliBishop
ecmyers: My take on that scene in the movie was that it was sort of a formal test for the older kids to keep insulting Spock - that he had to prove he could keep his cool while they were pushing his buttons - but that being kids, they enjoyed it more than they were supposed to.
David Levinson
8. DemetriosX
I've always really liked this episode. For all its plot weaknesses (and many of them are more the result of the times than anything else, television drama still being in its youth), it is very much a character story and it succeeds admirably in that respect.

The Tellurite makeup wasn't great, but it wasn't really that much worse than any other full-face prosthetic makeup on TV at the time. But I don't think they ever appeared again in any series. I'm not even sure they got mentioned.

As for Spock's decision, I think it was the more logical course. Not just a needs of the many vs. the needs of the few issue as sps49 pointed out @1, but what good does it do for him to act to save Sarek's life, if the ship is destroyed and everyone on it is killed?
Marcus W
9. toryx
I liked the "Sarek" episode quite a bit myself, but the one thing I didn't like was Sarek getting remarried to another human. I don't know why, it's always bugged me.

Anyway, the Vulcan attitudes to their wife present in "Journey to Babel" always bothered me too. I've never thought that the level of servility a wife seems to give her husband on Vulcan was even remotely logical.

I can totally buy the concept of Vulcan children taunting a young Spock, though. They definitely have that arrogance and superiority that's evolved out of their control of their emotions and I think it fits pretty well with just how emotional Vulcans have the potential to be.

I have the opposite reaction to the finger touching thing. I saw "Journey" before Star Trek III and as a result the movie always seemed to take an innocent, romantic gesture and dirty it.

On the other hand, there's kisses and then there's kisses so maybe it's just the same kind of thing.
Dr. Kirtland C Peterson
10. catsongs

Thanks for the mention of SPOCK'S WORLD!

Read it ages upon ages ago, but remember enjoying it.

I must have it somewhere... so ISO SW!

Mike Conley
11. NomadUK
Just so everyone knows, it's Tellarite, not Tellurite.

My favourite bit, at the very beginning, with McCoy trying to get his hand into position for the Vulcan salute, and then the Security honour guard forming up in the shuttlecraft hangar. (It was 1967; hadn't any of these guys been drafted and taught how to dress up on a straight line? Anyway, it was a nice touch.)

Also, watching Kirk in severe pain the first time he tries moving after McCoy patches him up always cracks me up. Don't know why.

sps49@1: The plaque to the right of the turbolift doors on the bridge reads 'U.S.S. Enterprise, Starship Class, San Francisco, Calif'. The Making of Star Trek states that the ship components were built on Earth but assembled in space, which was probably a pretty typical concept for spacecraft assembly back in the 1960s; it probably didn't occur to Roddenberry et al. that there would be plenty of resources in space from which to build the ship, without having to haul the bits up out of a gravity well.

Which in no way excuses J J Adams.

As ecmeyers points out @5, the idea that Vulcans are somehow inherently without emotion is silly; I really don't understand where people get that idea. Clearly, it's the case that they have them, but repress them. I'd imagine that those taunting children would have been severely reprimanded by their parents — unless they, too, harbour a prejudice against that half-Human kid.

Eugene: “My wife, attend.” Seriously? I don’t remember him treating his second wife Perrin this way in TNG. I mean, even Kirk is offended by Sarek ordering Amanda around.

The fact that TNG got it wrong isn't terribly surprising. I don't think I ever saw 'Sarek'.

Regarding Humans getting bent out of shape about the way Vulcan males treat females, all I can say is that it's very likely a lot more complex than many people seem to want to admit. Look at 'Amok Time'. Clearly, there's a patriarchal element to the society, in which males battle for females. But who's in charge? T'Pau. Not unlike late Tudor England, in which the men supposedly ran things, but Elizabeth I kicked everyone's arse. The women defer to the men? Maybe they do, maybe they don't; one can't really tell from the brief glimpses we get of Vulcan society.

In any event, that's their arrangement; if you don't like it, nobody's forcing you to marry a Vulcan.

Also, I think that smoking from McCoy's feinberger was deliberate; it's meant to be a surgical laser scalpel, I'm sure.

Regarding the multiple subplots, hey, why not? Think of it as a variant of the anthropic principle applied to a Star Trek episode: without the multiple subplots, there wouldn't be an episode. We could, of course, have instead a very exciting episode in which it's revealed that Spock doesn't get along with his father and that Mom is caught in the middle. Yes. Very nice.

And as far a Spock being über-logical, I don't see it. Go back to 'The Doomsday Machine'. Spock was ready to let Decker sacrifice the ship and crew in the absence of a valid reason to relieve him of command; letting his father die under the circumstances seems like a much easier decision to make. And if he had gone along with Mom's argument and anything had happened to those diplomats or to the ship whilst he was giving blood to save a relative's life, the Starfleet court martial would have roasted him alive. Starfleet regulations mean something to Spock; he's not Kirk, after all.

So, great episode.
Eric Neal
12. ewneal
@8 DemetriosX

The Tellarites did re-appear (or perhaps pre-appear) in the Star Trek: Enterprise series with greatly improved make-up. Not remotely as cool as the re-made Andorians though!

That is their only other appearance that I could recall.

Eugene & Torrie - I am glad you are back to the re-watch... Thanks for geeking out with us!
13. WonderGirl
@Eugene: Aha, that's a particularly good point, that Vulcan five-year-olds wouldn't have the same kind of control that adults do. (I haven't seen ST:XI, so I guess I'm a bit out of it on that count.) Unfortunately, no photographic evidence of my sehlat exists. =p The masking tape didn't work very well. . . .

The Tellurites do seem to have disappeared after TOS, but I think one makes a brief appearance at the asylum in "Whom Gods Destroy"?
Church Tucker
14. Church
Wow, another one where I'm with Torie. (Or at least closer to. This is a Warp 6 in my book.)

Sarek's treatment of Amanda makes perfect sense to me. He's trying to prevent her from being unseemingly emotional with Spock.

The lack of Spock-compatible blood onboard is a bit odd, but they do say it's rare even for Vulcans, and I don't believe the concept of 'self-donation' was around at the time this was made.

I still like the multiple subplots, and I think it holds up well. Heck, I've had days where more crap than that went improbably wrong at the same time, so it doesn't seem implausible to me.

As for Spock's reluctance to turn over the chair to a subordinate, it was a dire emergency situation. Yeah, his dad is important in his own right, but so is every other ambassador aboard. Next in the chain of command is the Chief Engineer, who might be better utilized in engineering.

The Tellarites always intrigued me. I know it's just a bad prosthetic (hence the shit-on-the-forehead of subsequent alien species) but the look fascinated me and I always wondered about the adaptive advantages of their sunken eyes. It's a pity that they were essentially ignored afterwards. (And what's with the little gold dudes and the tall black guys? Anyone give them a backstory, or even a name?)

@NomadUK: "Also, I think that smoking from McCoy's feinberger was deliberate; it's meant to be a surgical laser scalpel, I'm sure."

Doubtless the case, but I always liked to picture McCoy smoking a cigarette as he operates.
David Levinson
15. DemetriosX
@12 ewneal

That explains why I never saw them again. I saw maybe 5 episodes of ST:E. I gave up on it when I realized that the only reason I could tell the captain apart from the rest of the male crew members was that I knew who Scott Bakula was. There may also have been a Tellarite appearance in TAS, but I'm not sure. In any case, THERE ARE FOUR SERIES!

(There are supposed to be starting and ending picard tags around that, but I can't get them to display.)
Torie Atkinson
16. Torie
Ack, I'm late to my own conversation! So excited to talk about this one.

@ 1 sps49

Right, Iowa, where they have all those RANDOM CHASMS. Anyway.

Good call on the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few. I hadn't thought of that specifically, but again, I felt his decision made perfect sense to him, if not to me. I still think someone else could've commanded, but I know Spock wouldn't see it that way.

@ 2 scifantasy

I will have to check that out! This is one of the few episodes that I feel has really strong continuity to TNG, and I'd like to learn more about it (even in a non-canon kind of way).

@ 3 eruditeogre

I really like that it shows us the Federation isn't just about killing aliens and claiming worlds. There's a whole political aspect to it, one that's complicated and kind of messy but ultimately inspiring in its diversity.

@ 4 WonderGirl

Aww plushie sehlat! So cute. I absolutely believe Vulcan children would torment. In addition to the usual pissing contests of young men, it's a great excuse to fuel their ingrained Vulcan superiority complex. Plus? Children are nasty little brats most of the time. Something's gotta be universal, right?

@ 6 ecmyers

I don't think he was being extra-Vulcan. I agree with DemetriosX @ 8 that it's fairly sensible, and NomadUK points out in 11 that it's pretty standard fare for him.

@ 9 toryx

I didn't mind that he remarried, and I must've been the only one not bothered by the treatment of Amanda. I was annoyed at the ending, but the "wife, attend" demands seemed more like he was snapping at her in frustration. I didn't read that it was how their relationship usually worked.

I was most surprised when Amanda tells Kirk that the Vulcan way "is superior to ours." Really? She still believes that? No wonder she lets Sarek boss her around here.

@ 11 NomadUK

I cracked up when I saw Kirk's glitterfest SPARKLE! bandage. I mean, it's the future and all, but seriously?

@ 12 ewneal

Absolutely! *geeks out*

@ 14 Church

YAY! Victory! Take that, Eugene!

I wanted to see more aliens, too, but the budget got blown on the Andorians. Too bad. The UN-style effect was definitely achieved regardless.

@ 15 DemetriosX

Thanks for making me snort up my drink at the Picard tags thing.
Mike Conley
17. NomadUK
church@14: Doubtless the case, but I always liked to picture McCoy smoking a cigarette as he operates.

I think Nurse Chapel should also make sure he has a double shot of bourbon sitting nearby during operations; steadies the hands.
Eugene Myers
18. ecmyers
@ 14 Church

You're all turning on me!

@ 11 NomadUK

I've been thinking about TNG's "Sarek" (I have to re-watch that too), and I don't think they got it wrong per se. It just seems that his relationship with Perrin is very different from with Amanda. That makes sense, because every couple has its own dynamic. I have the impression that because of his illness, he has to draw on his wife's strength and everyone is covering for him. Besides, this is about a hundred years after "Journey to Babel," and his sensibilities--or those of Vulcan in general--could have changed over that much time.
Torie Atkinson
19. Torie
@ 18 ecmyers

He also admits in "Sarek" that his love for Perrin doesn't really come close to how he felt about Amanda.
Jeff Soules
20. DeepThought
it makes Spock seem unreasonable and illogical
But that's just it. Spock is unreasonable and illogical.
The entire Vulcan philosophy is -- it simply defines one course of action as "logical" without bothering to give any justification for that claim. And thus Vulcans try to do eminently illogical things -- ferinstance it is fundamentally logical to listen to one's emotions and use them as a guide to action. That's what they evolved to do. It is logical for the one to carry out the task that only he can do instead of the task that many others can do. It is very often logical to lie and cheat and steal and kill. It isn't *nice* but it's logical to do it, and the fact that Vulcans don't recognize it has always greatly taken away from their credibility as a concept, in my opinion.

I guess Vulcan kids are just as vicious as humans. They essentially showed this in the new ST movie
Eh, my take on that is that everybody involved with that movie was utter crap, from the concept people all the way down to the guy who mopped the sound stage.

@toryx #9 -- the one thing I didn't like was Sarek getting remarried to another human.
Eh... he's got a fetish... it happens...

The thing that bugged me about this epsiodes' Multiple! Competing! Disasters! is that the tension's all gone out of disaster N by the time N+1 shows up. So, Sarek's heart condition means we forget all about him as a murder suspect; we aren't worried about whether Spock's blood can even work for the operation (which McCoy mentions) once the tension has moved on to whether he'll take the drug; once Spock is being stubborn and not taking the drug, we've forgotten whether the dangerous experimental drug will have any negative effects on Spock -- of course it won't, because by then we're worried about whether Kirk will survive his walk to the Bridge, but once the privateers are back, we aren't worried about Kirk collapsing from his knifed lung any more (of course he won't), just about whether he can get the ship through it all.
When you're juggling that many balls, some of them are going to fall, and it makes the whole act less engrossing.
Mike Conley
21. NomadUK
ecmeyers@18: Besides, this is about a hundred years after "Journey to Babel," and his sensibilities--or those of Vulcan in general--could have changed over that much time.

I think that's a particularly Terran perspective there. A hundred years is nothing, even on this planet; to Vulcans, who have much longer lifespans and have had a stable, working, (apparently) monolithic society for thousands of years, it's really nothing. I can't see major societal or cultural changes occuring on Vulcan in a timespan as short as a century.

But, who knows? Maybe Rupert Murdoch got himself turned into a corpsicle in the 21st century, came back in the 23rd, took over all Vulcan media outlets, and started up his standard operation of destroying their society. Topless pointy-eared babes on page 3, rants about the Vulcan Science Academy competing unfairly against private enterprise on page 1.
22. DRickard
@ 15 DemetriosX
There are four series? You're actually including Gilligan in Space... er, Voyager?
Torie Atkinson
23. Torie
@ 22 DRickard

Voyager had Robert Picardo. That's enough.
Eugene Myers
24. ecmyers
@ 21 NomadUK

I think Spock changes significantly from the series to the movies, and from the movies to TNG, and finally from TNG to J.J. Abrams's film (only 65 years or so). You can't help but be affected and influenced by events and people in your life, whether you're human, Vulcan, or a Tellarite.

I can't see major societal or cultural changes occuring on Vulcan in a timespan as short as a century.

Unless the entire planet is destroyed by a crazed Romulan...
Torie Atkinson
25. Torie
@ 24 ecmyers

Agreed, especially on an individual level. On a broader cultural level, the only ST culture that I feel doesn't change much from TOS to TNG/beyond are the Klingons. Their culture seems fairly static to me, going back to Kahless. Good thing their makeup improved, though.
Mike Conley
26. NomadUK
torie/ecmeyers @ 24/25:

Oh, I think individuals do change; Spock is no exception. Clearly he changes, even in TOS, from his days with Captain Pike to his service with Kirk.

I would argue, crotchety curmudgeon that I am, that the writers of subsequent series and movies simply got Vulcan wrong: that the original series implied an ancient culture that had thrown off its emotional, aggressive past many centuries before, and that had remained relatively unchanged since then.

In 'Amok Time', Spock says, 'This is the land of my family.' T'Pau says, 'What thee are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart, this is the Vulcan soul. This is our way.' She also says, 'The air is the air, what can be done?' Clearly this is an extremely conservative society, and has been so for a very long time.

The amazing thing is that they developed space travel at all; in that sense, perhaps they're like the ancient Chinese Empire: exploring the world but not finding it necessarily to their liking. The Chinese withdrew; the Vulcans stayed out there, but I prefer to think they would have retained their identity rather than be overwhelmed by Human johnny-come-latelies.

To me, it's simply sad that the writers of subsequent series and films often didn't have the imagination to deal with societies and timescales that don't fit within Human experience. That's what separates the Theodore Sturgeons from the J J Adamses, I guess.
David Levinson
27. DemetriosX
DeepThought @20

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a fetish, anymore than I would for someone who married 2 blondes or 2 redheads. Maybe the fact that he didn't have to duel anyone to the death played a factor in his choices.

DRickard @22

Even though it never reached the levels of TNG or DS9, the writing on Voyager wasn't THAT terrible. It was consistently better than 90 % of TOS season 3 and no worse than the first couple of seasons of either TNG or DS9. And to Torie's comment about Robert Picardo, let me just add, as a heterosexual male, Jeri Ryan in tight uniforms.
Geoffrey Dow
28. ed-rex
NomadUK @26

The amazing thing is that they developed space travel at all; in that sense, perhaps they're like the ancient Chinese Empire: exploring the world but not finding it necessarily to their liking. The Chinese withdrew; the Vulcans stayed out there, but I prefer to think they would have retained their identity rather than be overwhelmed by Human johnny-come-latelies.

I suppose the lord alone knows whether that's what Sturgeon intended, but your interpretation takes a pop-cult icon into mythical territory.

Which is another way of saying, "Well put, sir, well put!"
Torie Atkinson
29. Torie
@ 26 NomadUK

And as a devoted fan to the next generation world, I think you're being too hard on them. "Sarek" is an excellent example of that, as is the Unification 2-parter. Spock attempts to reunite Romulus and Vulcan, but he finds that the Romulans have accepted progress in a way that the Vulcans haven't, and that makes reconciliation very difficult.

@ 27 DemetriosX

Jeri Ryan was easily one of the best actors on that show. She and Robert Picardo carried that thing. OK, I'll admit, I have an inordinate fondness for Voyager because it was My First Trek.

I'm watching DS9 now for the first time and will probably re-watch Voyager afterwards, because it seems logical, but I'm prepared to be horrified, or at least disappointed. I remember at least a FEW good episodes. Don't I? *scratches head*

I mean, it wasn't Enterprise.
Mike Conley
30. NomadUK
torie@29: And as a devoted fan to the next generation world, I think you're being too hard on them.

Ah, Torie, I haven't even begun to be too hard on them....

Seriously, though, yes, there were good episodes in TNG, and real stinkers in TOS. We could go back and forth on the relative merits and shortcomings of the two, and what I consider TNG's tragically missed opportunity to do really great TV science fiction in a continuing series (something I think the far superior Babylon 5 really came closest to pulling off), but there wouldn't be much point.

Other than that we might consume a few pints of beer in the process, which would be just fine.

I suppose I tend to discuss TOS primarily in the context of the universe as it existed in TOS, and I tend to ignore everything that came afterwards. I imagine that's annoying, but there you go. Sometimes people don't change!

Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Peace.
32. nchashim
I never read any fan-fiction. Did they do anything with that line "it was the logical thing to do at the time"? Somehow this always sounded like a shotgun marriage to me.
33. Lane Arnold
---by my star trek fonts and garders--i'm real late for this conversation--"journey" happens to be one of the best episodes of the original series--why?--the acting--the scenes in star trek are what make it so great--witness the scene between amanda and kirk in engineering--a sparing match, a confessional, then at the end a freindl understanding--wonderful!--the scene between the andorian and spock in the brig is another stand out, a couple of aliens investigating an assault-also in the reception room with bones, kirk, spock and sarek-and when sarek says: "not to be discussed, especially not with earthmen"-LOL!-this episode is a prime example of nbc producing for color television, which was new at the time--dig those multicolor ice cubes--mark lenard and deforrest kelly--RIP---
Theresa M. Moore
34. TheresaMMoore
Goodness...(sigh). I loved this episode. "Please. not in front of the Klingons" sticks in my mind from one of the films. I still have my hardcover copy of Spock's World, which I actually liked in spite of all the negative reviews, and I managed to keep Strangers From The Sky, The Vulcan Academy Murders and Vulcan's Glory in my library. For a while I had collected some 100 books of the official STAR TREK series, but sold off most of them when I grew out of collecting. I saw every episode of the series religiously. Compared to the later Next Generation series and others, the original TREK is still the cornerstone. I even liked STAR TREK: Nemesis, though it had flaws you could drive a truck through. It was the character interaction which fascinated me. If we could continue to have well-thought science fiction programs like STAR TREK and DR. WHO, I would be a happy camper.
Theresa M. Moore
35. TheresaMMoore
@Deep Thought: sorry, kid. I though the new ST film ROCKED!!! ahem. IMHO. Once you figure out what's going on, you will like it. See it again.
36. Bluejay Young
@nchashim- "Did they do anything with that line "it was the logical thing to do at the time"?"

Did they ever! Ruth Berman's short story "It Seemed the Logical Thing" (in T-Negative 9) begins "You're what?" "You heard me." In Judith Brownlee's "Let Me Count the Ways" (Eridani Triad 2) Sarek and Amanda had an arranged marriage for diplomatic reasons (logical ones, of course) and learned to know and care for each other over time. Then there's Jean Lorrah's Night of the Twin Moons...

Older fan fiction is unlike today's in many respects. If you want to see some, go to Make It Go Away which carries many of the older classic fanzines -- Spockanalia, Babel, Pastaklan Vesla and so on. You can also read a lot of Kraith stories on line here. Kraith authors attempted to create logical explanations for just about everything you see the Vulcans doing on the show (including "My wife, attend" vs T'Pau being in charge).
37. JerryWest
McCoy's machine appears to be smoking because De Kelley put his cigarette on the edge of the prop when they started shooting the scene. It was the 1960s, and they all smoked on set.
38. Bluejay Young
@Church - "(And what's with the little gold dudes and the tall black guys? Anyone give them a backstory, or even a name?)"

The little gold dudes were the Ithenites - so named by Manny Coto, who worked on Enterprise, when he wanted to bring them back for an episode. The Ithenite ambassador is the one without the pink scarf. He's played by Billy Curtis, who also played a Munchkin City official in The Wizard of Oz.

The tall black guys were never named. I thought their long hooded robes looked awesome, and I still want one.
39. Corylea
This is my second-favorite TOS episode (after "Amok Time"), and I think it's brilliant on so many levels. The scene in Spock's quarters, where Amanda slaps him -- god, Spock's courage gets me every time. Regardless of whether you think he's making the right decision there, one has to appreciate that this decision is COSTING him, big time, but he will do what he thinks is the right thing, regardless of how much it breaks his heart, because that's who Spock is. He's a man and a half, and that scene simultaneously breaks my heart and gives me so much respect for Spock.

As for the "my wife, attend" thing, my reading is that Sarek is the
Ambassador, and he's WORKING during this trip. He may treat her very differently in private, but in public, she needs to be his back-up and
support person, because THEY aren't the Ambassador, HE is the

One thing I think people are overlooking when they talk about the many subplots is that this episode wasn't written to be seen on DVD; it was written to be shown on TV. There needed to be a major plot twist or a major new jeopardy right before every commercial break, to keep viewers tuned to that station. Nielsen ratings were taken every fifteen minutes, and having people turn away from your show partway through was the way to get cancelled. So Dorothy Fontana wrote an episode that had a big new reveal or a big new threat before every commercial break, and I think she did it brilliantly.

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