Late in season three of the original series of Star Trek, Spock went back in time to Ice Age Sarpeidon. Because of the nature of the technology involved, he reverted to a pre-civilized state. He lost control of his emotions, ate meat, and fell in love. In the Yesterday Saga, Ann Crispin explores the repercussions of this incident. The result is a confusing series of events surrounding a fascinating new character.
Yesterday’s Son opens with the not-entirely unexpected news (given the book’s title), that Spock’s sojurn on Sarpeidon left his paramour, Zarabeth, in the family way. Spock stoically denies all knowledge, but the shock causes him to lose a game of chess. While the crew plans a convivial production of HMS Pinafore, Spock plans to head for the Guardian of Forever, return to Sarpeidon, rescue his son and return home to deal with the consequences of his excessive passion. Kirk and McCoy aren’t going to hang out on the Enterprise watching Gilbert and Sullivan while Spock goes on a Colonel Brandon-like quest for his natural child. They pack a first aid kit and some cold-weather camping gear and meet Spock in the transporter room. They are expecting to rescue a pointy-eared tyke, but when they finally find Spock’s son, Zar, he’s 28. The Guardian of Forever is not a precision instrument. Zar is also very psychic. That will be important later.
The trio fishes Zar out of his ice age solitude, brings him back to the present, and then decides that the best place for him to acclimate to his new life is the Enterprise. There are two really notable moments in this process. The first is when McCoy cuts Zar’s hair to look like Spock’s. This didn’t strike me as important when I first read it at age 13, but my re-read at age 35 screeched to a halt while I pondered the implications. Shouldn’t McCoy ask first? Is a haircut culturally appropriate for a guy who just moved in from the prehistoric ice age? What if waist-length hair MEANT something? McCoy is unconcerned. I am furious. Just before I hurl the book with great force, I realize that I’m upset because I like Zar and I don’t want anyone to hurt him. Zar doesn’t seem to mind. I forgive Crispin and make peace with McCoy’s tactlessness. Spock has some trouble adjusting to fatherhood, and while I don’t think the haircut helps, it’s not the biggest issue on the table.
That issue shows up in notable moment #2, a brilliant scene in the galley, where Spock sits down to join Zar and McCoy for lunch. You know how we’ve all been super-excited about The Hunger Games? You know that scene on the train (in the movie, not the book) where Katniss nearly stabs Haymitch because he keeps getting drunk, and Effie is upset about the table? Imagine that Zar is Katniss, and Spock is Haymitch. In this version of the scene, replace “getting drunk” with “quizzing his kid on math facts” and sub out the knife for a meatball grinder. The role of Effie will be played by Leonard McCoy, who takes Zar to task for disrespecting his dad with his wicked non-vegetarian ways, even though Zar is a grown man who spent years hunting and killing all his meals, and no one else has apologized to Spock for eating meat in the history of ever. Not surprisingly, following a convoluted series of events, Zar ditches modernity and his dad in favor of a return to pre-history, albeit on a warmer and more populated part of his planet.
After the strains of Yesterday’s Son, Spock and Zar are desperately in need of the emotional closure that only a sequel can provide. That sequel is Time for Yesterday. Crispin wrote an introduction to this book that could have easily been titled “Why my Star Trek story has been published by Pocket with a Boris Vallejo painting of Spock’s shirtless, sword-waving offspring riding a unicorn through the Guardian of Forever on the cover, and your Star Trek story will probably only appear in fanzines.” Crispin has done a lot for writers. I’m sure the intro was meant as an early part of that advocacy work, even though I read it as a crushing blow to my childhood dreams. Time for Yesterday is the kind of book you read to dull the pain.
Reading the early chapters of Time for Yesterday feels like being stuck behind a school bus. The details kept jolting me out of the story. The universe is ending – and Spock supplies the correct plural of supernova. There’s a problem with the Guardian of Forever – and the Federation has found a furry, pregnant, eight-year-old psychic to try to make contact with it and save the universe. (The book was published in 1987, which means that furriness is an allusion to The Mote in God’s Eye, and not to the lower levels of the Geek Hierarchy.) The eight-year-old psychic is incapacitated by the Guardian just before giving birth – and Spock asks Uhura to help with the babies because she was so good with Tribbles. The story improves once we get through the malfunctioning Guardian to Zar’s life in Bronze Age Sarpeidon. Back in the ancient world, Zar is preparing to defend the civilization he created and provided with advanced science and technology. It’s a delicate moment. Spock needs Zar to use his telepathic powers to fix the Guardian, which Zar has contacted once before. Their familial sympathies overcome their past tensions, and they work together to save Zar’s civilization and Spock’s universe. Zar kidnaps the precognitive, psychic priestess who has foretold his death, marries her, falls in love, returns to the future to fix the Guardian and his chronic leg injury, and then goes back to the past to win the battle, defy fate, and live happily until he dies of old age. He’s a great guy. He deserves nothing less.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer has been a Star Trek fan since the early 90s, but only started watching the series in 2009. She teaches history and reads a lot.