Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Time Trap”

“The Time Trap”
Written by Joyce Perry
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 12
Production episode 22010
Original air date: November 24, 1973
Stardate: 5267.2

Captain’s log. The Enterprise is surveying the Delta Triangle, a region of space where hundreds of ships have been lost, in an attempt to determine why so many ships have disappeared there.

They encounter a Klingon ship, the Klothos, under the command of Kor, which immediately fires upon the Enterprise. When Sulu fires back, the ship disappears—but the Klingon shields deflected the weapons fire. Nonetheless, it vanished. Two more Klingon ships arrive, and Commander Kuri accuses Kirk of destroying the Klothos.

Kirk orders Sulu to the same coordinates as the Klothos, and when they arrive, they suffer vertigo and instrument failure. When it clears, they find themselves in a ship graveyard. Scotty is impressed, as he sees vessel designs he’s only seen in museums. They also see the Bonaventure, the first ship to have warp drive installed. It disappeared without a trace after only a few missions.

The Klothos and Enterprise find each other, and they exchange fire—but the weapons fire is frozen, and then both Kirk and Kor are transported off their bridges and in front of the Elysian Council, which is made up of representatives from all the ships that became trapped in the Delta Triangle. They have formed a civilization in this little pocket dimension, ruled by the council, who make it abundantly clear that no hostile acts will be tolerated. They make it equally clear that there is no escape.

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The captains are returned to their ships, and Scotty reports that the Enterprise dilithium crystals are deteriorating. They have four days to find a way out before ship’s power is drained. On the Klothos, Kor’s people are also trying to find a way out. The council, thanks to a telepath named Magen, know that they’re trying, but they also believe that the new arrivals have to try to escape before they will accept that they’re trapped.

Kor tries to power his way out, but fails. However, that gives Spock the idea of combining the engine power of both ships to get through. Kor goes along with it, afterward ordering his first officer Kaz to arrange things so that the Enterprise is destroyed once they break through.

Spock has been acting weird, putting his arms around the Klingons and being chummy with them—which, it turns out, was on purpose, using his touch telepathy to pick up impressions from the Klingons. He knows the Klingons are planning some kind of sabotage.

On the eve of the escape attempt, Kirk hosts a reception for both the Klingons and the Elysians. Devna, an Orion woman, dances for the crew and speaks wistfully of her home of Orion, but refuses Kirk’s offer to go with them when they try to leave, because she’s sure they’ll fail.

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The Klingons start a fight in order to cover the sabotage, and the Elysians haul Kor and his crew up on charges. Kirk pleads with them not to imprison the Klothos, as that would also doom the Enterprise. The council agrees, and releases Kor and his crewmember to Kirk’s custody.

The escape attempt proves successful—and Magen picks up the specifics of the Klingon sabotage telepathically, allowing the council to warn the Enterprise. Scotty and Spock find the explosive and eject it from the ship.

The two vessels break free and go their separate ways, with Kor taking full credit for their escape to the Klingon High Council.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? This episode establishes that Klingon ships use an S-2 graf unit for a warp engine.

Fascinating. Spock is unusually goofy in this one, acting chummy with Klingons in order to receive telepathic impressions from them, which is out of character on two different levels: it’s weird for him to behave that way, in a way that would confuse his friends and crew mates, and it’s also seriously unethical.

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I’m a doctor not an escalator. Hilariously, McCoy is the one who has to point out to Kirk that Spock is acting weird. Kirk, his theoretical best friend, doesn’t even notice.

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu puts the Enterprise at the exact spot the Klothos was at, which is an impressive bit of astrogation in a region of space that messes with sensors, and given how friggin huge space is generally…

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura picks up on Kor’s transmission taking credit, which is the only useful thing she does, though Nichelle Nichols does get to do a bunch of other voices, at least.

I cannot change the laws of physics! It’s unclear why it took Scotty and Spock to undo the Klingon sabotage, especially since it involved throwing a thing the size of a horse pill into the recycling bin…

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No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. We sadly do not get to see Devna’s dance at the reception. Oh, well, we’ll always have Vina

Channel open.

“Your willingness to work with your old enemy, Kirk—it is not like you, Commander. What do you really have in mind?”

“You do know me, Kaz. Very well, what would you think if the Enterprise suddenly disintegrated after our dual ship had pierced the time continuum?”

“I would think my commander had maneuvered brilliantly.”

–Kaz suffering a crisis of faith in Kor’s evilness and Kor restoring that faith.

Welcome aboard. Nichelle Nichols does three voices—Majel Barrett does not appear in this one for some reason—including her usual role of Uhura, and both Devna and Magen. George Takei voices both Sulu and Kuri, and James Doohan is Scotty, Xerius, and Kor. Unknown actors provide the voices of Gabler and Kaz. (For some inexplicable reason, Kaz is often credited to Doohan, even though Kaz sounds nothing like him, even a little bit.)

Trivial matters: Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore did a sequel to this episode involving the Starfleet Corps of Engineers in the eBook novella Where Time Stands Still (later reprinted in the collection Creative Couplings).

The Delta Triangle is, obviously, a riff on the Devil’s Triangle, better known these days as the Bermuda Triangle, a location in the Atlantic Ocean where many ships have been lost.

Kor would mention commanding the Klothos in “Once More Unto the Breach” on DS9, only the second time a live-action series would make a direct reference to the animated series (the first being Sarek referring to the events of “Yesteryear” in “Unification I” on TNG).

This is the second of five appearances by Kor on screen, and the only time John Colicos wasn’t playing the role. Instead—as with Koloth in “More Tribbles, More Troubles“—he was voiced by James Doohan. The producers attempted to bring Kor back twice after “Errand of Mercy,” but Colicos wasn’t available for either “The Trouble with Tribbles” or “Day of the Dove,” so they created new Klingons instead. This time they succeeded in bringing him back by virtue of not actually needing Colicos to do it. He’ll return thrice on DS9, in “Blood Oath,” “The Sword of Kahless,” and the aforementioned “Once More Unto the Breach.”

Some of the ships in the graveyard were early rejected designs for the insectoid ship seen in “Beyond the Farthest Star.” One of the aliens on the Elysian Council is a Phylosian from “The Infinite Vulcan.”

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This is the last chronological appearance of a smooth-headed Klingon (QuchHa’). The next time we see Klingons will be in The Motion Picture, which introduced the ridge-headed design (HemQuch) that would be used henceforth. The only other times we’ll see QuchHa’ after this are on Enterprise, when QuchHa’ were created in “Affliction” and “Divergence,” and in DS9‘s “Trials and Tribble-ations,” when the Defiant travels back in time to the events of “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

Based on the reference in this episode, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens established Zefram Cochrane’s first ship to have warp drive as being called the Bonaventure in the novel Federation. That would later be superseded by the movie First Contact, which had Cochrane’s ship be called the Phoenix. The aforementioned Where Time Stands Still reconciled this by having the Bonaventure be the first official Earth ship to have a warp engine (since the Phoenix flight was pretty much done in somebody’s back yard), and its loss in the Delta Triangle was theorized to be a design flaw, which led Cochrane to start the Warp 5 Project that culminated in the NX-01 seen in the show Enterprise. The Bonaventure was also seen in The Spaceflight Chronology by Stan & Fred Goldstein and Rick Sternbach and in the FASA RPG module The Four Years War.

Devna is a recurring character (at a time prior to her being lost in the Delta Triangle) in Christopher L. Bennett’s Enterprise: Rise of the Federation novel series.

In 2009, your humble rewatcher was the subject of a comedy roast for charity at the Shore Leave convention, the first of three (the other two victims in 2010 and 2011 were, respectively, Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger). One of the segments produced for the roast was a “lost” animated episode, “Requiem for a Martian,” supposedly written by me when I was four years old, and intended to be the first episode of the third season of the animated series. The footage for that “lost” episode all came from this episode, including dubbing in President Barack Obama’s voice over Gabler (it works frighteningly well).

To boldly go. “I’ve never known Spock to act like a pal under any circumstances.” This is one case where the episode suffers mightily from the half-hour format, because our heroes are barely in Elysia before they have to effect their escape. We never really get to see Elysia, and that’s too bad. It was a great opportunity to show how disparate species can cooperate under the right circumstances, and a chance at a nifty analogy to how Kirk and Kor have to work together.

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But the tropes and time frame of Saturday morning cartoons means that we have to have Kor betray the crew and that we only have half an hour to tell the story. So as a result, the episode feels like it skimps on the plot.

On top of that, Kor is very disappointing. The character design is actually pretty close to John Colicos, and James Doohan at least occasionally matches John Colicos’s vocal cadence, but all nuance is lost from the character. There’s no reason for it to be Kor. Every other returning character has been important to the plot—Sarek and Amanda, Cyrano Jones and Koloth and Korax, Harry Mudd—or minor enough to not matter—Bob Wesley—but Kor is supposed to be a dangerous antagonist, and he’s a shadow of his former self (and his future self, for that matter, as he’s totally awesome when he appears on DS9).

It’s bizarre that Majel Barrett’s services weren’t used—it’s very obvious Nichelle Nichols doubling up on both Magen and Devna, and it would’ve been more effective if Barrett had done one of those voices—and that’s not the only vocal peculiarity. George Takei’s distinct voice isn’t differentiated enough as Kuri from Sulu’s voice, and nobody can agree on how to pronounce Magen or Xerius’s names.

The Delta Triangle is a tiresomely derivative concept, but Elysia has some serious potential, and it’s really too bad that it was wasted in favor of space battles and sabotage. The episode would’ve been far stronger dropping Kuri and the other two Klingon ships, and maybe having Kor be inspired by the example of the Elysians and agreeing to work with Kirk. (Especially since there’s a Klingon right there on the Elysian council, which is never actually mentioned by anyone.)

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Warp factor rating: 5

Next week:The Ambergris Element

Keith R.A. DeCandido recently announced one of his niftiest new projects, which will be out this summer: Orphan Black: Classified Clone Report—From the Files of Dr. Delphine Cormier. This reference work is the ultimate companion to the BBC America TV series, and will be released alongside the airing of the show’s fifth and final season. More information on Keith’s blog.

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