Thursday, May 21, 2009

Star Trek--"Tomorrow is Yesterday"

I have critiqued TOS episodes several times for originating concepts trek does poorly, like children, mad scientists, and nearly omnipotent beings judging humanity, but ’Tomorrow is Yesterday” offers a chance to praise TOS for starting a trend Trek does well: time travel. It has been done in every series and several of the movies. Even ENT managed to get it right once in “Twilight,” although that barely makes up for the previous effort in which Archer and T’Pol struggle with a drive through in 2004. I have blocked the episode title out of my memory for the sake of my own sanity. There were Xindsi, as I recall.

In stark contrast to the previous episode, ’The Alternative Factor,” the plot and theoretical science actually make sense. The Enterprise is thrown back in time to 1969. The damaged ship is spotted by an USAF fighter. The pilot has to be beamed aboard before he can fire at the Enterprise. Thus the dilemma becomes what to do with the pilot, John Christopher?

How the ethical problem is dealt with is my favorite part of the episode. Many fans prefer the humorous, fish out of water aspect of Kirk, Spock, and Sulu struggling to cover their tracks while dealing with “modern day” man, but I find the existential element much more satisfying. Kirk and Spock decide they have to keep Christopher onboard in order to protect the future. They believe they can do so because Christopher is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That is until they discover his future son will be a famous astronaut to Saturn in the distant future.

We would all like to think we are more important than we actually are. The point was driven home to me six years ago when my mother died. Aside from the emotional legacy she left behind, she has been pretty much wiped from history. There is nothing physical that says she was ever here besides my siblings and me. I cannot measure our significance with any degree of precision. Maybe the only way any of us will matter is because of a lone great-great-grandchild somewhere down the line who does little more than push Edith Keeler out of the way of a speeding car. Maybe not even that much. One’s place in the universe is unknown until it is all said and done at the end of time. A heady thought, no?

Spock comes up with a too convenient plan to restore the timeline back to the way things were. The pat solution which wraps it all up in a pretty package with a nice little bow is the only thing preventing me from giving “Tomorrow is Yesterday” five stars. Ity is still one of the best of the season. It also has the strange honor of predicting the moon landing would take place on a Wednesday in 1969. It is one of the few future predictions Trek gets right.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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