26 November 2015

The Purple Air Farce (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.19, "Tomorrow is Yesterday")

Well, it's been a good while since I've done one of these and since then we've got the announcement of a new TV series, which I am very much looking forward to. Meanwhile, let's go back to 1967... which is something the crew of the Enterprise kind of do in this episode...

After an encounter with a 'black star', NCC-1701 is warped back to Earth in the late 1960s. As they fly over Earth, a US Air Force plane intercepts them... and they end up destroying it with their tractor beam. Beaming the pilot on board, they now find themselves with a problem - getting back home and dealing with the pilot...

A couple of interesting spacey points that I want to begin with. I'd never heard of a 'black star' before with super gravitational effects - a black dwarf, yes and definitely a black hole - but not one of those before. My research suggests that the term 'black hole' wasn't in popular use at this time; John Wheeler is credited with popularising it (not creating it, which he always denied) after a 1967 meeting) although the concept most certainly existed back into the 19th century. Interesting how space science has developed even in the history of Star Trek.

Another one is actually more tragic. The story doesn't specify the precise year it takes place in (although the Star Trek Chronology would place it as 1969), but refers to being three days before the first manned 'moonshot', which was seen as likely in the next few years - although some at NASA thought it would be well. I wondered if this was made before the Apollo 1 disaster, the death of three astronauts in a fire during a launch rehearsal... and I was right. In fact it aired 26 January 1967, the day before that tragedy.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy are all on fine form here; as well as dealing with the main plot, they also have to deal with a faulty computer programmed with a flirty personality, which adds some more humour in what is intended to be somewhat of a humorous episode - Kirk getting some great stuff with the Air Force. We also get Scotty at his engineering best, quickly fixing the problems that got them there.

The US Air Force, depicted in action via stock footage (the pilot, Captain John Christopher, flies a F-104 Starfighter) generally comes right out of Central Casting... we've got Ed Peck as a very stern Air Police officer and a Sergeant who spends his entire time on the ship gawping in amazement at the Transporter Room. Also, in an episode heavy with 'Starship Acting', we get to see both sides in a fight use 'Kirk Fu' in a scene that reminded me of 1960s Batman in its exaggerated action. Also, is it the colour wash or do those uniforms look purple to me?

Now I've seen a lot of 'timey-wimey' stuff in my time as a Doctor Who fan, especially where Steven Moffat is involved, but even I had to metaphorically scratch my head at how Spock resolves part of the problem re the crew.



A reasonable enough episode, but by no means brilliant and with some distinctly head-scratching moments at times. Also a bit too slow for my liking.


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