Star Trek The Animated Series was a twenty-two episode series that ran during the '70's and featured voice acting from the original cast. I've seen a few of the episodes over the years and the thing that I remember best was the music. That and the sound effects, which at times made for a tense experience. I think the show captured the feel of the original series pretty well, while at the same time blazing its own trail. And it didn't hurt that it had pretty amazing visuals for the time. So I thought a rewatch of both seasons was in order, and I'll be reviewing these and providing commentary as I go.
Today is episode 1x02 Yesteryear. Stardate 5373.4. Kirk and Spock are on a planet participating in a historical review of Orion's past. The planet, which goes unnamed in the episode, is the location of the Time Vortex and its Guardian- this is the same gateway through time seen in the original series episode The City on the Edge of Forever. It is explained (very quickly) that the Federation has a team of Historians who are conducting these reviews- apparently in at least some cases they are going back in time to observe past events. That seems, um, dangerous.
No explanation is given for why Kirk and Spock were on one of these missions, but whatever. The problem arises when they return- no one but Kirk recognizes Spock. They check records and it turns out that Spock died when he was seven. Inconvenient! Kirk even has a different second-in-command now, an Andorian named Thelin. So Spock's out of a life, it appears. Something must have happened in the past to change time, and Spock remembers that his life was saved when he was seven by a cousin named Selek. And... apparently Spock was Selek (time loop!!!) and saved his own life in the past. By going back into Orion's past with Kirk he wasn't available to go back in time to Vulcan when he was seven, and so he died.
You gotta love time travel. So Spock has to go back in time to save his future. This is a pretty timeworn plot idea by today's standards, but back in 1973 when this episode aired it was still a novel concept. How will Thelin feel about being replaced? Well he seems cool with it, and I was skeptical given what we see of Andorians in the original series, but surprisingly he doesn't cause any trouble here. So Spock goes back in time and meets himself as a seven year old, and also meets his father Sarek and his mother Amanda. Wouldn't that cause all kind of paradoxes? I don't know...
They run with the idea of Spock being half-human in this episode, with young Spock being taunted in the street by Vulcan kids. He lashes out and his father is disappointed that he succumbed to an emotional outburst. Sarek tells him that he will need to choose between his Vulcan and earthly heritage. The younger Spock is struggling with this, and in a conversation with his mother the adult Spock makes the following observation.
"It is difficult for father to bear less than perfection in his son." Maybe so but that doesn't make things any easier for the younger Spock. Oh, and can I just say here the kids' voice acting is not good.
The time is coming for the maturity trial that all Vulcan kids must go through- they have to survive ten days without food or water out in the wilderness. Okay. Sarek tells young Spock he does not expect to be disappointed. Young Spock heads out early to undergo his trial, and adult Spock realizes something is different- he had forgotten but it wasn't during the maturity trial that his life was saved, it was before. Figuring he better look after the missing young Spock, he heads out and arrives in the nick of time, as his younger version is attacked by a le-matya, a cat-like monster native to Vulcan. Spock saves younger Spock's life but not before his pet I-Chaya gets injured protecting the boy.
Oh and I was shocked to hear Godzilla's roar when the le-matya attacked. Seriously did they use that? Sure sounded like it. And young Spock was kind of a jerk to poor I-Chaya when he set out- the pet clearly wanted to accompany his master but young Spock told him he was too old and too fat to go. Ouch.
Good thing I-Chaya did go though, saving the younger Spock's life long enough for the older version to arrive. So now adult Spock stays with the ailing pet while young Spock races back to get a healer. Unfortunately the healer cannot do anything except ease I-Chaya's suffering, as the wounds were poisoned. Young Spock is given the choice of of letting I-Chaya go peacefully, or keeping him alive in pain. He makes the difficult decision to let I-Chaya go.
Young Spock also chooses his Vulcan heritage, and it was interesting to see Amanda's expression when he relayed this info to his parents. It would be difficult for a human to live on Vulcan, with the suppression of emotions that it would entail, and to have your half- human son choose that road would be even more difficult. This episode didn't have a lot of time to spend on that nuance, but I'm glad they at least showed Amanda's troubled reaction. The other thing I liked is the little heart to heart that adult Spock and his younger self had out in the desert, when young Spock lamented the choice he must make between his fathers' expectations and his mothers emotional way. Adult Spock reminded him that Vulcans do have emotions, they just suppress them. He needn't feel guilty for having them.
So Spock takes his leave of Sarek's household and returns through the gate to the present, but even as he does so he realizes something was still changed. In the past he remembers I-Chaya did not die at that moment, so by going back the past was still changed. The vagaries of time travel. At least in the present he is restored to his proper role on the Enterprise, so his mission was successful. He relates his tale to Kirk, mentioning the small change- the death of a pet- to which Kirk remarks that a change that minor shouldn't be too big of an issue in the fullness of time. Spock replies "It might to some."
And Spock has a zinger for McCoy too upon his return, as McCoy gripes about having to recalibrate his scanner for a Vulcan. Spock replies that McCoy might have had to recalibrate for an Andorian if things had gone otherwise, and McCoy can't quite believe that Spock made a joke. To which Spock replies "Times change, Doctor. Times change."
So... not a bad one. Two episodes in and I find the voice acting by the original crew well done, and at roughly twenty-two minutes in length these are a nice, quick watch. Seeing the Historians was intriguing, we learn nothing about them here but I hope they show up again down the road, and seeing the Guardian of Forever again was neat as well. I'll give this one 3 stars.