(airdate: September 15, 1973)
Writer: D.C. Fontana
Director: Hal Sutherland
Sarek: Mark Lenard
Amanda: Majel Barrett
Young Spock: Billy Simpson
Thelin: James Doohan
Captain's Log: After returning from studying Orion's past via the Guardian of Forever, Spock discovers that no one aboard the Enterprise knows who he is and that he's never in fact been a member of Starfleet. This is because he died when he was seven years old; in Spock's past, a cousin named Selek saved him when he was attacked in the desert, but that never happened in this timeline. Kirk and Spock realize that Selek was in fact Spock, who traveled back in time via the Guardian to save himself. Spock thus enters the Guardian, posing as a cousin of the family. Young Spock is upset that the other Vulcan boys taunt him, accusing him of not being a Vulcan, and he is worried that he won't be able to complete the Vulcan test of manhood, the kahs-wan, that has a boy living in the desert for ten days without food or water; thus, he sneaks out of the house early in order to see if he can endure the ordeal, followed by his pet sehlat I-Chaya and the older Spock. Young Spock is attacked by a le-matya, but I-Chaya fends off the creature long enough for the older Spock to intervene and render the le-matya unconscious. I-Chaya, however, was fatally wounded, and not even the healer young Spock brings can save the beloved pet, so young Spock orders that I-Chaya be put down to end the pet's suffering. Spock brings his younger self, now ready to be a Vulcan and to embrace logic and self-control, back home. Spock thus returns to the present, his future having been restored.
Whoops!: Thelin the Andorian is consistently rendered as grey, not pale blue. There's also a very large moon in Vulcan's sky, despite "The Man Trap" telling us that Vulcan doesn't have a moon. [However, the 2009 movie Star Trek does show us a sister planet, Delta Vega, so maybe that's what this is.] Many of young Spock's lines are delivered rather unnaturally. [This is because Hal Sutherland used the audition tape of voice actor Billy Simpson, which was performed in isolation as Simpson stumbled over some of the unfamiliar words, rather than bringing Simpson back for a proper recording.] Meanwhile, one of the Vulcan boys mispronounces "Terran" by stressing the second syllable, so that it sounds rather like the capital of Iran.
As with Fontana's last script involving it ("Tomorrow Is Yesterday"), odd assumptions are made as to the nature of time travel. In short, this alternate timeline comes about because the historians are recording Vulcan's recent past while Kirk and Spock are investigating Orion's distant past, and since Spock is on Orion he can't rescue himself on Vulcan, because he can't be in two places at once, even though "at once" are two completely different time periods. (Still, at least this confirms our working theory as to the logic of "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", so that's something.) This only works if, in the original timeline, Spock traveled to Vulcan instead of Orion at that moment, even though he'd have no reason to do so. But now we're getting dangerously close to exposing the bootstrap paradox underlying this (where Spock only exists because Spock went back in time to save himself, so how did he save himself the first time?), except this time we've added the wrinkle of observation to things: now Spock only exists because the historians failed to observe him when they studied Vulcan history and so he had to go save himself. But then the historians must have observed Spock, so he didn't need to save himself at this point. The problem isn't so much the causal loop as the causal double-loop: things turn out slightly differently this time around, with the death of I-Chaya, but then they must go back to the original version when the historians view the past, which leads to the problem shown in the episode... and so forth. This is a particular worry as (at least until 2009) Star Trek assumes that there's only one timeline, and that any changes made affect that one single timeline. So is Spock's history now constantly in flux, not just regarding the death of his pet but also the entire incident of stardate 5373.4, as he both travels into his past and doesn't?
Classic Lines: "It is difficult for a father to bear less than perfection in his son."
Spock to Kirk, upon his return: "One small thing was changed this time. A pet died." Kirk: "A pet? Well, that wouldn't mean much in the course of time." Spock: "It might, to some."
Library Computer: Vulcan is still a desert planet. One of its cities, ShiKahr, is a large circular city, surrounded by a big wall or mound. The city is located near the L-langon Mountains and [probably] the region known as Vulcan's Forge. [Sarek states that the kahs-wan is undergone in Vulcan's Forge; Young Spock may be trying to reach the Forge, or may just be seeing how he does in the wilderness in general.] The streets we see have interesting geometric shapes dotted about as sculptures and presumably supports of some kind. Thirty years ago, ShiKahr was the home of Ambassador Sarek, his wife Amanda (neé Grayson) and his son Spock.
Thirty years ago, circa 8877 on the Vulcan calendar, Spock underwent his kahs-wan ordeal: an ancient rite from Vulcan's warrior days; when Vulcan turned to logic, they reasoned that they needed to maintain this ritual to keep them from becoming weak and helpless under the rule of pure logic. A month earlier, on the twentieth day of the month of Tasmeen, a seven-year-old Spock traveled to the mountains to see if he could pass the ritual. He was followed by his pet sehlat I-Chaya, an older animal that looked rather like a large brown-grey bear with two large tusks (its left one being broken). [This is the same sehlat mentioned in "Journey to Babel".] While out in the mountains, young Spock was attacked by a le-matya - a large animal with green and yellow fur (with the yellow fur on the back of the animal, as well as a diamond pattern on its sides), large ears, a large mouth, and large, fiercesome, poisonous claws on its four legs. I-Chaya protected young Spock from the le-matya, giving "Selek" (in reality the older Spock) enough time to render it unconscious with a neck pinch, but was poisoned in the process. By the time young Spock had returned with a healer (an old bald man with a white beard, who travels to I-Chaya in a pink vehicle [called a desert flyer in the script] shaped rather like a lozenge), the poison was too advanced, and so young Spock ordered the healer to put I-Chaya down, to save his pet further suffering. This event put Spock on the Vulcan path of logic and control.
The kahs-wan ordeal is a traditional Vulcan survival test for young males. The subject must survive for ten days without food, water, or a weapon; if he fails, he disgraces himself, and some people will call him a coward afterwards [which doesn't seem very logical, but presumably Vulcans can find a way around this].
In addition to the le-matya, the mountains on Vulcan include red sucker vines [named as such in the script, though not on-screen], which can entangle unwary passers-by.
A Vulcan desert soft-suit is a type of garment designed to help withstand the harsh Vulcan desert. It is a hooded robe, tied at the waist and reaching mid-shin.
Despite ostensibly following paths of logic and reason, the Vulcan children seen here show a fair amount of emotion, taunting Spock for being half-human. [This is likely also a deliberate callback to dialogue in "Journey to Babel".] They dress in little more than black short shorts, with a blue strap running from their shoulder to the opposite side of the shorts.
The older Spock poses as a family cousin named Selek, descended from T'Pel and Sasak, who is journeying to the family shrine "to honor our gods". [T'Pel and Sasak are presumably real members of Spock's family, although sufficiently distant for Sarek to not immediately know who they are.] "Selek" helps teach Spock the Vulcan neck pinch, and that Vulcans do not lack emotions, but rather that they control them through logic.
When Spock was five, he played an unspecified practical joke, which gave him a reputation as a practical joker. However, he does not have a reputation as a liar.
In the alternate timeline where Spock died, Spock's parents separated after his death. Sarek was ambassador to seventeen Federation planets in the past thirty years, while Amanda was killed in a shuttle accident at Lunaport on her way back to Earth. Sarek never remarried. In Spock's place aboard the Enterprise was an Andorian named Thelin, who had been Kirk's first officer for five years. [Thus apparently predating the Enterprise's five-year mission, which (this part of) the Animated Series is generally assumed to be year four of.] No one on the Enterprise has ever shown Thelin any disrespect. [It's not known what happened to Thelin in the "proper" timeline, but there's no reason to believe anything bad happened to him - he's just somewhere else.]
Andorians are not known for their charity, but one of the few things they do have sympathy for is family.
Historians use the Guardian of Forever ("The City on the Edge of Forever") [here also called the time vortex] to study other planets' history. Kirk and Spock were studying Orion at the dawn of its civilization. One of the historians seen here is a rather severe-looking woman named [in the script] Grey, while the other is a tall, yellow, bipedal bird named [also in the script] Aleek-Om. [The script says that Aleek-Om is an Aurelian.]
According to Kirk, the time vortex is the focus of all the timelines of the Milky Way.
Final Analysis: "I know what you're thinking. It was I who saved myself that other time." The Animated Series episode everyone is loath to get rid of, and with good reason. "Yesteryear" not only provides an interesting look at a pivotal time in Spock's life, it does so with great style and sensitivity. It's a joy hearing Mark Lenard voice Sarek, and the depiction of I-Chaya's euthanization is handled with great care and thought. A great reminder of the characterization that makes Star Trek so good, "Yesteryear" is easily the standout episode of the Animated Series.
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Page originally created: May 28, 2016
Page last updated: December 16, 2016