44 "Journey to Babel"

(airdate: November 17, 1967)

Writer: D.C. Fontana
Director: Joseph Pevney

Amanda: Miss Jane Wyatt
Thelev: William O'Connell

Sarek: Mark Lenard
Gav: John Wheeler

Shras: Reggie Nalder

Stardate: 3842.3

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is transporting a number of delegates to the neutral planetoid Babel to discuss admitting the Coridan planets to the Federation. Tensions run high among the delegates, and soon the Tellarite ambassador is found murdered. The prime suspect is Ambassador Sarek, the Vulcan emissary who is also Spock's father, but he reveals that he couldn't possibly have done it, as he is suffering from a heart condition and had collapsed at the time. McCoy deems that Sarek requires immediate surgery, but that still leaves the question of who killed the Tellarite ambassador. Meanwhile, not only is an unidentified ship following the Enterprise, but Kirk is attacked by an Andorian delegate, Thelev. Thelev is revealed to have murdered the Tellarite, and when the Enterprise manages to disable the ship, it destroys itself. Both the ship and Thelev were in fact Orions, attempting to destabilize the conference in order to keep Coridan neutral, allowing them to profit in any hostilities that broke out as a result. With Sarek on the mend, the Enterprise continues on to Babel.

Whoops!: The actors' marks are briefly but clearly visible during the reception scene (roughly 11 minutes in, as Sarek excuses himself and Amanda). Leonard Nimoy mispronounces "cryogenic" as "cyrogenic", with a soft /s/ sound. [It was spelled correctly in the script, so this wasn't a case of reading a misspelling literally.]
     Amanda states that her Vulcan name is largely unpronounceable to (presumably) native English speakers. But what exactly is so hard about it? Given the (admittedly few, up to this point) Vulcan words and names we've heard up to now, there's nothing that's been particularly difficult for an English speaker to say, so what makes Amanda's name so tricky? Is there a pharyngeal consonant, like in Arabic, or a distinction between aspirated and unaspirated stops (i.e., the difference between the /p/'s in pit and spit), as in Sanskrit? Or is this just the cliché of alien languages being difficult for English speakers to pronounce, unfortunately applied to a language that we've already heard some uncomplicated examples of?

Classic Lines: Amanda, finally fed up with Spock and Sarek: "Logic! Logic! I'm sick to death of logic!"
     McCoy, after learning that Spock had a pet "teddy bear" as a child: "A teddy bear!" Spock: "Not precisely, Doctor. On Vulcan, the teddy bears are alive, and they have six-inch fangs."

Alien Love: Sarek clearly has affection for his wife Amanda, and vice versa.

Library Computer: Babel is a neutral planetoid in the Enterprise's current sector and the site of an important Federation conference deciding whether or not the Coridan system is to be admitted to the Federation. [The wording of the dialogue is a bit odd; the planet is "codenamed 'Babel'" rather than just being called "Babel", which suggests this was a site that was picked and given a codename just for this conference. However, subsequent episodes (including, most notably, the Enterprise episode "Babel One") will establish that Babel is simply the name given to this planetoid, and that Babel is a standard site for these types of conferences.] Babel has a council chamber where these sorts of matters are debated.
     Coridan is a system seeking membership to the Federation. [We get references to both the Coridan system/planets and to just Coridan. The most logical explanation is that Coridan controls a number of planets in its solar system, and they all would join when Coridan joined.] The Coridan system's admittance is a heated topic among the Federation delegates, rather than a mere formality. This is partly because a number of races, including possibly the Tellarites, have claimed [parts of] the Coridan system for themselves, due partly to a nearly unlimited supply of dilithium crystals. [It appears to be the case that these races' claims would be dismissed if Coridan joined the Federation, as it would presumably join as a self-governing entity.] Coridan is underpopulated and unprotected, leading to a number of illegal mining operations. Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan states that under Federation law, Coridan could be protected "and its wealth administered for the benefit of its people". Vulcan has no mining interests on Coridan. [For more on Coridan and its people, see various episodes of Enterprise, including "Shadows of P'Jem". The Next Generation episode "Sarek" establishes that Coridan was successfully admitted to the Federation.]
     The Enterprise is transporting 114 delegates to the Babel Conference; 32 of them are ambassadors. In addition to the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites described below, a number of other delegates are seen, including: a pair of short, copper-skinned humanoid aliens in loose robes and fezzes; a woman with light purple skin, large blond hair, and a fairly skimpy outfit; two tall human-looking men wearing robes that cover their heads; and a number of other delegates, including various tall, dark-haired women in robes [who may or may not be intended to be part of the same species], and some delegates with big white hair, wearing sashes not unlike that of Worf's from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
     Ambassador Sarek is the Vulcan ambassador to the Babel Conference. 102.437 years old, he recently retired due to "other concerns" (an unusual decision for a Vulcan his age) but was brought back for the conference. [The subsequent implication is that those "other concerns" were health-related.] Sarek's wife is a human woman named Amanda, and his son is Commander Spock. Sarek studied at the Vulcan Science Academy like his father, and wanted Spock to do the same; when Spock chose to join Starfleet instead, it created a rift between father and son that has lasted for 18 years. Sarek is cold to his son, even for a Vulcan, while he's quite affectionate toward his wife, even seeming to smile at her when they are in private. Despite this rift between father and son, he believes that Spock should be extended the respect he's earned as a member of Starfleet. Sarek nevertheless believes that Starfleet is often used as an instrument of force; Kirk objects to this, stating that force is a last resort and that Starfleet is an "instrument of civilization" that provides better opportunities for scientists to "study the universe" than the Vulcan Science Academy affords.
     Sarek has a heart condition that has led to four attacks in recent days: two of the attacks were on Vulcan and two were on the Enterprise. Sarek's doctor prescribed benjisdrine for Sarek's condition, but it proved ineffective, requiring Dr. McCoy to perform a specialized operation on him. Sarek's blood type is T-negative, a rare blood type. Spock's blood type is also T-negative, albeit with human blood elements in it. It is possible to filter out those elements, however.
     Amanda is Sarek's wife. In her mid 50s, she has silver hair in an upswept style, and blue eyes. She's affectionate toward her husband and her son. She notes that her name in Vulcan is virtually unpronounceable [in English], and that she has only been able to do so imperfectly after many years of practice. She hated seeing Spock teased when he was a child. She and Sarek display affection publicly by touching each other's index and middle fingers, joined together. [It looks rather like a child making a gun with their hand, only with the thumb down instead of up.]
     Spock grew up on Vulcan. As a child he was tormented by other Vulcan children who declared he wasn't really a Vulcan. He had a pet sehlat - a sort of living "fat teddy bear" with six-inch fangs - that he was fond of. Spock received his first instruction in computers from his father. He hasn't visited his parents in the last four years due to the situation between him and Sarek [thus explaining why they aren't around in "Amok Time"]. He doesn't smile around humans, feeling that they smile with "so little provocation".
     Vulcans have a method of execution known as tal-shaya, which in ancient times was considered a merciful form of execution. It requires the practitioner to have the knowledge of where to provide pressure to instantly break the neck of the victim. Sarek is familiar with the technique, as is apparently the Orion-posing-as-an-Andorian, Thelev. The Tellarite ambassador Gav was killed when Thelev used tal-shaya on him.
     Vulcans have a habit of performing private meditation. They consider this to be a personal experience, not to be discussed with others.
     Andorians are a humanoid species with blue skin, white hair, and two antennae, one on each side of the top of their heads. Their ambassador, Shras, describes their race as a violent one. They wear black pants, a loose silver mesh tunic (looking not unlike chainmail), and a tabard that ends in a point at its base. The tabards vary in design: Ambassador Shras's tabard has some elaborate patterns on it, while the comparatively lowly Thelev's tabard is quite plain.
     Tellarites are an argumentative humanoid race, with sunken eyes, a porcine nose, and a lot of hair. They have two large fingers and a thumb on each hand, resembling a sort of hoof, covered with fur. The Tellarites seen here are wearing shiny silver jumpsuits with four large panels on the chest and two panels on each arm, with a similar design for the legs. They allegedly have illicit mining interests in Coridan: Sarek states that some Tellarite ships were found carrying dilithium crystals from Coridan. Tellarites like to argue for the sake of arguing.
     The Orion vessel is a small craft, the size of a scout ship, that appears as an orange light on the Enterprise's viewer. [The remastered version replaces this light with a CG model of a ship with a ring of engines in its aft.] The ship had a hull that included trititanium, which may have contributed to the Enterprise being unable to get a good reading on it, although they could at least tell the vessel was manned. (Spock remarks that either the ship has a high hull density or that it's cloaked in some way.) This vessel was able to travel at warp 10, in part due to increasing their "power utilization curve" to such a high degree as to make it impossible for them to return to their home base. The configuration of the ship was unfamiliar to Spock; the Romulans, the Klingons, and the "neutral planets" had no ship similar to the Orion's. The ship destroyed itself, rather than be captured by the Enterprise.
     The Orions also placed an agent on board, Thelev, who was posing as an Andorian. Thelev murdered Ambassador Gav and attempted to kill Captain Kirk in order to foment an interplanetary war, allowing the Orions to continue to raid the Coridan system, supplying dilithium to both sides while remaining carefully neutral. Thelev and the Orion ship were communicating in an unknown code, one that Spock could find no detectable pattern in. Thelev's mind was conditioned to be resistant to both verifier scans and truth drugs. He was also supplied with a poison to use in the event of his true identity being uncovered.
     The Vulcan heart is constructed in such a way that what humans would consider a normal operation on it cannot be performed; a cryogenic open-heart procedure must be performed instead.
     The natives of Rigel V are very similar physiologically to Vulcans. A chemical stimulant "to speed up reproduction and replacement of blood in the body" had been successfully tested on Rigellians, but it placed a lot of strain on the patient's spleen and liver.
     Dr. McCoy had never operated on a Vulcan before Ambassador Sarek, although he knew all the proper procedures and anatomical information.
     Starfleet records no authorized Federation ships besides the Enterprise in their current quadrant of space.
     The Enterprise is still using the Galileo shuttlecraft (registry NCC-1701/7), last seen in "Metamorphosis". [The remastered version shows a second shuttlecraft in the hangar bay: the Columbus (mentioned but shown with the wrong registry number -- it has the same number as the Galileo -- in "The Galileo Seven"), registry NCC-1701/2.]
     Kirk's quarters are on deck 5. His cabin number is still 3F 121. ("The Conscience of the King")

Final Analysis: "If there were a reason, my father is quite capable of killing. Logically and efficiently." A good one, although perhaps not as outstanding as its reputation would suggest. Fontana's script is well-written, and the performances of the guest cast - Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt in particular - enhance the already interesting story. That said, the somewhat shifting storyline (it starts as a diplomatic drama, becomes a murder mystery, and then a personal drama about Spock and Sarek) does mean that "Journey to Babel" isn't quite as focused as one might hope. Nevertheless, this is still a very good entry in Star Trek's already-entertaining second season.


"Star Trek" and its related properties are ™ and © CBS. All rights reserved. No copyright infringement is intended by this fan site.

Guide Home

Page originally created: May 17, 2016
Page last updated: February 12, 2019

Contact us via Twitter or Facebook