78 "All Our Yesterdays"

(airdate: March 14, 1969)

Writer: Jean Lisette Aroeste
Director: Marvin Chomsky

Zarabeth: Mariette Hartley

Atoz: Ian Wolfe

Prosecutor: Kermit Murdock

Stardate: 5943.7

Captain's Log: The Enterprise heads to the planet Sarpeidon, whose sun, Beta Niobe, is about to go nova, but when they arrive to evacuate the populace they can find no trace of anyone left on the planet. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, where they find a person named Atoz who insists they head to safety. Atoz tries to help by sending them back into the past via a machine called the atavachron; this is how the populace evacuated. Kirk is sent back to the Sarpeidon's equivalent of 17th-century England, where he's accused of being a witch, while Spock and McCoy go back to the ice age, where they encounter a woman named Zarabeth. Kirk meets the local prosecutor, who was also sent back in time by Atoz, and he helps Kirk find the portal. Spock and McCoy have been told that they cannot return, and Spock begins to develop emotional feelings for Zarabeth (because he's reverting to how his ancestors were during Sarpeidon's ice age). However, McCoy convinces Spock to go back to the portal, and after bidding farewell to Zarabeth, they both head back through the portal to their own era, where the Enterprise beams them up just in time.

Whoops!: When the landing party beams down, they ask Atoz where all the people are. Atoz gives a vague answer and tells them they have to choose a time period to escape to. Yet for some reason, at no point do Kirk, Spock, and McCoy tell Atoz, "We're not actually from Sarpeidon, we're just here to help before it's too late", preferring instead to get involved with shenanigans with time portals. They might have saved themselves an entire episode of trouble if they'd just explained themselves at the outset.
     The time portal mechanics don't quite make sense. The implication seems to be that the portal remains open to the library the entire time, and it's just that people choose not to go through it (because of the death thing), rather than that they can't. So do people accidentally fall through the portal (say, if they're drunk, or if they choose to lean against the wrong section of wall)? And why can people hear each other through the portal? Are all the portals linked this way, so that anyone near any of the over 20,000 portals can hear Kirk at that moment? Kirk hears the woman screaming, after all. Or is it just the places that people are currently viewing the tapes of? Except then why can Kirk hear Spock and McCoy, now that everyone's passed through? Are the tapes still in the viewers? But if they were, why would Atoz not subsequently know which tape McCoy was viewing? And there's a point: why do Spock and McCoy end up in an ice age, instead of with Kirk? It seems to be because that was the tape McCoy was viewing - but how does the time portal distinguish between people when there are multiple tapes active? Does it know what tape a specific person is viewing? And given that Spock wasn't viewing any of the tapes, what would have happened if he hadn't gone through the same time as McCoy? And why is it that Spock and McCoy need to return through the portal simultaneously (other than to force Spock to abandon Zarabeth)?
     We should also discuss the business of Spock reverting to the behavior of his ancestors. In a word, why? Unless he's sharing some sort of telepathic link with them (which seems incredibly unlikely at this distance), there shouldn't be any reason for him to revert - yet he finds himself attracted to Zarabeth, showing all sorts of emotions, and even being OK with eating animal flesh. And it's not like McCoy is similarly reverting to barbarism. So what's going on? [Perhaps this is actually a manifestation of symptoms brought on by not being properly prepared by the atavachron.] And how does McCoy work out that Zarabeth isn't telling the truth about being able to get back? Oh, and while we're here: why don't the phasers work? Is the extreme cold inhibiting them somehow?
     Spock states that Sarpeidon is millions of light years from Vulcan - but, as the Milky Way is only 100,000 light years across, that would put it in a completely different galaxy.
     At 42 minutes in, as Dr McCoy says, "You've been dishonest with me, Spock", we can see that his mouth isn't moving. And when Spock and McCoy pass back through the time portal, they go in wearing animal skins but come out with them gone.

Classic Lines: "After all, a library serves no purpose unless someone is using it."

Alien Love: Spock, while stuck in the past, is strongly attracted to Zarabeth, and she to him - and it's strongly implied that they slept together.

Library Computer: Sarpeidon was a class M, Earth-like planet, "millions of light years" from Vulcan [according to Spock, who might be exaggerating - perhaps as an initial result of the reversions back to his ancestors' behavior], the only satellite of the star Beta Niobe. Sarpeidon was inhabited by a civilized humanoid species who learned that their sun was going to go nova. The Sarpeidon people had no spaceflight capabilities, but they did have the ability to travel back into Sarpeidon's history, using a time portal and a machine called the atavachron; this is how they escaped the impending devastation of their planet. Sarpeidon was indeed destroyed when Beta Niobe went nova, but by that point everyone had evacuated.
     By the time the Enterprise arrived, everyone had left except for the librarian, Atoz [get it?], and his replicas. Atoz was an elderly man, balding, with white hair and blue eyes, wearing a black robe with a geometric design printed on it. He had a small, silver cylindrical weapon that created a yellow blast, incapacitating the victim [but not killing them, unless it has higher settings]. Atoz ran the library, which contained over 20,000 verism tapes (small silver discs, about the size of a petri dish, which could display a moving image on them when placed in a viewer), several hundred of which were recent additions to the library's collection. Atoz was unwilling to trace any particular individual, as that information was confidential. When a tape was placed in the viewer, it connected it to the atavachron and thus the time portal, allowing the viewer to travel back to the time period displayed on the verism tape; however, the viewer must have also been physiologically prepared using the atavachron, which prepared their cell structure and brain patterns to "make life natural" in their new time. Once someone is prepared through the atavachron, though, they cannot return to their original time; returning to the future would mean instant death. Someone who has not been prepared, though, can survive in a different time for a few hours, but soon they too will die, if they do not return back through the portal. [This seems to be a problem related to the Sarpeidon time portal, rather than a general principle about time travel, given we've never seen this problem in other instances (such as, say, "The City on the Edge of Forever", where Kirk and Spock are in the past for days if not weeks).] If two people are next to the portal in different times, they can nevertheless talk to each other. [Well, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy can, but maybe that's to do with the unique circumstances of their trips through the portal.]
     The time period that Kirk traveled to resembled England in the 17th century, with people dressed like Cavaliers (long hair, lots of ruffles, and feathers). In this time period, witches are burned, and in fact it's considered sacrilege not to believe in witches. Kirk himself was accused by five witnesses of being a witch, owing to talking to McCoy and Spock through the portal, so that others could hear. The local prosecutor was also someone who Atoz sent back in time, and thus he was willing to help Kirk return, once he learned Kirk hadn't been properly prepared.
     Five thousand years ago, Sarpeidon was going through an ice age. At the place where Spock and McCoy traveled to, there was a beautiful young woman named Zarabeth. She had been exiled there by a man named Zor Kahn, who was known as the Tyrant. In his era, Zor Kahn controlled the time portal and the atavachron, and used it to make his enemies disappear. Zarabeth was exiled because two of her kinsmen were involved in a plot to kill Zor Kahn. Zor Kahn executed those two and then punished the rest of the family by exiling them to different time periods, where no one would [likely] find them. However, he did not want it said that he had had them killed, so he sent them with food, shelter, weapons, and anything else they would need to survive, except for companionship. Zarabeth has been alone, living in a cave, for a long time; consequently she finds the prospect of Spock staying very appealing.
     At the same time as Sarpeidon's ice age (so 5000 years ago), on Vulcan the inhabitants were "warlike barbarians, who nearly killed themselves off with their own passions."
     Kirk is a skilled fencer.
     Spock is a vegetarian. [This is the first mention of this fact.]

Final Analysis: "Everyone on this planet was warned of the coming nova long ago. They followed instructions and are now safe. And you had better do the same." A pleasingly high-concept idea, with people evacuating into the past, but one that gets a bit bogged down in the details. Spock's love story in particular is awkward, since they have to bend over backwards to explain why he's falling for Zarabeth (although at least it's better than his romance with Droxine two weeks ago in "The Cloud Minders"). But, balancing this, Kirk's plot is well-handled (even if it's not as engaging), and Ian Wolfe does a good job as Atoz. Ultimately, "All Our Yesterdays" works, but with some caveats.


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