Monday, April 21, 2014

All Our Yesterdays

It's easy to assume that the last few episodes of Star Trek were filmed with the knowledge that the series had been cancelled. This isn't necessarily the case. Presumably at the end of the third season the cast and crew were toiling away with the expectation that the series wasn't coming back, but also with the the memory of the extraordinary letter writing campaign which led directly to the renewing of the series. In The Making Of Star Trek Stephen E. Whitfield describes the mid-January second season wrap party as, "a mixture of party atmosphere and half-voiced despair."

Certainly All Our Yesterdays looks like the product of a team who are still holding out for a miracle, but they are not just sitting around and hoping that miracle will happen all by itself. All Our Yesterdays looks stunning. It's obviously been made by people determined to prove that there is still life in the Star Trek format. It's an episode designed to satisfy all of NBC's wants. An action adventure story set on an alien world, which begins on the planet and not on the Enterprise as NBC Network Production Manager Stan Robertson constantly nagged, with a good meaty story for Spock and McCoy, and lots of jeopardy for Kirk. As a production it's got an impressive scope. With no Enterprise sets needed the series goes to town bringing the planet Sarpeidon's history to life. In order we see a library set, a street scene (including what looks like night shooting on a backlot) an ice cliff, a cave interior, and a jail set. All of these sets are large, the library and the cave interior both contain several distinct areas, and it looks as if money for sets must have been diverted from Turnabout Intruder which takes place largely on the Enterprise. The story is also lit gorgeously. Director of Photography Al Francis produces some amazing work for this episode. Zarabeth's cave is filled with blues and oranges and deep reds which highlight the shadows. Kirk's jail cell is also filled with shadow and there's a lovely moment as Kirk overpowers the Prosecutor, who is pushed into shadow so only the edge of his hair is lit before Kirk grabs the man's chin and turns his face into the light.

The script makes an effort to give Sarpeidon's people different speech patterns.

WENCH: Oh, thank you, man. I thought I'd be limbered sure when that gull caught me cutting his purse.
KIRK: What's that? Are you all right?
WENCH: Oh, I took you to be an angler, but you're none of us, are ya? Well, you're a bully fine coe for all of that. What a handsome dish ya served them, the coxcombs.

Everyone in Kirk's storyline talks in a faux olde-English, except for the Prosecutor who turns out to also be from the future. Zarabeth has some nice understated and bitter humour ("my crime was in choosing my kinsmen unwisely") and care is taken to make sure that Mr Atoz can be distinguished from his duplicates. Unfortunately the story itself is derivative. Like
The Savage Curtain it's another assembly of previously successful plot elements. The Spock/Zarabeth romance suffers from the same fault as the Kirk/Rayna story in Requiem For Methuselah. We've seen this plot before and it just feels like one time too many round the block for the [crewmember] falls in love story. Leonard Nimoy and Mariette Hartley work hard to give the romance some weight and make it seem of real significance to the characters but All Our Yesterdays is no This Side Of Paradise.

Spock's slow reversion to the brutal and savage ways of his ancestors allows the relationship to seem slightly less contrived. Presumably Vulcans share some sort of telepathic group mind. When Spock travels into
Sarpeidon's past he unconsciously plugs into an earlier version of this telepathic network and it overwhelms his logical and rational side. Although Spock has travelled into the past in other stories the furthest back he went was 1930 New York in The City On The Edge Of Forever when Vulcans were still rational and logical beings. This telepathic link must also be what allows him to instantly sense the destruction of the Vulcan crewed starship Intrepid in The Immunity Syndrome. The near instantaneous nature of both suggests that telepathy in Star Trek travels faster than the speed of light. Maybe it's not limited by the normal laws of physics.

At first glance this story would seem to contradict the basic lesson of The City On The Edge Of Forever, that changes in the past cause changes in the present. The sheer number of people
fleeing into Sarpeidon's past should reduce it to a mass of paradoxes and undo the future which they need to escape from the coming nova. Actually, the time travel aspect of this story makes sense; or at least as much sense as any time travel story can. The history of Sarpeidon is a closed loop. The library sits literally at the end of Sarpeidon's history and the records it contains have already been shaped by the actions of the refugees. They may have only left recently but as Spock puts it, they are dead now. "dead and buried. Long ago." 

Enterprise crew deaths: None.

Running total: 56

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