To begin the second season of Star Trek, the producers could not have chosen much better. “Amok Time” was a great one! The episode was good both as a standalone episode and for setting the stage for so much more to follow, including much of Vulcan backstory and the groundwork for the end of Star Trek III.
We join the story as Dr. McCoy tells Kirk that there’s something wrong with Spock. He can’t put his finger on it, but he speculated that Spock was “nervous.” Spock also wasn’t eating. They noticed Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) carrying a tray of food through the corridors as they spoke.
McCoy looked at the food and noted that it was Vulcan soup, made by her for Mr. Spock. McCoy told Kirk, who still did not believe that there was anything wrong with his first officer, that Spock threatened to kill the doctor for “prying” into his personal life.
Just then, Spock tossed the Vulcan soup out of his room. Nurse Chapel screamed and ran out too.
“If I want anything from you, I’ll ask for it!” he yelled as he stormed after her. Spock noticed Kirk and McCoy watching him in the corridor. He asked the captain for a leave of absence to Vulcan. When Kirk asked what was going on, Spock shouted at him:
“I have made my request! All that I require from you is that you answer it! Yes or no!”
He then ducked into his quarters, and the door shut.
Later, Kirk followed up with Spock. The Vulcan would not give details at first as to why he wanted leave. Kirk decided that they’d let Spock have his shore leave on Altair VI instead… but Spock yelled “no” again. As he negotiated with Kirk, he held a knife behind his back, and his hand trembled.
Kirk pried again, but Spock would say only that he needed “rest.” Kirk called to the bridge and ordered that they alter the course to Vulcan. He noticed the knife but said nothing. Spock thanked his captain.
“I suppose that most of us overlook the fact that even Vulcans aren’t indestructible,” said Kirk as he left Spock’s quarters.
Spock said that Vulcans were not invincible and held his shaking, knife-holding hand.
Later, on the bridge, Uhura announced that Starfleet had an urgent message for Kirk. Starfleet ordered that the Enterprise arrive at Altair VI early, as the presidential inauguration ceremonies moved up. Kirk ordered Mr. Chekov (Walter Koenig) to alter course in obeyance with Starfleet.
NOTE: This is the first episode for Koenig and his new character Pavel Chekov as ship’s navigator. The character was created for many reasons — ratings (he was supposed to appeal to the same teenagers who loved The Beatles and The Monkees) and the U.S.S.R., who criticized Trek for not having anyone Russian in the future. Chekov satisfied both of those needs.
Kirk spoke to Spock about this change in direction, and Spock said that he understood.
In his quarters, Kirk called to the bridge to ask how late the ship would be if they went to maximum warp and dropped Spock off at Vulcan. Chekov said that they were already en route to Vulcan, as Mr. Spock had ordered.
Kirk went to the bridge and ordered that Spock come with him. They went on the turbolift to Deck 5. Spock said that he didn’t change course, but he doesn’t remember doing it. He then asked to be locked up, and “no Vulcan could explain further.” He refused to answer any other questions relating to his behavior.
The captain ordered Spock to sickbay for a workup. Spock wandered into sickbay but refused to be examined. McCoy told him that he would need to be examined.
“Come on, Spock,” said McCoy. “Yield to the logic of the situation.”
Spock agreed to the examination.
On the bridge, Sulu and Chekov discussed why they kept changing course.
“I think I’m going to get spacesick,” said Chekov.
McCoy told Kirk that they must get Spock to Vulcan in eight days or he’d die. Kirk said that they would eventually, but McCoy pressed that it must be right now. Kirk asked why, but McCoy didn’t know why. He did say that Spock’s body was growing dysfunctional. He compared it to vast amounts of adrenaline for a human.
The doctor said that Spock knew what was happening but refused to talk. Kirk went to see Spock anyhow. When the captain arrived, Spock was looking at photos of a Vulcan female on his computer.
Kirk confronted Spock, and the Vulcan picked up the knife again. Kirk caught his hand and told Spock that the Vulcan was the very best first officer in all of Starfleet. Kirk said that if he had to lose this “asset,” he wanted to know why.
Spock explained that it was a “deeply personal thing.” Kirk ordered him to explain and said that it would be absolutely confidential. Spock noted that it was all about “Vulcan biology.”
“Biology … as in reproduction?” Kirk asked. The captain said that it happened to everyone, even the birds and the bees.
“The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, captain,” said Spock. He then explained how Vulcans choose their mates, which was not done logically. He said that due to this, the mating ritual was shrouded in ceremony.
“It brings a madness which rips away the veneer of civilization,” said Spock. “It is the Pon Farr — the time of mating.”
NOTE: This scene and its story would reverberate through Trek shows and films for decades. It is crucial in Star Trek III, where a young Spock mates with Saavik.
Spock compared this to eel-birds on Regulus 5 or salmon on Earth, which must return to their original spawning spot. Spock said that he too must return home to take a wife or die. Kirk said that he’d get Spock to Vulcan “somehow.”
Kirk called to Uhura to contact Starfleet Command. Sulu told Chekov to plot a course back to Vulcan, “just in case.” Uhura tried to contact Spock in his quarters, but he smashed the computer monitor. That was hilarious!
Meanwhile, Kirk spoke with Admiral Komack (Byron Morrow), asking to divert to Vulcan without explaining why it was necessary. Komack denied the request. McCoy told said, “that’s that.” But Kirk refused to stop trying. McCoy said that Kirk would be “busted down” if they went to Vulcan.
“I owe him my life a dozen times,” said Kirk. “Isn’t that worth a career?”
Kirk ordered Chekov to plot a course to Vulcan at Warp 8.
Meanwhile, Nurse Chapel visited Spock in his quarters. Spock told her that he had a dream, where she was trying to tell him something.
“But I couldn’t hear you,” said Spock. “It would be illogical to protest against our natures, don’t you think?”
Chapel said that she didn’t understand. He wiped a tear off her cheek as she told him that they are bound for Vulcan. She asked him to call her Christine. He did, and he asked if she would make him some Vulcan soup. She smiled and said that she would.
Spock asked Kirk to beam down to Vulcan, as it is his right to have his closest friends with him at these ceremonies. He also requested “McCoy as well.” McCoy agreed also. They went to the bridge, where they hailed Vulcan and asked permission to make orbit.
The viewscreen then showed a female Vulcan named T’Pring, who Spock said was “parted from him and never parted.” She said the same thing to him and agreed to meet him. Uhura asked who she was. Spock replied:
“She is T’Pring… she is my wife.”
All the bridge looked at each other in shock — especially Nurse Chapel.
NOTE: Actress Arlene Martel portrayed T’Pring. She also appeared on Hogan’s Heroes, The Twilight Zone, and the fan film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. She passed in 2014.
The three beamed to the surface and walked into a Stonehenge-like ceremonial site. Spock said that his family held this land for more than 2,000 Earth years. Kirk and McCoy mentioned that it was hot and that the atmosphere was thinner than they used to.
Spock explained that this was the end of a betrothal ceremony from when they were seven years old. He said that he and T’Pring would always be drawn together. She entered the ring with an entourage of other Vulcans, including T’Pau (Celia Lovsky). Kirk said she was the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation Council.
NOTE: Some parts of the ceremonial Vulcan costumes appeared to be recycled or reused from the Romulan episode from Season 1 — “Balance of Terror.” This is just fine because the Vulcans and Romulans are cousins.
T’Pau asked what the “outworlders” were doing there. Spock said they were his friends. She told Kirk and McCoy that this was their way, handed down from generations. Spock was just about to use a hammer to hit a hexagonal-shaped gong when T’Pring stopped him and called for kal-if-fee. This is a physical challenge, where Spock must face someone to fight at T’Pring’s choosing.
T’Pau said they could no longer speak to Spock. He was in a trance. Whoever won this challenge, T’Pring would belong to. She chose Kirk to fight, but another male Vulcan named Stonn objected.
NOTE: Lawrence Montaigne played Stonn, and I wish they’d cast more guys like him. He looked like someone who was actually related to Leonard Nimoy. He actually acted in the fan film Of Gods and Men as well.
T’Pau told Stonn to be quiet and back down. T’Pau told Kirk that he could decline the challenge. Spock asked to remove Kirk from the challenge.
“His blood does not burn,” said Kirk. “He is my friend.”
But it was too late. Spock had to face Kirk. McCoy told Kirk that he wouldn’t stand up to Spock due to the heat and thin air. Kirk said he was going to try to knock Spock out quickly. He also said that he would not back down in front of T’Pau.
They were presented with weapons known as the lirpa, a round ax on a long, wooden handle. T’Pau said that this was a fight to the death. Kirk tried to get out of it, but T’Pau said that it already agreed to.
NOTE: This music was fantastic! The show would use this soundtrack for many future fights, and later shows and films would imitate it for similar fight scenes. Gerald Fried did a masterful job!
They fought for a while, and McCoy stopped it. He requested that he give Kirk a shot to help with the heat and thin air. Kirk was about to pass out.
They resumed fighting, now with the weapon called the ahn’woon, which was like a modified whip. Spock finally beat Kirk, and Kirk did not get up. McCoy pronounced him dead and called to the Enterprise to be beamed up.
McCoy said that Spock was now in charge of the Enterprise. Spock said that Scotty would plot a course to the nearest starbase, where he’d turn himself in.
After they left, T’Pring told Spock that Stonn wanted her, and she wanted him. Spock didn’t understand why she wanted Stonn over him. She said that Spock was a legend on Vulcan now, and she did not want to be “the consort of a legend.”
“If your captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn,” said T’Pring. “If you had won, you would have freed me because I dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same, because you would be gone. I would have your name and your property … and Stonn would still be there.”
“Logical,” said Spock.
“I am honored,” said T’Pring.
Spock told Stonn that he could have T’Pring. He told T’Pau to “live long and prosper.” He said that he would do neither, as he had just killed his captain and friend. He then beamed up.
NOTE: This was the first episode where Nimoy used the hand gesture, which is now famous worldwide. He added it to the Trek canon, and it was based on a hand symbol from Judaism.
When Spock arrived on the Enterprise, he tried to resign, but Kirk walked out and surprised him. Spock reached out for Kirk and yelled, “Jim!” with a smile on his face. He then composed himself as McCoy and Chapel watched.
“I am pleased to see you, captain,” said Spock. “You seem … uninjured.”
Kirk explained that the shot from McCoy was a neural paralyzer, which knocked him unconscious. Spock said that he lost all interest in T’Pring after he thought he’d killed Kirk. Uhura also called to say that Starfleet Command approved the trip to Vulcan. Kirk was pleased.
McCoy pressed Spock on the emotions shown when he found that Kirk was still alive. Spock said that he was relieved that Starfleet hadn’t lost a good captain. McCoy said that response was logical … “in a pig’s eye!”
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
“Amok Time” was an all-time classic. Superb on every level. We got to see something utterly new on Vulcan, which would reverberate through Trek stories to this day. The only thing that could have made it better was the inclusion of the Vulcan language — but that was not developed until 1981 when Marc Okrand created the lines spoken at the start of The Wrath of Khan.
RATING: 5 out of 5