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Star Trek: Amok Time

Spock: "How do Vulcans choose their mates? Haven't you wondered?"
Kirk: "I guess the rest of us always assumed it was done quite logically."

In the space of one episode, Spock went from cool superman to sexy beast. And a whole new wave of fan fiction was born.

"Amok Time" added a good-sized amount of Vulcan culture to the Star Trek universe, as well as an intriguing bit of alien sexuality. (Not that Vulcans weren't already sexy.) The lead in — Spock so grouchy that he was throwing plomeek soup at the wall and yelling at Christine, the medical check-up, and best of all, the scene where an embarrassed Spock confided in an embarrassed Kirk — all great fun. And I've always loved McCoy lying with a totally straight face and saving the day with his hypo.

Yes, I'm being repetitive, but I must praise Nimoy's performance again. I thought Shatner did a terrific job, too, especially in that uncomfortable scene in Spock's quarters. (Loved them both standing side by side with their hands behind their backs as they carefully talked around the subject of sex. What great body language.) And Celia Lovsky's performance as powerful Vulcan matriarch T'Pau was exceptional. How cool is it that Vulcan has important, influential women? Star Trek did take steps forward in the treatment of women on television. Although T'Pau asking T'Pring if she was ready to become the property of the victor was a bit of a step back.

We learned that Spock is a legend on his home planet and his family is not only important, but they held that property for two thousand years. So where were his parents? You'd think they'd show up for Spock's wedding, wouldn't you? And if Vulcans are paired off so young and the relationship is so strong, how did Spock's father manage to marry a human woman? T'Pring "wanting" Stonn so much that she did what she did opens up questions, too. Is there sex on Vulcan without pon farr? Is Spock a virgin? His exchange with Christine and his dream that she was trying to tell him something was quite sexy. If there had been no T'Pring, would Christine have gotten more than she bargained for?

Stupid T'Pring. We're all nuts about him and she just tosses him back? And for whom? Some muscle-bound idiot named Stonn. It was outright dirty pool of her to choose Kirk as her champion, too. Spock is better off without her, needless to say.

Ben says...

BATT A DA DADA DA, DAAA, DAAA BA BA A DA DA... or maybe DA NA NA NANANANA NANANANA NAH... Okay, that's my best onomatopoeia of that exciting fight music that they played in the big Spock-Kirk "Dude, she's not that into you" battle.

Billie has talked about a lot of great things in this episode, but for me it is probably most memorable for the introduction of Star Trek's iconic fight music. I had trouble believing that it was already a third of the way through the series before we first heard it, because it may even surpass the opening theme as the signature music of the series. It's also incredibly useful in daily life. Put it on your i-Pod and listen to it softly as you work or sit in a meeting or a class, and it makes everything seem much more important.

Interestingly, I have actually participated in three lirpa duels over the years: two in Amtgard, and one in the SCA. I won two and lost one. Fortunately, none was with an amok Vulcan. Although one was with a berserk Viking, so it was all bruises, and no mating resulted (more's the pity). Although this makes me think of another time you might listen to the fight theme.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3372.7. Side trip to Vulcan on the way to Altair Six.

— DeForest Kelley was added to the opening credits, and there were new sets and new music (most notably the intense "fight music" introduced during the combat scene on Vulcan, discussed above most eloquently by Ben).

— The fight scene was probably one of the best in the series. It was a lot harder to detect the stunt men. Plus having Kirk get sliced across the chest early in the proceedings (and continuing to fight with a big bloody gap in his shirt) was pretty effective.

— I've always loved Shatner's expressions when he is presented first with the lirpa and then with the ahn-woon. Like, what the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?

— The revolving buttheads in the navigator chair were permanently replaced by Chekov, representing not one, but two demographics: Russians and young people (note the longish sixties hair).

— Spock is now a full commander, according to the plaque outside his quarters.

— How come T'Pau was the only one with an accent? Maybe her English just wasn't that good.

— Kirk defied Admiral Komack's orders, but got away with it because of T'Pau. She must have been psychic.

— Laurence Montaigne, who played a Romulan in "Balance of Terror," returned as Stonn. This time, he got ears instead of just a helmet.

— The newly revamped effects included some terrific added visuals of Vulcan.


McCoy: "When I suggested to Spock that it was time for his routine check-up, your logical, unemotional first officer turned to me and said, 'You will cease to pry into my personal matters, Doctor, or I shall certainly break your neck.'"
Kirk: "Spock said that?"

Spock: "It is undignified for a woman to play servant to a man who is not hers."

Kirk: "There's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees."
Spock: "The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain."

Spock: "There is a thing that happens to Vulcans at this time, almost an insanity which you would no doubt find distasteful."
Kirk: "Will I? You've been most patient with my kinds of madness."

T'Pau: ""What thee are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way."

T'Pau: "This combat is to the death."

McCoy: "Now be careful."
Kirk: "Sound medical advice."

McCoy: "He's finished. He's dead."
T'Pau: "I grieve with thee."

Spock: "I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me."
You can say that again.

T'Pau: "Live long and prosper, Spock."
Spock: "I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend."
This was the first time we saw the Vulcan salute and the well-known phrase, "Live long and prosper."

Spock: (huge grin) "Jim!!! (uncomfortable pause) I am... pleased to see you, Captain. You seem uninjured."

McCoy: "Of course, Mr. Spock, your reaction was quite logical."
Spock: "Thank you, doctor."
McCoy: "In a pig's eye."

"Amok Time" is a huge fan favorite, and it well deserves to be. Four out of four bowls of plomeek soup,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I sort of admire T'Pring. In spite of T'Pou having power T'Pring has none. She is being forced to marry a man who she has not seen in years and the only way to stop it is to force him into combat with a champion, who will then own her. Only he can let her go and his biology isn't letting him say no. Lord knows I adore Spock, but basically T'Pring is facing the situation that once Spock "gets it out of his system" so to speak, or to put it more bluntly after one "wham bam thank you Mam"moment, Spock has every intention of continuing his 5 year journey and never looking back. I totally understand why T'Pring would want what appears to be a totally whipped Ston. Let's face it she's smarter than he is, he wants her and I'm pretty sure she will run the family. Picking Kirk was nasty, but when she pointed out her logic, it was impeccable. I give her a lot of credit for getting herself out of a situation that she had almost no control over.

  2. Percysowner, I love it. What a terrific feminist slant to the other side of the story!

  3. Have you seen this episode on syndicated TV? They cut out the scenes with Chapel and Spock. It doesn't hurt the story, but it removes some of the characterization that made people love this series to begin with.

    They also cut out some parts after T'Pau mentions that the fight is to the death. In the cut version, McCoy and Kirk just seem to accept it. In the original version, you see them upset, and needing to be restrained by the Vulcan guards.

  4. The only thing that bothered me was the APPALLINGLY written Vulcan dialogue when the incompetent writers tried to use old-fashioned English: they kept saying "thee" instead of "thou" when the subject pronoun was required. Obviously writers who never read either Shakespeare or the Bible. I realize the average person nowadays is less literate than in day of old, but I thought professional writers would be more educated. (It is not as if their pseudo-science was ever very scientific, so I am not sure what the writers studied in school.)

  5. This is such a special episode for so many reasons, least of which is the soup is still splattered magenta all over the wall opposite Spock's cabin when Kirk leaves. This made me smile and wonder who cleans it up; probs poor Christine.

    I can understand women's affection for Spock and how this episode would have been a bit titillating in the late 60s (still is); and I can even forgive the Vulcans their backward notion of women as men's property (I wouldn't have given up the chance to be Spock's 'property' myself - tee hee), but the real beauty of this episode lies in the deepening of the relationship between the three leads since "Operation -Annihilate!" at the end of Season 1. That, and the revelation of the Vulcan culture and now-famous greeting.

    Best part for me? When Spock gets his own back by saying (quite wisely): “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting." Oh boy, have I drawn some inner strength and discipline from those words over the years.

  6. You really feel for poor Christine in this one- she almost became Spock's booty call, and probably would have went along with it, had she known his reasons, despite knowing he didn't love her, she cared about him that much. (As an aside- had he sated his mating instinct on her instead of his parentally chosen mate, what would that mean for him? Is he now obligated to make her his wife under Vulcan law or what? Does that give his bound mate back on Vulcan freedom (probably not given that she's referred to as "property")? What is the law in cases like this? Would Christine be okay afterwords, given that he is much stronger than the average human and not in a condition to restrain himself (his parents made it work though so who knows, maybe Vulcan love making isn't as violent as I (try really hard not to) imagine it is)? And do female Vulcans experience the same "mate or die" thing (Spock could have killed the challenger and then released her, meaning she would end up with no mate at all?)

    Also, as a hybrid, is Spock, you know, fertile, or is he more like a mule, all the hormones but none of proper DNA recombination to make viable sex cells?

    I wonder how his parents even managed to have him, given the internal differences between Vulcans and humans. Was it natural, or did it take some scientific intervention to force their very different cells to become compatible? What would having an alien growing within her have done to his mother? In real life a mother's body can start to attack a baby just for having a different blood type, Spock having completely different blood than her probably sent her body into self-destruct mode. Even if Vulcan and human DNA were compatible, her body would probably reject the baby and miscarry, and subsequent pregnancies would result in the same, but even quicker, now that her body remembered the "intruder" from last time. His existence is just really hard to buy given the emphasis the writers put on how different from humans and I just...

    Trying to apply real science to Star Trek is not advisable.

  7. That fight music is so good that I hear it in fight scenes everywhere these days!

    Reading the earlier comment from Mark, I wonder if the full version is restored on the DVD/Blu-Ray collections? I've only seen the show in syndication, but I really hate when they edit like that. That would make me want to grab the collection even more!

    It is good stuff, and I love the interactions with Spock, Kirk, and McCoy here. While TV tends to be a bit heavy-handed with alien cultures, I do also like to see it, like that one episode of Babylon 5 where they were sharing each other's religious ceremonies.

    A great start to season 2, that's for sure!


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