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Star Trek: Journey to Babel

Kirk: "They're both stubborn."
Amanda: "A human trait, Captain?"

So it turns out Vulcan family dynamics aren't that alien, after all. Spock as a rebellious son sparring with Mom and Dad? That alone makes this episode a winner.

As mentioned previously, Mark Lenard, who played the Romulan commander in "Balance of Terror," was a terrific choice for Spock's father Sarek. And it wasn't just the physical resemblance that worked. Lenard's interpretation of Sarek was spot on, dry and witty, and just as with Nimoy's Spock, you could see the real man beneath the impassive exterior. "Miss Jane Wyatt" as Amanda, maybe not so much. Although she did have some good lines. I just wonder how well she assimilated into Vulcan society? I bet no self-respecting Vulcan matron would be caught dead wearing pink fake fur with a red and orange outfit.

The ambassador subplot with the murders and spying wasn't quite as much fun as meeting Spock's parents, but it had its moments. We were introduced to several new aliens in the Star Trek universe, notably the Andorians and the Tellarites. The power utilization curve was an interesting plot point, and a surgically altered alien spy was very cool. (Aren't Orions green? Did suicide guy get transformed from green to blue? Fun to imagine.) And they get points for showing a buffet full of food that no one would ever in a million years be tempted to eat. I suspect most of it was marshmallows painted primary colors.

One of my favorite things about this episode has always been Kirk dragging himself out of his hospital bed in order to keep Spock from committing patricide. And McCoy presiding over his three patients in Sick Bay and getting the last word in the end. That still makes me smile.

Ben says...


Seriously, how did they manage to luck into Mark Lenard and Leonard Nimoy to play the two key Vulcans in Star Trek history? Most actors, including her hottie-ness Jolene Blalock, just stare into space, delivering lines with a deadpan blandness laced with occasional snarky humor. Spock and Sarek imbue every line and encounter with a gravitas that says, "We are always holding back a wall of emotion." With these two actors you believe that Vulcans were once like Romulans.

It's also interesting how ill-developed all of the other characters backgrounds are, even Kirk's, when compared with Spock. By this point in the series we have had family members of Kirk and Spock show up, does anyone recall the Kirk example? (Okay if you're reading this you are probably a little bit of a nerd so you may, but most people have no idea if Kirk had a family). On the other hand, we know Spock's childhood pet was a sehlat (named I-Chaya, in case you thought my nerd-fu was weak). We have met Spock's parents, his important relatives, his skanky fiancé and we even know what soup he prefers (Campbell's Plomeek). We eventually find out about his long-term and torrid sexual affair with Kirk (oh wait, maybe that's just some slash fan-fiction I read years ago). Maybe it's because they wanted us to learn more about the alien, but I think it was Nimoy who simply inspired the writers to go deeper (and that is not another slash fiction reference, really, it's not... okay, probably it's not).

Back to Billie for Vulcan bits:

— Sarek was 102 years old. Okay, 102 point 437. He and Spock hadn't spoken for eighteen years. How old is Amanda? For that matter, how old is Spock? If he's been an adult for at least eighteen years...

— Spock refused to attend the Vulcan Science Academy. My alma mater. And Spock was bullied when he was a child. Sounds a lot like my grade school in New Jersey.

— Rigelians are similar physically to Vulcans.

— The dead ambassador was killed by something that resembled an ancient, merciful form of Vulcan execution called "tal shaya." I assume that means that Vulcans no longer execute?

— The two-finger thing. Yes, it was cute. And yes, they needed to come up with something marital that was alien. But holding two fingers together with no anchor had to be uncomfortable. Couldn't they have hooked thumbs or something? And I've always wished that at one point Amanda had said, "My husband. Attend."

Bits and pieces of brightly colored food:

— Stardate 3842.3. On the way to the neutral planetoid Babel.

— Uhura mentioned hooking in the universal translator. Suddenly it's everywhere. But that again suggested everyone was speaking English.

— There were a huge number of redshirts in this episode, even in lines and marching in formation. None of them were injured or killed.

— The key issue was the admission of Coridan to the Federation because of their dilithium crystals. Maybe it should have been the Halkans.

— Andorians need better security screening for their ambassadorial staff.

— Why should Kirk have been surprised that Sarek and Amanda were Spock's parents? In "This Side of Paradise," Spock told Kirk that his father was an ambassador.

— William Shatner's fight scene with the Andorian was very athletic.

— During the operation, there was smoke rising from the sterile field thingy. Was that deliberate or did one of the actors have a cigarette going?

— This week's Most Obvious Symbolism was the blood transfusion between Spock and Sarek, since the physical connection repaired the emotional break between them.


McCoy: (doing the Vulcan salute) "That hurts worse than the uniform."

McCoy: "A teddy bear?"
Spock: "On Vulcan, the teddy bears are alive. And they have six-inch fangs."

Gav: "Vulcan, I would speak with you."
Sarek: "It does seem unavoidable."

McCoy: "Mrs. Sarek, you must understand the chances are extremely small that we'll find a way to produce sufficient T-negative blood."
Spock: "Indeed. I would estimate the odds..."
Amanda: "Please don't."

Kirk: "I can't damn him for his loyalty, for doing his duty. But I'm not going to let him commit patricide."

Four out of four transfusions of T-negative blood,

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


  1. I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree, Tuvok is the coolest Vulcan ever. However, Sarek comes very close. :)

    I realised watching this that the clip TV shows often show to mock William Shatner's stilted delivery is from the scene whre he's supposed to have a punctured lung! A little hesitation is fair there, I think. (I think he's a much better actor than anyone gives him credit for. Though I do think the same thing about Keanu Reeves).

  2. Tim Russ (Tuvok) is one of my celebrity sitings. I saw him once at a Best Buy here in L.A. :)

    William Shatner does get a bad rap -- you're right, Juliette. He's a pretty good actor. As much as I love Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek wouldn't have been the same without Shatner.

  3. Love this episode. And believe it or not, it helped get me through a medical emergency a couple of years ago. I suffered an acute kidney failure, was rushed to the E.R., and placed on dialysis (it worked; I got better).

    As the machine started, and the blood started coming through the double-tubes, I flashed to the transfusion scene in this episode and started laughing out loud (I guess most dialysis patients don't laugh).

    BTW, haven't they pretty well established that Vulcan was a gerontocracy?

  4. As much as there is to enjoy about this episode, not least of which are the revelations about Spock's parentage and the quite lovely relationship between Sarek and Spock, I really don't enjoy or understand Amanda's anger towards Spock when he makes the decision to stay with the command instead of risk his life in surgery. They stated earlier that it was indeed a risk and Amanda could lose both her son and her husband, and so I don't in any way understand the fury Amanda feels towards Spock or the fact that she actually says she will "hate him forever"! He is her son! I would have thought that trumped everything; even Sarek's life. This and the slap quite distressed me. What if they had both died? As a mother of a son, this does not make sense to me. But then, I suppose, her illogic is part of the point.

  5. I really enjoyed this one. Particularly as I was totally unspoiled on anything beyond knowing who sarek was beforehand.

    I wish I could share with you all what it feels like to watch these for the first time. I suspect most people have seen them so many times that it's hard to remember how they felt the first time.

    At least, that's how I feel about Buffy and doctor who.

  6. Mikey, I'm glad you're enjoying them. You're right -- I've seen them so many times that it's hard to remember how I felt the first time. I sometimes wonder if I would love Doctor Who as much as I love Star Trek if I'd watched DW as a child.

  7. I'll go through all of them and properly comment as soon as I can, but I'm enjoying the experiment much more than I expected. I'm really growing fond of these characters company, which has never been particularly true before.

    There are so many doctor who stories I wish I could wipe from my mind and see like this with fresh eyes.

    You're right though, a lot of it is residual affection from when we were young, isn't it.

  8. Reading the review and comments as usual (I do read the luckily rare nastier ones like on Metamorphosis, but never reply to those, even if they are older), I started with Star Trek, then we had Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica, and some on the side like Space: 1999, and of course the original SW movies in the theater (sad I sold my old toys young, my death star playset would be worth a pretty penny today), but eventually moved to classic Who, and it topped them all for me, but I do love these other shows too!

    Sarek is indeed amazing and they did seem to luck into 2 actors that just excelled at being Vulcan. McCoy getting some much needed love was the icing on the cake for such a fun and solid episode. Gotta agree on the 4 out of 4 rating. Top notch Star Trek here.


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