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Star Trek: All Our Yesterdays

Spock: "We're in a wilderness of arctic characteristics."
McCoy: "He means it's cold!"

Spock goes one million B.C. and makes out with a bombshell in a fuzzy bikini. Well, okay, it was five thousand years ago and the bikini was leather. But at least her boots were fuzzy.

I've always enjoyed this one. It had a lot of Spock, an imaginative story and Mariette Hartley. Even though it featured yet another Spock romance, there was actually a good reason for it this time: Spock was simply channeling his primitive Vulcan ancestors who apparently went for the "Me Tarzan you Jane" approach with their mates. (I've always particularly enjoyed Spock, still angrily clutching McCoy, saying drily, "This is impossible.") Can you imagine the Three's Company shenanigans if Spock and McCoy had had to stay with Zarabeth forever?

In the coda, Spock said Zarabeth had been dead and buried for five thousand years. Not to be indelicate, but that always made me think, "Who would have buried her?" Wouldn't her body have just ended up decomposing in her huge, centrally heated, color-coordinated cave, or eaten by whatever animals had originally owned all the furs she had lying around? Of course, maybe Spock left Zarabeth some genetic material to remember him by. The Star Trek novels certainly thought it was a possibility.

Kirk didn't have quite as much fun as Spock. Not even five minutes in the plumed hat past, and he was in the middle of a swordfight, and then promptly arrested for witchcraft. If he hadn't happened upon a refugee from the future, that could have been a real problem.

Except that Kirk wouldn't have lived long enough for an unpleasant toasty demise. The exceedingly helpful and single-minded librarian and keeper of the Atavachron, Mr. Atoz, didn't have time to alter the cell structure of the landing party. And that's a teeny-tiny flaw in the episode, because if Spock wasn't changed at the cellular level, why did he go primitive Vulcan on Zarabeth?

I couldn't help but speculate about what sending the entire population of Sarpeidon into their own past would do to change their present. Unless they sterilized everyone before they jumped into the Atavachron, the population would have changed in some interesting ways by the time they reached the current time line. It would have been fun if they'd addressed that somehow. Plus, I suppose that in the 23rd century, technology could accurately predict when a star would go nova right down to the minute, but personally, it seemed a bit reckless to me to even hang around the neighborhood with only three and a half hours to go, much less only a few minutes. But hey, landing party in danger, what can you do.

Ben P. Duck says...

This episode was a fitting coda to a great series (and yes, this is me refusing to acknowledge that another episode followed it). It is also a fitting name for the conclusion this series of retro reviews (isn't this the final episode?) as TOS continues to hold a particular place for many of us in the history of our love of science fiction. The themes of the episodes also work for those experiencing Star Trek TOS for the first time, living as they do in a time when they can easily leap back and forth through time to view the series in any old order they choose (but try not to accidentally go through the portal into "Spock's Brain" or that episode that people claim follows this one).

This episode hit many of the very best things about season three. We had big ideas, fleeing into their world's past to escape destruction is an interesting and sophisticated SF idea, and it also recalls one of the best episodes, "The City on the Edge of Forever." It has complex relationships between the characters, particularly McCoy and Spock. The action is fun and it steers clear of heavy-handed allegory and is satisfied to be about what it is about. Mariette Hartley's Zarabeth is a really interesting character, despite being a cavegirl. Her fate trapped forever in the past alone is particularly poignant (maybe the most poignant portrayal of a cavegirl ever).

One area deserves special mention. We had Spock as the love interest completing a remarkable character arc which began with the "shouting" officer in "The Cage," through the more defined alien-ness of "Amok Time" and "Journey to Babel," and finally the complex, lonely and conflicted hero we see here and in a half dozen third season episodes. If we had stopped at two seasons we would have had a very different Spock, and it would have been, dare I say it, fascinating to see where Spock would have gone in a season four.

A great episode to finish the series on. (No, no, no, I am not listening, this is the last episode.)

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 5943.7. The star Beta Niobe, which was about to go nova, completely toasting the planet Sarpeidon.

— The Atavachron resembled the Guardian of Forever. They even used the same effects. But I forgive them, because much of the episode wasn't a rehash of other episodes.

— I think McCoy went a bit too far, saying that Zarabeth would murder everyone on the Enterprise to keep Spock. McCoy barely knew the woman. Hey, if Zarabeth had murdered McCoy, it would have kept Spock in the past, wouldn't it, and she didn't even try.

— I liked that the Atoz replicas were all very pleasant, but the real Mr. Atoz was grumpy, not an unrealistic attitude at being interrupted while doing last minute tasks before the destruction of his planet. I also liked him putting Kirk on the futuristic book truck to send him into the past.

— The title "All Our Yesterdays" is from Macbeth. Mr. Atoz's name is "A to Z," an excellent name for a librarian. In fact, Jean Lisette Aroeste, who wrote this episode, was a career librarian, like me. She also wrote "Is There in Truth No Beauty," another good episode.

— Ian Wolfe (Mr. Atoz) was also in "Bread and Circuses."

— Mariette Hartley (Zarabeth) is still working and has had a long and busy acting career.


Zarabeth: "Even your name is strange. Forgive me; I've never seen anyone who looks like you."
Zarabeth, your manners. And that from a science fiction fan?

Thief: "He cast a spell! He made me steal against my wish!"
That woman thought fast on her feet. Way to blame your crime on someone else.

Spock: "Perhaps you were too ill to understand what 'can't get back' means?"

McCoy: "You listen to me, you pointed-eared Vulcan."
Spock: "I don't like that. I don't think I ever did, and now I'm sure."
Go, Primitive Spock. You tell him.

Mr. Atoz: "You are evidently a suicidal maniac."

I wish this had been their finale, because "Turnabout Intruder" sucks rocks. Four out of four futuristic book trucks,

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


  1. Theory time:

    It's been suggested that the reason Spock started acting like his ancestors is because of what, for lack of a better term, we might call "the force" - Vulcans seem to have a communal awareness that is species-wide, as well as the one that is more specific with the mind-melds reaching out over light-years (Spock and T'Pring).

    For example, Spock's sensing in "The Immunity Syndrome" when the all-Vulcan ship, USS Intrepid, was destroyed.

    No "conditioning" necessary - Spock was being influenced by millions of primitive Vulcan minds and he ultimately began to revert to that state himself.

    (Humans don't have that same sense, which is why McCoy didn't start acting like whatever humans acted like 5,000 years ago.)

    A very nice episode. Even in the original version, they spent a few extra $$$ to show the Beta Niobe nova vaporizing Sarpeidon as the Enterprise warps towards the viewer. Nice effect for 1968; I need to look at my remasters to see what they did in the new version.

    Tidbit time: The Enterprise went back to Beta Niobe in the final animated episode, "Counter-Clock Incident", although of course by that time it was the "Beta Niobe Nebula". This is the episode that featured Captain April.

    And this will sound weird, but the thing I liked best about how they presented Zarabeth was that Mariette Hartley's hair looked normal - one thing I've never liked about TOS is the ridiculous hairdos on so many of the women over the three years.

    1. The idea of "the force," as a pervasive Vulcan characteristic is useful in explaining Spock's behavior in the cave, but overall, the "cell restructuring" angle seems to me a devise used by the writer to make Zarabeth's returning with Spock an impossibility.

  2. BTW, with only one (or zero, depending on who you want to believe) episode of TOS left, is there any chance you might review the Animated episodes? Some of them (there are only 22) are quite good, especially "Yesteryear" and "The Time Trap". And leave us not forget "More Tribbles, More Troubles". ;)

  3. Great comment, Jerry. I've enjoyed all your comments throughout this spate of reviews.

    To be honest, I've seen every episode in all of the spinoff series -- except for the animated series. Animation really isn't my thing at all. So I guess the answer is, probably not. But Ben and I are planning to review all of the movies, probably this summer.

  4. I have been waiting for three whole seasons now to see this one and find out whether it is still my very favourite out of all of them. Yes, it is. In every way, a perfect episode and a perfect resolution to the series and the arc of Kirk's, Bones', and Spock's friendship.

    Poignant and lovely, it still had me seeing new things in it after all these years.

  5. I agree with Billie that sending the population into the doomed planet's own past in order to escape a supernova would change the present! It would have made more sense to use the technology to go to another, safer planet. Otherwise, there would be constant changes to the present and all kind of quantum problems, paradoxes, causality loops, etc. Time could repeat over & over leading to disasters. I think it's doubtful that people would just try to blend into the past, knowing what was coming!

  6. Ah time travel, Spock romance, an alluring Zarabeth, and McCoy being McCoy! There's a lot to love here!

    Some very intriguing ideas here. Time travel and paradoxes tend to be very messy on TV shows, and it is true here as well, but this is better than most. My favorite is of course in the 3rd Doctor story 'Day of the Daleks', but it's great here too, even with some of the mentioned flaws, and it is indeed a solid and fun episode, making it rare in season 3!

  7. For most of us the end of ST:TOS has us trapped in the past as there were hardly any further episodes after this one. Many of us fans prefer to live in the past, rewatching old episodes, a fitting ending to a great series that soon after went supernova ...


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