I know, I’m repeating myself (see the review of Balance of terror), but I must reinforce the concept here: the first season of the original series of Star Trek series is so full of ideas! Virtually every episode explores a new theme, opens a new avenue for new adventures… and with this episode, number nineteen, here comes time travel! Like so many other ideas seen so far, this one will also be re-used who knows how many times in each Star Trek incarnation, and the first example that comes to my mind is the wonderful Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home where Kirk and company travel back in time to find a couple of whales… but I digress as usual!
Tomorrow Is Yesterday begins with some unusual images for a Star Trek episode: in a US military airport of the Sixties a F-104 fighter takes off to investigate something very strange. In the sky there’s an unidentified flying object, a UFO, and it has the shape of a spaceship that we know extremely well: it’s the USS Enterprise! What a premise!
After the opening theme, Kirk explains with his captain’s log that in order to escape the gravitational attraction of a black star the Enterprise used its engines to the maximum and with a slingshot effect has been catapulted to Earth… but the speed was such as to make it go back a few centuries! As the fighter approaches, Kirk orders to go up in altitude, but the ship has suffered considerable damage (notice the remarkable detail of the fighter pilot surprised by the incredible speed of the UFO with Kirk complaining about the slow speed his damaged ship can reach!). After a few minutes the American pilot manages to get close enough to have visual contact and Kirk orders to activate the tractor beam in order to be on the safe side and avoid being targeted by the fighter’s weapons. However, the beam quickly disintegrates the fighter and Mr. Scott saves the pilot with an emergency teleport. On board the Enterprise, he identifies himself as John Christopher (Roger Perry).
And here Kirk makes other mistakes, like for example having Christopher walk around the ship as if nothing had happened and telling him every aspect of the situation, time travel included. And while the pilot is entertained by what the Enterprise offers, like for example the legs of Sherry Townsend with his short yellow uniform, in reality the problems quickly become bigger and bigger for Captain Kirk. When he tells Christopher that he can’t get back to his life, he does everything in his power to escape! But that’s only the beginning… In short, this is a classic story of “let’s fix the past that we inadvertently changed in order to preserve the future”: the American pilot is/will be the father of an important space explorer and it’s imperative for Kirk to restore the timeline and put Christopher back in his place before he made contact with the Enterprise.
Spock comes up with a theory to solve the situation by exploiting the gravity of the Sun to travel back in time (as it will happen in Star Trek IV, in fact) and it doesn’t really matter if the plot lacks a certain logic when it comes to past-fixing, it’s always like that when time travel is involved (I believe that only the first Back To The Future by Robert Zemeckis and 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam’s manage to remain consistent with the “rules” of time journey). Here’s another milestone of Star Trek and of science fiction as a whole, an enjoyable episode in which only the initial carelessness of Kirk seems a bit odd. Ciao!
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