Let’s start with the second season! After a splendid first season full of fantastic stories, with this first episode written by Theodore Sturgeon (also author of an episode of the first season, Shore Leave), it’s like Gene Roddenberry declared to have no intention of decelerating. Star Trek was to continue to offer first-rate science fiction without trying to gain a family audience with simpler stories. And so here we go to Vulcan to learn about the beautiful local traditions such as the kal-if-fee, the pon-farr and the plak-tow and to see some fine artifacts such as the lirpa and ahn’woon!
But before talking about the first episode, there are already two noticeable: the role of McCoy as one of the main characters was finally recognized with the name of DeForest Kelley featured in the opening titles (in the first season only Shatner and Nimoy were deserved such honor), and the legendary Pavel Checov (Walter Koenig) is on board, working at the helm together with the always reliable Hikaru Sulu (George Takei). So, on the one hand the cast which worked so well the first year was confirmed, and on the other hand its diversity increased due to the introduction of a Russian, something not that trivial given that in 1968 the Cold War was raging on (come to think about it, even today such a thing would be remarkable). In fact there’s even a third novelty: the name of the writer of the episode now also appears in the opening titles.
So let’s talk about Amok Time. The first episode of the second season explores once again the harmful consequences of the Vulcan denial of emotions. In fact, we find out that every x years all male Vulcans, like salmons, must go home and undergo a ritual which results in them finding either a mate, or death. Kirk disobeys the orders of Admiral Komack (Byron Morrow) in order to save his friend Spock, even though afterwards he must defeat him in a fight to the death due to the machinations of the beautiful and cold T’pring (Arlene Martel) who wants to marry the silent Stonn (Lawrence Montagne).
Amok Time is a perfect start to the season because it consolidates the relations between Kirk, Spock and McCoy and continues to develop the Star Trek mythology, this time with a focus on Vulcans, their traditions, and their power structure. Things are not that simple, because even if at first it seems that in the Vulcan society women are mere prizes to be won in duels, in fact the most powerful character of the entire episode is T’pau (Celia Lovsky), a woman who in the past had even refused a place in the Federation Council.
I’m sure that Leonard Nimoy enjoyed himself a lot while shooting Amok Time as he was able to show some emotions like anger and happiness (his smile embracing Kirk in the finale is priceless!), something usually impossible for him given the Vulcan nature of his character. And here’s also an important role for Majel Barrett, Roddenberry’s future wife (they married in 1969), in her recurring role as nurse Christine Chapel. We knew since The Naked Time that she was in love with Spock, and here he kindly allows her to prepare dinner for him after he almost hit her a little earlier.
In short, the second season starts at warp 9 and bodes well for the rest of the season. Yes, perhaps the first part in which Spock doesn’t want to reveal what’s happening to him is a bit slow, but for me it perfectly frames the difficult relationship of Vulcans with their instincts and emotions. And the second part is classic Star Trek, there’s even a standard fistfight between two stuntmen (ah, the magic of the Bluray!). Ciao!
Previous episode: Operation: Annihilate!
Next episode: Who Mourns for Adonais?