Star Trek: TOS – S02E20, Return to Tomorrow

star-trek-return-to-tomorrow-4Return to Tomorrow is a memorable episode for a few reasons. Personally, I couldn”t help but think “Doctor Pulaski!” all the time since one of the guest stars is Diana Muldaur playing Lieutenant Commander Mulhall. For the uninitiated, in the second season of The Next Generation, Muldaur would play Dr. Pulaski replacing Beverly Crusher (a bit because Gates MacFadden was pregnant and a bit because, apparently, her acting skills were not appreciated by all the creators and producers of the series and many were pleased to remove her from the series).

But let’s leave aside my obsession with The Next Generation, whats this episode about? The USS Enterprise receives a distress call from a planet on which life died out long before due to some cataclysm. Once there, a being called Sargon transports Kirk, Spock and Mulhall underground demonstrating that he has the power to use the systems of the Federation ship. However, Sargon isn’t that aggressive after all. He’s part of a group of three survivors of an ancient civilization and he only wants an opportunity to return to a body, being now only pure energy. To do this, the three must occupy three bodies temporarily to “use” them and build androids to occupy later.

It’s admirable how the love for exploration of Kirk and Mulhall leads them to defend their right to lend themselves voluntarily to this process. For them, having found a new life form is so fascinating that they voluntarily participate in a potentially dangerous operation in order to conclude successfully a first contact with a new species! But there’s a problem. The other two survivors are Sargon’s wife, Thalassa, and his ancient enemy Henoch, an enemy in the war that annihilated their entire civilization. I don’t need to go further with the plot, right?

Things are not too simple, though, and there are numerous plot twists with these three beings taking possession of the bodies of Kirk, Mulhall and Spock several times and with disastrous effects (especially for Kirk). The ending is amazing, with Sargon understanding the corrupting power of having physical bodies for his race and deciding to end his existence after a last kiss to his beloved wife. In short, this is another solid episode to add to the list of this second season of Star Trek! Roddenberry’s ideas of a humanity finally devoted to science, exploration and knowledge and of how meaningless wars are shine from beginning to end in an episode with a compelling and entertaining plot. What more can you ask for? Ciao!

Previous episode: A Private Little War

Next episode: Patterns of force


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