TREK-A-DAY: Amok Time
EPISODE THIRTY: Amok Time
What a helluva way to kick off season two! Amok Time is one of those episodes I’ve been looking forward to for some time, knowing the name and the basic Kirk vs. Spock premise…but as is the case with the famous episodes, it went above and beyond. Fantastic episode.
Sing it with me: Buh buh buh BA BA BA ba BA ba BAHHHHHH
The episode kicks off with two things that make me really happy: a nod to continuity with Nurse Chapel is back and hitting on Spock, a fact known to McCoy who comments on it (I had written this off as another “things said in The Naked Time don’t count *cough Yeoman Rand cough*” but here we are with Chapel still very much in love with Spock). The second was an immediate emotional outburst by an irrationally irritable Spock. Subversions of established characters are my favorite, so it was great to kick off the new season with a “here’s someone you know quite well acting crazy” moment. This entire episode serves as a fantastic character study about just how little we know about Spock beyond immediate circumstance and is a wonderful look into our co-workers’ “weekend lives”. As close as Kirk and McCoy are to Spock, they really do know very little about his past or traditions. Although they know his personality, virtues, likes and dislikes, this episode underlines the big cultural gap exists between Spock and his human counterparts (but acknowledged by Chapel way back in The Naked Time!)
As it turns out, Spock is in the Vulcan equivalent of heat and thus must return to Vulcan to mate with his kinda-wife to whom he was psychically linked as a child (like a werewolf in Twilight! *shoots self in head*) to meet up with at this time.
And so, Kirk risks his career to get Spock to the church on time, but as it turns out the church is a strange Vulcan plateau and there’s a wacky ritual known as (excited gasp) PON FARR to be accomplished first. This is a classic, classic Star Trek term and concept and has fuelled any number of nerd sex jokes since (and doubtless has been used successfully as part of a pick up line). Problem is, when Spock logically counted up his 99 Problems, he neglected to notice that his pseudo-bride was indeed one, as she is in love with another Vulcan and thus chooses Kirk as her champion (knowing he’d want none of that if he won and release her to be with other Vulcan) to battle Spock to the death for her hand. Kirk, being an awfully good friend, accepts the duel with a mind to save Spock from fighting the giant other Vulcan guy, not understanding that it’s to the death. And so, we get our biggest fight since Mr. Noonien Singh caused that ruckus in engineering, as Kirk and Spock duke it out with American Gladiator weapons to the most famous song in all of Star Trek: The battle music (I couldn’t help but grin when I heard them sneak it in earlier in the episode, considerably slowed down and more deliberate when Spock is describing the Pon Farr to Kirk). Anywho, due to some quick thinking by McCoy (and a good old shot of fake death seurum in Kirk’s arm) the feud is settled with only Kirk’s shirt as a casualty and Spock’s fever is sated. He doesn’t want to marry the chick anymore (for good reason) and gets in a great dig at other Vulcan about how “having is often less fun than wanting” before returning to The Enterprise to stand trial for Kirk’s death.
Which in turn gives us a great Huck Finn moment of Kirk re-appearing and one of the most genuinely touching moments we’ve had in the series so far as Spock excitedly exclaims, “Jim!” with a big grin on his face and hugs Kirk. Only to immediately snap back into logic mode, but the little glimpse is a wonderfully honest moment and sums up how close these two characters really are. The episode is filled with awesome moments of commradery between the three leads (particuarly when Spock asks Kirk to be his best man. Then quietly asks McCoy to come along as well. Three best friends that anyone’s ever had, and they’re never, ever, ever, going to leave each other…) And then we’ve got my new favourite dynamic on the ship: the Chekov and Sulu variety hour! The two have a few scenes grumbling about course changes and already Sulu feels like more of a character. Chekov and he have a nice buddy comedy thing going and I can’t wait to see more from it.
Also notably, we get our first real look at Vulcan culture, to this point a closely guarded secret by Spock. While the costumes are typically weird, we get our first “Live Long and Prosper,” which kind of blew me a way because I hadn’t noticed its absence in the first season. It’s yet another one of those things I always took for granted about the Original Series that I’m only finding out the truth of now (Chekov was also one of those things.) There’s also a stubborn elder named T’Pau which really threw me for a loop, going “Holy crap, that’s T’Pol from Enterprise all grown up.” It gave me much more respect for that series…until I read up on it, and while they were meant to be the same character, there was some legal weirdness that prevented it. Ah well; a cool little moment nevertheless.
So, all-in-all, a fantastic episode. Great characterization, a fun fight, legendary music…who could ask for anything more?
I can. It’s only the first episode of the season, after all.
On Season Two…
So, what’s different about season two? Well, right off the bat, the damn DVD menu is now based around the science officer’s station rather than the helm. This was both disconcerting and awesome. Each boxed set is themed around a different wing of command (Season 1 is Captain’s yellow, 2 is Science blue, 3 is Engineering red) and this is a nice nod to the overall product. Well done. There’s a budget for the show now, which shows already in the variety of extra crewmen running around (no more of this “there are six people on The Enterprise” scenes) and we also get the very noticeable (and welcome) addition of Mr. Chekov to the crew. The theme music (and music in general) are more bombastic and include a wider variety of instruments (most noticeably, the bass line on Spock’s scenes) as a financial falling-out between Roddenberry and Alexander Courage (the original composer) led to a new musician in charge. It’s not worse, just different…for the most part. Sometimes it’s worse (the new theme song with extra vocal accompaniment, for instance).