TREK-A-DAY: Journey to Babel
EPISODE FORTY: Journey to Babel
Well, damn. For all the silliness of the past few episodes, here we go with the very heart of Trek: a character piece with intergalactic space politics underlying the story. And a fist-fight where Kirk takes a knife to a lung. Damn.
When the Enterprise is ordered to play taxi to the intergalactic UN (aka the feuding Federation) delegates en route to an extremely important meeting at a planet code named Babel (doubtless by the Space Pope) encounters problems when the Vulcan delegate is accused of the murder of a pig man…and an Andorian (the new and apparently new favourite of the show) alien with the blue skin and two antenna attacks Kirk with a knife LITERALLY OUT OF NO WHERE (to the point I thought I missed a scene). ANNNNNND to further complicate matters, there’s an unknown alien ship attacking the Enterprise with full power (on a suicide mission…no need to retain any power to anything but guns)…
Oh, and did I mention the delegate from Vulcan…? Yeah, big “Oh shit” moment that went something like this:
McCoy (doing what every kid who ever watched Star Trek did): How does this Vulcan salute go? (Uses his other hand to try and make the Live Long and Prosper logo…fails.) …This hurts more than the stuffy dress uniform.
(The Vulcan delegate Sarek proceeds to ignore Spock’s gesture)
Kirk: Well, um, we’ll arrange for you to have a tour of the ship. Lead by Mr. Spock.
Sarek: I’d prefer someone else.
Kirk: Right. Well, Spock, did you want to beam down to the planet to visit your parents?
Spock: Won’t be necessary captain. Ambassador Sarek is my father.
DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN. I literally woke up my fiance yelling this. Trek very rarely elicits this reaction from me, but I remember Sarek as a stone cold badass from Next Generation and the way he was established was awesome. Also, Trek-yet again proving the status of an actor’s dream-didn’t just grab a random guy for Sarek; they brought back one of the most memorable and capable day players to date: The Romulan Commander from Balance of Terror. Awesome. In addition to playing Sarek forevermore, he also played a Klingon in one of the films, meaning he is the only Trek actor to have portrayed the big three of Romulan, Vulcan, and Klingon. Not even recent Academy Award Winning Klingon/Von Trapp Christopher Plummer can claim that.
So, anyway, the plot: the space UN is threatened by terrorists, Kirk is in sickbay with an injured lung, Sarek is dying of heart disease and needs a transfusion, Mrs. Sarek is kicking Spock and Sarek’s ass about the whole “logic versus love” thing, unknown alien ship is going to nuke Enterprise annnnnd Spock won’t do the transfusion until someone qualified takes over Enterprise (sorry, Scotty). So it falls to a bleeding Kirk to muddle through, while Spock undergoes the transfusion, all the while battling a suicide ship and managing a ship full of delegates.
This episode is very busy, but all kinds of awesome. It combines domestic drama (lightened by Spock and Sarek post-op finally finding common ground by commenting on the illogical nature of marrying a human. Take that Mrs. Sarek! Hahahaha!), with another feat of strength by Kirk (he was planning on relinquishing command…but keeps it almost to death to win the fight), with space politics (this is our first episode TO EVER amalgamate all of the various political bodies into one episode…for the first time, we get a sense of a continuous galaxy with Klingons, Romulans, Andorans, Vulcans AND a Rygol system reference!); in addition to being a great character piece, this is the episode that actually solidifies the mythology of the universe beyond ‘episode-of-the-week’ status and essentially cemented the Klingons and Romulans (though not appearing in the episode, except by actor proxy) as forces in the universe.
Really, this is both an incredibly important and incredibly fun episode, that ties together EVERYTHING that rocks about Star Trek, and still manage to end with a hilarious McCoy moment (with both Spock and Kirk in sick bay) where the long-suffering good doctor FINALLY gets the last word. Cut to credits.
Also, there’s a major budget jump in this episode; while we still don’t get an enemy ship on the viewscreen, we DO get the best phaser and photon torpedo effects to date as well as new external ship views!!! Including a particularly impressive (and often imitated) one of the saucer section’s name and insignia. It’s our first clear look at the name Enterprise and the NCC-1701 C designation. Nifty.