Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Tomorrow is Yesterday

Season 1
Episode 21: Tomorrow is Yesterday
Filmed: November/December 1966 
First Air Date: January 26, 1967

Karen: Time travel! This would be the first extensive trip back through time for the Enterprise crew and it allowed the show to bring in a contemporary man to be a viewpoint character for the audience, seeing the Star Trek characters from a different angle. The show also played on the 60s interest in UFOs, as the Enterprise is mistaken for one. "Tomorrow is Yesterday" also exhibited a fair amount of humor, probably more than we were used to seeing on Trek to this point, thanks to both writer D.C. Fontana and producer Gene Coon.

Karen: Writer Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana actually got the idea for this episode from the ending of "The Naked Time," the only previous Star Trek foray into time travel. At the end of that episode, the Enterprise is thrown back a few days into the past. There had briefly been consideration of making "The Naked Time" a two-parter, with the second half delving into the Enterprise being stuck in the past, but it was nixed.  Fontana, however, liked the idea of the Enterprise traveling into the past, and developed the idea into a full-fledged script. This script, much like "Arena" before it, was one of the few that was not substantially altered in the revision process, which is a credit to Fontana and her understanding of the characters and style of the show. 

Karen: While not a favorite of mine, I find this episode to be enjoyable. It has action, some comedy, and nice character moments. Fontana excels in writing interplay between the characters. I always felt she really 'got' the main characters and wrote dialog for them that flowed naturally. The scene where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy explain to Captain Christopher why they must return him to Earth after all is a beauty:

Karen: Actor Roger Perry plays Captain Christopher and he does a capable job, creating a modern man who is likable enough and a sympathetic figure. This is our first episode with Lt. Kyle, the transporter chief, played by John Winston. Although typically only seen in the background, or perhaps given just a line or two, Winston made Kyle noticeable and actually played him 11 times on the series. I had no idea he appeared that many times; I thought perhaps 5 or 6 times. I think this sort of 'third tier' of crew members -much like Kevin O'Reilly, or Lt. DePaul, or Mr. Leslie, who always seemed to be loitering on the bridge - added an extra level of detail and a sense of reality to the show.

Karen: It was also in this episode that we were told that there were 11 starships just like the Enterprise in Starfleet, for a total of 12. We would see more of these in the second season, in episodes like "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Ultimate Computer." More and more, as the season went along, the foundations of the show were coming together. All of this information would be used not only for later episodes, but for the countless books and comics and fanzines to come.

Karen: The humor that is found throughout the episode was again, unusual at this point. There was the sexy computer voice that constantly vexed Kirk and Spock, Kirk's smart-ass exchanges with the military men on the base,and  the reactions of not only Captain Christopher but more so the poor MP who is beamed up, and completely freaked out. This was a sign of both DC Fontana and Gene Coon pushing back against Roddenberry's more staid, straight-up approach. It certainly worked in this episode, although personally, I felt episodes like "I, Mudd" were a bit too far over on the farcical side.

Karen: So all in all, a very solid episode, even if some of the time travel stuff still doesn't make a lot of sense! 


Edo Bosnar said...

Man, how interesting: just yesterday (that word is going to come up a lot in this comment), I found myself thinking about one of my favorite TNG episodes, "Yesterday's Enterprise," and last night it just happened to be on TV here. Now, today, you have a review of "Tomorrow is Yesterday." Well, it was an interesting bunch of coincidences to me, anyway...

As for the episode at hand, like you Karen, I find this one a solid effort, and I agree that the crew interactions and the dialogue are the best parts. After watching that clip, I have to wonder if there was anyone named Sean Christopher involved in the Cassini-Huygens probe...

Humanbelly said...

Heh-- good one, edo. . .

I tend to fall on the other end of the curve regarding the lighter/humorous episodes, Karen. I almost preferred them (few & far between though they were). Possibly because I remember them more from my early childhood, and that would be the hook which would hold a younger kid's attention. It also lends a more accessible common humanity to all of the characters (even Spock, yep). Too much hero-mode/crisis-mode adventuring- while great for driving an external-conflict plot- tends to result in somewhat 2-dimensional characterization, and "flat" tends to be "thin" as well. Episodes like this do make me feel invested in the characters as people much more than even terrific episodes like "Arena" do, really.

The scene in sick bay with Capt.Christopher? WONDERFULLY directed. Remember I brought up how the direction seemed week in that last (awful) episode? Here we're seeing a great touch where the director trusted the script, the characters, and the situation, and clearly PULLED EVERYONE BACK, kept everything charmingly underplayed and intimate, forced nothing, let the moments happen. It's a charming, easy-to-watch scene-- and thus one never notices how well it's done.

Hmmm-- Shatner's stuntwork, though. God bless 'im for his eagerness and confidence in his abilities, but the whole doorframe-pull/"hurdle"over the tackling guard. . . ohhhh, awfully creaky. And then the punch to knock out Christopher-- oh golly, just not sharp enough for how close that shot is. Ahhhhh- but whatcha gonna do? "It's all we had--" heh--


Martinex1 said...

In watching this, I felt like it was being set up for Captain Christopher to get his own show... like it was a test pilot of sorts for the character. Somebody from the 20th century thrown into the madness of the future and sharing our perspective on the technology etc. I liked this episode.

But I do have to say that I thought the humor was pushed a bit too far. The double takes and stunned befuddlement by the MP seemed more appropriate in something like Bewitched. I think that could have been toned down just a bit and still had the proper affect without bordering on sitcom territory. It was too close to having a laugh track in my opinion. In general I am torn on the humorous elements of Trek. For me it works when it is organic to the characters; obviously people in real life have senses of humor so nothing wrong with that. But when it borders on slapstick and is forced it distracts me.

Pat Henry said...

Interesting point about the 12 Enterprise class ships—the NCC 1700 class—if you trawl back to your post on "Court Martial," you see a photo of about half of them on Commodore Stone's status board. The highest one goes up to 1710. It's funny that half of them are wrecked or in disrepair at that moment, and all being knocked back into shape at a single star base. I wonder if their captains were also being simultaneously cuort-martialed?

This was a good episode that really highlighted another (and to this point underplayed) aspect of Shatner's acting ability—his ability to do humor. At this point, his acting chops were fairly reserved and reined in (not like we'll see in later seasons) and his bit here are likewise underplayed and enjoyable for that.

It was always ambiguous to me whether Cpt. Christopher and the Air Sergeant retained any memory of their adventure—didn't seem so based on how it was portrayed and their responses after returning—which made the concern about how they could change the future pointless.

We now have seen two methods of travel through time—warp core implosion and gravity assist. The latter appears like the preferred method, as it is used again and again in future Trek. Imploding the warp core was probably not the easiest pitch to get past the crew....

david_b said...

Not much to add today (busy-busy day..), but all in all one of the best so far in it's first year. You can see a lot of what we enjoyed most of the 2nd year (relationships, a slightly-bemused Shatner look at lighter verbal exchanges..) really being showcased in this episode.

I really don't subscribe to the 'changing of history' aspect of some of these episodes, like if McCoy or someone left a communicator somewhere (as shown in the later 'Piece of the Action'..). Unless it could be taken apart and mass-produced, a single piece of technology wouldn't be considered anything more than an oddity.

Same is true if Christopher or the AF Sergeant retained some memory of the Enterprise. Other than being balked and scoffed at by co-workers.., I don't see much as tarnishing future history in any broad sense.

But.., it does make for entertaining television.

Anonymous said...

This episode has never been one of my favourites; I like time travel and I like humour, but this one just never worked for me. I think it's the Capt. Christopher character...sometimes he seems kind of wooden, then other times it seems like he's trying too hard...either way, something's a bit off about him.

@martinex: I'd never really thought of that "spin-off" effect with this episode, but I kinda see what you mean; maybe that's why things feel a bit off to me. At least it wasn't shoved down our throats like in "Assignment: Earth"!

Mike Wilson

Humanbelly said...

"Gary Seven", Mike? Yeah, even as I child with that one was thinking, "Whose show is this, anyway?"

I'm kind of liking the wide array of opinions on this episode. Star Trek's a big umbrella, it is.

A little detail that always stuck with me from this one is the nicely-played contrast in the levels of technology as far as the air-travel goes. In Scotty's view, the Enterprise is practically an immobile husk, barely able to lurch forward at all. . . and yet when it evades the 20th Century jet, from the pilot's view it seems to have whizzed away at a nearly impossible-to-believe speed (If I'm remembering that correctly, mind you--). Alllll relative. . .


Garett said...

I agree with HB's observations about the sick bay scene. I enjoyed this episode, and generally like the humour in the series. In contrast, the humour in Star Trek 5 was terrible, at the expense of the characters:

Karen said...

Garrett, I could not agree with you more about Star Trek 5. They saw how successful the humor in Star Trek 4 was and tried to copy it but just treated the characters terribly. This continued to a lesser degree in Star Trek 6, where some of the regulars were too dull-witted to figure things out and Spock or Valeris had to explain everything to them.

HB, nice point about the sickbay scene, and it makes me think (and I have thought this before!) that I need to start crediting the directors more in these write ups.

Pat and David, regarding putting Captain Christopher and the Sergeant back in time, there are some Trek message boards where folks argue that the method employed actually would have somehow wiped out the versions that existed -essentially killing them! Again, more fun with the transporter. It's more than I care to think about, that's for sure.

David -welcome back. Hope you had a nice honeymoon.

Edo, your mention of "Yesterday's Enterprise" made me think that at some point, it might be fun to run a "favorite Trek Episodes" post. That one is certainly on a lot of lists.

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