Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomorrow is Yesterday

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Time travel and Star Trek? Hook me up! 'Tomorrow is Yesterday' was written by Dorothy Fontana, hands down my favorite original series Trek writer. It's big on action, loaded with wit, and if the time travel stuff made one iota of sense it wouldn't be time travel now, would it?

A black star near Starbase 9... a warp speed near-collision... a rubber band or something: whatever went wrong the result is what matters. The Enterprise is back at Earth, too low down in the atmosphere, and too far back in the past!

It's July 1969, somewhere over Nebraska, and the US Air Force Pilot Captain John Christopher is sent to intercept the UFO with the saucer and kooky cylindrical projections. He gets a great look at it and some nifty photos (much greater in the special editions) but their tractor beam wrecks his plane and they are forced to beam him aboard.

John gets an eyeful of THE FUTURE! Captain Kirk, as is often the case, gets an eyeful of weird mood lighting. My wife Trish pointed this out and I see it all the time now.

We learn in this episode that the main computer (refurbished by the lady technicians of the female-dominant planet Cygnet XIV) has a crush on the Captain, and expresses its affectionate personality through giggling and pouting. Now that we know the ship loves Jim as much as Jim loves the ship, I think it's clear what the lighting is about: Enterprise puts a band of light across Jim's face in the visual recordings to highlight his lovely eyes.

We hear Kirk explain for the first time that he works for the United Earth Space Probe Agency (or UESPA as we heard in 'Charlie X'). It's a division of U.N.C.L.E., probably.

Captain Christopher is flabbergasted to meet Spock.
"I've never believed in little green men!" says the pilot.
"Neither have I." Spock deadpans.

So, Spock doesn't believe in Orions? Or just not in their men?

Though it was an accident, they've contaminated the locals with knowledge of the future and they debate what to do with him. (Why, if they put him back he might just change their past and before you know it everyone would be younger, sexier, and Vulcan would implode.)

Spock tells Jim the records show John made "no significant contribution". Right to his face! "A-douche!" was, I believe, the noise my wife made. True dat! No significant contribution... so do you mind if we just throw you into the sun? Thanks.

Then they beam up a police sergeant for good measure. It's not a great day. At least they didn't beam up Barney Fife.

Turns out John's due to have a son, Shaun, who's vital to the Earth-Saturn Probe. They gotta put him back or he'll never do the nasty in the pasty!

To recover the A/V records John's jet made of the starship, Kirk and Sulu sneak into the Air Force base at night. A covert mission, mind you, in full futuristic uniform where they stop to peer into trophy cases, poke the thermostats, and talk loudly about how primitive the computers are.

Needless to report, captured. To be fair, those computers are DINOSAURS!
Kirk gets in some smart remarks at his interrogators, then gets in some face punches, body slams, and doorway kicks, too. Swinging from, I mean, there's no reason to kick a doorway.

Spock does the calcs for time-travel in his frickin' head, Scotty cranks up the engines, and it's 'a mighty rough ride'... at least in the special edition. I had to add a star for this version's climax: instead of the classic "gently swaying against a motionless starfield" effect, we get rocketing across the face of the big damn sun to enter time warp! Oh, what an improvement!
Then (don't ask me HOW THIS WORKS) they use the transporter to quantum leap John back into his own past self in the Blue Jay 4 cockpit, the cop back into himself on the base, & even vanishing the past Enterprise right out of the sky.

If the plan was to erase history & undo the whole adventure anyway, why the song and dance with stealing the film footage? You see, to properly appreciate the causality-entangled predestination... mumble, mumble, trailing off... AND THEY'RE BACK TO THE FUTURE! Yay!

A wish-fulfillment fantasy for a generation yearning to fly and forced to always be so grounded. Obviously a strong influence on other time-travel tales both in and out of Trek. A fun romp.

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