Lion of the Blogosphere

Star Trek TOS, S02E01: “Amok Time”

The next episode I will review is “Who Mourns for Adonais?” (in other words, who feels sorrow over the death of a god?). Which was a fun episode to re-watch even though it’s objectively bad.

* * *

This episode is interesting enough that I’ll give a spoiler warning (in case you are unaware of the plot twist); you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you watch it first.

This is one of the best episodes of the series with respect to the production values, craft of storytelling, and character development, although it’s not necessarily the most interesting to write about because it doesn’t have anything especially interesting to a reviewer writing from 51 years after the episode was aired.

They made especially good use of the musical score to increase the tension in the episode, although one could never get away with such a thing today, where it would come across as very hokey.

PLOT SUMMARY: Spock is acting very strangely and un-Spock-like. McCoy says he will die unless they get him back to Vulcan quickly. Spock eventually tells Kirk that he’s in Vulcan heat and needs to go back to Vulcan to have sex (although that’s not exactly what Spock said). On planet Vulcan, everyone is dressed like ancient Romans, and they have a dumb ceremony, and Kirk is tricked into having to fight Spock to the death. No one actually dies. But Spock is knocked out of being in heat after he thinks he killed his best friend.

This is the first episode with Ensign Chekov! But he only appears briefly here, and has a bigger role next episode, so I will hold off on writing about him.

This is the only the second episode where Nurse Chapel’s attraction to Spock is developed. This was first introduced back very early in Season 1, The Naked Time (where everyone on the Enterprise becomes super drunk because of a space disease). Then they forgot about it. Someone decided to give up on the idea of the show being about the various crewmembers aboard the ship, and instead it became an off-ship adventure of the week featuring, almost exclusively, Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

The episode opens with Spock yelling at Chapel, “Poking and prying! If I want anything from you, I’ll ask for it!” and throwing a bowl of soup at her. And then Spock explains to Kirk, “It is undignified for a woman to play servant to a man who is not hers.” (Whoa! Politically incorrect!)

But then, a bit later in the episode, there is the most interesting exchange between Nurse Chapel and Spock:

[Spock’s quarters]

(Spock is lying on his bed, apparently asleep. Christine thinks about touching him and then goes to leave.)
SPOCK: Miss Chapel.
CHAPEL: Yes, Mister Spock?
SPOCK: I had a most startling dream. You were trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear you. It would be illogical for us to protest against our natures. Don’t you think?
CHAPEL: I don’t understand.
SPOCK: Your face is wet.
CHAPEL: I came to tell you that we are bound for Vulcan. We’ll be there in just a few days.
SPOCK: Vulcan. Miss Chapel.
CHAPEL: My name is Christine.
SPOCK: Yes, I know, Christine. Would you make me some of that plomeek soup?
CHAPEL: Oh, I’d be very glad to do that, Mister Spock.

Nurse Chapel has not given up on Spock despite him being an asshole to her earlier in the episode. And I interpret this exchange as Spock apologizing to Chapel, and asking her to make another bowl of soup for him because he knows that would make her happy. And maybe he also wants the soup.

Unfortunately, once he gets his Vulcan emotional control back, he’s going to go back to ignoring her.

Outside of the Nurse Chapel scene, this is another Kirk, Spock and McCoy episode. We learn that Spock is so ashamed of his weird Vulcan sex drive that he won’t even explain the problem to Kirk, who is duty-bound to take his ship to some dumb diplomatic ceremony instead of to Vulcan to save Spock’s life. And initially, Spock would rather die than explain his shame to Kirk or McCoy.

But once the Pon Farr is out of the bag, we have this scene:

SPOCK: It is obvious that you have surmised my problem, Doctor. My compliments on your insight. Captain, there is a thing that happens to Vulcans at this time. Almost an insanity, which you would no doubt find distasteful.
KIRK: Will I? You’ve been most patient with my kinds of madness.
SPOCK: Then would you beam down to the planet’s surface and stand with me? There is a brief ceremony.
KIRK: Is it permitted?
SPOCK: It is my right. By tradition, the male is accompanied by his closest friends.
KIRK: Thank you, Mister Spock.
SPOCK: I also request McCoy accompany me.
MCCOY: I shall be honoured, sir.

If you recall my review of Operation Annihilate!, I wrote that the highlight of the episode is McCoy’s anguish at learning that he blinded Spock by shooting him with the wrong spectrum of light. I was touched by McCoy’s genuine concern for Spock, despite the fact that they always disagree.

And now, in this episode, we see that Spock considers McCoy to be one of his “closest friends.” Once again, I will point out that there is a very positive message that people can have strong differences of opinion without hating each other, and in fact still be closest friends.

But what are we supposed to make of Vulcans in this episode? Vulcan is supposedly a planet of logic, but all we see of Vulcan is some people dressed costumes having a very silly ceremony and endorsing a fight to the death. Even if Spock can’t help his desire to kill someone in order to win the right to have sex with T’Pring, surely the logical Vulcans who aren’t in heat can figure out a way to deal with this situation that doesn’t involve someone getting killed? But T’Pau, supposedly a senior Vulcan diplomat who’s famous in the Federation, tricks Kirk into agreeing to fight Spock to the death.

Finally, what about T’Pring? My thought while watching this was “what a bitch.” She would rather see someone get killed than to marry the man she was supposed to marry according to her planet’s traditions. And she would feel no guilt about an innocent human getting killed? None of it seems very logical. (One could try to argue that she should have the right not to marry someone she doesn’t want to marry, but that would be applying human biology and present-day American culture to alien beings on a another planet.)

This episode explains why Vulcans never colonized the galaxy or developed their own Starfleet. Vulcans can’t travel far from their home planet for extended periods of time.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 26, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

11 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Obligatory Cable Guy clip referencing this episode:

    Chip Douglas

    December 26, 2018 at EST pm

  2. In the ’60’s-90’s many countries censored via their state communication monopolies finding the philosophic and libertarianist ‘Star Trek’ as too controversial. One country cut out the sexual portions of ‘Amok Time’ and for good measure made the whole thing a fevered dream.

    Some years ago when I was meeting libertarians in Russia they told me they at first didn’t find ‘Star Trek’ that innovative until the 2000’s when accurate translations of the episodes and complete episodes became available. Underground copies of ‘Star Trek’ were a big thing in the 1980’s in Communist countries.

    The Old Libertarian

    December 26, 2018 at EST pm

  3. It’s ‘Adonis’ not ‘Adonais’. Wrong religion.


    December 26, 2018 at EST pm

  4. The Vulcans as featured here were expanded upon in Enterprise. I admit, I didn’t like what ENT did to the Vulcans at first, but they became even more interesting as a species in season 3 of ENT onward. Being logical doesn’t preclude being Machiavellian.


    December 28, 2018 at EST am

  5. T’Pau – Heart And Soul

    MEH 0910

    December 28, 2018 at EST pm

  6. One underexplored plot point is the explanation that the Vulcans get away with being super ‘rational’ all the time by really raising hell every now and then. Sailer has speculated that German beer culture accomplishes the same goals and Greg Cochran has talked about how it’d be nice to find other chemical means to accomplish the same thing. Maybe not duels to the death, but it’s nicer to be a clever worker with a busy social life than either a nerdy grind who can’t let loose or the guy who’s the life of the party but can’t hold down a job.

    Jokah Macpherson

    December 30, 2018 at EST am

    • There was also the planet with Landru the computer running everything, where one night everyone gets to go crazy.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 30, 2018 at EST am

    • The exuberant Spaniards are equally efficient, if not more than the Germans, when asked of them. The Germs are deranged group of Europeans.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      December 30, 2018 at EST am

      • The Southern Europeans like the Spaniards are more natural beings who have the efficiency of the Nordics and the exuberance of the Mediterraneans.

        I recently bought books from several book dealers in Spain, and one dimwit who happens to be an Anglo Prole Expat sent me books using the outdated and inefficient Correos (the Spanish Postal system). All the native Spanish book dealers asked me if I wanted to use an express courier service, fully understanding that the 1st world wants things executed as soon as possible without a siesta.

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        December 30, 2018 at EST pm

  7. Forget about JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, into the Darkness for a second, a full Star Trek episode portraying an engineered super race of Khans vs the super logical Vulcans with a high tolerance for pain and propensity for violence when needed, would be a spectacular show not only for Star Trek geeks, but every prole who likes fighting and gore, with a dash of cerebralism for prole intellect.

    Khan was able to endure the harshness of the inhospitable planet, Alpha Ceti for years with its dangerous life forms the Ceti Eels, which he was able to tame and use to mind control and kill his victims. Khan was not only a natural ladies man, but a stoic who could endure and survive such a difficult terrain when asked of him. This makes him a true alpha.

    Spock seems to be an inverse of Khan, a stoic for most of his life, with bouts of rapacious sexual urges which makes him unlike the Casanova Khan who seduces ladies left and right. The Vulcans aren’t exactly charismatic like Khan, but equally cruel, and only asked of them, usually during their primal phase.

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    December 30, 2018 at EST am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: