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July 16 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

All Our Yesterdays

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 2, 2007 - 11:37 PM GMT

See Also: 'All Our Yesterdays' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam to the surface of the planet Sarpeidon, whose sun will nova in a matter of hours, they find that all the inhabitants have disappeared but a librarian named Atoz who insists that they must step into the Atavachron and escape the imminent disaster. When Kirk hears a woman screaming through the machine, he jumps through and ends up in the planetary equivalent of the Inquisition. Trying to rescue him, Spock and McCoy step through into the planet's ice age, where they are rescued by a woman who was sent into the past as a political prisoner. When Kirk manages to shout to them through the portal, he is accused of witchcraft and rescued by a local magistrate who is himself from the future. But Spock has been told by Zarabeth that none of them can return through the Atavachron, and because his mind is reverting to Vulcan of the same era, he becomes emotional, falling in love with Zarabeth and eating animal flesh. When he attacks McCoy, the doctor convinces him that they must return to their own era. With Kirk's help, they return to the library and beam back to the ship just after Atoz escapes into the past and just before the sun goes nova.

Analysis: I can only describe "All Our Yesterdays" as a guilty pleasure. Scientifically, it's implausible that a planet would be perfectly livable and unchanged until moments before its sun went nova; that star would have been sending out bursts of extreme radiation for quite some time. The time travel mechanism is never explained in the slightest, nor how the Atavachron "prepares" travelers so that they are adjusted to their new eras but can never return; it makes very little sense that Spock's phaser stops working immediately, even though it is fully charged when he passes through the portal, but whatever serves as a translator is perfectly accurate even in the little-known ancient eras of a little-studied planet. There's assorted other technical nonsense that I could go on about, but why? Everyone loves this episode because Kirk is accused of being a witch and Spock gets to go caveman with Mariette Hartley.

The Enterprise arrives "approximately three and a half hours" before the star is expected to nova, as if this is a scientifically precise phenomenon worth risking a Starfleet crew to investigate. What's troubling Kirk is that the planet was inhabited by a sophisticated civilization, but they've all disappeared. What was he planning to do if he found them alive - listen to their death screams? Doubtful, since this is Kirk, who would likely have tried to tow the entire planet out of orbit to a new sun if necessary (unlike Picard, who was ready to let an entire civilization burn until Worf's human brother snuck them aboard the Enterprise-D). For whatever reason, Kirk is determined to solve the mystery of the missing people, so he beams down the three most important members of his crew three hours before the star will explode. Heh.

So to heck with logic, which is Spock's personal philosophy this episode anyway. (I'm also not clear, scientifically, on why Spock's unprepared brain would revert to one like Vulcans of the same epoch, but am perfectly willing to buy that he simply made a choice and used the Vulcan reversion thing an excuse.) He certainly sounds like he means it when he tells McCoy he doesn't like being teased about being green-blooded and he thinks he never did. It's fortunate for Spock that he has McCoy there to needle some sense back into him, but for a few minutes there it really does look like he wants to kill him...not over Zarabeth, her preference is clear, but simply for knowing Spock so well. Even when they get back, when Spock tries to dismiss the entire incident by declaring that Zarabeth has been dead for centuries, McCoy insists that it happened, and doesn't get so much as a thank you for putting his neck on the line.

This is one of the most interesting episodes in the explosive Spock-McCoy relationship...there is, of course, deep affection underlying McCoy's constant barbs, but take away the thick skin that Spock's logic gives him and he takes every little thing personally. It's the same as in "This Side of Paradise": once his emotions are let loose, Spock has far less control than a full human like Kirk. It had to be McCoy whom Spock was stranded with, because Kirk would have been far more direct in demanding that they find a way back immediately - injured or not - and Spock would have listened to him, Vulcan reversion or no Vulcan reversion, because Kirk always gets through to Spock even outside command situations.

Poor Kirk is stuck in a much sillier storyline that gives William Shatner an excuse to demonstrate that he learned swordfighting as part of his classical training but doesn't give much character insight. Typically, he goes lunging to a woman's rescue before he knows for certain that she can't rescue herself, gets himself in the thick of things, and only afterward notices that his portal to his own place has vanished and he has no backup. It is quite hilarious listening to him announce from a jail cell that he is not a witch, but he's not the focus of this episode - he has only to guess that his representative is also from a different time, and lo, he has an ally to help him escape it.

Spock's storyline is much more subtle; first he saves McCoy's life in the snow over the doctor's objections, then he learns that what he had assumed was a device to save the population from the impending nova has in fact been around for a long time...Zarabeth was sent back in an earlier era by a tyrant who was trying to wipe out her family. He accepts her declaration that he cannot travel back through the Atavachron, even though her story changes as she tells it, claiming that the device prepares them when in fact as Kirk learns they must be prepared before entering. Spock swears to McCoy that Zarabeth would not jeopardize lives just for companionship, but McCoy sees through this claim in an instant: "She would do anything to prevent a life of loneliness. She would lie. She would cheat. She would even murder me, the captain, the entire crew of the Enterprise to keep you here with her!" This is a pretty remarkable claim considering how little he knows Zarabeth, but he knows Spock. This is about Spock's loneliness, not Zarabeth's.

So like many of the third season episodes I love even though they're mediocre science fiction, the character stuff redeems "All Our Yesterdays" for me. Plus, you know, that nice Shakespearean title. Out, out, brief candle.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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