Are we ready for a Daytime Emmy-nominated (I’m totally serious) episode, written by the legendary D.C. Fontana? Let’s get back into our Star Trek: Animated Series viewings with its second tale, “Yesteryear.”
The Enterprise is orbiting around the “time vortex planet” which is the “focus of all of the timelines of the galaxy.” And while you puzzle that out and start to raise your hand to ask some questions, we flash down onto the planet’s surface to see a trio hanging out at what looks like the Guardian of Forever. It’s a skinny bird-dude, what appears to be a vampire, and Dr. McCoy:
McCoy’s body language clearly says, “These weirdos do not speak for me.”
Kirk and a red shirt pop out of the portal from observing Orion at the beginning of history. The captain makes a point of saying how he didn’t touch anything out of fear of messing up the timeline, which makes me suspicious that he couldn’t stop touching everything and probably licked a few things while he was on a roll.
Then Spock appears, and the ground crew is taken aback, as nobody — other than Kirk — knows who he is. You’d think that the red shirt would pipe up to confirm that, yes, this is the guy who’s had the second billing in the show for a while now, but no, that red shirt is long gone. Probably got eaten by the bird-man.
Up on the Enterprise, Kirk confirms that the timeline has indeed changed, as an Andorian is now the first officer of the ship. I’m not really keen on his grey skin and facial expression that suggests he eats puppies after monologuing at them, but good for the Andorian affirmative action program for getting into officer school.
They all go to the conference room to hash this out, where Ensign Dorkface there delivers computer records on Spock’s family. Apparently in this timeline, his mother Amanda died in a shuttle accident (Spock murmurs “my mother” in a dead monotone when he hears that his mom is dead) and Spock himself kicked the bucket at age seven.
But what caused the change? Back on the time vortex planet surface, the vampire lady says that they had been using the Guardian of Forever to scan Vulcan’s history about 30 years ago. Guess nobody thought that was relevant to mention until now. Bird-man said that Spock died during the maturity test (the “khas-wan”), which is a survival test for young males. Girl Vulcans apparently have to make it through a shopping trip to the SpaceMall with only 100 bucks to prove their maturity.
Anyway, Spock said that his cousin “Selek” saved his life in the desert during this test. And before you sit up in your seat and look all smug that you know where this plot twist is going, Spock and Kirk immediately identify adult Spock as this “Selek” who saved himself. Since Spock hadn’t gone back to save himself (yet), he died and changed history. Paradox Town, here we come!
As an aside, the Guardian of Forever’s voice in this episode is just the worst. It’s like an old man trying to do a scary ghost. Nothing like the original. At least the Guardian agrees to send Spock back, but not before he gets kitted out with period clothes from the Enterprise’s “wardrobe section.” Man, I would love to see THAT room on the ship.
Andorian first officer is like, eh, it’s cool if my own achievements are erased. You go for it, pal. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the tone.
Just like that, Spock goes back 30 years to his hometown on Vulcan. Apparently the town is turning into a pie with a delicious crust, but that’s no matter, considering that the moon is about to crash into the place.
In his hometown, Spock sees his younger self being bullied by a crew of doofy kids for being an “Earther” and a “Terran” because of Spock’s half-human heritage. Rumor goes that J.J. Abrams stole this idea for the 2009 Star Trek film, but who knows if that’s true.
Spock then bumps into his dad, Sarek, played by Mark Lenard (who also played Sarek in the original series, the films, and an episode of The Next Generation) and his mother Amanda. There’s some casual Vulcan homestead chitchat about how Kid Spock — an awesome rapper name if I ever heard one — has to choose his path between humanity and Vulcanity, and how Sarek doesn’t really understand his child’s dual heritage.
Oh, did I fail to mention that Kid Spock has a 700-pound bear/sabertooth tiger as a pet? This is a sehlat, and it’s one of the elements from this episode that wormed its way into Star Trek canon long before the Animated Series was given formal approval. I assume that any viewer seeing this animal casually hanging out in the household of Sarek must assume that Spock’s parents wanted him dead.
Kid Spock decides not to wait for his ordeal to start but gets it going early that very night. His pet and adult version follow, and it’s a good thing that they do, because Kid Spock gets cornered by Puff the Vulcan Dragon almost right away. Kid Spock’s pet fights the beast (which is more of a battlecat or somesuch) but takes a mortal wound in the process.
In a moment of awesome, Spock jumps down on top of the cat and delivers a two-handed Vulcan nerve pinch to knock it out. All while wearing a Snuggie!
Both Spocks have a heart-to-heart about what it is to be half-human and deal with emotions. It’s really great writing to hear adult Spock counsel his younger self not to be embarrassed of his mother or worried he’ll disappoint his father.
At that point, the sehlat collapses and Spock pronounces that it is dying. Kid Spock runs across the desert to get a healer, but by then it’s too late for a full recovery. The healer tells Kid Spock that he has to choose between putting the pet down or prolonging its life in agony. “Release him,” Kid Spock says. “It is fitting he dies with peace and dignity.” They don’t show the actual death, but instead one last hug between a kid and his pet.
Why am I choking up over this? Stupid episode for being so good.
Kid Spock seems to have found himself and his way in this, and tells his parents so. He also says he’s going to go neck pinch a bunch of bullies and nobody stops him, which I found strangely hilarious.
Spock returns to the present, and, pet killing aside, all is how it was. More or less.
And that’s “Yesteryear!” It’s often touted as one of the best Animated Series episodes, and I can attest to its overall quality. Apart from the goofy Guardian of Forever voice and some awkward line reading from the child actor, I couldn’t really find much to mock or nitpick. The story of two Spocks meeting is handled very well in the limited time provided.