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Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 01

Star Trek TOS - 2x01 - Amok Time

Originally Aired: 1967-9-15

Synopsis:
Spock undergoes the Vulcan mating ceremony. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 5.74

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Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Aside from being one of Star Trek's most famous episodes, this episode also contains a great deal of crucial exposition about Vulcans and is Chekov's first episode.

Problems
None

Factoids
- A slightly revised opening theme debuted in this episode.
- This episode establishes that the Enterprise can do "warp 8 or better" under extreme circumstances. This is up from warp 7 in the first season.
- It is mentioned in this episode that T'Pau turned down a seat on the Federation Council and that she is the only person ever to do so.
- This episode was nominated the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Remarkable Scenes
- McCoy describing Spock's behavior to Kirk.
- Spock freaking out at Nurse Chapel.
- Sulu and Chekov discussing the abrupt course changes.
- Spock: "How do Vulcans choose their mates? Have you ever wondered?" Kirk: "I guess the rest of us just assumed it was done... quite logically!"
- Spock bashing his computer monitor. The effect was cheap and cheezy, but hilarious nevertheless.
- Kirk and McCoy expressing awe over the fact that Spock knows T'Pau, a revered Vulcan celebrity.
- Kirk and Spock fighting.
- Spock "killing" Kirk.
- T'Pring explaining her motives for the death match.
- Spock to T'Pring's new husband: "She is yours. After a time you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."
- Spock and T'Pau to each other: "Live long and prosper."
- Spock's reaction to seeing Kirk alive and well. Gotta love Spock's brief smile.

My Review
This episode skillfully dramatizes the secret mating ritual of the Vulcan people. Known as the pon farr, it is a time honored tradition that the Vulcan people seem to pour their entire emotional core into; the one exception to their rigid culture of emotional purging. Since Spock is half human, his emotional control has always been somewhat weaker than the average Vulcan and Spock had hoped in vain that his unusual ancestry would spare him the full effect of the pon farr. Like clockwork, Spock's marriage to T'Pring, arranged at childhood and consummated with a mind meld, reasserted itself at a most inconvenient time, causing Spock to experience the "blood fever." It is stated in this episode that had he not returned home to participate in the ceremony with T'Pring, the emotional trauma could have actually killed him. All of that exposition and so much more coalesces into what is easily the most nuanced and interesting depiction of an alien culture on Star Trek so far. Combined with great writing, good plotting, and even an excellent score, this episode is strikingly original.

Only minor blemishes diminish the storytelling. For instance, when Kirk spoke with Starfleet Command, he failed to mention that Spock's life was in danger. Although the conversation was cut short by the terse commodore, it still seems like Kirk should have mentioned that. The next most annoying detail was the unusual speech patterns of T'Pau. All of that "if thee this" and "thyself that" was pretty awkward stuff to listen to; definitely not the best aesthetic choice. Although I will confess to greatly enjoying her line questioning Spock "art thee Vulcan or art thee human" in spite of the old timey vocabulary. The ceremony itself slowed down the pace of the plot considerably and the episode probably could have benefited from being five or ten minutes shorter in general, but overall the episode was way above average. Everything from the smart inclusion of a Nurse Chapel subplot dealing with her unrequited love for Spock to T'Pring's chillingly logical explanation of her scheming to Spock was excellent drama.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Thomas on 2009-08-03 at 5:33am:
    I found it a bit disturbing and inconsistant with the other series that the Vulcans here have such a barbarous and illogical ritual. i mean fighting to death for a woman.
  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2010-03-31 at 4:12pm:
    I just watched this on Blu-Ray last night. I have a few nitpicks.

    There's a pretty nice new part that was added. When the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down, it now cuts to a far away shot of the temple. It looks pretty nice. The problem is that when Spock beams back up, they cut to the shot again, but it does not show the wedding party standing inside it, even though they were standing near Spock as he beemed back up.

    Also, when Spock's future wife appears on the view screen, she starts talking to him ("something something never parted"). I just would like to know where the echo is coming from. She sounds like she has supernatural powers!

    There's also a lot of unnecessary stunt doubles used in the slow moving combat scenes. I'm pretty sure Nimoy and Shatner had the skills to wield plastic sticks.

    Otherwise, this is a pretty good episode.

  • From John on 2011-02-18 at 12:20am:
    This is a funny episode: I love it, but there are a lot of things about it that tick me off:

    1. Why does T'Pau have such a strong accent, while no other Vulcan ever presented has an accent? I realize that this is the first "Vulcan" episode of all time, but still. Her accent is annoying and unnecessary.

    2. What's up with the constant use of "thee"?

    3. I would have liked to see Spock take T'Pring as his wife anyway, just to wreck her plans. Logical or not, as far as he knew, she forced him to kill his best friend and captain. In a short time he can divorce her, and make her look like a fool. Seems like justice to me. Of course, Spock would never do this -- revenge is illogical -- but it would be entertaining nonetheless.
  • From Robert Koenn on 2011-03-24 at 1:11pm:
    This was another favorite overall episode from the Trek universe for me. And that partially makes sense as two of my favorites were written by acclaimed scifi writers, this one by Theodore Sturgeon. It was quite interesting to learn more of the Vulcan culture. I didn't find the "illogic" of this violent death match for a woman to be out of place. As was stated, Vulcan suppress their emotions, they are not genetically non-emotional. So at that point in time when the Pon-far occurs this pent up strain is released resulting in years of suppression getting out into the open. And for a Vulcan this is not only personally devastating but embarrassing as well. I also found the effects quite good for the budget and time period they filmed this episode. Finally it went quite a ways in developing the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship.
  • From Wes on 2011-04-19 at 4:08pm:
    I too really appreciated the development of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship.

    I also thought the addition of one or two of the little "extra" scenes was great. The one that stands out to me is the little back and forth between Sulu and Chekov when they ask the other if they think they'll make another course change. Those types of little scenes really added to TNG, DS9 and Voyager for me. It helps you see other sides of characters. It adds more of a human element. The first season of TOS really lacked those types of scenes. I'm really glad the writers decided to add this. I hope it continues.

    Overall, I enjoyed how this episode seemed to really take a big step forward from the first season. Well done. This is what Star Trek is made of and I am beginning to see why people enjoyed TOS. After only watching the first season, I wondered what was so great about TOS, especially in comparison to the other series.
  • From steve on 2012-07-08 at 4:40am:
    One nitpick. How is it that Kirk and McCoy didn.t know about ponfarr until Spock tells Kirk. In Managerie,its stated that the events on Talos IV took place 13 yrs previously,and this episode takes place about 1 yr later so 14 yrs at least have gone by with Spock on the Enterprise. Given that ponfarr occurs every 7 yrs Spock would have gone thru 2 under Pike . No medical records, no Captains logs of them were made, two unscheduled trips to Vulcan are made but ponfarr is not known? Just asking.
  • From Strider on 2012-07-27 at 3:29am:
    I've also wondered why this seems to be Spock's first pon farr. Actually, I have a lot of questions about pon farr.

    Pon farr happens every 7 years to mates who are bonded, right? So, Sarek, for example, would not have experienced it, because he didn't have a bond mate...as evidenced by his being able to marry Amanda.

    But Vulcans can still have sex if they are strongly enough attracted to someone, right? I mean, they don't have to wait 7 years--I think one of the writers said as much. Pon farr is not regular sex; it's the drive toward the bond mate...right?

    Someone (somewhere) said they found it unbelievable that Spock suddenly gets over the blood fever when he realizes he's killed Kirk. I didn't have a problem with that--he goes through the ritual of "marriage or battle," his body must release the hormonal tension one way or the other, and he ended up doing it through battle. Makes total sense to me.

    I didn't have a problem with T'Pau's use of extremely formal archaic language--this is a very formal, ritualized occasion, and such things often use formal and archaic language. It did bug me that Vulcans seem to use "thee" when they should properly say, "thou," but I'm assuming they're not actually speaking Elizabethan English.

    Some of the TOS novels seem to indicate that if you're away from your bond mate when you hit that 7 years, you can relieve the pressure with someone else. So...when Christine comes into Spock's room and he's nice to her and asks her to make him some soup, did he just feel bad that he had been a jerk to her earlier, or was he coming on to her? He reached out and touched her cheek, but then quickly put his hand behind his back. Was he trying to keep his hands off her because he just needed "it" so bad, rather than T'Pring specifically? Frankly, I think she'd have helped him out and the whole fake-Kirk-death thing could have been avoided.



  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-03-06 at 3:28am:
    AMOK TIME

    Has its fun scenes. Here are my comments:

    While parents wanting to choose their children's mates, and children wanting to choose their own mates themselves are both understandable, the rituals here are silly and the fight to the death, barbaric. Even animals often size each other up to see if a fight would be pointless.

    People complain about sexism in Star Trek, but I've never heard it mentioned with regard to this episode. Check out this dialog:

    T'PAU: He will have to fight for her. It is her right. T'Pring, thee has chosen the kal-if-fee, the challenge. Thee are prepared to become the property of the victor?

    T'PRING: I am prepared.

    And a short time later:

    T'PAU: Here begins the act of combat for possession of the woman, T'Pring.

    Property? Possession? On the other hand, if Spock hadn't freed her, she'd get his name and property -- and instant estrangement! And Stonn.

    So when does the clean-up crew come around to clean the soup off the wall outside Spock's quarters? You really want to do it before it dries on.

    I'm okay with T'Pau's accent; however, the misuse of 'thee' and such is a little annoying.

    What's with the humongous nose mask on the guy with the big blade? How do you breathe with that thing on?

    Continuity error: At 29:27 Spock starts walking toward the gong. Once Spock is almost there, T'Pring begins walking and makes it about half way there. Then in the very next shot she's standing still, near Stonn again. She starts off toward the gong again and gets there a little too fast. I'll chalk this up to a screw-up they didn't have the time or resources to fix.

    Look at Kirk's pose when T'Pring is about to choose him (32:29). Words escape me.

    Pretty amazing timing for the neural paralyzer to kick in just before Spock's choking Kirk would have really killed him. Let's see: how many times does Kirk "die"? Here, in "The Enterprise Incident", and mistakenly declared dead in "The Tholian Web" and "Space Seed". And he "partly died" in "Return to Tomorrow".

    Yep, pretty good logic on the part of T'Pring. And she had to have thought it up right on the spot, as she didn't know until then that Kirk, an "out-worlder", would be there. Pretty good! But what if Kirk had declined? It would have been tough luck, and Stonn would have had to fight. But that was her starting point anyway. Oh, and this also explains why Stonn was surprised by her choice of champion, which added a nice twist. In the end, she and Stonn lucked out big time.

    In the remastered version we see our heroes walking across a huge arch with a Vulcan city in the background. I'm sorry, but it just looks out of place. It's a totally different look. Switching to and from this scene almost looks someone's changing channels. There is also a lack of continuity in their walking. And why would they beam down so far from the temple in the first place?

    Near the end, Uhura relays Admiral Komack's approval of T'Pau's request to divert to Vulcan. Sorry if I missed it, but I don't recall her ever making such a request.

    AEF, aka betaneptune
  • From Tooms on 2013-09-14 at 4:50pm:
    Great episode. Warp 8 isn't new, though. The Enterprise went to warp 8 during the space chase in Arena (season 1).
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-05 at 10:42am:
    Really good episode. I gave it a 7/10.

    I had some of the same unresolved questions and nitpicks that the other commenters here have, mostly concerning the Enterprise crew not knowing anything about pon farr. Surely they would have had some indication from the past. Secret or not, would it not have been "logical" for Spock or some other Vulcan to inform the Federation of a ritual that would possibly endanger the crew? Especially when a Vulcan is in a position of power such as First Officer?

    And yes, the fight sequence, as with all of the others I've seen on TOS, was pretty laughable. Based on what we know of Spock's strength, added to his blood rage and a climate that was inhospitable to Kirk, Spock most likely would have mopped the floor with poor ol' Jim in a matter of seconds, long before McCoy can enact the ruse that saved him.

    Still, there's a ton to admire and be entertained by in this episode. Being the first episode to focus so heavily on not just Spock but his home culture is fascinating, and handled quite well. It shows just how effective it can be to have a character fall out of type temporarily. Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness, throughout which Spock was a virtual emotional wreck, this episode of TOS gets it right. Have Spock a slave to his emotions for a single story, and then return to his usual, logical self.

    Odd to see Chekhov added without any mention of exactly why he's part of the crew now. Even a slight recognition of this new crew member would have been a nice little touch.
  • From jd _juggler on 2015-04-01 at 2:02am:
    This is indeed a good episode for the relationship of the three principles. In the turbo lift, Spock asks for McCoy to be his guest at the ceremony, basically saying that McCoy is one of his closest friends. The doctor's short response says volumes: "It would be an honor, sir." Never in the entire series did McCoy show that kind of formal respect to Spock.

    I agree with an earlier commenter that Spock should have been able to easily defeat Kirk, but let's face it: Spock did not want to kill Kirk, no matter what kind of altered state Spock was in.

    As to Pon Farr, it is absurd to suppose it would have remained a mystery to men from earth. Vulcans were known to earth men for at least 150 years (recall that in "metamorphosis" zephram cochrane recognized Spock as a Vulcan). Spock himself was the product of a "mixed marriage". And stories about sexual practices tend to spread.

    And here's something else to think about; Spock has obviously gone through this before. Wouldn't he know when this strange thing is happening to him sufficiently in advance, so he could make the proper arrangements to be on his home planet? And why didn't this whole t'pring thing happen seven years earlier, at which time Spock was already an adult, and serving aboard the enterprise?

    That said, this is still a very good episode. Certainly among the top ten, and maybe among the top five.
  • From Emil on 2016-01-22 at 4:31am:
    I have not seen that many ST:TOS episodes but I had to see this one because of T'Pau, one of my favorite ST character (the others being Q and Wynn Adami). I have read many comments on T'Pau's "heavy" accent and her "awkward" use of archaic pronouns. I personally have no problems at all with these. The heavy accent was perhaps inevitable as the actor who played the part was from Austria-Hungary (Celia Lovsky). Her German accent was quite obvious. I think this was quite apt, actually as T'Pau is supposed to be an ancient Vulcan. It's like an old Chinese woman from China who speaks English with a heavy Chinese accent. The use of the archaic pronouns could be because we see T'Pau presiding over an ancient ritual. The occasion may have necessitated the manner of speaking. When we see a younger T'Pau in ST Enterprise, she had no such accent and neither did she use archaic pronouns so the original T'Pau's doing so may indeed be due to age and the occasion.

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