Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Star Trek: Tomorrow Is Yesterday

Episode: "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 19
Original Air Date: January 16, 1967
via Memory Alpha
"Tomorrow Is Yesterday" provides an opportunity to discuss what I consider to be one of Star Trek's great weaknesses: time travel narratives.  As mentioned in previous posts (like this one), I'm picky when it comes to time travel stories.  The Doctor Who franchise does it very well.  There are rules and even the Doctor, as powerful as he is, must abide.  Even he cannot interfere with anyone's personal timeline without pterodactyls swooping down to cleanse the universe of temporal wrong. The rules in Trek are not as well defined and, at least in my experience, the writers tend to be sloppy as a result.

That said, I quite enjoyed "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," definitely one of my favorite episodes so far.  I don't mean to say that there are no problems as far as the time travel is concerned.  We'll get to that in a bit.  First, the story:

The Enterprise is thrown back in time to Earth, 1969.  When the ship is detected as a UFO by a US Air Force base, our heroes beam Captain John Christopher aboard just before the tractor beam destroys his plane.  The dilemma is clear.  Christopher can't be allowed to return for fear of corrupting the time line - cruel, though acceptable reasoning by my time travel standards.  But the crew discover they must return him because his future offspring are critical to the future of space exploration.  Combine this with the needs to clean up all other evidence of the Enterprise's appearance in the 20th century and return the ship to its own time and you've got a fantastic set up.

***SPOILER ALERT***

The trouble comes when Captain Christopher and an air policeman - who is also mistakenly abducted - are returned to their own timelines.  Basically, each is beamed back into their own selves at the moment immediately prior to their contact with the Enterprise crew with no apparent memory of their adventures.  It's the loss of memory that bothers me.  After all, our heroes maintain recollection of what happened.  Why wouldn't Christopher and the policeman?  Or do they remember, but without any concrete proof no one will believe them so the risk of paradox is negated? 

Too many questions.  Time travel stories need to be tidy and this one wasn't, even if it was highly entertaining anyway.

***END OF SPOILER***
via Memory Alpha
Roger Perry (Captain Christopher) was born May 7, 1933 in Davenport, Iowa.  Perry brought real world experience to his Trek role as he had served in the Air Force in the early '50s.  He made his television debut in 1958 in U.S. Marshal.  He played the son in Harrigan and Son, a sitcom which ran for one season (1960-61) on ABC.

19 comments:

  1. Star Trek and time travel is like DC and, well, any kind of continuity.

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Merry Christmas to you, too!

      Yes, the DC universe can be very confusing, indeed.

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  2. Just wanted to stop by and say Merry Everything! I hope you had a great day with your family!

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    1. Merry Everything to you, too! Ours was a very pleasant holiday. I hope yours was as well.

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  3. I never thought about that paradox A.C. I think TNG did a better job of time travel, but "The City on the Edge of Forever" rules.

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    1. Yup, it's coming... Nine more episodes to go.

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  4. Star Trek looks good. I know so many people who really enjoy it.

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    1. Yes, I enjoyed it immensely, despite my nitpicking criticisms.

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  6. I remember this episode and always wondered by the change the world time line. Kind of scary when you think of it.
    There was a movie called "The Sound Of Thunder" that everyone seemed to rip but I enjoyed. It the same type of going back in time and changing the future.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I don't know Sound of Thunder. I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

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    2. The movie is based on the short story by Ray Bradbury. You should just read the story rather than see the movie.

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    3. Yes read the story it is much better.
      But on a sleepy rainy day last year it was on TV and I did enjoy it.
      I read the story after seeing the movie.

      cheers

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    4. The original usually is better, I suppose. I shall keep an eye out for both!

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  7. This was such a good episode. One of my favorites. :)

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  8. If they'd remembered we'd know about it. Or at least Kirk would. Pollution of the timeline and all that.

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    1. Well, it is still fiction, Tony...

      But I take your point and agree with it within the context of the Trek universe. Such is my problem with the story's resolution - just doesn't sit quite right.

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