Greetings Trekkies! Or…Trekkers, whichever you prefer. Today we will be boldly going where many ‘Trek fans have gone before and taking a look at the Star Trek original series’ season two episode “Return to Tomorrow!” Of all the great and heralded entries into the legendary original series, this episode stands out to me as a prime example of what Star Trek is all about. Sure, “Return to Tomorrow” contains the usual banter between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that we all know and love, but it also features some very interesting performances and possibly the best Kirk speech ever. Let’s get to it!
While approaching what they presume to be a dead planet, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a telepathic being called Sargon. After using his telepathic power to manipulate Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Dr. Mulhall into forming a landing party, Sargon explains that he is one of three survivors of a war that decimated all life on his planet, and that in order to sustain their lives, the survivors have transferred their minds into three glowing orbs. The crew then meet Thalassa, Sargon’s wife, and Henoch, a former adversary of Sargon, who ask for the crew’s assistance in constructing new bodies for them to inhabit. The only problem is that in order to do this, Sargon and co. will have to first temporarily inhabit the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Mulhall. Of course, transmigration always sounds like a good idea at the time, but we all know too well that there are those pesky unintended consequences that go along with it. Don’t you just hate that?
Eventually the crew decide to go along with Sargon’s plan, and everything seems to be going…well, about as good as it could be going, until Henoch hatches his own plan to permanently steal Spock’s body! Much of the “action” of this episode takes place during this time, with McCoy carefully monitoring his comrades’ (heh) vital signs, and Henoch attempting to coerce Thalassa into going along with his little scheme. To be honest, “Return to Tomorrow” really does have its share of generic ‘Trek cornerstones, but there are a few things about it that set it apart from the bulk of the series.
For starters it is worth noting that in the landing party’s apprehension, they decided to take along two red shirted security guards. Now, any Star Trek fan worth his or her own salt should know that crew members wearing red shirts are often doomed from the start, and meet their end in various ways while surveying any number of planets throughout the series. Oddly though, since Sargon uses his powers to block the two security guards from being transported to the surface, they are in effect spared the indignity of falling into the tragic stereotype of the countless red shirts that came before them. If you look closely, the shirts the security guards are wearing do differ slightly from that of the usual red shirted crew members so this may be a stretch, but I still think it’s quite intriguing nonetheless…yes…quite intriguing, indeed.
“Return to Tomorrow” also features one of those times where Spock steps out of his usual logical and calculating self, and slips into something a little more uncomfortable. Yes, we get to see Spock smile and laugh, and act almost…whimsically at times, albeit under the possession of an evil alien force. It’s fun to watch Leonard Nimoy take Spock’s character to different places throughout the series, and there are moments in “Return to Tomorrow” that are among the best that can be seen.
That’s enough, Spock.
But what is it that makes “Return to Tomorrow” so good? Well, before Kirk ultimately decides to help Sargon out, he first appeals to the officers of the Enterprise. McCoy, being characteristically uneasy about the situation, causes Kirk to give an impromptu speech with regards to the ongoing mission of the Enterprise and her crew. Check it out:
This is exactly the sort of thing that gives James T. Kirk the edge for me in the unending debate of Kirk vs. Picard for best captain of the Enterprise (with Picard being a very close second). He’s a shoot-from-the-hip kinda guy that faces challenges head on, which sometimes gets him into trouble, but it’s infinitely fun to watch. Kirk’s right anyway; nothing incredible ever happens when people retreat and cower in fear of the unknown (don’t quote me on that). I really feel that Kirk’s speech embodies the message of Star Trek as a whole, and any fan that hasn’t seen “Return to Tomorrow” should go and watch it.
Just as a quick aside, I’d like to mention that I once had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shatner at a convention, where I asked him if he could write “risk is our business” on the photo he was signing for me. He declined, stating that…and I may be paraphrasing here (not by much though), “those things come back to bite you in the [expletive].” He then went on the assure me that I “will like this,” when referring to the photo with his signature on it. I couldn’t have pictured meeting him any other way, and he was right again…I did like it. I liked it just fine.
That about wraps it up for my Rerun Review of “Return to Tomorrow.” All in all I rank this episode high among the best of the original series, and that’s based on the speech alone (I have an odd ranking system), but the entire episode has lots to offer fans of Star Trek. It would be highly illogical not to watch it. Yeah, you knew I was going to get “illogical” in there somewhere, didn’t you?
What did you think of this entry into the classic Star Trek original series? Love it? Hate it? Or are you somewhere in between; standing in the middle of a road, or sitting atop a fence? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!