The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Amok Time

Here we are, we’ve made it – season two of TOS. I actually thought we were going to follow BBC2 and start with Catspaw, a rather silly episode, but instead we have this strong introduction in the form of Amok Time, aka the “pon farr” episode. Yes, this is it – the point at which Spock becomes overwhelmed by the Vulcan mating urge, and must return to his home planet to take a wife.

There’s a lot to like about this episode, from our first look at the planet Vulcan, the inestimable T’Pau (is it me or does Kirk have a bit of a crush on her?) to Kirk battling Spock and a good dose of Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter. I have to admit to feeling a bit uneasy that the planet Vulcan looks so primitive, but I guess all we saw was a ritual held in ancient grounds – a bit like visiting Stonehenge and not seeing all the more advanced areas of Earth.

The Planet Vulcan

This is our first look at one of the most important planets in the Federation – an arid, red planet with thin, dry air. Every seven years, a Vulcan must return home to take a mate – usually the person they were betrothed to as a child; however, that person can refuse the marriage and instead appoint a champion to fight their betrothed and earn their freedom. A Vulcan elder presides over this, but parents and family members do not attend.

Of course, Vulcans do not only mate once every seven years, presumably, at other times they can engage in as much sex as they want. Other intense emotional experiences can conclude a pon farr without mating, but it’s unclear whether a good wank would have the same effect (if yes, why doesn’t Spock just do that, and if not, why not?). Also, since Spock is ~34 years old at this time, it seems odd that he didn’t undergo pon farr at ages 27 and 20. Perhaps as a half-Vulcan, he was able to avoid it – although where did that leave T’Pring? No wonder she went for Stonn as an alternative.

Character moments

  • Obviously this is predominantly a Spock episode, with our favourite half-Vulcan being put through the full gamut of emotions. He loses control in front of Nurse Chapel, fights Kirk to the ‘death’, and even gives us a full smile when he realises that his captain isn’t dead after all. As I’ve said before, it’s not that Vulcans have no emotions, it’s that they are excellent at burying them – although this does lead to intense bursts of feeling like pon farr itself.
  • After a long episode, Christine Chapel returned last episode, and she’s back again here, trying to take care of her beloved Spock. She’s even learnt to make plomeek soup, a Vulcan specality, in the hopes of tempting his waning appetite.
  • Since it’s season two, there are no more navigators of the week, because now we have resident Russian Ensign Pavel Chekov. Chekov and Sulu are already fast friends, and even get to banter a little. When I first got into Star Trek, I recall enjoying the novel The Disinherited, which features Chekov wondering why he gets such a hard time from Kirk, before Kirk admits that he’s riding Chekov hard because he sees a lot of young Jim Kirk in him.

Starfleet rules and regulations

  • Spock has always refused to take leave before. Surely he is legally required to take some leave each year, or as a Vulcan, is he exempt from that rule?
  • I guess Spock was hoping pon farr never happened, as he had no preparations for getting back to Vulcan. What if he had been somewhere else in the galaxy when it happened?

Summary – Amok Time: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting”

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