Captain's Blog pt. 51: All Our Yesterdays

I first read Macbeth in 10th or 11th grade. I can't recall which - somewhere around 1989, some 389 years after it was written - but I distinctly recall sitting in class and listening to a classmate read this out loud: 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

and when everyone started discussing the last few lines, I was stuck on that "And all our yesterdays" line.
Title: 2 pts. Knowing the context from which its drawn adds a lot, doesn't it? Puts a thoughtful spin on the events we see on Sarpeidon. Food for thought re: our own society/ catastrophes/ nostalgia.

I can't be the only one who saw the episode a hundred times before realizing the title was Shakespeare, can I? It's possible. In 2012, I did one of those Bible-verse-a-day-via-email things because I'd always meant to read it cover to cover and figured with the impending Mayan apocalypse and all - and having no Atavachron at my disposal- it was an opportune time. Anyway, when I got to Proverbs I was amazed at how many titles I recognized only from other contexts. I say this with no regret or cutesiness - just one of those things.

Script and Theme: 7.5 / 9 pts (out of 10/10). My problems with this episode are mainly Internal Logic problems, so we'll table those for now. The script's well-paced, the dialogue's crisp, the character dynamics are fun, and the idea is still captivating decades later.

Depending on your comfort level with the Just Like Earth syndrome, your mileage will vary on the Kirk sub-plot.

By the way: It's a great line about Kirk calling out to the spirit "...and did call it... 'Bones" but it's worth mentioning: Kirk doesn't actually say "Bones" in this scene.
"Witch!! Witch!! They'll burn ya!" Hearing Kirk called a witch so many times in this episode skewed my idea of witches for many years. When everyone else in 4th grade was picturing "Surrender Dorothy," I was thinking of "All Our Yesterdays."
And Bell, Book and Candle. But that's a different story.

Internal Logic and Consistency: .5 pts (out of 3). I guess it depends on which theory of time travel to which you subscribe. Sticking with what's been previously established in TOS, the central conceit of this episode - sending people into the past to avoid dying when Sarpeidon's sun goes supernova - violates about 52,000 rules of Trek time travel. 

Whether you're a tyrant banishing a dissident
or Mr. Atoz getting rid of a problem, it's beyond reckless; it virtually guarantees someone will change something in the past that obliterates the future. I mean, haven't they seen the show?

Also... the Atavachron is a fairly space-age piece of equipment. It's not unreasonable to assume that any species capable of building such a thing could build a few dozen space arks and light out for another class-M planet. Just saying.

Nimoy was so opposed to the original script - where he just carries on an affair with Zarabeth in defiance of all previously-established character/ species history (a real problem in Season 3 eps) - that he went over Freiberger's head to force a rewrite. The compromise was the explanation we're given about Spock reverting to the passions of his now-contemporaneous Vulcan ancestors by being sent so deep into Sarpeidon's past.

If this is the case, then McCoy must regress similarly, but we see no evidence of this. Though maybe the joke is no one can tell.

It's a fun episode, but it unravels quickly once you start yanking on loose threads. I'd recommend just rolling with it.

Visual Design: 1.5 pts (out of 3). Nothing too special, but that's not to say it's bad. The sets and costumes serve the script perfectly well.

Outside the witch/jail sets, there's the Ice Age.
And Zarabeth's cave.
Speaking of, I guess Bill Theiss (costume designer) was phoning it in this episode.

The costumes of the witch-burning era folks are all good. (I can't explain why this picture cracks me up each and every time I see it,

but it does. It might be because I always mutter "Yeah, you'd better run..." when I see it.)

Guest: 3 pts. Ian Wolfe (also in "Patterns of Force") is memorable as Mr. A-to-Z.

Didn't expect ol' Mr. Atoz to sneak up on ya, didja? Eh? (pokes Norm in ribs) Eh, young fella?

As for Spock's love interest:

She remembers her time on-set fondly: " I do remember it vividly. I remember being in the cave. I remember the lighting in the cave. Marvin Chomsky was a terrific director, very caring, and Jerry Finnerman, who unfortunately recently passed away, was a wonderful director of photography."

But Jerry Finnerman had left by this episode... ah whatever.
Mariette Hartley in Roddenberry's Genesis II.
She was given two bellybuttons to compensate for the network covering up her bellybutton in "All Our Yesterdays." Seriously! Not making this up.

Of Spock's love interests in the series (not counting Nurse Chapel) she probably comes ahead of T'Pring but behind Leila. Maybe tied with Droxine.

Kirk and the Gang: 18 pts out of 10. Shatner gets a couple of fun Shatner-esque moments, and everyone does a perfectly fine job. By this point, cancellation was casting a long shadow over the set, so I give two extra points just for showing up.

Real subtle, lady.
"One more move...
"and I'll break it." You've got hear the audio for the full effect.

Speaking of audio, I made countless Trek "sound collages" back in the day, and I once looped McCoy's "I was looking over some material about their Ice Age" for a good ten minutes. Just something about the way Kelley delivers that line tickles me to no end. Sped it up, slowed it down, distorted the wind, added cheesy synth. Wish I still had some of those things. Hours and hours spent hovering over the 4-track, all for naught.

Memorability: 3 out of 3 pts. This category is very subjective. It's tough to gauge these things. Trekkies all know it, but that's not a good instrument of measurement. I wager if you said "Mr. Atoz," "Sarpeidon," or "Atavachron" to non-Trekkies, they wouldn't know what you were talking about.

Total Points Awarded: 44.5


  1. I always enjoyed this episode. Like you said, just roll with it. That is the important part of enjoying any Star Trek TOS episode. Over thinking it just ruins it.

    The picture you posted of the guard is the same actor who played Sgt. Zale on M*A*S*H. Mariette Hartley also appeared on an episode of M*A*S*H.

    What I thought really came to the fore in this episode is McCoy's overt racism and Spock finally standing up to it, even though he had to revert to a primitive Vulcan to do it.

    I like to think of McCoy as a noble guy, but there's no escaping the fact that the dude was racist. Of course, it was the 1960s and McCoy was from Georgia. So, I guess they assumed that southerners would continue to be overt racists into the 22nd century.

    1. Or the 23rd. Or the 24th, for that matter, given his appearance in "Encounter at Farpoint."

    2. Glad you enjoy this ep as well - a lot of people don't, I've found, which always makes me scratch my head. Growing up it was one of my faves and though it's fallen in my personal ranking somewhat, it's still one I love.

      You ever read the Pocket Books sequel to this, Yesterday's Son? Technically, I haven't, but I've listened to the audiobook read by Doohan and Nimoy many times.

    3. I've always loved this episode. It doesn't really make a whole heck of a lot of sense, but Nimoy and Kelly and Hartley are so good in it that I don't care.

      I've read "Yesterday's Son" (and its sequel, "Time for Yesterday"). I remember loving both; but that was a long time ago, and I remember literally nothing except that they deal with Spock's lovechild from the episode.

    4. I can't reflect on Trek, it seems, without saying some variation of some time-displacement like this, but in the days before most Trek trivia was so streamlined/ before the internet, I always took great pride in recognizing Mr. Atoz's name was.

      Later, I realized pretty much everyone recognized it. But for awhile, it was a lot like being the best student in a small school, then going to a larger place with lots of smart folks and realizing only then you can't keep up/ are not as smart as you think you are. Or something like that, be it for sports, music, grades, experience, whatever.

    5. "recognizing Mr. Atoz's name was A-to-Z library pun," I mean.

      Sorry, juggling many things tonight and keep having to leave the room and come back mid-sentence! In addition to being a not-always-mindful typist to begin with.

    6. My experience was the complete opposite; it had to be pointed out to me that the name was a pun. Mind = blown.

    7. I regret we weren't pen pals circa late-80s!

    8. You sure?!? I'd've spent most of my time talking about how awesome Def Leppard was...

    9. Don't get me started on how awesome Def Leppard was in the 80s... I'll never stop.

    10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuCJ5nRP6d0

    11. This exchange is really kind of awesome in light of recent blogs and comments!