Written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Michael O’Herlihy
There are times when I view an episode of the original Star Trek series and it’s not one that I remember quite as well as others. What’s even more disturbing about it is when I don’t really remember the story in that episode, but do remember that same story being used later on in the movies. Such is the case with Tomorrow Is Yesterday.
It hardly seems to even be Star Trek from the opening shot and I probably would have double-checked that I had the correct channel back in the day. It starts with a shot of a current day (for the 1960s) U.S. Air Force base when its tracking equipment detects something on the radar. The staff believes they might have a UFO sighting and send a recon plane out to investigate. We see a shot of the Enterprise in the sky.
The Enterprise has been affected by a black star near Starbase 9. They have no idea where they are and are only operating on auxiliary power. Everything else is completely blacked out and they initially have no idea where they are.
Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) can’t access Starfleet on the dedicated channel, but she picks up a broadcast of the impending first manned moonshot in the 1960s. The scanners come back online and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) picks up the jets on their way to intercept them. Kirk (William Shatner) orders Scotty (James Doohan) to lock onto them with the tractor beam to hold them out there. When the aircraft doesn’t hold up to the beam and begins to break up, Kirk has the pilot beamed on board.
Captain John Christopher (portrayed by Roger Perry) comes on board with difficulty assimilating what he sees. When he sees a female crewmember, he is shocked. He is even more shocked when he gets a look at Spock. Spock makes the case that Captain Christopher cannot be allowed to return to Earth as he has learned too much about the future and could possibly change it to the point that none of them exist in the future.
However, when Spock checks into future impact, he learns that Captain Christopher’s yet unborn son will head the first Earth-Saturn probe. At the same time, the Enterprise can restore its power and engine function, but all indications are that they are stranded in this time.
There are more than a few things in Tomorrow Is Yesterday that are very reminiscent of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There are scenes where Kirk is wandering around the base looking to secure evidence to destroy that are eerily similar to those on board the nuclear submarine in the movie. Quite a bit of the same themes are gone over and had I really had this episode fresh in my mind at any time when watching the movie, I would have seen it. Makes me wonder if the studio wanted to hide the fact that it was using some of the same ideas again. I was really surprised to see that the writer of Tomorrow Is Yesterday, D.C. Fontana, didn’t receive some writing credit on the film.
That aside, Tomorrow Is Yesterday works quite well, especially considering the time it was aired. The time-traveling element works great here and is one of the few science fiction shows (outside of The Twilight Zone) that seemed to address the notion that by traveling into our past we could potentially screw up the future. It’s smart while at the same time giving humorous moments to the cast, particularly Captain Kirk. Between him and several members of the guest cast, there are some great moments.
If there’s one area Tomorrow Is Yesterday is lacking it’s any meaningful development. The guest cast is fleshed out nicely and especially in the case of Captain Christopher, which adds quite a bit to the show overall. However, the regular cast doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s an episode that is fun to watch but in this day and age where characters seem to grow as the series wears on, it feels like there’s something missing.
The special effects consist mainly of the Enterprise orbiting the Earth and a few effects that are standard in the series, such as the transporter. These are fine, but there’s nothing more that distinguishes the effects here.
I was surprised to hear no mention of Starfleet or the Federation, as at one point Kirk states his authority is the “United Earth Space Probe Agency”. This is what happens when shows don’t have a “bible” to flesh out these details and sort of wing it from one episode to the next.
I was really surprised I hadn’t seen as much of Tomorrow Is Yesterday as I have other episodes of the series. It’s not as horrible as some of them, and it might not be one that I think of as a great episode, but it is enjoyable. The weaknesses are minor and the humor is pretty good. Or, you could just check out Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and see what happens when this theme is transferred to the big screen along with better effects.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Arena
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Court Martial