Season Two - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – Amok Time – Wanna Watch a Vulcan Mating Ritual?

Written by Theodore Sturgeon and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Amok Time is the first episode of the second season and starts that season off as strongly as the last one ended. It’s a story that gives great insight into the Vulcan world and culture, something that’s really only been talked about up until now in the series.

Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) remarks to Captain Kirk (William Shatner) that the Vulcan First Officer, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) seems to be acting a bit odd. Just then, they witness Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) bring Spock one of his favorite Vulcan soups, only to be berated and violently thrown out of his cabin.

Kirk tries to learn what is bothering Mr. Spock, but Spock just requests leave on his home planet of Vulcan. After some discussion, Kirk agrees and has the Enterprise take a detour to Mr. Spock’s home planet.

However, Kirk is being ordered by Starfleet to proceed to Altair III on the diplomatic mission they were originally assigned without diverting to Vulcan. Kirk learns a short time later that Spock overrode this order and has the Enterprise en route to Vulcan regardless. Dr. McCoy evaluates him and tells Kirk that unless they get Spock to Vulcan, he will die. What is happening is a Vulcan mating season called the Pon Farr, where Spock must return to Vulcan and mate with a woman or die.

Despite being ordered not to divert to Vulcan, Kirk defies Starfleet and heads toward Spock’s home planet. While on the way, a transmission is received from T’Pring (portrayed by Arlene Martel), introduced as Spock’s wife. In actuality, it is more like a betrothal, but a bit stronger.

Kirk and McCoy beam down as Spock’s friends for the ceremony. Also, there is T’Pau (portrayed by Celia Lovsky). T’Pau is one of the most highly regarded citizens of Vulcan and the only one who has ever turned down a seat on the Federation Council. She is legendary, and her presence at the ceremony speaks volumes about the status of Spock’s family on Vulcan.

T’Pring chooses a challenge for Spock, which is within her right. This means he must fight for her. T’Pring chooses Kirk to fight Spock. Her challenge is interrupted by Stonn (portrayed by Lawrence Montaigne), another Vulcan male who protests the choice, stating it should be him fighting Spock.

If there’s one weakness in Amok Time, it suffers from the overuse of having Spock break character and show the emotions we always knew were just below the surface. For the most part, this plot point delighted series fans and they could never get enough. Amok Time probably showcases that the best, both with Spock’s experience with Pon Farr and his display of obvious emotion near the end of the episode.

With the focus of Amok Time being Spock, the show is essentially Nimoy’s to carry and he does so extremely well. He has the emotions and drive of the Pon Farr bubbling below the surface while trying to maintain the emotionless exterior. Nimoy makes it believable and convincing.

Kirk is the loyal friend, and Shatner plays him in a way that will surface again in the movies, particularly the third one. Kirk is willing to do just about anything for his friend, and won’t even back down from the challenge of having to kill Spock or be killed himself.

However, it’s the sly Dr. McCoy who provides the solution, deceiving both the Vulcan authorities and Mr. Spock. (As an aside, I wonder what the Vulcans thought when they found out what really happened? That’s never addressed.) McCoy really shows his part of the puzzle in the triangle of the three friends as he is the solid problem solver, loyal to both despite his squabbles with the Vulcan.

What’s really amazing in Amok Time is just how well the Vulcan characters are fleshed out. They don’t appear until a good way into the episode, but both T’Pring and T’Pau are both multi-dimensional characters who add much to the episode. T’Pau in particular is legendary in the series, and Lovsky does a terrific job. She has the right amount of stoicism and authority projecting from her that helps to demonstrate the difference between a full-blooded Vulcan and the half-human Spock.

At the same time, the deception going on between T’Pring and Stonn shows that although the Vulcans state they have managed to move beyond emotions, their actions show that is not the case. T’Pring is actually an incredible strategist and way smarter than Stonn, a fact which Spock picks up on as well, knowing how everything will end at that point.

The story flows nicely. There is barely a moment when there isn’t something happening but it’s not all action. This is primarily character-driven, but the script is tight and doesn’t languish at all.

Amok Time is available on the DVD with Text commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda.

This is a great start to the second season and one of the best episodes of the series. The only fault is the possibility of overkill using the Spock showing emotions story, but this storyline is handled so well it’s not a fault.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Operation Annihilate!

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Who Mourns for Adonais

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