In which a bird has a tricorder, a bear is a dog, and time travel paradoxes continue to be loads of fun.
This is the only episode of the Animated series that is considered Canon, which means technically I don’t have to blog any more of them. They do, however, make great filler, so I probably will. This one also involves time travel, and by now you know how I can get lost in a good time travel yarn.
The Enterprise is in orbit around the Guardian of Forever’s planet, doing some research on the most dangerous object in the known galaxy because the Federation never knows when to quit. They are doing so with the help of this crazy bird dude, but when they come back, McCoy doesn’t recognize Spock, nor does anyone else on the ship. In fact, he’s been replaced as first officer by an Andorian. Now, here’s the problem: In “City of the Edge of Forever” we learned that locals near the Guardian are undisturbed by the broader effects on the timeline, but McCoy appears to have been affected by whatever change they made. Until we have a third reference case involving the Guardian and changed timelines, it will be difficult to speculate as to why these two cases occurred differently. Outside of this anomaly, however, everything is working as expected. The ship above is fully immersed in their own timeline, and do not recognize Spock.
They figure out pretty quickly that they changed the past, and nobody can figure out what they did to change the past, but it turns out Spock died t age seven and nothing else in the timeline is affected at all. Also, his mom died. Spock died in the Kaz-wan survival test, which is more or less a Spartan ‘expose your child to deadly elements for a while and if they come back they deserved to live’ sort of a thing., A bit of probing, and it turns out Spock had his live saved by a mysterious cousin ‘Selek’ who looks like Leonard Nimoy.
The hypothesis is that Spock was busy in the past of Orion instead of back in the Vulcan recent past, and thus not available to save himself during his survival test. Those of you who were paying attention for the last Archivist’s Log instead of tuning out will ask “but what about the first time? Who saved Spock the first time?” That’s actually a very good question. The timeline as it is now creates a self-consistency loop, and it also gives us information that when using the Guardian of Forever, we don’t suffer the colocation problems evidenced by “Tomorrow is Yestyerday” with the Slingshot method. But what saved Spock the first time, and why didn’t it save him again on this iteration? The world may never know.
This question is far more interesting than basically the rest of the episode. Young Spock gets teased by a bunch of Vulcan bullies and gets a stern ‘close off your feelings and suck it up, you’re my son and I expect nothing less than perfection from you’ from Sarek. This goes well with the coldness we saw between Sarek and Spock in “Journey to Babel.” Young Spock is so pressured that he runs out before his actual rite of passage, and his sad, old, fat, broken-toothed bear-wolf-dog follows him. Which is a good thing because when Young Spock gets cornered by a lizard-panther it fights it long enough for Old Spock to finish the job.
Spock giving a pep talk to his younger self is actually indictative of a really creepy social norm in Vulcan society. Apparently, they tell their younger children that Vulcans lack emotion, and leave it up to them to figure out that Vulcans do have emotions and just suppress them. I will leave it up to anyone who actually took any psych classes to articulate precisely why that seems, from a human perspective, horrifying.
Spock made one small change in his timeline – his childhood pet didn’t get poisoned by the lizard-panther last time, and Young Spock has to make the decision to euthanize it. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be significant enough to keep Spock out of Starfleet.
Spock also teaches his younger self the Neck Pinch, which brings us back to the original question – what saved Spock the first time he was saved? We know that in timelines in which Spock dies as a child, the Enterprise first officer is an Andorian named Thelin. My only supposition, without involving someone or something of the Q’s caliber, is that at some point someone studying Vulcan history saves Young Spock, and the resultant chain of events sets up a self-consistent time loop. The world may never know.