In which Kirk is a witch, Spock is Jon Snow, and TOS handles time travel so goddamn badly.
The Enterprise is racing to see what happened to the inhabitants of a planet whose star is going to go nova in 3.5 hours. They’re hanging around because, I guess, this is the last chance anyone will have to learn anything about the planet. They beam down into a library, and the only person left is a Mister Atos, who may not be intentionally cryptic about where everyone else went. Also, he can disappear and reappear anywhere in the facility, or possibly time is wonky. I’ve decided not to presume that just based on the title.
Atos says that everyone else on the planet has ‘followed instructions and are now safe.’ It seems like he’s either sending people back in time to live out the rest of their lives, or simulating them so that they can live out the rest of their lives in happiness before the planet fries. If the latter, it’s as good a method as any for dealing with an impending apocalypse if you don’t have cheap space travel. If the former, I have serious questions.
Well, shit. The machine is called an Atavachron. Like atava- as in atavistic, and -chron like time. Back-time machine. Serious questions time. Like, if you’re sending back your entire population to previous points in history, they’re going to live out their lives, have babies, contribute to the total population, and lead to a higher present population. I hope I’m wrong because that’s the least sustainable closed timelike curve I’ve ever heard of, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it caused the death of the star somehow due to SCIENCE!
As a side note, go buy The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov. Right now. The blog will be here when you get back. It opens in a new tab. Relax.
So Kirk is scrolling through previews and hears a woman screaming. He rushes through a time archway to see a whole bunch of dandies about to rape some woman, and breaks it up. Spock and McCoy, following moments later, find themselves in an ice age. Brilliant UI there, guys. Now I’m glad this planet is going to die, if they can’t even put a safety gate on their time machine/teleporter.
Oddly, Kirk, Spock and McCoy can all hear each other while Kirk is in some sort of horrific wild west/Ireland/Italian Rennaissance mashup and the others are, in defiance of every rule of wilderness survival, moving away from the area where they stand the best chance of being found without marking a path. However, in what I’m choosing to interpret as character growth rather than horrible inconsistency, McCoy shows pragmatism while Spock shows concern for McCoy’s life. It’s a much less awkward moment than literally every minute of “The Galileo Seven.” They are, however, rescued by a hot lady in a fur coat.
Apparently, she’s a prisoner, sent to one of Zorkon’s prisons, because at least they have enough sense not to go there voluntarily. Plus, apaprently she reads Science Fiction, which has familiarized her with the concept of such an outlandish thing as space travel.
Have you ordered that book yet?
Back in Kirk’s time period, he and the lady pickpocket are in a dungeon, and in order to not sound crazy, he explains that he’s from the Island Earth. Cool reference, bro. However, when Kirk mentions the Library, the magistrate seems to believe him, but it’s complicated by the accusations of witchcraft. Man, the past sucks.
Zarabeth is, at least, a political prisoner, not a violent offender, sent their after her buddies tried to overthrow a tyrant. This implies some interesting things that don’t necessarily relate to the Federation but which are good practice for the whole ‘world-building’ thing. This planet had time travel technology prior to effective social engineering, or Zorkon the Tyrant would never have been able to use the ice age as a prison. Some factor prevents tyrants from being overthrown by future travelers: either historical inertia (which seems hard to reconcile with planetary mass time travel), law and custom (though under the rule of a different tyrant those would be void) or self-interest. In fact, Zarabeth states that the portal is effectively one-way – going back kills you.
Then again, Atos never had time to ‘prepare’ Kirk, Spock, and McCoy for the transition, so they might be immune. Rather than being killed when they try to leave, they might die if they stay too long to put some time pressure on the plot (since they can always return to the very moment they arrived if they have any control, they won’t be worried about the sun going nova before they get back).
Ha! Called it. This isn’t even one of the episodes I’m cheating for, I’m just apparently a goddamn genius when it comes to time travel. It probably comes from watching the TNG episode “Time Squared” when I was, like, four. Hey listen guys. If I’m the one who invents time travel, I’ll come back to right now and tell myself, unless the laws of time require I avoid giving my present self foreknowledge of my destiny. Ready?
Damn. Back to the episode.
Well, it looks like the first stage in the cellular degeneration that comes form being outside your own time is starting, as Spock loses control and grabs McCoy by the collar for insulting him. At least the Magistrate is good to his word, showing Kirk back to the portal so he can get back to a time period when all his cells don’t want to explode.
Urgh. Biggest pet peeve regarding time travel: time is passing concurrently between all eras, which doesn’t actually make any goddamn sense whatsoever. We already have a technology by which all the times pass at the same rate. It’s called ‘not having time travel.’ If you can open a door to April 2, 1922 today, when you open that door tomorrow it ought to still be to April 2, 1922. Heck, as evidenced by the fact that Spock and Zarabeth are from two different eras and in roughly the same time period.
While Kirk wrestles with Atos to get to Spock and McCoy, Spock and McCoy go slowly insane from temporal cell explosion disease. In fact, the explanation from McCoy, because he knows exactly jack shit about anything except where the duodenum is is that Spock, just because he’s five thousand years before he was born, is reverting to the mental patterns of pre-Surak Vulcans. As if humanoid life is subject to sympathetic magic. Argh.
Sadly, Zarabeth can’t join them as Kirk helps them find the way back home, but hey, it just shows McCoy was wrong once again. Spock can know all the love and loss that Kirk did in “Requiem for Methuselah.”
They all beam out just in time and the worst time travel technology in the galaxy goes up in vaporizing plasma, and good riddance. I know it seems harsh, but imagine the shitstorm if that society with their cavalier attitudes towards time travel had made it out into the galaxy.
Speaking of which, you bought The End of Eternity, right?