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26/1/1967: Re-watching... Tomorrow Is Yesterday

Star Trek

My ongoing mission: to watch classic television fifty years after first broadcast...

This one opens unexpectedly with some grainy stock footage (I presume) of some very modern-looking American military aircraft, so having expected the usual futuristic backdrop I’m hooked instantly. The climactic twist to this pre-titles sequence being the site of the USS Enterprise appearing in the blue sky over an airbase. This does highlight that despite what I have considered pretty decent special effects here in 1967, the model work only looks as good as it does because it’s filmed against a black space background. Putting a silver spaceship against blue sky doesn’t quite work, but I love the juxtaposition so its an effective opening scene nonetheless. And it’s certainly no worse than any similar effect in Doctor Who.

On board the Enterprise I notice more budgetary deficiencies – some rather creased looking fabric view screens on the bridge! My 21st century viewpoint suggests that must be the cloth used to key in the images, but I wonder if most people would notice in 1967 on their inferior tv screens.

Uhura gets a radio broadcast stating that three astronauts are to make a manned moon shot on Wednesday. Kirk recalls that the first moon landing was in the late sixties, thus establishing they have travelled through time. A sad coincidence that three astronauts will die in a fire aboard Apollo 1 during a launch rehearsal the very next day after this episode was broadcast.

After Kirk ignores Spock’s advice, one of the aircraft is accidentally destroyed by the Enterprise‘s tractor beam, and so the captain is beamed aboard. Kirk gives Captain John Christopher a guided tour and I wonder whether it’s a good idea to give someone so much information about the future. For some reason Christopher seems surprised to see that there are women aboard the ship – there’s a bit of sixties ‘woman music’ as he eyes up one of them as she walks past. Funny how saxophone = sexy woman in this era.

Kirk uses the phrase “time warp’ to explain how they got to the sixties. That must be how I got here. Then there’s a scene where Kirk uses his computer and gets annoyed by its over-familiar approach. My God, even the computers flirt with this man, he must be irresistible! Simon Templar, Napoleon Solo, James T Kirk…oh to be a sixties leading man…

Spock has decided that there’s a bit of a problem: they have given Captain Christopher too much information about his own future and he is therefore a threat to history, and possibly to their own existence. See? What did I say? But actually, thinking about this more rationally, really what could anyone have learned from what he’s seen? I mean, ok he was beamed aboard and has seen a lot of flashing lights, swooshing doors and girls in mini-dresses, but that’s hardly enough information to build a replica space craft! Unless he gets hold of detailed plans, formulas and scientific/engineering documents I don’t see how it matters what he tells the people of his own time. All he can do is describe his experience, and probably be laughed out of the Air Force. The crew seem to seriously believe that the man’s grainy long distance photos of the outside of their ship would be enough for the people of 1969 to invent photon torpedoes hundreds of years early! But that’s the basis for the plot so I’d better just go along with it…

Spock’s comment about having checked historical records and finding “no relevant contribution” by the captain is wonderfully tactless considering Christopher is within earshot!

Kirk and Sulu transport to the (seemingly deserted) airbase to remove any evidence of their presence in 1969. Perhaps it’s a bank holiday. A bit more for George Takai to do this week. A huge mainframe computer is described as “primitive” – the people of 1967 watching this episode gasp in disbelief, whilst with my 21st century knowledge I shrug, smile and agree.

Kirk is apprehended by a security guard/colonel who interrogates him. I like how he wonders just what the hell Kirk thinks he’s wearing: “What is that, some kind of uniform?”. Kirk doesn’t point out that it’s space pyjamas, just quips that it’s just something he threw on this morning!

It all starts to get more complicated as Sulu escapes, then later Spock, Sulu and Christopher beam down to rescue Kirk and more 1960s people are beamed aboard the Enterprise. One of them is shocked to be given instant chicken soup from a vending machine (imagine!).

Eventually with everyone back on board, Scotty recreates the “slingshot” manoeuvre which took them back in time, to propel them back to the future. Somehow. I try not to think too hard about it. We get some classic Star Trek turbulence acting with everyone falling about on the bridge, and some classic Scotty taking ownership of his beloved engines. I note that the clocks are analogue.

And finally, coming from a time when even the shortest words are considered too much of a mouthful and abbreviated, I wonder once again at what stage in mankind’s future we abandon the word ‘clock’ in favour of ‘chronometer.’ They’re all saying it this week. Perhaps their space pyjamas should be described as ‘body covering materials’…or maybe it's just a Naval term and I'm being deliberately obtuse...

So the Enterprise is home and checks in with Starfleet Command. A five year mission cut short after barely four months? Surely not.

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