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Just finished watching Star Trek: Strange Worlds E5 Spock Amok. I’m fairly certain that Theodore Sturgeon, who wrote both Amok Time and Shore Leave, is spinning in his grave.
Oh, they did use the same “combat” music in the dream sequence as we heard when Kirk and Spock were fighting in “Amok Time.” It was kind of cool.
This was supposed to be the “comedy” episode of the season. The original Star Trek had several including I, Mudd and The Trouble with Tribbles, but in the case of “Spock Amok,” it wasn’t funny.
I mean I can see how Goldsman and Kurtzman tried to make it funny. I think they believed it was funny. But the best they got was “awkward.”
The episode starts out on Vulcan at the wedding of Spock and T’Pring (Gia Sandhu). It was an environment that if Roddenberry had the budget to do so, he would have put it in “Amok Time.” T’Pring says she doesn’t want to marry a human and lo and behold, Ethan Peck is without his Vulcan ears. She chooses her champion to be the Vulcan Lt. Spock.
There’s no credit at IMDb for whoever played T’Pau, but she was black. In the original, she was played by Celia Lovsky, who was from Czechoslovakia and definitely white. The race swapping of various Star Trek roles including for Vulcans actually isn’t a big deal. The first non-white Vulcan I ever saw had a non-speaking role. He was Asian and banging a gong as the Klingon Bird of Prey stolen by Kirk and company was landing on Vulcan toward the end of the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Anyway, ritual combat goes badly for human Spock and he is killed then wakes up in his quarters, his ears intact.
Speaking of Klingons, the Enterprise is at Star Base One for repairs and R&R as well as to negotiate with Rongovian ambassadors. They’ve arrived in a ceremonial solar sail vessel and the Federation wants to being them in to the fold because their planet is in a strategic position between the Klingon and Romulan empires. Star Base One is recently repaired after the (apparently recent) Klingon wars.
T’Pring visits Spock on the Enterprise and they actually have the exchange we saw in “Amok Time:”
Spock (Leonard Nimoy): T’Pring. Parted from me, and never parted. Never and always touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place.
T’Pring (Arlene Martel): Spock. Parted from me, and never parted. Never and always touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place. I await you.
Except there is no “appointed place.” That greeting is only exchanged when they are about to wed. In “Amok Time,” Spock and T’Pring were psychically joined at age seven as part of an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are fairly common in our real history, so there’s no reason why Vulcans couldn’t engage in this practice. But then, they didn’t see each other for decades. In SNW, Spock last saw T’Pring on Vulcan in the pilot episode, which presumably was weeks or months ago. Why so formal?
In fact, just like in their last meeting, they are extremely formal with each other. Roddenberry once said that he had Spock talk formally to indicate that he learned English as foreign language. However, assuming Spock and T’Pring are speaking “Vulcanese,” why would their conversation be so stilted, especially when they obviously have or at least want a sexual relationship? Formal intimacy?
In her own snotty, arrogant way, T’Pring insults how Spock decorated his room and more or less everything else about him. She comes off as a stone cold bitch and Spock seems completely “whipped.” It only gets worse.
Pike, Spock, and Admiral April (Adrian Holmes) are meeting to discuss how to approach the negotiations with the Rongovians. Surprisingly, stunningly, Uhura’s role there is to take notes like she’s a yeoman. That’s basically a “secretary” or “clerical role” which is a throwback to the 1960s and earlier. Given that “NuTrek” is supposed to be progressive and empowering to woman of color, I was fairly surprised. There was absolutely no other reason for her presence. Celia Rose Gooding might as well have sat this episode out.
The Rongovians show up early and everyone, including Spock, has no choice but to begin negotiations right then and there, pinning Spock down and keeping him from returning to T’Pring.
Meanwhile, Chapel and Ortega go to sickbay to collect M’Benga since they’re going on shore leave together. Turns out M’Benga is a fly fisherman. Who knew? He’s even got the ugly hat to prove it. There’s an exchange with Ortega that subtly mentions Chapel having sex with both males and females, but she has a date on the star base with a male Lt. Enter our first “bi” character and “NuTrek.”
In the transporter room, Chapel and Ortega refers to a nickname for Number One and by inference for La’an who are staying on board the ship. They call her “The place where fun goes to die.” I guess they’re both supposed to be boring.
Getting back to his quarters, Spock finds a relentless and cranky T’Pring who had “made” dinner for him. He tried explaining that he couldn’t get out of his duty and she reminded him that she had put aside her duties as the Vulcan version of a “fugitive hunter” (finding and sending into rehab Vulcans who had rejected logic…I guess a lot of them do) to be with him. She walks out leaving Spock chagrined.
Actually, Spock has been expressing a lot of emotion, blunted though his affect may be, including saying he “sympathized.” Really? This is so NOT how Nimoy would have played character, even ten years younger than the original role.
La’an and Una respond to a security breach in an airlock and find two hapless junior officers from the lower decks involved. La’an plays “bad cop” while Una plays “good cop” and they get to the bottom of something called “Enterprise Bingo,” which Ortega mentioned in Children of the Comet.
As an aside, I couldn’t help but notice how much taller Una was than La’an. Christina Chong (La’an) is 5’4″ which is the average height for a woman in the U.S., while Rebecca Romijn (Una) is 5’11”. They look funny walking down a corridor together. Oh, and Romijn was wearing her hair in a terrible bun. I suppose that can be compared to Pike’s (Mount’s) increasingly expanding “Johnny Bravo” hair (other men get erections – Pike’s is expressed as hair). And while we’re at it, he’s wearing a “Kirk-era” green, V-necked tunic, and might I say that it looked much better on Shatner (Kirk).
Anyway, on the Star Base (which looks like a space station, but it must be orbiting a planet because there are several outdoor scenes in the episode), Chapel and Ortega are talking about Chapel’s date (failing the Bechdel Test which is another anti-progressive blow in this episode). Chapel then talks to her date, who wants to discuss their relationship when Chapel clearly would rather be having sex. She dumps the guy when she sees an apparently despondent Spock alone at another table (this guy gets more and more human all the time).
Chapel sits with him, listens to his tale of woe including his nightmare (so NOT how Nimoy would have played him) and she slaps him on the side of the head to get him to stop feeling sorry for himself. He ends up teasing Chapel and actually flirting with her.
Back in his quarters, he suggests to T’Pring that they mind meld and search each other’s Katras, their immortal spirits (as discussed in the aforementioned “Search for Spock”) to gain greater understanding of one another. She agrees. The ritual is lightning fast and at the end of a couple of seconds, they’ve switched bodies. They don’t know how it happened and don’t know how to switch back.
In the Star Trek original series finale Turnabout Intruder, Shatner turns in one of his finest performances when Kirk, and Dr. Janice Lester (Sandra Smith) exchange bodies so Lester, a woman denied the prestige and power of commanding the starship, can take Kirk’s place. The SNW episode is a failed attempt at this.
I suppose, speaking of “Search,” this could harken to how at the end of Wrath of Khan, Spock puts his Katra into McCoy to preserve his living essence and then in “Search,” McCoy ends up mimicking a lot of Spock’s behaviors. Now that was funny, unlike this episode.
Pike takes that moment to come in and say that for some odd reason, the Rongovians refuse to negotiate with anyone except Spock. After a brief and uncomfortable dialogue, Spock and T’Pring admit to Pike what’s happened. They make a joke about how he must have noticed the differences in their mannerisms which he doesn’t (and the audience doesn’t) because they both talk like hyper-formal mechanized idiots.
What would have made this almost funny is if Spock and T’Pring really had different personalities but they don’t. The only difference is that T’Pring is rude and snotty while Spock is (you should pardon the expression) “pussy whipped.”
Anyway, there’s no wiggle room here and “Spock” must attend the negotiations. Pike will be present, but only as a courtesy.
So Una and La’an learn about Enterprise Bingo. It’s a set of rule-breaking, slightly dangerous activities that junior officers play as a sort of “welcome” aboard ship. La’an has the rules outlined on her tricorder and for some unknown reason convinces Una to play along.
Some of it involves chewing bubble gum while transporting. Will the flavor still be there when La’an is rematerialized?
They both have a “shoot out” with phasers in a corridor. They’re set on stun. La’an wins and Una’s shoulder gets what my granddaughter would call an “owie.”
On the planet, M’Benga is fly fishing and having a great time. We previously learned that his young daughter is being held in the emergency medical transporter’s buffer and she’s only materialized every so often to maintain her molecular integrity. With the ship almost devoid of personnel because of shore leave, it would have been the opportune time for him to be with her. He’s not even fretting over her, and hasn’t even mentioned her. What kind of Dad is he?
In negotiations, “Spock” is relating some very T’Pring attitudes about how “he” wished “he” could spend more time on Vulcan immersed in “his” culture, in response to a question about how the Federation would respect Rongovian culture. Pike interrupts, seeing an opportunity to convince T’Pring how Spock is valued as the embodiment of Federation ideals.
We note that these ambassadors were seen as aggressive with Tellerite negotiators, civil with humans, and highly logical with “Spock”. This is a clue to how Pike will “solve” the situation in a few moments. It does seem as if T’Pring is impressed with what Pike had to say. The Rongovians are too, but they say the negotiations are over except for a recap at the end. Pike has no idea what any of that means.
“T’Pring” is contacted by one of her co-workers who says that they have located a Vulcan fugitive but the person will only surrender to T’Pring. Spock tries to talk his way out of it but no such luck and he’s really frustrated.
On the planet, Chapel and Ortega are talking about how badly Christine’s date went when they see “T’Pring” approaching. Ortega says that Chapel should never have gotten involved in the middle of a Vulcan relationship and then mentions she still has scars from combat with a Lurpa (Vulcan weapon featured in “Amok Time”). We’ve got to wonder what that story was about and it was actually an amusing line. One of the few in the show.
“T’Pring,” getting rid of Ortega, confesses to Chapel what has happened and asks if there’s a medical solution. While one isn’t immediately apparent, Spock enlists Chapel’s help in apprehending the Vulcan fugitive.
Turns out he was ready to surrender to T’Pring but he’s insulted not only by her being engaged to a half-human but in bringing the very human Chapel with her (him). After a futile argument, “T’Pring” hits the fugitive, knocking him out. Oh yeah, that’s a Vulcan solution all right.
Suddenly, we’re in sickbay with both Chapel and M’Benga both in uniform. Spock and T’Pring are both in bio-beds separate head-to-head by a partition. A medical solution is available and screaming, they are switched back to their original bodies.
In Spock’s quarters, everyone in their right minds, Spock admits to being “afraid” that he had insufficient “Vulcanness” for T’Pring to accept him. They end up having sex, which I guess helps. I wonder how formal the words and sounds they make during intercourse are?
Una and La’an are on their last task in Enterprise Bingo, walking on the hull of the saucer section to sign the oldest, unreplaced piece of plating. It’s supposed to be good luck. Shields aside, any piece of the hull exposed to space is bombarded with tons of radiation not to mention impacts by micrometeorites, so I question how long any signatures would last. Also, as about a million other people have pointed out, even with shields up in space dock, how are they walking around in space with no spacesuits. No gravity boots also means they’d be floating around. Totally dumb scene.
In negotiations, the last round, Pike plays a hunch and tells the Rongovians just exactly why they shouldn’t join the Federation and all the liabilities they would incur. They thank Pike and leave and Admiral April thinks Pike has lost his mind.
However, as the Rongovian solar ship leaves, it’s flying the flag of the Federation, a sign that they accepted the offer to join. Pike correctly figured out that the Rongovians are very empathetic, which is why they seemed to imitate the various races they spoke with, and they were looking for someone to empathize with their concerns. It worked, but was a heck of a risk.
Everyone seems pretty happy by episode’s end but back in the bar, Chapel and Ortega are talking again, and it’s clear that Chapel has now developed “a thing” for Spock.
Not a fun episode. The job for T’Pring seemed a poor match, especially if she complains about Star Fleet’s demands on Spock while she has an equally challenging role. Pike’s solution seems to have been pulled out of thin air. The mind-switch between Spock and T’Pring was stupid and it would probably have been harder to achieve than to dissolve. It was plainly contrived for the episode with no precedence in Star Trek or Vulcan lore apart from what I said above. M’Benga is a bad Dad. Given that this Spock seems pretty spineless in relationships, I’m surprised Christine is attracted to him. And I hate T’Pring. Hashtag #tpringisabitch.
Here’s my three-minute or less TikTok review of the episode: