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The Dangers of Time Travel

The recent film Start Trek: Into Darkness has sent Dr A and Dr H back to the original series.

It’s many, many years since I watched some of these episodes, so the turn of events in All Our Yesterdays (Series 3, Episode 23) took me by surprise.

Spoiler alert! I’m about to give away the plot, so don’t read on if you’re currently working your way through a Star Trek box set and don’t want to know the twist in the story!

On travelling down to a planet threatened by immanent destruction from a supernova (all in a day’s work) Kirk, Spock and Bones accidentally travel in time, becoming trapped in the planet’s past (Kirk in a period akin to the 17th century and Spock and Bones in a forbidding Ice Age).

During their stay in the past, Spock starts to display some unusual behaviour.

The vegetarian, unemotional, non-violent Vulcan engages in the following activities:

Eating meat

Kissing beautiful women

Attacking his shipmate

Bones saves his skin, however, by pointing out to Spock that by travelling back 5,000 years, Spock has in fact devolved to become like the Vulcans of the time – meat-eating, violent, uninhibited “Barbarians”.

This is an aspect of time travel (already riddled with dangers) that I hadn’t previously considered. The whole idea of cultural evolution/ devolution is highly problematic, but what if you devolved physically as you travelled back in time? Imagine travelling back 2 million years and finding yourself transformed into Homo habilis. How would you manage the technology to travel back to the future? Would you, in your new state of being, want to?

Spock, faced with leaving the beautiful stranded Zarabeth (who will die if she leaves her icy prison), only returns to his own time because Bones cannot leave without him. The Vulcans have become a lot more civilised over 5000 years, but they certainly have a lot less fun.

Dr H

Screencaps from Trek Core

Thanks also to Fresca of l’astronave for reminding me of all the reasons to love Star Trek.

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2 responses to “The Dangers of Time Travel

  1. Fresca

    I have to admit that when I rewatched Star Trek a few years ago, I skipped a couple episodes that I remembered (from teen years) as real stinkers… and this was one of them!
    Now you remind me that there are interesting things to dig up even in those painfully bad episodes—like the idea that eating meat is uncivilized!
    Thanks for the nudge: I must go back and watch the stinkers again. (Mostly they are in the 3rd (final) season.)

  2. Dr H

    It will be interesting to see if you view these episodes differently as an adult. I’d definitely vote for Series 2 as the most enjoyable (I miss Chekov in the early episodes).
    It’s interesting that the Vulcans see themselves as highly evolved and civilised, but that the humans have no desire to emulate them.

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