Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 1

Amok Time

Aired Unknown Sep 15, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
203 votes

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Episode Summary

Spock must go to Vulcan in order to perform the Vulcan mating ritual.

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  • Kirk must rush Spock to Vulcan for a mating ritual which turns into a battle to the death.

    Capitalizing on Mr. Spock's popularity, Star Trek opens its second season with a visit to his home planet to look at the culture that shaped him. It's a landmark episode that the producers knew from the beginning was vital to get right, because fans would something away from it that would forever shape how they view Mr. Spock, for better or for worse. For writer Ted Sturgeon, following his own law that "nothing is always absolutely so" this makes his story all the more ambitious, with the script playing against expectations, showing Vulcans in their most sexualized and illogical state. Yet the daring risk pays off, with the idea providing a forum for Spock to turn his internal battle into a believable external conflict between him and Captain Kirk.

    Fresh off a healthy raise, Nimoy throws himself into the unusual role with gusto, running Spock through more emotions in the second season opener than in the entire first season. While we see the first officer bear great sadness in "The Naked Time" and experience blissful joy in "This Side of Paradise", only Amok Time takes forces him to run the gamut, with anger, grief, and bewilderment added to the mix. Meanwhile, Shatner holds point, with the script generously keeping Kirk in the midst of most of the drama and putting the definitive stamp on Kirk/Spock friendship. (How far they've come since the pilot!) The Kirk/Spock fight to the death itself is undeniably the most memorable and best done fight of the original series. It's not the first between these two characters, but the environment, the way it's shot, and the lack of obvious stuntmen separate it from just about any other conflict the show has to offer. As a counterpoint, DeForest Kelley (finally part of the opening credits) gives an understated performance that illustrates the underlying friendship between McCoy and Spock.

    Yet it's Guest star Celia Lovsky (T'Pau), using her Austrian accent and impressive stage presence to create an incomparable Vulcan monarch, who sets the stage for Nimoy's finest moment in the episode. With the first Vulcan hand salute and the first mention of "live long and prosper", the two actors (who resemble each other in appearance) define the Vulcan culture in the way that's still the template all these years later.

    With a script that has a literary quality, complete with timeless homilies ("After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting"), and an all new musical score by Gerald Fried that's hands-down the best of the original series, the elements come together to form a mythic quality television is not known for. Director Joe Pevney ("City on the Edge of Forever") even employs some hand held camera shots to truly set the episode apart from the regular Star Trek offering.

    Amok Time would prove to be the only visit to the surface of Vulcan in the original series, making it all the more special. (It's also the only time the expensive costumes for the ceremony are used). T'Pau herself, played by a different actress, appears as her younger self in a three parter featured in the fourth season of Enterprise ("The Forge", "Awakening", and "Kir'Shara").

    Remastered: Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of changes for this one, but what little has been redone goes a long way. In addition to new shots of the Enterprise and a more realistic version of Vulcan (replacing a red tinted version of the "Operation--Annihilate" planet), CBS Digital adds a homely background to a picture of T'Pring that Spock looks at in his quarters. More notable, however, is what they've done with the Vulcan surface. With the episode including no location shooting, this was all originally shot on a (small) stage with a red cyclorama sky. Ideally, the CBS team would add clouds, architecture, or... something... to make it look more real. In this case, however, there are so many shots with the sky, some with hand-held cameras, that redoing it would blow the budget out of the water. So instead, the team replaces a live-action shot of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock walking to the arena with two CGI shots that show the (very small) characters walking to the arena (via a bridge) through a gorgeous Vulcan landscape, courtesy of two digital matte paintings. With the Vulcan city of Shi'Kahr (introduced in the animated episode "Yesteryear") in the distance and geology that's reminiscent of Vulcan's appearances in the feature films, it ties "Amok Time" into Trek's future. More importantly, it establishes the arena as being a highly elevated area with a sheer drop off each side, an idea that carries through the remainder of the episode, explaining why the characters stay in such a small area and why the sky is so featureless, with no architecture or geologic forms to break it up.

  • It could be a little better, but this is a unique look into the "Vulcans."

    "Spock" (Leonard Nimoy) is showing strange, erratic behavior and "Capt. Kirk" (William Shatner) asks "Dr. McCoy" (DeForest Kelly) to examine the First Officer. "McCoy" learns in his examination that "Spock" MUST return to his homeplanet "Vulcan" within eight days (maximum) or he will die. However, "Spock" refuses to explain why he must return to his homeworld and why it threatens his life at first. He eventually explains that he is suffering from "Pon Farr" and must mate with his mate that was picked for him when he was a child or he will die.

    "Kirk" jeopardizes his career, and orders the Enterprise divert from their current mission to bring "Spock" to his native world.

    As they arrive at "Vulcan," "Spock" asks "Kirk" and "McCoy" to accompany him to the planet surface as his guests. The three "beam down" to the planet where "Spock's" chosen mate, "T'Pring" (Arlene Martel) awaits. To "Kirk's" surprise, one of "Vulcan's" most respected leaders, "T'Pau" (the late Celia Lovsky) is to conduct the ceremony.

    Trouble starts when "T'Pring" stops the ceremony to announce she wishes to marry a "Vulcan" named "Stonn" (Lawrence Montaigne). She envokes her right to have "Spock" fight for her, and, to every one's surprise, chooses "Kirk" to fight on her behalf instead of "Stonn."

    However, the biggest surprise to "McCoy" and "Kirk" is that the fight, with hand-held weapons which have large blades at one end and a blunt object on the other, is to the death.

    The episode, written by Theodore Sturgeon, was the Season Two premiere episode that had a memorable entry march and music with interesting costumes for the "Vulcan" wedding party which greets "Spock" and his guests in a set that might remind you of Stonehenge.

    Both Arlene Martel and the late Celia Lovsky did good jobs both as a young (Martel) and elder (Lovsky) "Vulcan" females. Both are stoic as required as a "Vulcan". Lovsky stands out a bit more, as she talks with her Czech accent making her performance a little more memorable.

    Another standout performance is done by Nimoy, who does a wonderful job portraying "Spock" as one who is trying to retain control while feeling the urge to return home like the bass must return to the stream it was born in to spawn. Shatner also does a good job as "Kirk," who puts his career, and neck, on the line to save his First Officer and close friend.

    The episode lags in some places, and the fight scene seems to take up more time than it should, but they help with advancing the story to the surprise ending. The scenery is fairly boring, yet interesting as you can see hints of the "Vulcan" red-colored sky and the redish "rock" of the structures which surround the area for the wedding.

    To sum things up, "Amok Time" is an interesting look into the "Vulcan" culture and biological needs.

  • Spock givesKirkthe gong during the Vulcan version of Spring Break.

    Logic and stoicism take thebackseat when Spock's mating instincts kick in, transforming him into a short-tempered mammal and compelling him to return to his home planet of Vulcan. Kirk risks all to help his first officer and pal fulfill his carnal urges. Once on Vulcan, however, Spoc still can't get a break - he is forced to fight his captain and his friend, unto the death.

    The suspense in the storyline works well, as does the revelation of a side of Spock not normally seen. The planet Vulcan, with its glittering pebbles and red sky, vaguely reminiscent of Vegas desert, is a great match for the hot-blooded plot. Then there's tiny little T'Pau, with her Euro-Vulcan accent and mix-up of old Engish grammar (saying "thee" instead of "thou", etc.), all ready to kill Kirk and McCoy if one of them steps out of line. But the burgeoning loyalty between the trio is the plasma that holds the whole episode together.

    Episodehighlights include the ends of the deadly lirpas breaking off like pieces of rock candy from a stick; the Vulcan ceremonial stand-ins shaking the bells like they're a part of the Salvation Army at Christmas; and the men talking at the end about whether Spock actually got lucky.

    Then there's poor Nurse Chapel. She expresses her undying love through a bowl of plomik soup, only to have it literally thrown back in her face. When Spock's hormones get the better of him, he makes a half-hearted pass at her, which she reproaches, before nearly doing a dance of sheer delight at his request to make him more plomik soup. Shortly afterwards, her momentary glee turns to dismayed shock at glimpsing Spock's much younger, hotter bride. By the end of the episode, she must be totally confounded, as Spock is unattached, returned to his duties, yetdiffusedof those alarmingly exciting recent impulses.moreless
  • Nurse Chapel upsets Spock by forgetting to put cloves in his Plomik soup

    I loved the script. And it includes a touching moment that most people glaze over and don't talk about. In the turbo lift Spock invites Kirk to attend the ceremony. He then slowly turns to the doctor and says "I also request McCoy". I just absolutely loved the way he delivered the line with the pause and head turn toward McCoy. All the Vulcan lingo was great. "Kali fee"! "Kryka!", "Ponn Far", "Plak tow". Did you catch Nurse Chapel's expression when Spock said "That is T'Pring, my wife."? Priceless.moreless
  • Spock is behaving very out of character, and requests that the Enterprise divert to planet Vulcan. It transpires that he must return home in order to perform the Vulcan mating ritual, or he will die. Not one of my Top 10 favourites, but a notable episode.moreless

    The second season kicks off with this notable episode (although "Catspaw" was the first episode of the season to be produced).

    The second season introduces Walter Koenig as Helmsman Chekov, who makes his first on-screen appearance in this story. He was brought it partly to try and win younger viewers, with his look based upon 'The Monkees' (which started the same year as 'Star Trek'); and he was made Russian to reflect their position in the 1960s space race.

    Also with the second season, DeForest Kelley's name is added to the main credits, reflecting how he had grown to be a key character over the first season of the show.

    Anyway, the story itself. The episode is notable for our first glimpse of Vulcan, and many of their customs. It marks the first appearance of the Vulcan hand gesture (suggested by Leonard Nimoy), as well as the first on-screen uttering of "Live long... and prosper".

    Many of 'Star Trek's episodes mirror human conditions, and this story can be dubbed 'Spock hits puberty'! He certainly acts like an angry teenager, throwing food offered to him at the wall, and shouting a lot.

    This is one of 'Star Trek's most famous episodes, with the fight between Spock and Kirk being the most memorable scene. It has also been spoofed a lot, such as in the movie 'The Cable Guy' (1996), and in the second season 'Futurama' episode 'Why Must a Crustacean Fall In Love'.

    The story is okay, and has some interesting details, but I confess to finding it a bit dragged out, and my attention did start to wander in places.

    This is one of the most iconic episodes of Original 'Star Trek', but I wouldn't necessarily class it as one of the very best. It certainly has some good moments and some nice details, but I'm afraid there are many that I like better.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Mark Russell

Mark Russell

Vulcan Litter Bearer #4 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Phil Adams

Phil Adams

Capt. Kirk's Stunt Double #2 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Mauri Russell

Mauri Russell

Vulcan Bell Carrier #1 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Frank da Vinci

Frank da Vinci

Vulcan Bell Carrier #2 (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (8)

    • (Translation) Vulcan: [Koon-ut] English: [Marriage] or [Marriage or]
      (Translation) Vulcan: [Pon Farr] English: [Time of Mating]
      (Translation) Vulcan: [Plak Tow] English: [blood Fever]
      (Translation) Vulcan: [Kroykah] English: [Stop]
      (Translation) Vulcan: [Kal-if-fee] English: [Challenge]

    • Spock throws the soup out of his quarters, then Kirk has a conversation of several minutes with him. When Kirk leaves, the soup is still on the wall, which doesn't speak well for the crew's clean-up efficiency.

    • Trivia: This episode introduces the concept of Pon Farr.

    • In this episode, Kirk can barely get Spock to talk about the Pon Farr. It is said to be "a very personal thing to the Vulcan people." However, in "The Cloudminders" in the third season, Spock talks about it casually to a local. In Star Trek III when the young Spock enters Pon Farr, Saavik nonchalantly tells David about Pon Farr without so much as batting an eye. In the ensuing years between the episode and the movie, has the Pon Farr now become common knowledge? Worse, in Star Trek: Enterprise, which precedes this episode by almost a century, they talk about Pon Farr freely as well. This is basically the only episode where they don't talk about it freely.

    • When Kirk, over the intercom, tells Spock that they are diverting to Vulcan, Spock pounds his computer. In the next scene, his computer appears to be undamaged!

    • In an early flyby shot of the Enterprise in space, the right nacelle disappears. (This goof is fixed in the 2007 remastered version.)

    • Just before T'Pring calls for the challenge, there's a wide shot of her going toward the gong. Then they cut to a closeup and she is standing beside Stonn, and then she starts moving toward the gong again.

    • In the mid-episode with Christine in Spock's cabin, he wipes away a tear on her cheek and her face is clear. In the next shot a second later, what seems to be the same tear is back on her face again.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Sulu: How do you figure it, Chekov? First we're going to Vulcan, then we're going to Altair, then we're headed to Vulcan again. Now we're headed back to Altair.
      Chekov: I think I'm going to get spacesick.

    • T'Pau: Spock, are our ceremonies for outworlders?
      Spock: They are not outworlders. They are my friends.

    • McCoy: Jim, when I suggested to Spock that it was time for his check-up,
      your logical, unemotional first officer turned to me and said, "You will cease to pry into my personal matters, Doctor, or I shall certainly break your neck."

    • Spock: Captain, there is a thing that happens to Vulcans at this time. Almost an insanity, which you would no doubt find distasteful.
      Kirk: Will I? You've been most patient with my kinds of madness.

    • Spock: It has to do with...biology.
      Kirk: What?
      Spock: Biology.
      Kirk: What kind of biology?
      Spock: Vulcan biology.
      Kirk: You mean the biology of Vulcans?
      Spock: Biology as in... reproduction?
      Kirk: Well, uh... there's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees.
      Spock: The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain. If they were... if any creature as proudly logical as us...were to have their logic ripped from this time does to us. How do Vulcans choose their mates? Haven't you wondered?
      Kirk: I guess the rest of us assume that it's done...quite logically.
      Spock: No.
      Kirk: No.

    • T'Pau: If both survive the lirpa, combat will continue with the ahn woon.
      Kirk: Uh, what do you mean, 'If both survive...'?
      T'Pau: This combat is to the death.

    • Spock: After a time, you may find that "having" is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as 'wanting.' It is not logical, but it is often true.

    • Spock: Live long and prosper.

    • Kirk: I suppose most of us overlook that fact that even Vulcans aren't indestructible.

    • Kirk: Sailor's luck, Mr. Spock. Or as one of Finagle's Laws puts it: "Any home port the ship makes will be somebody else's, not mine!"

    • Spock: We shield it with ritual and custom shrouded in antiquity. You humans have no conception. It strips our minds from us. It brings a madness which rips away the veneer of civilization. It is the "pon farr" -- the time of mating.

    • McCoy: You can't tell me that when you first saw Jim alive, that you weren't on the verge of giving us an emotional scene that would have brought the house down!
      Spock: Merely my quite logical relief that Starfleet had not lost a highly proficient captain.
      Kirk: Yes, Mr. Spock, I understand.
      Spock: Thank you, Captain.
      McCoy: Of course, Mr. Spock, your reaction was quite logical.
      Spock: Thank you, Doctor.
      McCoy: In a pig's eye!

    • McCoy: Is this Vulcan chivalry? The air's too hot and thin for Kirk. He's not used to it.
      T'Pau: The air is the air.

  • NOTES (14)

    • It is said that Celia Lovsky (T'Pau) was unable to spread her fingers unassisted in order to make the Vulcan hand salute, and needed to do it off camera. As such, while Spock separates his fingers with his hand already raised, T'Pau raises her hand with her fingers already spread.

    • This episode was originally (and perhaps rather unfortunately) summarized by TV Guide with the double-entendre "Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk."

    • Starting with this episode the episode titles are in the Star Trek main title font, and the episode's writer and director credits get moved from the end of the episode to the beginning shown directly after the episode title.

    • Introduction of "Mr. Spock's Theme" by Gerald Fried, frequently reused in mind-meld scenes. Also introduced is Fried's "The Ritual/Ancient Battle" themes often reused for fight scenes in subsequent episodes.

    • Lawrence Montaigne (Stonn) previously portrayed Decius in "Balance of Terror". He is also the first of two actors to play both a Vulcan and a Romulan on the series, the other being Mark Lenard.

    • The theme music now boasts a female soprano part.

    • Marks the first appearance of the Vulcan salute, another Nimoy contribution to the Star Trek universe.

    • DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) becomes a regular in Season 2.

    • The second season episode 'Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love' (2000) of futuristic cartoon comedy Futurama is very much a spoof of this episode. In that story, that classic Star Trek "fight music" is even heard, as a national anthem in that episode.

    • Walter Koenig debuts on the series as Ensign Pavel Andreievich Chekov in this episode. The main reason Chekov was introduced was in order to attract more of a youth audience. The producers were influenced by characters like Robin on Batman and by shows such as The Monkees.

    • Desilu No: 5149-34.

    • 1980s pop group T'Pau took their name from the character of that name in this episode.

    • With its second season, Star Trek switches from Thursday nights @ 8:30 to Friday nights @ 8:30.

    • When Star Trek's fifth spin-off series, Enterprise was in its early planning stages, the producers wanted to call the ship's Vulcan Sub-Commander "T'Pau", a nod to the character in this episode, but there were complications over royalty rights to the name, so they settled for calling her "T'Pol" instead.