Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 10

Journey to Babel

Aired Unknown Nov 17, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
177 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Spock meets his estranged father when the Enterprise escorts a group of ambassadors to a conference on the planet Babel.

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  • Spock must deal with his parents when the Enterprise escorts a group of ambassadors, including Spock's father, to a conference on the planet Babel.

    In "This Side of Paradise", when Kirk accuses Spock of being a devil-eared freak whose father was a computer and mother an encyclopedia, Spock responds with a throwaway line: "My mother was a teacher, my father an . Fontana, the writer of the teleplay, returns to these ideas and builds an entire episode around Spock's family, taking the first officer's internal struggle and turning it into an external contest with lives on the line. With his father providing a literal voice for logic and his mother embodying emotion, the two couldn't provide a better demonstration of Spock's two halves if they were a devil and an angel sitting on his shoulders.

    With makeup man Freddie Phillips somehow meeting unreal demands, the episode spearheads the diversity of the Federation, introducing more aliens than any previous episode, while simultaneously giving us an unknown alien ship, a spy, and a murder mystery. (It's just the sort of episode future Star Trek incarnations would turn into a two parter, but TOS didn't think in those terms). Fortunately, Fontana is at the peak of her powers as a writer and brings all the elements together for a bottle show that's so good, NBC rushed it through post production to get it on the air as quickly as possible.

    Its showpiece is Mark Lenard as Sarak, Spock's father. Despite Lenard, at 43, being only seven years older than Nimoy, the two build such a familiar father/son relationship, it's easy to accept the authenticity of it, allowing it to carry on in the animated series, the movies, and TNG. (It could have been easy for the show to disqualify Lenard on the basis that he already played a memorable Romulan in the first season, but why cast a second-rate Sarek when you've got a guy who can knock it out of the park?)

    Meanwhile, 66 year old Jane Wyatt plays Spock's mother, Amanda. Best known as the mom on Father Knows Best, the melodramatic Wyatt counterbalances Nimoy's stoicism and even has some nice moments with Kirk. (As the second episode in a row with a Father Knows Best guest star, and some TV fans recalling that Eugene Rodney was a producer of the show, it was easy for people to become confused and assume the Father Knows Best guy went on to produce Star Trek. When Gene Roddenberry was attending meet and greets, sometimes people would even say, "Glad to meet you! Just between us, I actually preferred Father Knows Roddenberry would simply reply, "Me too").

    Borrowing music (and the planet) from "Amok Time", "Journey" manages to recreate the Vulcan feel without stepping foot (or spending money on) the surface. And in the end, it surpasses "Amok" in terms of a takeaway. Seeing Spock navigate through his issues with his parents enriches the character in a way that stays with viewers for the remainder of his adventures. Indeed, Mark Lenard reprises Sarek in a prequel of sorts in the animated series episode "Yesteryear". He and Wyatt also reprise their characters in the fourth Star Trek film to tie up loose ends from "Journey to Babel". His final appearance as Sarek occurs in TNG.

    Remastered Edition:

    The original episode was specifically written to save money on effects to allow the budget for makeup and guest stars to be expanded. Fontana knew they could pluck shuttlecraft footage from "The Galileo Seven" and Vulcan shots from "Amok Time". For the new version, however, CBS Digital creates original shots. (Actually, they have to. This remastered effort predates the remastered versions of "Galileo" and

    The most notable change is the revamping of the shuttle landing, which includes several delightful touches and even a minor touchup of the shuttle bay in the live action. Some of these shots show the shuttle, the ship, and planet Vulcan all at once, something the original could never do. In addition to the shuttle, the Enterprise and planet Vulcan, a mysterious enemy ship gets an upgrade as well. Originally an abstract, spinning yellow blob, the new version still has movement but looks more like a ship. An explosion near the end is revamped as well. Most of the remainder of the episode is left alone.

  • A sublime, character-driven episode ...

    "Journey to Babel" is deservedly one of the all-time beloved episodes of the STAR TREK fan base. This is probably because this is a Spock-centric story (always popular with the Trekkers) that reveals important back-story about Spock's family and childhood. We also get to see Spock make "logical" choices that would make any human blanch, most notably his refusing to give his father a bloood transfusion because Starfleet regulations say that he cannot relinquish command of the Enterprise for personal reasons.

    It's the winning performances of Leonard Nimoy, Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt that carry this episode through - though the political intrigue sub-plots don't hurt a bit, either.

    One of the best of the second season.moreless
  • A superb piece of drama-in the classical sense.

    Probably the best stay-aboard-the-Enterprise episode of all three seasons. Story, direction, casting, and acting all go together to make this a superb piece of drama-in the classical sense. Spock's teaser just before the title sequence break-"Captain, Ambassador Sarek and his wife ARE my parents."-would have pulled in any remotely interested watcher of Star Trek who was, perhaps, considering watching something else that Friday evening, back on November 17th 1967. In fact, the whole string of dialog leading up to that final line is effectively designed to pique the viewer's curiosity. Why doesn't Sarek return Spock's Vulcan salute? I mean, he gives it to McCoy, who only makes a half-assed attempt to return it. And why would the Ambassador prefer another guide to show him around the Enterprise? Then, there are the little touches-details of direction and acting that still catch me off-guard nearly every time I watch it. Gav, the Tellarite Ambassador-slightly inebriated and undoubtedly looking for a fight-confronts Sarek at the bar (Star Wars cantina-style) for a rematch. When Gav goes for him, cool-breeze Sarek performs his little Aikido/Vulcan/Jedi deflection move that shows us that Gav would never have stood a chance-"Gentlemen, gentlemen! Whatever arguments you have…!" Then, later, when McCoy, Spock et al are in sickbay having their discussion about Vulcan/Human blood transfusion matters, the scene cuts to a fight-already in progress-between Kirk and (who we later learn to be a faux) Andorian Aide to Ambassador Shras. Even after 30-plus years, it still catches me by surprise. It's the kind of scene change we might see in a Tarantino film today.

    And speaking of casting-where did they dig up that (lovely) old fossil? Reggie Nalder, perfectly believable as an alien-in any definition of the word-what with his old-world Transylvanian accent (actually it's Austrian/Hungarian; I looked him up), and his face-so full of time-worn character: "My people are a violent race, but we've no quarrel with Captain Kirk." Nalder's characterization is just one more subtle layer of icing on the cake that makes this such an exquisite episode. I even like the make-up job. It worked for me back then, and it still does today; I don't even care that his antennae don't move. Even ("Daddy, that guy's a piggy!" as my 4-year-old son pointed out) Gav doesn't bother me too much. But those two little golden-skinned Ambassadors-you remember-the ones with the Shriner's hats who are making mixed drinks with those silly little colored ice-cubes? Come on!moreless
  • During the filming, one of the Andorian’s antennae falls off. They just proceed and write it into the script like it was meant to happen

    The tension between Spock and his father was well played and well represented. No wonder after this, they developed it even further when we got to the movies. Very good plot and great pacing for all the other aspects of the script as well. "Humans smile with so little provocation". What a great line and embarrassingly true. On a side note, I think this is the only episode where that blasted shuttecraft performs beautifully without running out of fuel or gets wrecked or crashes. Those things are death traps!moreless
  • Spock is reunited with his human mother and estranged Vulcan father as the Enterprise transports a group of ambassadors to a peace conference, but there is also an assassin on board. A fan favourite episode...moreless

    This episode is a favourite amongst many fans.

    This is the first time we meet Sarek, Spock's father, played my Mark Lenard. He puts in a good performance, and I found him very believable.

    Another of the episode's merits is the array of alien races seen. The episode does not include a beam down to a planet, which saved money, so instead more was seemingly spent on the alien designs.

    Some of the alien costumes and makeup are quite good (I like the Andorians, even if they do look very '1960s'), but I agree with another reviewer that one race, the Tellarites, has absolutely terrible makeup, and is quite obviously a mask.

    The story unfolds well, and has several plots that all affect and hinge on each other. There is the hunt for the assassin, but also Spock giving blood to Sarek, Kirk being badly injured in an attack, and several other strands which all interact with each other. I liked this multi-plot tale, and found it more pleasing than some of the more simple outings of the season.

    As good as the episode is, it probably wouldn't make my personal Top 10. Not because it's bad, but simply because there are other stories that I like better. I'm also fonder of stories that involve beaming down to planets.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Jane Wyatt

Jane Wyatt


Guest Star

John Wheeler

John Wheeler


Guest Star

Reggie Nalder

Reggie Nalder


Guest Star

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Trivia: Sarek is 102 years old.

    • When Thelev attacks Kirk in the corridor, listen carefully to the sound of them fighting and you will hear a totally out of place sound that sounds something like a bongo drum being hit or the sound a cartoon might make when a coconut falls on someone's head. A sort of hollow percussion sound that's totally out of place. (This is removed in the remastered version.)

    • When Kirk orders engineering to cut both starboard and port power, the external shot of ship a moment later shows all of the external lights still on and the engines still churning. On the shots of the bridge, all the equipment is still working, so that sure wasn't much of a power shutdown.

    • When the Andorian stabs Kirk, it is in his right lower back. No blood is seen and later Bones says Kirk is stabbed in his left lung above the heart.

    • The Tellarites have boots on even though the Tellarites actually have hooves.

    • The assassin politely takes time out to adjust his tunic, giving Kirk time to recover from his attack. Then he stabs at Kirk with his knife in his left hand - there's a camera cut to Kirk kicking him and the knife has jumped instantaneously to his right hand.

    • When Sarek goes into the reception room to take his pill, the Tellarite holding the drink has it in his left/right/left hand depending on the camera shot.

    • After Amanda leaves Spock's cabin, he goes up to the door and touches it in contemplation. How does the door know not to open?

    • For some reason Kirk has the mirror in his cabin at waist height. He has to squat down to adjust his uniform at the beginning of the episode. Exactly what does he look at in a mirror at that height?

    • In one scene the Enterprise's phasers were pink instead of blue. (This is fixed in the remastered version.)

    • In one scene on the bridge, the space sensor array was not moving.

  • QUOTES (14)

  • NOTES (7)

    • Kirk knew that Spock's father was an ambassador ("This Side of Paradise"), that Spock's family was "important enough" to have T'Pau officiate at his wedding ("Amok Time"), and of course, that Spock is half Vulcan and half Human. Given the seeming rarity of Humans and Vulcan/Human marriages, it seems unusual that Kirk doesn't see a Vulcan ambassador with a Human wife and not make the natural conclusion.

    • It is revealed that Spock had a pet sehlat, a sabretooth tiger-like creature that would be later shown on the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" and the Enterprise episode "The Forge."

    • This episode marks the first time that the four founding members of the Federation - Terrans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites - are all seen together.

    • In addition to introducing Spock's parents, Sarek and Amanda, this episode also introduces two familiar Star Trek aliens: the Andorians and the Tellarites. Ironically, by not going down to a planet in this episode, the producers were able to spend more of the episode's budget on alien make-up.

    • Mark Lenard previously played the Romulan commander in "Balance of Terror".

    • Desilu No: 5149-44.

    • Though Sarek doesn't appear in any more episodes of classic Trek except the non-cannon animated episode "Yesteryear", he appears in the Star Trek III, IV, and V movies and makes two guest appearances in The Next Generation. Amanda also reappears in Star Trek IV.


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