Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 20

Return to Tomorrow

Aired Unknown Feb 09, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
150 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise discovers three discorporate intelligences who seek their help in gaining physical bodies... but one of them has plans of his own.

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  • Kirk, McCoy, and Dr. Anne Mulhall allow the last survivor's of a lost civilization to borrow their bodies.

    Written by John T. Dugan under a pseudonym, this ship-based bottle show about God-like creatures interacting with the crew of the Enterprise the unique case where the conflict isn't between the crew and the aliens. The real drama is an internal conflicts the aliens bring with them, with the sci fi story exploring what it would be like to lose your corporeal body for so long, you forget what it's like to feel or to touch your lover, only to be overwhelmed by the sensations as you borrow a body to build a new android vessel for yourself.... which you begin to feel isn't enough.

    And who needs guest stars to pull this off when you have talented regulars? James Doohan voices the only alien to speak outside a body, Sargon, and the "body borrower" plot allows Shatner and Nimoy to pull double duty, letting Shatner play Sargon in Kirk's body and Nimoy to play Henoch in Spock's. Unfortunately, Nichelle Nichols is not used for the third alien, Thalassa. (Later, in the animated series episode "Bem", Nichols knocks it out of the park voicing an entity with the same sort of voice as the aliens in "Tomorrow"). With Nichols being underutilized in the second season, it would have been a nice opportunity to give her two parts. The problem, however, is that the script requires Thalassa and Henoch to do a lot of embracing and kissing, and the show isn't ready for to dive into interracial PDAs (yet). Enter Diana Muldaur as Dr. Ann Mulhall, an Astrobiologist and perfect smooching partner for Kirk/Sargon. (Shatner probably cast the part himself). Muldaur, despite being a knockout beauty, seems to have more sense than most of the female guest stars, and gives Mulhall a professionalism to ground the character while giving Thelassa the internal struggle.

    To help differentiate the possessed crewmembers from their original selves, the sound editors add reverb to the "alien" voices, which doesn't always make much sense from a logical standpoint (shouldn't Kirk's voice sound the same whether he's possessed or not?) but works well if you can accept the conceit. Meanwhile, George Dunning (who previously scored "Metamorphosis") gives the episode quite a bit of new music, with some themes never reused, and director Ralph Senensky uses strong, less graded colors than usual, making the whole experience rather unique for the series.

    With a good story as his outline, Dugan provides a well written teleplay (which would go on to be nominated for a Writer's Guild award ), filled with sharp dialogue and interesting thoughts. (Unfortunately, he gives Kirk a messed up Apollo reference, having the Captain confuse the first Apollo mission with the first lunar mission. Neither had happened yet when this episode aired, if you accept that we're talking about manned missions and you don't include Apollo 1, which never launched; but even back when this episode was written, it was no secret that the first manned Apollo mission to launch would take place entirely by the Earth, with lunar missions being saved for later. Kirk would no better, and so should Dugan).

    What really sells the whole thing, however, are the performances of Shatner and Nimoy, who clearly enjoy stepping outside their normal roles to play other characters. Shatner uses the opportunity to emphasize his physical movements (looking much like the Shatner comedians like to parody) while Nimoy uses it to create a more understated, grinning bad guy that steals the show.

    There are better episodes, but this one is sort of a hidden gem.

    Remastered version: This is as basic as can be, offering a new CGI shots of the Enterprise in orbit. (Originally, the episode borrowed these shots from "The Deadly Years").

  • Kirk, Spock and a female crewmember are approached by a powerful, body-less alien being, who wants to borrow their bodies so that he and two others of his kind may construct android bodies to inhabit. An episode that was much better than I expected...moreless

    This is another one of those episodes that I went into not expecting very much from, but to my pleasant surprise it turned out be a very enjoyable story.

    I am surprised that the episode is not rated very high, as in my opinion it is one of the far better episodes down the latter end of the second season.

    I find the title to be rather misleading and generic – "Return to Tomorrow" makes it sound like a time-travel episode to me, and I don't think it suits the episode all that well.

    Anyway, the story itself is relatively simple but a good one. I think they were right to not cram too much in, and instead concentrate on the interesting plight of Sargon, who wants to create an android body to inhabit.

    There is a strange moment as Kirk prepares to beam down to the planet, when he says that he doesn't want to risk Spock beaming down too in case the ship needs him. This is fine and perfectly logical – except that both Kirk and Spock (and McCoy) both beam down in 99% of stories anyway!

    Dr. Anne Mulhall in many ways comes across as the 'token female crewmember' of the week. There have been a number of such characters before in various episodes, and there would be again. That said, Diana Muldaur plays the part very well, and succeeds in making Mulhall seem familiar and not just a one-off character.

    (Diana Muldaur, of course, would go on to play Dr. Katherine Pulaski in the second season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.)

    Unlike some other reviewers, I didn't particularly find this story to be a rehash of earlier ideas. I really enjoyed how the story unfolded; I knew that something in Sargon's plan would go bad, but enjoyed finding out what exactly.

    All-in-all, I found this an enjoyable and interesting story, and am surprised more people don't like it. It is certainly one of the better instalments from this end of the second season.moreless
  • Dull, dull, dull ...

    This episode followed a well-worn groove when it came to setting up ST storylines. It all seems so familar, not because the basic idea has been used before, but because we've seen the plot devices so many times.

    Introduce a female crewmember who will trigger the storyline then be disposed of at the end. In this case it's Dr Anne Mulhall (played by Diane Muldaur), but it's been done before - Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) in "The Space Seed" and Elinor Donahue (Commissioner Nancy Hedford) in "Metamorphosis". Add to the mix one or more super powerful aliens - Apollo (Michael Forest) in "Who Mourns for Adonais?", Korob (Theodore Marcuse) in "Catspaw" and any number of others.

    Enterprise crew members taken over by a sinister outside influence - "This Side of Paradise" and "Wolf in the Fold".

    It all results is a boring and over-familar episode. You could skip this one and miss nothing.moreless
  • After sharing consciousnesses together, Spock locks the door to his cabin when Nurse Chapel comes-a-knockin’

    It's comparison time between the 1970s and the 2000s again. I was really bored with this episode when I was young. Today I see it in a whole new light and even shed tears about the thought of Sargon and Feleca being able to hold each other again. This is one of many episodes in fact, that I see with a different set of eyes as an adult vs. a child. Kirk's speech in the briefing room was quite good and defined the whole series message very clearly. "That's why we're aboard her!"moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Diana Muldaur

Diana Muldaur

Dr. Anne Mulhall

Guest Star

Cindy Lou

Cindy Lou


Guest Star

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Anne Mulhall is a doctor in astro-biology, but is wearing red instead of a science/medical blue uniform.

    • Kirk at first opposes Spock beaming down with him. After two seasons of always beaming the three most senior officers into any situation -- known, unknown or actively hostile -- it seems odd that here he's concerned with leaving the ship without its two senior officers.

    • Why did Dr. Anne Mulhall smile when McCoy said his good metabolic rate is back to normal?

    • Kirk has encountered creatures of pure energy before, in "Metamorphosis," "Obsession," and "Wolf in the Fold," but for some reason claims here that such a thing is impossible.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Kirk: We faced a crisis in our earlier nuclear age. We found the wisdom not to destroy ourselves.

    • Sargon: There comes to all races an ultimate crisis which you have yet to face... One day our minds became so powerful we dared think of ourselves as gods.

    • Scotty: You're going to do what?! Are they all right in the head, Doctor?
      McCoy: No comment.
      Kirk: Just a simple transference...
      McCoy: Quite simple! Happens every day!

    • Kirk: They used to say, if man could fly, he'd have wings. But he did fly; he discovered he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn't reached the moon, or that we hadn't gone on to Mars and then to the nearest star? That's like saying you wish that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with catgut, like your great, great, great-grandfather used to do... Dr. McCoy is right in pointing out the enormous danger potential in any contact with life and intelligence as fantastically advanced as this. But I must point out that the possibilities--the potential for knowledge and advancement is equally great. Risk--risk is our business.

    • Henoch/Spock: I'm surprised the Vulcans never conquered your race.
      McCoy: Vulcans worship peace above all, Henoch.

    • Thalassa/Mulhall: I require only your silence. Only you and I will know that Dr. Mulhall has not returned to her body. Isn't that wroth your captain's life?
      McCoy: I will not peddle flesh! I'm a physician!
      Thalassa/Mulhall: A physician? In contrast to what we are, you are a prancing, savage medicine man. You dare defy one you should be on your knees worshiping?

    • Thalassa/Mulhall: Oblivion together does not frighten me, beloved. Promise we'll be together.
      Sargon/Kirk: I promise... beloved.
      Thalassa/Mulhall: Together, forever.
      Sargon/Kirk: Forever... beloved. Forever.

  • NOTES (4)