Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 19

Tomorrow is Yesterday

Aired Unknown Jan 26, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
199 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise narrowly avoids a collision with a black hole and is thrown back to Earth in the 20th century, where they must find a way back and erase any trace of their presence. Matters become complicated when they rescue an Air Force pilot and cannot return him without changing history...but if he disappears that will change history as well.moreless

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  • The Enterprise has been thrown back in time, threatening to change the past, and must find a way to set things right and return to the future.

    As the first Star Trek episode where the Enterprise visits the 20th century (and, in some ways, a template for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), this is one of Star Trek's more popular episodes. Unfortunately, the premise is stronger than the overall story, with missed opportunities and a confusing ending leaving plenty of room for future episodes to do better (which they do).

    The center of the drama is Captain Christopher (Roger Perry) of the . Air Force, a 1960s man who accidentally ends up on the Enterprise. He wants to go home to his wife and kids, but Kirk is wary about letting him return to Earth with knowledge of the future. It's a killer premise from associate producer Bob Justman, theoretically giving fans the next best thing to visiting the Enterprise themselves. But Christopher proves to be a poor audience surrogate, reacting with detached amusement and seeming more interested in women than the wonders of the future. (Most people today would probably identify more with Sisko's reaction in "Trials and Tribulations", where he responds to a trip to the Enterprise like a kid in a candy store). Nonetheless, as the episode progresses, it becomes a delight to see Kirk, Spock and company visit 1960s Earth and attempt to cover their tracks. Seeing these characters deal with 20th century people and technology is a fun juxtaposition, one that never gets old. (Shatner has a great moment where he taps a bulletin board, amused by the archaic use of paper). And as Kirk and company keep digging a deeper hole for themselves, the tension becomes almost tangible, with so many problems it seems impossible to solve them all. Fortunately for Kirk, the scriptwriter seems to think that since this is the first time travel episode (aside from "The Naked Time"), she's able to make up whatever rules she wants to conveniently tie up all the issues at once. The sad truth, however, is that her logic, filled with temporal paradoxes, makes no sense even in a fictional universe, and the ending seems a cheat as a result.

    Interestingly, while we now look at the episode as taking place in the past, when it first aired it represented the future (hence the title, which lost its meaning after the 1960s). With three men about to go the Moon for the first time, it either takes place in 1968 (when Apollo 8 orbited the Moon) or 1969 (when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon). Either way, Kirk's assertion that this happened in the late 1960s was a bold but savvy prognostication by the . Fontana when she wrote the line in 1966. At the time, the Apollo program was still in its infancy and had yet to attempt a manned launch. (Put it this way: if you think of the Earth as a basketball, before the Apollo Moon missions, mankind had never been more than an inch from the surface. To get to the Moon, about the size of a softball, it was a distance of 17 In fact, even in 1967 when the "Tomorrow is Yesterday" aired, it was still uncertain that the Americans would beat the Russians to the Moon as the episode indicates. The Russians weren't capable of landing on it, because that took more complex software than they had. But using the Moon's gravity to slingshot a rocket around it is more about hardware, an area they excelled at. Fearing the Russians would do just such and declare victory in the space race was one of the reasons NASA rushed Apollo 8, going to the Moon before the Lunar Module was even ready to be tested. (Even so, NASA had to sweat out the preceding months, because Russia's geographical location gave it an earlier window to launch spacecraft, and the . never announced when its launches would But unknown to NASA and the American public (including Fontana), the Russians were running into some problems with their space agency in the mid 1960s and had, without announcing it, given up by 1967.

    Remastered: While an Earth-based episode wouldn't seem a forum for a lot of fancy effects, the story actually requires quite a number; and getting the Earth right is harder than any other planet, because we know it so well. Truth be told, the original effects are pretty bad, using the same sorry Earth from Miri and having a cartoonish Enterprise in the Earth's atmosphere. (They artfully avoid showing the Sun, having the Enterprise get caught in place by its gravitational pull before breaking free). The upgrades are fabulous, with an Earth that looks like the real thing (because it is), gorgeous shots of the Enterprise, a new jet for Captain Christopher (with an improved cockpit view), a new chronometer (to match the other remastered episodes), and a slingshot around the sun (with Mercury making a cameo) just as the ship does in Star Trek IV. (The Sun, it should be mentioned, is depicted as a yellow fireball, just as it's commonly thought to be in the popular culture. But actually, scientists finally learned in the 20th century that it only appears that way because of our atmosphere and that in space it can be seen as the plain white ball it is. CBS Digital probably took artistic license to make it recognizable and keep it consistent with Star Trek IV).

  • Computed and recorded, dear.

    This is history in the making folks: Star Trek's first of many, many, time-travel episodes where they always seem to go back to the 20th century. Now I'm a sucker for time-travel, I love the entire concept and I buy into it every time, but it sure does make my head hurt. Aside from this however, 'Tomorrow is Yesterday' serves as a well intended and executed story that implements good sci-fi with plenty of farce.

    Regarding time travel in Star Trek in particular, I always enjoy it when humans from our time period, meet and interact with the crew and Enterprise, fully aware of what it is going on. What I love about this is that it allows me as a viewer, to really connect with someone on board this wonderfully futuristic spaceship. Usually we have characters that treat everything that's going on aboard the Enterprise, as everyday business- nothing to be shocked or amazed about. With these episodes however, we have a direct link to someone who is just like us when we watch this show: amazed. In 'Tomorrow is Yesterday', many characters interact with the ship and its crew for the fist time, and in a way, so do we as viewers.

    Although working on pixie dust rather than real science, the episode does at least acknowledge some grounding rules for time travel. Early on, Spock affirms and details to Kirk that their unintentional visitor, Captain John Christopher (Roger Perry) cannot simply be returned to Earth without the future as we know it, being changed. It's a shame that this logic also works against the episode on many occasions, but I'm glad that it was taken seriously and actually used as the main source of drama for the episode.

    The eventual solution to the problem of contaminating history is a logically dumb one and without any real scientific reasoning, but it nevertheless works for TV. And let me stress that for 'Tomorrow is Yesterday', an episode which doesn't work as good TV for the first twenty minutes, really needed something redeeming at this point. Thankfully it works and leads to some brilliant action and comedic scenes that are brilliant to watch, working a whole lot better on screen than the very talky first half of the episode. Perhaps one of the most amusing moments occurs when Kirk is being interrogated by security. The script is superbly written, featuring delightful dialogue that suits all characters very well. Shatner gives a great performance, conveying Kirk's ever-so gradual decline into acceptance of the completely absurd situation caused by his undeniable bad luck. Indeed Fontana is a well known writer involved with Trek and if there was one key strength that she had whilst writing for TOS, it was her knowledge of the characters. How she uses them in 'Tomorrow is Yesterday' is mostly for comedic effect, brining out the lighter sides of their personality. Scenes of particular notice aside from the one mentioned above are Kirk's 'faulty' computer moments and the ever amusing banter between Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock.

    Fontana also knows how to build tension well, and she layers incident upon incident here to create a very rich story that grows as it goes on. My one problem with this is that the first twenty minutes move along at a very slow pace with very few interesting moments. So it eventually pays off by the time you reach the final key scenes, but there is no doubting that the episode is clearly uneven, saving a lot of the action for last.

    As contrived and logically insane as the final Deus Ex Machina is, for the most part, it works well for exciting science fiction TV. If you can turn off the logical side of the brain and simply watch for the artistic nature of it, it pays off well thanks to some dramatic lighting and a great sense of movement aboard the bridge (I just wish they didn't cut to those terribly boring Enterprise shots).

    In conclusion, 'Tomorrow is Yesterday' is definitely an ambitious episode for Star Trek and an important one too, but it is in no way perfect. Perhaps with a little more balance and refinement to the script, I could have enjoyed it more- but for what it is, it makes for an original break in narrative for the show and has a good deal of great comedy, action and characterisation that make it good fun to watch.moreless
  • Kirk’s only solution to accidentally going back in time 200 years is to get locked up in prison for the same amount of time

    I always find these "going back in time" stories have holes in them. Whether it be Star Trek or any other Sci-Fi story. But, I have to admit I always find them interesting so I guess the joke's on me. In reference to one of the trivia comments, it was suggested that once Captain Christopher was beamed back into his cockpit that The Enterprise would still be there. I don't agree. As I understand it, the Enterprise corrected this by going back even a little further in time to before the event happened, except this time the Enterprise was much, much higher orbiting the planet well out of sight within the earth's atmosphere. But I suppose there are so many things one could argue about "If they went back in time, why didn't this change, or that be different, etc. etc.moreless
  • Today is forever!

    the crew of the enterprise is forced to go back in time to 20th Century Earth, where the Air Force declared them a UFO. One person was taken aboard while another one was taken in later. Captain Kirk will have to make some difficult decison of what to do with the men, or else they will change the corse of the future, so why do they go back in the past in the first place? the crew will return to the past in "Star Trek IV" when they save the future by going back in the past. I give it a 7.moreless
  • The Enterprise has been sent back in time due to the effects of a black hole, arriving at Earth in the 1960s. When an Air Force pilot is beamed aboard, the crew must find a way to correct damage to the timeline and get home. An ambitious episode...moreless

    This review contains some spoilers.

    This is 'Star Trek's first (of many) time travel episodes (well, other than the time travel experienced at the end of "The Naked Time" earlier in the season). Talking of "The Naked Time", that episode and this were originally designed to be a two-parter, but they ended up being made as two separate, stand-alone stories.

    Time travel stories are always interesting, if not always plausible, and I quite like this one. The shot of the Enterprise appearing in the sky in the 1960s sky at the end of the opening teaser is a classic 'Star Trek' moment.

    (By the way, the Air Force shots slightly are let down by quite obviously being pre-existing stock footage, and bad quality ones at that).

    The time travel idea is handled fairly well, albeit on somewhat of a small, 1960s-TV-budget scale; It would be handled on a lager scale on the big screen in 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' (1986), where the crew travel back to the 1980s. But the story on the whole is a likable one, and very watchable.

    Being a time travel story, there are a number of paradoxes presented. I find it is best not to question them too deeply and just go with it. This is also another example of a story that is both a drama and a comedy at different points.

    I wasn't sure about the way the Enterprise slingshots into the Sun to travel back (or rather, forward) to its own time again. If it was that easy, wouldn't they be time travelling all the time? Also, there's some dodgy and not totally convincing Enterprise shots – although I don't agree that all episodes needs remastering and updating with better effects, but this is one case where it is probably an improvement (BTW, I haven't seen the remastered episodes yet; I don't know if / when they'll be shown here in the UK, especially on a terrestrial channel).

    The thing that really didn't work for me – and others have picked up on it – is the conclusion, with Captain Christopher and the Air Force Guard being "beamed back into themselves", effectively replacing themselves before they saw the Enterprise. There is little logic how this works, and completely conflicts with anything else we've been taught about transportation in 'Trek' lore. This really let down an otherwise reasonable episode in my view.

    The questionable conclusion is the only real problem with this otherwise mostly likeable and enjoyable - if not quite classic - instalment.moreless
Roger Perry

Roger Perry

Capt. John Christopher

Guest Star

Hal Lynch

Hal Lynch

Air Police Sergeant

Guest Star

Richard Merrifield

Richard Merrifield

Technician Webb

Guest Star

John Winston

John Winston

Lt. Kyle

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (15)

    • The camera footage that Kirk and Sulu find in the photo lab is on a small 8mm stock in an open reel. The reel Sulu turns over to Spock back on the Enterprise is a thick tape in a closed reel, more like video tape.

    • Trivia: At this point in the series, the Federation hadn't been thought of yet. Kirk says he works for the United Earth Space Probe Agency.

    • It makes no sense that Capt. Christopher and the other guy could be simply beamed back into their own bodies. All the teleporter does is move things; and since the two men's original/past bodies were still there they wouldn't be teleported into them, they would simply be teleported there to coexist along with them i.e. there would be two Capt. Christophers, because both of his bodies (past and present) still exist.

    • The guard says for Kirk and Sulu to hand him their belts one at a time, and then they both do so and he doesn't tell them to stop or otherwise react to the fact their disobeying his order.

    • Trivia: Several times throughout this episode they refer to "Starfleet Control" instead of "Starfleet Command."

    • The Enterprise's chronometer, used in this episode, is mechanical with an odometer-type display. This is a rather primitive device given twenty-third century technology and the Enterprise being a state-of-the-art starship. (A different improved chronometer is used in the remastered version.)

    • It makes no sense that when they beam Capt. Christopher back into himself that the Enterprise would no longer be there in the sky. That event never changed, so the Enterprise would still be there in the sky, Capt. Christopher would be beamed aboard the Enterprise again and an infinite loop of events would be set into motion where the Captain would see the Enterprise, be beamed aboard, be returned to his plane, see the Enterprise (again), be beamed aboard (again) and so on and so on...

    • When Spock is doing the countdown for beaming Christopher back into his plane after going back in time again his counting speeds up once he gets to around 5.

    • Why was Captain Christopher standing up when they beamed him on board? Wasn't he sitting in the jet?

    • Why do Sulu and Kirk beam down into the Air Force base in standard Starfleet uniforms? On later such missions ("Assignment: Earth" and "Patterns of Force") they have suitable clothing made up, but here they just stand out like sore thumbs. And if they want to be sneaky, why don't they wear black stealth-type clothing?

    • Kirk describes the technique they're going to use as jamming the engines into reverse and snapping free. The actual visual we see later shows it slowing down, stopping dead, and turning around - it never goes into "reverse."

    • It seems kind of odd that Spock makes such an obvious mistake as failing to check the impact of John Christopher's disappearance as far as his decendents are concerned - he works out more then 100 variables on the time warp equations while standing around in the transporter room.

    • When the Airforce guard said to Kirk "I'm going to lock you up for 200 years!" then Kirk said "That ought to be just about right.", actually 200 years after 1968 would be 2168, not 2268.

    • Captain Christopher was mistakenly credited as Major Christopher in the end credits.

    • In the scenes with the Enterprise shaking in space you can see a lighter space background than on the rest of the screen. (This is resolved in the remastered version.)

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Kirk: Uh...Colonel, would you mind being careful with that?
      Colonel Fellini: That worries you, huh? Is that a radio, transmitter of some kind?
      Kirk: Of some kind.
      Colonel Fellini: You can be more specific than that, Kirk. I don't like mysteries. (examines phaser)
      Kirk: If you don't stop being careless with that, you'll have one--a big one.

    • Kirk: You said you had some additional information, Mr. Spock?
      Spock: I made an error in my computations.
      McCoy: Oh? This could be an historic occasion.

    • Kirk: But in our society, he'd be useless. Archaic.
      McCoy: Maybe he could be retrained, re-educated.
      Kirk: Now you're sounding like Spock.
      McCoy: If you're going to get nasty, I'm going to leave.

    • Christopher: Too bad, Captain. Maybe I can't go home, but neither can you. You're as much a prisoner in time as I am.

    • Computer: Computed and recorded, dear.
      Kirk: Computer, you will not address me in that manner. Compute.
      Computer: Computed...dear.

    • Kirk: (to Spock) Your logic can be most... annoying.

    • Kirk: All right, Colonel. The truth is, I'm a little green man from Alpha Centauri, a beautiful place. You ought to see it.
      Colonel Fellini: I am going to lock you up for 200 years.
      Kirk: That ought to be just about right.

    • Colonel Fellini: What is that? Is that a uniform of some kind?
      Kirk: This little thing? Something I slipped on.

    • Christopher: I never have believed in little green men.
      Spock: Neither have I, Captain Christopher.

    • Kirk: This is very difficult to explain. We're from your future. A time warp placed us here. It was an accident.
      Christopher: You seem to have a lot of them.

  • NOTES (2)

    • This episode was originally supposed to be the second part of a two-part episode that began with "The Naked Time", but both episodes were rewritten when the idea was dropped.

    • Captain Christopher was wearing a lieutenant command uniform which is accurate because the rank of captain in the USAF is equal to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy.