Original Airdate: September 29, 1966
There's a man in a space suit, also frozen, draped over a desk in the foreground. Spock runs the big orange hair dryer scanner over him and takes readings. They split up and do some exploring, finding a man in the shower fully clothed (and frozen) among other bizarre things. In the background is a woman's body (it's obviously a mannequin, but let's play pretend, shall we?) and she has been strangled.
As he finishes up, he rubs his hand a bit, then smells it. Oh yeah, he knows something's wrong. Smell blood, Joe? You will...
In sickbay, the two men are being checked out by McCoy; Tormolen passes, and then it's Spock's turn. According to Bones, his pulse is 242, and his blood pressure is practically nonexistent, which is actually perfectly standard for Spock. Joe is very upset all of a sudden, and tells Jim, who's met them down there, that it was terrible. "They were just sitting there like they didn't care... I keep wondering..." he trails off and Jim finishes for him, "you keep wondering if man was meant to be out here. You keep wondering, and you keep signing on." He smiles, and Joe smiles back. Meanwhile, he's been oddly rubbing his hands and side the whole time. There's an ominous hissing, rattling noise as he looks at his hand.
In the conference room, Jim, Spock, Bones, Scotty, & Rand are watching the recordings Spock brought back. He tells Rand, "next tape please," but this time, he manages not to make a silly gesture. This tape will be the spectroanalysis tape ... wait, this is just the opening footage all over again. Same camera angle and everything. Spock, you lousy cheater. Did you do any work down there?
It's as though the crew were drugged, or irrational, he says, and even he looks disturbed recounting the craziness; a woman strangled, an engineer sitting there oblivious, a crewman with a phaser pistol in his hand... (phase pistol, Spock, they're phase pistols.) Bones says the bioanalysis proves conclusively that there were no drugs or intoxicants in their systems. Jim wants to know if this will create a danger involving the rest of the mission - keeping a tight watch and a tighter orbit around the diminishing planet. Spock warns that it will be a tricky, ever-changing orbit to maintain, and will require efficiency.
Jim grows frustrated at the lack of answers; in a critical orbit, there's no time for surprises, and they may need more power or for the helm to respond immediately. Scotty tells him, "unless you people on the bridge start taking showers with your clothes on, my engines can pull us out of anything." That disclaimer's going to save your ass later, mister.
Uhura breaks in with the news of a sudden 4 degree shift in the planet's magnetic field and a change in mass as well. They break up the meeting and get back to work.
Uhura calls all bridge personnel to their stations, and Sulu asks Joe if he's all right before they leave. Joe is not. He goes on and on about humans having no business out in space, polluting it, causing trouble wherever they go. He gets agitated, Sulu tries to calm him, and that's when Joe picks up a butter knife and starts getting all West Side Story.
First he brandishes it at them, but then he starts in with the survivor's guilt and turns the knife toward himself. Kevin rushes him, Sulu follows, and they all wrestle for the knife.
Fellas. It's a butter knife.
Oh hey, don't get up, checker players - three officers fighting over a weapon (of sorts) is no reason to call security.
They all hit the floor, and Kevin & Sulu roll away. Joe does not. They pick him up to find blood smeared all over his shirt. He fell on the butter knife. Again, good job there, Joe. Kevin gets up and calls for medics - see, checker players, handled for you! And then, Kevin stares at his hand and rubs it ... as an ominous hissing noise is heard. Oh no, now Kevin's got the space ebola, and we will all - and I'm not kidding about this - regret that development keenly.
Later, Kevin is at his station looking uncomfortable and rubbing his hand. Jim & Spock talk quietly about Joe - he'd been acting tortured beforehand, sure, but surely it was an accident. It just doesn't sound like the Joe they know. Spock remarks that Joe's capacity for self-doubt has always been rather high, but he's puzzled by what brought it to the surface so violently and forcefully.
I don't know, guys. He stupidly took off the only protective layer he had in an area where people died mysteriously, and then he fell on a butter knife. I'm thinking "death wish" is pretty apt.
Especially because Bones is just about ready to close up ol' Joe and call the surgery a success when Joe's vital signs start plummeting. Neither Bones nor Nurse Chapel know what the hell's going on, and nothing they do stems his decline. He dies there on the table, for no real reason other than he gave up.
Bones calls Jim to sickbay, and after a bit more exposition on the bridge, he heads down. Jim doesn't really like "he done gave up" as a reason for the death, but he's more concerned that this isn't a coincidence, given the crewmen's deaths on the planet. Bones says he's tested for everything possible and Jim tells him to test for the impossible too.
Meanwhile, Sulu, rubbing his hands (hear that ominous hissing?) tells Kevin that he's sweating like a bridegroom ... I'm just gonna leave that one alone. Grabbing Riley's shoulder, he says he's going to the gym - a light workout would take the edge off the situation. Kevin's surprised, to say the least. "Don't be a fool!" he tells Sulu as the helmsman steps into the turbolift.
Spock hears some inappropriate beeps from the helm, looks over his shoulder, sees an unmanned helm, and dashes over, pressing buttons, flipping switches, and keeping the ship from dropping right onto the planet. He asks Riley where Sulu is, and the response is "have no fear, O'Riley's here! And one Irishman is worth 10,000..." Spock dismisses him to sickbay and has Uhura cover his station.
A shirtless Sulu, brandishing a rapier and grinning like a kid, bursts out of the lift. He plays around a bit before coming across two crewmen and telling them with gusto, "you either leave this war bloody or with my blood on your souls!" He chases them down the corridor.
Uhura receives report of this and tells the captain. Shortly, Sulu bursts onto the bridge, whipping his rapier around. Jim tells him to put that thing away; instead he goes berserk lunging at everybody within range. Uhura smiles at him and tells him to give it to her, but he grabs her and pulls her to him, shouting, "I'll protect you, fair maiden!" "Sorry, neither!" she answers and tried to wriggle free.
Meanwhile, we have no power, time's running out, we are descending rapidly, and Kevin's started singing the first verse of that 20 verse epic, "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen." This is a disaster, not to put too fine a point on it.
Jim asks Scotty, who's trying to get back into Engineering, how he got locked out in the first place. The absolutely priceless answer? Riley told them Jim wanted them on the bridge, and locked the door behind them. His plan is to cut through the wall and use the circuits to open the door; Jim tells him to get started.
Massive turbulence sends everyone to the floor, and the planet looks a lot closer in the viewscreen. They now have 17 minutes before impact.
Spock goes to help Scotty, and along the way finds a crewman with a red paintbrush wheeling around a corridor screaming with laughter. He's painted "Love mankind" on the wall. Then he sees a crewman singing "I'll take you home again Janice" to Rand, refusing to let her pass. When Spock orders him to, he does, and jumps back in her way the minute he's out of sight. Finally, he gets to Scotty, who's cutting slowly. Spock informs him that he needs to shake a tailfeather, and is told that he's got to maintain a safety factor. Spock tells him that he will, at this rate, take a minute and a half longer than they have, so get busy. Scotty speeds up.
Next Spock heads to sickbay, where he meets up with a dreamy, wafty Christine. Before he can turn and leave to go find Bones, she takes his hand and sweetly tells him that she's in love with him, both the Vulcan and human sides. As we hear the hiss of infection, he softens toward her and tells her he's sorry. Uhura pages him to the bridge and he drifts out into the corridor, where he fights it, but ends up crying anyway. He barely makes it into Briefing Room 2 before breaking down completely.
Jim arrives at Engineering, where Scotty's just finishing up. As he makes ready to open the door, Jim tells him and his assistants "phasers on stun." In they go, they wheel Riley's chair around to face them, and he says glumly, "no dance tonight." Kirk has him sent to sickbay, and he and Scotty start to work. Uhura helpfully lets them know that they're entering the atmosphere. Scotty tells Jim in horror that Riley cut off the engines, and they're completely cold. They'll take 30 minutes to restart. Jim tells him they have 8.
Scotty - say it with me - canna change the laws of physics. You can't mix matter and antimatter cold unless you'd like to turn the ship into a fireball. Jim calmly says that they can balance the engines into a controlled implosion. It's only an untested theory, but it's all they've got. Jim needs Spock's help for the formula.
Bones is using Sulu as a guinea pig for an antidote to this craziness, and despite the screaming Sulu does before becoming lucid again, Bones is comfortable with this formula. He exposits pointlessly to a hysterically laughing lab worker that it's passed via perspiration and that it's the water - it's changed somehow to a complex chain of molecules, and once it's in the bloodstream, it acts like alcohol! He orders plenty of serum.
Jim finds Spock, who looks up at him and matter-of-factly tells him, "My mother. I could never tell her I loved her." Jim's reply, "we've got 4 minutes," doesn't make a dent. Spock goes on with the confessional - his mother, an earthwoman stuck on a planet where love is in poor taste, and he an awful son to her - and Jim's not getting through. When Spock says, "when I feel friendship for you, I'm ashamed," that tears it. Jim smacks Spock. Four or five times. Hard. Spock knocks him across the table and on to the floor. Spock says that the plan is just a theory and has never been done. Jim screams "Don't tell me that again, science officer! We need a formula! We may go up like the biggest ball of fire since the last sun in these parts exploded, but we've GOT. TO. TAKE. that 1 in 10,000 chance!" (That almost won Best Line, by the way.) After he screams at Uhura over the intercom that YES HE FOUND SPOCK ALREADY, we find out that we're at 3.5 minutes.
We hear the hiss of infection and Jim goes into full-on drunken confessional mode hilariously fast. He explains that he is missing out on a normal life, having this job; he's married to his beloved, demanding, bitch-goddess ship, he has a beautiful yeoman and can do nothing about it, he feels trapped ... no walks on the beach ... not for him. Spock looks about as excited to hear all this as Jim was to hear his confessional and says he thinks he can cobble together an intermix formula. He tears off to go meet Scotty.
Left behind, Jim looks around at his ship (the outer skin of which is now reaching 2170 degrees) and says, "never lose you ... never..."
Sulu's back at his station, and everybody is watching the planet come closer and closer as Jim steps onto the bridge. McCoy instantly rips the sleeve of his shirt and gives him the antidote shot. Jim sits down, looks at Janice, and almost touches her hair as he mutters, "no beach to walk on."
All is ready, and Jim gives the order: "engage." A high-pitched sound grows louder until the crew is in pain, and then the chronometer is rolling backward. Spock says they're moving faster than is possible for normal space (what?) and they realize they've gone back in time three days. Now that we know the formula works, we can go back in time, Spock says in a way that makes it sound like the writers were definitely going to go back to that well. (Strangely, they never did, despite coming up with several other ways to go back in time.)
Best Line of the Episode
Spock, after dropping Sulu with a neck pinch:
"Take D'Artagnan here to sickbay."
Midcentury Design Moment
The wall slot in the rec room - it's a cliche at this point, like hovercars, but being able to stick a card in a wall slot and instantly pull out a hot dinner corresponding to the card's contents is quintessential midcentury science fiction.
I know it's silly, but that's an intricate and pretty protective suit.
I See You've Managed To Get Your Shirt Off
Honorable mention: Bones rips his shirt to give him the vaccine.
It's Worse Than That, He's Dead Jim
This week, it's Chapel! "He's dead, doctor."
She Canna Take Any More, Captain
Scotty keeps trying to get more time when they're on a rather finite schedule. "I need 30 minutes." "Well, you've got 6." "How about 20, then?" "Still 6."