Star Trek: The Original Series

"Tomorrow Is Yesterday"


Air date: 1/26/1967
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by Michael O'Herlihy

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise is hurled back through time to Earth of the 1960s, where they inadvertently become the subject of Air Force Captain John Christopher's (Roger Perry) UFO sighting. After beaming him aboard the ship following an accident that destroys his jet, Kirk is forced to prohibit him from returning to Earth and contaminating the timeline with knowledge from the future. The only problem: Removing Christopher from Earth would also contaminate the timeline, because his unborn son would not be able to make a vital contribution to Earth's history as the future knows it.

As Trek's first time-travel outing, "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" is a brilliantly fascinating story, beginning with its exciting opening shots of the Enterprise flying through Earth's sky, and continuing through an adventure where the crew must remove all traces of their presence in the past by breaking into an Air Force base and stealing video recordings of the Enterprise. All of this is a great deal of fun, but the subtext of "Tomorrow" is what really stands out here: Through Christopher, this becomes a story analyzing the significance of any random individual and how they can make a difference in the world. And putting Christopher in the center of the story allows us to see the Enterprise and the future through his eyes.

True, the ultimate solution to the story's problem has its share of inconsistencies and loopholes (why is it traveling back in time would only clear Christopher's memory and not the Enterprise crew's?), but who really cares? This was a pioneer time-travel outing for Trek, and a great one at that, beginning a tradition of storytelling open to limitless possibilities.

Previous episode: Arena
Next episode: Court Martial

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18 comments on this review

Thu, Mar 29, 2012, 12:43am (UTC -5)
I wouldn't give this 4 stars, but I loved this episode. The atypical opening scene, the more serious speculations/paradoxes involving Christopher, the action/suspense, the way the episode just leaves you thinking about all the possibilities, the fistfights (I looooove TOS-style fistfights) and the light humor scattered throughout--it's all very well balanced and very effective. Ang the guy playing Christopher did an excellent job of conveying a sense of awe and wonder at the future life he was experiencing.

The only problem that keeps it just short of 4 stars in my opinion is the ending- it gets a little confusing and Treknobabblish, to the point where I couldn't quite understand it and it kind of snapped me out of the moment. Also, you'd think the Enterprise would have better security, or keep a closer watch on Christopher after his multiple escape attempts. But those are just small nitpicks in an otherwise awesome episode. Jammer pretty much nails it.

3.5 stars (but it comes close to a 4)
Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 11:42am (UTC -5)
I also like when Kirk is temporarily in the custody of the military MP - they threaten him with putting him in the slammer for 200 years if he doesn't come clean, and he rather non-chalantly says that sounds about right. Definitely an entertaining, and seeing the enterprise in the atmosphere is a cool visual. Though one would think the enterprise would just drop like a rock, what's keeping it up, anti-gravity units?
Thu, May 24, 2012, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
3 or 4 stars? Light moments but ending was incorrect. I think we all know that there was no reason for the 1060s characters to forget what happened to them. Didn't really understand the ending. Noticed voyage home referenced this episode a lot. Especially 'what's what?' when his comm chirped.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
In my view, one of the most underrated episodes in the Trek pantheon. Provides the perfect balance between drama and humour. My favourite moment is when Christopher walks on to the bridge and says "I don't believe in little green men", and then Spock replies "I don't either". The delivery of Nimoy is priceless!
Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 3:40pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode. I am a big fan of time travel plots and this was really well done. Apart from the obvious question - why doesn't the Enterprise crew forget what happened, while captain Christopher does?? But I find there are one or two (or more...) little slips like that in almost every Star Trek episode and by now I'e become perfectly willing to overlook them for the sake of the story. And this was a great story. One of my personal four-stars episodes.
Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
I prefer GOOD science, in my science fiction.
this episode fails HORRIBLY in that regard.
(even for 1960-standards)

*WARP speed is supposed to be FASTER than light.
(the WARPING of space, thats why normal relativity does not count)

*the sling-shot effect of a star might give you fast speed, but NEVER faster than light, hence it would at best give you normal (aka impuls-speed)

*one can NOT travel back in time in normal impuls speed, only slow down time that effect at 0.5 impulsspeed (or halve the speed of light would be nearing a factor 6000 (or 1.7 hours passing relativily for ever second experienced while traveling at 0.5 impuls) The story that gravity would cause rime to go BACKWARDS is total bullshit.

*the kind of slingshot effect needed to even GET a proper time dialation effect would need something FAR more massive than our sun, like the black hole at the center of out galaxcy, one slingshot around that MIGHT give a ship 0.5 impuls.

*there IS no difference between speed and gravity, both are the same force, having the same effect on time.

*they are slingshot away from the sun, saying they travel at off the chart speeds, way faster than warp 8. given that warp-factor is compression factor. they should move out of the solar system in a blink, the distance they travel (sun to earth) should have taken them a lot shorter and at that speed they should have flows far out of the solar system in no second at all.

Here is the data :
(warp 1 = 1.00-9.99* speed of light)
(warp 2 = 10.00-99.99* speed of light)
(warp 3 = 100.00-999.99* speed of light)
(warp 4 = 1000.00-9999.99* speed of light)
(warp 5 = 10000.00-99999.99* speed of light)
(warp 6 = 100000.00-999999.99* speed of light)
(warp 7 = 1000000.00-9999999.99* speed of light)
(warp 8 = 10000000.00-99999999.99* speed of light)
(warp 9 = 100000000.00-99999999.99*speed of light)

Given that it's of the chart.. it must have been at least warp 9.0
thats at least 100 MILLION times faster than the speed of light.
the distance between the sun and earth is about 6 light-minutes.
It would have taken : 0,0000036 seconds to reach earth at warp 9.0

given that we have seen this speed activated for about 57 seconds (time between sulu saying of the chart, and the captain being beamed down)
the distance traveled would have been a little over 180 lightyears.

the only thing that MIGHT be possible is that black matter star, causing a distortion in the warp-field causing it to warp time too, into the negative.

-> getting back would just have needed them to travel a while at impuls speed. (one other common mistake in star trek, they travel WAY to much at impuls without showing any of the time-differiental problems that that would cause.
Andy's Friend
Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
@DutchStudent82: What?! Do you mean that they don't really fly super super fast in Star Trek? Do you mean that... when Superman flew around and around the Earth so fast that time went backwards, that it... never really happened?!... Do you mean that... that... that Father Christmas doesn't exist at all?! Bwahaha, I want my mommy...!!! ;)
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
Too funny you two.

Never crazy about this one. Produced well and had its cute moments, but what really happened? What was the story? Beam pilot aboard, beam him back, go back to future. Yawn.

The whole time travel vehicle has been utilized very well in the trek universe, just not here, imho.
Thu, Oct 16, 2014, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Well RedShirt I believe the story was exactly what the review said it was... The impact one random individual can have on the world and the future. Or if you would prefer the ramifications of seemingly unimportant moments... Maybe by beaming that particular pilot aboard he took the hope and awe he saw in the future back home with him and gave his son a belief and not a dream. Or maybe it was just "beam a pilot aboard,beam him back and go back to the future.
Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 6:11am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 4. It was a very good ep., but not perfect. Especially with the goofy time-warp stuff that provided such a neat and tidy ending. I have to say that I wasn't really looking forward to re-watching it on Netflix, but it was more enjoyable than I remembered it being. And hey, it provided a basis for "A Voyage Home", goofy 'science' and all. :)

Also, I found it funny that the military people watching the skies immediately presumed, "UFO! Let's go look at it, and maybe blow it up!" Wouldn't they really have thought, "OMG, it's mysterious Russian technology sent to blow us sky high! We'd better blow it up NOW. Nuclear missiles at the ready!" In reality, the Enterprise probably wouldn't have stood a chance of survival.
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 11:35am (UTC -5)
I remember this episode from when I was a kid and it was shown for the first time on TV. As always, I was front and center for my favorite show, only one of a few I was allowed to watch all week (straight-A student, strict parents). I felt such extreme disappointment that I'd missed it as I silently cursed (no cursing out loud!) how I could have gotten the time wrong... only to have my breath taken away literally in surprise, in joy, awestruck when I saw the Enterprise against a blue sky and clouds. Few things have stuck with me as much, perhaps, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," which I didn't see coming, and maybe, "Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" as another wide emotional swing from pure tension to giddy laughter.
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 6:22pm (UTC -5)
Interesting that Jammer and most of the commenters gave this one such high ratings. I have to say that I found it to be the weakest episode until now (still haven't reached the end of season 1). As someone above said: Nothing really happened. Plus I thought the crew acted pretty stupid, especially Kirk. He beams past guy aboard, shows him aorund the whole ship (don't you just love how on all incarnations of Star Trek, every random doofus can just enter the command bridge?) and tells him everything about where they came from. I get that certain time travel tropes where not fully formed yet when this was written, but shouldn't the logical course of action be to have Christopher confined to a cell and isolated, or better yet: just stun him? Then they break into an army base, get captured by a generel or whatever (who would have thought that sensitive files in a military base would be guarded?) and end up beaming him aboard the Enterprise too. All remaining problems are solved by beating every soldier they meet senseless. Well, all that would simply make for a stupid episode, but what really made me hate it were the attempts at humor and how they were accentuated by the annoyingly obvious music. A woman on a spaceship? Cue some sexy sax! Spock raises his eyebrows? Time for a whimsical little theme! But of cour├če, the visuals were auite striking, so all in all there are about two minutes worth of watchable material here. :)
Sun, Aug 9, 2015, 4:39am (UTC -5)
I liked it. Also, when Kirk throws a punch, he really THROWS a punch.
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
I'm with CPUFP--is Kirk seriously such an idiot that he just starts telling Christopher EVERYTHING after beaming him aboard? He needed Spock to inform him that there might be consequences for messing with time? That made me so angry.

Then, they decide to hold Christopher prisoner because of their screw up? I don't think I have ever seen such a cruel suggestion. Christopher is a man of honor--how about they just stress to him how important it is that he not reveal what he knows?

That being said, I did find this an enjoyable outing. Unlike Pam above however, i did not enjoy the fighting. We are supposed to believe Kirk is the best fighter ever, able to take on three military men by himself? He's not Superman, just from the future.
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 6:41am (UTC -5)
@Andy's Friend - Actually, in Superman, the intent was that Superman is flying faster than light, and that's why he's going back in time. IIRC, in an interview or DVD commentary I heard that they had him fly around the Earth, because they thought showing the Earth spinning backwards would indicate to the audience that time was flowing backwards.

Of course, we all read it the other way, that is, that superman is causing the Earth to spin backwards to reverse time. :)
Sat, Aug 6, 2016, 2:00pm (UTC -5)
Speed and gravity are not the same thing.
Acceleration and gravity are equivalent.
Thu, Sep 15, 2016, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Good stuff, DutchStudent82. Perfect parody of nerd complaints!
Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 2:54pm (UTC -5)

True, acceleration and gravity are two words describing the same effect of force applied to an object over time, and how that changes the amount of weight we experience.

but I believe what DutchStudent82 was referring to was that Speed and Gravity have identical effects on time dilation. Extreme Increases in either and the time dilation effect is increased.

About this episode, while I am a huge fan of reading Hard Sci Fi, I am willing to give a lot of the bad Science in movies and TV shows a pass. My biggest pet peeves are when the motivations of the characters are so Out of Character, just to move the plot forward. As many here have noted, Kirk would never have just walked this pilot from the past around the Enterprise, describing all the future tech.

But as a kid, I thought this episode was fantastic.

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