Star Trek: The Original Series

"Journey to Babel"


Air date: 11/17/1967
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Spock's parents, Vulcan ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) and his wife Amanda (Jane Wyatt), board the Enterprise for transport to a conference for Federation consulates. But trouble arises when a heated argument between Sarek and a Tellarite representative forms the basis for the suspicion of Sarek when the Tellarite later turns up dead—by way of an ancient Vulcan method. Meanwhile, the episode scrutinizes Spock and some of his life's choices, which has formed the uneasy rift between him and his father.

There are a lot of good uses of characters in "Journey to Babel," which has a plot that seems to go in every direction at once, yet still makes plenty of sense. In addition to the murder mystery, there's a medical emergency when Sarek suffers a heart attack and the only chance for his survival is an experimental surgery requiring a blood transfusion from Spock. Meanwhile, Kirk ends up in sickbay after being attacked by an Andorian. This puts Spock in command, who is forced to delay the transfusion because he must be on the bridge as an alien ship pursues the Enterprise with less-than-friendly intentions. Kirk slyly being a trouper and coming to the bridge to allow Spock to attend to his father is a humorous and very Kirk-like endeavor—especially after the crisis breaks out and Kirk finds he can't go back to sickbay. The murder mystery angle is maybe a bit unnecessary (Sarek is of course absolved), although it connects with the espionage angle involving the alien ship.

"Journey to Babel" probably has just a little too much plot, but fortunately this doesn't get in the way of seeing how Spock addresses his duty, his family, and the uneasy balance between his humanity and Vulcan rationality.

Previous episode: Metamorphosis
Next episode: Friday's Child

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6 comments on this review

Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 11:24pm (UTC -6)
This marks the 40th episode in the series and the best of them. Easily four stars for the plot, character development, humor, pacing and direction. This is a Spock episode while still utilizing the other main characters well.

This episode is why I personally love the Trek universe.
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 10:07am (UTC -6)
Good last line from McCoy, as he successfully shushes both Spock and Kirk, being patients in his Sick Bay:
"Well, what do you know! I finally got the last word!"

Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:11am (UTC -6)
This could have been a two-parter, but they just weren't of a mind to do such things back then.

I loved it, and one reason why is we FINALLY get a real taste of the Federation. A couple of the trial episodes hinted at it, but this is the most Federation-focused TOS episode.

From this one outing, Andorians and Tellerites became Trek folklore. I don't know why they didn't develop them a bit more.
Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:57pm (UTC -6)
I agree with William. This is probably the only episode of TOS or at least one of a few that focused on the Federation. This was a great politic episode. It's a shame that they weren't able to show more alien crewmember besides Spock. It was also great to see different alien races. This is truly TV ahead of it's time. The only thing Star Wars had on Trek is that they were able to do it on a better budget. Tough break the fans have to wait until Enterprise to see a good episodes featuring Andorians and Tellerites. The other trek shows did a good job of defining things introduce on TOS.
Tue, Dec 23, 2014, 10:59am (UTC -6)
I concur with everyone above - a wonderfully made episode, 4 star treatment all around. This episode is so foundational, with its exploration of Spock's parents and past, so large in scope with a Federation focus that feels like an interplanetary collective with the Tellerites and Andorians, and not just some Earth-focused abstracted bureaucracy. It's also so dramatic with great tension over the murder/spy plot, Sarek's threatened life, and Spock's harrowing (and Mother-infuriating) decision based on absolute devotion to the rules and regs vs. Kirk and McCoy's clever circumvention of Spock's determinations.

I also agree that it's kind of too bad that the Andorians and Tellerites didn't get much play in later series, except for Enterprise (and the Andorians in particular were quite the highlight on that otherwise hit-and-miss, often lacklustre show).
St. Manfred
Sat, Apr 9, 2016, 1:51pm (UTC -6)
I agree with everyone, an amazing episode.

However, I am somewhat surprised that no one realized a glaring inconsistency in Spock's mother's behavior: when she first learns that Spock might die trying to save his father, she sternly opposes it, claiming that she "won't risk both of" them. But later, when Spock prioritizes his duty to the ship over the blood transfusion, she desperately tries to convince Spock to help Sarek.

3.5 stars from me.

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