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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9 comments on this review

SpiceRak2
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
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.
dgalvan
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 10:07am (UTC -5)
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!"

William
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:11am (UTC -5)
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.
stallion
Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 10:57pm (UTC -5)
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.
Beth
Tue, Dec 23, 2014, 10:59am (UTC -5)
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 -5)
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.
Rahul
Fri, Mar 3, 2017, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
This is terrific episode as others have said. What's fantastic is that there's so much going on, yet it all works together so well. Obviously, not a single scene wasted.
This is a very well thought out episode - the backdrop of ambassadors dealing on their way to a conference underlies murder/spying/Spock's family, and as others have said, getting a better idea of UFP (not just Earth and Vulcan) members.
In the opening scene, I would have thought Kirk knew that Sarek was Spock's father. He has egg on his face when Spock informs him.
I guess it was convenient Scotty wasn't involved in the episode (no Sulu either) -- I think Spock should be able to give command to him and go to give his transfusion initially -- but that would rob us of his mom slapping his face.
I think the challenge of Spock's mom is well portrayed and the episode continues to chip away at developing Spock's character (after "Amok Time"). Spock is a major part of Trek and probably back in the 60s, folks would have benefited from seeing his Vulcan character develop.
This is another 4/4 stars episode for me. Edge of your seat stuff - can't really find any faults with it -- it's an action-packed hour with a clever plot and all the qualities that made Trek TOS so good, including the usual bit of humor at the end.
TOS Season 2 is doing quite well thus far -- I don't think I'm generous in my ratings, but as I go through chronologically, I've given 3 of the last 5 episodes 4/4 stars! More of a coincidence than anything.
I don't know what's up with Jammer for rating "Journey to Babel" the same as "I, Mudd". Don't see how that can be the case.
blt
Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 5:36am (UTC -5)
Only thing that should have been changed, was not knowing Spock,s parents. This should be common Federation knowledge. Otherwise outstanding episode.
Rick
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
If the episode entertains and is well written, and has something to say, it's not really worth looking too deep into it. I agree with the vast majority of the ratings but this one's a top 5 and should be 4 stars.

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