Star Trek: The Original Series

"All Our Yesterdays"

3.5 stars

Air date: 3/14/1969
Written by Jean Lisette Aroeste
Directed by Marvin Chomsky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As the end of the rambling final season draws near, along comes "All Our Yesterdays" to rebuild some of the series' dignity. In a genuinely inspired story concept, the people of a planet whose sun is going supernova are escaping death by transporting themselves into the past.

The site of the time jump is an intriguing "library" run by the pervasively indispensable Mr. Atoz (Ian Wolfe), who maintains an urgency that's as believable as it is humorous. Kirk ends up accidentally jumping into the past, where his attempts to return to the present land him in jail, accused as a witch. Upon trying to follow and locate Kirk, Spock and McCoy find themselves sent into the planet's ice age. Spock begins to undergo an emotional change, as being sent so far into the past has caused the ancient undisciplined side of Vulcan to emerge. Spock's situation allows him the rare opportunity to fall in love with the banished Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley), but also reveals the hidden darkness of Vulcans that is buried beneath the logic, intellect, and control.

This episode is enjoyable as a character study and as an efficiently flowing story. It's entertaining, nicely crafted, and leaves one pondering the "what ifs" when it ends.

Previous episode: The Savage Curtain
Next episode: Turnabout Intruder

◄ Season Index

14 comments on this review

Matt
Mon, Feb 18, 2008, 8:37am (UTC -6)
Although the 3rd season was a not Star Trek at its best, I still find the penultimate episode, "All Our Yesterdays" one of the most moving and interesting. Especially moving is when Spock comments that Zarabeth is dead and has been for 5,000 years. He shows no emotion yet one can still see the memory of the emotion he experienced when he traveled back in time. Perfect Spock moment and one of my finest memories of the show.
Will
Sat, Mar 29, 2008, 8:48am (UTC -6)
I've recently watched several S3 episodes on Joost, and been very pleasantly surprised by their quality, given that season's dismal reputation. The standouts noted above -- "The Empath" (can't watch that one without nearly breaking down), "Tholian Web," "The Enterprise Incident," and "All Our Yesterdays," particularly -- are among the best in the series. But even in the midst of dreck like "The Way to Eden," and indifferently written stories like "Elaan of Troyius," the cast -- particularly the leads -- still do very good work, as if determined by professional pride not to let a bad script and a network's dismissive contempt get to them. Those guys were GOOD, even when given sub-par or even atrocious material to work with.
ColoradoGamer
Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
This episode was followed up by two great books by A. C. Crispin
Nick p.
Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
I agree. This is a good fun episode, with an intriguing premise, and IMO easily the best episode of the third season. BTW, Jammer did you or anyone else notice something interesting about Mr. Atoz? A-to-Z
Moonie
Wed, May 14, 2014, 11:40am (UTC -6)
Honestly at this point I am just about fed up with those instant love stories that make the captain, the doctor and now the science officer want to leave their lives, their centuries, their friends behind for a scantily-clad woman they've known all of two hours. Too bad none of TOS' main crew ever got to have a healthy normal romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex - maybe this is why they hooked Spock up with Uhura in the new movies. Those men act like they've never seen a woman before, much less been in an actual relationship with one.

No, I didn't like this episode. But maybe that's because I just want to be done with the disaster that is TOS season 3.
navamske
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
This is a great episode with a great concept, but one thing bugs me. The Enterprise arrives at Sarpeidon to "warn" the inhabitants that their sun is about to go supernova in like twenty minutes. First there's the implicit paternalism implied in "the Sarpeidonites can't possibly have figured this out on their own, so they need us to tell them." Second and more important -- warn the populace that their sun is going kablooey in about twenty minutes? Seriously? The Enterprise crew doesn't know about the time travel schtick, so what would be accomplished by "warning" the inhabitants of the coming disaster except worldwide panic?
William B
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 2:21pm (UTC -6)
I quite like this episode as well. I know that Leonard Nimoy said that season three was a weak season overall and particularly weak for Spock, and it's hard to argue with that assessment of a season that contains "Spock's Brain." Still, some of the strongest episodes this season are Spock-focused, with Kirk consigned either to the action-adventure B-plot to Spock's emotional A-plot (this, "The Enterprise Incident") or taken out of the episode for long stretches nearly completely ("The Tholian Web"). Giving Kirk an action-adventure/suspense subplot, as happens here, with little emotional weight besides the question of whether Kirk can escape, both keeps the episode moving at a fast pace while the Spock/McCoy plot moves fairly deliberately, and also provides contrast. We know how hard it is for Kirk to get out of his predicament, the wheeling and dealing and punching and whatnot he has to do, and how he has to deal with both the past and with Mr. Atoz. However, this just serves to emphasize how much harder what Spock and McCoy have to do is: emotional difficulty, rather than physical. The Kirk plot also contains some comic relief; I especially like the shot of Atoz trying to cart an unconscious Kirk through the portal.

The real emotional core of the episode is the Spock/McCoy/Zarabeth story. Criticism out of the way first: I've always found the idea that Spock would retreat to pre-modern levels of Vulcan emotional control dubious. It would be one thing if he were "prepared" for going to the past, the way we are told Atoz can (and is supposed to) do. (Aside: this thing is handled pretty inconsistently in the episode; does Atoz "prepare" Kirk before going to send him through a portal, for example, and if so does that mean Kirk can't stay in the present? Why can Spock and McCoy stay in the past if they weren't "prepared"? What kind of "preparation" is this, anyway? It's clearly a plot device to force Zarabeth to "have to" stay in the past, and to provide a reason for Kirk to return to the present. I will accept it as such, I guess.) But Spock is not physically or internally changed by the move into the past. And even if he were physically changed in some way, Vulcan discipline is not a matter of physical parts of the brain but of regular practice and teaching. The way I tend to fanwank it is that it has to do with the mysterious, somewhat inconsistent Vulcan telepathy. We know, for instance, that Spock can feel the deaths of a Vulcan crew from light years away (from "The Immunity Syndrome"), and so by the same mysterious, improbable process, I could believe that the collective barbarism of the entire Vulcan species on his homeworld might reach him somehow.

Spock getting the chance to experience emotions, including love, and having it ripped away, were covered in "This Side of Paradise," and so this episode could feel redundant. Still, "TSOP's" spectrum of emotions as experienced by Spock (and the others) were extremely narrow, and I think it's fair to say that, joy or not, it's not much of a life. Spock is given here the chance to have the complete range of emotions, including the darker, angrier impulses that are even more powerful and more suppressed. When Spock says to McCoy, "I don't like that. I don't think I ever did," the temptation to let go of his propriety and express his anger pushes through pretty strongly. And in spite of Spock and McCoy's genuine closeness, it's hard to say that McCoy doesn't deserve some of Spock's anger (if not to a murderous degree!) at this point. The temptation to stay is in some senses greater here than it was in "TSOP," because the happy spores in "TSOP" more or less induced a euphoric state, whereas in this episode aspects of Spock's deeper desires, for good and ill, are unlocked; it feels quite natural.

And so id comes raging in: sex, meat, rage -- and having these natural inclinations and denying them all the time means having those restraints suddenly, dramatically lifted feels good. Further, McCoy of all people acting as the "voice of reason" makes it easy for Spock to ignore him for quite some time; it's very easy to believe that McCoy's rampant emotionality renders any of his judgments on Spock's behaviour, when Spock is veering toward the "irrational," easy to dismiss. McCoy and Spock's dynamic, then, is reversed. That Spock basically has to listen to McCoy, and then eventually has to return to the present because the two of them went through the portal together, reinforces the connectedness of these two. The two can't fully exist without the other; they can exist without Kirk, but they need each other, at least to a degree, in order to function, which is what "The Tholian Web" stated as well and what will continue into the movies. Spock and McCoy switching roles as a result of the time jump allows for Spock to get something of a handle on McCoy's usual frustration and for McCoy to see more clearly than usual what his constant berating of Spock must do to him, as well as a recognition of what it is that Spock's insistence on logic and propriety keeps at bay.

The romance between Spock and Zarabeth works for me, despite the short running time, because of the "unlocking" of Spock's emotions as imposed by the episode's plot, and because she really is quite beautiful. I do think that this makes the romance in "The Cloud Minders" seem particularly silly, since part of this episode relies on the recognition that having a real, open-hearted emotional relationship is extremely difficult for Spock, perhaps all the more so because he's half human and doesn't have the security in his Vulcan training that pure Vulcans have. For Game of Thrones viewers, something about this dynamic reminded me of Jon Snow and Ygritte, Zarabeth as a guide to life on the margins, away from what Spock had thought of as "civilization," which also happens to be a place where Spock will never quite feel at home. With Zarabeth, the ultimate outcast, alone in the middle of nowhere and deep in the past, Spock might have been able to "be himself," whatever that means, without fear of judgment, even judgment from himself. He also might eventually have killed her in a rage on their first lovers' quarrel. And ultimately, as much as he still feels like an outcast on the Enterprise, with McCoy in particular not really understanding him...he does belong there at least to an extent.

I think it's a strong outing and one which, I agree, allows the series to end with some dignity. 3.5 stars.
Lt Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:37am (UTC -6)
OH MY F'IN GARD! Could these guys take any friggin' longer to beam the hell out of there? Holy Christmess! I was screaming at the TV, "BEAM UP ALREADY!" They had me wishing they would have disintegrated in the supernova and that be the end of Star Trek forever. "Get us out of here, Scotty!" "It's too late, Captain!" WHAAAAM!
Jon
Sat, Jul 1, 2017, 5:55am (UTC -6)
Wonderful episode with some marvellous Nimoy line readings.
Rahul
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 7:41pm (UTC -6)
A wonderful episode -- kind of like "The City on the Edge of Forever" but for Spock. It is a Spock-focused episode but really about the bond between McCoy and the Vulcan with a reversed dynamic. Kirk really has a secondary role to play here.

Pretty interesting premise although with time travel there tends to be some loopholes. The idea of being prepared to go to whatever time period is a bit loosely dealt with. Presumably Kirk would have been prepared when Atoz attempted to shove him through the portal, so what does that do about him staying in the present time?

The other loose end is that when the star supernovas, won't it destroy the atavachron on the planet thus destroying all the past as well? Shouldn't the atavachron need to be running in order for the past to still exist? Another minor nitpick would be that Spock is supposed to be more susceptible to cold than McCoy yet it is the doctor who suffers far worse from the cold.

In any case, this is a terrific episode for seeing the range of emotions Spock goes through and more excellent acting from Nimoy. McCoy is the voice of reason/logic whereas Spock is emotional -- gets angry, falls in love.

The romance between Spock and Zarabeth comes on fairly quickly -- it didn't build as nicely and as naturally as Kirk/Keeler in "tCotEoF" but it still works. Spock is highly emotional, Zarabeth is very lonely (and beautiful and accommodating). The ending where Spock says she's been dead for 5000 years is a touching moment -- McCoy knows what he felt. In a way, it is a bit like Kirk saying "Let's get the hell out of here" at the end of "tCotEoF" -- there's a lot of emotion he's trying to get over after seeing Keeler get run over by a car.

3.5 stars for "All our Yesterdays" -- the penultimate TOS episode is a winner. May not be considered one of the Star Trek classics but there's plenty to like about this especially that Spock/McCoy bond and how they go through the time portal together and return together. Definitely one of the best episodes of S3 TOS.
Dave
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
The notion that travelling far back in time reverts Spock to the state that Vulcans of that time were in is like suggesting that a human travelling back to the Jurassic era would become a dinosaur.
Trek fan
Wed, Dec 13, 2017, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
A touching Spock story with a poignant Sci-Fi setup, "All Our Yesterday's" is one of my favorite Trek episodes. The way it separates Spock/McCoy from Kirk, and ALL three of them from the Enterprise whose interiors we never even see in this one, remains unique in TOS despite the more routine reset-romance subplot. I gladly give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

When I first saw this episode as a kid, I was moved by Spock's tragic romance with Zarabeth, as he devolves mentally into a more primitive state (and yes, I think that's plausible given his isolation from the logical trappings and mental bond with Vulcans of his own time) and begins gradually to show alarming signs of shirking his duty to remain with the woman who loves him. Today I'm a bit more "meh" on Zarabeth, having seen the entire series including Spock romances like "This Side of Paradise" that make the beats feel more routine, but Nimoy still plays the part well. This story feels like the more challenging performance for him, given that he needs to show gradual loss of control rather than a sudden alien-induced emotionalism as in earlier episodes, and he has some nice chemistry with the guest actress who unfortunately isn't terribly strong. As their shared loneliness smolders into a deep attraction, and McCoy becomes alarmed at the realization that he can't get back to the future alone without Spock, there is still some genuine tension in the dilemma.

The Sci-Fi setup of a planet whose people travel back into their own history to avoid destruction by their sun's supernova -- a highly understandable way of coping with an inconsolable disaster, as I can understand their preferring to live on their home soil even in the past to current-day diaspora, if resettling on another planet was even an option -- is to me one of the best and most intriguing in Trek. And I don't mind so much how the Big Three get there: While trying to ascertain where the planet's population went to avoid the supernova, Kirk hears a woman scream and acccidentally jumps into the time machine, and McCoy and Spock jump in after him. Makes sense to me: They wanted to stick around just long enough to find out where people went and make sure they're safe; there's no way they could have known what would happen. When they land in different places, there's a real shock in the realization that they will spend most of the episode incommunicado and completely cut off from their own time period, and I like that extra edge. The time machine -- Automocron? -- perfected by the planet's society is fascinating, as we learn that it was used in the past to sentence criminals like Zarabeth, who is apparently from a time earlier than the present-day supernova, when she was sentenced to the ice age for life by a tyrant. Meanwhile, Kirk meets a magistrate in the planet's Salem Witch Trial age who is actually from the present day and has chosen to flee into this particular time period, learning that the machine needs to prepare them to survive in the past or else they will die there. On the other hand, if they are not prepared on a molecular level before time travel, they must return to the future before they die.

On this point, watching Spock rebuff McCoy's digs and become the Alpha Male of their three-person universe is also intriguing: Spock's actions are technically logical, as he mistakenly thinks he and McCoy can no longer survive in the future, and McCoy is the one illogically clinging to the hopes of return. Yet Spock seems a bit too quick to accept the apparent logic of the situation for illogical reasons, namely his attraction to Zarabeth. In any event, his closing line about Zarabeth being dead for 5,000 years is moving in its self-inflicted coldness. If the planet's people cope with their pain by fleeing into whichever part of its past, they idealize most, Spock is a man who copes with his personal pain through logic, allowing his brain to soothe his feelings. This kind of emotional suppression is not the best coping mechanism for an emotional crisis, obviously, but it's a key part of Spock's character nicely essayed by Nimoy here.

Meanwhile, Kirk plays around in the renaissance fair and returns to the library, where he talks to Scotty (audio only -- and Scotty is the only other cast member in this episode since we never see the ship's interior) and contends with the irritating Mr. Atoz. The scene where he pushes Kirk in thte library cart is funny. Indeed, the colorful and over-the-top Kirk action subplot is almost comic relief between the increasingly desperate cave scenes. I like the Spock-McCoy dynamics when McCoy finally says something like "my life is back there, and I'm going to try, because I want that life." Another unusual touch is that McCoy (with this dialogue, in which he decides to return to the portal) and not Spock ends up saving them from the death they do not even know awaits them (they merely think they are lost in the past forever) if they stay too long in the past.

If we compare this final Spock episode to the next and final episode "Turnabout Intruder," which is the final Kirk episode, I think this one is the real winner. While "Intruder" has plenty of Shatnering, the spectacle of Shatner pretending to be a woman in a man's body, and the female guest star pretending to be Shatner in her body, feels weird and uncomfortable. By contrast, "All Our Yesterdays" delivers a classic tragedy that looks through a Sci-Fi lens at how hurting people cope with impossible loss, and offers some really solidly thoughtful stuff on that.
Lmo
Thu, Dec 14, 2017, 12:02am (UTC -6)
I also liked the character actors in the 1700's type era Kirk lands in. That whole dimension and the characters in it (the woman accusing Kirk of witchcraft, the magistrate, and the jailer) was very well done.
Trent
Sun, Dec 17, 2017, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
Trekfan, William and Rahul said it all and said it well. This is one of the highlights of season 3, and ably blends a great SF concept with good character work. And like most episodes which place Bones and Spock alone together, it's packed with touching gestures of friendship.

Submit a comment





Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2018 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.