Star Trek: The Original Series

"Amok Time"

3 stars

Air date: 9/16/1967
Written by Theodore Sturgeon
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Season two kicks off with an episode that can best be described as, well, fun. Spock finds himself at the mercy of the Pon Farr, the intense Vulcan mating cycle that clouds his logic and causes him to lose control of his emotions, eventually requiring him to return home and take a wife. Failure to do so would cause a chemical imbalance that could kill him. Interestingly, Spock is completely non-forthcoming about this problem—it's such an illogical and shameful dilemma that Vulcans cannot bring themselves to openly discuss.

"Amok Time" is the type of episode that is a success of attitude and character, and came at a time during the series where the characters were well defined. The plot isn't much to speak of, but it serves its purpose—although the rules of Spock's chemical-emotional overload seem a little bit arbitrary. (How could he be distracted by Kirk's death enough to overcome unconditional biological functions?)

A visit to Vulcan, a big fight between Kirk and Spock, and McCoy rigging the game with a clever ploy—it's irresistible stuff. And who could forget the classic moment when Spock finds himself overjoyed to realize that he hadn't actually killed Kirk as he had thought?

Previous episode: Operation—Annihilate!
Next episode: Who Mourns for Adonais?

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66 comments on this post

Tue, Nov 29, 2011, 6:25pm (UTC -6)
I hated Amok Time. In season 1, we believed that the Vulcans (or Vulcanians) were logical. In Amok Time, we saw a Vulcan society depdndant on the pomp of circumstance and males with a 7 year emotional cycle. How is this logical? And before anyone says it, I know its all make believe, but why create a logical society on the foundation of illogicality? Not one of Sturgeons finest hours. He created the law "99% of anything is crud". I think he underestimated in this episode.
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 1:25am (UTC -6)
I've heard others question the premise that Spock could just "get over" his terminal hormonal overload because he'd killed Kirk, but it made sense to me that after the battle, the hormones were dissipated. Vulcans allow for either battle or sex at that time, and Spock engaged in a battle, so he didn't need the sex.

I liked the earlier scenes in this episode, with the concern and awkwardness between Spock and Kirk, and McCoy's worry over Spock's behavior. I liked that Spock asked both men, not just Kirk, to stand with him. The battle scene was a missed opportunity, though--we could have seen more primal bloodlust from Spock and more don't-make-me-kill-you concern from Kirk. And yay for McCoy being the hero!
Sun, Mar 3, 2013, 10:34am (UTC -6)
As a life long Trekker who is old enough to have seen TOS when it was the ONLY Star Trek, you completely miss that this is one of the most important episodes in the Trek universe. This is Vulcan Culture 101! This is first time we learn about Pon Farr. This is our only visit to the much mentioned but never seen Vulcan. This establishes the character T'Pau. Fun? That is entirely too glib an analysis of one of the most essential episodes to understanding Star Trek. This is a four star episode because of it's importance to everything that we understand about Vulcans in every series and movie 40 years henceforth.
Sun, Mar 3, 2013, 10:41am (UTC -6)
Before someone nitpicks about my previous comments, this is only visit to Vulcan in TOS. Still to dismiss Amok Time as just another episode is like saying Scotty is just another red shirt. You can't understand Vulcans without watching Amok Time period.
Sun, Mar 3, 2013, 11:00am (UTC -6)
Paul, you obviously don't understand Vulcans. The Vulcans are not naturally born logical. They EMBRACED logic as a matter of self preservation. Vulcans are by nature savage and warlike. They embraced logic after their vicious nature nearly destroyed their civilization. The mating drive is the only part of their nature they couldn't tame. Vulcans are disgusted and embarrassed by Pon Farr but just as with human sex drive, they can't rule over their sex drive work just logic. Sex isn't
logical. That was the whole point of Amok Time. I'm so sorry you don't get it.
Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Very fun and clever episode. @Paul - I understand your complaint, but I actually took that as the point of the episode; the Vulcan people pride themselves on their cooly logical exterior, but up close their culture, like their mating drive is actually as messy as everyone else's. Interesting that the p'onn farr is presented as a secret; apparently the Vulcans hide quite a lot they don't want known from other Starfleet races. A sign of vanity or insecurity among the "purely logical" Vulcans, perhaps? Great bit at the end where we see Spock's authentic happiness; one of the few times he's allowed to express emotions not caused by diseases or weird alien influences.
Ren C
Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 6:40pm (UTC -6)
My question about this episode is if it's supposed to be a fight to the death how does Kirk explain his continued existence to the Vulcans? Does that mean that Spock didn't actually have to kill him after all but just defeat him?
Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 10:26pm (UTC -6)
I'd give this four stars.
William B
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
What really struck me on the latest rewatch is how even though Leonard Nimoy wrings a lot of genuine pathos out of Spock's problem in this episode, he also kind of plays Spock as an awkward, horny teenager: all lanky, seeming uncomfortable with his body, uncertain what to do with himself, trying in vain to remember what his normal behaviour is and to mimic it while his mind is elsewhere, and full of shame. One of the things that makes Spock so appealing to a lot of Trek's fanbase is, and I think always has been, that he's a geek icon (I don't mean geek pejoratively here, and count myself among them): like Data later will be, he is a character we are meant to admire who values intellectual pursuits, science, and rationality, and is disinterested in the emotional flights of fancy that everyone else seems to indulge in; but unlike Data, Spock prefers it that way. The world can sometimes seem hostile to people who value logic above emotion, to people who are "cold," and Spock is the repudiation of that, at least in part. Spock's embarrassment that he can't control his mating instinct, and that said instinct is totally irrational, seems to me to be partly directed at science nerds, especially teenage ones, who value logic above all else and yet find with a shock that they are at least partly at the mercy of their biology and hormones, after having made a big deal out of placing emotions low on the list of personal values.

I kinda sorta suspect, too, that the pon farr idea is part of the show's general effort to head off the possible negative consequences that one could expect from a hyper-rational perspective on reproduction. "Space Seed" pretty clearly lays out the show's stance on the Eugenics movement. But if there is nothing to reproduction but sensible, logical choices, and if emotion is also further eliminated (which is the assumption that Kirk has going into it), then Vulcans could all choose their mates based not on what is best for them personally but best for the species as a whole, and end up taking the reins of their own evolution and leading it who knows where. Well, or maybe not. If nothing else, the sex drive in *humans* is as powerful as it is because we need to continue propagating the species, and the desire to have sex sometimes is more powerful than the desire to have children in and of itself.

The choice to represent the mating instinct in Vulcans as something out of control, which can only be corralled through very extensive rituals, is mostly about the mysteries of love and sexual attraction in our world, which are fuzzy for *us*, and we as a species acknowledge emotions as valuable in a way Vulcans do not, and our emotions are much less extreme than Vulcans' are naturally. According to McCoy, "They still go mad at this time. Perhaps it's the price they pay for having no emotions the rest of the time." This makes sense to me; the pon farr probably becomes not just about mating, but about a ritual release of years of pent up emotions, a necessary catharsis. Back in "This Side of Paradise," Kirk wasn't sure that Spock would be able to restrain his anger against him once Kirk got him going; Vulcans keep a lid on their emotions partly because if they *start* to get carried away by their emotions, they may not stop, and the pon farr period is the time in which they let themselves get carried away. The ritual itself is appropriately weird, involved, and somehow resonant in a hard-to-pin-down way; the T'Pau character was a great touch, lending an air of gravitas to the proceedings. You get the impression that only someone of total self-control can enforce the rituals in a way that is suitable and acceptable to all parties. The scene takes place in the hot Vulcan desert, which connects to the series' various Western motifs ("wagon train to the stars") and also suggests the fragility of civilization and the return to ancient roots, which cannot be excised wholly.

This is of course a huge deal for the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad, focusing in on Spock but also the amount of caring the three of them have for each other in general. This is one of the first times in which it's acknowledged outright that Spock and McCoy have affection for each other underneath the banter, and I think this would be difficult to play out before "The Galileo Seven" (for instance). Spock's eventually coming to confide in Kirk about his secret shame is a breakthrough in their friendship, too, because for the most part Spock maintains his unflappable air as much as possible even with those he is closest to; his trust that Kirk will not use this knowledge against him, or will not lose respect for him, is hard-won and difficult. Spock *begging* everyone not to let Kirk fight him, and Kirk's going in anyway because it might save Spock, works as well. And then there's the big fight scene itself, with the series' single most memorable music cue (not counting the theme song), that intense battle theme music which had been playing as a recurring theme all through the episode, much more slowly and quietly. Talk about your no-win scenarios for Kirk: either he dies or he kills Spock, neither of which he can obviously permit.

I don't actually mind that Spock breaks free of his blood fever trance after he "kills" Kirk, for reasons that other commenters have mentioned above. And partly because I do think that it's the catharsis that is needed; the intensity of emotion that leads up to the ponn farr may in fact not be to help spur Vulcans on to mating in and of itself, but to have the strength to kill for their mates, and presumably to then mate as some sort of "prize." (Which is a bit of a gross way of looking at it, of course.) More to the point, in a fundamental way, a part of Spock really did "die" when he apparently killed Kirk -- because, for everything else he is,

I do kind of mind the resolution from a plot level only insofar as McCoy's plan could easily have gone so absolutely, terribly wrong -- either Kirk could have passed out when Spock wasn't touching him, thus making McCoy's ploy obvious, or, much more seriously, Spock could just have killed Kirk when he passed out at which point Kirk would have been unable to defend himself. They got lucky, in other words, and it's a kind of lucky that the episode doesn't seem to acknowledge; I get the impression we're supposed to assume McCoy's plan was a good one, rather than an act of absolute desperation. But whatever: what does work about it is McCoy as a kind of trickster figure; Spock's being in the throes of the blood fever means he can't see outside it, and Kirk's absolute devotion to Spock and need to save him keep his vision similarly narrow. Even though McCoy is usually the most emotional of the three, this time he's the one with a cool enough head to figure out a way out of the situation through cunning and trickery, in a way that serves as a reminder of the importance of the trio as a trio rather than just a duo; the instability inherent in any group-of-three has the positive side effect that the third can help the other two out of a situation in which they're stuck.

My favourite scenes in the episode are the two major post-fight scenes -- the first between Spock and T'Pring, the second with the Big Three, wherein Spock discovers Kirk is alive. Spock's sad, dejected acceptance of the cold, methodical logic of T'Pring's manipulation and his warning to Stonn -- that having a thing is not so pleasing as wanting, something which at this point he knows very well, having achieved his goal of escaping from the ponn farr's hold on him but at enormous cost -- really work for me. And of course Spock once again *loses emotional control* at the episode's very end, upon seeing Kirk again, which is the positive flipside to his losing emotional control in the fight earlier in the episode. Really, part of this episode is about how, ultimately, Spock's emotional attachment to Kirk (and, indirectly, to Starfleet as a whole) goes beyond the bonds of marriage and romantic love to T'Pring, and even, as it turns out, beyond biology. During the fight itself, biology and tradition won out, but once he saw what he had done, he instantly "sobered up." Kirk is more important to him than T'Pring, and Starfleet is more important than Vulcan. It is perhaps unfortunate that they should be placed in such opposition, but it makes some sense that there is, since Starfleet is still a largely human endeavour. It makes sense, then, that part of the reason T'Pring prefers to rid herself of Spock is because his legendary status, which stems from his attachment to Starfleet, puts her off. This is an episode about the bonds of friendship and chosen life being stronger, when all is said and done, than mere biology, which I think is not so much anti-marriage or anti-relationship (though it *could* be interpreted that way) as a celebration of chosen bonds rather than ones chosen for one, by tradition and biology.

Other notes: this episode gives no indication of whether female Vulcans undergo ponn farr too. I find it interesting and a little sad that Spock seems to be coming on to Chapel after it seems that he definitively won't be going back to Vulcan. It must be sad for Chapel to be such an absolute last resort, just marginally above dying -- especially since Chapel is so much more sympathetic a character than T'Pring. I think the seven year cycle is a reference to "The Seven Year Itch."

I think this is a 4 star show, and it kicks off season two very well. Season one is probably the best season of the show, with relatively few weak episodes and a huge number of strong ones, including "The City on the Edge of Forever," which is probably the best episode of the series. But season two, while much more uneven, has a greater concentration of absolute top-tier classics, IMO -- I'd probably put "Amok Time," "Mirror, Mirror," "The Doomsday Machine," and "The Trouble with Tribbles" above all but "City."
Gordon D
Sat, Oct 18, 2014, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
What spoils the end of this episode for me is that when Spock realises that Kirk is still alive, he gets a look of pure joy on his face. And just as he does, Shatner steps between him and the camera, so we don't see it properly!
Saglam I.K.
Tue, Dec 2, 2014, 10:36pm (UTC -6)
I am no expert on Star Trek but isn't there a glaring plot hole in this episode. As far as I know Vulcans are supposed to be like 10X more stronger than humans. So how could Kirk even last a few minutes against Spock? Perhaps the ponn farr takes away the normal physical strength of Vulcans?

I am kind of surprised that no one brings this up ever.
Chris M
Tue, Dec 9, 2014, 1:39am (UTC -6)
I like Jammer's review, this episode is fun. But I also agree with Mike who wrote in 2013 about the seriousness of this episode to Star Trek canon. I was 12 to 15 years old when TOS originally aired. TOS was my favorite show back then. And this episode was one of the best for me. And after having to wait for season two through the whole summer! Great payoff! This episode is 4 star TOS for sure in my opinion. The big three relationship and the love they had for one another is on full display here. Nurse Chapel's care for Spock is really touching. The twist at the end is awesome. And like Jammer said, one of the best TOS moments ever is when Spock finds Kirk is still alive. I also agree that battle or sex would release Spock's hormones back to normal. So battle did it. I didn't find the plot trivial at all. I love this one and think its one of the very best TOS episodes ever.
Wed, Dec 17, 2014, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
In answer to Sagiam I.K., perhaps Spock is not 10x stronger than Kirk on Vulcan because Spock is, on Vulcan, subject to the thinner atmosphere and higher gravity which gives a Vulcan his "super strength" when the air volume and gravity are set to human standards. But then again, Kirk would have still been hard pressed to breathe properly while fighting, and lifting those weapons should have been much harder for him. So maybe the Plak Tow (blood fever) does something to weaken the Vulcan in this situation. Or, it's also possible that despite the Plak Tow's influence, Spock was actually trying as hard as he could to restrain his full impulse to fight with all his might, and to instead go easy on Kirk, while making it *seem* like he was going all-out for blood. Being that he's half-human, perhaps the Plak Tow doesn't have *quite* the same hold on his mind as it does for a full-blooded Vulcan. [Given that he only underwent Ponn Farr for apparently the first time in his thirties, after thinking that he "might have been spared" from it, it does seem plausible that the Ponn Farr would affect a half-Human half-Vulcan differently than a typical Vulcan]. --> And yes, the regenerated Spock on the Genesis planet did undergo Ponn Farr as a teenager, but perhaps the Genesis effect didn't just accelerate his growth, but also intensified or ignited that which would have otherwise been largely dormant post-adolescent impulses.

Anyway, back to the Amok Time fight: Maybe Kirk was just very effective at evading most of the swipes and jabs and thwacks that came his way, and he didn't need to match Spock's Vulcan-adapted strength to fend him off for most of the fight - well, until the choking happened, which happened to coincide with McCoy's gamble of knock-out medicine.

Oh well, in any case, it wouldn't have been as fun a match if Spock had sliced Kirk in two with the Lirpa or beaned him in the noggin with the Ahn'woon right off the bat, would it?
Sun, May 29, 2016, 12:11pm (UTC -6)
"Dis combat is to de det." --T'Pau

Gotta love Vulcans with Viennese accents.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 5:45pm (UTC -6)
If violence or sex are the only ways for a Vulcan to keep from dying at this time, imagine how rough their love-making must be. (lol)

T'Pring didn't seem to be affected by it, do only the males go into rut? I know later series retcon this for the sake of some "fan service" with female Vulcan characters but it seems here, since T'Pring was able to be released from her marriage bond for asking for the challenge (and possibly end up unmarried and alone) that she wasn't bound to the same "mate or die" thing Spock was.
Sat, Feb 18, 2017, 7:58pm (UTC -6)
Definitely four stars. This one has stood the test of time, for all the reasons others have posted upthread.
Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
Truly one of the best Trek episodes. So much to admire about this episode including an outstanding soundtrack - classic/iconic fight music but also the music portraying various emotions/scenes (Spock brooding, the processional) - really encourage any serious Trek fans to buy the soundtrack (comes with The Doomsday Machine soundtrack which is excellent too).
Loved the moments when Spock tries to explain to Kirk "Vulcan biology" to which the captain responds "...the biology of Vulcans..." and "the birds and the bees are not Vulcans..."
Very cool how they showed the aerial view of Vulcan and the place of Spock's ancestors. Chapel's emotional caring for Spock is also touching - how happy she is to make a bowl of soup for him. Really can't find any flaws with this episode.
I have a few disagreements with Jammer's review and I wholeheartedly agree with @Mike and @kerry's comments. This is essential Trek and goes far beyond being "fun".
It's an easy 4/4 stars for me - as much as "The City on the Edge..." is widely regarded as the best episode of all, for me, I'd rank "Amok Time" ahead of it. Spock the Vulcan is so critical to TOS and this episode really gives a good background to the species which would have been very important for the understanding of the show back when it was made and nobody knew what to make of Vulcans.
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 11:14pm (UTC -6)
So Kirk and McCoy have little knowledge of pon farr here, but the prequel Enterprise kind of blew that up.
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
and "you are prepared to become the property of the victor" doesn't sound very Federation-y.
Trek fan
Mon, Oct 16, 2017, 9:05pm (UTC -6)
Four stars! Inexplicable to me that Jammer gives it only 3 without really justifying why it isn't a half-star or full star higher. This is definitely better than some of Jammer's four-star episodes: Indeed it's one of the most iconic and memorable Star Trek episodes ever.

It's the first fully character-driven episode on TOS, giving us our deepest dive (at this point) into Spock's inner workings and culture and relationship to his friends Kirk and Spock. But it's also, of all the thousands of Star Trek episodes, the one that fleshes out an alien culture best. Forget the Klingons, because the Vulcans remain the most fully-developed and believable aliens on Star Trek, and a big part of that starts here with the rituals and hand salute.

But the show is just plain fun too, not merely something to watch because a Trek nerd tells you "hey this episode is Really Important to the Made-Up History of This Show." Chapel and all of the regulars, especially the big three, are fully developed here. Going beyond the "crew forced to fight each other" theme that becomes cliche after this episode, we have the added tension of the "Captain is Forced to Fight His Best Friend to the Death" idea, and for once there's actually no obvious cheat! It's really clever how the characters find a way to care for each other here. Their friendship and camaraderie comes across so genuinely here, and the chemistry is undeniably appealing. There are too many cool concepts and touches in this one to list, but the story -- dependent so much on Vulcan culture and yet truly clever in the way it unfolds -- is especially excellent and so organic to the main characters. I love Amok Time!
Debra Petersen
Wed, Apr 18, 2018, 10:37pm (UTC -6)
I love this episode, but there is one thing I've wondered about that I don't think I've ever really seen addressed. Maybe it's been missed because people are so taken with T'Pau's presence and impressive air of authority. The fact is that she allows Kirk to make his decision about accepting the challenge KNOWING he doesn't understand that the fight is to be to the death. Spock had broken through a condition that should have made him incapable of speech to tell her so and to plead with her to "forbid", but she dismisses him. Even when that fact comes out and Kirk and McCoy start to object, she basically just cuts them off and tells them to shut up. So what's going on with her? Is it simply that, if someone is going to die, she would rather have it be a human than a Vulcan? That would seem to be an objectionable attitude, and it would make her statement to McCoy that "I grieve with thee" hypocritical. But then there's the fact that she seems to have forced Starfleet to accept the diversion of the Enterprise to Vulcan. And there is never any later indication that Kirk's still being alive is a surprise to anyone on Vulcan. So did she somehow know what McCoy would do, or even influence that in some way? In any case, Spock's reaction on discovering that Kirk isn't dead after all is a truly classic Trek moment.
Fri, May 4, 2018, 5:55pm (UTC -6)
I love this episode but it raises a lot of continuity problems with other stories (Pon Farr this, Pon Farr that).

For one thing, Kirk is an important man... wouldn't T'Pau find out he's alive later? How would she react?
Wed, May 16, 2018, 4:04am (UTC -6)
@Debra Petersen - You raise interesting points. There are clear hints that T'Pau aids and abets Kirk and McCoy's plans - helping to get Vulcan out of a diplomatic mess with Starfleet. She probably realised in advance that the bride had brought her lover along so was going to challenge. She would have made the same logical deductions as the bride so would not have been surprised that Kirk was chosen. Presumably she felt that Spock was in no condition to beat lover boy anyway. She stopped the fight and gave McCoy a chance to inject Kirk. She made no attempt to confirm Kirk's "death". And she covered for Kirk by putting in a bogus request for the Enterprise's presence at Vulcan.

I would put all this down to T'Pau being an extremely smart cookie.
Sun, Jun 24, 2018, 10:40am (UTC -6)
If either sex or battle could cool Spock’s hormones off, why couldnt he simply have a friendly fist fight onboard Enterprise?

This is my 1st run thru TOS so far and the only word it comes to mind is “lame”. I still dont get why trek fans say TOS is better than TNG and VOY, lol.
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 2:48am (UTC -6)
Spock got over his Pon Farr because he cares about Kirk whether he states it or not. I say the shock of seeing your captain and best friend dead in your hand would shock any guy ready to fornicate, ask any guy what happens if he gets scared.

The lovely Arlene Martell / T'Pring also starred in the 1960's Outer Limits: Demon With A Glass Hand.

Spock should have tried to be kinder to Nurse Chapel and she did confess to him that she loved him in The Naked Time and Plato's Stepchildren.
Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 5:26pm (UTC -6)
First, @Peet I would say that T'Pau would not care that Kirk is still alive, simply because the "fever" was resolved. That raises this point to @Mypro. If I had to violently murder my best friend, I would probably loose any interest in anything. Just a thought.
Wed, Nov 21, 2018, 2:37am (UTC -6)
@mike: definitely

@William B: That was a fantastic review. Bravo.

@Jammer: I mildly request that you rethink this one as being far deeper than a fun, silly romp. It's the meat and potatoes of of the show, not the dessert, to me.

@Saglam: My thinking was that Spock was put in a prolonged state of physiological stress from being unable to find a resolution to his instincts, as Bones had put it, like a human being full of enormous amounts of adrenaline to the point it could kill them or something of that sort, and by the time he was meant to fight to the death, Bones didn't even have any real faith Spock could win a fight with another Vulcan male, he'd been so weakened after this delayed action on his bodily crisis. Yet, even weakened that much, he's still more than dangerous enough to kill Jim (and snap that wutchamawatzit weapon, for that matter). So, I don't think it was a plot hole.

I also have no problem with how Spock's situation was resolved in the sense that there's human fight or flight, and, well, in Vulcans at this time, it's fight or...another f-word. As soon as you hit a certain point of intensity, it makes sense that the body calms down, I guess. It reminds me of anxiety attacks and the idea that your fight or flight mechanism gets a bit stuck because once you get anxious, as though you need to fight or escape, there's neither end and you have no resolution to make the switch flip back off.

Bones: In a pig's eye.

Love it.
Wed, Nov 21, 2018, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
Nice to see another comment on this episode which I watched again for the umpteenth time a couple of days ago. I had a smile from ear-to-ear as I watched the entire episode - my level of enjoyment of it is still off the charts. No question a 4-star episode by my criteria. And that doesn't even reflect as mike said long ago how important this episode is to Trek establishing a new culture, world, and new biology. The enhanced version's shots from afar of Spock's family's ceremonial grounds (walking across the bridge etc.) are among the best I've seen in all of Trek.

Wholeheartedly agree with JD about William B's comment - wonderful insight into what makes this episode such a classic with all its layers of complexity that might be overlooked.

But the thing I realized after my re-watch was that this is perhaps the first best example of a "Big 3" episode. Season 1 didn't really have anything like it where it was basically just the Big 3 and their friendship/interactions/dynamic. I think it would become a greater focus as S2 wore on and in S3 like in "Metamorphosis", "The Immunity Syndrome", "Bread and Circuses". I think the best example of their wonderful dynamic is "The Empath" with the self-sacrifice element.

Bottom line is "Amok Time" established something unique and special between the Big 3 that no other Trek comes close to matching, IMHO. The role of doctor in TOS is given far greater weight than in any other Trek, but it's good that other Treks didn't just follow the TOS formula either. I think if there's 1 TOS episode that must be watched for reference in later episodes and series, it's "Amok Time".
William B
Wed, Nov 21, 2018, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
Thanks, you guys.
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 9:18pm (UTC -6)
Again I have to go against the other posts and say this is not one of my favorite episodes, i dont even like the title,why not call it the Pon Farr?? what does amok time even mean??
Peter G.
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
@ hifijohn,

Well, your question got me to do a Google search. Aside from the regular meaning of "running amok", amok meaning something like "wildly attacking or killing", there is also apparently an old psychiatric definition of it:

"In 1849, amok was officially classified as a psychiatric condition based on numerous reports and case studies that showed the majority of individuals who committed amok were, in some sense, mentally ill.[9] The modern DSM-IV method of classification of mental disorders contains two official types of amok disorder; beramok and amok. Beramok is considered to be the more common of the two and is associated with the depression and sadness resulting from a loss and the subsequent brooding process. Loss includes, but is not limited to, the death of a spouse or loved one, divorce, loss of a job, money, power, etc. Beramok is associated with mental issues of severe depression or other mood disorders. Amok, the rarer form, is believed to stem from rage, insult, or a vendetta against a person, society, or object for a wide variety of reasons. Amok has been more closely associated with psychosis, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and delusions."

In short, I think I've been misreading the emphasis of the title for a long time. "Time" isn't the emphasized word, it's "Amok." Basically the equivalent of saying "it's the murderous time" or "crazy-time". It's crazy-time now! Something like that. Basically the time when Vulcans go amok on each other.
Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 8:54am (UTC -6)
Trekfan, William and Rahul's comments above say it all, really, and say it well.

I would add only that this episode is essentially a love story. Spock's overcome with the urge to mate, and his buddies love the guy so much, they do everything in their powers to help him. The bro-love between Spock and the gang is just incredible.

Beyond this, it's also a very brave and idiosyncratic choice for a season premiere (assuming it was always intended as one).
Wed, Apr 17, 2019, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
Well, at first I found it both funny and remarkable that Spock could overcome his urge to mate by tussling a bit with Kirk.

Watching it again, I see that it isn't so much the tussle, as the belief that he had killed Kirk, that seemed to knock the libido right out of Spock. It's still pretty odd, given how crazy-gone he was.

Nimoy does a truly great job. He and Shatner are good together as Kirk teases the facts out of Spock. Some funny lines as well as serious, and nicely played.

I love that they were all so in awe of T-Pau. Again, despite the rampant sexism in the show, it was still ahead of it's time. They were trying.

The whole idea of the Ponn Fahr is kinda nutty, and sort of burdened the series when it came to Vulcan portrayal, but nicely alien.

An above average offering, I'd say.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 11:10am (UTC -6)
What's interesting here is the Vulcans are depicted as somewhat brutal savages when it comes to social rituals. There's arranged marriages orchestrated by political status rather than romance, and there's battles *to the death* over who gets to mate with who. Are these the same Vulcans we see in "The Search for Spock"? It's almost as if they took this template for Vulcans and applied them to Klingons later because it's hard to believe that Vulcans would be capable of such savagery.

Still, none of this later retconning hurts the episode itself. Mostly I can get on board with how well Nimoy guards his emotions yet shows them indirectly to his dear friends, Kirk and Bones. The ending is very predictable in terms of story, but the acting of Nimoy, Shatner, and Kelley makes the screenplay really shine.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 11:21am (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

What this episode says to me is that *no one* can contain their emotions forever, not even the superior Vulcans. Even with them there comes a point of explosion where they run amok. The title sort of says it all, even though I never understood it as a kid: there is, and always will be, a time when amok becomes inevitable, and for a Vulcan every seven years is amok time (i.e. the time comes to run amok). The fact that they are hyper-logical means that they regulate and ritualize even their going out of control, so that they can sanitize and control it, so that the seven-year itch becomes a part of their culture rather than an objection to it. Whether that actually works or makes sense is up to the viewer, especially with what a conniving wife Spock was matched with.

That's another thing I liked about this one, that subsequent Treks seemed to want to scrub: "logical" doesn't have to mean nice; it means efficient. In this sense they may indeed have something in common with the Romulans. So we have on display both that Vulcans do go out of control, in carefully prescribed ways (which reminds me of Festival in Return of the Archons) and also that their logic also serves as a shield for good old duplicity.

The closest we come to an analogy to this veneer vs reality thing is in DS9 with Odo , who's the Spock-character for that show (each show has one). In that one we get a more vivid look at the difference between an outward virtue and the inward forces that drive it.

I guess I don't see the Vulcans as retconned later on so much as the focus being on how logical they are. They ended up being more of a caricature of themselves later on, for the most part being 'the logic guys' rather than 'the guys who put up a front of logic.' Episodes like Sarek and even Take Me Out to the Holosuite do bring back this notion of the interior thing being far different from the exterior.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 12:42pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I agree with what you're saying, it's just jarring that they dropped a lot of this stuff later. I think Sarek was more of a "special case" however, because he was subject to a rare illness whereas in most cases Vulcans can keep their minds whole up until their death, as I understand it. The Pon Farr ritual is much more routine for Vulcans, and it seems only Vulcans can really tolerate its savagery as McCoy and Kirk basically cheat their way out of the ritual's outcome. Notably Spock is actually thrilled they cheated the system, perhaps suggesting he's not so enamored with Vulcan tradition either.
Wed, Aug 12, 2020, 12:29am (UTC -6)
I definitely consider this an overrated episode and never one I found particularly entertaining. Yes, the early part is good with Spock's distress and feeling ashamed with his loss of control. I also appreciate the glimpse into Vulcan and its customs. But... that the Vulcans would set up a system where the female can force a battle to death is how can we say .... illogical. Even the idea that the female shouldn't be forced to have sex with her betrothed, presumtively if the betrothed wins, she still has to have sex with him and that is after he has killed they guy she wants! That T'Pring and Stonn would even have an attraction for each other doesn't make sense, as supposedly Stonn wanted to fight as her champion even though he is apparently not under Pon Farr. The show also has Spock and T'Pring betrothed as children, yet from at least "The Menagerie" we know Spock has been a SF officer for well over 7 years, so this would not have been his 1st pon far. It's also overly convenient that Spock gets to bring 2 guest and his plus 2 just happens to be McCoy, which seems like a mechanization to allow McCoy to save the day. Finally (and this is what always bothered me from 1st time I saw this), the happy ending hinges on Spock "killing" Kirk with the poll of his weapon rather than bashing his skull or openning his guts with the business ends. I never bought how the fight turned out. I am dismayed that this episode is held in such regard.
Wed, Nov 25, 2020, 8:09am (UTC -6)
So season 1 started with a visit to one of Bones' old flames who turned out to be a salt-sucking monster, and Kirk almost gets killed.

And season 2 starts with a visit to Spock's old lady who turns out to be a cheating whore (Spock: "Logical. Flawlessly logical."), and Kirk almost gets killed.

So what can we expect for the start of season 3?!? Don't tell me guys, I have high hopes ;)

@Rahul, yes the sound track is particularly impressive - that Processional is incredible!

Sun, Dec 13, 2020, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
Not just an episode from Classic Trek, but a truly classic Trek episode.

Some thoughts this time around:

First, I found William B's comments years ago very interesting, especially the suggestion that this keeps people from imagining Vulcans as Space Aryans engaged in selective breeding of their own species.

In the James Blish short story collection based on the TOS episodes, there is a line i remember reading but that I do not ever remember having seen when watching the episode. I'm not sure if it was edited out in reruns or if it was cut from the original script. It is the end of Kirk's response to Spock's question about how Kirk supposes Vulcans select their mates. Instead of stopping after saying that he assumed it was done "logically," in Blish's version Kirk adds, "Eugenically, perhaps." I seem to remember hearing that some differences between Blish and the episodes as aired exist because Blish was given early drafts of the scripts before they were shot. I can imagine a long discussion about that one phrase, not unlike William B's observation, but ultimately leading to it being cut as raising too scary of an issue less than two decades after the Third Reich, in connection with a character and a race intended to be more unambiguously admirable than the throwback Khan.

Second, I love what this episode does with the murky relationship between Spock and Christine Chapel. In some episodes, Chapel looks like a silly schoolgirl with a crush on a man who is way out of her league because he is not really a "man." Here, however, we see that somewhere VERY deep down, Spock acknowledges that her interest is not entirely unrequited. Their respective "natures" dictate a relationship that can only hover on the edge of eros. I cannot escape the sense that things might have come out differently for them if … well, if things had been different. That is more poignant than a mere one-sided crush.

I've always thought that the Abrams reboot should have given Spock a relationship with her, rather than with Uhura.

Third, I appreciated the writer's effort to make T'Pau's speech sound formal, traditional, and vaguely religious, but I have always found her repeated use of "thee" as the subject of sentences distracting. Is the Universal Translator calibrated incorrectly to translate her archaic speech? The nominative case is "thou"; "thee" is the objective case. Yeah, I know, professional editors can be SO picky!

And fourth, if you haven't read the Trek novel "Mind Meld," I recommend it, if only for the opportunity to see a Vulcan wedding where things go according to plan.
Wed, Mar 31, 2021, 3:12am (UTC -6)
A classic 4 star episode, and a great way to kick off Season 2, despite its flaws. Sturgeon was the right choice of writer and he did a good job even though constrained by the TV restrictions of the time. There were so many things to admire:

- the obvious need of a species that has suppressed emotions to have one time when that is released as a “safety valve”
- the way McCoy stands up for Spock all the way
- the scene between Spock and Chapel
- the first use of the Vulcan 🖖 and “live long and prosper”, plus the character of T’Pau

Plus we get the introduction of Chekhov and some nice close-ups of the ship, side on.

I wasn’t quite so impressed by the Vulcan surface — I would have thought it would be far more technological, and the ceremony less ritualistic. I did like T’Pring’s logic but I was puzzled why she was not suffering from Pon Farr?

A final thought: has anyone else noticed how the ship’s decks are constantly full of crew members going from one place to another, as if they had no job to do that kept them somewhere?
Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 1:27am (UTC -6)
love the lirpas and the atmosphere of this episode in general, the foundation for vulcan culture as we see it later on
Sun, Apr 17, 2022, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
About Kirk being alive after the "to the death" fight:

I think the question is what exactly is the "to the death"-ness of the fight. Kirk being alive (and the vulcans discoverying it later) would be a problem only if the vulcans really WANTED the fight to be to the death. But I think what it really means is that the fight is to the death only because the Vulcan under Pon Farr will not stop his frenzy untill the adversary is dead, and the other vulcans would not interfere on that matter. So, in the event that the Vulcan stops because he THINKS the adversary is dead, well lucky for the loser. If, afterwards, both are cool with the way things played, It's not like the other Vulcans would demand the job to be finished -- to do so, one could even say, it would be most illogical.

What really bothered me was the flimsiness of McCoy's solution. Kirk could've passed out in a wrong moment and actually being killed. I mean, it is better for him to have a way to scape trought a fake death then to be left to die for real, ok, but the medicine could easily remove Kirk's chance to neutralize Spock by getting Kirk out in the wrong moment.

I thought, and I think it would be a better solution, Kirk had just taken the opportunity and faked a death by asphyxiation. I guess it would be approprietadely in caracter for him to solve the dilemma by being smart like this, and to McCoy, being a clever fella he is, to catch what the captain was doing and roll with it, stating that he was dead.
Mon, Apr 25, 2022, 7:30pm (UTC -6)
Pon farr: the Vulcan urge to mate
Jamie Farr: the Vulcan urge to wear women's clothing
Sat, May 7, 2022, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
For me, this is a 4 star episode. I have resisted rewatching until now because when I first saw it (age 12? Maybe? A long time ago?) I was just so in love with Spock, and I was very much afraid it wouldn't live up to my memories. And my memories are weirdly accurate. When they beamed down to the planet and the procession began, my mind said "T'Pau" well before Kirk did! And seriously, I think I last saw this ep in the late 70s. Anyway, it's emotionally resonant, tightly written, and beautifully acted (T'Pau is amazing... and that weird sort of Pennsylvania Dutch idiom approximating old school Vulcan!) . It also, for pretty much the first time, tries to imagine a humanoid culture that isn't based on some sort of weird ur-Americana (Return of the Archons, anyone?), but that has its own rituals and practices. Is it sort of uncomfortably riffing on East Asian societies? Sure. But points for not imagining that all societies are basically WASP.
Sat, May 7, 2022, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
Also @navamske .... bwahaha! Mid-pandemic I did a deep M*A*S*H* dive. Love Klinger!
Proud Capitalist Pig
Wed, Jun 8, 2022, 7:28am (UTC -6)
Leonard Nimoy was an absolute gem. “Amok Time” showcases his best performance in Star Trek yet, full of competence and nuance.

For two episodes in a row, we've got Spock amok (although with a season break in between I suppose). And in both episodes, we can count on the brilliant Nimoy to keep this interesting and reasonably entertaining. It’s the little details of his performance that speak the loudest. Check out Spock’s hand, behind his back, in the early scene where he tells Kirk that he wants to take his shore leave specifically on Vulcan. His hand starts shaking. In the next shot of his back, he’s added his other hand to hold it steady. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-detail but speaks to Nimoy’s genius and respect for the material. He *is* Spock throughout these scenes. I love William Shatner’s take on Kirk, but sometimes it’s hard to tell where The Shat ends and Kirk begins. But with Nimoy (and DeForest Kelley here) there’s no question. It’s completely immersive.

It’s admirable that “Amok Time” showcases the planet Vulcan itself, and teaches us about our hybrid first officer’s culture and traditions. So it’s a must-see for sure. But a few things don’t make sense to me (I’m nitpicking here; I don’t let nitpicks affect my score):

-- Vulcans only get “in heat” once every seven years?! Huh?! Is there any population growth at all on Vulcan? Even if every pregnancy leads to litter of babies, like dogs and cats, that is way too long of a dry spell for an entire civilization. It’s all well and good for Vulcans to be embarrassed and touchy when it comes to their natural sexual drives (compulsions aren’t very “logical”). But only once and only once every seven years? That’s pushing it.

-- So T’Pring, who is an absolute smokeshow by the way, turns out to be a very competent cheating whore in full command of her faculties. Really?! Let’s grant that it seems to be only the Vulcan males who experience heat. T’Pring wants to fuck Stann, not Spock. So Stann, who does *not* seem to be in heat, can stand back and watch as T’Pring and T’Pau insist that Spock fight a third man of T’Pring’s choosing (Kirk in this case) to make sure that everything goes according to her plan no matter what the resolution is. Huh?! What is this, The Bachelor? Why do the Vulcans have these traditions in the first place? Why would Spock be drawn *only* to T’Pring (she’s hot, don’t get me wrong, but you’d think he’d have compulsions for any passably-attractive Vulcan female)? What if T’Pring wasn’t anywhere near the Vulcan planet at the time? What if she were dead? Spock would just die too?

-- But wait, Spock has a way out. As many commenters above have pointed out, the reason Kirk’s supposed death gets Spock out of his funk is: 1.) because violence (especially in psychopaths) has long been a substitution for sex in certain people because they both come from primal compulsions, and 2.) Spock has some mad bro-love for Kirk, and the loss of his best friend would cause just as intense of an emotional flash as sex with T’Pring would. So damn, all you have to do if you’re a Vulcan in pon farr and your woman is dead, unreachable, or doesn’t want you, is knock your best friend unconscious and have a medical expert inject the friend with a serum that makes him play dead. Solved! In a strange sort of way, although it was really the only way for this story to be resolved, it’s a really ill-conceived cop-out of a contrivance.

Spock and Kirk seem really strung along by the plot in “Amok Time,” but it’s an entertaining romp and boasts some fantastic acting. I liked the great use of McCoy here, and many commenters above are absolutely right -- this episode highlights the strength of friendship and the compulsions to bond with other people more than anything else. So it has its merits if you can look past the conveniences.

Hats off to the lovely Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel as well. While her role in this situation is rather thankless, it’s obvious that she and Spock care for each other in their own way and there’s some real depth to Chapel’s feelings for Spock, and his for her. It’s not that she has a passing crush on him, it’s that she values his *friendship* first more than anything, and that’s a good start to a meaningful relationship. She’s the Anti-T’Pring in this story. T’Pring is betrothed to Spock by traditional fiat, but she wants nothing to do with him while he is about to die if he can’t bang her. Chapel is the “nice girl” in all the teen movies that is waiting patiently in the background, her love seemingly unrequited. This is why it’s almost tragic that Spock *must* fuck T’Pring for the pon farr to be resolved. Chapel would be perfectly happy to, um, give him an outlet for releasing his tension.

I liked @William B’s take on the Vulcan disdain for primal instincts being comparable to awkward adolescent pinings that for many youngsters are as impossible to ignore as they are to resolve. We’ve all been there. And I love @Peter G’s musing that, “Logical doesn’t have to mean nice; it means efficient.” Very true--logic by its nature is often cold.

The fight between Kirk and Spock was dynamic and well choreographed. And at the end of the show, Spock’s literal elation at learning that Kirk is still alive was downright heartwarming.

But come on--I would much rather have seen Spock bang that smokeshow T’Pring.

Best Line:
Kirk -- “First Officer Spock seems to be under stress.”

My Grade: B
Proud Capitalist Pig
Wed, Jun 8, 2022, 7:33am (UTC -6)
I wonder why they altered the opening theme. Now it sounds like an opera soprano’s ghost is screaming at me. What was wrong with it the first time? I did appreciate one aspect of it, though--nice to see DeForest Kelley getting some billing love.
Peter G.
Wed, Jun 8, 2022, 9:22am (UTC -6)
@ PCP,

"Hats off to the lovely Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel as well. While her role in this situation is rather thankless, it’s obvious that she and Spock care for each other in their own way and there’s some real depth to Chapel’s feelings for Spock, and his for her. It’s not that she has a passing crush on him, it’s that she values his *friendship* first more than anything, and that’s a good start to a meaningful relationship."

What I think is nice in Chapel's portrayal here is that it's a follow-up to earlier episodes showing she wants more than friendship with him, and yet at no point is it portrayed as a crush. She seems to appreciate Spock on a level that is closer to admiration than attraction, and even as his behavior here becomes harsh she seems to not be phased by it since I think on some level she knows it's not personal. What's interesting is that Chapel's approach to Spock is not human, but seems to carry the understanding of who Spock is: someone who perhaps does need love on some level, but does not want shows of affection as such. Her advances, or offers, come in a somewhat logical fashion, which makes it look quite a lot like a throwback to her stint at Number One, who the Talosians referred to as the coldly logical one out of the women on the ship. Chapel is not precisely supposed to be identical to that character, but I do see some of her in continuity with that, and it makes sense that this same actress would be the one poised to understand Spock better than most humans would.
Tim C
Wed, Jun 15, 2022, 8:45am (UTC -6)
I re-watched this one for the first time in years, motivated in part by SNW's recent "Spock Amok". I wanted to see whether my positive feelings for how that episode portrayed the early days of Spock, T'Pring and Chapel would still hold up with the original portrayal of these characters. They do.

On the episode itself, it all hinges on one massive suspension of disbelief: that neither Spock nor T'Pau would inform Kirk the challenge was to the death before he accepted it. If you can get over how implausible that is, then every other aspect of it is just excellent. In the original context of TOS, where Spock's past history and Vulcan culture are still completely unexplored, it's a banger from start to finish. The cast are all in fine form and the (rather slight) plot clips along in a way that TOS often didn't.

I also noted that long before we all got annoyed with NuTrek's retconning of Spock's family history, this episode also lays down some canon that every depiction of Vulcans thereafter would go on to contradict. Specifically:

* Spock implies this is the first time he has undergone Pon Farr. "I hoped I would be spared this," he says, as he explains that he thought being half-human might have stopped it. Well, that doesn't track with TSFS, where teenage Spock is hit by it hard and Saavik has to help him through it.

* Spock also says that Vulcans are telepathically bonded at their original betrothal, and this forms part of the urge to return home to mate. This is contradicted by TSFS (Spock and Saavik get busy on Genesis), VOY (neither Vorik nor Tuvok need to return to Vulcan, and Tuvok is able to satisfy himself with a hologram!) and ENT (Mirror T'Pol got it on with Mirror Trip, and probably not on Vulcan).

* Yep, Spock is looking at a picture of T'Pring as a child, which some have taken to mean that he hasn't seen her since then. I think that's the implication too, but given what's also said about the original telepathic bonding you could also plausibly argue that he is simply reminiscing about a very potent childhood memory.

As to how this tracks with SNW: I actually think they fit together really well. Chapel has, in the seven-year interval between the two shows, pushed her feelings way, way down, but both she and Spock (and it seems the rest of the crew) are well aware of them. Even in the depths of madness, Spock forces himself to be kind to her, his initial outburst notwithstanding, and they're clearly close enough as friends that both of them are comfortable with her entering his quarters uninvited.

Spock has also clearly progressed much further along the path of suppressing his human side, a storyline about private self-loathing that SNW depicted vividly with his nightmare about fighting himself, and which will eventually culminate in his failure to complete Kolinahr in TMP. It actually forms quite a neat little arc. I hope SNW doesn't screw it up when they revisit this, which they surely will.

SNW has also done well to show how the fractures in Spock and T'Pring's relationship begin early. And Pike's speech to Spock about being "the best of Starfleet" - which, remember, is actually given to T'Pring! - also dovetails very nicely with T'Pring's stated reason to Spock about seeking divorce: "I did not wish to be the consort of a legend".

Anyways, enough of all that. Still a great episode of TV and a great performance from Nimoy. He really will never be matched.
Sat, Jul 9, 2022, 10:16am (UTC -6)
"Stonn, she is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."

Lines like this are what you get when you have writers like Theodore Sturgeon working on your show. You can listen to Anson Mount reading his brilliant short story "The Man Who Lost the Sea" here:

Tim C said: "Spock also says that Vulcans are telepathically bonded at their original betrothal, and this forms part of the urge to return home to mate. This is contradicted by TSFS (Spock and Saavik get busy on Genesis), VOY (neither Vorik nor Tuvok need to return to Vulcan, and Tuvok is able to satisfy himself with a hologram!) and ENT (Mirror T'Pol got it on with Mirror Trip, and probably not on Vulcan)."

I think later shows just saw the Vulcan mating ritual as an excuse for some gratuitous sex and low brow comedy. Amok Time is a classic and does a great job of fleshing out Vulcan society, imo.

Cinnamon said: "The lovely Arlene Martell / T'Pring also starred in the 1960's Outer Limits: Demon With A Glass Hand."

I didn't recall that. I do remember that being one of the best episodes of the series however. I remember her best from her appearance on the Twilight Zone.

p.s. I was messing around in Photoshop while rewatching Amok Time and I made a composite of T'Pring and one of the more dramatic shots of the episode:

I'm not much of an artist but Arlene Martell is always worth a look, right?
Tim C
Sat, Jul 16, 2022, 9:39am (UTC -6)
@Marlboro: I absolutely agree Amok Time is a classic, and as the very first venture into Vulcan society it's a resounding success for TOS. I was only noting all those contradictions from later shows as an exercise in separating the collective old-school fan irritation with NuTrek's retconning, from whether or not it actually mattered in the long run when the legacy shows and movies did it.

I do agree that the post-TOS shows did not treat it with the seriousness that Amok Time did, but I also think that is to be expected. If you want to look at it completely straight-faced, there's just *no way* that Vulcans could remain in Starfleet and the Federation for as long as they have without all the other member species eventually learning about their private rituals, and at least amongst humans, sex humour will forever be universal - especially with how Vulcans present themselves as paragons of control 99% of the time.

I think the important part is whether the *Vulcan* characters treat it with the seriousness their culture demands and that Amok Time established - and they have.
Mon, Sep 19, 2022, 7:53pm (UTC -6)
Where were Spock's parents during this important event?
Donald Pietruk
Tue, Dec 27, 2022, 11:28am (UTC -6)
While almost everyone is rightfully happy to see Spock's expression of pure joy at seeing his friend alive I'm amazed no one recollects Spock's public admission of his friendship with Kirk. In the scene with T'Pau after the combat is ended and they think Kirk is dead and T'Pau gives him the traditional Vulcan farewell "Live long and prosper" Spock answers "I shall do neither. I have killed my Captain and my friend." Powerful stuff here. Spock acknowledging that his friendship with Kirk is so important that his life will not be the same without it. It even makes sense from that well hidden deep well of Vulcan emotion. They probably don't make friends easily so if they do that friendship runs deep and affects them profoundly. The loss of that must be devastating. This even further to me enhances the ending. Great episode that underlies the bonds of friendship and understanding and accepance.
Top Hat
Tue, Dec 27, 2022, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
Even more amazingly, Spock names both McCoy and Kirk as his friends earlier int he episode for all of Vulcan to hear: "They are not outworlders. They are my friends. I am permitted this."
Wed, Jan 18, 2023, 1:43pm (UTC -6)
Plenty of character and society development, drama, and excitement. What a fantastic way to open Season 2! The "birds and bees" discussion makes Spock seem too awkward, but it was likely partly a concession to family TV standards of the time. Chekov's debut gets overshadowed by all the happenings. This is a four star, top 10 TOS episode for me.

Familiar notes of Amok Time's soundtrack can also be heard in Mission: Impossible episodes scored around the same time.
Fri, Jan 27, 2023, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
@Ren C:

))My question about this episode is if it's supposed to be a fight to the death how does Kirk explain his continued existence to the Vulcans? Does that mean that Spock didn't actually have to kill him after all but just defeat him?((

What happens in Pon Farr *stays* in Pon Farr!

Vulcan social norms probably require all participants, afterwards, to act as though nothing had ever happened. Like a "bachelor party / stag night," maybe.
Fri, Jan 27, 2023, 2:19pm (UTC -6)

))and "you are prepared to become the property of the victor" doesn't sound very Federation-y.((

1. The Vulcan marriage ritual - the koon-ut-kal-if-fee - is an ANCIENT, pre-Federation ritual-cum-reproductive function which no "Outworlders" had previously witnessed. It included a "Fight to the Death" - also not very Federation-y.

2. This line of dialog is spoken by T'Pau - the only person to ever turn down a seat in the Federation Council, and who refers to humans as "Outworlders" (not very friendly!).

3. Would you agree to a "Fight to the Death" if the object of your desires WOULDN'T then become your "property?"

Fri, Jan 27, 2023, 2:22pm (UTC -6)

))T'Pring didn't seem to be affected by it, do only the males go into rut? I know later series retcon this for the sake of some "fan service" with female Vulcan characters but it seems here, since T'Pring was able to be released from her marriage bond for asking for the challenge (and possibly end up unmarried and alone) that she wasn't bound to the same "mate or die" thing Spock was.((

In "Blood Fever" (Star Trek: Voyager), a Vulcan crewman undergoing pon farr even manages to "infect" Torres (a half-human, half-Klingon hybrid with absolutely no Vulcan ancestry) with the "madness."
Fri, Jan 27, 2023, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
@Tim C:

))On the episode itself, it all hinges on one massive suspension of disbelief: that neither Spock nor T'Pau would inform Kirk the challenge was to the death before he accepted it.((

Spock explicitly states to T'Pau that Kirk "does not know!" and BEGS her to "forbid it! FORBID IT!"

T'Pau, for her part, is a hard-ass! Also, she mentions the "to the death" part so casually, her delivery suggests that she views it as "obvious." (Maybe she thinks that a war-like, emotion-driven species like the humans would gladly engage in a little fight to the death!)
Sun, Mar 12, 2023, 9:42pm (UTC -6)

..and just watch...
Wed, Mar 22, 2023, 7:28pm (UTC -6)
So the Star Fleet kerfuffle was resolved by T'Pau contacting Star Fleet. Why didn't T'Pau just do that in the first place?

This is like Commodore Mendez and the Talosians at the end of The Menagerie.
Mr. Jimmy
Wed, Mar 22, 2023, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
+1 on what Outrider said.

Great episode.
Sat, Jun 24, 2023, 5:19pm (UTC -6)
This episode scores 3 full stars before any consideration of its particulars on the sole basis of that amazing music cue. Anytime I’m watching any movies or tv shows in which two characters start fighting my brain automatically starts playing Bumbum BA BA BA BA BA Bahbah BA BUM. It’s so iconic.

The episode itself is pretty much all around great, very little to pick apart. Great character work, cool insights into Vulcan society including the Vulcan salute, effective set designs, a reasonably clever resolution, just great stuff here.

My only complaint with this episode isn’t actually about this episode, but is with the treatment of the Pon Farr in later Trek. My interpretation in Amok Time is that Spock is going through this very personal crisis as a result of a bond formed at the time of he and T’Pring’s betrothal, a sort of sexualized mind meld that essentially bound them together and as a quirk of evolution had about a seven year period to be resolved. In this way, the Pon Farr is a *very* personal thing that doesn’t just befall Vulcan dudes every seven years, but requires a telepathic connection to one’s prospective mate that functions like an emotional exposed wire in an otherwise ordered mind. Normally the arranged marriage would be resolved one way or another before things got all fight-to-the-deathy, but in Spock’s case he ran off to space and thus was unable to avert his hormonal overload. I could be wrong of course, but the more I think about this episode the more that all seems to make sense. First, Spock states specifically that he *has* to return to Vulcan and settle things with T’Pring and T’Pring only. If the Pon Farr was a normal seven year cycle, why the specifics? Why not just give in to nurse chapel and work your issues out? Second, it’s stated in the episode that this is Spock’s first Pon Farr. Doesn’t that seem odd? I mean, the guys like fifty or whatever, shouldn’t he have already been down this horny road? He also says that he had hoped he’d be spared this, as in he knew there was a risk of him Pon Farring all over the enterprise but it wasn’t a certainty, implying to me that this is a specific circumstance and not a general biological function. Third, if Vulcan men went through this every seven years it would be extraordinarily disruptive to Vulcan society and impossible to keep secret. At any given time there’d be thousands, possibly millions, of Vulcans losing their shit both on Vulcan and throughout the Federation. How would anything get done?

I think the later treatment of the Pon Farr, beginning I suppose in ST:III, dumbed it down into basically “Vulcans in heat” which I think is a creative failure. Amok Time is pretty smart with its material, it’s a shame later Trek writers didn’t pay closer attention to the details.

But like I said thats not this episode’s fault and in no way diminishes Amok Time, it’s a good episode and a great kick off the season two. 3.75/4 gong blasts.
Peter G.
Sat, Jun 24, 2023, 11:40pm (UTC -6)
@ Idh2023,

"In this way, the Pon Farr is a *very* personal thing that doesn’t just befall Vulcan dudes every seven years, but requires a telepathic connection to one’s prospective mate that functions like an emotional exposed wire in an otherwise ordered mind."

That is an interesting conception of it. I don't think the episode gives us enough information to form solid conclusions, other than Spock hoped he'd avoid it. It's strange that he did hope for that, since he had always hoped to be completely Vulcan if he could manage it, and yet in this aspect he hopes to fully escape what Vulcans are used to. I imagine because he's half human maybe it just wouldn't happen to him at all, or he could overcome it.

If the mind meld were a requirement for Pon Farr, you would think that the Vulcans might just choose to avoid doing this to themselves. Why subject themselves intentionally to the humiliation of exhibiting burning lust? If the idea is to enforce pre-arranged marriages using mindmelds, it would seem to imply that Vulcans are not logical enough to go through with these marriages using their reason, or perhaps that the marriages are not entirely logical. That whole line of reasoning brings in to question why they cling to tradition at all, unless there is a logical reason to do so. To me the question for them always came down to biology: Vulcans are cursed with superior intelligence, superior strength, but worse passions and fury, so that they needed to use their intelligence to suppress their passions. The Pon Farr ends up playing into that drama nicely as a part of their suppressed self too powerful to logic away, and that ends up being channeled through a tradition, governed by logic, that is put into practice like literal clockwork.

I do quite like your idea of the mindmeld being relevant, and there was a poster at one point (can't remember the handle immediately) who was fixated on Vulcan mindmelds in a manner that I found quite interesting. But in this case I think the explanation of the Pon Farr as being innately biological strikes me as being in keeping with what Amok Time wrote. The objection regarding Spock's age could be ascribed to Vulcans reaching sexual maturity later than humans do, given their longer lifespans.
Sun, Jun 25, 2023, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
@peter g

I’ve always thought the rigid adherence to traditions in Vulcan culture was an extension of their perpetual inner struggle against their subdued but still potent emotions. They remain devoted to their pomp precisely because their effort to maintain a logical philosophy of life isn’t just an individual one, but a broader societal struggle as well. Which is also why they usually don’t include “outworlders” in their rituals because the entire spectacle is a sign of vulnerability that the Vulcans prefer not to showcase.

You’re right that Amok Time doesn’t give us enough to draw a firm conclusion, but I think the clues laid out imply a much rarer, specified event than a simple biological cycle. Particularly the fact that this is Spock’s first(maybe only?) Pon Farr, and that he has to involve T’Pring in its resolution. If it was just a normal cycle, there are other ways of dealing with it than rushing back to Vulcan. I mean, nurse chapel’s soup making skills are readily available right?

To be clear, I’m not saying the Pon Farr in this interpretation *isn't* biological but rather that the telepathic link aspect is what primes the Vulcan mind for the Pon Farr which is some sort of pseudo-vestigial function of their mating bond. If that makes sense.
Rigel hunter
Mon, Sep 25, 2023, 11:35pm (UTC -6)
I love Amok Time and it's an essential episode to the development of the whole ST universe. What has always annoyed me about it, however, is the inconsistency with other TOS episodes about Spock's parents. I mean, here's Nurse Chapel madly in love and willing to help. But Spock tells her "you and are of 2 different natures".? That didn't stop Sarek from marrying Amanda when "it seemed at the time, to be the logical thing to do". Why was it logical for Spock's father to grab the Earth woman who loved him, when his time came; but not for Spock to do likewise? Spock must really not have been attracted at all to Christine. Repulsed even. I have not seen any of the NuTrek so I have none of the "new perspectives" as written in the comments above. Just a classic old Trekker here. Thanks for maintaining this years long conversation!

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