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?

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

40 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?

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2022 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. Terms of use.