34 "Amok Time"

(airdate: September 15, 1967)

Writer: Theodore Sturgeon
Director: Joseph Pevney

Ensign Chekov: Walter Koenig
T'Pring: Arlene Martel

T'Pau: Celia Lovsky
Stonn: Lawrence Montaigne

Admiral Komack: Byron Morrow

Stardate: 3372.7

Captain's Log: Spock is behaving strangely, experiencing emotional outbursts and angry behavior. He requests that the Enterprise drop him off at Vulcan for personal reasons, but the ship needs to head to Altair VI for an important ceremony. But McCoy discovers that Spock will die if he doesn't go to Vulcan, and Kirk coaxes the truth out of Spock: he is undergoing the pon farr, the Vulcan mating urge, which requires him to return to Vulcan to mate. Kirk diverts the Enterprise, and he and McCoy beam down with Spock to Vulcan for Spock's marriage ceremony. However, Spock's would-be wife, T'Pring, calls for the kal-if-fee - a challenge to Spock's claim - and chooses Kirk to be her champion. Spock and Kirk engage in a fight to the death, with Spock emerging victorious. It seems T'Pring preferred Stonn as a mate, rather than Spock, and chose Kirk as her champion so that she could have Stonn without fear of his being killed. Spock breaks off the marriage and returns the ship, only to be confronted by a very much alive Kirk: McCoy had drugged Kirk with a substance that merely feigned death. Spock's pon farr concluded, the Enterprise resumes course to Altair VI.

Classic Lines: Kirk about Spock: "I owe him my life a dozen times over. Isn't that worth a career?"
     Spock: "How do Vulcans choose their mates? Haven't you wondered?" Kirk: "I guess the rest of us assume that it's done... quite logically."
     Kirk, after learning that the problem with Spock involves his reproductive biology: "Well, there's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees." Spock: "The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain."

Alien Love: Spock was intended to be married to T'Pring, but T'Pring preferred to be joined with Stonn.

Library Computer: Vulcan is a hot, red planet, with an atmosphere thinner than Earth's. Vulcan Space Central appears to deal with all space traffic around Vulcan. The part of Vulcan that we see is very rocky. There is a large stone arena, with trapezoidal pillars holding up more natural lintels in a circle surrounding a large area with a central pillar, which is holding a stretched hexagonal gong suspended above a round brazier, with what are presumably Vulcan characters inscribed around its perimeter. Two polished stone entrances lead into the main arena, and there are hexagonal chimes hanging at various points around the arena. This land has been owned by Spock's family for over 2000 Earth years.
     Periodically [every seven years, according to the subsequent "The Cloud Minders"], Vulcans undergo a powerful mating urge called the pon farr, in which Vulcans must return home to mate or die. During this time Vulcans undergo a form of madness in which their logic are subsumed by more primal urges (Spock says it "strips our minds from us" and "brings about a madness which rips away our veneer of civilization"), and they sometimes forget actions they perform or commands they give. If a Vulcan does not return home, an imbalance of body functions (which McCoy likens to human bodies having huge amounts of adrenaline constantly being pumped into their bloodstreams) grows until, if ignored, it becomes fatal. This process appears to take roughly eleven days. [McCoy says that Spock has eight days to live, but that's after he's noticed Spock hasn't eaten for three days.] Vulcans consider pon farr to be a deeply personal thing - not only do virtually no "outworlders" know about it, but Vulcans don't like to discuss it among each other. It is cloaked in ancient rituals and customs that have remained unchanged since "the time of the beginning". Spock has not undergone pon farr before now.
     The primary ritual surrounding pon farr is the koon-ut-kal-if-fee, meaning "marriage or challenge", which is described as the heart and soul of Vulcan. Vulcans are betrothed, in a marriage arranged by their parents, to a mate at a young age (Spock and T'Pring were seven), allowing each to feel the other's thoughts and to lock their minds together, so that they would both be drawn to koon-ut-kal-if-fee at the same time. This bonding is described as not quite a marriage but more than a betrothal. The male, accompanied by his closest friends, strikes the gong at the appointed place, and the marriage party enters, preceded by the shaking of Vulcan bells (consisting of seven rows of small bells (18 in total; from top to bottom, 1, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1) in an hexagonal frame). The officiant then reads the mind of the male [at least, that's what appears to be happening], and then the ceremony begins. The officiant states "Kah-if-farr," at which point the male prepares to strike the gong again unless the female interrupts by declaring "Kal-if-fee!", indicating that she chooses to challenge the Vulcan male's claim over her. [Presumably if she doesn't object, the male strikes the gong and they have a short ceremony confirming the marriage bond, but obviously we never see this.] This challenge stems from Vulcan's distant past, when males would kill to win their mates. If the challenge is chosen, the woman chooses a champion to fight her would-be husband with the understanding that she will become the possession of the victor. The combat between the two is to the death. The first weapon is the lirpa, a shaft with a semi-circular blade on one end and a large counterweight on the other. The round continues until the officiant declares a halt by stating, "Kroykah!" The second weapon is the ahn-woon, a long ribbon with weights on the end. [And that's as far as we get here.] During the fight, Spock is deep in the plak tow, or blood fever, and thus isn't really aware (or possibly is beyond caring) that he is fighting his best friend to the death. Once he believes he has killed Kirk, the plak tow ends, and Spock is no longer in the throws of pon farr.
     The Vulcan males seen here wear a long silver tunic with a large open collar, with colored sashes tied around their wastes. Most of them wear silver helmets which look very similar to the Romulan helmets seen in "Balance of Terror", albeit with some extra ornamentation added. [Obviously this is because they're the same helmets, but it's still an interesting suggestion of similarities between the two cultures.] One Vulcan (the one with the giant blade) wears a mask over his face that resembles a blade, with a large central point sticking above and below the main line of the mask. The Vulcan symbol of greeting is a hand upheld with the fingers making a "V" shape. [This is the first appearance of arguably the most famous SF gesture ever, the Vulcan salute, although (as is fairly well-known) Leonard Nimoy actually got the gesture from his Jewish upbringing; it stands for the Hebrew letter Shin (although both hands are employed to form the letter), which represents Shaddai (God), and is employed in the Jewish priestly benediction.] "Live long and prosper" is a salutation that may be spoken while the gesture is performed.
     T'Pau is an older Vulcan woman in black and silver robes with a pink cover. She carries an ornate black staff. She is the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation Council. She's famous enough for Kirk [and possibly McCoy - it's not clear if he's actually heard of her or is just saving face] to have heard of her. Her presence suggests that Spock's family is rather important [we get confirmation of this in "Journey to Babel"], and her word is enough to get Starfleet to back down from their previous orders ("They couldn't turn her down," Kirk says). She speaks somewhat archaically, using "thee" and "thy" instead of "you" and "your". [Interestingly, she never uses "thou" - the subject (nominative) form of the pronoun - even in places where it would be expected, choosing instead to use "thee" in those cases.]
     T'Pring was Spock's bride-to-be, betrothed to Spock when they were both seven. In the intervening years she decided she did not wish to be married to Spock, preferring instead another Vulcan named Stonn. However, Vulcan laws permit divorce only by the kal-if-fee.
     Spock has never asked Kirk for any sort of leave prior to this point, which means he's accumulated a large amount. He's been called the best first officer in Starfleet [by McCoy in "Operation -- Annihilate!", but let's assume by others as well]. Spock is well-known among the Vulcan people - "almost a legend", T'Pring states. It has been said that Spock's Vulcan blood is thin [since he's half-human], but he prides himself on his Vulcan heritage, and he's clearly Vulcan enough to undergo pon farr. Spock's quarters on the Enterprise are located at 3F 125. [That puts him near McCoy, who was seen to be in 3F 127 in "The Man Trap". Incidentally, Yeoman Rand was in 3F 125 in "Charlie X", so it looks like Spock's quarters were reassigned after she left.] His quarters are relatively sparse, although they include a statue with a flickering red light, a three-dimensional chess set, and what kind of looks like a molecular model with all the electron shells included.
     Vulcan plomeek soup is a thin, purple-colored broth.
     Altair VI is part of the Altair system, which had recently undergone a long interplanetary conflict. Inauguration ceremonies for Altair VI's new president were being held on the planet to help stabilize the system, and the Federation was sending three ships as a demonstration of friendship and strength. This new president advanced the inauguration ceremony by a week. The shore facilities on Altair VI are reportedly excellent.
     Ensign Chekov is the navigator on the bridge. He has a Russian accent and longer, slightly shaggy hair. He also appears to be the second for the science station when Spock is not manning it. [Yes, it's Chekov's first appearance on the show - by airdate at least; by production it's "Catspaw", the first episode filmed for season 2.]
     Admiral Komack orders the Enterprise to Altair VI. His uniform has an emblem of a silver starburst [the Starfleet Command assignment patch].
     One of Finagle's laws states that "any home port the ship makes will be somebody else's, not mine." [Finagle's Law was created by influential SF author/editor John W. Campbell, who created it as a corollary to Murphy's Law. Finagle's Law stated that "anything that can go wrong, will - at the worst possible moment."]
     A tri-ox compound can help a human breathe and function more easily on a hotter planet with a thinner atmosphere such as Vulcan's. McCoy claimed to administer this to Kirk, but he actually gave him a neuroparalyzer, designed to simulate death.
     The giant eel-birds of Regulus Five must return to the caverns where they hatched once every eleven years.
     Aldebaran shellmouths have tight lips.

Final Analysis: "What thee are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way." Our first real look at Vulcan culture is a huge success. Leonard Nimoy provides an excellent performance as the tortured Spock, desperately trying to keep things together, and the Vulcan ceremonies provide an interesting contrast of the civilized and the savage. Plus we get a quality fight scene and our first chance to hear that fight music. One of the best episodes, and an excellent choice for a season opener.

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