>Star Trek’s Top Ten #8: Journey to Babel

>Written by D.C. Fontana, this episode has aliens galore in it. It features Vulcans, Tellarites and Andorians (who come to promimence later in Enterprise) all aboard the Enterprise, headed to a conference on whether or not to admit the planet Coridian to the Federation.

It’s got political intrigue, family drama, action, suspense and did I mention a whole lot of aliens.

This is the first time we meet Spock’s parents on-screen, superbly played by Mark Leonard and Jane Wyatt. We also hear hints of Spock’s childhood, including his pet sehlat which is described as “a teddy bear with fangs.”

And McCoy famously gets the “last word.”

This is one that sees the big three at their best. Kirk is assaulted and stabbed by an Androian (actually turns out to be an Orion is disguise) and put out of action, just as Spock’s father needs life-saving surgery and Spock is the only one on board with the blood needed for the transfusion. Kirk is out of action and Spock follows the logical dictate of not allowing himself to be out of comission as well. McCoy patches Kirk up enough to get him to the bridge long enough to relieve Spock and order him to sick-bay…or at least that is what is supposed to happen. The ship has been followed by a mysterious vessel that as soon as Kirk calls Scotty to the bridge, it attacks. Kirk is forced to stay in command and uses the infamous Corbomite bluff again to stop the attacking vessel.

Action, political intrigue and character work–this one has it all. It’s also got some crisp, taut and entertaining dialogue. D.C. Fontana was a master of giving each character the exact right line to say and the actors all deliver the lines exceptionally well–even Shatner.

About the only thing that keeps it from being higher is the attack on Kirk. When I first saw figured out that scenes were cut from the syndicated episodes, I felt sure that what was truncated was the start of the Andorian’s attack on Kirk. Imagine my disappointment when I finally got the episode on VHS and it turned out it always just cut awkwardly to it, mid-fight. It’s a rough transition and cut that mars an otherwise fine episode.

And yes, compared to today’s make-up effects, the Tellarites don’t come off all the well. But for the time, they look good and if you want to see what could have been, just watch the closing credits. It features a still from the make-up test for the masks.

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