Boldly Going: “Journey to Babel”

Star Trek had hit its stride by early season 2. Spock was one of the most popular characters as fans embraced his conflicted Vulcan Human nature. “Journey to Babel” added to the character of Spock by introducing his Vulcan father and his human mother. It’s also one of the 10 original series episodes that D.C. Fontana worked on. D.C. Fontana, or Dorothy Catherine Fontana is one of the few women writers of Star Trek. She’s been involved with the franchise since it’s inception, and has contributed to the original series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. 

The Enterprise arrives at Vulcan to pick up the ambassador. The senior officers are in their dress uniforms for the ambassador’s arrival, much to Doctor McCoy’s discomfort. Once the shuttle has arrived and Sarek has introduced himself and his human wife, Amanda, Captain Kirk offers Spock a chance to visit his parents on Vulcan before the Enterprise departs. Spock deadpans that Ambassador Sarek and his wife are his parents. This isn’t a very happy family reunion.

Captain Kirk, Amanda and Ambassador Sarek. The two finger embrace is how Vulcans express affection.

The Vulcans aren’t the only delegation onboardThere are Andorians, Tellarites, and other alien groups as well. The Enterprise crew is transporting everyone to Babel, a neutral planetoid where they can discuss admitting Coridan to the Federation. Coridan has resources valuable to many groups. Kirk notes in his opening Captain’s Log that tensions are high and passengers are explosive. After giving Sarek and Amanda a tour of the Enterprise, Kirk hosts a reception for all the delegations. The Tellarites are eager to hear Sarek’s position on the Coridan issue and won’t take no for an answer.  Sarek wants the Federation to admit Coridan so it can offer protection, especially from illegal mining. The Tellarite ambassador, Gav, is insulted and tries to fight the Vulcan, but Kirk breaks it up.

Sarek, Kirk and the Tellarites. The Tellarites were one of the four founding members of the Federation, along with Vulcans, Andorians, and Humans.

When Gav is found murdered with his neck broken in a way that mirrors the Vulcan execution technique, Sarek is quickly implicated by Kirk, Bones, and even Spock. The captain questions Sarek who agrees that he is a logical suspect, to Amanda’s discomfort. But he barely establishes an alibi before collapsing. Doctor McCoy takes Sarek to sickbay where he diagnoses the Vulcan equivalent of a heart attack but has no idea how to treat it as he’s never operated on a Vulcan before. Sarek reveals he’s had these attacks before, twice before he left Vulcan and once while he was meditating. He couldn’t have murdered Ambassador Gav since he was incapacitated himself. Spock proposes he serve as his father’s blood donor since they both share a rare Vulcan blood type. He is willing to take an experimental drug to increase his blood production. McCoy is doubtful, but has no alternative as Sarek’s condition deteriorates without surgery.

There’s just one major complication. Kirk is attacked by an Andorian delegate and is stabbed before he renders the Andorian unconscious. With the captain out of commission, Spock assumes command as First Officer and is now unwilling to undergo the blood transfusion for his father. No pleading from Amanda will get him to change his mind. Spock holds his duty to his ship over his duty to his father. It’s only logical and he believes Sarek would agree.

Kirk’s unconventional fighting style.

Kirk awakens in sickbay to learn Spock is refusing to come down for the blood transfusion while in command. The captain must resume command despite his injuries. Of course, once he’s back on the bridge, the mysterious ship who had been trailing the Enterprise finally makes its move. The attack comes while McCoy is in the middle of Sarek’s surgery. The ship shakes with each phaser hit and sickbay is in danger of losing power. Sarek’s heart stops at least once, requiring Nurse Chapel to get a portable cardiac stimulator. Kirk orders the Enterprise to play dead in order to lure the enemy into a trap. But before he can get any answers, the ship self destructs. When Kirk tries to further question the Andorian delegate, Thelev dies of an apparent suicide via slow poison.

Doctor McCoy is happy to report that both Spock and Sarek survived the operation. Kirk wants answers about the mysterious ship and asks for an autopsy of the Andorian delegate. Spock suggests he was an Orion as they had been raiding Coridan and wanted to stir suspicion among the Federation powers.

I really enjoyed this episode. Before I watched it for this blog post, I had remembered the scene of Spock refusing to donate blood for his father and not much else. I was under the impression that Spock’s refusal was related to his strained relationship with his father. But that wouldn’t have been very logical.

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