TIME FOR SPOILERS!
“James T. Kirk: seventeen separate temporal violations…the biggest on record.” “The man was a menace.” You might remember those lines from the fifth season DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.” And just to show off my geekiness, here from memory is a list of all the times in TOS and the movies that James T. Kirk traveled in time…
- “The Naked Time“
- “Tomorrow Is Yesterday“
- “The City On The Edge of Forever“
- “Assignment: Earth“
- “All Our Yesterdays“
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- “Star Trek: Generations“
Does that add up to seventeen? Nope. However, one would assume that “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth,” and Star Trek IV each contain multiple violations by Kirk and his crew. So I’m fine with seventeen.
What does this have to do with the third episode of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS‘ second season, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”? Well, quite a lot, actually! Y’see, there have now been a total of thirteen SNW episodes…and two of them (a whopping 15%) have involved some kind of time travel! The other was the season one finale, “A Quality of Mercy.” Indeed, within the span of the last four SNW episodes, HALF have involved time travel!!! And as fate would have it, both of those time travel episodes have included a significant presence of Captain James T. Kirk—coincidentally from alternate timelines each, uh, time.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Well, yes and no.
First, let’s deal with the “yes” part, as I invoke this iconic scene from The Simpsons…
Just replace “Klingons” with “time travel” and you can quickly see where my head is at.
Of course, it’s not just SNW that’s doing time travel (and will again in four more episodes when Ensigns Mariner and Boimler arrive from the U.S.S. Cerritos in the future for a crossover with LOWER DECKS). It’s also DISCOVERY and PICARD. Both had second seasons steeped in time travel elements. And indeed, Picard‘s second season spent 8 out of 10 episodes in “our time” here on earth. Just like this latest episode of SNW.
In fact, the plot of Picard season two and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” were so similar that, well, I kinda HAVE to point out the obvious parallels…
- Both start off in our normal timeline, shift briefly into an alternative timeline, and then shoot the protagonists back in time to the mid-2020s.
- Both are filmed primarily in a large city (Los Angles and Toronto…where Picard and SNW are produced, respectively, so it’s understandable).
- Both include a sequence where two of our time-displaced heroes are driving wildly through the streets, and both chase scenes include the police.
- Both feature a very old, non-earthling character living in secret on this planet whom our heroes know from the future but who hasn’t met the time-travelers yet but helps them nonetheless (Guinan and Pelia).
- Both are stories about trying to stop an alien from the future from doing something in the past that will result in the “bad” alternate future that we saw at the beginning.
- Both end up leaving a starship captain in the past (although in Picard, Rios is alive, but in SNW, Kirk dies).
So, no points for originality!
However, I did actually enjoy this episode. I didn’t love it as much as last week’s “Ad Astra per Aspera” or some of the stronger SNW episodes from season one. And I probably won’t be watching this one over and over again. But it was still a pretty decent episode. Here’s some of the things that I thought worked well…
WHEN THE PIKE’S AWAY, THE CAST WILL PLAY
It’s not often that a television series with a 10-episode season has three (possibly more) episodes in a row with almost no sign of its lead actor anywhere in sight! Of course, as most fans are aware, ANSON MOUNT and his wife DARAH TRANG welcomed their first child, daughter CLOVER, on December 4, 2021. Filming on season two began the following February. Canada offers a very generous 35 weeks of combined parental leave, and so Anson was still taking some very important and well-deserved (and required by law) time off as cameras started rolling. His limited scenes in these early episodes were, as I understand it, filmed later on in the season as “pick-up” shots.
That being said, the writers have made the most of the opportunity to give the other members of the Enterprise crew some very effective character development time. Episode one allowed Spock, Chapel, and M’Benga to take center stage. Episode two focused almost exclusively on Number One (Una Chin-Riley). And with episode three, La’an Noonien-Singh finally got some decent story exposure.
It’s not that these characters haven’t had their “me” time in previous first season episodes, but it usually involved a lot of shared screen time and, of course, a decent helping of the lead character, since Anson Mount is being paid quite handsomely to be the star of the show. But with Pike all but gone for entire episodes, plots could focus more thoroughly on specific characters.
Of course, Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise did this pretty regularly, as there would be multiple “Data episodes,” “Odo episodes,” “B’Elanna episodes,” “T’Pol episodes,” etc. each season. Of course, those series each had 26 episodes per season. SNW has only 10. That’s understandably very limiting when it comes to character development. Most of us don’t know nearly as much about, for example, helm officer Erica Ortegas as we did about Lt. Tom Paris after one and half seasons of Voyager.
So La’an’s character benefited greatly from this story. We now know the sorts of things that her day-to-day job on the Enterprise entails. We know that she has a lot of trouble opening up to others. We know that she lives a life where simply introducing herself with her full name will have the same effect as someone named Hitler introducing themselves. And of course, like so many women before her, she falls in love with James T. Kirk. So let’s talk about him…
PAUL WESLEY AS KIRK DIDN’T BOTHER ME
This debate is rapidly becoming the latest tempest-in-a-teapot for the fan community: do you accept PAUL WESLEY as Kirk or absolutely hate him? It’s almost a litmus test at this point.
Here’s my take…
No one is ever going to be able to play Kirk like WILLIAM SHATNER did…because they’re not him. The closest might have been VIC MIGNOGNA in STAR TREK CONTINUES, who mimicked Shatner’s mannerisms extremely closely. But even then, you always knew you were watching another actor.
On the other hand, CHRIS PINE never tried to mimic Shatner and instead just created his own version of the character. So did ZACHARY QUINTO and ETHAN PECK with Spock. And while KARL URBAN did an amazing job channeling the late DeFOREST KELLEY, SIMON PEGG didn’t come close to trying to be JIMMY DOOHAN.
In other words, there’s only one Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, and the rest…and trying to simply imitate them is a fool’s errand. In fact, for an actor, constantly wondering,”Is this how they would play this scene?” would likely become a paralyzing distraction. Instead, a good actor creates their own interpretation of a character, trying to honor the core components but simultaneously making it their own.
And as fans, if we want to enjoy Star Trek presenting us with new actors playing established characters like Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Chapel, we must let their new interpretations into our hearts. We must tell ourselves, “Okay, this is now Captain Kirk; I am just going to accept that.” There is simply no other way. Complaining accomplishes nothing, as William Shatner is 92 years old, and I don’t care how good A.I. is these days or how good 80-year-old Harrison Ford looks in Dial of Destiny, Shatner simply can’t play a 30-year-old version of himself.
And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want him to.
I enjoyed William Shatner as Captain Kirk for three decades, and I love watching him in reruns. But that style of acting is unique to a certain era of television and cinema. Modern characters behave, react, and deliver lines differently. Paul Wesley and CHRISTINA CHONG as La’an had a tremendous chemistry together, but Shatner would have totally overwhelmed her and stolen every scene. Wesley, on the other hand, allowed Chong and her character to stand out and shine.
Toronto is one of my favorite cities on this planet. I used to joke that they probably have the death penalty for littering…although most Canadians wouldn’t hurt a fly. I remember once being in Calgary on Canada Day (which is today, eh?) listening to the radio as citizens called in to share what made them most proud to be Canadian. And I’ll never forget what one of them said: “My favorite part of being from Canada is knowing that, anywhere I travel in the world, people will like me.” I certainly can’t say that as an American! I’m still proud of my country, but Canada, well, Canada is special.
Now, I realize that SNW is filmed in Toronto, so it’s obvious that they’d go back in time to Toronto (just as Picard, which was produced in Los Angeles, went back in time to L.A.). But it was very refreshing seeing an Earth city in a Star Trek time travel episode that wasn’t Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York (or, in the case of the latter two, Los Angeles PRETENDING to be San Fransisco or New York…and I’m referring to DS9‘s “Past Tense” and not Star Trek IV).
I also admired some of the clever solutions the writers came up with to move the story along. Obviously, clothes and money were going to be problems. Apparel theft was first done by Kirk and Spock in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” but this episode’s pilfering was a different enough to feel fresh. As for getting cash, there were obviously no time-looped spectacles to hock at a pawn shop. But speaking of pawns, why not use Kirk’s mastery of chess to make money the old-fashioned way: hustling Canadians in the park? (All the world seems in tune on a brisk afternoon when you’re hustling Canadians in the park!) And of course, Canucks are so nice that no one has any problems paying Jim after a checkmate. Credit the writers for a (chess)masterful idea.
I must acknowledge that having the “helpful” Canadian conspiracy theorist be the bad guy was something I didn’t see coming. I had figured that she was either the Rain Robinson/Christopher Brynner character (a quirky person from the past who helps out our heroes) or else a temporal agent from the future sent to covertly assist with their mission. But while I got the “she’s from the future” part right, I never guessed she’d be a Romulan temporal agent trying to screw up the timeline! (As a side note, last year I wrote the script for a Star Trek fan film—still just a script—where a Romulan from the future travels back in time to change reality. So apparently, great minds think alike!)
The car chase was also fun, but having driven on the slick roads next to Lake Ontario in the month of February myself, let me assure you that someone who has never driven a car before would have skidded into a building multiple times trying to maneuver at those speeds! Indeed, while some people were bothered by the ret-Khanning of Khan’s birth year (more on that next!), my canonical issue was Kirk’s ability to drive so well. “Ah, ah, ah,” you say, “but didn’t Kirk use to steal he step-father’s 60’s Corvette Stingray and play chicken with a super-deep cliff?” First of all, that was an alternate reality where Kirk’s real father died after Nero came back in time and destroyed the U.S.S. Kelvin. Second, this Kirk is from an ALTERNATE alternate reality where he wasn’t even born on Earth but in space on board the U.S.S. Iowa. Maybe this guy has seen pictures of a car, but if Earth is a wasteland and humans are living on terraformed planets and moons in the solar system, I doubt he’s had much driving practice.
That said, I just kinda went with it. I was really enjoying the episode.
And speaking of Iowa, I’d also like to tip my hat to Star Trek FINALLY canonizing the lovely town of Riverside—with a population of barely 1,000 people—as the official birthplace of James T. Kirk. Riverside declared itself the future birthplace of James T. Kirk in 1985, and GENE RODDENBERRY not only approved but made sure that the line, “No, I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space…” was included in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And despite Iowa appearing at the beginning of Star Trek 2009, in that alternate reality, Kirk was born in outer space. But now, in “our” reality, Kirk was born in Iowa.
Oh, and kudos to SNW for cleaning up it’s own mess with everyone calling Kirk’s brother “Sam,” when TOS established Kirk’s brother’s name was George Samuel Kirk and that only Jim called him Sam. Apparently, no, everyone calls him Sam. There, fixed.
OH, AND SPEAKING OF FIXING ERRORS IN CANON…!
One of the most Khan-troversial aspects of this episode happened at the end where La’an comes face-to-face with her genetically-engineered ancestor, and he is but a wee bairn! Some fans have gone apoplectic over this canonical sacrilege!!
As we all know (well, those of us who are fans of TOS and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), Khan and his fellow genetic supermen and women fled Earth in the year 1996, following the devastating Eugenics Wars. Of course, back in 1967, such events were still decades in the future, and none of the writers expected anyone would remember this Star Trek show even ten years from then, let alone forever! And while TOS was extremely careful never to lock down any specific Earth year as canon, 1996 was one of those rare exceptions.
Of course, by the time TNG started, the 1990s were barely a few years away, and the pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint” implied that World War III had happened in the early-to-mid 21st century. Were the Eugenics Wars and World War III different things? It was never quite clear. All we knew is that, by the time of the film Star Trek: First Contact, Earth was only just recently recovering from nuclear devastation when the Vulcans landed in Montana in 2063.
And so we now have kid-Khan at the age of maybe six or seven in what looks to be 2023 or so. Kinda tough to take over a quarter of the planet in 1992 when you won’t even be born for another quarter century! So what gives?
Although the lines were delivered quickly with an almost psychotic mania, this one clip actually solves nearly every problem that fans have been complaining about since the launch of Discovery in 2017…
It’s said that time heals all wounds, and it seems that time has been VERY busy since the “end” of the temporal cold war at the beginning of Enterprise‘s fourth season. In fact, if you think about it, most of the discontinuities that fans have complained about when it comes to Star Trek—from the strange new look of the U.S.S. Kelvin (before Nero’s emergence into the past) to the funky uniforms of Discovery‘s first few seasons to Pike’s altered Enterprise design happened only AFTER the temporal cold war plotline.
Of course, we fans know the real real reason for these alterations in canon come from showrunners and production designers trying to “modernize” the look and feel of newer Star Trek. But consider this! What if the in-continuity explanation for these various discontinuities was, in fact, the temporal cold war from Enterprise? After all, at the end of “Storm Front, Part 2,” Daniels tells Captain Archer that the timeline is reseting itself, but he never says HOW!
Keep in mind that countless temporal agents were probably up to a lot of mischief in the past…and who knows how far back it went and how convoluted the time paradoxes were. So yeah, maybe it’s possible that, in order for Khan and the other augments to seize power and create a world-changing traumatic event, the whole thing had to happen 30 years later…and “time” shifted it to be so.
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But Star Trek has made us accept the ridiculous before (ahem, “Spock’s Brain”). And if this explanation helps my head canon from aching, I’m good with it. So not only do I not have a complaint about the Khan-version of Mr. Singh’s timeline, I actually kinda welcome it! Let’s hear it for wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey explanations!
See you next time.