#42: ‘Journey to Babel’

Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence.

#42: Star Trek: ‘Journey to Babel’

Star Trek, Journey to Babel

Gene Roddenberry’s conception of a future Earth aligned with other planets containing intelligent life mandated that he include one of those denizens of other worlds to be part of his main cast. Though NBC had misgivings about the character from another planet (a world from another star system inexplicably named “Vulcan” after a Roman god) with his quasi-satanic appearance, the public embraced him.

During Star Trek’s first season, the character of Spock was established to be from a highly advanced culture which had eliminated emotions and violence and devoted their existence to pure reason and logic.

In the show’s second season premiere, “Amok Time,” we finally got to visit Spock’s home world for the first time when the Vulcan was stricken with a mating urge unique to his species that would become fatal if not satisfied. “Amok Time” seemed to belie all that had been established about the Vulcan people, as it depicted a savage, barbaric and xenophobic society which condoned and practiced ritual combat to the death as a part of its mating rituals. So much for continuity.

A later second season episode more fully explored the character. “Journey to Babel” (November 17, 1967) brought aboard the Enterprise Spock’s parents: his father Sarek (Mark Lenard) and his mother, the Earth woman Amanda Grayson (Jane Wyatt), both mysteriously absent from “Amok Time.”

Star Trek, Journey to Babel
(Spock’s parents)

The occasion for their arrival: The Enterprise is hosting a diplomatic conference featuring various representatives of the planets of the United Federation to discuss whether a potential world is worthy of admission to their august body. Spock and his father are somewhat estranged over his decision to enter Starfleet. In fact, the two haven’t spoken to each other for 13 years!

Things get interesting quickly when Sarek gets into an argument with a boisterous delegate from another world, and that delegate is later found murdered. When Sarek is questioned regarding the killing, he suddenly suffers the Vulcan equivalent of a heart attack and has to be rushed to sickbay to be placed under the ministrations of Dr. McCoy.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise detects a mysterious vessel stalking the ship, which seems to be preparing for attack, and which Lt. Uhura has determined is in communication with someone aboard the Enterprise. Kirk ferrets out the spy, but gets a serious stab wound in a fight, necessitating him being laid up in sickbay as well and putting Spock in command.

Complication: McCoy determines that Sarek needs a blood transfusion from his son, but Spock refuses because of his devotion to duty at such a critical time. This sets up an emotional confrontation with his mother that is among the best scenes ever scripted for the original Star Trek series (kudos to the late Dorothy Fontana). It will be up to Kirk and McCoy to devise a ruse that will get Spock into sickbay to aid his sire while still dealing with the crisis at hand.

Star Trek, Journey to Babel

“Journey to Babel” is one of the most fully realized episodes of the original Star Trek with an excellent tightly-plotted script which balances action, suspense, drama and even humor.

It’s available to Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and Paramount+ subscribers, or you can buy it for $1.99 from various providers. The episode will also run Saturday, May 8, at 10 pm ET on MeTV. (To find your local channel number, either over the air for free via antenna, on or cable, visit MeTV’s Where to Watch page.)

(Source for all ‘Journey to Babel’ photos: IMDb)

About Todd M. Pence

Todd M Pence has been an amateur historian and scholar of American television for the past 35 years. “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960” is the product of decades of research, not just in active viewing but in extensive combing of newspaper and magazine archives to read the original reviews of programs at the time they aired. He has also reached out to fellow television researchers to get their opinions. Pence maintains that the decade of the 1960's constituted the zenith of American primetime television drama, and that we will probably never see its like again. His purpose in compiling this list was to preserve this history and to spotlight many exceptional programs which have been forgotten and consigned to the dustbin of history. Pence holds a BA in Journalism from West Virginia University and has worked for the past 20 years in the Fairfax (Virginia) County Public School system

View All Articles

Leave a Comment