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Star Trek's Journey to Babel: Standout Episode for Mother's Day

by Allison Waldman, posted May 10th 2009 9:03AM
Spock and his momToday is Mother's Day, and while J.J. Abrams' new big screen version of Star Trek re-imagines the mythology of the Enterprise crew and vanquishes Spock's mother Amanda in an alternate time line, I prefer to remember Spock's mother the way she was on television. On the original Star Trek episode that aired on November 17, 1967, "Journey to Babel," introduced Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and his lovely human wife Amanda, when they boarded the Enterprise on a diplomatic mission. It was a shock to Captain Kirk to discover that the elegant older couple were not merely envoys, they were in fact, Spock's parents.

For original Trekkers, "Journey to Babel" is an episode that's loaded with great scenes, memorable lines, wonderful performances, and especially, a treasure trove of character history. The rift between Sarek and Spock was presented for the first time, as viewers learned that Spock's father resented his son's choice to join Starfleet and refuse acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy.

The troubles between father and son, however, only matter because of Spock's mother, the very human Amanda. She is the key character in the episode because as much as it's fascinating to see the cool detachment between Sarek and Spock, it is only by relating to her love for the two men in her life that we can understand what they're really feeling.

Jane Wyatt was chosen for the role of Amanda in part because she was a familiar, famous TV mom. She had been a three-time Emmy winner for playing Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best. Her face and voice were well known to viewers and she was immediately believable as a wise, understanding mother. She had to have been to raise Spock, the half-human/half-Vulcan child who never felt at home on his home planet. Through Amanda, we learn that Spock's only friend as a boy was a pet sehlat, a teddy bear -- with six-inch fangs (and it wasn't a stuffed animal)!

The best scene between mother and son is the one that borders on the melodramatic, but for the amount of character detail and the subtext, it's worth the slap in the face. Take a look at Jane Wyatt and Leonard Nimoy, as mother and son:

Not to be overlooked, the performance of Mark Lenard as Sarek was also great. He was really attuned with Nimoy and together, they really helped create a lot of the Star Trek/Vulcan mythology. The way Sarek and Amanda show their affection for each other, the subtle touching of their fingers, seems completely improvised. And when Spock asks his father why he married a human, his dry reading, "At the time, it seemed the logical thing to do," was perfect in its simplicity and wit.

While "Journey to Babel" has great character details for Spock, there's also terrific action, a murder mystery, more development between the McCoy-Kirk-Spock triad, and a whole bunch of aliens (pre-Star Wars' cantina scene) and Star Fleet pomp and circumstance. Coming in the early part of the second season, this show remains one of the best of the original 79, and one that will forever be remembered for the introduction of Spock's mother and father.

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Yeah, thanks for the spoiler and all the warning you gave us. :-/

May 11 2009 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey, let's not forget: one of D. C. (Dorothy) Fontana's career highlights, too (she not only wrote this and several other episodes but was story editor for the first two-plus seasons, all before age 30).

May 10 2009 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vincent J. Murphy

Wow, a first sentence spoiler. Thanks!

May 10 2009 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What are you referring to? None of that happened, it's all been erased by J.J. the Eraser!

Ha, sorry, couldn't help myself!

I agree one of the best episodes.

Happy Mothers Day! Mothers!

May 10 2009 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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