“Return to Tomorrow” is another in the string of episodes about nigh-omnipotent alien beings made of energy who attempt to hijack the Enterprise and crew for their own devices. However, this one has a twist – the energy beings want to return to physical bodies.
It starts with an omniscient-style simulated distress beacon, luring the Enterprise to a planet which Spock declares is “Class M” – which fans will recognise is normally shorthand for Earth-like, complete with a breathable atmosphere. Only in this case Spock declares that the atmosphere has been ripped away millions of years ago. By my understanding, this should make it no longer class M. At the planet, a mysterious voice identifying itself as Sargon contacts the ship, asking Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and astrobiologist Ann Mulhall to beam down to coordinates deep inside the planet – through “approximately 112.37 miles of rock” as Spock puts it. McCoy, quite rightly in this case, displays his growing fear of the transporter.
They try to beam down with two security guards, but the guards are left behind because Sargon doesn’t want them. It turns out Sargon lives in a glowing ball, one of the last of his kind along with his wife Thalassa and someone from the other side of the final war that destroyed their civilisation, Henoch. Sargon possesses Kirk’s body, placing his consciousness in the glowing sphere, and exults with booming echoey voice in the feeling of having a body again. He explains that they want to build new android bodies to live in, and will need to use Kirk’s, Spock’s, and Mulhall’s bodies temporarily to build them. McCoy complains that the possession is straining Kirk’s metabolism, so Sargon agrees to switch him back. Sargon says the decision is theirs. He also mentions out that their race long ago colonised the Galaxy, and humans and Vulcans may well be their distant descendants – Spock states this may explain some legends from Vulcan prehistory.
The senior officers debate whether to allow Sargon and company to possess Kirk, Spock, and Mulhall, and vote in favour after Kirk gives a Picard-like speech about inalienable rights. Henoch takes Spock, and in his echoey voice delights in the “superior” Vulcan body, which he plans to keep forever. He prepares a formula that will slow down the metabolisms of the bodies to allow them to be possessed for longer periods, but doctors Sargon’s in a sly attempt to kill him. Kirk and Mulhall get to engage in string-free romance thanks to being possessed by Sargon and Thalassa. Alas, the poison takes effect and Kirk drops dead!
Kirk’s body is restored with artificial life support, and Thalassa moves Kirk’s trapped consciousness in Sargon’s glowing ball back to his body. But Henoch in Spock’s body starts taking control of the Enterprise. There’s various fighting and Kirk orders McCoy to inject Spock with a fatal drug to stop Henoch. Spock collapses and Henoch is destroyed, and then Sargon magically reappears as part of Kirk’s secret plan or something and moves Spock’s consciousness from Nurse Chapel where he had temporarily stored it back into his restored body. This gives Chapel and Spock an intimate moment that will probably be the closest they ever get to one another. Sargon possesses Kirk one last time to hold and kiss Thalassa in Mulhall’s body, before they depart, having decided to end their existence together.
There’s more in the details of this story that make it fairly engrossing to watch unfold. The variation on the usual omnipotent alien scenario is different enough to make the formula fresh again, and there are some nice scenes. I call this one definitely above average.
Tropes: Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Energy Beings, Atmosphere Abuse, Girl Of The Week, Ludicrous Precision, Soul Jar, Power Glows, Dying Race, Last Of His Kind, Power Echoes, Precursors, Patrick Stewart Speech, Voices Are Mental, Grand Theft Me, Unspoken Plan Guarantee, Sharing A Body, Together In Death.
Body count: Henoch (destroyed), Sargon and Thalassa (accepted their fate).