Star Trek 2.10: Journey to Babel

Journey to BabelJourney to Babel” is a memorable episode mainly for the introduction of Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda. It’s also a decent political drama and murder mystery story, with a good dose of family tension thrown in.

It begins with Kirk and officers in dress uniform greeting Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, arriving on board the Enterprise by shuttlecraft. This is the second episode in a row (in screening order, though not production order) in which they use a shuttlecraft when it seems the transporters would be a more sensible option. In particular, this time it’s clear that the Enterprise is in orbit about Vulcan, because Kirk offers Spock the chance to go down and visit his parents, at which point Spock reveals that the Ambassador and his wife are his parents. This revelation occurs after Sarek has already snubbed Spock and requested a different crew member show him around the ship. We quickly learn that Sarek does not approve of Spock’s choice of Starfleet as a career and they have not really spoken for 18 years.

Sarek is on board as part of a collection of over a hundred delegates to a Federation conference on the planet Babel. The actual political plot, while intriguing to watch, is not particularly worth commenting on here, as opposed to the amazingly high collar on Amanda’s gown, which presumably serves to initially hide her human ears until we learn that she is Spock’s mother, and therefore not a Vulcan but a human. Sarek meanwhile quotes his age to Kirk as 102.437 Earth years.

The various ambassadors gather to discuss politics and eat primary coloured space finger food. A pig-man alien named Gav accosts Sarek, demanding to know his position on the political issue du jour. Soon after, Gav is found murdered, his neck snapped suspiciously by a Vulcan martial technique. Kirk is shown gratuitously shirtless in his quarters when informed of the murder, and goes to question Sarek. Sarek logically agrees that he is the prime suspect, his alibi being that he was alone meditating at the time of the crime. While saying this, he collapses and McCoy diagnoses the Vulcan equivalent of a heart attack.

Sarek needs an operation, and transfused blood to survive it. The only source of the rare T negative blood is Spock, who immediately volunteers. Amid preparations for the operation, there is a hard smash cut to a scene of Kirk fighting an Andorian delegate who is armed with a knife. Kirk triumphs and the Andorian is placed in the brig, but Kirk is wounded and Spock takes command of the ship. In the looming crisis of the feuding ambassadors on board, plus the sudden appearance of a mysterious and potentially hostile alien vessel outside, Spock decides his duty to the ship outweighs that to his father and refuses to begin the operation.

Waking in sick bay, Kirk learns of this and gets McCoy to strap up his punctured lung so he can convince Spock he is okay and order him to the operating theatre to save Sarek, intending to immediately hand over command to Scotty. When Spock leaves the bridge, the enemy ship attacks, so Kirk stays to fight. He uses a trick of turning the ship’s power off and drifting in space. The enemy is defeated, and the “Andorian” is revealed to be a disguised Orion in communication with it, plotting to disrupt the Babel conference. The ship self-destructs and the spy commits suicide rather than be captured.

The story ends with Sarek waking up and reconciling with Spock. Although we never get to the Babel conference itself, that is not necessary, as the themes of the story have played out in full and resolved as best they can. This episode is more of a dramatic thriller in mood than most episodes, and benefits from a tightly plotted and interdependent storyline that holds your attention, plus the introduction of Sarek and Amanda. Definitely one of the better episodes.

Tropes: Literary Allusion Title, Forced Into Their Sunday Best, Follow In My Footsteps, I Have No Son, Ludicrous Precision, Pig Man, Ass In Ambassador, Touch Of Death, Shirtless Scene, AB Negative, Smash Cut, Ass Kicks You, I Can Still Fight, Playing Possum, Space Is An Ocean, Cyanide Pill, Well Done Son Guy.
Body count: Tellarite ambassador Gav, Orion spy Thelev, entire crew of enemy Orion ship.

One Response to “Star Trek 2.10: Journey to Babel”

  1. Peter says:

    This is one of my favourite episodes in the series, like you, i found it to be one of the stronger ones with a really good plot but i think one of the other things that made me love it is just how it ends, with them all in Sick Bay talking and McCoy getting them to be quiet and then looking around a smile on his face and says “Well what do you know, i finally got the last word.” I just found it really amusing because it always seemed in the other episodes that McCoy always seemed to get tripped up in the ending discussion or someone else would steal his line out from under him and become the focus of the attention and i just liked how even he acknowledges it with that simple line.

    Great review of the episode and i’m off to read more ^_^

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