TOS: Episode 49: Return to Tomorrow
Sulu finally returns to our Star Trek screen after a lengthy hiatus for the sake of filming Green Berets. Poor Spock, however, looks swollen eyed and tired, as he has for several episodes. Sitting where Chekov has been for the entirety of season two, there is now a never before seen officer.
The Enterprise approaches an apparently now-dead planet, unsure of why or how the planet has reached its current state. Upon questioning the reasons for the planet’s state, a massive, echoing voice-over speaks to the ship’s crew. The voice invites the crew to orbit the planet, stating that all of their questions will be answered. We discover that the voice is contacting the crew’s thoughts directly, rather than speaking through any kind of mechanical communication device. Further, we discover that not only is the planet devoid of any life of the sort Star Fleet has contacted before, the voice is also, apparently, without any such life form. That is, there is certainly something communicating, but it does not seem to have bodily life.
Kirk speaks about the confusion present in their current situation. A voice tells the crew that something has survived, even as the planet was destroyed over a half million years before. As Kirk reflects on the situation, Spock locates an energy source more than several miles within in the planet’s surface. The voice notifies Kirk that the voice-energy source will assist in their being able to transport to deep within the planet. Kirk, McCoy, Spock, and a couple of previously unseen red shirts gather together to prepare for transport. Scotty and McCoy protest, but Spock and Kirk assert that it will be safe. We discover that a new lieutenant doctor, who Kirk is clearly designed to find attractive, has reported for duty to within the planet, even without knowing who ordered the transport.
When the away team beams down, however, the two male security officers have been left behind on board the Enterprise. Only the new doctor, and our three primary officers find themselves miles within the planet. The readings of the crews scanners determine that the chamber was constructed a half million years ago, just as the planet was destroyed. Investigating the chamber, they discover an orb containing only energy. The thought-creature tells the crew that he had once been contained within a body much like humanoids, but that his race nearly destroyed itself by thinking of themselves as gods.
Kirk asks what help the creature would like, and immediately Kirk is overcome and begins to speak with the voice of the thought-creature. McCoy is angered but Spock convinces him that nothing can be done since the body is still Kirk’s. The new thought-Kirk is passionately entranced with the sensations life within the body. The new creature announces that the woman doctor, and Spock will be needed so that the two other thought-creatures still living can also be preserved via their bodies.
The thought-creature tells us that his species seeded the universe, developing the races that are now known to them as humans, Vulcans, etc. Notice how this storyline resembles one of the major episodes of The Next Generation. In that episode we meet a different ancient species that claims to have seeded the various species of humanoids now around the universe.
The thought-creature returns control of Kirk’s body to Kirk’s own thoughts, and then notifies our officers that the thought-creatures wish for temporary use of the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and the new woman doctor. The entire crew must agree to the process, or the thought-creatures will simply release them to continue travel around space. The thought-creatures wish to inhabit the humanoid bodies to borrow them for a while, and in so doing build mechanical humanoid bodies for the thought-creatures to then inhabit. Kirk offers a brilliantly passionate speech to remind his crew that though the procedure will be risky, it is worth the potential gains that could be had. “Risk,” he says. “Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.”
The entire crew agrees, and so the three thought-creatures’ receptacles are beamed aboard the Enterprise, where they inhabit our officers’ bodies. Thought-Spock wakes to discover himself quite attracted to Nurse Chapel. He immediately compliments her beauty, to which she swoons, having always been attracted to Nurse Chapel. Thought-Kirk and the thought-woman doctor discover a return to passionate life together long enough to kiss, but then begin to collapse again due to an incompatibility between the powerful thought creatures and the human creatures. The thought-Spock goes off to construct a formula that will preserve the bodies while the thought-creatures use them. We discover, however, that the thought-Spock creates a formula that will not actually work for the Kirk body. Thought-Spock wishes for the thought-creature to die, and believes that by killing Kirk’s body he will succeed.
The thought-creatures go on to produce android robots within which to house their own minds. Thought-Spock works on convincing Thought-doctor that she could simply keep her humanoid body, rather than move into an android body. In the meantime, Kirk’s body decreases in health, and he collapses. McCoy rushes in to help Kirk but scans show he is dead.
In Kirk’s body dying the thought-creature that had inhabited it is now apparently deceased. Kirk’s consciousness, however, is still housed within the receptacle that had previously belonged to the thought-creature. The thought-doctor decides she wants to keep her doctor’s body, and so tries to bribe McCoy into letting her keep the doctor body. However, she realizes that the temptation of such behavior is too great, and chooses against stealing the body of the doctor.
Okay, look. Dear jesus. The plot gets complicated here. A thought creature transfers here. Then it moves there. Spock almost dies because he is injected. But then it was a ruse. And the bad thought creature disappears. And then the good thought-creatures that love each other make out like mad wooly animals on the bridge of the Enterprise before they escape into oblivion. They realize they cannot stay in a human world, and so release themselves from human reality. In their last moment together they inhabit the bodies of the Captain and the new doctor and then embrace ina passionate kiss. While kissing they release themselves into oblivion so that Kirk and the doctor “come to” while embracing like mad, wooly animals with a deep commitment to each other. The episode ends with kitchy, happy-making allusions to their enjoyment of the situation buried under professional veneers appropriate to their stations.