Suffering through his first infliction of pon farr, the Vulcan biological mating urge, Spock must return to Vulcan to marry his betrothed or he will die. However, when the Enterprise arrives at Vulcan, complications at the ceremony may endanger Captain Kirk as well.
Dr. McCoy notices that Spock is growing restless and has stopped eating. He also is becoming extremely irritable, throwing Nurse Christine Chapel out of his quarters and physically flinging the Vulcan plomeek soup she has specially prepared for him. After this outburst, he demands a leave of absence on his home planet Vulcan.
Captain Kirk is baffled by Spock's behavior, but orders the Enterprise to Vulcan. However, a priority message forces him to change course back to Altair VI in order to be on time for the new President's coronation. As soon as he leaves the bridge, Spock orders the course changed back to Vulcan.
Kirk orders Spock to sickbay, where McCoy examines him and finds that if he is not brought to Vulcan within eight days, Spock will die due to extreme stress produced by chemicals being pumped through his body.
When Kirk confronts him, Spock says he cannot tell the cause of his problem because it is a deeply personal affair. Kirk eventually cajoles Spock into revealing that his problem is "Vulcan biology," which Kirk correctly concludes means Vulcan reproduction.
Spock explains to them that Vulcans are married as children with the understanding that they will fulfill this commitment when they become adults. Spock has reached this time, the pon farr, and if he doesn't get to Vulcan immediately to mate with his bride, T'Pring, he will die. Kirk jeopardizes his career by disobeying a direct order to the contrary from Starfleet, and proceeds with all possible speed to Vulcan. As Spock's friends, Kirk and McCoy are invited to witness the marriage ritual – the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. The master of ceremonies is T'Pau, the only person ever to turn down a seat in the Federation Council.
Trouble starts when T'Pring announces she would rather not marry Spock. T'Pring invokes the kal-if-fee -- her right to have Spock fight for her. However, she chooses Kirk as her champion, over the strenuous objections of Stonn, another member of the wedding party, who won't shut up about his traditional rights until T'Pau commands "Kroykah!" (meaning "Stop!") Both Kirk and McCoy (correctly) speculate that Stonn is T'Pring's actual choice and would be picked next should Kirk decline. Fearing Spock is now too weak to fight Stonn, Kirk agrees. It is only then he is informed that it is to be a fight to the death.
The fight ensues and Spock quickly demonstrates physical superiority. McCoy objects to T'Pau that Kirk isn't used to the Vulcan atmosphere and climate. He asks permission to inject the captain with a tri-ox compound to compensate. T'Pau agrees and Kirk is given the injection.
During the fight, Spock apparently strangles Kirk to death, and McCoy accompanies the captain's body back to the Enterprise. Spock, his mating urges curbed by the knowledge that Kirk, his friend and captain, is dead by his own hand, demands to know why T'Pring took Kirk as her champion. T'Pring reveals that she did not want to be the "consort of a legend", as Spock had become to his people, and instead started an affair with Stonn; she chose Kirk as her champion to force a stalemate - Kirk, being an outsider and not knowing her, would have no reason to keep her as his bride, and Spock would either release her out of the stigma of claiming a wife who had challenged the marriage, or be too wrapped up with his career in Starfleet to be around to ensure their marriage stuck, thus allowing her to be with Stonn regardless of the outcome. Seeing the flawless logic behind the reasoning, Spock relinquishes T'Pring to Stonn, then returns to the starship, expecting to face court-martial for murder.
In sickbay, however, he finds Kirk alive and well, having been injected not with tri-ox, but with a neuroparalyzer which simulates death - which McCoy had repeatedly attempted to tell him, but each time Spock had cut him off to continue spelling out his guilt and the consequences, discovering the truth only when he had mentioned that Scotty must take command, at which point Kirk playfully demanded to know why he hadn't been consulted regarding this decision. Here, he is overjoyed to find Kirk alive, betraying his emotion with a big smile though he quickly ended the display when he realized that McCoy of all people had seen it. Kirk is let off the hook for disobeying orders when Starfleet retroactively grants permission to divert to Vulcan at T'Pau's request.
- "Captain's log, stardate 3372.7. On course, on schedule, bound for Altair VI via Vulcan. First Officer Spock seems to be under stress. He has requested and been granted shore leave. Ship surgeon McCoy has him under medical surveillance."
"I would be honored, sir."
- - McCoy, responding to Spock's invitation to the ceremony (with the hidden meaning that despite their habit of contention, he considers the Doctor his friend)
"I think I'm going to get space sick."
- - Chekov, on the changing flight plans between Vulcan and Altair VI
"Hot as Vulcan. Now I understand what that phrase means."
- - McCoy, on his first visit to Vulcan
"What they are about to see comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way."
- - T'Pau, as the Vulcan ceremony begins
"It is said thy Vulcan blood is thin. Are thee Vulcan or are thee human?"
- - T'Pau, before Spock accepts T'Pring's challenge
"Now be careful."
"Sound medical advice."
- - McCoy and Kirk, after McCoy uses a hypospray on him
"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."
- - Spock to Stonn, on winning T'Pring
"Live long and prosper, Spock."
"I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend."
- - T'Pau and Spock, before he returns to the Enterprise
- - Spock, upon finding out Kirk is still alive
Story and script
- This episode marked the first use of the Vulcan salute (by T'Pau) and of the words, "Live long and prosper" (by Spock).
- Kirk at one point says to Spock, "You have been called the best first officer in the fleet." It was McCoy who said this, in "Operation -- Annihilate!"
- In the original script, there were a few more Vulcan words. Spock described Kirk and McCoy as his lak noy, the equivalent of best man. When T'Pring makes her challenge, the wedding party begins to discuss what's going on, all in Vulcan, until T'Pau shuts them up.
Cast and characters
- James Doohan (Scotty) does not appear in this episode, although Spock mentions him.
- According to Nimoy, Celia Lovsky couldn't actually do the Vulcan salute naturally, so she had to use her other hand to put her fingers in the right pattern below camera, then hold it up at the right moment. (Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Memories)
- Mary Rice was photographed as a young T'Pring on 16 June 1967 during the filming of the episode. She only wore one pointed ear since only one side of her face would be visible in the photo. Also, the ear was clearly made for an adult, as it does not fit the young girl.
- Although this episode was originally aired as the second season premiere, this was the last episode filmed in which Walter Koenig wore a wig. He had worn a wig in three previously shot episodes while his hair grew out.
- Spock has definitely been promoted from lieutenant commander as of this episode. The nameplate outside his quarters reads "Commander Spock," and Vulcan Space Central later asks for him as "Commander Spock."
- When McCoy emerges from the doorway in the first scene, there is no elevator set inside. The elevator is accessed from a side doorway for this episode. This was probably done in advance of the next episode filmed, "The Doomsday Machine", to show the wrecked condition of Matt Decker's starship. When the landing party beams onto the Constellation, the door is open at the end of this same corridor and no turbolift is inside. In "The Ultimate Computer", a turbolift is located right outside sickbay and the one at the corridor terminus is not utilized. Set drawings indicate the doorway at the end of that corridor did not regularly contain an elevator, however.
- A change in this season is thick painted stripes across the corridor floors. On the sister ship USS Defiant, as seen in ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", it was revealed that these stripes delineated various features like the edges of grav plates. Originally, they may also have been meant to mark areas on the stage where walls were to intersect, or maybe as decorations.
- This is the first episode of the second season to offer a look at the further-expanded sickbay that now includes McCoy's new office. In "The Deadly Years" more beds in the infirmary section of the sickbay are added.
- This is the first time Spock's quarters are seen fully. A very brief shot of his quarters is seen in "The Menagerie, Part I", with a tricorder and red glass statue seen behind him to make the room look different from the Kirk's quarters set. Here, a large statue with blinking lights, red curtains and objects resembling molecular models are seen, among other "Spockian" decor.
- Romulan helmets are reused from "Balance of Terror", this time worn by Vulcans during the pon farr ritual.
- The fight music for this episode was re-used in a number of second-season episodes, among them "A Private Little War", "The Omega Glory", "Bread and Circuses", and "The Gamesters of Triskelion". The Spock theme, played by bassist Barney Kessel, was recycled for "The Changeling" and "Journey to Babel".
- As the first episode aired in Season 2, this segment debuted the new second season opening credits. DeForest Kelley's name was added to the "starring" cast and the theme music was extended and had a female soprano voice and percussion added to it.
- The planet Vulcan is a reddish color-corrected version of the planet created for "Operation -- Annihilate!", portraying Deneva. It appears in subsequent episodes, representing Gamma Trianguli VI in "The Apple", Vulcan again in "Journey to Babel", Tycho IV in "Obsession", the Melkotian homeworld in "Spectre of the Gun", and Memory Alpha in "The Lights of Zetar". It is also featured in the second/third season opening credits.
- This episode is referenced in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Babylon". In that episode, Colonel Mitchell is given an herb to make him appear dead by a Sodan named Jolan. Upon waking up and finding out that it worked, Mitchell says "Well done, Bones."
- In the German version of this episode, the TV station ZDF changed the dialog and cut several scenes to avoid talking about sexual issues. In the German dubbing, pon farr is a disease Spock is suffering from (called "Weltraumfieber", meaning "space fever") and parts of the episode (such as Spock killing Kirk) are explained away as being simply a nightmare that Spock experiences as a result of being ill. The nightmare is caused by an experimental medication Spock is given by McCoy. Therefore, the Enterprise did not even visit Vulcan in the German version of the episode, since Spock is just hallucinating about it.
- This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1968 as "Best Dramatic Presentation".
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of "Ten Essential Episodes" from the original Star Trek series.
- Bantam Books published a series of novelizations called "foto-novels," which took photographic stills from actual episodes and arranged word balloons and text over them, to create a comic book formatted story. The twelfth and final installment was an adaptation of this episode.
- James Blish adapted this episode in his compilation Star Trek 3. His description of the aftermath of the fight, wherein a paralyzed Kirk overhears the conversation between Spock and the others, is reproduced verbatim in Planet of Judgment by Joe Haldeman.
- The music used in Kirk and Spock's fight scene is variously called "The Ritual" or "Ancient Battle" on Star Trek soundtrack albums. Written by Gerald Fried, who also wrote the slow bass guitar theme for Spock, it has developed a legacy all its own. Other references from modern film and TV include...
- Futurama episode "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?" featured a "Claw-plach" ceremony with the Decapodian National Anthem matching the battle theme from "Amok Time". During the "Claw-plach" ceremony, the first weapon available for the combatants to choose from matches the weapon used by Kirk and Spock in "Amok Time."
- The motion picture The Cable Guy has Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick facing off in Medieval Times, with Jim Carrey quoting lines from the fight, utilizing a weapon similar to Spock's, and even mimicking the movie.
- Eddie Murphy performed a comedy routine talking about his love of Star Trek, and mimicked the fight music while parading around the stage.
- Leonard Nimoy remarked, "I remember ['Amok Time'] very well. Excellent script. Very poetic, very dramatic, intense and important I felt immediately – for Spock and Vulcans." He concluded, "It was a very, very exciting episode to shoot and perform – it was so beautifully written and [had] great casting of the other people – it was very good." ("To Boldly Go...": Season 2, TOS Season 2 DVD special features)
- Story outline by Theodore Sturgeon, 12 December 1966
- Final draft script, 2 May 1967
- Second revised final draft, 5 June 1967
- Filmed in early, mid-June 1967
- Completion of principal photography, 19 June 1967
- Score recording, 19 July 1967
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1986.
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 18, catalog number VHR 2343, release date unknown.
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 2.2, 24 February 1997.
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 17, 24 October 2000.
- As part of the TOS Season 2 DVD collection.
- As part of The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series DVD collection.
The remastered version of "Amok Time" first aired during the weekend of 17 February 2007. In addition to new space sequences showing the Enterprise arriving at the planet Vulcan, a sequence was inserted showing digital representations of Kirk, Spock and McCoy walking over a large natural outcropping to Spock's family ceremony site. This is the first instance in the remastered edition episodes in which original sequences have been replaced with all-new computer-generated shots. Shots of the Vulcan landscape also featured a glimpse of the city of ShiKahr from Star Trek: The Animated Series. The background in the image of a young T'Pring was updated to resemble the entrance set seen in T'Pol's mother's house in "Home".
Links and references
- Majel Barrett as Christine Chapel
- George Takei as Sulu
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- Byron Morrow as Admiral Komack
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Frank da Vinci as a Vulcan bell and banner carrier
- Walker Edmiston as the Vulcan Space Central voice
- Charles Palmer as a Vulcan litterbearer
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Joe Paz as a Vulcan litterbearer
- Russ Peek as the Vulcan Executioner
- Mary Rice as the young T'Pring
- Mark Russell as a Vulcan litterbearer
- Mauri Russell as a Vulcan bell and banner carrier
- Gary Wright as a Vulcan litterbearer
Stunt doubles and stand-ins
- Phil Adams as stunt double for William Shatner
- Jeannie Malone as stand-in for Celia Lovsky
- Dave Perna as stunt double for Leonard Nimoy
Ahn-woon; Aldebaran shellmouth; Altair VI; eel-birds; Finagle's law; hypospray; Kah-if-farr; Kal-if-fee; Klee-fah; Koon-ut-kal-if-fee; Kroykah; Lirpa; plak tow; plomeek soup; pon farr; quarterly physical; Regulus V; solar day; space sick; tri-ox compound; sailor; Vulcan; Vulcans; Vulcan lute
| Previous episode produced:|
"Who Mourns for Adonais?"
| Star Trek: The Original Series|
| Next episode produced:|
"The Doomsday Machine"
| Previous episode aired:|
"Operation -- Annihilate!"
| Next episode aired:|
"Who Mourns for Adonais?"
| Previous remastered episode aired:|
"The Doomsday Machine"
|TOS Remastered|| Next remastered episode aired:|
"The Paradise Syndrome"