Amok Time

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Title: "Amok Time"
Creator: Theodore Sturgeon
Date(s): September 15, 1967
Medium: television episode
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
Language: English
External Links: IMDB Synopsis

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Amok Time is an episode from the TV show Star Trek: The Original Series that played a significant role in both Star Trek and slash fandom.

the original press release, dated April 1967

Leonard Nimoy described it as: "An excellent script. Very poetic, dramatic, intense -- and important for Spock and for the Vulcans, because it was the first time we were going to go to Vulcan and see other Vulcans. I felt it immediately…. And there was that wonderful payoff where I believed I had killed Kirk. Great moment." [1]

Leonard Nimoy said that after "Amok Time" had been aired for the first time, his fan mail jumped from 400 to 10,000 letters a week. [2]

Episode Summary

Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon originated the concept for this story, which they then assigned to Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon then wrote a treatment which was praised by NBC's Stan Robertson, the program director for Star Trek, as "a superior outline and one which should add more to the in-depth audience appeal for Mr. Spock."[3] The entire production team as well as the actors and stage crew worked very hard on this episode to make sure it was, as Roddenberry put it, "one of the best and most carefully thought out scripts of the year."

The episode was screened by Roddenberry at Worldcon two weeks before it aired as the season two premiere in 1967. A detailed summary of the plot can be read here.[4]

Background

The episode is notable in that it introduced fandom to many Vulcan customs and phases, including the concept of the Vulcan mating drive, the pon farr, a biological imperative to return home and take a mate.

Star Trek writers submitted stories, scripts and outlines which were then worked over thoroughly by Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon[5], Dorothy Fontana, and Peter Sloman and Joan Pierce of Kellam DeForest Research, with input from NBC screenwriter Stan Robertson, and producers Bob Justman and Herb Solow. When viewing the finished product, it's not always possible to identify which writer was responsible for which scenes and dialogue.

Theodore Sturgeon wrote and revised a teleplay using Roddenberry and Coon's original idea. He included numerous details of Vulcan customs and words, even specifying what some of the characters should be wearing. D.C. Fontana said that the ceremony, the formality, and T'Pau herself were all Sturgeon's creation, while the other writers "made it more Star Trek." The writing staff added the wedding party. As always, the actors contributed their own ideas. When Arlene Martel noticed that her metallic wire dress looked like a maternity dress, she reasoned "Maybe they see the character as trying to conceal that she is pregnant," and decided on her own to play T'Pring that way. [3]

Sturgeon worked very slowly, and much of what he wrote was left out of the final version. Sturgeon first had Kirk skeptical about the seriousness of Spock's condition, not believing he's going to die. Robertson pointed out that this wasn't in keeping with Kirk's established warm characterization. "He, more than anyone aboard, knows Spock and is closer to him." Robertson also suggested the idea of the marriage party, saying "The planet Vulcan, and those who inhabit it, have been built as such a mystery throughout our series that unless we establish more of the planet than is outlined here, and unless we show some other Vulcans other than the girl, we will indeed be 'cheating' our viewers." Sturgeon had a young woman crew member, Maggie, with a crush on Spock and dealing with the fact that he was married. This "drippy-eyed kid" was changed to the more mature Nurse Chapel. Sturgeon had Spock behaving like a rutting bull gorilla, pounding his chest and snorting. Fontana warned that Nimoy would commit suicide if he had to engage in this King Kong nonsense, and this ultimately became the sequence where Spock quietly begs for Kirk to be released from the challenge.[3]

Sturgeon created many Vulcan words and phrases which were never used. In fact, most of Sturgeon's Vulcan language was deemed unrealistic and reworked by conlanger Sloman. Sturgeon's "Kikki-nee klart" was changed to klee-fah and then dropped.[6] Sturgeon had named Spock's rival "Spor", to which Justman immediately commented "How about 'Sperm'?" It was also Justman's idea to have viewers initially think T'Pring would choose Stonn to fight Spock. [3] When Spock says it's traditional for the male to be accompanied by his closest friends, Sloman had written that they were to be his lak noy. Several lengthy speeches in Vulcan were cut. Stonn was to say a few words which viewers could presume were uncomplimentary toward Spock. As aired, all Stonn does is protest T'Pring's choice, and he does it in English.

Other differences were summarized by a fan who had access to some of the early draft versions of the scripts:
"In the first draft of the Star Trek episode "Amok Time" by Theodore Sturgeon, both T'Pring (Spock's fiancée/wife) and Stonn (T'Pring's chosen consort) are stripped of their rights after Spock kills Captain Kirk. Stonn because prior to the fight he flies into rage and attempts to murder Spock and is behaving irrationally and illogically. He is pronounced "not Vulcan" by T'Pau and becomes the property of Mr Spock. In this draft, being Vulcan is not an ethnic/genetic identity, but a citizenship status.

T'Pring becomes Spock's property because she challenged Spock and lost and is now obligated to give him absolute obedience. And then in a twist, Spock gives Stonn back to Vulcan ("it is possible but has never been done before" says T'Pau) and then "gifts" T'Pring to Stonn as his property with the requirement of absolute obedience. "See that you exact what is due to you - as her absolute owner."

Much of this was removed from the aired version. Vulcan is a very harsh patriarchal world. And Vulcans know how to exact their due when their beloved captain is murdered."[7]

And, perhaps most significantly, the original draft did not have Spock grabbing Kirk by the arms and shrieking “JIM!" while broadly grinning.[8] In the final draft, Spock wipes his tears on Nurse Chapel's shoulder while Kirk gently chides him: "Come now — we mustn't let our emotions run away with us. Be a man, Mister Spock — be a man." [9]

According to Torie Atkinson in the Star Trek rewatch:

In the original script, Kirk didn’t need T’Pau’s help smoothing things over with Starfleet. Instead, he was friends with the officials on the other planet where the ceremonies were to take place and asked them for a delay; this planet was called "Fontana IV" in homage to Trek writer D.C. Fontana. In this early script, ahn-woon meant "unarmed combat."[10][11]

From Dorothy Fontana:

When Ted was writing the episode, there were some places where we, as I recall, said to him, “Well, you know McCoy has this role in relationship to Spock, and Kirk has this role,” and Ted just put them together in a really nice blend of relationships, which is, again, what Star Trek is about. Relationships. The stories that didn’t go well were stories that were against objects without human relationships involved somewhere in the story.[12]

The actors, producers, designers and crew all spoke highly of this script as well written, a story of great substance and significance. As for Leonard Nimoy:

I was thrilled. I was really touched by the storyline, and by the dramatic power of the scene which immediately follows the fight wherein Spock appears to have killed Captain Kirk. Later, as we shot this scene, and T’Pau says to Spock, ‘Live long and prosper,’ I was almost overcome by the emotion of the scene. Spock was to reply to T’Pau, ‘I shall do neither, I have killed my captain and my friend,’ but I could barely choke out those moving words.[3]

Fannish Reactions: General

1967

The very first Star Trek fanzine, Spockanalia, was published while the show was in its first run on the air. In issue one, there was an essay called "Thoughts on Vulcan Culture," written about six months before the episode "Amok Time" aired. Because of this timing, when that essay was reprinted in Vulcan Reflections, some of its speculations were jossed; the zine's editor wrote an addendum which addressed the subject of pon farr:

A number of profound revelations about the culture of Vulcan were made last September 15. Although certain observers were not happy about what was learned, few came to the obvious conclusion that Vulcan simply as not attained the easy, smoothly running, mechanically logical culture and it holds as an ideal. The people have deeply-felt biological needs, and, as with all cultures, this one must find a way to fulfill or sublimate these needs. Until they can be genetically eliminated (if ever), they must be controlled, and this is the part of culture.

[snipped]

It seems clear that there are many complexities as yet undiscovered in the Vulcan culture. The culture which produced Mr. Spock must be good deal more varied and problem-filled than the rather dull stereotype we were led to infer from early information. We hope that future information will bear out our belief that the culture is as alien and interesting as it now seems to be.

2009

This episode, for me, epitomizes what was missing in the Abrams film. Here we see a strikingly different and alien approach to reproduction, but one that shares our deeply held feelings of privacy and intimacy. The specifics are bizarre, but the feelings of sexual shame and taboo are familiar. I was deeply bothered that new!Spock’s Vulcanness is entirely subsumed in his humanness. They gave him an entirely conventional—read: human—sexual relationship. They took away an essential part of what makes him an alien, of what makes him fundamentally different and strange and weird. The point to me was always that those things are okay—friendships transcend that, and we can be close to people who don’t share in our culture or completely understand our rituals. Instead, new!Spock’s alienness is sacrificed on the altar of human hegemony. I’d rather have this Spock any day.[13]

2010

"I don’t find the need to write an entire essay about my feelings toward this episode, as I think I stated them pretty clearly in my review of Season 2. However, I would be remiss in not emphasizing how very important this episode is not just to Spock’s character, but to the other principal characters and how they interact with one another. I love that Spock brings Kirk and McCoy down to Vulcan with him because they’re his friends (his word choice, not mine) despite the criticism he knows he’ll receive for bringing non-Vulcans to his marriage ceremony. I love that his devotion to Kirk, to the Enterprise and her crew is what brings him out of the pon farr trance. I love that Kirk is willing to take the risk of ‘dying’ to ensure that Spock do what needs to be done within the customs of his culture. I love that T’Pring is able to make her own choice as a woman, defying the expectations of the marriage arranged for her."[14]

Fannish Reactions: T'Pring

Arlene Martel spoke of T'Pring as a woman who was intellectually centered, respected herself and considered her decisions logically: "think first and then act upon what you know."[3]

Fan appreciation of T'Pring's actions in the episode is a more recent development. At the time of the episode airing, many fans saw T'Pring in a negative light:
"Fandom at the time mostly wanted Spock for themselves, and didn't entirely appreciate T'Pring choosing otherwise. There was sometimes an awareness that she'd been very Vulcan and Logical and intellectually admirable, but fandom is seldom as objective as it likes to think."[15]

In "What makes a great villain? Part 1: Star Trek’s T’Pring", video blogger Thomas Stockel expresses admiration for T'Pring's extreme intelligence. He notes T'Pring's character and actions as related to the just-beginning Women's Liberation movement (second-wave feminism).

Fannish Reactions: T'Pau

While this episode has a few clear drawbacks from a feminist POV, I greatly appreciate the character of T'Pau, as she is brought to life by Celia Lovsky. I am very glad that Sturgeon included this character, with all the indications of her stature on Vulcan and in the Federation. There’s no need for that character to be female. So Sturgeon gets extra “ahead of his time” points for that. Just consider, if the role of ceremonial presider had been filled by a male–we’d be left with a story where the female characters are coldly manipulative or hopelessly lovelorn, and either way emotionally focused on getting their man. The inclusion of T’Pau makes for a very different overall gender picture.[16]

Never mind age picture. Celia Lovsky's T'Pau remains one of the few elderly women with that much power ever seen in any media. In a television era and a culture and society where the focus was on youth, she had an incredibly resonating presence.

Fannish Reactions: Slash Possibilities

For many slash fans, "Amok Time" was the episode that convinced them that the producers intended viewers to see K/S homosexual encounters as canon. Brittany Diamond's "Analyzation of Amok Time" interprets the nuances of the direction, and the actors' speech, gestures and postures, even camera angles, as an obvious and deliberate portrayal of sexual tension between the two men rather than as Kirk's gradual understanding of Spock's biological imperative to return home. Kirk's wish to help Spock is seen as a "romantic" gesture[17] and the way Shatner speaks the lines "screams inner conflict".[18][19]

In an interview with Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath for the book Shatner: Where No Man, Leonard Nimoy said:

What I find interesting about this... is that there must have been something that we did in the series that provokes all these questions -- including the erotic questions and the pornographic questions. I understand that there's a whole underground literature of Kirk's and Spock's encounters with all kinds of females. In terms of your questions -- what you saw was what we did. That's the best answer I can give you."

In May 2016, D.C. Fontana was asked whether the script for "Amok Time" contained "homosexual double-entendres" and replied as follows:

In answer to your question, NO - there were no homosexual double-entendres in the script - at least none that were deliberate. If some viewers chose to read that into the dialogue, etc. that's their point of view, but certainly not ours. Writer Theodore Sturgeon was trying to reveal Spock's inner human in a struggle with what his culture, his upbringing and his half-human/half-Vulcan heritage had instilled in him about emotion and controlling it in an out-of-control situation. It also was a peek into the Vulcan culture that no one had seen before. That's ALL we were doing. I've heard this nonsense (especially about Kirk/Spock) for years. There is no basis to it. I hope this answer is helpful to you. [20]

Commenting somewhat tongue in cheek on the plethora of post-Amok Time stories dealing with Kirk struggling with pon farr, Sandy Hereld remarked: "Spock: The whole Amok Time thing - if Spock had only talked to Kirk, he'd've known out there was more to a Vulcan marriage than "I do."[21]

Jennifer Guttridge's The Ring of Soshern, which may be the very first slash story, had to have been inspired by this episode. Privately circulated as early as late 1967, it refers specifically to Pon Farr. [22]

Fannish Reactions: Meta

Fan Works

The episode inspired countless fanworks, many taking place after the episode and dealing with the consequences of Kirk's near death and Spock's rejection of his arranged marriage.

Some examples:

Fan Fic:

  • Bonds of Love and Hate (An unusual look at Amok Time. It seems that Spock has bonded with T'Pring and there's been no challenge or fight between Jim and Spock._
  • The Other Man by Dee Beetem, p. 32-37 (Amok Time from T'Pring's point of view) (published in Masiform D #13
  • "Amok Time Revisited," by Mary Smith in Galactic Discourse #3, (a look at Spock's Pon Farr as it might have happened if T'Pring had not called for the challenge.)
  • "Time before and Time After" by Marianne Hornlien in Mahko Root #1 is, according to one reviwer, "a sensitive pre and post-Amok Time story -- sex may be good, but love is better."
  • A Handful of Dust by Dovya Blacque in Daring Attempt #3: "The author presents a Kirk who is, not very comfortable with the side of Spock he saw on Vulcan, in fact, he's scared to death of his first officer. The results of this fear and how Kirk and Spock come to terms with their new views of one another, and of themselves..."
  • The Road Not Taken by Cheree Cargill in Vulcan Sands...Terran Skies # 2: "An alternate look at the events following "Amok Time." Spock decides to claim what is rightfully his -- T'Pring -- and brings her back to the Enterprise as his chattel.:
  • What a Day for a Daydream by Ariadne in First Time #56: "Set right after “Amok Time”, this story shifts POV’s between Kirk and Spock as they daydream about each other."

Vids:

  • Closer (Star Trek vid) - a fanvid based on the episode that asks What if they hadn't made it to Vulcan in time?
  • Wild Thing (a Kirk/Spock vid from the VR era which left one viewer commenting: "Who would have thought that if you slow down the fight scene from Amok Time and run it backward, you’d actually see the guys thrusting up against each other?")
  • An alternate 'Amok Time' Trailer - An AU: "Instead of Spock beaming down to Vulcan, battling Kirk, overcoming his Pon Farr, etc, the Enterprise is unable to temporarily change course to Vulcan. After days of riveting impulses rattling his mind and body, Spock succumbs to his urges and asks of Kirk to act as a temporary manner of relief." (2012)

Filk:

  • Song of the Unwilling Bride by Leslie Fish published in Thrust. One reviewer commented: "...this one should not be missed. It's not the poetry that makes this so compelling, but the story. It is a first person narrative of T'Pring during the ceremony in "Amok Time." It is a wonderful portrait of this character and the reasons for her actions." [30]

Misc:

Art:

Additional Reading

References

  1. needs cite
  2. from a fan in The K/S Press #35
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Mark Cushman, These Are The Voyages: TOS Season Two. Jacobs Brown, 2014.
  4. reference link.
  5. Star Trek director Ralph Senensky said Gene Coon told him "he literally wrote every script; that he would hire a writer, buy a story, have the writer write it, then he would use that as the first draft and he would then rewrite it." Marc Cushman & Susan Osborn, These are the Voyages - TOS: Season Two. Jacobs Brown Press 2014.
  6. Klee-fah meaning "I refuse" surfaces in James Blish's adaptation in Star Trek 3.
  7. Dear Diary dated July 14, 2013; reference link
  8. Nimoy reportedly hated that and thought Spock would express these feelings alone, in private. Sturgeon's original script concluded with Spock quietly weeping in Sickbay until Nurse Chapel gently turns him to see Kirk nearby. Spock is astonished but doesn't squee. Dr. McCoy prescribes "that awful plomik soup," to which Spock replies quietly "It is not awful plomik soup. It is very good plomik soup," and leaves. This ending was used in James Blish's adaptation for Star Trek 3.
  9. Morgan Dawn's personal notes after reading a copy of the final draft of Amok Time, accessed July 31, 2013.
  10. Torie Atkinson, "Star Trek Rewatch: Amok Time" on the Viewscreen rewatch blog, September 1, 2009.
  11. So much for some slash fans' assertion that the leather strip called the ahn woon in the final script was Sturgeon's idea in order to show erotic asphyxiation of Kirk by Spock.
  12. Edward Gross; Mark Altman. The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek, Volume 1.St. Martin's Press 2016.
  13. Torie Atkinson, "Amok Time": Star Trek Rewatch on the Viewscreen, September 1, 2009.
  14. Jenna's Top Ten Star Trek Episodes dated July 6, 2013; reference link.
  15. comment in the Amok Time Recap dated December 29, 2009; reference link See also Rabble Rouser's "Sympathy for the Devil", a story which shows the events of "Amok Time" from T'Pring's POV.reference link
  16. Comment by Saavik, Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "Amok Time" dated Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:29am.
  17. The author bases this idea on the fact that in "The City on the Edge of Forever", Kirk quoted an Orionese novelist recommending the phrase "let me help" as even better than saying "I love you."
  18. The author seems to have overlooked the fact that Shatner's excellent portrayal of inner conflict refers to some very hard-assed orders from Adm. Komack to go to Altair. By disobeying those orders he could get court-martialed again, and this time busted down to Spaceman 3rd Class, if not cashiered right out of the fleet, and have to spend the rest of his career scrubbing the soup off the wall.
  19. Brittany Diamond, Analyzation of Amok Time. In a tumblr post dated Sept. 9, 2009, fan critic fandomslut greeted this screed with "Seriously, after this episode, how is K/S not acknowledged canon, again?" (WebCite).
  20. In May 2016, Bluejay Young (Fanlore editor) submitted the "Amok Time" question to D.C. Fontana. This quote is from Fontana's personal correspondence with Bluejay Young from an email dated 2016-05-10, and quoted with permission. His question and DC Fontana's response was facilitated by Greg Mitchell, Writer's Guild Association as part of an interview request.
  21. Posted in the "Trust in fandom characters" thread on the Virgule-L mailing list on July 14, 1995, quoted with permission.
  22. The original copies of The Ring of Soshern use "Pon Farr." The unauthorized printing of that story in Alien Brothers used "pon farr," no capitalization.
  23. Published in Walter Irwin's Best of Trek 16. Roc, 1991.
  24. reference link.
  25. reference link.
  26. reference link.
  27. reference link.
  28. reference link.
  29. reference link.
  30. from The K/S Press #1
  31. reference link.
  32. comment in the deviantart post dated Aug 19, 2007.
  33. reference link.