Thoughts on Amok Time

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Title: Thoughts on Amok Time
Creator: shatfat
Date(s): May 18, 2009 (original post)
June 9, 2009 (repost)
Medium: online
Fandom: Star Trek
Topic: Amok Time and Theodore Sturgeon influence
External Links: Part I[1] and II[2] at ASCEM
Part I and II at LiveJournal
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Thoughts on Amok Time is an essay written by Hypatia Kosh about Theodore Sturgeon and how his writing may have influenced the Amok Time script and, in turn, Star Trek fandom. It was originally posted to ASCEM on May 18, 2009 and reposted to Livejournal June 9, 2009. Permission has been given to include the essay in its entirety on Fanlore.

Discussions of and reactions to the essay can be read in his repost on community kirkspock at LiveJournal, while those made on ASCEM are no longer accessible since the purge of Yahoo!Groups in 2019 as the original posts were not archived.

Essay Part I

"Basically, what happened was that we looked at some other works of Ted Sturgeon's, and discovered some interesting things that may shed a light on the TOS episode "Amok Time", where Spock goes into his mating heat and all hell breaks loose. For example, he's written stuff related to erotic strangulation before. I discovered this story on accident while reading through somebody else's books, and I was astonished.

The following is by Hypatia Kosh (shatfat) and was originally posted to ASCEM.

Thoughts on Amok Time (not organized enough to be an essay)

Well... so Farf and I were telling a friend about the erotic asphyxiation fetish thing that has emerged from the new movie and how that relates to certain episodes of TOS. I disagreed with some things Farf said and we ended up analyzing "Amok Time" in detail. Farf may jump in and explain how she sees things differently, but this is my take on it ... and I'm afraid I end up chucking K'Sal's more optimistic interpretation by the wayside.

Okay, the episode is written by Ted Sturgeon, who gained notoriety in the 1950's for his short story "[] The World Well Lost" which ventured to portray homosexuality in a positive light.[note 1] The story was almost immediately banned and he had some professional troubles as a result.[note 2]

Sturgeon is also the author of the critically-acclaimed (and still in print) novel "More Than Human", as well as numerous other novels and collections of short stories. As any fan of his work can tell you, Sturgeon was fascinated by human psychology and human sexuality, which he depicts as both alluring, dangerous, and powerful. A frequent theme is the linking of sexuality and violence. In fact, much of the violence in his stories has a direct psycho-sexual basis. Still, sexuality can also be a positive force, especially in that happy circumstance where two honest, earnest adults form a loving partnership.

In 1947 (almost twenty years before Star Trek), Sturgeon wrote a story titled "Bianca's Hands" in which a man marries a woman with severe mental limitations because he is obsessed with her hands. On their wedding night, she strangles him to death. The story is about erotic asphyxiation (, from the point of view of the victim, since the perpetrator is non compos mentis. The fact that in this story the act is "completed" by an act of murder suggests to me that Sturgeon was aware of this practice through criminology, rather than the study of human sexuality per se. (There would have been relatively little such material at any rate in the 1940's--Kinsey's seminal work had not yet been published, while prior work in "sexology" had mostly focused on trying to prove that sexual "perverts" had abnormal bodies, a sort of sexual phrenology.)

I linked to the article on erotic asphyxiation on wiki above and I hope I don't have to explain that more, but I would note that the same page covers consensual BDSM breath control; auto-erotic asphyxiation, where someone tries to limit their airflow when masturbating, sometimes done with a friend (also, sometimes leading to tragic outcomes); and murders accomplished through strangulation during the performance of a sex act. Here's a classic example of a psychopath who killed his victims by strangling them to death: Herb Baumeister ( Warning: this is pretty disturbing, if you find this kind of disturbing.

I've laid out the foregoing, because it will determine how one is to interpret the somewhat ... difficult chain of events in Amok Time."

Essay Part II

"Continued from Part I

Before "Amok Time," Sturgeon sold one other script: "Shore Leave." In this episode (which, in my opinion, makes for lousy television), the human crew of the Enterprise land on a planet where their imagination and fantasies are made manifest--the last part being particularly dangerous. One by one, the various individuals find themselves physically threatened by fantasies which they had intended to give them pleasure. (With the exception of Kirk, who actually seems to *enjoy* having the crap kicked out of him by a much larger man for ten shirt-ripping minutes. Wait, seems to? In fact, the highly amused Spock asks him point blank if he enjoyed himself, and the answer is in the affirmative. Which probably tells you everything you need to know about Kirk.)[note 3]

In "Amok Time," the Vulcan science officer Spock must return to Vulcan to marry. Spock is under a physical compulsion and must return to Vulcan to mate or die; Spock in fact compares it to the salmon which return to the stream in which they were spawned (presumably to mate AND die). Spock then reveals that he has a wife waiting for him on Vulcan, to whom he was "bonded" ("more than a betrothal, less than a marriage") in childhood. This is a telepathic link (as Vulcans are a telepathic race), and the ritual words of the marriage ceremony will refer to this concept of perpetual linkage.

Unfortunately, when Spock arrives on Vulcan, with Kirk and McCoy whom he has invited to stand at his side, T'Pring challenges the marriage. In the production it is strongly hinted that T'Pring is pregnant, and that she has been carrying on with a man named Stonn. Stonn furthermore believes, or has been led to believe, that he will be T'Pring's champion. (Stonn speaks out of turn to T'Pau, the matriarch, stating "The woman is--" before he is cut off; this could mean "the woman is mine". I'm not certain of authorial intent here, but Arlene Martell has indicated in interviews that she believed T'Pring was pregnant.)[note 4]

The terms of the challenge are as follows: the male in plak tow (blood fever) and the woman's chosen champion fight a battle to the death in the ritual arena, with the weapons and terms of the combat being prescribed. The winner will become not only her husband but her owner (implying some sort of punishment to her for having caused a death by this choice).

It's important to note what is and isn't implied in this scenario. The ritual is called "marriage or challenge". The male must mate -- or fight to the death. At this point, many have tried to find a way out of this. (In Voyager, for example, a non-lethal fight replaces the need to mate, to which one must respond, if it were that easy...) I would like to draw some inferences from the action which follows.

T'Pring chooses Kirk as her champion, which is not a pre-meditated action. (Stonn believes he was to take this role; furthermore, Kirk and McCoy's presence was not expected and in fact just barely tolerated by T'Pau.) Kirk accepts, believing that Stonn could easily kill Spock. (A classic "it's in the script" moment, since, at least to me, and I think to many other fans, it looks like Spock could take him.) Kirk is then informed that this is a fight to the death, but refuses to back out; he believes he can throw the fight convincingly so that Spock and the others can save face. However, as T'Pau attempts to convey (and as Spock clearly understands when he goes to his knees and begs T'Pau to forbid T'Pring's choice of champion), this exercise has nothing to do with saving face.

In the ensuing combat they fail to kill each other with lirpas, so T'Pau calls a halt and gives them ligatures. McCoy interrupts and fakes giving Kirk an oxygen shot, but it's actually a mickey. At this point, Kirk quickly succumbs and Spock strangles him with the ligature, seemingly to death.

At this point, Spock returns to a normal state of consciousness. He is sober, and understands the consequences of his actions. He explains later that "all desire for the girl had vanished." But what was it that satisfied the pon farr?

This is my thesis: that Spock is the perpetrator of an act of erotic asphyxiation. The completion (in death, or in this case, simulated death) of this act satisfies the mating urge. This is where Farfalla and I disagree, because she claims this is a *figurative* act of asphyxiation and death, as a metaphor for sexual release. I disagree. What we see on screen is a LITERAL act of asphyxiation, and a LITERAL sexual completion (the completion of pon farr), but an ABSTRACTED sexual release. In other words, Spock is not having an orgasm on screen (and may I just add: eww). However, this act does satisfy the pon farr.

There is an alternative explanation favored by K/S fans, in which Spock's bond transfers from T'Pring to Kirk during the combat, and that with Kirk's apparent death the pon farr goes out like a race car that runs out of fuel. It then must reappear when Kirk returns to life. This is the basis of a lot of fun fanfic, but is not really supported by the episode. The pon farr is over. Not only that, but T'Pring fully expects that the pon farr will be over after the combat. I wanted to quote T'Pring exactly, but I can't turn up the reference (& I'm too lazy to dig through DVDs). Anyway, she states that if Kirk had won, he would not want her, but if Spock had won, *he would reject her for challenging*, and she would still have Stonn. (She also adds that even if he didn't reject, he'd still go back into space and she'd have Stonn, to which Spock comments: "Logical. Flawlessly logical.") Let's go back to that statement because it's fascinating. T'Pring does NOT envision a situation in which Spock completes the combat, having killed Kirk, and is still in the throes of pon farr. If she can envision Spock--or any male--walking away from her after the combat, she *clearly* expects that to be the end of it.

Marriage-or-challenge is thus, not, as K'Sal would have it (and it was a nice theory, if I say so myself) a way to provide the MALE an outlet if the arrangement goes wrong. It is rather a last ditch escape for the FEMALE to get rid of a male she is not prepared to mate with. The male will either mate with her legally, or kill someone, or die.

But murder here is an oversimplification. Sturgeon did not choose strangulation as the form of death haphazardly. (Nor is this some choreographic accident: T'Pau orders the use of the ligatures. It *is*, therefore, in the script.)[note 5] He has a chosen a form where the achievement of sexual gratification and the act of murder are one and the same. In other words, what we are watching is an act of rape. Which brings us back to the purpose of pon farr--it is a mating drive. In this case, a drive which, by the actions of a cruel and heartless woman, is turned to the ends of rape, mutilation, and death.

(Sturgeon wrote another story, "The Silken-Swift," which, by coincidence, appears in the same collection, E Pluribus Unicorn, with "Bianca's Hands" and "The World Well Lost". In this story, a cruel woman torments a man until he attempts to rape her in revenge but instead rapes an innocent girl.)

So, this would be my summary of authorial intent: that Spock must mate or die, and, frustrated in his attempt to gain access to his pre-selected mate, attempts to kill, then overpowers and rapes another male, which satisfies his mating drive (and pleases the authorities). Since you can show violence and not sex on TV*, the act of rape is coded: a literal on-screen strangulation which Sturgeon[note 6] projects to those in the know as, of course, an act of both sex and violence. Through plot machinations, Kirk survives this encounter, and everything is returned to normal.

Note: Sturgeon is much franker about sex in his stories than in his TV scripts; it is also a fact that network censors were not only alive and well during the 1960's but that they attempted to take an active role in the shooting of certain episodes, notably "Plato's Stepchildren"

As fans, we can interpret this episode any way we please. K'Sal's interpretation is pretty cool, and I see no reason not to write fanfic off of that. The purpose of this exercise was to attempt to identify the author's intent to the extent that it is knowable. I think, in the context of Sturgeon's other work, that I have made a fair assessment, but please feel free to dispute any of the above.

PS: It also occurs to me that the typical interpretation of pon farr as being an inevitably violent episode may be somewhat overblown. Yes, Spock draws out a lot of drama over how his logic is going to be ripped from him, blah blah blah. But the text of the ritual, which Spock and T'Pring recite, and Spock's attempts (implied) to reawaken the telepathic bond between him and T'Pring (there is a scene in which he has a childhood photo of her open on his terminal), seems to imply something a bit more normal, loving, and less disruptive to the social order. In other words, the actions of "Amok Time" are not normal, but rather a process gone horribly wrong. Sturgeon is saying that underneath the genteel veneer of romantic love can lurk the aphasic beast of sexual violence (awakened, in this case, by a rejection). Therefore, I think the premise that Vulcans batter their wives during pon farr is somewhat suspect. Sure, Spock may be extremely horny, sure he might be a wild man like Enkidu (who encounters the prostitute in the woods and they go at it for three days, which apparently makes him a man or a human or anyway not a wild man any more--Gilgamesh scholars could chime in here), but he isn't necessarily a danger to anyone unless the mating drive is frustrated. (Okay, okay, so he was throwing metal bowls at nurses.)

Excerpts from Comments


Such a scholarly take on such a horny episode! I'm impressed.[3]


>> In other words, what we are watching is an act of rape.<<

That's intriguingly black, isn't it :P

It just strikes me, that given: 1. The evidence of erotic strangulation being on Sturgeon's mind 2. The evidence of Sturgeon exploring homoromantic subtext 3. The evidence of Sturgeon working against censors ...that in a hundred years when there are enough people who aren't personally/emotionally involved in the story, this episode might be more generally understood this way, at least in an academic context. Especially since it doesn't actually prove K/S in any larger sense; one could easily take this as their sole sexual (or quasisexual) encounter with them going back to normal forever after that.

I'm not a K/S'er because of this episode. I'm a K/S'er because of the II-III-IV movie trilogy. I love watching them make the journey from the dementedness of Amok Time to the epic devotion in the movies.[4]

[Alara Rogers]:

It seems as if killing someone can end the pon farr; I've always thought that was implied by the story, and the Voyager episode involved a Klingon mating drive as well. Vulcans do not seem to expect the *woman* to try to kick the shit out of the man, or to succeed; perhaps the whole thing gets short-circuited if the woman successfully defeats the man in combat, but since the man is berserk and generally bigger and stronger, this almost never happens when it's just Vulcans. Whereas Klingons get equally berserk. (But I think a much more logical ending to the Voyager episode would be that kicking the shit out of Vorik, while she was under the influence of the pon farr he imposed on her with the mind meld, would have made B'Elanna so horny that she would have either jumped on him and had wild sex until they were both rational to go, "Oh god what was I thinking?", or she would have jumped on Tom Paris, like, right there.) But certainly if it's between two men, it ends when there's a death. Or, it doesn't, and T'Pring did in fact expect that Spock would rape her, and *then* come to his senses, be utterly disgusted at what she'd done, and reject her, returning to space... which would leave her free to be with Stonn. A woman who is capable of logically plotting to have the guy she doesn't want murder his best friend so that she can get free of marrying him might also be capable of logically accepting that the consequence is likely to be that she will be raped, but at least she will not have to remain in a permanent liaison with him afterward. Given that T'Pring's total lack of interest in Spock means that if she does nothing she will be raped anyway, this is possible... and Spock actually broke out of the pon farr entirely because it was *Kirk* that he killed. But I could very easily see it go the other way, too, as you suggest.... we've learned from Enterprise that the family of the man can call off the marriage ahead of time. I think Vulcan marriage customs are all about making sure that the man has an appropriate target for his pon farr lusts; the challenge appears to be the *only* power the woman has in the whole thing. She can short-circuit his pon farr if she's willing to make him kill someone. And she is punished by being turned into his slave for doing it.

Which to me says this wasn't T'Pring just preferring Stonn. T'Pring was *desperate*. If you're willing to legally become someone's slave, *hoping* that they will be so disgusted with you that they will leave you alone, so you can get out of marrying them... She had to have known that Kirk couldn't win that fight, so she wasn't trying to kill Spock. She was trying to save Stonn's life and get out of being Spock's wife, and she was willing to kill and to endure being enslaved in order to do it.

This is fucked up any way you look at it.[5]

[Heather D]:

Wow, I'd just like to say what a really interesting essay/flow of thoughts you have going here about 'Amok Time'. I hadn't ever really thought about the idea of it being a kind of perversion of 'the little death' with...well, actual death. I didn't pick up on the idea of T'Pring being pregnant, that's a really interesting little tidbit. After reading this I really want to go and watch the episode again.[6]

[Alara Rogers]:

I never got *any* impression that T'Pring was pregnant, and in fact I've never seen that turn up in fanfic either.[7] If it's fanon, it's old-school zine fanon that never migrated to the Internet much. I think the implication can't be very strong if the vast majority of stories *I've* read on the subject never came to that conclusion at all... not that I am the most widely read person when it comes to TOS, but I've actually read quite a few T'Pring specific stories, and none of them imagined that she was pregnant.... In my fanfic I also speculated that some small percentage of Vulcan women go into a psychotic rage if denied access to *their* chosen man when they're triggered into pon farr by the guy they don't want, and they *will* end up killing the dude. And there's no way to tell ahead of time which women have this trait. So Vulcan men were never able to enslave women in a full-on patriarchy; if the average woman isn't placed in a position where she's generally satisfied with the man she's given, there will be blood. They bond them in childhood because that way the woman never has a chance to fall in love with anyone *else*... unless, of course, the man chosen for her GOES TO SPACE for seventeen years...[8]


The tie in with "Bianca's Hands" is especially intriguing. Some of us have said we have felt that hints of K/S were deliberate or sub consciously put into the script. The similarities of his previous work and Amok make that more realistic of a possibility. IMO...[note 7] Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on this. You gave me a lot to consider.[9]


Fascinating analysis.

Doesn't it mean anything that they begin combat with a cutting and battering weapon, the lirpa, before they move on to the strangling ahn-woon? Also, the ahn-woon has metal balls at the tips that could be used to bean somebody.

I guess I'm saying that strangulation could not have been the only possible outcome of the combat, so does that mess with Sturgeon's intentions at all?[10]


It's been hypothesized before that the first round of the combat would tend to result in a quick death in a highly unbalanced contest (especially one where the combatants have absolutely no compunction about slicing each other up). The lirpa is a weapon intended to kill.

Also, in case of cowardice, a guard was ready with some wicked-looking ax to maul whoever got the notion of skedaddling. Clearly the matter is intended to be settled for good at the kalifee. (Probably a good idea to keep all that anti-social energy contained--that's why T'Pau is there, to see that that happens.)

The question to me was more why T'Pau halts the lirpa contest and introduces the ahn-woon (which looks to me like some sort of gay-ass bolo--clearly it wouldn't take down a sehlat, so it must be meant for capturing a man, ahehe), AND why Spock's sex drive is seemingly quieted by squeezing the life out of Captain Kirk.

Remember, the weapons and sequence of the kalifee are traditional, not some improvisation on T'Pau's part. She at least pretends to be highly skeptical of any variation on tradition whatsoever. The other interesting factor is that none of the Vulcans seem particularly surprised by the outcome. Spock in plak tow talking: weird. Spock picking himself up from Kirk's dead body and acting totally sane: normal.

So the above was my interpretation of events, based on Ted's earlier work. Killing someone with your bare hands, raping someone--both are acts of domination with sadistic gratification. Is Ted equating them? I think so. (Look at all the frustrated men who have raped, choked, or choked while raping their wives.)

Of course, YMMV. My point was not what makes the most sense for our personal canons (and I've read some great interpretations of this episode, ones that I wanted to hug and take home with me), my point is that taking Sturgeon's oeuvre as a whole, HIS authorial intent here may be a bit ... shocking. I stand by my conclusions until someone can give me a good textual argument why I shouldn't. :D[11]


This is fascinating. I think of all the crack theories on Amok Time/Pon Farr I've read, this sounds the most sane and logical. Kinky.[12]


This was a very interesting interpretation -- especially in light of the script writer's history. One thing -- when I saw the latest movie and Spock was choking Kirk all I could think was "Oh my God! Just like Amok Time!" I wonder if that was done as a deliberate reference or if my fanfic warped mind is just running off on tangents. :)[13]


So then... the difference between shatfat's interpretation and K'Sal's is that according to K'Sal, the Kali-fee is a valid part of the marriage ceremony whereby Kirk would become Spock's spouse, whereas shatfat's saying that what Spock did was merely a symbolic rape which allowed him sexual release, overcoming pon-farr?

Something that I find interesting, is that when they first go down to Vulcan, Spock talks about koonit kali-fee, which Kirk explains to McCoy as meaning marriage or challenge. Then later when they're going to begin the ceremony, T'Pring says kali-farr. What is this kali-farr, if kali-fee means both marriage and challenge? If kali-farr means marriage (which seems to be the case), then why does kali-fee have to mean marriage at all, when it clearly seems to be describing only the challenge part of the ceremony? Unless it means Spock's marriage, not to T'Pring, but to Kirk. (by the way, what does the koonit part mean? That word never gets said afterwards, it's always just kali-farr or kali-fee. *shrug*)

I have no doubt that the kali-fee involved rape of some kind, whether symbolic in terms of the strangulation, or actual in terms of mind-rape. Spock obviously experienced some kind of sexual release since he was no longer in pon-farr. And Kirk technically was in no position to consent, since he had no idea what he was getting into (although I kinda think that if he did, he would have consented in a heartbeat).[14]


An interesting take on the episode, and one I think I've had vaguely floating around somewhere before, if not articulated properly at any particular point.

Although I do disagree on the achievement of sexual release (ie orgasm) not happening on screen, if it were to essentially come down to "either violent murder OR symbolic rape via asphyxiation". Since Pon Farr does comes down to a mating drive, I don't think it would be sufficient from a physiological pov to have a mere metaphorical/symbolic release, but in this case, actual physical release (ie orgasm on screen, which btw doesn't make me go ewww but OMGYES - YMMV, obviously!) would be required to terminate the physical reaction.

One problem I, personally, have with this interpretation is that I don't view Pon Farr as merely a physiological drive that needs to culminate in physical release (or, as it were, be burnt out through the violent killing of a challenger). The way I see it, and this may well be warped by fanon, establishing a mental bond with the intended during Pon Farr is not only part of, but essentially for reigning it in. The only textual evidence I have for this from TOS relies on the way Amanda and Sarek's bond is portrayed as very essentially and so much a part of their marriage; indeed, it seems to lie at the centre of it. The only other textual evidence that clearly comes to mind here is from Voyager, so whether you accept it in TOS canon is questionable, but I seem to remember that Tuvok's main problem with solving his Pon Farr through holographic means was that the central, essential part of the mind-link was missing. (Although I can't for the life of me remember how they solved this - anyone? Bueller?) Assuming this to be the case, the ways in which the symbolic killing/sexual act with Kirk could have resolved the Pon Farr for Spock appear to me to be these:

1) When in Plak Tow, the physical aspect of release is the centre of attention in Pon Farr, and thus the Plak Tow is broken through direct sexual release from an indirect sexual act as outlined in the essay. In which case, the centre of Pon Farr, ie the mindlink, would still be missing. Direct sexual release whilst in Plak Tow suppresses the Pon Farr, but only temporarily, as the central issue of it has not been addressed. (Cue all the fanfic of Kirk helping Spock through reemerging Pon Farr upon return to the Enterprise.)

2) Reverse of the above. The mind link being the central issue in the Pon Farr, Spock does establish some sort of link with Kirk whilst strangling him, which satisfies the essential basis. (Note also that the ahn-woon (sp?) cobat directly enables physical contact between the combattants, which, given that the Vulcans are touch-telepaths would be pretty central to forming any kind of link, undoubtedly.)

3) A mix of the above two - both happen and are necessary to satisfy the biological urges.

4) (One that just came to me!) Given Spock's half-human lineage, the necessity for a mental bond being established is not, in fact, as central as it would be with a full Vulcan, and direct physical release as described in the essay (though not metaphorical, I still differ on that point), is indeed sufficient to satisfy his particular physiology. Ie, Spock gets off on strangling Kirk to death, and that's it.

5) The One We're Supposed To Believe, ie, the act of killing itself is sufficient to break the Pon Farr. I have several issues with this, notably that whilst the other Vulcans may not find it surprising that Spock's with it again (as used as an argument in the essay), they clearly believe that Kirk is, in fact, dead. Now, Spock does as well - at least rationally - but would he not, having been in direct physical contact with Kirk during his supposed death have been aware on some telepathic level that Kirk is not indeed dead, but only seemingly so? (Questions, questions.) Which raises the question as to whether the belief that one has killed ones opponent is sufficient to subdue the partner, or whether actual death has to occur. (I, personally vote for the former, but my evidence base is shaky, I realise.) In which case, what happens once this belief is broken? Imho, the Pon Farr would have to reemerge, but perhaps this is not necessary after all. I personally favour 2 or 3, in my own interpretation, although 4 makes a lot of sense to me, now that I've read this essay. (I still maintain the release needs to be actual though - I'm a biological scientist, damnit!) It also opens interesting avenues as to how Spock deals with later Pon Farrs, and in a K/S fanfic context, makes the forming of a permanent bond between the two much more a matter of choice rather than necessity.

Just my two cents here - feel free to differ, and thank you very much for the insightful essay - I can definitely see that the authorial intent might well have been what you're suggesting. Whether I accept it or not is another matter. ;)[15]


>>I can definitely see that the authorial intent might well have been what you're suggesting<<

That's the thing -- a lot of the evidence you're citing is from other episodes (some of which are from other Trek series) that weren't written by Sturgeon. Hypatia's point is that Ted's record indicates that he may have meant something kinkier (and slashier) than what the general Trek audience acknowledges. What pon farr morphed into as DC Fontana and the Voyager writers took it over may be something entirely different.

Mainly, I just really wanted to make sure the K/S community knew about Bianca's Hands. :P[16]


Yes, I agree, which was why I made the distinction between what her essay was essentially about - the specific authorial intent in this case - and how I view Pon Farr as a concept as a whole, within the wider context of Trek and the different interpretations that can be drawn in that manner. I just thought it might be nice for new fen especially to get a broader overview of possible interpretation. :) The one thing I disagree within the narrower (authorial-intent) interpretation offered by Hy is that "abstracted sexual release" would be sufficient to satisfy Pon Farr. Authorial-intent, whatever, but as a biomedical scientist and physiologist that simply makes no SENSE. Or in other words: I'm (not yet) a doctor, not a high-brow literary humanist! ;)[17]


Saw this linked on trek_news. Good call, noting that Amok Time portrays a "process gone horribly wrong". It's like the Doctor's regenerations in Doctor Who: Viewers make the assumption that what we're seeing is a normal representation of the process, just because it's the only one we've ever seen, even though the very reason our hero is an interesting character is that he's not a normal representative of his planet[18]


Thanks for this, it puts that episode into some intriguing context!

However, there is another valid script reason for the weapon choice, in that it's much easier to fake death by asphyxiation than it would have been to fake death by sharp thing shoved through the heart! Though I think the interpretation of something equivalent to sexual release being achieved by murder is valid in either case.

Also worth bearing in mind is that the writer's other episode, Shore Leave, includes the infamous backrub scene. That in mind, it's hard to believe he didn't intend some form of homoerotic subtext![19]


Extremely interesting. And now someone needs to rewrite the ep as it should have been.....[20]

Notes & References


  1. ^ Fred's Ramblings review of the story is worth reading and Wendy Gay Pierson's book Queer Universes (Liverpool Univ. Press, 2011) briefly mentions it in the larger context of sf writers trying to break various taboos at the time.
  2. ^
    "I sent 'The World Well Lost' to one editor who rejected it on sight, and then wrote a letter to every other editor in the field warning them against the story, and urging them to reject it on sight without reading it."

    Ted Sturgeon

    The editor he is referring to was John W. Campbell, whose editorship of Analog magazine set the standard of excellence in science fiction for over thirty years. Campbell was extremely straitlaced; to call him a political and social conservative would be an understatement. He believed that sex had no place in SF. Sturgeon did not claim to have suffered any setbacks in his career from this incident. The story was actually published in Universe, June 1953.
  3. ^ Kirk's line shows that he views the fight as him kicking the crap out of Finnegan -- as he has always wanted to do. "Yes, I enjoyed it. After all these years... I did enjoy it. The one thing I wanted to do was to beat the tar out of Finnegan."
  4. ^ Arlene Martel felt that her dress with its high Empire waist resembled a maternity dress, and wondered if T'Pring was supposed to be trying to conceal a pregnancy; she played T'Pring with this in mind.
  5. ^ That still doesn't confirm that the use of the ligature was written by Sturgeon. In his original script, ahn woon meant "unarmed combat". The script was rewritten extensively from Sturgeon's two drafts; by Dorothy Fontana, Stan Robertson, Peter Sloman, Joan Pierce, Robert Justman, Herb Solow, Gene Coon and Roddenberry, with further contributions by the actors. We do not know who made the change.
  6. ^ or whoever wrote that part of the script
  7. ^ It would have to be subconscious: "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." – 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.


  1. ^ Thoughts on Amok Time Part 1, not archived
  2. ^ Thoughts on Amok Time Part 2, not archived
  3. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  4. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  5. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  6. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  7. ^ See Song of the Unwilling Bride by Leslie Fish, originally published in Thrust August 1978.
  8. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  9. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, part 1, May 2009
  10. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  11. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  12. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  13. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  14. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  15. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  16. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  17. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  18. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  19. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009
  20. ^ kirkspock.livejournal, June 2009