Star Trek – Tomorrow Is Yesterday

★★★★★ January 26, 1967 Season 1 Episode 19

If you want to see where we are…and you missed a few…HERE is a list of the episodes in my index located at the top of my blog.

This show was written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry

The Enterprise is thrown back in time while trying to escape the gravitational pull of a black star. They find themselves stuck in the 1960s for a while. A 1960s air force catches something on their radar and a pilot, Major Christopher, flies his plane up toward the Enterprise armed with a nuclear warhead. Kirk and Spock talk about the possibility of the pilot firing that weapon at the ship and it ends up that the pilot is beamed aboard the Enterprise. Major Christopher is quite confused and wants to know what is going on plus he just wants to go back to Earth. Kirk & Spock discusses what to do with Christopher because it’s not just a simple thing to beam him back down to the planet because it could alter the future with Christopher knowing the future… it turns out that Christopher will end up having a son that will launch the first successful probe to Saturn. Spock devises a plan that will put everything back to where is was before this incident occurred.

I love Time Travel…in movies, books, or TV shows. The travel itself was actually just an accident…when a mission goes wrong and hostilities ensue, the Enterprise flies toward the Sun and away from it as quickly as possible. This, the so-called “slingshot effect”, causes the ship to end up orbiting Earth – in the late 1960s! Unfortunately, a pilot working for NASA notices the ship and is taken hostage by Kirk and Spock, who must now come up with a way to get back home without altering the course of history.

Star Trek - Tomorrow Is Yesterday 2

Many time travel problems are brought up in this episode. The discovery of a new age, the problems that derive from it, and, of course, the discussions regarding possible paradoxes. What really makes the episode stand out, though, is its sense of fun and foreknowledge… ordinary people’s reaction to the sight of Kirk and Spock is always a joy to behold. It’s funny to hear our heroes mention man’s first landing on the Moon as taking place on a Wednesday at the end of the ’60s…they got it right, weekday and all, a full two years before the whole thing happened.

The interplay between Captain Christopher and the Enterprise crew makes for an interesting look at how representatives from different eras might react to each other. I thought Christopher might have accepted his situation just a bit too readily, but then again, what was he going to do?

The funniest scene is when Air Force MP Sergeant Hal Lynch is also beamed up as he’s cornered Sulu and Kirk stealing the computer tape of the Enterprise. The first person that walks up to him is Spock…his reaction is priceless.

From IMDB:

Captain Kirk says the first moon shot was in the late 1960s. This was the first prediction of the correct decade of this accomplishment in a major science fiction work. Previous motion pictures and television series put the first lunar mission sometime in the 1970s at the earliest.

The Enterprise crew intercepts a radio report that the first manned moon shot will take place on Wednesday. Apollo 11 was launched nearly two years after the filming on 16 July 1969, a Wednesday.

Later in 1967, physicist John Archibald Wheeler would popularize the term “black hole” to refer to the phenomenon Kirk describes as a black star, at the suggestion of a student. While several sources credit Wheeler for coining the phrase, it was used in science journals as early as 1963. The term is now credited to physicist Robert H. Dicke, comparing the phenomenon to a life prison dungeon in Calcutta known as the “Black Hole of Calcutta”.

Premiered on Thursday 26 January 1967, the day before the tragic Apollo 1 fire of 27 January 1967 which killed 3 astronauts.

The star slingshot method of time travel was again used by the crew in Star Trek: Assignment: Earth (1968) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).

Majel Barrett uses a very sultry voice for the ship’s computer in this episode, similar to how she would later voice M’Ress in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973).

This episode was originally going to be the second part of a two part story that would have begun in Star Trek: The Naked Time (1966). In an earlier draft of the script, when Kirk ordered a hyperbolic course, he wanted the direction to be “Doesn’t matter… the way we came… toward Earth.” When Enterprise breaks away from the sun to go back in time and later, when it goes forward, the same passage (composed by Alexander Courage) plays that was used in the climactic scene of the aforementioned episode.

This episode is the first of two episodes to have a food synthesizer in the transporter room. According to D.C. Fontana, budgetary restrictions precluded taking the security police sergeant to a dining facility or having another actor in the scene bring him food, so Kyle was employed to provide the sergeant’s chicken soup from the dispenser. Several episodes later, in Star Trek: This Side of Paradise (1967), Spock smashed his fist through one of the transporter room’s food synthesizers.

Following Christopher’s arrival on board the Enterprise, he is provided with a Starfleet uniform to wear. The uniform shirt is the green-gold command division colour, consistent with his position as a pilot (rate as shown on his flight suit as Senior Pilot), and the rank braid on his sleeve is that of a lieutenant, equivalent to his USAF captain’s rank (although he is credited as Major Christopher, since it is common on real-world ships with officers holding the rank of captain to be referred to as “major”; the only person traditionally referred to as “captain” is the commanding officer of the ship).

When Colonel Fellini is interrogating Capt. Kirk down at the base, he tells him that he will “lock him up for 200 years”, to which Kirk replies “That seems about right”. Since the 23rd Century time line for Star Trek was not yet established at this point (and would not be so until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)), Kirk’s response could be taken as an implication that the time line for the series was the 2160s instead of the 2260s. Gene Roddenberry himself stated that the series was designed so that it could’ve easily taken place at anytime between the 21st and 22nd centuries.


When the Enterprise is flung back in time while trying to escape the gravitational pull of a black star, they find themselves in orbit around a 1960’s Earth. When they are seen by a U.S. Air Force pilot, they beam him aboard but then face the dilemma of what to do with him as he learns more and more about the future. They have to review their initial decision to just keep him when historical records show that his yet-to-be-born son will lead Earth’s first successful mission to probe Saturn. Spock devises a plan to do so while also erasing any memory of recent events.


William Shatner … Captain James Tiberius ‘Jim’ Kirk
Leonard Nimoy … Mister Spock
Roger Perry … Major Christopher
DeForest Kelley … Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Hal Lynch … Air Police Sergeant
Richard Merrifield Richard Merrifield … Technician
John Winston … Lieutenant Kyle
Ed Peck … Col. Fellini
James Doohan … Lieutenant Commander Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott
George Takei … Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Nichelle Nichols … Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Mark Dempsey … Air Force Captain
Jim Spencer … Air Policeman
Sherri Townsend … Crew Woman
Majel Barrett … Enterprise Computer (voice) (uncredited)
Bill Blackburn … Engineer (uncredited)
Frank da Vinci … Brent (uncredited)
Eddie Paskey … Lieutenant Leslie (uncredited)