Stardate: 5943.7 (2269)
Original Air Date: March 14, 1969
Writer: Jean Lisette Aroeste
Director: Marvin Chomsky
“A library serves no purpose unless someone is using it.”
A star called “Beta Niobe” will go nova in approximately three and a half hours. Its only satellite, Sarpeidon, is a Class-M planet which had been inhabited by a civilized humanoid species, however upon arrival, the Enterprise sensors indicate no life forms are present on Sarpeidon. Where did all the people go? How could the entire population of a planet simply disappear? Was it might mass suicide? Reports provided to the Federation deny that the Sarpeidon’s have space flight capability. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to the surface where Spock discovers an impressive library which is still an emanating power source. Shortly thereafter, they stumble upon the librarian, Mr. Atoz (Ian Wolfe). He is surprised to meet the crewmen since all others have left the planet. However, as the crew walks through the library, they notice that Mr. Atoz is a “very agile man,” he keeps popping up to greet them here and there. Apparently, Mr. Atoz has created several replicants of himself to run the library. Why doesn’t Kirk simply explain to Mr. Atoz why the Enterprise has arrived?
Mr. Atoz claims all the former inhabitants of their planet have left Sarpeidon in order to escape the impending nova. Kirk asks, “Where did they all go?” But Mr. Atoz is somewhat evasive. With just three hours and thirteen minutes before the sun goes nova, Mr. Atoz allows the crew to peruse the library and select a favorite point in history, he claims there are over more than 20,000 verism tapes within the library. Then, Mr. Atoz employs an “atavachron” machine, small visual discs in the library show the crewmen various points in history. Suddenly, Kirk hears a screaming noise and runs through a door before he can be sufficiently prepared, and he is followed shortly thereafter by Spock and Bones, much to Mr. Atoz’s dismay.
Kirk is transported back to 17th century England where a swordfight is unfolding in a slum, while Spock and Bones are transported 5,000 years back in time to a remote arctic snowy mountain. Bones becomes injured and then they meet a hooded figure who leads them into a cave. The figure turns out to be a beautiful woman named Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley). She has been alone for so long that she begins to imagine she is hallucinating Spock and Bones, but Spock reassures her. While they help Bones recover, Spock and Zarabeth exchange affections, both of them share their loneliness. Spock asks to return to the library through the portal, but Zarabeth claims that if they try to return, they will surely die because the atavachron changes people who pass through it, however Spock begins acting irrationally and emotionally. He and Zarabeth kiss –“you are beautiful, more than beautiful than any dream of beauty I’ve ever known.” When Bones recovers, he learns that the atavachron has actually reverted Spock to his barbarian Vulcan past, so he can feel strong emotions.
Meanwhile, Kirk is imprisoned in 17th century England after being accused of being an accomplice to the sword fight, and he is also accused of being a witch when he was heard calling out to a “spirit” named “Bones.” Later, Kirk manages to break free but he is confronted and imprisoned. The Prosecutor (Kermit Murdock) who informs Kirk that he can never again return to the library, because the atavachron has restricted their brain function and cell patterns. Nevertheless, he eventually leads Kirk to the portal and Kirk successfully makes the leap back to the library. Kirk then forces Mr. Atoz to locate Spock and Bones after a brief struggle.
Spock and Zarabeth tearfully bid farewell to one another as Spock and Bones return to the library. In the end, they escape the planet before Beta Niobe goes nova, Spock return to his normal Vulcan state of cold rationalism, and Mr. Atoz takes his own trip through the atavachron. Spock distantly remembers his love for Zarabeth, a woman who has now been dead 5,000 years:
“And she is dead now. Dead and buried. Long ago.”
My Thoughts on “All Our Yesterdays”
Spock has had several romances in the third season, but perhaps none as touching nor sentimental as his heart-to-heart with Zarabeth, a love between two lonely souls. In some respects, she serves as Spock’s Edith Keeler. I thought this was a surprisingly brilliant episode, almost as if it could have been among the memorable season one string of episodes, in particular the parts concerning Spock and Zarabeth trapped in the snow 5,000 years ago was an especially impactful narrative.
In this episode, time travel serves as a means of escape as well as a prison for the people of Sarpeidon. If they can develop such elaborate technology, why not build the means for space travel? Also, it is never fully explained how Mr. Atoz was capable of replicating himself. Was this just another example of Sarpeidon possessing extraordinarily advanced technology, yet still is unable to achieve space travel? And lastly, the most frustrating aspect of the episode for me was: why does Kirk not simply introduce himself and the crew’s purpose to Mr. Atoz at the outset? Wouldn’t this have avoided a great deal of trouble?
At any rate, “All Our Yesterdays” still presents some serious, compelling science fiction ideas –such as the notion that time travel can cause harmful physical or psychological effects. In prior episodes, time travel doesn’t seem to affect the crewmen all too much. Another idea I picked up in this adventure, in the same way that Star Trek once envisioned the future of smartphones and tablets, “All Our Yesterdays” seems to point to the rise of discs and DVDs as seen in the round disc-shaped portals found in the library. In summary, this was a wonderful late season episode, a true standout in Season 3, joining a small club of others like “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Cloud Minders.”
Writer Jean Lisette Aroeste (1932-2020) was a reference librarian at UCLA when she wrote this script. She initially entitled this script “A Handful of Dust.” It initially had the crewmen trapped in a barren desert and an area reminiscent of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast.
Director Marvin Chomsky (1929-2022) was the cousin of leading contemporary linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky, and this was the third of three episodes he directed for Star Trek. As of the time of this writing, Marvin Chomsky passed away only a few months ago.
Star Trek Trivia:
- This episode was initially slated to be the final Star Trek episode before “Turnabout Intruder” was added to the production schedule.
- Author Ann Crispin wrote two novels as sequels to this episode: Yesterday’s Son and Time For Yesterday which concern a child conceived by Spock and Zarabeth named “Zar.”
- The title is taken from Macbeth’s famous soliloquy (Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5) “…all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death…”
- Mr. Atoz (pronounced Ayee-tahz) is a clever reference to “A to Z” –perfect for a librarian.
- This is the only episode of TOS where the interior of the Enterprise is not visible.
- A brief clip of the snowy planet Exo III in “What Are Little Girls Made Of ?” can be visible when Dr. McCoy grabs a disc.
- The atavachron is a reused prop of Gary Seven’s Beta 5 computer from the episode “Assignment: Earth.”
- Technically, according to the stardate this is the final chronological episode of TOS.
- This is a rare episode which addresses physical as well as mental limitations on people who undergo time travel.
- An episode of TAS entitled “The Counter-Clock Incident” references the fact that the Enterprise was near Beta Niobe when it began its supernova exploded.
- Actor Ian Wolfe also appeared in the episode “Bread and Circuses” as Septimus.