In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode Amok Time which aired on September 15, 1967, Star Date 3372.7.
McCoy noticed that Spock is growing restless and also that he has stopped eating. He also is becoming extremely irritable, throwing Nurse 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 from Kirk. Kirk is baffled by Spock’s behavior, but has no choice but to divert to Vulcan. However, a priority message forces him to change course back to Altair 6 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 Bones 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 Spock, 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.
The Vulcan time of mating is known as Pon Farr and is a very painful and personal experience. It strips logic away from Vulcans and forces them to return to Vulcan to take a mate. Spock compares the need to return to Vulcan to the Eel Birds of Regulus 5, who return every 11 years to the caverns where they hatched, and to salmon on Earth who must return to the stream where they were born in order to spawn. Kirk contacts Admiral Komack at Starfleet Command sector 9 to request permission to divert to Vulcan. The Admiral denies permission, but Kirk ignores the order and re-directs to Vulcan.
In the meantime, Spock is flipping out. In one extremely emotional outburst, he mashes his viewing screen to pulp when Uhura tries to contact him. However, he recovers when he learns that the Enterprise is headed for Vulcan. He invites Kirk and McCoy, as his two best friends, to join him on the surface for a ceremony. On Vulcan, Spock prepares for his Koon-ut-kal-if-fee, or “marriage or challenge” ceremony with T’Pring, to whom he had been betrothed by their parents when they were 7 years old. Kirk and Spock comment how hot Vulcan is, and Kirk says this is because Vulcan’s atmosphere is thinner than Earth’s.
The master of ceremonies is T’Pau, the only person ever to turn down a seat in the Federation council. As the ceremony begins, T’Pring rejects Spock and challenges (Kalifee) him to battle with her champion, who she names as Kirk. This upsets her lover Stonn, and pains Spock. After learning that another champion will be chosen if Kirk declines the challenge, Kirk accepts battle with Spock, not realizing that the fight is to the death. Before Spock can kill Kirk with a lirpa, Bones steps in and gives Kirk a shot supposed to be a triox compound which will accommodate him to the Vulcan climate and temperature. Instead, Bones actually injects him with a neuroparalyzer which simulates death. When Kirk konks out, McCoy pronounces him dead and contacts the Enterprise to beam the two of them up.
Spock confronts T’Pring and she explains that she is in love with the Vulcan Stonn. By choosing Kirk as her champion, she was guaranteed a desirable outcome. If Kirk won, he would not want her, and she would have Stonn, together with Spock’s name and property. If Spock won, he would not take her for daring to challenge, and furthermore would be tried by Starfleet and incarcerated. Believing that he has killed Kirk, Spock loses all interest in his treacherous mate and returns to the Enterprise. Here, he is overjoyed to find Kirk alive, betraying his emotion with a big smile (another smile occurs in The Cage and is repeated in The Menagerie, Part I). Kirk is let off the hook for disobeying orders when Starfleet retroactively grants permission to divert to Vulcan at T’Pau’s request.
This episode begins Season 2 of TOS. As the first ever Star Trek episode to feature any Vulcan characters other than Spock, this episode introduced several important elements of Vulcan culture. Besides establishing the concept of pon farr, it also marked the first use of the Vulcan salute (by T’Pau) and of the words, “Live long and prosper”; by Spock. It also established the trend among almost all female Vulcans to have a name beginning with a “T” and apostrophe.
- What is your investigation protocol?
- How do you account for different cultures within your organization?
- When is an internal control override appropriate?