Star Trek TOS: The God-like Balls Can Talk
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 20
Return to Tomorrow
“Someone or something is attempting to attract our attention,” was spoken by Spock to Kirk to kickstart Return to Tomorrow. An ominous, God-like voice began talking out loud to Kirk aboard Enterprise, insisting it could read Kirk’s mind. So, this could not be ignored. The voice, calling itself Sargon, explained Kirk’s crew would die if they refused a visit to Sargon’s planet. Oddly, the voice claimed it, too, was already dead.
Hesitantly, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a new female crewmember beamed to the Sargon’s destroyed home planet. When they arrived, Sargon appeared in the form of a blinking spherical receptacle. Sargon continued to call Kirk and his friends “his children,” which bothered and perplexed Kirk.
Sargon declared his people once achieved a mental capacity so great, the differentiation between Gods and men was not discernable. Kirk, staring at and engaging the spherical bulb, succumbed to the power of Sargon as the voice overtook Kirk’s body.
So, for a limited time, Kirk and Sargon were the same beings. Kirk looked like Kirk but talked like Sargon.
Sargon demanded Kirk and Spock — presumably their very souls — for surrender so his people could live on or merely resurrect. The populace mentioned by Sargon was a collection of spherical balls.
Sargon left Kirk’s body, but Kirk felt a strange loyalty to Sargon, puzzling Spock, McCoy, and Ann to the utmost. Kirk leaned toward obliging Sargon’s request, placing his mind and soul in the shells of android robots. And in a wildly heroic speech, Kirk likened the opportunity to partner with Sargon as a moon landing type of advancement.
Kirk rationalized the mission with the slogan, “Risk is our business.” The rah-rah speech even won over McCoy, who was hellbent on the prospect of danger involving the idea. Alas, Kirk and Spock transferred their beings to androids.
Around the midway point of the episode, it became apparent Kirk took the wrong path on trusting Sargon. Spock, controlled by Sargon’s puppetmastery, recommended to Nurse Chapel that Kirk should die. The experiment was veering off the rails, especially when Sargon-Spock erased the memory of Nurse Chapel.
Sargon was essentially using the wicked version of Spock as a vehicle for all his malice. The severity of Sargon’s wrath came to a head when Kirk died. He fell flat on the floor, leading McCoy to announce his death.
A few minutes later — out of nowhere — Kirk sprung back to life. Kirk, with mind and body intact again, ordered the siege of Spock, seeking to rid Sargon from the Vulcan. The crew quickly confronted Spock, and he dropped dead just like a Kirk earlier in the episode.
The whole thing — the swap of souls and minds — was a test by Sargon to see if it and his wife could live on in the shells of humans. They could not. But the experiment did allow for the married “couple” to share one final kiss, acted out by Kirk and Ann through the essences of Sargon and his wife.
The parable was a familiar one for Star Trek — humans and machines are not fully compatible, even when Kirk uncharacteristically allowed the trial to play out.
Finally, Return to Tomorrow was a conduit for Spock to actually smile. He spent most of the episode smirking, a rare occurrence for his character. His body enjoyed letting its hair down for a few grins while inhabited with a God-like alien soul.
Themes: Human-Machine Incompatibility, Distrust of God-like Complexes
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).