Apr 16, 2020
Star Trek (TAS) “The Time Trap”
“Captain’s log, stardate fifty-two point two…”
Aaaaaaand our first indication we’re in trouble in this episode is when the writer can’t bother to give the stardate more than three digits. That might be petty nitpicking, but it irks me all the same. Maybe Kirk is rounding up now or something.
The Enterprise has entered the “Delta Triangle”, which Kirk explains is a “vast, uninhabited sector of our galaxy” where ships have been disappearing “since ancient times”. For those of you who don’t know what this is ripping off paying homage to, the Bermuda Triangle is a region of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda where allegedly a lot of ships disappeared. It’s all bullshit, just like crop circles (but don’t tell M. Night Shyamalan that), although in the early 1970s when this cartoon aired, it was big stuff. Hell, even In Search Of… had an episode dedicated to it.
I wonder if the next episode of TAS is going to take place on Easter Planet, or in the Stonehenge Nebula, or maybe the crew will end up fighting the elusive aliens known as the Abominable Spacemen!
Apparently, Starfleet has finally [!] gotten around to maybe investigating this area of three-dimensional space defined by a two-dimensional geometrical object (come to think of it, isn’t “Delta Triangle” sort of redundant?), and I suppose Enterprise drew the short straw. Damn it, Starfleet, don’t you know there’s virtually no chance of Kirk running into hot alien babes on this mission? Why aren’t you giving him jobs that play to his strengths?
The Enterprise’s sensors go into “a state of chaos” the moment the ship crosses into the (sigh) Delta Triangle. Kirk decides to metaphorically take a look out the window and has Sulu give him magnification ten on the viewscreen. To everyone’s surprise, they spot a Klingon battlecruiser.
Well, to everyone’s surprise but mine. It’s incredible that, as huge as space is, this happens all the time.
Kirk orders shields up, and has Uhura open a hailing frequency, but the Klingons ship’s only response is a hail of disruptor fire. Kirk has Sulu return fire, and the Klingon ship simply vanishes. Kirk is perplexed…
…and asks Spock for an explanation, probably because he thinks he might still be hallucinating from that nasty case of space herpes. Spock says the Klingon ship did indeed disappear. He further goes on to explain that it wasn’t destroyed by phaser fire, and its disappearance would have looked much different if the Klingons had been using their cloaking device. Whoa, what? Is this… is this the first recorded instance of the Klingons possessing cloaking devices? Long before Star Trek III: The Search for Spock?
My inner fanboy just went “squeeeeeeeeee”!
No, wait. Wait. I forgot this is the animated series, the franchise’s redheaded stepchild. That crap series Enterprise and the twin abortions known as the JJ Abrams movies are canon, but not this. Bitter? Why, yes I am.
Spock says their sensors are still acting up, so he can’t give Kirk a full report, but he suggests the weird disappearance may be related to how so many other ships have gone missing in this area. Gee, you think? I can’t tell if Spock is speaking down to Kirk, or if the writer was speaking down to the preteen audience. Hell, even at six years old, I think I probably would have gotten what was going on. Then again, I was a rather precocious child.
Kirk has Sulu do a 360-degree visual sweep, and they discover two other Klingon vessels right behind them. Yes, it’s a trap. And no, I’m not posting a pic of Admiral Akbar. Kirk tells Uhura to put the head Klingon onscreen, and also to pipe their conversation back to Starfleet so their bosses know that if the Enterprise gets wiped out, it’s not due to them being just another victim of the Space Bermuda Triangle. Uhura puts the Klingon commander on the viewscreen…
…and he looks pretty damn smug, if you ask me. I guess if I was about to kill Captain Kirk, I’d look pretty pleased with myself, too. He addresses Kirk, and… Okay, I know providing voices for animated shows and movies can be a rough gig. From what I recently learned while watching Anime Abandon, these guys are locked in a stifling soundproof booth for hours on end, and I’m sure they weren’t paid a whole lot. But George Takei isn’t even trying to sound like anyone other than George Takei here. I mean, come on! At least when Doohan was doing alien voice #63, it took you more than two seconds to realize it was him.
So Kirk and Klingon Commander Not-Sulu have some back and forth, with Not-Sulu demanding to know where their ship the Klothos went, and Kirk saying he has no idea. The conversation ends and Kirk orders, um, Sulu-Sulu to head to where the Klingon ship disappeared… at warp eight? Then Sulu and Uhura find themselves getting sick (yes, just the two of them, for some reason).
The Enterprise suddenly disappears, and then reappears someplace else where there are dozens of ships floating in space.
And in a rare change-up, it’s Kirk that goes into exposition mode and talks about how people reported “communication loss and disorientation before disappearance”. Wait, that sentence makes no sense. Was it the same people disappearing who reported communication loss and disorientation? Because how can you report that if you lost communication? Next time, Jim, let Spock do the expositionizing; he’s just better at it.
Sulu scans for the Klothos, but it’s a mess out there, and Scotty notes the presence of ships he’s only heard stories and seen crude drawings of. And God bless him, but Doohan always sounds like he’s giving it 100%. Spock does a scan of the ships’ hulls, which suggest some of them are centuries old. That’s when Scotty points out the USS Bonaventure, which according to him was the first ship equipped with warp drive.
And, um… Wow, this ship design is just ugly. I’m thinking back to “The Pirates of Orion” and the design of the Huron, which was also ugly, but in a good way. It looked functional, like a space freighter might look in the Trek universe. The Bonaventure? It’s like the Enterprise after a week of binging on Ben & Jerry’s.
It’s at this point that Spock drops a bombshell: the crew’s descendants might be alive and still aboard the ship. Yes, he’s picking up life signs from the cluster of ships. But before Kirk can ask for more information, the Klothos swoops in on them. Both ships fire at each other, but their weapons aren’t working.
Suddenly, Kirk disappears from the bridge. And Spock doesn’t say a thing, like he’s seen this happen way too many times. Oh wait, for a second, I forgot I was watching a Star Trek episode; people disappearing from the bridge is as common as alien possession, Kirk falling in love, and Kirk talking computers to death.
We come back from commercial break with Spock padding out the episode with a log entry. We then see Kirk and the Klingon commander materializing in a chamber full of representatives of different races.
This is where we discover the Klingon commander’s name is Kor. You know, Kor? Who appeared in the original series episode “Errand of Mercy”? And would later appear in several episodes of Deep Space Nine? Played by the late, great John Colicos, who played Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica?
Devna, an Orion female and the “interpreter of law”, lays down the exposition, saying that the people trapped here have formed their own society called “Elysia” and are keeping the peace. They pan around the table and it’s a pretty diverse bunch, the standouts being one of the thimbleheads from “The Infinite Vulcan”…
…and also this guy to the Klingon’s left, who actually looks like someone dressed up as a furry.
Between this and the design of the Bonaventure, I’m thinking the animators were feeling less than inspired this time out. Wait, I forgot this was made by Filmation; “uninspired” is a bit of a recurring motif in their shows.
Devna asks if Kirk and Kor have any questions, and I imagine Kirk is suppressing the urge to ask if she’s seeing anyone. Instead, he asks if they’re in an alternate universe. The Orion woman responds that they’re in a “pocket in the garment of time”, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t a neat way of describing it.
And I just now realized that Nichelle Nichols is doing Devna’s voice. Not bad, considering it took me three viewings to pick up on that. Kor asks how they disabled their ships’ weapons, and Devna explains that some of them have psionic powers which allow them to do that sort of thing. I’m glad they didn’t go for the “we have advanced technology” excuse, because the ships here are supposed to be ancient.
Devna then explains how the rules work here: Each captain is responsible for their crew’s behavior, and if any of them are caught breaking the law, they’ll suffer “the ultimate penalty”, which is having their ship frozen for a century. Kor complains they’d be all dead, but the Vulcan (or is it a Romulan? They never say) sitting next to Devna says this place is a curious trap where time passes very slowly. Almost like a… time trap. So that means these people aren’t the descendants of the original crews; they are the original crews.
Back on the Enterprise, Kirk says they have to get out of this place, and Scotty tells him they better do it fast; the dilithium crystals are deteriorating, and they’ve only got four days. Kirk tells Spock to work around the clock on the problem until he has a way of getting them home. Kirk sounds a little stressed out here, and no wonder; at his normal rate of conquest, he’ll have slept with every female in the pocket universe in a matter of weeks!
Unknown to Kirk and Kor, who also has his people working on the problem, Devna and what I’m just going to call the guy with the ears are consulting with a cat-eyed lady named Magen, who appears to be psychic. She also appears to be telepathically spying on Kirk and Kor.
After hearing Magen’s report on their activities, Devna and Ears talk about how any attempt they make to escape will be futile. Are they plotting against Kirk and Kor? Is something more sinister going on here? Nope. It’s just… padding.
Kor then makes an attempt to escape the “time trap”, and fails.
But it’s not a completely wasted effort, as the attempt gives Spock an idea. A little while later, he’s worked out the computations for getting them home, and he shows them to the gang.
Man, and I thought calculus looked indecipherable. Scotty quickly figures this stuff out, and sees that to make it work, the Enterprise and the Klothos would have to be hooked up together. Spock confirms this, and Scotty and Sulu point out problems with this approach. But they soon decide this plan is the best chance they’ve got, so Kirk tells the gang it’s a go. McCoy objects, mainly because he’s just a fussy old curmudgeon.
We then cut back to Devna, Magen, and “Xerius”. Yes, Ears has a name now. Devna asks Xerius if there’s any way for him to stop this latest attempt to escape, and Xerius says it isn’t against their laws. Seriously, the time devoted to scenes with these three could easily have been used to better effect.
Kirk and Spock beam over to the Klothos and make their proposal, and Kor agrees to the plan. Spock then has a touchy-feely moment with the Klingons…
…which is just… weird. It’s either more padding, or the writer never watched the original series. Or maybe Spock is considering growing a goatee, and wants a closer look at their facial hair. Hmmm. Now that I think about it, all the Klingons we see have facial hair. I’m now dreading seeing what Klingon women look like.
After Kirk and Spock leave, the pair comment on Spock’s weird behavior, and the Klingon XO suggests those rumors about Spock being half-human must be true, which makes me now think the writer has indeed watched the series and has something up her sleeve. The pair discuss the plan, and we find out that of course they’re going to stab Kirk’s crew in the back as soon as they escape. I mean, they’re Klingons, right? Being dicks is practically genetic.
Back from commercial break, the Enterprise and the Klothos are hooked up.
And to show how mature I am, I’m not going to make any obvious dirty jokes here.
Oh, what the hell:
– Naturally, Kirk would want the Enterprise on top.
– I see they’re making the starship with two backs.
– So this is where shuttles come from. I wonder what ship knocked up the Bonaventure?
Glad I got that out of my system. Now back to the recap!
On the Enterprise, security officers find two Klingons snooping around where they shouldn’t be, and the two are then taken to see Kirk. They claim they just got lost, and Spock comes to their defense, going as far as to give the Klingons a manly hug.
Spock offers to show the Klingons around and walks them off the bridge. McCoy tells Kirk he’s worried about Spock. Kirk agrees and confronts Spock, who reveals he’s been using touch telepathy to invade the Klingons’ minds.
Wait… what? I know Spock can mind meld, but now he can read minds just by touching people? Really? You know what? I’m going with it. Spock was able to read minds from a distance in the original series episode “By Any Other Name”, and he mind-controlled a woman from across the room in “The Omega Glory”. So this? This works for me. Joyce Perry might not have written any of the original series episodes, but watching this outing makes me feel like she actually watched quite a few of them.
Spock explains that when he touched the Klingons on the Klothos, he picked up that they were planning to sabotage the Enterprise. Kirk responds by saying “sabataage?!” in that weird way only Shatner pronounces the word. He then orders security to watch every Klingon extra-close. So… I guess they weren’t doing that already? Man, Kirk is really trusting.
Later, Jim hosts a party aboard the Enterprise, and it looks like Devna just finished a dance, so I guess there was no money left in the Filmation budget for, you know, actual music.
Devna asks Kirk if he’s ever seen the dance of the Orion women before, and Kirk responds, “Many times.” I have no trouble whatsoever believing that. Kirk and Devna’s conversation turns to talk of escape, and how she’s seen too many failed attempts to believe it’s possible, while Kirk insists they have a chance.
Okay, just an aside here. Remember when I was talking about this episode using its time to better effect? There was a human sitting at that council chamber.
Why aren’t Kirk and Kor talking to her, and offering the crew of the Bonaventure a chance to escape with them? It’s downright criminal that James isn’t making an effort to save them, and I think I know the reason, which I’ll explain at the end of the recap.
During the party, McCoy gets into a fight with a Klingon over a woman. And thankfully, she doesn’t have a goatee.
The Klingon pulls his weapon on Bones and takes a shot, and I’m wondering how this guy was allowed to bring a gun onboard. Then again, Kirk was apparently letting the Klingons walk around his ship without an escort, so I guess that answers that question. The disruptor doesn’t work, however, and Xerius demands Kirk, McCoy, Kor, and the gunman come to the council chamber to “face charges”. Meanwhile, it turns out the fight was all a clever ruse, and the Klingon’s girl is planting a bomb…
…right underneath the reels of magnetic tape. The future, ladies and gentlemen, as seen from 1973.
Over at the council chamber, Xerius lays down the law and says they’re going to freeze the Klothos and her crew for a century, and the Klingon sitting next to him on the council says nothing. Not. A. Thing. Kirk makes an impassioned plea that if Klothos gets frozen, then the Enterprise and her people are also screwed. Xerius asks, “Getting back to your time is that important to you?” Wow. Just… wow. I’ve heard some stupid lines in my time; I’ve watched Enterprise, and I’ve seen episodes of NCIS. I know dumb when I hear it. But I think even that line must have made hundreds of kids roll their eyes when they heard it. Xerius says Kirk will fail, but James says they’ve gotta try.
Kirk gives another impassioned speech: “Elysia, for all its virtues, is not home. And home, for all its faults, is where we prefer to be…” Joyce’s Kirk might be a little too trusting, but she ain’t half-bad when it comes to capturing Kirk’s speechifying.
Xerius is persuaded, and he says they can go, and the rest of the council doesn’t say jack. I’m beginning to think they’re all dead and Xerius and Devna are actually sociopaths who have been feeding on their corpses all this time. I mean really, what else is there to eat in this place? And it’s not like it’s cannibalism, since they’re different species and all.
The Enterprise and the Klothos are ready to go, and as they’re making their run, Magen senses the Klingons have planted a bomb on the Enterprise. Xerius calls Enterprise to warn them, because hey, that’s the next ten years’ worth of meals that might get blown up! Xerius tells Kirk where the bomb is, and Scotty and Spock find it. Spock manages to eject it…
…and the two ships escape from Elysia. The Enterprise and the Klothos disengage…
…and the bomb explodes safely away from both ships. Uhura picks up a message from Kor intended for his home base, taking full credit for them escaping from Elysia. McCoy calls the man a scoundrel, but Kirk doesn’t mind, and ends the episode staring out at the starfield ahead.
Just a little trivia; this would be the last time Star Trek used smooth headed Klingons for decades; six years later, The Motion Picture came out and the aliens became all bumpy-headed. Also, because Deep Space Nine later mentions that Kor commanded the Klothos, that makes “The Time Trap” one of the few TAS episodes that can be considered canon. Which means this is the first recorded canon instance of the Klingons possessing cloaking technology, which is not actually seen in live-action until Star Trek III.
…Right. “The Time Trap” was scripted by Joyce Perry, a writer who worked in television from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, penning scripts for such shows as Fantasy Island, Grizzly Adams, and Land of the Lost. She penned a good story, but it really suffers from a lot of problems she had no real control over. Setting aside the abbreviated runtime, this episode really shows the program’s limitations in regards to the budget.
Why isn’t Kor speaking to the Klingons already inside Elysia to gain their support? Why isn’t Kirk speaking with the Bonaventure’s captain to offer them a chance at escape? It’s obvious that not only was Filmation unable to afford more characters, they couldn’t even afford to bring Majel Barrett in to do more voices. Nichelle Nichols is already doing the voice of Uhura, Devna, and Magen, Takei is doing three voices, and Doohan does six! Never has it been more evident that it was a miracle for an animated series with such a miniscule budget to end up as entertaining as it did. (Thanks to The Daystrom Institute and Memory Alpha for the background information.)