SCORE: (3/5 stars)
After escaping a black hole by using an orbital slingshot, the Enterprise finds herself in orbit of Earth, but not as they know it. No Starfleet communications are being broadcast, no other ships are in the system… but a radio broadcast makes mention of the upcoming Apollo moon mission. They’ve slingshotted themselves back to 1969, an unintended side effect of passing through a large gravity well at high warp. And worst of all, they’re low enough in Earth’s atmosphere that the United States Air Force picks then up on radar and sends fighters to intercept. Spock fears that the fighter may be carrying powerful missiles, possibly even nukes, which could do serious damage to the Enterprise in its present condition. Kirk places a tractor beam on the intercepting fighter, but its frame wasn’t designed to handle that kind of stress and begins to fall apart. Kirk beams aboard the pilot as the fighter breaks up.
After the pilot Captain John Christopher gets over his initial shock, they begin to discuss with him what must be done. If they send him back to Earth with knowledge of the Enterprise and the future, it could irrevocably alter the timeline. Spock determines that Christopher does nothing of importance in recorded history, suggesting that keeping him aboard the Enterprise should be sufficient to maintain the timeline. But after Spock makes a second determination, this time taking into account offspring, he realizes that Christopher is the father of an astronaut who makes the first Earth-Saturn trip, so returning him is actually necessary. They hatch a plan to infiltrate the Air Force base and destroy any data relating to the Enterprise’s appearance, but it hits a couple snags when they encounter an officer on base (who fumbles with their communicator and manages to get himself beamed up, causing a second person with knowledge of the future) and again when Kirk gets himself captured by a group of them.
A rescue team aided by Captain Christopher (and stupidly bringing along Spock without any attempt to disguise his alien features) succeeds in getting Kirk freed. With the data destroyed, and the engine damage from the previous slingshot repaired, Spock makes the calculations for their return trip. The first leg of the journey will cause them to go back in time a few days before jumping to the future, allowing them to beam back their passengers at the moment they were previously taken. This also somehow erases their memory of the event, which is stupid, but whatever. The Enterprise succeeds in its slingshot and arrives in orbit around 23rd century Earth.
- Kirk says 200 years is about the right amount of wait to return to his own time. This would actually put him in Archer’s era.
- How, exactly, would beaming people back to the planet after going through a time warp erase their memories of the transpired events? It doesn’t do it for the Enterprise crew, why should these people be any different?
- Kirk: Manned moon shot? That was in the late 1960s.
Spock: Apparently, Captain, so are we.
- Kirk: Now you’re sounding like Spock.
McCoy: If you’re gonna get nasty, I’m gonna leave.
- Spock: I made an error in my computations.
McCoy: Oh? This could be an historic occasion.
- Fellini: Nobody saw you, you got all the way inside here without tripping any alarm. How’d you do it?
Kirk: Believe me, Colonel. You wouldn’t believe me.
- Fellini: I am going to lock you up for two hundred years.
Kirk: That ought to be just about right.