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Return to Tomorrow

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Return to Tomorrow

"Return to Tomorrow"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 20
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Written by John Kingsbridge
Featured music George Duning
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 051
Original air date February 9, 1968 (1968-02-09)
Guest actors

"Return to Tomorrow" is a second season episode of the original science-fiction television series, Star Trek, first broadcast February 9, 1968, and repeated August 2, 1968. It is episode #49, production #51, written by John T. Dugan, under the pen-name "John Kingsbridge", and directed by Ralph Senensky.

In this episode, telepathic aliens take control of Captain Kirk's and First Officer Spock's bodies.


  • Plot 1
  • Reception 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The Federation starship USS Enterprise picks up a curious distress call from a lifeless planet. Upon their arrival, the crew makes contact with a telepathic being who addresses Kirk and Spock as "my children". The being identifies himself as Sargon and requests them to come down to the planet.

Spock locates a remote power source deep within the planet. Sargon indicates that is where he can be found. At first, Kirk says that only he and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy will beam down, leaving Spock on the ship, but Sargon shuts the ship's power down. It comes back on only when he agrees to take Spock with him. Kirk and Spock go to the transporter room and find Dr. McCoy and Dr. Ann Mulhall, an astrobiologist, waiting for them. Mulhall states that she "received an order" to report for landing party duty. While unsure who ordered her to report, she insists that she is telling the truth. Spock perceives that she received an "order," just as Kirk had received an "order" to take him along. The coordinates to which they are to be transported are determined to be underneath 100 miles of solid rock. Chief Engineer Scott and Dr. McCoy express concern about this, but Kirk assures them that if Sargon wanted to eliminate them, "they or it" would have done it without the aid of the transporter.

Kirk, Spock, Mulhall and a hesitant McCoy enter the transporter chamber accompanied by two armed security officers as Scott looks on. The transport proceeds, with the security guards left behind, while the rest of the landing party successfully materializes in a deep subterranean vault. The landing party finds a glowing sphere resting on a pedestal. The sphere indicates that it is Sargon. He and two other spheres hold the last of the greatest surviving minds of his ancient people. Their essences were stored here, along with other great minds who have since died, after a world war devastated the planet half a million years ago. Sargon explains that they once had physical bodies, but they now exist as beings of pure energy, contained inside the spheres like the one they see before them.

Sargon repeatedly refers to the landing party as his children. When Kirk asks why Sargon refers to them as "my children", Sargon says it is probable that human beings actually are descendants of his people. Six thousand centuries ago, they explored and colonized the galaxy just as Earth people do now; he speculates that Adam and Eve were two of their travellers. Dr. Mulhall objects that life on Earth evolved independently, but Spock says the colonist idea would explain certain enigmas in Vulcan pre-history.

After these introductions, Sargon takes control of Kirk; transferring his mind into Kirk's body and moving Kirk's mind to the sphere. As Sargon adjusts to his new form, Dr. McCoy scans him and realizes that Kirk's body is already being negatively affected by Sargon's presence. Kirk's metabolism and temperature rise to dangerous levels, but Sargon refuses to leave the body, insisting his control will only be temporary - just long enough for him and his companions to construct artificial bodies they will later occupy. He indicates he will need Mr. Spock's and Dr. Mulhall's bodies for his remaining companions.

Sargon leads the party to another room, where the two surviving spheres are held. Only two of the spheres, amongst many, are glowing; the others are dark and cold. Sargon indicates the two active spheres hold the minds of Thalassa, his wife, and Henoch, a former enemy of his. Concerned by the toll Sargon's metabolism is having on Kirk, Sargon returns to his orb and Kirk to his body. McCoy is disturbed by the prospect of alien possession but Kirk states that during the brief exchange he learned what Sargon is and what he wants, and he is not afraid. Sargon allows them to return to the Enterprise so that they can decide whether they will willingly allow for the transference. In an impassioned speech in the briefing room, Kirk reminds his reluctant officers that "risk is our business" and suggests amazing technological advances which Sargon and his people might be able to provide if they follow through with the plan. Finally voting yes, the team gathers the active spheres and brings them onto the Enterprise.

Kirk, Spock and Dr. Mulhall take the spheres to Sickbay where Dr. McCoy closely monitors the transfer of minds. Sargon returns to Kirk's body, while Henoch enters Spock and Thalassa enters Mulhall. The three look over their new bodies, happy to finally be able to breathe, touch and feel again. After Thalassa and Sargon are forced to leave their host bodies due to the physical drain, Henoch, with the assistance of Nurse Chapel, prepares three hypospray injectors with a serum to ease their metabolic increases. Nurse Chapel notices Sargon's injector looks different and points out that Kirk will die without the proper formula. Henoch uses mind control to force her to be oblivious to the fact.

The three aliens begin to manufacture their artificial bodies, but Sargon weakens and returns for another hypo injection. While he is away, Henoch tries to persuade Thalassa that they should keep their living bodies, since the artificial ones will be incapable of experiencing physical sensations. Thalassa is clearly tempted.

Thalassa goes to the briefing room to meet Sargon, who has just called on the doctor to meet him. As she tries to convince him to keep the bodies, Sargon collapses to the floor. Dr. McCoy arrives a moment later to find that Kirk and Sargon have died. McCoy rushes Kirk's body to sickbay, where he is able to keep the body alive, but with no way of knowing how to transfer Kirk's mind from the sphere in which it remains trapped.

In the meantime, Henoch has completed an artificial body for Thalassa, but she refuses to transfer her consciousness into it, choosing instead to remain in Dr. Mulhall's body. She offers to heal Kirk in exchange for Dr. McCoy's complicity in her theft of Dr. Mulhall's body. McCoy refuses to sanction such an act and Thalassa briefly attacks him with her mind. As McCoy writhes in pain, Thalassa realizes that she is behaving cruelly and stops. Suddenly, Sargon's mental voice returns and speaks to her; she reports that Sargon has taken refuge within the ship itself. As Nurse Chapel enters sickbay, Thalassa tells Dr. McCoy that Sargon has a plan, and asks him to leave sickbay.

McCoy leaves and the door immediately locks shut behind him. Moments later he feels the ship quake; shortly thereafter Nurse Chapel exits sickbay in a daze. McCoy rushes in to find that Kirk and Dr. Mulhall have been returned to their bodies and that all three of the spheres are destroyed, including the one that held Spock. McCoy is stunned that Kirk sacrificed his "best friend," but Kirk insists that it was necessary. Kirk has McCoy prepare a lethal injection for Henoch, who is still possessing Spock's body, since the sphere that contained Spock's mind has now been destroyed. Meanwhile, Henoch has taken the bridge, beginning to torture the crew into obedience.

McCoy rushes to the bridge and tries to inject Henoch with the lethal serum, but reading his thoughts, Henoch freezes McCoy in place. Henoch then orders Nurse Chapel to inject McCoy with the deadly compound. She takes the hypo and turns to Dr. McCoy as if to inject him, but then quickly turns and injects Henoch instead. Henoch laughingly claims that he will "simply transfer" to another body, but then, hearing the voice of Sargon in his mind, pleads to be allowed to transfer. A final look of panic crosses his face as Spock's body collapses, apparently dead. Thalassa and Sargon - now both occupying the ship - succeed in destroying Henoch during his flight from Spock's body.

Kirk expresses regret as he leans over Spock's lifeless body, but Sargon speaks, stating that he could not allow the loss of someone whom Kirk was close to. Both Spock and Nurse Chapel's bodies begin to glow, and as they all turn their attention to Nurse Chapel's drooping form, Spock suddenly bounds up from the floor. McCoy is shocked that Spock would have survived such a lethal injection, but Sargon reveals that the injection was not lethal. Spock affirms that the injection was designed only to cause loss of consciousness. McCoy was meant to believe it was lethal so that Henoch would also believe it as he read McCoy's mind, leading him to flee Spock's "dying" body. Kirk questions where Spock's consciousness was kept after the sphere was destroyed and Spock reveals that it was in a place where Henoch would never have suspected: within the female body of Nurse Chapel, where she and Spock shared their consciousnesses.

Sargon and Thalassa decide not to go forward with their plans to live amongst humans and announce that they must "depart into oblivion". But before leaving they make a final request: to be allowed to occupy Kirk's and Mulhall's bodies one last time so they can enjoy a final moment together before they depart. As the bridge crew observes, Thalassa and Sargon share one last kiss.


Michelle Erica Green of Trek Today writes that the story is "an entertaining and engaging episode about power, loyalty and the struggle between physical and mental pleasures... and because there's an alien in his body, Spock spends a lot of time smiling". Of the characterizations, she adds, "Nimoy appears to be having a wonderful time playing a relaxed, calculating villain, and Shatner portrays Sargon in an amplified booming benevolent voice that makes a nifty contrast to his would-be-Kennedyesque speechifying, expounding on the values that sent humans to the stars".[1]

Green observes, "The skepticism of godlike beings runs very deep on this series", and The A.V. Club's Zach Handlen says on the same theme, "we're dealing with another race of god-beings, but for once, they aren't here to torment Kirk and the rest. This time they actually need help, and it's not because they're bored". Like Green, he enjoys the acting: "Nimoy gets a chance to ham it up here, and it really pays off. He has a half-smirk on his face most of the time, and he makes a great contrast to the somewhat overplayed nobility of Sargon and Thalassa and their love". He gives the episode a B+.[2]

Melissa N. Hayes-Gehrke of the University of Maryland found it "a nearly classic TOS plot, with god-like aliens, beings made only of energy, promises of advanced technology, and the realization that god-like powers are absolutely corrupting". She argued, though, that a "big and frustrating plot hole" is Sargon's dismissal of the idea that Starfleet might build them android bodies. "After all, the Enterprise recently discovered a world populated by advanced androids ('I, Mudd'). In fact, those androids would make anyone a body that they could transfer their mind into. We don't know for sure that those bodies have senses, but it's hard to imagine a human wanting to transfer into one for the purposes of immortality if they were limited in that way. These android bodies seem perfectly suited to Sargon's people, and it's annoying that the lack of series continuity kept it from being mentioned".[3]

Eugene Myers ranked this as a superior example of "several bodyswap/alien possession episodes of the series" in terms of acting: Shatner has a "nuanced performance, walking jerkily as though unaccustomed to legs after eons without a body", while "Nimoy, of course, clearly enjoyed the opportunity to stretch his acting—and facial—muscles, playing out of character ... to smirk, smile, and scheme his way through his scenes".[4] He rated the episode "Warp 6 (on a scale of 1-6)".


  1. ^ Green, Michelle Erica (May 12, 2006). "Return to Tomorrow". Trek Today. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zach (July 16, 2009). ""A Private Little War" / "Return To Tomorrow"".  
  3. ^ Hayes-Gehrke , Melissa N. (September 20, 2008). """Episode Review of Star Trek - The Original Series Season 2: "Return to Tomorrow. University of Maryland: Department of Astronomy. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ Myers, Eugene. "" Re-watch: "Return to TomorrowStar Trek". Retrieved September 4, 2012. 

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