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written by D.C. Fontana
with revised pages dated 9/20, 9/21, and 9/26
Review, Analysis, and Report by Dave Tilotta

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"Journey to Babel" is one of the best episodes of Star Trek, not only for its crisp story but also because it further develops the character of Spock. Similarly as the story of the tower of Babel in the Old Testament, the themes of "Journey to Babel" deal with arrogance, disobedience, and competition. And because of Dorothy Fontana’s tight writing, there are very few differences between the aired and scripted versions.

A Script Like a Novella

Dorothy Fontana’s script is wonderfully detailed, and, as you read it, you can’t help but wonder if she hadn’t visualized the entire episode in her head before committing anything to paper. Everything in it is richly and completely described -- the characters, important gestures (e.g., the Vulcan "kiss"), the costume changes, etc. For example, here is an excerpt from one of several notes that she wrote at the beginning of the script that describes the Andorians:

SHRAS and THELEV – Andorians. They are humanoids, tall and quite slim. If at all possible, the ears will be played down (taped back?), but there are two delicately tapered antennae curling from the head. Despite their almost fragile bodies, Andorians are a fierce warrior breed. Their dress indicates this to some extent, and will include a vicious looking bladed weapon…which is carried for use and not ceremony. Andorians are pale blue. Because.

And Sarek’s "heart attack" in his quarters is written as:

Suddenly, Sarek gasps, starts to crumple. He goes to his knees before Kirk and Spock can catch him, he is clutching his right side, at the bottom of the rib cage (NOT as far down as the human appendix area, please)…

Dorothy even described the photographic details for Sarek’s operation:


He lies on an examination table, bare chested. With his look, CAMERA PANS to the device on his arm. From the device CAMERA FOLLOWS transparent tube carrying his green blood to a wall computer.

CAMERA PANS to a second computer, follows the tube from it to the Jefferies Separater [sic]. HOLD on the green Spock blood entering the separater, and orange portion dropping FOLLOWS another tube which carries blood of a brighter green hue to a device on Sarek’s arm. Sarek is anesthetized.

One of the Smallest Mattes Used in Star Trek

Spock and Starfleet

Towards the beginning of the episode, as Kirk is giving Amanda and Sarek the tour of engineering, he and Amanda have a conversation concerning Spock’s reason for joining Starfleet. There are two differences between the aired and scripted versions of Kirk’s dialogue. The first difference is his comment concerning his relationship with Spock. In the script, he refers to Spock as both his best officer and his best friend. In the aired version, he refers to Spock as his best officer and friend (not best friend). The second difference concerns Kirk’s comments on Starfleet, which are only in the aired version:


Starfleet force is used only as a last resort.
We're an instrument of civilization.
And it's a better opportunity
for a scientist to study the universe
than at the Vulcan Science Academy. 

Relocated Scenes

The scenes in Sarek and Amanda’s quarters – where Sarek chastises Amanda for embarrassing Spock – were moved from their original location when the episode was edited. As scripted, these scenes occur immediately before the scenes in the recreation room lounge – where Gav forces Sarek to divulge his vote on Coridan’s admission. Likewise in the script, the bridge scenes of Spock and Kirk trying to identify the as-yet-unknown Orion ship are continuous with the later ones showing the Orion ship accelerating towards the Enterprise at Warp 10. When edited for the broadcast version, though, these bridge scenes were broken in half and the scenes of Sarek and Amanda in their quarters inserted into their middle. The production team may have done this to ease the transition of Sarek seated in his quarters and then suddenly appearing in the recreation room.


For the record, despite DeForest Kelley’s pronunciation, the script states that the procedure Sarek has to repair his heart valve is a cryogenic open heart procedure.

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Touching the Door

The aired version of the sickbay scene showing Amanda imploring Spock to go help his father contains more pathos than the scripted version. Here is a portion of the scene as written:


When you were five years old and came home stiff-lipped,
anguished, because the other boys tormented you, saying
you weren’t really Vulcan! I kept praying
you’d cry...that you’d be human!


I did not cry.


You should have. There must be some part
of me in you – some part I can reach.

Also, in the aired version this scene ends with Spock touching the door after Amanda slaps him and exits. In the script, Spock reaches out to touch her and is stopped when she slaps him. Throughout their interaction, Dorothy specifies that "He [Spock] stands rigid, unmoving...and unmoved."

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The Missing Shake

Towards the end of the episode, Kirk goads the Orion ship into coming closer to the Enterprise by making it appear that the Enterprise is dead in space. He does this by instructing Engineering to first cut (actually "blank," as written in the script) power to the port side of the ship and then, upon his orders, cut power to the starboard side. In the broadcast version, Kirk orders the starboard power cut almost immediately after he orders the port power cut. The only thing that occurs between the two events is his accusing Thelev that he is a spy (to which Thelev replies "Speculation, Captain."). In the scripted version, however, Kirk cuts the starboard power after the Enterprise is fired upon by the Orion ship (following Thelev’s reply of "Speculation, Captain."):

Another SHAKE as the ship is hit.

(hits button)

Engineering, blank out starboard power…all decks.
Maintain until further orders.

A phaser hit from the Orion ship immediately before cutting power makes sense as it would give the Orions the impression that they had done grave damage to the Enterprise. So then, what happened to the SHAKE scene in the broadcast version? It’s hard to determine, but it may have been filmed and then cut for unknown reasons. As potential proof, if you watch Uhura in the background as Kirk orders Engineering to cut starboard power, it appears as if she may just have been through a SHAKE (my speculation, captain).

And that wraps up the significant differences between the aired and scripted versions. As I said at the beginning of this review, the variations are really minor thanks to Dorothy Fontana and her tight script and finely-tuned characters. Whether you read this script or watch the episode, "Journey to Babel" is simply a terrific contribution to the Star Trek universe.

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