(written from a Production point of view)
|"The Counter-Clock Incident"|
|TAS, Episode 2x06|
Production number: 22023
First aired: 12 October 1974
|←||22nd of 22 produced in TAS|
|←||22nd of 22 released in TAS|
|←||101st of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
When the Enterprise enters a negative universe, former captain Robert April saves the ship as the crew age backwards! (Series Finale)
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 6770.3. The Enterprise is on course for the planet Babel, where ambassadors of all Federation planets are waiting to honor the Enterprise's distinguished passenger Commodore Robert April, first captain of the USS Enterprise, and for the past twenty years, Federation Ambassador-at-Large. Now 75 years old, Commodore April has reached mandatory retirement age."
Commodore April tells Captain Kirk that no place, where ever he's gone, has ever felt like home more than the bridge of the Enterprise, a sentiment Kirk can share. April says that he always felt the ship was almost like a child of his and that he was present at the San Francisco Navy Yards while the ship was under construction. McCoy enters the bridge along with Commodore April's wife Sarah. McCoy tells Kirk he was unaware that most of the instruments he uses in sickbay were designed by Sarah. Sarah says that being the first medical officer on a ship equipped with warp drive, she was forced to come up with new ideas constantly. Kirk tells her that her achievements as a medical pioneer are well known. Then McCoy tells her that she is still lovely, much like the flower she's carrying, to which Sarah tells McCoy that while flattery will get him everywhere, the flower is dying. Kirk recognizes it as a native of Capella IV and then Sarah explains that it only has a life span of a few hours and that earlier in the day it was still a seedling and in a few hours the flower will be dead. Spock notifies Kirk, per his request, that the ship is within visual range of the Beta Niobe supernova and Kirk orders it put on the viewscreen to show Mrs. April. Spock reassures her that Enterprise is traveling far enough away from the supernova remnant to be safe. April mentions that Kirk was present when the star first started its explosion, which Kirk confirms. Suddenly, the ship's sensors pick up an unidentified vessel on collision course with the Enterprise, at an incredible speed. Kirk immediately orders red alert and then asks Spock how fast the ship is traveling. Spock says it is traveling at a speed which should be impossible to reach, a velocity on the order of about warp 36. April says that no natural phenomenon has ever been recorded traveling that fast. Spock says he believes it to be a ship. Kirk wonders who could have built such an advanced ship. Spock says that no one they know of could have done so, nevertheless they will collide in just over a minute. Kirk then orders evasive action and the collision is averted. But Spock realizes then that the collision course was only a coincidence and that the alien ship now seems to be on a heading right into the Beta Niobe nova. Kirk tries to warn the alien captain, but there is no response.
The Enterprise locks its tractor beam on the ship, hoping to stop it before it enters the nova. Arex reports that the alien ship has dropped to warp 32 as a result of the tractor beam. The other vessel now makes visual contact and the alien captain speaks in a seemingly unknown language. Kirk has Uhura run the message through the universal translator to see if they can find out what she was saying. Uhura reports the translator has discovered the woman's language was, in fact, the same universal language that they all speak, only she was speaking in reverse. Kirk then tells Uhura to play the tape of the message backward and then the message is clear. The alien captain demands release from the tractor beam or she is doomed. Kirk tries to tell her that she is endangering her life by staying on this course but she will not answer. At that moment, Scotty calls and tells Kirk the engines are buckling and they can't keep this speed up anymore. Kirk asks Arex how fast they are traveling and he reports Enterprise's velocity at Warp eleven. Kirk asks Scotty for three and a half minutes, based on Spock's estimate of the time till the alien ship's entry into the supernova. Arex reports that the ship is still increasing speed, now passing warp 14 and then warp 15. Kirk orders Sulu to release the tractor beam because he can't risk the entire crew of the Enterprise to save one person's life, but due to the extreme speeds, it will not disengage. Kirk is alarmed when the tractor beam won't release, realizing it means that they'll plunge into the supernova along with the alien craft.
Spock reports the speed of Enterprise is now at warp 20. Kirk apologizes to the Aprils because it now appears they may not reach Babel. The Aprils tell Kirk that as starship personnel they were always prepared to give their lives and they are still starship personnel. Kirk then realizes that after the alien ship enters the supernova and burns up, it'll break contact with the tractor beam. Spock estimates they'll have just more than 22 seconds to change course after the alien ship is destroyed. Kirk calls Scotty who tells Kirk the only reason the engines are lasting so long at speeds now exceeding warp 22+ is because of the pull of the alien ship with their own tractor beam. As the alien ship prepares to enter the supernova Kirk has Sulu and Arex ready to change course immediately afterward. As the alien ship disappears in the nova, Kirk tells Sulu to execute the course change, but to the shock of the bridge crew, they are still locked onto the alien ship. Kirk notes that the alien ship might have been able to survive the heat of a supernova, but Enterprise won't. Finally the ship enters the supernova and is tossed about. To Kirk's amazement the ship and crew has survived. Kirk asks Uhura for a visual and when he gets it, he and April are shocked at what they see, white space with black stars and the Enterprise is flying backward through this strange space.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 6770.6. The Enterprise has passed into the most alien landscape I have ever seen. We are in some reverse universe where black stars shine in a white void. We are still in the tow of the alien ship, both of us having survived the extreme heat of the Beta Niobe nova."
Scotty calls Kirk and tells him they have had to re-learn how to run the ship as every control is working in reverse. At that moment, Sarah exclaims to Kirk about the Capellan flower she was holding. April tries to calm her and tells her that Kirk surely has other worries besides that flower. Sarah tells him that what they're not realizing is that just before they entered this universe it was about to die and now it's in full bloom again and that she can actually feel it getting younger as she holds it. Spock realizes that the flower is not all that's getting younger. The ship's chronometers are also running backward. It seems that the flow of time is reversed in this universe and the longer the Enterprise crew remains here, the younger they will become. Uhura says she now has established contact with the unknown ship. The captain appears and angrily tells Kirk his interference almost killed her. Kirk comments how he can now understand her without the universal translator, which makes Spock realize that in this universe, their brains must also be working backward, so they can now understand the alien captain's language, which is why all systems on the ship seem to be working in the reverse to which they are used to.
Kirk introduces himself to the alien captain and explains that they thought that her ship would have been destroyed when she entered the Beta Niobe supernova. The alien captain, a woman called Karla Five, explains that she was observing a dead star, Amphion, becoming a supernova and coming to life and she was accidentally pulled into the star, but instead of being destroyed, she accidentally traveled into "our" universe. April quickly realizes that in this universe, a supernova is a dead star that comes to life and when there are supernovas at the exact same space in both universes, it's possible to travel between the two universes. Kirk proposes returning the same way but Karla Five tells him that Amphion is no longer a supernova, but has begun its life as a star. She asks Kirk to accompany her back to her planet where hopefully, they will be able to help Kirk and crew find a way home. Having little choice, Kirk agrees.
- "Captain's Log, Supplemental. We are proceeding to Karla Five's planet, Arret."
Kirk mentions that he's sure no one will mind growing younger instead of older for a change. April comments that if they stay long enough he will no longer be at the mandatory retirement age. Kirk says that in any case, they have to find a way back home and he asks for suggestions. Spock says that they must reproduce the conditions that brought them into this universe. To return to normal space would mean finding one star dying in "our" universe and one star being born in the negative universe, exploding simultaneously at the same place to create the gateway.
Upon arriving at Arret, Kirk, Spock and April prepare to beam down. Scotty tells Kirk that they have received coordinates to Karla Five's son's laboratory. Kirk says that while they have no time for children's games, to go ahead and beam them down. When they arrive, they see a child in a playpen and then Karla Five steps up and introduces her son, Karl Four, who happens to be an elderly man. Spock realizes what is happening: "Most logical. If the flow of time is reversed, then one is born at an old age, and dies in infancy. Your descendants are born before you and your ancestors are born after you."
Kirk is still dumbfounded at the realization that the child in the playpen is in fact, Karla Five's father. Karl Four tells Kirk that he has been working on a way to get the Enterprise home since Karla told him of their troubles. He then brings up a star map of their galaxy, showing where Arret is at and then the Amphion nova where they entered this universe. Kirk asks Spock if they can compare this to a map of their own galaxy and he says they can. Spock then pulls up a map of the Milky Way (likely downloaded from Enterprise's computer) and that Beta Niobe and Earth correspond exactly with Amphion and Arret, respectively. Then he pulls up both maps at the same time (turning the map into various shades of gray) and there are many red dots on the screen which, according to Spock, represent where two stars are in the exact place in each universe but that no pair are novas in both universes. April then suggests bringing a supernova to life prematurely so they would have two such supernovas in the same space. Karla Five points out that Enterprise isn't capable of the speeds she needed in order to cross the dimensional barrier, which Kirk agrees. Karla says they are welcome to her ship, but Kirk tells her he has a crew of 430 and her ship would only fit a few people. Spock says that while they can't use her ship for transportation, they could use it as an unmanned ship with their tractor beam attached. April thinks it would work since that's how they got here to begin with. Kirk says that while it should work, he worries that any miscalculations anywhere along the way and they will plunge tail first into a supernova!
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 6770.1. Time continues to flow backward for us. We have set course for a dead star, in this antimatter universe, that corresponds with the nova Minara in ours. We're being pulled by Karla Five's unmanned vessel which is equipped with enough positive matter armament to ignite the dead star into life..."
Kirk tells April they may get him to Babel after all. April says that while he'll be pleased to return to their proper universe, he isn't so enthusiastic about getting to Babel as it only means the end of his career. Karla Five then contacts Kirk and wishes him well even though the outcome will remain unknown to her. Kirk says that they'll either burn to a crisp or escape into their universe, but either way she will will never hear from them again and then he thanks her for the sacrifice of her ship. Karla tells them it is a small sacrifice to make and wishes them success. Sulu reports the tractor beam is on and stable. Arex says they're matching the speed of Karla Five's vessel.
Kirk asks Spock how long they have until the youngest crew member reverts to the time of birth. Spock says that while that's just under nineteen minutes away, long before that, the crew will all be children and that also means they are losing their knowledge at an alarming rate and that it is possible that before they reach the dead star, they may no longer be able to control the Enterprise.
Kirk asks Sulu how their course is and Sulu has no idea what he's doing there or what all that equipment is. Kirk has Arex take over for Sulu and tells Uhura to report to navigation but she has no idea what she's supposed to do with her controls either. Kirk then asks Spock if he can fill in for Sulu and Uhura. Spock says that he can, but wonders who will fill in for Kirk. He asks Kirk at what age did he become a starship captain and what age did he enter Starfleet Academy. Spock says that because as a Vulcan, his aging process is much slower so he'll be able to retain command longer than anyone else, but that even Spock will become too young to know what to do.
- "Captain's Log, Supplemental. We have eleven minutes of real time left to reach the dead star but all around my crew are turning into children, unable to operate the ship.'
With Spock at the helm, he tells Kirk they have just over ten minutes left to reach the dead star and that they will need to disconnect the tractor beam at the right time. When that statement confounds Kirk, Spock realizes he must assume command. At that point, April, who, along with Sarah, has reverted into healthy young adults, tells Spock that while he's here he is senior officer and that, while he hates to pull rank, the fact is that Spock won't be able to maintain command long enough to get the ship home. Spock relents and offers Commodore April command of the ship, to which April replies, "Commodore? I'm Captain April, Mr. Spock." At that point Sarah realizes that she and Robert are the only two adults left on the bridge as they've all reverted to teenagers and children. Robert tells Sarah to keep the children safe and asks Spock if he can still follow orders. Spock says he can and so April sends him back to navigation and April sits down in his old command chair. Spock says the dead star is directly ahead. April tells Spock to arm Karla Five's ship and he does so. Then just as it comes time for the detonation, Spock becomes too little to reach the controls and so April detonates Karla Five's ship, triggering the supernova, which the Enterprise passes through, and they make it home to "our" universe.
Sarah asks Robert what they will do with the crew now that they're all children. April says they can use the transporter to restore the crew as the transporter retains a memory of their original molecular structure. Sarah tells Robert they could stay young and live their lives over again and that Robert could be a starship captain again. Robert says that would be such a blessing if the life one leads has left one unfulfilled, but since his life has been full, Robert says he doesn't want to stay young and he couldn't improve one bit on the life they had together.
Later, after everyone has been restored, Kirk tells the Aprils that they've received a message from the Federation that should make them happy and has Uhura relay a message: "In view of Commodore April's heroic actions aboard the USS Enterprise this stardate, we are reviewing his mandatory retirement and will consider his appeal to remain Federation Ambassador-at-Large."
April is pleased and comments that just because someone is 75 years old, doesn't mean they are ready to stop giving service to the galaxy. Kirk notices that Sarah's flower has blossomed again. She says that their trip into the negative universe gave the flower a second life and it gave all of them as well, a second life.
"No matter where I've traveled in the galaxy, Jim, this bridge is more like home than anywhere else."
"Yes, Commodore, I know the feeling."
"To me she was always like my child. I was there in the San Francisco Navy Yards when her unit components were built."
- - Robert April reminisces about the Enterprise with Kirk
"Captain Kirk, the Capellan flower."
"I'm sure Captain Kirk has other problems besides your flower, dear."
"You don't understand. Before we entered this universe it was about to die and-and now it's in full bloom again."
"How is that possible?"
"It's as if it were growing younger again. I-I can almost feel it while I-I'm holding it."
- - Sarah April, Robert April and Kirk
"In her universe a nova is a dead star which comes to life. And when the explosions of a nova in her universe and one in our universe occur together it's possible to travel between the two universes."
"Then we must return the same way, through the two novas."
- - Robert April and Kirk
"We could remain forever awed with the differences between our universes, Karla Five, but we must discover a way to return to our positive matter universe."
- - Kirk
"Our trip into the negative universe gave it [the flower] a second life. It gave all of us a second life."
- - Sarah April (last line of the series)
Story and Script
- Although the writing of this series finale is attributed to John Culver, that was actually a pseudonym used by writer Fred Bronson when he wrote the episode. At the time, Bronson was the NBC publicist assigned to Star Trek: The Animated Series and was also a veteran Star Trek fan. The reason why he chose to be credited with the pseudonym John Culver is because Bronson – who grew up in Culver City, California – was worried that someone might think it improper for him, as an NBC employee, to write for one of the network's shows, although he was also aware that NBC corporate policy allowed for that. After Bronson told everyone about his writing, nobody at NBC had a problem with it, anyway. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- During his work as a publicist for the animated Star Trek, Fred Bronson occasionally spoke to Lou Scheimer about the possibility of him writing an episode of TAS. Bronson's chance to do so came with this episode. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- As a Star Trek fan, Fred Bronson delighted in adding aspects to this episode for fellow enthusiasts to enjoy. These facets include the Beta Niobe supernova as well as several elements that had previously been considered but were never fully developed before. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- Prior to the writing of this episode – with its youthful depictions of the series' regular characters – child equivalents of the characters had been conceived as regular fixtures of the animated Star Trek series, before that concept was scrapped. (The Art of Star Trek, pp. 42 & 43)
- The name Robert April originates from the first Star Trek pitch, Gene Roddenberry's 1964 document Star Trek is.... Early drafts of the original pilot script for "The Cage" also listed the captain as having that name, although this was changed in subsequent drafts of that episode's script and various names were temporarily considered before Christopher Pike was chosen, James R. Kirk debuting in the second pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and Pike eventually reappearing in the original series two-parter "The Menagerie, Parts I & II". The text commentary for this episode, written by Michael and Denise Okuda, states, "In writing 'The Counter-Clock Incident', Fred Bronson wondered if he might bring to life the original name of the Enterprise captain. Although 'The Menagerie' established that Kirk's predecessor was Christopher Pike, Bronson felt that there might have been at least one other captain before Pike. And April seemed a perfect name for that never-before-seen commander. Bronson checked 'The Menagerie' carefully. He was relieved to find that nothing in the episode suggested that there hadn't been another captain before Pike." In addition to featuring April here, Bronson also set the age of mandatory retirement from Starfleet as seventy-five years old since, at the time of writing this installment, he believed it to be a suitably advanced age. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- The name Arret had previously been used for a planet in TOS: "Return to Tomorrow", though only in an early script draft for that episode and not in the final version of the installment. (TAS DVD text commentary) Note that the name Arret is also "Terra" spelled backwards.
- The reason why, after the Enterprise returns to "our" universe, the persons aboard the ship speedily regain their ages prior to their journey to the reverse universe is somewhat questionable. By way of explanation, Fred Bronson stated, "In our universe, the faster you travel, the slower you age (as Einstein told us). In the reverse universe, the faster they travel, the faster they age--or in this case, grow younger. There was an explanation written into the original script, but of course the show is only 21 minutes long on the air, so quite a bit was cut." 
- Robert April's Starfleet dress uniform was based on similar costumes used in numerous episodes of the original Star Trek series (beginning with "Court Martial"). (TAS DVD text commentary)
- The text commentary for this episode regards the elaborate alien laboratory shown here as being one of several sets that were visualized for the animated series but would have been highly expensive to create for a contemporaneous live-action production. The commentary goes on to say that the lab's equipment would have been extremely costly, if built from scratch, and that Hollywood prop rental companies of the 1960s and 1970s had very few high-tech components that could be modified for such use.
- Depicting officers having been reduced to children, such as in this episode, is another aspect of the outing that the text commentary cites as being a lot more expensive to do in live action than in animation. Even though new character drawings of younger crew members were not exactly free, they cost much less than if additional actors had been hired and provided with costumes and makeup.
- The shot of the Enterprise and Karla Five's vessel flying right-to-left across the screen, during the countdown before escape from the reverse universe, is an example of a shot that used a smaller version of the Enterprise painting cel than was usual for the series. The actual escape from the reverse universe incorporates two shots (one a panning close-up zoom across the ship's primary hull, and the other an Enterprise flyby shot) that were created with a method called rotoscoping, which involved film of the original series ship in flight being projected onto an animation cel, on which an animator would then trace the image, drawing a series of illustrations. Although the technique was expensive, the cost was deemed acceptable, since such rotoscoped shots were used many times throughout the series. (TAS DVD text commentary)
Continuity and Trivia
- This is one of two Star Trek finales to not have the last line delivered by the captain of that respective series. Here, it is delivered by Sarah April. (The other is "What You Leave Behind", where the final line is delivered not by Benjamin Sisko but by Quark.)
- Commodore April refers to Kirk's previous mission to Beta Niobe, which occurs in TOS: "All Our Yesterdays". Kirk later refers to Minara, a star referenced in TOS: "The Empath".
- This is the third of four episodes to reference the planetoid Babel. Introduced in TOS: "Journey to Babel", this location is also referenced in the TAS second season premiere "The Pirates of Orion" and ENT: "Babel One".
- The concept of a "negative universe" first appeared in TOS: "The Alternative Factor". The idea that the transporter could be used to restore the crew's adult forms was used again in TNG: "Rascals". A similar concept, "anti-time", was later explored in TNG: "All Good Things...". Reversed aging (adults appear as children, children appear as adults) is also explored in VOY: "Innocence".
- The Capellan flower from Capella IV is a reference to TOS: "Friday's Child", which is set both on the surface of Capella IV and in the planet's general vicinity. This is the second of two consecutive installments to feature a Capellan lifeform, as a Capellan power-cat appears in the penultimate episode of TAS, "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth".
- After the TAS Season 1 episode "Yesteryear", this is the second of two episodes to feature a boyhood Spock.
Reception and Aftermath
- In their text commentary for this episode, Michael and Denise Okuda enthusiastically describe the reuse of Robert April here as Fred Bronson's "most ingenious original series reference." The Okudas also imply that this facet of the episode inspired them to include the character in the first edition of their Star Trek Encyclopedia, along with a retouched picture of Gene Roddenberry wearing a Starfleet uniform; the image is credited as being a photograph of Captain April.
- The editors of Trek magazine collectively scored this episode 4 out of 5 stars (a rating that they termed "very good"). (The Best of Trek #1, p. 112)
- In the unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (p. 48), co-writers Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross both individually rate this episode 3 out of 4 stars (defined as "good").
- At one point, there was a rumor that this episode – especially its conclusion, showing childhood Enterprise bridge officers – was meant as a pilot for a new animated Saturday morning series entitled The Star Trek Kids and that the proposed series was scheduled for production in 1975. However, this rumor turned out to be exactly that, having no basis in fact. 
- Following this episode's initial airing, it was more than five years before the public release of the next new Star Trek production, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
- This episode was the last non-feature-length series finale in the Star Trek franchise until Star Trek: Enterprise's finale, "These Are the Voyages...", aired on 13 May 2005.
- By or in 2006, Fred Bronson came to realize – despite the age limit at which he set mandatory retirement, here – that a person can still be active at seventy-five years old and that, by the time that this episode is set, an individual could very probably remain working long after that age. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- This episode was novelized by Alan Dean Foster in the book Star Trek Log 7. The novelization confirms the probability (given their family naming traditions) that Karla Five's father, unnamed in this episode, was called Karl Six, and a line from Karla Five describes her father as having entered "senile infancy." Additionally in the novelization, the Aprils did elect to remain younger and, even after the negative universe was proven to be an alien fabrication, the Aprils were allowed to remain younger even though the Enterprise had not really left its own universe. The novelization also expands on a couple of other scenes that show clearly the differences between the negative universe and "our" universe. Karla Five's description of how she passed through the nova gateway was expanded on slightly. When she mentioned how everything in "our" universe operated reverse to her universe, she mentioned how seeing colored stars against black space was maddening and unnatural. Also, when the landing party prepares to transport down to Arret, Scotty attempts to beam them down to the planet and the transporter will not operate. Realizing the conundrum, Spock tells Scotty to instead beam them up to the planet and then the transport is successful.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (CIC Video): Volume 7, catalog number VHR 2557, 17 February 1992.
- As part of the The Animated Series LaserDisc collection.
- As part of the The Animated Series DVD collection.
Links and references
- George Takei as Sulu
- Nichelle Nichols as:
- James Doohan as:
2195; 2250; Ambassador-at-Large; Amphion; anti-matter universe; Arret (negative), Arret native; Babel; Beta Niobe; Capella IV; Capellan flower; chronometer; Commodore; Earth; galactic plane; Karla Five's vessel; logic; mandatory retirement; medical officer; midwife; Milky Way Galaxy; Minara; navigation console; negative universe; red alert; San Francisco Navy Yards; senior officer; Starfleet Academy; supernova; time; tractor beam; transporter; universal language; universal translator; Vulcan; warp drive; warp factor
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