The masterful teaser lets us know that we are in new territory now. In fact, we are safely in the hands of one of Star Trek's all-time best writers.
This episode manages to combine all of the best elements of the series without ever surrendering to it's most unfortunate weaknesses or cliches. All of the actors, as a result, rise to the occasion, with some of the best performances we'll see. These include Nimoy's successful conveyance of some inner turmoil hiding behind a confident exterior, Kelley's most relaxed but confident (and funny) doctor, and fine turns by the two distinguished guest stars. Shatner also steps up with some fine stunt work.
There is much mined by this episode regarding the Vulcan family structure and relationships. To her credit, Fontana manages to tease out those aspects which will be most recognizable to her human audience: father-son tension, husband-wife dynamics, even career-family stresses. Were the stresses too foreign, we would not be able to understand them. As written, however, we recognize the content as an amplification of the human equivalent. Gender differences are amplified but safely explained away as being species-specific. This is where Star Trek gets its greatest strength. While watching a science fiction story, without even realizing it we are being told a story about humanity -- about ourselves.
This would certainly have been enough, but it is set in such an intriguing mystery -- so well told in itself -- that the whole manages to easily exceed the considerable sum of its parts.
Rating: Very Top (1)