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The Enterprise is transporting Federation ambassadors to the Babel Conference to discuss the admission of the Coridan system into the Federation. The system is a prime source of dilithium crystals but is also underpopulated and unprotected. Mining rights are disputed by many warring species who have strong reasons for keeping Coridan out of the Federation.

Ambassador Sarek from Vulcan boards with his human wife Amanda. Captain Kirk learns, to his surprise, that they are Mr. Spock's parents. Kirk is also taken aback by how coldly Sarek views his own son, apparently because Spock chose to devote his life to Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Science Academy, against Sarek's wishes.

Formal negotiations are to take place on a neutral planetoid called Babel, but preliminary diplomacy begins at a social gathering aboard the Enterprise. The issue is a controversial one and the Tellarite ambassador, Gav, demands to know Sarek's position. Pushed for a response, Sarek transparently implies that the Tellarites want to keep Coridan out of the Federation so they can continue to plunder the dilithium. Gav takes offense at this allegation and the confrontation briefly becomes physical before Kirk breaks it up, warning all parties to keep order on his ship.

Meanwhile, Communications Officer Lt. Uhura has detected an encoded transmission beamed from the Enterprise to a fast-moving vessel at the extreme edge of sensor range. Shortly afterward, the Tellarite ambassador Gav is found murdered (his neck having been broken by a method Spock calls Tal-Shaya, an ancient Vulcan form of execution), casting suspicion on Sarek. During questioning, Sarek suffers a cardiovascular malfunction, and is rushed to sickbay, where Chief Medical Officer McCoy determines that he requires immediate surgery. Because there is a shortage of his blood type T-negative, which is relatively rare among Vulcans, Spock volunteers to donate his own blood for the operation, using an experimental stimulant for increasing blood production.

Meanwhile, a member of the Andorian delegation, Thelev, attacks and stabs Captain Kirk. Kirk subdues Thelev but is seriously wounded and taken to sickbay, Thelev is imprisoned in the brig. In accordance with regulations, despite the objections of both his mother and Dr. McCoy, Spock halts his participation in Sarek's procedure in order to command the Enterprise, as the situation is too critical to leave in the hands of a less experienced officer.

Kirk recovers sufficiently to pretend that he is well, and with the grudging support of McCoy, returns to the bridge to relieve Spock and order him to return to sickbay. As Uhura picks up another encoded transmission from the Enterprise and traces the source to the brig, Kirk decides to stay in command in his weakened state. When Thelev is searched, it is discovered that his antennae are fake and conceal a small transceiver: Thelev is not an Andorian at all but had been surgically altered to look like one.

The unidentified vessel now closes in to attack the Enterprise, moving at extreme speed; far faster than the Enterprise can lock phaser weapons on it. McCoy begins operating on Sarek who is directly receiving blood from Spock. Kirk orders Thelev brought to the bridge and questions him about his and the attacking ship's motives, though Thelev is evasive. The ongoing attack damages the Enterprise and Kirk decides to try a ruse, shutting down internal power to make the Enterprise appear crippled. This lures the attacker to slowly approach until the Enterprise damages it with a surprise phaser counterattack. The disabled ship self-destructs, and Thelev reveals that both he and the ship were on suicide missions; he then collapses and dies from a delayed-action poison.

Kirk returns to sickbay for further care and finds Spock and Sarek both alert, the surgery having been an apparent success. Spock speculates that Thelev and the attacking ship were of Orion origin and the speed and power of the latter were consistent with a suicide mission, with all energy dedicated to attack and none for defense. Thelev's mission aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and Spock presume, was to sow distrust among the Federation members and weaken the Enterprise (by killing Kirk) prior to the attack. In support of the Orion origin theory[N 1] is the knowledge that Orion has been raiding Coridan for dilithium and would profit greatly selling the valuable mineral to both sides in a civil war between Federation members. Amanda asks Sarek to thank Spock for saving his life, but Sarek simply shrugs, saying that it was only logical. Amanda becomes angered at the Vulcan ways, Spock, noting her temper, asks Sarek why he married her. When Sarek replies "it seemed the logical thing to do", Amanda realizes they were actually joking with her. McCoy loses patience with the discussion and takes advantage of his medical authority over his patients to order everyone to be silent, then beams at finally getting "the last word".[1]

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpickers Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. Apparent lack of crewmembers on Deck 5, during Kirk's fight with the assassin. They are either at their duty stations, attending the other delegates, or on their rest cycle.

Equipment OdditiesEdit

  1. Kirk having to squat down in front of his mirror. It's probably a standard non adjustable design.
  2. McCoy appearing to have a Tantulas Field Device in Sick Bay. It's most likely something that just resembles the Tantulas unit.
  3. The 'old portable stimulator' being so close to hand when Chapel goes to fetch it. McCoy must have insisted on someone getting it out of storage, before starting the operation on Sarek, just in case it was needed.

Nit CentralEdit

  1. Benjamin Knoll on Sunday, October 25, 1998 - 4:44 pm: One wonders how McCoy got to be Chief Medical Officer of the flagship of the Federation anyway. Throughout the whole ordeal with Sarek's illness, we learn that McCoy's and the computer databases' combined knowledge of Vulcan physiology is "sketchy, at best." I thought that to even graduate from Starfleet Medical School one would need to have a knowledge of a wide range of species, not just human. He says that he knows the basics, and that he had never actually operated on a Vulcan before. That sounds more like an undergraduate student than a Ph.D. to me. Then again, Starfleet Medical maybe doesn't have all that much information on Vulcans in the first place. That's hard to believe, though. The Vulcans were one of the founding species of the Federation. Humans have known about them since 2063, roughly two entire centuries had elapsed. I would think that they would have more information by then. Mf on Tuesday, November 24, 1998 - 12:12 pm: On the other hand, Vulcans (as conceived by Roddenberry, Coon and Nimoy) were a very private people. Despite the illogic of it, they might consider it bad form to discuss their biology with outworlders.
  2. Chris Diehl on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 8:35 pm: Why did the Federation need to have this conference at all? The members of the Federation can reasonably be expected to have subspace communication, and it would be safest for their diplomats to discuss things from home, on some equivalent of a conference call. ScottN on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 10:39 pm: Communications security - these discussion are supposed to be private. Also, sometimes, diplomacy can be done better face-to-face. Consider the Camp David Accords. Sure, they could have done it via phone, but often it's informal chance encounters at the diplomatic conference that lead to breakthroughs.
  3. Will on Wednesday, September 03, 2003 - 10:49 am: Spock tells Kirk that the intruder ship was travelling at 'approximately warp 10'. Should he be more precise, considering his preference for being extremely specific. Shouldn't he have said warp 9.97 or warp 10.04 or whatever, instead of 'approximately'? Either the sensors were having trouble getting a precise figure, or the ship's speed was prone to fluctuations.


  1. The issue is unproven by the end of the episode, though it is suggested that an autopsy of Thelev will confirm it.


  1. Journey to Babel at Wikipedia

The Original Series Season 2
Catspaw I Metamorphosis I Friday's Child I Who Mourns for Adonais?I Amok Time I The Doomsday Machine I Wolf in the Fold I The Changeling I The Apple I Mirror, Mirror I The Deadly Years I I, Mudd I The Trouble with Tribbles I Bread and Circuses I Journey to Babel I A Private Little War I The Gamesters of Triskelion I Obsession I The Immunity Syndrome I A Piece of the Action I By Any Other Name I Return to Tomorrow I Patterns of Force I The Ultimate Computer I The Omega Glory I Assignment: Earth