Significant Difference, TOS: S1E19 “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”

In an accidental blast to the past, Kirk and crew involve an Air Force pilot in their shenanigans.  The Enterprise finds itself flying through 1960’s Earth after an encounter with a black star, and is mistaken for a UFO.  The U.S. Air Force pilot tasked with investigating the mysterious ship is unwittingly taken aboard when a tractor beam destroys his aircraft.  The crew must now decide what to do with the inconvenient passenger so as not to pollute the timeline.

On its surface, “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” presents a simple story.  In the end, Scotty’s miracle maneuver returns the pilot to a time just before all these events occur and there is nothing particularly speculative or philosophical about it.  The real predicament is how much one values the life of the pilot.  Captain Christopher could not return to earth at first, or he would certainly disrupt the timeline that the Enterprise had already disrupted by being there.  Likewise, Kirk and crew needed him to stay on-board forever, thereby destroying his life.  It was only when Spock found that one of Christopher’s future children would make a significant contribution to science that it was deemed necessary to release the captive captain.  But what is a significant contribution?  Would the disappearance of one man change the course of history in a way that affects others, or are we really that small in the grand scheme of things?  It must have been heart-breaking for Christopher to hear that he contributed nothing worthy enough to justify his existence!  However, he felt overjoyed at the news of having a future son.  This episode had a subtle way of showing that our family enables us to extend ourselves into the future in ways we may not be able to with our accomplishments alone.

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