Now a brief dissection of Jane Carnall’s story “Yesterday.”
This story builds on the events of the TOS episode “All Our Yesterdays” (AOY). The premise is two-fold: what if Kirk had not rescued Spock and McCoy from Sarpeidan’s ice age? and what if Spock and McCoy were bonded? As a kid, I hated “AOY”; I remember my brother and I chucking pillows at the TV in protest as Spock did very un-Spocky things like eat meat and mack on Zarabeth (though I was bothered more by the latter than the former). The episode’s position within TOS’ mess of a third season did not encourage me to watch it again. However, A.C. Crispin’s very excellent ST novels “Yesterday’s Son” and its sequel, “Time For Yesterday,” rescued and thoroughly rehabilitated the episode for me. Like the very best ST fiction, her novels are clearly written with love and, just as importantly, the stories she tells are tightly and logically contextualized within the established bodies of canon and fanon.
What “Yesterday” demands that Crispin’s novels do not is that the reader accept the notion that Spock and McCoy are bonded. Generally, I don’t have any interest in S/Mc; while K/S makes sense to me in context, I find S/Mc more difficult to discern. It’s much like my feeling about K/Gary Mitchell–I am ok with the concept, but I’m not totally sold on it.
Thus, it says much for Carnall’s skill that I enjoyed reading “Yesterday.” Part of it, I think, is that the story doesn’t feature any lengthy, graphically detailed, and erotically-charged sex sequences that feature so predominately in most of K/S. Indeed, despite the presence of the Spock-Zarabeth-McCoy triangle, there’s very little sex at all. There’s much more discussion of mental bonding, feeling each other’s thoughts, etc.
What I liked most about the story was the notion that McCoy always feels like second-best; for Kirk, Leonard is a step lower than Spock; and, in this story, Leonard is literally Spock’s second choice. Thanks to the author’s judicious deployment of fanwankery/Vulcan technobabble, we discover that Spock and James cannot bond because they are not a “mindmatch”– uh huh–but Spock and McCoy are. The “mindmatch” concept bugged me; I understand why the author introduces the idea–she must make S/Mc seem logical. For me, authors who take on S/Mc stack the deck against themselves; you have to work a lot harder to convince me that S/Mc are together than K/S.
That being said, once I (reluctantly) accepted the idea, I was able to appreciate what the author does with this concept. Her McCoy is deeply hurt by Spock’s decision to meld with Zarabeth while McCoy is basically in a coma, as it forces Leonard to confront his “second-bestness” yet again. Indeed, it’s hard to disagree with him–even outside of the bounds of this story, the K/S/M relationship is dominated by K/S. Kirk is the bullheaded glue that links Spock and McCoy (so to speak)–as an individual, McCoy has very little agency within the K/S/M triangle. I think we talk more often about Spock and Kirk’s unhappiness–“I need my pain,” and all of that–but Leonard is hurting, too. It’s not easy being the chief psychologist and antagonist.
The story doesn’t have a happy ending, really, but neither is it a melodramatic tragedy. I very much like the bittersweet, almost wistful, tone of the story’s end. “Yesterday” is a vodka tonic of a story. Don’t look for Saurian brandy here.