In this episode the Enterprise is inexplicably sent back in time by getting too close to a “black star.” I guess that’s supposed to be a black hole. They find themselves in Earth’s upper atmosphere above Cape Kennedy right before the first moon shot. A jet fighter is sent up to investigate the “UFO.” The Enterprise locates the fighter jet, and fearing that it might have a nuclear weapon, grabs it with a tractor beam. But this destroys the plane and the pilot is beamed aboard the Enterprise to save his life.
Spock informs Kirk that the pilot cannot be released back to Earth because his knowledge of the Enterprise would alter history. But then Spock discovers that the pilot’s yet-to-be-born son will be an important man in the future of space exploration. Therefore, the pilot must be returned or that would change history.
After that Kirk and Sulu beam down to an Air Force base to retrieve evidence from the wreckage of the jet that would prove the Enterprise was a real UFO. This leads to another man being beamed aboard the Enterprise. At this point the writers put the plot mercifully to bed. The Enterprise would fly very fast toward the sun ending up even farther back in the past and then “slingshot” back out and start going forward in time. Somehow, when they reached the time where each of the men captured from the past had been affected by the Enterprise they would be beamed into the spot where their bodies were. So, we see the pilot in his plane and suddenly we see the appearance of someone being beamed into his location. But somehow after the beaming occurs the pilot no longer remembers anything about the Enterprise and goes about his mission and returns to Earth.
And the Enterprise hurtles into the future at faster than Warp Factor 8 and in order to prevent overshooting their “present,” Scotty puts on the brakes and the crew pitches back and forth in their chairs. They’ve made it home and everyone is happy.
So, this is the first-time travel episode. So that’s something. But it’s kind of meh. The pretense of a rationale for how they went back in time and the even flimsier logic for how they retuned wouldn’t convince the lowliest of geeks. Spock and Bones bickering about the fate of Kirk during his burglary is kind of contrived and silly.
As for Shatner mockery points, he does get a scene where he has a fist fight with three or four Air Force servicemen. He gets to roll around a bit and throw some pretty phony looking punches. But it’s also nothing to write home about.
If you’re interested in the nostalgia of seeing the Enterprise interact with 1960s Americans, I could throw an extra point in and call this a six. Put that together with the Shatner score and I’ll call this a 6 // 5.