Last week, I explained that there was too much television and no human being could possibly watch all the shows. Thus, I’m on a miniature quest to pick out the six episodes that capture the point of the show. With the help of m’coll, James, we have put together lists for all of the Star Trek television series which I’ll publish series by series. Today, Original Series!
Star Trek: The Original Series
This is the series which relates to the new movies and the series which non-nerds have in mind when they talk about Star Trek. It’s Kirk trying to seduce alien women and Spock talking about logic.
Both James and I included The Enemy Within. A transporter malfunctions and creates an evil clone of Kirk. This starts up interesting questions about the authenticity of the evil clone (Which Kirk is real? Does evil Kirk hide in the soul of real Kirk? &c.) and allows Shatner to chew scenery. Fabulous.
Space Seed was another on both lists. This is perhaps the best episode of the Original Series ever produced. Ricardo Mantalban plays Khan, a mysterious figure who was genetically engineered in the 1990s to have advanced physical and mental capacities. The result? Shatner and Mantalban having the best swagger competition ever broadcast.
Similarly, Mirror Mirror. My lists have a fairly major bias in favour of Mirror Universe episodes which are almost always excellent. Mirror Mirror was the first of the adventures into the parallel universe where the human race began a fascist conquest of space, rather than a mission of peace and harmony. And there’s this:
It’s no surprise that I want either Borg or Mirror Universe in the next Star Trek film. If J.J. Abrams looks deep within himself, he also wants either Borg or Mirror Universe in the next movie…
The final episode on both lists was The Trouble with Tribbles. A pet given to Uhura reproduces rapidly. Consuming vast quantities of the Enterprise’s supplies, they quickly outstrip the resources and end up starving to death. While this is sad, seeing Kirk in a pile of fluffy tribbles is adorable. This is one of those episodes that genuinely feels like science fiction with a problem that feels somehow legitimate while still being fun and light.
The two episodes on James’ list that weren’t on mine were the two-part episode The Menagerie and Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. The Menagerie reveals the story of the former captain of the Enterprise, Christopher Pike (this is the character that encourages Kirk to join Starfleet in the new movies). It’s the episode where Spock really shines as a character and we get to see more than just the ‘Logic Yes/No’ dialogue. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield is the episode that deals with racism. Two aliens come aboard the Enterprise:
Because one is black and white while the other is white and black, they hate each other with the fiery passion of Star Trek aliens. Star Trek had a few cracks at big themes and this episode shows the general trend towards heavy-handed approaches. Campy fun, but heavy-handed.
The final two episodes on my list were The Balance of Terror and He Whom the Gods Destroy. The Balance of Terror introduces the Romulans who were the militaristic relatives of the Vulcans and is named after the nuclear arms policy (see the above comment about heavy-handed approaches). He Whom the Gods Destroy has Yvonne Craig (who also played Batgirl in the 1960s Batman) as an inmate of a psychiatric facility in space. The episode is an exploration of the ‘Dangerous villains are the insane villains’ trope, with the added advantage of shape-shifting aliens.
Star Trek: The Next Generation is next. I’ll post it up over the next few days.