Now that we’re into Season 2 of Star Trek: The Original Series, I thought I’d give my mini-reviews of the episodes we watched from the first one. And lo and behold, they ARE arranged in order of favorite to least-favorite! I was able to do that for once. Wonders never cease.
1. “The City on the Edge of Forever”
When an accident causes Dr. McCoy to go temporarily insane, he escapes to a strange planet. There, the search party discovers a device left by a superior, vanished civilization, a time portal that plays the history of Earth for them – but then Bones jumps through it into the past, causing a change in history important enough to make the Enterprise vanish.
This episode, which reminded me a lot of Doctor Who, made me a fan of the Original Series. I took issue with idea of a “Guardian of Forever”–only God is in charge of time, peeps—but I thoroughly enjoyed the time travel back to Great Depression-era America, Spock and Kirk adapting to 20th century life, and the lovely but tragic Edith Keeler. She was a compassionate, intelligent woman in her own right. Yes, she was probably overly-idealistic, but she definitely wasn’t a two-dimensional love interest.
That said, I did love the romance between Captain Kirk and Edith, even though I knew it was doomed from the beginning. And normally even I, his newest biggest fan, roll my eyes when he’s charming the ladies (which he does quite often). But this was different–he really did love Edith–he respected and admired her–and no one can convince me otherwise.
2. “Tomorrow is Yesterday”
When the Enterprise is flung back in time while trying to escape the gravitational pull of a black star, they find themselves in orbit around a 1960’s Earth. When they are seen by a U.S. Air Force pilot, they beam him aboard but then face the dilemma of what to do with him as he learns more and more about the future.
This is another episode in which the Enterprise goes back in time, and just like in The City on the Edge of Forever, the crew must be careful not to take any action that would affect the future. Only this time they’re stuck in Space Age America. All the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff will scramble your brain if you think about it too long, so just accept it as make-believe and be grateful that time is actually linear, not circular, thank you very much.
The suspense, however, is perfectly balanced by generous amounts of humor, mostly in the form of clever BBC-worthy banter. The interactions between the United States Air Force and the crew of the Enterprise are priceless. And I know everyone talks about Spock’s gift for sarcasm, but excuse me, have you ever heard James Tiberius Kirk sass an Air Force officer?
3. “Operation: Annihilate!”
The Enterprise crew attempts to stop a plague of amoeba-like creatures from possessing human hosts and spreading throughout the galaxy.
Girls (and I speak to girls because I don’t think guys understand this), have you ever “adopted” a fictional character? Have you felt strongly protective of them, but in a motherly sort of way? That person is your baby and you’d just like to take care of them and make sure they don’t get physically or emotionally hurt. You know what I’m talking about, yes?
Well, that is me with Spock, and I blame this episode for it. While trying to diagnose an outbreak of mental disease on the planet of Deneva, he gets attacked by the nasty, gooey organism that’s causing the epidemic. The infection causes intense pain, but Spock is able to master it and figure out how to eradicate the disease before it’s too late. You feel so bad for him because he really is terribly sick and trying not to show it…but by the end you’re so proud of him for his courage and clear thinking.
4. “The Galileo Seven”
The Galileo, under Spock’s command, crash-lands on a hostile planet. As the Enterprise races against time to find the shuttlecraft, Spock’s strictly logical leadership clashes with the fear and resentment of his crew.
This was one of Mom’s favorites. (Which is saying a lot, because she’s not that keen on Star Trek. Bless her for putting up with us.) Spock finds himself in a position of leadership for the first time and, surprisingly, doesn’t do well at all. His constant struggle between logic and emotion culminates with this frustrated statement: “Strange. Step by step I have made the the correct and logical decisions, and yet two men have died!” Saving his crew requires throwing logic to the wind and making one last desperate (and therefore emotional) attempt at signaling the Enterprise.
Spock’s leadership skills get better as the shows and movies progress, by the way. His behavior in this episode is a stark contrast to the way he commands the Enterprise in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. (*smiles proudly*)
5. “Space Seed”
Captain Kirk and his crew find and inadvertently revive a genetically augmented world conqueror and his compatriots from Earth’s 20th century.
Space Seed is the first episode I ever watched, and it is IMPORTANT. This is where the murderous Khan and Captain Kirk have their first confrontation–and since Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan revolves around the old tyrant seeking revenge for what happened in Space Seed, you’ll be totally lost if you don’t watch them in order.
Khan is a fantastic antagonist: charming, eloquent, but ruthless. FYI, Benedict Cumberbatch portrays him in the second reboot film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Also, big points to Star Trek heroine Lieutenant Uhura for staring down Khan and Company when they try to take over the ship. In a time when African-American heroines were extremely rare on TV, she must’ve made quite an impression.
6. “The Corbomite Maneuver”
After the Enterprise is forced to destroy a dangerous marker buoy, a gigantic alien ship arrives to capture and condemn the crew as trespassers.
This is Dad’s favorite from the first season, and I like it because it reminds me of a Horatio Hornblower episode, thanks to Captain Kirk calling the antagonistic alien’s bluff. The end is surprisingly anti-climactic after the non-stop suspense of the first forty-five minutes…although I enjoyed seeing little Clint Howard, haha. (FYI, that’s Ron Howard’s younger brother. He shows up every once in a while on The Andy Griffith Show as the peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-wielding Leon.)
Still, Kirk’s ingenuity, courage, and then compassion towards his enemy make up for the somewhat disappointing conclusion. Go ahead, call me biased: it was a Kirk-centric episode and one of his finest hours…of course Daddy and I are gonna like it 😉
7. “Balance of Terror”
The Enterprise must decide on its response when a Romulan ship makes a destructively hostile armed probe of Federation territory.
Herein lies our first introduction to the Romulans, who look just like Vulcans but, unlike their stoic cousins, are warlike and honor-obsessed. Their resemblance to Spock causes a flare-up of racist sentiment against him aboard the Enterprise, making for an interesting sub-conflict and one that will leave you quite indignant on Spock’s behalf.
I also enjoyed this one because my other Star Trek heroine, Lieutenant Saavik (from The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock), is half-Romulan, half-Vulcan. Balance of Terror gave me lots of ideas for an “alternate universe” fanfic about her.
Quickie Noteworthy Notes On A Few Other Episodes I Saw But Didn’t Necessarily Love…
“Court Martial” is good but somewhat predictable: Kirk is accused of gross negligence that resulted in the death of an officer. Obviously, the Captain of Iowan Excellence is incapable of such a crime–but proving it requires a bit of Sherlockian mystery-cracking.
“The Conscience of the King” has lots of Shakespeare references, which I enjoyed…but I wish it did more than skim the surface of Kirk’s backstory. I mean seriously: the man was witness to genocide as a child, you don’t think that left him with some emotional trauma?! They should’ve delved into that rather than the romance with Lenore Karidian.
“The Devil in the Dark” is okay, but Spock really steals the show. At first he’s gung-ho about keeping this dangerous but “fascinating” creature, the Horta, alive for science–until Kirk finds himself face-to-face with it. Spock’s reaction? “Jim! KILL IT!” It’s all fun and games till your best friend is in danger…
“Arena” is the episode in which Kirk fights the Gorn, an anthropomorphic giant lizard, in a space-age Hunger Games. To its credit, I’ve seen worse animal costumes in the BBC Chronicles of Narnia series. (Anybody remember Maugrim? The Gorn was superior, I promise.) This episode would’ve been better, in my opinion, without the creepy angel guy (excuse me, “the Metron”) at the end.
“Miri” could’ve been great. I liked the premise of Kirk/Spock/McCoy and Yeoman Rand, a female officer, trying to rescue a planet full of kids infected by a virus that already killed the adults. But there was too much melodrama, and Yeoman Rand sunk the whole thing by having that emotional breakdown and sobbing about how Kirk never noticed her. For heaven’s sake, woman, get a life.
If I owned Star Trek, I’d give “Miri” a rewrite that would win an Emmy. Rand wouldn’t exist, first of all. 70% of your problem solved right there. Nurse Chapel would tag along instead because she is useful. I’d have more scenes of the crew caring for the children, to raise the emotional stakes and add to the Cute Factor. And as for Miri herself, she’d play a more active role in rallying the other children to Kirk’s cause. She had so much potential as a precocious teenager-heroine. I can’t blame her for crushing on him (that would be hypocritical, now, wouldn’t it?), but she could’ve done a lot more to help him out.
This has been fun…can’t wait to do it again for Season 2!