Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The 5 Best Episodes of the Original "Star Trek"

What a great example of ensemble casting:
William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, George Takei
as Sulu, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, Walter Koenig as Chekhov, Majel Barrett
as Nurse Chapel, James Doohan as Scotty and DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy. 
In his excellent article posted yesterday, "The Five Best Episodes of "the Fugitive", Rick expressed what I feel about my post today ... it is so hard to pick just 5 favorites of a series you love.  I am a rabid fan of Star Trek.  I've never been to a convention or paid $60 for the script of Episode 23 (more about that later in this article) ... I just know most episodes by heart, that's all.  There are so many that are memorable, famous, even just awful.  So I decided to pick the five episodes that really caught my mind, my heart or my funnybone.

The Conscience of the King (Season 1):  A troupe of Shakespearean players offers to perform Hamlet for the Enterprise, featuring Anton Karidian (Arnold Moss) and his beautiful daughter (Barbara Anderson).  Captain Kirk falls in love with Karidian's daughter, but he believes that Karidian may actually be Kodos the Executioner, a brutal dictator from Kirk's childhood who ordered the mass killing of some of his subjects and then disappeared.  Murders begin to take place on the Enterprise, and Kirk must find out who Anton Karidian really is.  Excellent episode with a fine climactic ending.

City on the Edge of Forever (Season 1):  Written by Harlan Ellison, and a Hugo award winner, this episode is considered by many to be the best of the series.  The Enterprise is taken back in time to 1930's America. Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), an advocate for world peace.  However, Edith's impending death is known to Kirk, and he wants to save her, thus risking complete change of the future.  Spock and Dr. McCoy must help him through his heartbreaking dilemma. Fine acting and a great story prove this episode's award-winning status.

Wolf in the Fold (Season 2):  Women are stabbed and killed on a peaceful, welcoming planet.  Scotty appears to be the prime suspect, found each time with the dead women. He cannot remember anything.  A psychic senses the presence of a great evil, calling it Redjack. The lights go out-Scotty is found over her body. He is put on trial, with wonderful character actor John Fielder as an official convinced of his guilt. Kirk asks the computer to research the name Redjack-several meanings come up, one of which ... well, you'll have to find out.  Written by Robert Bloch, this is a favorite of mine.

The Trouble with Tribbles (Season 2):
Shatner shines in this funny episode with the adorable little Tribbles sold by slippery salesman Cyrano Jones (Stanley Adams). Kirk is supervising delivery of a special grain for an annoying official (Herbert Anderson, Dennis the Menace's father), a man who Kirk cannot help goading. The Trouble is that Tribbles reproduce in incredible numbers and love to eat the grain.  One of Star Trek's funniest memorable lines is from this episode:  "Who put the Tribbles in the quadrotritcale?"

Assignment: Earth (Season 2):  This episode was fun and starred Robert Lansing-I had a teen crush on him, which may be why I like this one. The Enterprise goes back in time to 1960's Cape Canaveral where they find a man from the future who has come to stop the successful launching of a rocket.  Lansing is Gary 7, the mysterious man with an interesting pet black cat.  A young Teri Garr plays his young and clueless secretary.  Who is Gary 7 and why is he trying to stop the rocket, which will change the future?  Designed as a pilot for a spin-off series, the story was not picked up by the network.  But it is a lot of fun.

Runner-up Episodes, pictures first:
Charlie and his first love, Yoeman Rand
Khan and Kirk

The Horta
Mirror, Mirror


Journey to Babel
Runner-up episode favorites:  Space Seed (featuring Ricardo Montalban as Khan); Charlie X (featuring Robert Walker Jr. as a teenager with lethal powers);  Journey to Babel (featuring Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt as Spock's parents); The Devil in the Dark (featuring the ugliest alien ever, the Horta); and Mirror, Mirror (featuring an alternate universe in which Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Uhura switch places with their counterparts on a completely opposite Enterprise, a dictatorship where everyone plots to move up the hierarchy execution-style.  We get to see Spock as a logically ruthless science officer with a Mephistopheles-style goatee!)
Star Trek /Galaxy Quest - Even a rabid fan has to laugh! 
No discussion of Star Trek would be complete without a mention of a great spoof made in 1999, Galaxy Quest, with Tim Allen as the Captain, Alan Rickman as alien science officer and Sigourney Weaver as a bimbo communications officer.  Jokes aimed at Star Trek abound, with Allen as the egotistical Captain who still believes he was the reason the show succeeded, always being sure he got to take his shirt off in each episode, Rickman hilarious as the classically trained actor who hates the typecasting he has endured, and Weaver as the actress who resented her part as the sex object who did nothing but repeat what the computer said.

And now for the piece de resistance.  William Shatner spoofs himself in one of Saturday Night Live's funniest episodes.  It caused some stir among the fanatic convention group, but most viewers got one of the biggest laughs SNL ever presented, even for Star Trek lovers like me.  Just click on the link to experience a very entertaining comedy sketch featuring Shatner as a really good sport.  You'll love it!


  1. "Star Trek" is aging me. There was a time when (like my husband with "Law and Order"), 2 seconds into the show I knew the title, guest stars and every line of dialogue. My daughter is getting into the Trek universe and every so often we check out Space Channel (Canada) and there is the original series in all its' glory. 5, 10, 30 seconds pass and I'm scratching my head and making excuses and kinda remembering what's about to happen. "Oh, yeah. It's the one where...with whatshisname, um...

    Thank you for choosing episodes that are simply too amazing to ever fade from memory. If I were to compile a list (pretty much impossible, it seems) the one episode I know would be included is "Balance of Terror". Hey, maybe I'm not so old after all!

  2. Great post, Becky. I love this '5 Best' stuff. I, too, am a big fan of STAR TREK, William Shatner and the gang. My favorite episode of all time IF I had to choose would be THE HORTA.

    But I like all the others you picked, too. Especially MIRROR, MIRROR in which everyone looked so sweaty. Ha!

    I also loved the episode with France Nuyen - whose tears were a drugging love potion. Remember that one?

    And the one (from the first season, I think) where The Captain and Spock are on a medieval looking world fighting some Romulans (I think) and the harmless looking people on the planet would not allow them to continue their fight. At one point their weapons and even the ship up above their planet was made boiling hot....That's all I remember. (Hey, I'm old!)

    "We find human emotion most disgusting." I think that was one of the lines.

    And most any episode where Spock's father appeared - hubba-hubba!

  3. This is my favorite of your "Top 5" posts, Becky! You listed many of my favorite original STAR TREK episodes, including "Tribbles" and "Wolf in the Fold." Two I'd add to my list are "The Man Trap" and "The Menagerie." For years, I referred to "Man Trap" as the "salt monster" episode, since that's how many folks remember it. It was the first ST episode I saw, so that may account some of my fondness for it. As for "The Menagerie," I thought it was brilliant how Gene Roddenbery repurposed the busted ST pilot footage (with J. Hunter as Captain Pike) into an engrossing two-part episode built around Spock's court martial. Finally, I need to mention "This Side of Paradise" (the spores episodes) because it provided William Shatner with his hammiest scene in the entire series. Don't get me wrong--I thought Shatner was quite good in ST. But he was occasionally prone to overacting, a problem that worsened later in his acting career. The spores episode foreshadows what was to Spocks gets a girl (for a little bit).

  4. I confess I am not a trekie, but my fave is "Let that be your last battlefield" with Frank Gorshin. Those shows had a way of making you see past the silly and making you think. Wonderful post, Becky.

  5. Thank you for your compliments guys!
    CAFTAN WOMAN, I know just what you mean. I had a similar experience - I remember well the first ever Saturday Night Live episode, and watched it every Saturday for years. I also remember well the first time I had no idea who the either the host or the band were. Talk about the generation gap! And now I'm the older! I'll have to look up Balance of Terror - I can't remember it! LOL!

    YVETTE, I did like the France Nuyen episode too! And I almost picked the one you described. Can't remember the name, but the elders and officials were all so peaceful even Kirk was upset with them. Then they decided they had enough of the violence, made all weapons and the Enterprise hot, said what you quoted, and turned into pure energy. Great one! I agree about Spock's father -- wowie!

    RICK, this was my favorite one to do! I agree that The Menagerie was an incredible idea and a great 2-parter. Now I never liked the spores one much, but watching Shatner over-act is half the fun! I think that's why I like him so much!

    FLICKCHICK, the one with Frank Gorshin was a really good one. It is strange, as you said, but the silly didn't matter in most of them, they still had something to say.

  6. This was a fun post, Becky! I loved the silliness of the Tribble episode but the episode that seems to have made the biggest impression is the one where a female could take away someone's illness/injury upon herself ("The Empath"). I found that to be a most intriguing story.

  7. all good/great least you stayed away from the heavy handed political allegories and the lame KIRK VERSUS COMPUTER episodes

  8. TOTO, thanks so much. I loved the Empath episode. The girl who played the Empath had such a lovely distinctive look.

    DOC, glad you approve of my choices. Yeah, they could get heavyhanded with the philosophy sometimes, but I preferred that to some of the more horrible ridiculous aliens they came up with!

  9. Becky, I wrote this earlier in my FUGITIVE comment, but when I don't know a TV series very well, a 5 Best list is a nice starting point, episodes to be on the look out for while watching the show. I've only seen a few of the original series. The one I know the best is THE NEXT GENERATION. But I have seen all the films, if that gets me any cred with the Trekkies/Trekkers. Great and heartfelt list, Becky, from an obvious fan. I'm heading over to Netflix right now to push this series into my streaming queue!

  10. I think you will have a lot of fun with them, Sark. They are not as sophisticated as Next Generation - well, special effects were primeval - but at least the ones I listed and the ones mentioned in comments are really good. Thank goodness Netflix has them! I've been having a great time seeing them again. I'm so glad you liked my post!

  11. P.S. Sark -- I forgot to mention that seeing the movies with the original cast do give you a lot of credit with me! In the series on Netflix, be sure to see "Space Seed." That's the episode about Khan, with a much younger Ricardo Montalban. Of course that was used for the basis of "Star Trek 2, The Wrath of Khan", which I consider to be the beset of the movies.

  12. Thanks for the list, Becky. It's good to see so many Trekkers out there.

    My favorite was Balance of Terror from the first season. It featured and uncredited Mark Lenard as a Romulan commander. Of course, he eventually became Mr. Spock's father, Sarek. The episode has a very well written script, and a real message about the futility of war.

    That said, I do prefer ST:TNG for the improved FX and Lt. Cdr. Data. I really want a holodeck!

    Great post!

  13. Allen, thank you -- Balance of Terror was wonderful. I loved the interplay between Kirk and his Romulun counterpart. It was very difficult putting this list together. For me, choosing was 3/4 show quality and 1/4 nostalgia! LOL!

  14. Becky, your Top 5 Original STAR TREK Episodes were a delight to read about, and brought me back to my childhood, when I used to watch STAR TREK episodes with my siblings or cousins. All your choices are excellent, with ...TRIBBLES, ASSIGNMENT: EARTH (which I'd always wished would have become a series), and ...CONSCIENCE... being particular favorites. Nowadays, character actor Arnold Moss reminds me of an older Adrien Brody (my favorite contemporary actor, you may recall), though even more so in Anthony Mann's historical noir THE BLACK BOOK (a.k.a. REIGN OF TERROR). Great job, Becks, as always!

  15. Oh, THE MENAGERIE....I loved that one too! How could I have forgotten to mention it? Yikes! Jeffrey Hunter never looked sexier, in my opinion. He had a tendency to be bland despite his incredible good looks.

    This was a great two-parter. Okay, I'd pick this as my second best.

  16. ClassicBecky, loved this!

    In all its glorious cheesiness, Star Trek is wonderful! All the episodes you make note of are great and very memorable. Another that never fails to come to mind when I think of Star Trek is "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" featuring Frank Gorshin, also of The Riddler fame from Batman TV series, as you know. Wonderful episode that takes a look at the absurdity of war and prejudice. To me, this episode is a great example of how Star Trek broke barriers and pushed the envelope on important topics and issues of the time, wonderfully desguised in a great scifi, cheesy, adventure show.

    I could go on and on but will spare you. Thanks for this - thoroughly enjoyable.

  17. Thanks, Aurora! You are so right - Star Trek did break barriers. Remember the episode where some aliens or other were forcing Kirk and Uhura to kiss? That was considered very controversial, hard as it is to believe now! There was cheesy and there was good, but all were lots of fun!

  18. Yes! There is definitely a lot to make fun of with Trek and all fans recognize it. But anyone who has actually watched the show cannot discount it also contained social commentary. At times IMPORTANT commentary that dared to go where no man had gone before, like in the episode you mention. Of course the show also had a huge impact on pop culture!

    Keep 'em coming, ClassicBecky! :-)

  19. I was never particularly bothered by the episode METAMORPHOSIS when I was a kid, but it has grown on me as I've got older. It's a beautiful little story, and the climax isn't an explosion or a fistfight, but someone finally deciding what is really important to them.

  20. Hi Sextonblake - glad you stopped by! Yes, that was a lovely episode. I too liked its message. I think there are several ST episodes like that, and I like them very much.

  21. Becky, sorry I could not respond earlier. Had computer problems and couldn't use the internet. You know what a big Star Trek fan I am. I LOVE this post. It will be one of my all time favorite ones too!! You named some great episodes and like you said there are so many that are good. I always loved "Miri" with Kim Darby. My first favorite would have to be "The Man Trap" (episode 6)which I watched with my little brother. The M-113 creature was like a salt vampire and I thought it was so creepy. I could talk to you about Star Trek all night Becky, but alas I can't. Great post and I so enjoyed reading it and all the comments made about it too. Oh, by the way Becky, I am typing this on my computer which works one of my Star Trek t-shirts.

  22. Hi, Aki! Good to hear from you. Thanks for the compliment. I was computer-less myself a while back, and it was awful! It's great to hear from a fellow Trekkie like you!

    I loved Miri - that was such a sweet episode. And the salt-creature! Really sad. Poor Bones. It was So hard to pick because there were so many I loved.

    I'm so jealous you have a Star Trek T-shirt! I would love to have one with Jim and Bones bending over one of the doomed red shirt ensigns (the ones who always died), with Bones saying "He's dead, Jim". I'd love it!

  23. I like your choices of "The Consciece Of The King" and The City On The Edge Of Forever"


    Balance Of Terror - If Kirk and Company let that Romulan ship get back home...there won't be a Federation left to defend Earth and Property.

    The Galileo Seven - Spock's first taste of command is put to the test when a electronic storm sends the shuttle craft off course while on a scientific expedition into a quasar. Hopelessly lost with no reliable sensors...the Enterprise's sensors are also rendered useless..the shuttle craft, Galileo, lands on planet Taurus II where in wait are it's deadly gigantic inhabitants.

    The Menagerie - Great love story about Spock's concern for his former captain, Chris Pike, who has been imprisoned within his own mind after absorbing Delta Rays saving crewmen when baffle plates ruptured on a training mission. Pike is rendered totally paralyzed and cannot live in an enclosed mechanical box with wheels and his only means of communication to blink a light on the box for either "yes" or "no". Spock steals Pike and the Enterprise and sets the starship on course for planet Talos IV...which is forbidden by Starfleet regulations to visit...and is punishable by death. Why is Spock risking death to take Pike to Talos IV???