Top 10 Episodes: Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1
Hard to believe it, but in September 2016 “Star Trek” will be 50 years old. Multiple spin-off’s, more than a dozen films, and phrases that are a part of pop culture; it truly is a phenomenon.
No one in their wildest dreams back in 1966 would have thought the show would have reached the popularity and the longevity that it did. In a television landscape filled with westerns and variety shows, who would be crazy enough to make a series based in outer space? With representatives from different races and nations working together as one crew no less? Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a peaceful future full of hope and optimism was before it’s time.
Not exactly catching the world by storm in its initial run and lasting only a brief 3 seasons, it was in syndication that the show really found its audience. Everything has to start somewhere though, so with that here are The Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1.
10. The Enemy Within
Following a basic principle, (good versus evil) Captain Kirk is “split” into two different versions of himself in a transporter accident. One Kirk is passive and benevolent but lacking any real drive, while the other is full of energy and yet has nothing but evil and bad intentions.
A story line that really lets William Shatner attack the role (perhaps a bit too much at times – but hey, no one has ever accused Shatner of over-acting *rolls eyes*) he truly is a force to be reckoned with. In a time that predates CGI, many of the shots with two Kirks required body doubles, which can be spotted quite easily. That’s what adds to the charm though, as they had such magnificent ideas at the time but were limited on how they could pull it off. They would be damned if they didn’t try their hardest though. (Making up a dog to act as an alien creature may have been a bit of a stretch though, but no one is perfect.)
Side note: why couldn’t a shuttle be sent down to retrieve the stranded crew members? Were the shuttlecrafts not going to be installed until Tuesday?
9. This Side of Paradise
The first time we really see some true emotion from Spock (specifically love) thanks to some alien spores. Leonard Nimoy does a fantastic job expanding on the character he worked so hard to mould. In a scene that would act as a turning point in the episode, Captain Kirk (who has freed himself of the spores influence) needs to get Spock angry enough so he can follow suit. Kirk launches himself into a verbal assault on Spock’s character that is both brutal and hilarious. Some of the lines the writers came up with for Kirk to say are unparalleled. “What makes you think you’re a man? You’re an overgrown jackrabbit, an elf, with a hyperactive thyroid.” That kind of dialogue belongs in a Hall of Fame somewhere.
8. Operation – Annihilate!
What an emotional episode for Kirk. He loses his brother, his sister-in-law, and nearly his nephew and best friend/first officer.
An alien “infestation” is making its way through several inhabited systems; however these aliens are manifested in giant single celled organisms, making killing the “whole” a problem. After an experiment goes awry leaving Spock practically blind, the emotion is palpable and you can’t help but feel for McCoy. As the story progresses this becomes as much about Kirk as it does Spock. Wrapping things up as they usually do with a final scene that ends in all smiles, “Operation – Annihilate!” is a strong installment.
7. Space Seed
Ooohhhh if only they knew just EXACTLY “what seed they had planted” when they made this episode introducing us to Khan.
In what would act as the groundwork and backstory for the feature “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” 15 years later, “Space Seed” is an excellent story in itself. Ricardo Montalban puts in an excellent performance. A favorite scene is during a “social occasion” when Kirk passive aggressively interrogates Khan and wins that round with a great delivery of a single word: “We?”
6. The Squire of Gothos
Very much the story of a spoiled little boy but in alien form. Trelane, a self-appointed “squire” captures members of the Enterprise crew and toys with them for basically his own pleasure. While the story isn’t anything too deep, Trelane himself is entertaining, as is watching Kirk try to foil and figure him out, with the help of the crew. Listen carefully to the father figure that appears near the end – that’s none other than Scotty, James Doohan, providing the voice.
5. Court Martial
Kirk is put on trial for the apparent death of an old friend and crewmember of the Enterprise. There are many tense scenes, especially one between Kirk and Commodore Stone that are highlights. Kirk’s attorney though, Samuel T. Cogley, steals the show. Full of life and the letter of the law, he makes a perfect lawyer. Seeing a courtroom setting set in the future is neat, and the way they finally solve what really happened is rather ingenious, thanks to Spock.
4. Shore Leave
The crew is on shore leave, (even the Captain, much to his chagrin) and things start to take a bizarre turn on a planet that seemed ideal for rest and relaxation.
This is just a fun episode. Kirk meets two figures from his past, with one of them packing a pretty good punch.Various members of the crew start to experience things that would seem impossible as well. White rabbits and tigers and Samurai – oh my!
3. What Are Little Girls Made Of?
Androids. 2 Kirks. Ruk. Andrea.
A really good instalment that airs early in the first season, as Kirk and Nurse Chapel search for her long lost fiancée, thought to have disappeared many years ago. It turns out he is “alive” and well, and also has a few new friends with him. The towering, imposing character of Ruk (played by Ted Cassidy, known more for playing Lurch on “The Addams Family”) is so damn…cool. The make-up did a great job making him look even more intimidating then he already was. The scene where they “make an android” using Captain Kirk as a template is great, and once again Kirk shows he’s no fool by thinking two steps ahead and leaving a message for Spock. Once the android is completed, the scene with both Kirk’s speaking to each other is really well done, considering this was 1966. Overall, a very solid episode and a definite fave.
2. The City on the Edge of Forever
A crazed Dr. McCoy goes through a portal back in time and alters history, forcing Kirk and Spock to go after him and try and put things right. Problem is…a little thing called love gets in the way for our Captain.
This is one of the best episodes of the entire 3-year run of TOS, and it’s obvious why it won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. DeForest Kelley makes a perfect madman, and the make-up department did a good job making his skin very pale and sweaty. Gross. This episode brings out a great range of emotions, with humour a highlight when Kirk tries to explain to a police officer the nature of Spock’s ears.
It’s all about the Gorn.
A walking, talking, lizard-like creature pitted against Captain Kirk, fighting one on one.
The Enterprise and crew interpret a brutal attack by an alien race on a Federation outpost as a prelude to invasion, and look to set things straight. That is, until a peaceful group of beings interfere, setting up the fight between the two captains, with each fighting as a representative for their people. This episode almost feels like the story of two halves, as the first part has the Enterprise pursuing the Gorn, while the second half is the combat between the two. Kirk’s physical strength is put to the test, and then intelligence as well once he realizes he can’t beat the Gorn on just brawn alone. Shot at Vasquez Rocks in California (a location the show would use multiple times) “Arena” is a great instalment and one of the best from season 1.
(For any fans of Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder”, this is the episode Stiller is watching in the jungle during his panda experience. Classic.)