For all those out there who have not seen Star Trek but are even slightly interested, this is the article for you! Go ahead, fire up your Netflix and get rolling. I’ll lay out the Top 10 Episodes from each iteration of Trek, from the Original Series to Enterprise, in separate FanPosts. (There was an animated series in the mid-70s voiced by the original actors, but I won’t be covering that here.) The episodes are listed in a suggested order in which to watch them along with a quick plot synopsis and a thought on why you should watch each particular episode.
First off, from an article at www.avclub.com - Star Trek isn’t just a show: It’s a cult, an in-joke, a war cry (ed. note… what?), and, for the uninitiated, a prime example of all that is obsessive and bizarre in nerd culture. The original series has spawned spin-offs, movies, and more. It has transcended its cheap sets and rubber prosthetics to become a part of our modern mythology. As such, it can be assumed that new viewers would approach the episodes that started everything with a certain weight of expectation in mind. Years of tie-in novels and extensive Wikipedia pages give the impression that this is a show rich with continuity, attentive plotting, and deep, storied characters. That’s not exactly true, and it would be easy to watch an episode or two (of the Original Series) and get turned off by just how much this isn’t modern Trek. There’s barely any serialization; the themes are often laughably heavy-handed; and the effects are, at best, charmingly low-fi.
(Editor’s note: Star Trek has its own "Wikipedia" at http://en.memory-alpha.org)
Yet for all that, Star Trek remains a legitimately great show. What it lacks in polish and subtlety, it more than makes up for in energy and charm.
With apologies to Jayhawks4eva (who never emailed me to discuss this Top 10 List) - Warp Speed ahead, Mr. Scott!
The Original Series (TOS)
Ah, the series that started it all. Creator Gene Roddenberry sold his idea for a TV show as a "Wagon Train to the stars" since westerns were all the rage in the late 1960s. Original Trek ran from 1966-1969. Many themes, quotes, and even soundtracks have been copied or parodied from the Original Series throughout the decades. We’ll try and hit some of those here. Popular shows that have parodied Trek plots or music are South Park, Futurama, The Simpsons, and even Jim Carey’s movie "The Cable Guy."
1. The Menagerie (Season 1, Episodes 11-12)
As you may or may not know, Gene Roddenberry actually submitted two "pilot" episodes for Star Trek. The first one was shot down in 1964. He reworked it and the studio accepted his second submission. The only two-part episode of the original series, The Menagerie uses a lot of footage from the original pilot. A very smart script opens up with Mr. Spock subjected to court martial and not very forthcoming about explaining his actions that led up to the charges. Spock abducts his former captain, Christopher Pike, locks the Enterprise on a course to the forbidden planet Talos IV, and turns himself in for court-martial. This episode gave us "one beep for yes, two beeps for no" that has become a running gag in our culture (see South Park episode "Pre-School", S8:E10).
2. Balance of Terror (S1:E14)
This episode is widely regarded as one of the strongest episodes of the Original Series. The Enterprise is inspecting a line of manned Federation outposts, only to find they are being destroyed by an unknown enemy. Here we are introduced to the Romulans, who will be a Federation nemesis for the rest of future history.
3. Space Seed (S1:E22)
This episode introduces Captain Kirk’s arch-nemesis, Khan. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a direct sequel to this episode. Star Trek: Into Darkness, just released last year, also directly referenced this episode. In this episode, the Enterprise encounters a sleeper ship holding genetically-engineered supermen and women from Earth's war-torn past. The supermen's leader, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), attempts to take control of Enterprise to begin a new conquest.
4. The City on the Edge of Forever (S1:E28)
This episode is widely regarded as the penultimate episode, possibly of all of Star Trek, but definitely of the Original Series. The crew encounters the Guardian of Forever, who sends Kirk, Spock, and McCoy back to 1930s America, where Dr. McCoy inadvertently alters history. (Interestingly, many of the scenes were shot on the set of the Andy Griffith show; for example, you can catch Kirk walking by Floyd’s Barber Shop.)
5. Amok Time (S2:E1)
The episode features First Officer Spock returning to his homeworld for a brutal Vulcan mating ritual. It is the only episode of the series to depict scenes on the planet Vulcan. This introduces us to several Trek staples, including "pon farr" and the Vulcan hand salute. The musical score for the fight scene between Kirk and Spock was used in The Cable Guy, The Simpsons episodes "Deep Space Homer" and "The Day The Earth Stood Cool," the Family Guy Episode "Peter Peter Caviar Eater, " and as the national anthem of Dr. Zoidberg’s home planet on Futurama. Fortunately, it’s also a quality episode, hence its place on this list.
6. Mirror, Mirror (S2:E4)
The episode involves a transporter malfunction that swaps Captain Kirk and his companions with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe. In the so-called Mirror Universe, the Enterprise is a ship of the Terran Empire, an organization as evil as the United Federation of Planets is benevolent. This is where we get the "evil doppelganger" who has a beard, which has become a parody in popular culture over the years.
7. Errand of Mercy (S1:E26)
This episode marks the first appearance of the Klingons. Almost at war with the Klingons, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock attempt to sway the incomprehensibly placid population of a planet to resist an invading military occupation.
8. The Devil in the Dark (S1:E25)
William Shatner wrote in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode. He thought it was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks." In this episode, Kirk and Spock face off with a deadly subterranean creature. This episode brings us the phrase, "I’m a doctor, not a (fill in the blank)."
9. The Doomsday Machine (S2:E6)
In this episode, the starship Enterprise comes into contact with its sister ship, the USS Constellation, which has been heavily-damaged by a huge fortified planet-eating machine. Kirk and his crew must find a means to stop the device heading for heavily populated areas of our galaxy, and deal with the heavily traumatized Commodore Decker, the Constellation's only survivor. James Doohan (Scotty) would later remark that this was his favorite episode.
10. The Trouble With Tribbles (S2:E15)
In this episode, the Enterprise travels to Deep Space Station K7 to guard a consignment of grain bound for a Federation planet. Upon arrival, a trader named Cyrano Jones gives Lt. Uhura a tribble, which spawns dramatic consequences. Kirk and the crew also have to deal with the arrival of Captain Koloth and his Klingon battlecruiser. Once again, Futurama parodied Trek taking several things away from this particular episode. Futurama featured a parody in the second season entitled "The Problem with Popplers," which included several Star Trek jokes. These include a reference to "Roddenberries" and features Zapp Brannigan, whom the Futurama staff have said is intended to be a reference to Captain Kirk.
10 + 1. A Piece of the Action (S2:E17)
One of the more quirky episodes, the Enterprise visits a planet with an Earth-like 1920s gangster culture, with Runyonesque (Google that!) dialog and costumes. It’s a very light-hearted, funny, comedic episode that gives us the game of Fizzbin, which you may or may not have heard of.
In the next edition, we'll take a look at Star Trek: The Next Generation. Stay tuned!