Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Yet Another Star Trek Top 10 Episode List, Part 1

As I noted last week, this year marks the 45th anniversary of Star Trek.  (For reference, 08 September is also the 38th anniversary of The Animated Series, today is the 24th anniversary of the first airing of The Next Generation, and yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the first airing of Enterprise, but I digress.)  In the same post, I noted that I’m a life-long Trekkie.  This is the first (or maybe second), in a series of blog posts to celebrate that fact.

Am I going to add much of significance to the Trek universe with these posts?  I doubt it, but that’s not really my objective.

You’re about to read, if you go a little farther, the first of my Star Trek Top Ten lists, my top ten favourite episodes of the original series (actually, the first half of the first—this is awfully long so I’m splitting it in half).  There are the shows I grew up on, watching since before I can remember, the episodes I’ve seen more than any other show of any genre in my life.  This is the Trek of my youth and my perception of the best of it.

10. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (Season 3, Episode 70, Air Date: 10 Jun 1969)

This one doesn’t seem to make too many top ten lists.  There’s a lot of whining about how heavy handed the message is.  Message?  Ah, well, see there was this period of racial tension that a lot of people would have liked to pretend didn’t exist (and depending on where you live, it’s not nearly over yet), and so the writing crew for Star Trek (in this case Gene L. Coon and Oliver Crawford), did something that science fiction has the ability to do particularly well.  They took a contemporary problem, twisted it a little, and set it somewhere else.  No, mister network censor, this has nothing to do with racial tensions in the United States.  How could it?  This is Science Fiction, after all.

And that’s the real take away from this episode: that the message got past the censors.  From a few decades further down the timestream, sure the message is a bit on the obvious side.  Watching it as a kid, my reaction was more like, “Really?  They don’t like each other because their skin tones are the same but on opposite sides?  That’s kind of stupid.”  And that’s exactly the message.

Best line: Change is the essential process of all existence. (Spock)

9. Obsession (Season 2, Episode 47, Air Date: 15 Dec 1967)

Kirk has plenty of things haunting him from his youth, but the vampire cloud creature is one of the worst.  Killer of one of his mentors and half a starship’s crew, the creature is a chapter of his career he desperately needs to close.

This is another episode that doesn’t make a lot of top ten lists, but I think it’s a deserving one for a variety of reasons.  Aside from spilling a little info about Kirk’s past as a Starfleet officer, it shows up his darker side a bit, his inability to let something go that he feels is a threat.  Yes, he’s got some strong emotion tied up in the creature and the bit of history they share, and that’s the point.  There’s also the opportunity for a non-regular crew member, Ensign Garrovik (who happens to be the son of the previously mentioned dead mentor) to have a speaking role that doesn’t get cut short by an untimely death.

Action, excitement, characterization, red-uniformed corpses and a blood sucking gaseous cloud.  Trek at its finest.

Best line: It’s that green blood of his… I’ll bet he left a bad taste in the creature’s mouth. (McCoy)

8. The Galileo Seven (Season 1, Episode 14, Air Date: 05 Jan 1967)

Poor Spock, in command of a group of unruly, over-emotional humans after crash-landing on a primitive planet covered with hostile giant aliens, their only shelter a broken shuttle-craft.

This is a character growth episode for Spock, coming to understand differences between Vulcan and human command styles and responses under pressure.  Although, considering he’s a full commander in a human-dominated service, I’d think he would have had some experience figuring things out before now.  Still, this is a great episode with the tension consistently building from the moment Galileo leaves Enterprise and not letting up until almost the last moment.

Kirk may be a minor character in this one, but it’s nice to spotlight some of the others once in a while, and Spock has McCoy and Scotty to back him up, along with some other crewmembers.  Action and characters, with an alien menace mixed in.  The name of the game.

Best line: I’m frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life. (Spock)

7. A Piece of the Action (Season 2        , Episode 49, Air Date: 12 Jan 1968)

The Star Trek universe is filled with aliens barely distinguishable from humans.  The Iotians are indistinguishable, but that’s okay.  As a bright and imitative people, they remodelled their entire culture based on a book accidentally left behind by the crew of a starship who visited the world a century before (and conveniently went missing shortly after).  Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.  Makes for a very interesting gangster-based culture.

This is probably the funniest episode in TOS, with comedy delivered straight from nearly every character with speaking lines.  It’s also one of the best written.  The supporting cast are made up of believable characters, Kirk and Spock both get to stretch a bit, and, going forward, the Federation gets a cut of the profits of all criminal economic activity on the planet.  Not to mention Fizzbin.

Best line: I would advise yas to keep dialin’, Oxmyx. (Spock)

6. Mirror, Mirror (Season 2, Episode 39, Air Date: 06 Oct 1967)

Granted, this episode makes pretty much every Top Ten ever done, but just as popularity doesn’t make something inherently good, it doesn’t necessarily make it bad, either.

What is it about the mirror universe that brings people back to it, even professionally.  Books, comics, and a two-part episode of Enterprise.  How much fanfic is set there?  I know there was at least one audio drama that didn’t make it, but might have been really cool.

Evil Spock (and you can tell he’s evil because of the goatee) is one of the highlights here, but you can see the glee each character attacked the mirror role with, at least the ones who got to play one.  Sulu, especially seemed to have a great deal of fun with his.  I also thought the senior officers having bodyguard details was a nice touch (did you notice at least one of Spock’s was Vulcan?)

There’s never enough time to do what needs to be done, but Scotty always comes through in a pinch, this time with McCoy’s help.  The mirror-Sulu Uhura dynamic was an interesting one, but while Marlena comes out of nowhere at first, she’s an important part of the story and provides a nice tie together at the end.

Best line: Terror must be maintained or the Empire is doomed. It is the logic of history. (Mirror Spock)

Splitting it here because this post is getting awfully long.  Top 5 tomorrow!

(The images in this post come from Memory Alpha, the officially overlooked online repository of all information related to canon Star Trek, in wiki style.  They are, however, the property of Paramount Pictures.  Used not with permission, but with a lifetime of gratitude.)

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