Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Original Series - Episode Guide - Season 1

From small space seeds do mighty Alvera trees grow. This is it, folks, the series of episodes that would launch the world’s all-time biggest science-fiction franchise (Star Wars ain’t science-fiction: It’s pure science *fantasy*).

Looking back on these 45-minute slices of tubedom today dates the show terribly, to be sure, but if one gets past the Styrofoam sets, rubber monsters and cheesy acting, one can discern a smart script in several TOS season 1 episodes. Check out “The Menagerie,” “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and of course “City on the Edge of Forever” for some top-quality notions that would still play well today.

1. The Man Trap – An Enterprise away team beams down to M-113 (they just didn’t have much flair for naming planets in the 23rd century…) to visit the Craters, an archaeologist couple. Three Red Shirts are laid to waste by the Mrs., who is revealed to be a shape-shifting alien who lives on salt – particularly those found in humanoids. **

2. Charlie X – The first of many Insane God! plots, “Charlie X” has at center the titular near-omniscient being who is kept under control while aboard the Enterprise only by the charms of Yeoman Rand... **

3. Where No Man Has Gone Before – Aaaaaand here’s another Insane God! When the Enterprise is about to pass through the “Great Barrier” and leave the Milky Way galaxy (but why?), a pair of Enterprise crew members develop – you guessed it – godlike powers that they can barely control. **

4. The Naked Time – The entire crew contracts and/or spreads a disease whose symptoms include drunkenness. Everyone, including Spock, acts goofy, but Kirk and McCoy have survived stronger stuff than this, for certain… **

5. The Enemy Within – The episode that spawned dozens of “transporter accident” plot lines, including all the silly ones: Captain Kirk is divided into two halves, the “good” (read: wimpy) and “evil” (overly aggressive). Sigh. *

6. Mudd’s Women – What a character, that Harry Mudd. The colorful intergalactic trader and his “cargo” of three scantily-clad babes first visit the Enterprise then a mining colony wherein he attempts to pawn off the females. Unfortunately, the women only work properly if viewed through beer goggles – or rather a drug haze. ***

7. What Are Little Girls Made Of? – Nurse Chapel’s fiancé turns out to be a literal bad boy: He’s applied his science genius to the manufacture of duplicates, with which he hopes to swamp the Federation. ***

8. Miri – On a planet strongly resembling Earth, an apocalyptic scenario has left only children alive. One of the strong scripts of season 1, yet rarely mentioned as a highlight. ***

9. Dagger of the Mind – Alternatively, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Warp Five.” An a planet which consists entirely of mental hospitals, one lead doctor is doing some insidious experimentation indeed…***

10. The Corbomite Maneuver – The Enterprise runs afoul of a cube more colorful than those of the Borg, which eventually leads to confrontation with a seemingly powerful and highly threatening alien. Kirk et al work to over-clever the alien, who is, believe it or not, not all that it seems…***

11-12. The Menagerie, parts I and II – Spock unexpectedly hijacks the Enterprise. In a court martial setting, he reveals that he only sought to take his former captain, Christopher Pike, to a planet on which he may live out his life in full, as opposed to the paralytic state that his last mission left him in. ****

13. The Conscience of the King – Kirk suspects an old actor friend of his may in actuality be a murderer. He invites the friend and his troupe aboard the Enterprise, where some good ol’ Shakespearean-style assassination attempts of Kirk go down. ***

14. Balance of Terror – In the Enterprise’s first meeting with the Romulans, Kirk’s counterpart face-reveals, with the crew shocked to find that Romulans are the spitting image of Vulcans. Star Trek Guide realizes that the greater purpose of addressing xenophobia and racism are in play here, but was there really not a single image of a Romulan in any Starfleet Academy textbook…? ***

15. Shore Leave – An uninhabited planet triggers vivid hallucinations among the crew when Kirk has them take shore leave there. Surely this was influenced by Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, right…? **

16. The Galileo Seven – After an away team crashes in a shuttlecraft on a planet inhabited by big ol’ ape creatures, a couple of Red Shirts die and Spock takes a lot of trash-talking from a lieutenant who, in another episode, might just become a Red Shirt himself…***

17. The Squire of Gothos – The Enterprise finds an entire planet gone gravitationally rogue, and the crew finds it’s but a plaything of Trelane, a being of a mold somewhere between an Insane God and Q -(of the Next Generation era shows). In fact, an entire wing of fandom he mentally retconned Trelane into a full-on Q. So you can imagine how this episode goes. A prototypical example of ST:TOS. ****

18. Arena – Dude! This is the one where Kirk fights the lizard guy! **

19. Tomorrow Is Yesterday – The Enterprise accidentally time-travels back to 1969. Once in the past, they rescue air force captain John Christopher from an aviation disaster – but in doing so they create quite the violation of the Prime Directive, indeed. Imagine interfering with *your own* primitive pre-warp drive culture. Star Trek Guide prefers to think of this entire episode as a prologue to Star Trek IV… ***

20. Court Martial – The court martial of James T. Kirk, to be specific. (Kirk must hold the all-time Starfleet record for court martial hearings.) Rather than take on Spock as defense attorney – Doesn’t he know that Vulcans never lose in these situations? – he has an eccentric Matlockian lawyer represent him. Spock produces some computer 3D chess results as rather tenuous “evidence” and (spoiler) Kirk wins. ***

21. The Return of the Archons – An Insane God! has controlled inhabitants of a world looking a lot like 19th-century America for a few centuries until the Enterprise crew comes along … **

22. Space Seed – Here it is, the episode that eventually launched both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and a zillion hilarious memes. The Enterprise comes across the Botany Bay, a ship on which a handful of genetically-engineered soldiers from the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s (we know, we know) remain in stasis. And then Khan and Kirk has a doozy of a fistfight. ***

23. A Taste of Armageddon – The Enterprise encounters a pair of planets engaged in a bizarre form of warfare: Essentially each planet’s supercomputer fights the other virtually, randomly drawing names to represent those killed in computer battle. ***

24. This Side of Paradise – As Philip J. Fry of Futurama fame once summarized, “Remember that episode where [Spock] got high on spores and smacked Kirk around?” That’s this one. **

25. The Devil in the Dark – Can you say, “It’s life, but not as we know it”? When mysterious deaths are reported at a mining colony, an Enterprise away team finds a whole new form of life living within the rocks, and those interfering Federation types are clueless until Spock pulls the ultimate mindmeld with this egg laying omelette-like alien … ***

26. Errand of Mercy – More like “Errand of Klingon Butt Kicking”! The Enterprise is dispatched by the Federation to the planet Organia, which has fallen into the hands of the Klingon Empire. All pretense of peace is thrown aside once new planetary ruler Kor attempts to impart his bloody agenda. ****

27. The Alternative Factor – This one’s sort of a combination of “The Enemy Within” and an Insane God! storyline. Kirk meets a man/noncorporeal being whose evil twin has incredible powers that he’s willing to use… **

28. The City on the Edge of Forever – Universally regarded as one of the top two or three ST:TOS episodes, and it’s still not 25% as good as Harlan Ellison’s original scripts! Time-travel shenanigans lead to a hard look at 1930s America as well as an interesting twist on the preserve-history trope. *****

29. Operation: Annihilate! – Upon arrival at Deneva, the Enterprise crew finds that the planet has been overrun with “macroscopic single-celled organisms” (technically very impossible) and most of the population driven mad-unto-death. Spock is infected and the race to find a cure is on! And have mercy: William Shatner features in a double role in this one… **