Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Original Series - Episode Guide - Season 3

Surely you’ve heard of CBS’s reticence to renew Star Trek for a third season in 1968, slashing its production budget by half and pushing it out of prime time into a 10pm slot. But then the EEEvil executives’ hesitance must be reconsidered after viewing episode 1 of the nearly-nonexistent TOS season three, “Spock’s Brain.” If this is the level of story line that the ST creative team was pushing, well, you’d probably think twice about giving these apparent LSD junkies valuable air time, too.

Unfortunately, “Spock’s Brain” is all too representative of what is, on average, one of the worst ST seasons ever. Surely a few of these writers had grander visions and more revolutionary ideas than those presented, but these ideas clearly died early in pre-production. The result is a season that only a fanatic could love, and a study in TV-as-business, circa 1968.

1. Spock's Brain – Hoo boy. After Star Trek fandom rose en masse to get their favorite TV program back on the air, this is the debut for the demanded new season. Aliens steal Spock’s brain (dude), but the Vulcan is still able to walk around, understand and, you know, *live*, while the Enterprise crew seeks out the thieving bad guys. 0

2. The Enterprise Incident – See, if CBS had cared about the future of Star Trek, they might’ve started season 3 was this far more interesting story about the Enterprise crew’s attempts to steal cloaking technology from the Romulans, a plotline that would never go down in Picard’s day, let me tell you! ***

3. The Paradise Syndrome – Remember that time when Spock was captain of the Enterprise for a few months? In the cold open, Kirk is laid unconscious and trapped inside an alien device. The away team leaves, returning months later to find that the captain has lost his memory and has settled in with Native American-looking folks as Kirok. **

4. And the Children Shall Lead – In response to a distress call, Kirk et al find a Federation survey team completely wiped out save for five children, who are brought aboard the Enterprise. Once there, they summon a being who is essentially an evil marauder. (No really: Even Spock addresses “evil” as though in his logical terms.) **

5. Is There in Truth No Beauty? – An alien ambassador whose very face can drive people insane (How did this guy get to be an ambassador in the first place? And how did this species ever make first contact?) boards the Enterprise. Insane shenanigans ensue, including a quality Spock freakout. **

6. Spectre of the Gun – Sheer goofiness seemingly done on a budget of about $23. For trespassing on an alien world, Kirk & Co. get a sentence of … having to reenact the OK Corral shootout? Um, yeah. **

7. Day of the Dove – A glowing cloud which feeds on … aggressive energy I guess…? – stirs up conflict between the Enterprise bunch and Commander Kang’s Klingon crew. Only when Kirk can convince the Klingons that both parties are being manipulated is a truce reached. ***

8. For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky – Standard stuff for TV in the 1960s: McCoy diagnoses himself with a terminal disease. Good thing the Enterprise’s next stop is a generational ship that’ perhaps the only place in the galaxy which has a cure for “xenopolycythemia.” Plus, something about “The Oracle,” the Insane God! who runs the ship. *

9. The Tholian Web – In an area of space controlled by the Tholians, Kirk is lost “between dimensions” (the dimensions themselves are never specified) while crewmembers slowly go insane (not because of Kirk’s disappearance, necessarily, but because of conditions and all). ***

10. Plato's Stepchildren – Right, right, this is the one in which Kirk and Uhura kiss at the behest of humanoids given psychic abilities thanks to the planet’s environment itself. Amazing that everyone remembers *that* kiss, but no one recalls the inane dialogue beforehand. ***

11. Wink of an Eye – Lady aliens in a state of hyperacceleration through time due to radiation (sounds likely). And then, “Most of the women found they could not have more. All of our men had become sterile. So we had to mate outside our own people. Whenever a spaceship came by, we'd send our calls for help.” You get the idea: Mars Needs Women, in reverse. **

12. The Empath – Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a research station wherein (get this) everyone has been killed. Soon the Enterprise guys are being tortured by aliens, with only a sympathetic and comely empathy helping them out. **

13. Elaan of Troyius – The Enterprise plays host to the title character, a queen who is to be married off for peace between two planets. Kirk can’t help himself, however, and engages in hanky panky with Elaan. In addition, her bodyguard/assistant is a Klingon sympathizer. ***

14. Whom Gods Destroy – Kirk attempts to visit an old friend recovering at an interplanetary psychiatric ward, but upon arrival is quickly embroiled in a plot by a shape-shifter. Lots of body swappy stuff going on here. ***

15. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield – Dude, it’s the black-and-white guys in this very pretentious and clunky diatribe about the evils of racism. *

16. The Mark of Gideon – Kirk is used as a tool to assist in a planet’s overpopulation problem and, whoa, talk about your convenient, too-pat resolutions. Gee, I guess questions of overpopulation which seemed difficult are actually really easy… **

17. That Which Survives – Let’s run through the checklist: An “abandoned” outpost, a space virus, a mysterious yet babelicious killer, a wacky computer … this one ticks every cliché box, doesn’t it? **

18. The Lights of Zetar – A sort of intelligent electrical storm – which somehow also affects human senses, bodies and emotional states – threatens the Memory Alpha library that Kirk and his away team are visiting. ***

19. Requiem for Methuselah – If ever were any doubt that the movie Forbidden Planet was the most immediate precursor to and inspiration for Star Trek, this episode blows it away. Like Forbidden Planet, “Requiem for Methuselah” is essentially Shakespeare’s Tempest set in space, but without the additional layer of Freudian pop psychology added. ***

20. The Way to Eden – Hey, man, this is a new day. Like, it’s the 2260s and it’s our time so we’re gonna hijack the Enterprise and turn the cafeteria into a hash bar… **

21. The Cloud Minders – The Enterprise is sent to the planet Ardana to retrieve a mineral that will help cure a plague on planet Merak (how that’s possible is beyond STG, but we’ll run with it). Kirk and Spock are seduced in turn, ol ‘James T. engages in some fisticuffs and the Enterprisers even solve the planet’s worker’s revolution. ***

22. The Savage Curtain – Just in case you thought things couldn’t get sillier than “Spectre of the Gun”, how about aliens playing virtual Mortal Kombat with Kirk, Spock, Abraham Lincoln and the top Vulcan intellectual of all-time on a team. The “so bad it’s good” factor is really wreaking havoc with the ratings factor here … ***

23. All Our Yesterdays – Spock, Kirk and McCoy arrive on a deserted planet to be informed by a hologram that they are “very late.” Mysterious portals then bring Kirk into the doomed planet’s past to an era looking suspiciously like Elizabethan England (must be “parallel evolution” sigh), while Spock and McCoy are sent some 5,000 years into the past. ***

24. Turnabout Intruder – Body swap! A Dr. Janice Lester, psychotically jealous of Kirk’s success, switches consciousnesses with the swaggering captain. This is really the last episode of Star Trek: The Original Series? Yeesh. *