10 Best Star Trek Original Series Episodes

Through 79 episodes (and six-and-a-half movies), we followed their adventures through to the final frontier. But these 10 were the very best...

Ah, the good crew of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701. No bloody A, B, C or D. Through 79 episodes (and six-and-a-half movies), we followed their adventures through to the final frontier. An adventure that in some ways is still continuing given that Leonard Nimoy's Spock played such a big part of the last movie. Not all of these adventures were good, mind you. Space hippies€Spock€™s brain going missing€Mevlin Belli in a shower curtain€But some were exceptional. Those are the ones we will talk about today. With the original series Blu-ray box available to purchase now from Zavvi, here are the ten best Original Series episodes of Star Trek.

10. €œThe Corbomite Maneuver€

One of the best things about Star Trek is the way that it glorified intelligence, and not just military strength. In this episode, Kirk and company are facing an alien vessel that could destroy them without any real effort. Kirk knows this, and knows they don€™t have any way to fight back, so he bluffs. He creates a fictional metal called €œcorbomite€ and explains that if his ship is attacked, the metal will react and cause an explosion that will destroy both ships. It€™s complete BS and it€™s wonderful. It shows that Kirk is more than just a blustering cowboy who goes in with phasers firing. It shows that he€™s also a very intelligent man who is able to think his way out of problems. That€™s no bad thing.

9. €œWhere No Man Has Gone Before€

This is the second pilot commissioned for the show. While €œThe Cage€ is fundamentally different from the series in many ways, this one is much closer. We see Spock is largely the same as he will be through the rest of the franchise, we see Kirk having to make one of the hardest choices of his life, and we get a story that€™s very big and very human.

8. €œAmok Time€

Spock needs to get laid. He really, really needs to get laid. Like it will kill him if it doesn€™t. Yes, he€™s just like almost every fourteen-year-old boy out there, except if he doesn€™t get some, it actually will kill him! For fans of Vulcans, this episode was a real treat. It gave us our first glimpse of the planet and told us a lot about their culture, in addition to introducing memorable characters like T€™Pau. In doing so it laid the ground for what Vulcans would be for all the Trek shows that came after it.

7. €œThe Doomsday Machine€

The Enterprise happens upon the Constellation, a badly-damaged sister ship. It turns out to have been thrashed by a giant alien machine that destroys entire worlds. Now Kirk and company must deal not only with the threat that represents, but also the increasing mania of Commodore Decker, who had been commanding the Constellation and is the only survivor. True, this episode explores something that would become a recurring theme with all the Trek shows (good man driven to madness by his own personal white whale), but that doesn€™t lessen the value of this episode.

6. €œSpace Seed€

The episode that came before Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, without which we likely never would have had any of the subsequent films or TV series. The good thing is, it€™s not just influential, but it stands up well as an episode. It gives us one of the most memorable villains, Khan Noonien Singh, who fails in his goals only due to the loyalty that Kirk inspires in his crew.

5. €œThe Cage€/€œThe Menagerie€

Technically these are two different episodes (well, three, but two stories), however I€™m going to count them as just one for purposes of this list. Fans of the original series know €œThe Cage€ as the first pilot for the show. It featured a different crew under Captain Christopher Pike. It was rejected by the network (allegedly for being €œtoo cerebral€), and Roddenberry was forced to make another pilot. He didn€™t let this one go to waste, however. He used footage from €œThe Cage€ in the two-part story €œThe Menagerie€, which features Spock risking everything in order to help out his former captain. These episodes really are quite exceptional. First, it€™s fascinating to see what the series could have been under Captain Pike, Number One and the like. Second, while I don€™t think the plot to €œThe Cage€ is €œtoo cerebral€, I do think it€™s intelligent and compelling, and asks a lot of interesting questions. With €œThe Menagerie€ we see one of those times when Spock stops being logical and does what he feels is correct despite logic. In the process he risks his life, Pike€™s life, his career and his friendship with Kirk. All of this he does willing and seems to consider it a bargain. We should all have someone like that in our lives.

4. €œBalance of Terror€

Our first look at the Romulans, Trek€™s badly underused, and frequently poorly-used, villains. In this case we get to see Mark Lendard playing the captain of a Romulan spaceship that€™s been going around attacking Federation outposts as a way of testing out the Federation. He is, in many ways, very much like Kirk, and the €œWorld War II submarine movie€ style combat that the two engage in is easily as tense as anything put on screen. That the episode also deals with love, loss and racism makes for some nice icing on the cake.

3. €œJourney to Babel€

Political intrigue, a murder mystery and Spock€™s parents. Yes, this is the episode that introduced the world to Amanda and Sarek, and created a really fascinating father/son conflict that continued on through the movies and into The Next Generation. It also introduced the Tellerites and Andorians and gave us a story that was very big and grand (the Coriban thing), and a story that was very small and, dare I say, human (Spock vs Sarek). Excellent acting and excellent writing combined to give us a great hour of TV!

2. €œCity on the Edge of Forever€

Well, of course this one was going to be on here. It turns up on every critic€™s list of the best episodes, and all the fan lists, too. And why not? It€™s a really good story, with some of Shatner€™s best acting, and Joan Collins does an excellent job in a memorable supporting role. This is probably one of the most accessible episodes for non-fans and even over forty years later remains one of the best science fiction TV episodes ever made.

1. €œThe Trouble with Tribbles€

Almost everyone knows this episode. Even if you haven€™t watched more than three episodes of the original series, odds are this is one of the ones you€™ve seen. It€™s very accessible to the masses, it€™s unpredictable in a good way, has a tightly-paced script and is one of the funniest things to come out of any Trek series. So strong is the legacy of this episode that while we didn€™t see hardly anything of the original series in the 2009 Star Trek movie, one of the things we did see was a tribble. HONORABLE MENTION: €œThe Devil in the Dark€, €œThe Ultimate Computer€ and €œThe Tholian Web€
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Chris Swanson is a freelance writer and blogger based in Phoenix, Arizona, where winter happens to other people. His blog is at wilybadger.wordpress.com