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 hippiesSpocks brain going missingMevlin Belli in a shower curtainBut 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. The Corbomite ManeuverOne 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 dont have any way to fight back, so he bluffs. He creates a fictional metal called corbomite and explains that if his ship is attacked, the metal will react and cause an explosion that will destroy both ships. Its complete BS and its wonderful. It shows that Kirk is more than just a blustering cowboy who goes in with phasers firing. It shows that hes also a very intelligent man who is able to think his way out of problems. Thats no bad thing.
9. Where No Man Has Gone BeforeThis is the second pilot commissioned for the show. While The 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 thats very big and very human.
8. Amok TimeSpock needs to get laid. He really, really needs to get laid. Like it will kill him if it doesnt. Yes, hes just like almost every fourteen-year-old boy out there, except if he doesnt 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 TPau. In doing so it laid the ground for what Vulcans would be for all the Trek shows that came after it.
7. The Doomsday MachineThe 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 doesnt lessen the value of this episode.
6. Space SeedThe 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, its 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. The Cage/The MenagerieTechnically these are two different episodes (well, three, but two stories), however Im going to count them as just one for purposes of this list. Fans of the original series know The 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 too cerebral), and Roddenberry was forced to make another pilot. He didnt let this one go to waste, however. He used footage from The Cage in the two-part story The Menagerie, which features Spock risking everything in order to help out his former captain. These episodes really are quite exceptional. First, its fascinating to see what the series could have been under Captain Pike, Number One and the like. Second, while I dont think the plot to The Cage is too cerebral, I do think its intelligent and compelling, and asks a lot of interesting questions. With The 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, Pikes 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. Balance of TerrorOur first look at the Romulans, Treks badly underused, and frequently poorly-used, villains. In this case we get to see Mark Lendard playing the captain of a Romulan spaceship thats 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 World 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. Journey to BabelPolitical intrigue, a murder mystery and Spocks 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. City on the Edge of ForeverWell, of course this one was going to be on here. It turns up on every critics list of the best episodes, and all the fan lists, too. And why not? Its a really good story, with some of Shatners 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. The Trouble with TribblesAlmost everyone knows this episode. Even if you havent watched more than three episodes of the original series, odds are this is one of the ones youve seen. Its very accessible to the masses, its 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 didnt 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: The Devil in the Dark, The Ultimate Computer and The Tholian Web