My Favorite Star Trek Episodes (Part I)
ST: Enterprise "Fusion (S1E17)" & "Stigma (S2E14)"
I put these here because they broached one of the extremely-rare TV situations: a sci-fi show tackling the real-world issues of rape and STDs. In the episode Stigma, it is revealed that T'Pol suffers from a neurological disorder contracted only during mind melds. This references back to "Fusion," where T'Pol had a mind meld forced upon her (A clever analogy for rape and, in a broad context, it was rape). The disease, and the method of contracting it, are considered taboo subjects in Vulcan society, not unlike HIV in our time.
ST: ENT "In A Mirror, Darkly (S4E18/E19)"
Ok, where do I start explaining why I loved these episodes?? First, on a whole, Enterprise sucked! It was the first series directly controlled by the network. It was helmed and produced by ST fanboys who put little thought into the ST canon while churning out episode after episode that constantly conflicted with the mythos of Star Trek. Their answer? Create the incredibly poor "Temporal Cold War" as a way to explain away the never-ending faux pas. In the end, after 4 seasons, Enterprise, and the Star Trek television franchise, limped away from "boldly going where no one went before." But some of the writers, knowing the show's run was ending (the 4th season was green-lighted only to get Enterprise to the magic 100 episodes needed to make syndication), came up with this incredibly twisted take on the TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror." Completely outside of Season 4's attempt to get the United Federation of Planets off the ground, this two-parter took the Star Trek "Evil Empire" and beamed it straight on its ear! Best part? It was later turned into an incredible series-spanning book called Mirror Universe: Glass Empires."
ST: Original "The Corbomite Maneuver (S1E10)
One of the great concepts behind the success of Star Trek was Gene Roddenberry's consistent ability to create parables that mirrored many of mankind's foibles. In Corbomite, a taut standoff with a potentially lethal foe ended in a pleasant encounter with a peaceful alien life. "Don't judge a book by its cover" met The Wizard of Oz in this one!
ST: Original "The Conscience of The King (S1E13)"
Anton Karidian and his travelling group of Shakespearean actors are aboard the Enterprise when Kirk's old friend confides that he believes Karidian to be "Kodos the Executioner," responsible for the mass murder of thousands. Soon, Kirk's friend is killed, and attempts are made on other officers that can make the Karidian/Kodos connection. Caught out by Kirk in the end, Karidian confesses "I was a soldier in a cause. There were things to be done, terrible things." In the end, Roddenberry's parable mirrors the extensive post-WWII hunt for Nazi leaders, soldiers and anyone who was "only following orders."
ST: Original "Space Seed (S1E22)"
The episode that introduced us to Khan Noonian Singh, leader of a group of genetically-enhanced humans from the past. Eventually, Khan's aggression would run afoul with the humanity of the future and Kirk, demonstrating the best of intentions, sends Khan and his followers to an uninhabited planet to start anew. Boy, the road to hell REALLY is paved with good intentions. Ricardo Montalban would reprise his role in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, the movie that jumpstarted the Star Trek franchise for more than 30 years!
ST: OS "The City On The Edge of Forever (S1E28)"
Absolutely brilliant and heartbreaking! Kirk and Spock follow McCoy through a time machine, landing on Earth during the Great Depression. Kirk meets Sister Edith Keeler, a peaceful visionary hoping to appease the upstart Adolph Hitler and avert WWII. True love blossoms for Kirk (not in the usual "bed a hot woman each week" way). But Spock, with his encyclopedic mind, informs Kirk that such a change in the fabric of time would cause WWII to come o a far worse conclusion. Kirk must make a wrenching decision that leaves him emotionally shattered. Consistently one of the best episodes when polled and written by the great Harlan Ellison.
ST: Original "Amok Time (S2E1)"
The first true peek at the Vulcan homeworld and Vulcan society. In the end, the Vulcans' veneer of a benign society was ripped away and the Vulcans depicted as a people as cunning and devious as humans.
ST: Original "Mirror, Mirror (S2E4)"
I liked this episode, but I'm really just showing it as a reference to Enterprise's "In a Mirror, Darkly."
ST: Original "Patterns of Force (S2E21)"
A frightening look at a society modeled on Nazi Germany at its peak of power. At the time of its original airing, WWII was still fresh in the minds of many of the show's audience and surely struck a chord with the Holocaust survivors living in America. Again, Roddenberry plays with the Wizard of Oz concept.
ST: Original "Bread and Circuses (S2E25)"
On a distant planet, The Roman Empire survives into their version of 1960s Earth. I'm adding this one only because of the ending: the alien planet's nascent start of Christianity (alluded to by Uhura when she says "It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God.") Curious that the two main characters espousing the benefits of such an action, Kirk and Spock, were played by two observant Jews (Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner)! I highly doubt in the 21st Century, where any attempt to espouse Christian values over others (even atheism) is considered anathema that such an episode would even be aired on network television!.
ST: Original "The Enterprise Incident (S3E2)"
Our first real look into Romulan society since Balance of Terror. Wow, who knew Romulan women were that good-looking!
ST: OS "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (S3E15)"
By the third season, Star Trek's popularity was waning and the quality of shows (Spock's Brain anyone?) was rapidly declining; but Roddenberry made one final, terrific and bold statement on American society in this rumination on race relations and racial hatred!
ST: Next Gen "Skin of Evil (S1E22)"
Wow, the first time a Star Trek series regular gets killed!
ST: Next Gen "The Child (S2E1)"
Deanna Troi awakens and finds herself pregnant! Who's the father? Well, it isn't Riker and he's none too pleased. Also, Diana Muldaur joined the series (her second ST go around) as CMO Dr. Katherine Pulaski.
ST: Next Gen "The Measure of a Man (S2E9)"
The early years of STNG were plagued with poor scripts, countless rehashed episodes from ST:TOS ("The Naked Now," being the most egregious), and much of the late 80s touchy-feely sentiment ("Loud As a Whisper"). But this episode, in all reality a re-telling of The Outer Limit's "I, Robot" (which prominently featured a young, pre-ST Leonard Nimoy), showed the previously feckless Data to actually have a strong sense of self-identity that he would continue to explore straight through the STNG movies
ST: Next Gen "The Enemy (S3E7)"
Geordi is trapped on a planet wracked with electromagnetic storms that interfere with his visual aide. Trapped alongside with Geordi is a lone Romulan officer, equally effected by the storm. The two must put aside their prejudices and work together to be rescued by their respective forces. Part The Defiant Ones, part analogy of the thawing Eastern Bloc Cold War. A similar Cold War-related episode appeared shortly after in The Defector (S3E10).
ST: Next Gen "The Offspring (S3E16)"
Data again explores his "humanity" when he attempts to create an offspring following a retreat at a cybernetics conference. Data would have his humanity tested again later in the same season's "The Most Toys (S3E22)"
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