By: Andy Crawford
I have a confession. I’m a Star Trek fan.
It feels good to finally say it out loud.
By Star Trek fan I don’t mean that I attend conventions and have a set of pointy ears. I don’t speak Klingon, and I’m not a viewer of all the modern iterations, like Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I have, however, watched all of the episodes from the original series from the 1960s. But I’d be willing to venture that this doesn’t make me very exceptional.
Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, recently passed away. An overwhelming outpour of condolences and reflections came from celebrities, the President, and millions of others, causing his death to trend worldwide on Twitter. Seeing as Mr. Nimoy is really only known for his role in the franchise, it’s safe to say a large amount of people are fans of the original Star Trek.
And why shouldn’t they be? Leonard Nimoy, along with William Shatner and DeForest Kelley (died 1999) headlined one of the best and most influential series of all time. Star Trek, on the surface, was a fun sci-fi show filled with action, humor, and romance set in exotic locales around the universe. Underneath this veneer, the episodes address philosophical questions about humanity’s purpose and place in Creation, as well as issues such as nuclear war, racism, and authoritarianism. Struggles played out among the leading triumvirate: Nimoy’s logical Spock; Kelley’s passionate Dr. McCoy; and Shatner’s moral Kirk.
Adding to this classic 60s entertainment are the poorly aged special effects. There are badly choreographed fights, obviously fake wounds, model ships flying through the air, and the cheap, plastic sets get crushed from time to time. All of this brings an extra level of humor for the 21st century viewer, in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 sense.
The original series’ episodes are available on Netflix and Amazon Video, and most of them are available on YouTube too. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the series already beloved by so many.
So, as a way of remembering Leonard Nimoy I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the four best Star Trek episodes. Enjoy!
…And live long and prosper.
This is perhaps Leonard Nimoy’s greatest episode. It begins with Spock in a fit of anger, harassing numerous members of the crew. Kirk, worried about the erratic behavior of his First Officer, learns from Spock that he is reverting to a highly volatile and aggressive state that requires him to return to his home planet, Vulcan, to fulfill an arranged marriage. I’ll spare you some complicated plot points, but the episode culminates in a fight to the death between our two favorite heroes, Kirk and an insensible Spock. Watching Spock, who is half human and half Vulcan, struggle with both his primal passions and loyalty to his friend is a worthy monument to Nimoy’s talent.
Balance of Terror- Season 1, Episode 14
The Enterprise enters the demilitarized neutral zone between the Federation (good guys) and the Romulans (bad guys). Captain Kirk is forced into a battle of wits and tactics with a superior Romulan vessel. This episode plays out like a submarine movie, but with photon torpedoes and the vacuum of space. It’s fun to watch the two commanders play cat and mouse as they anticipate the other’s moves, and ultimately earn each other’s respect. This episode also deals with bigotry among the crew for the pointed-eared Mr. Spock, whose appearance is similar to the Romulans.
This is probably the most famous Star Trek episode, and undoubtedly the most humorous. The Enterprise is assigned to guard a grain shipment currently housed at a deep space station. While awaiting shipment, a vessel of Klingons docks at the station as well. Bar fights, espionage, insults, and general hilarity ensues. All of this happens amidst an outbreak of cute little furry monsters called tribbles, who reproduce at an amazing rate. If you’ve never watched Star Trek, this funny episode is an excellent place to start.
City on the Edge of Forever- Season 1, Episode 28
The Enterprise is on the edge of space investigating temporal disturbances when Dr. McCoy, driven temporarily mad from an accidental dose of a medicine, beams down to the planet. Spock and Kirk give chase, and discover a naturally occurring time portal. They chase McCoy through, and end up in Depression era New York. Stranded and still missing McCoy, Kirk and Spock assume fake identities. Naturally, Kirk falls in love with a beautiful 30s activist named Edith Keller.
Spock discovers that Dr. McCoy changed the future by saving the life of a woman who was about to be hit by a car. Since she lives, she will successfully lead a pacifist movement to keep America out of World War II. This leads to a German victory in the war, and erases the future of manned spaceflight. In order for the world to be put right the woman, Edith Keller, must die. It’s a deep episode, exploring principles of time travel, free will, and the philosophy of utilitarianism- all in less than an hour.