Top 4 Star Trek Episodes

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.

Amok Time- Season 2, Episode 1

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.

The Trouble With Tribbles- Season 2, Episode 15

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.



In Defense of the 30s

A guest post by: Deanna Cozart

My younger brother, Alan, who is a founding BBT member and contributes here often [Editor’s note: that’s debatable as of late, but dangitihaveexcusessolayoffofme.], turns 30 later this year. He’s not the first friend or colleague I’ve heard to lament this birthday. “It just feels so old.” “I’m not young enough to blame youth for my mistakes anymore.” “I think I found a gray hair.”

However, as I will turn 33 this year, I feel compelled to help pull Alan (and any other worried late-20s folks) into this new decade with excitement and anticipation. So, in no particular order, here are my reasons to be excited about your 30s.

  1. The 30s are a chance to be more professionally grounded. Once you enter your 30s, you have, hopefully, had a few years of occupational experience or additional education to take with you into your professional endeavors, even if you have changed directions a time or two. It is refreshing to be able to contribute in meetings and interact with colleagues knowing you have life experience to back up your opinions and actions. I have found this a refreshing change from my 20s, where I was often mistaken for a graduate student (though, this does still happen occasionally), or heaven forbid, an undergraduate student. Whether you have tried more cases, published and presented more, taught more, etc., it is encouraging to know you have a track record to bring with you into your professional work. There is also much to be said for not being in an entry-level position and carrying more responsibility, and ideally, a larger paycheck.
  2. The 30s are a time to have more financial security. Much of the time in the 20s is spent figuring out how to be an adult, and I know more than a few people who made financial decisions (like buying a brand new car with a great big payment right after college graduation) they later regretted. However, as you enter your 30s, hopefully, these rookie financial mistakes are in the past. As your professional career begins solidifying more, your paychecks should go up. This gives you a chance to own your first (or second, or even third) home, and ideally one where you have greater choice about location and other characteristics. We have friends who have used this increased security to travel abroad for a year, pay off remaining student loans, renovate houses, pay for private school, have a fully-funded 6 month emergency fund, buy UGA season football tickets, and even adopt internationally. Whatever you decide to do, it is refreshing to enjoy more financial security.
  3. The 30s are a time to be more confident in you. That professional momentum and financial security can both play into added confidence in your 30s. However, even without those, there is something to be said for knowing yourself better, and having a clearer picture of what you can bring into situations and relationships. Ideally, your 20s have given you a chance to try out a few different responses to situations, friendships, and general life decisions. What works for you? What bothers you? When are you most successful? When are you most down? If you have never taken the time to look back at times you were satisfied with outcomes and times you were not and reflect; this is a great time to do it. One of my favorite assessments that can help with this is Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. When you know what you do well, it makes it easier to make decisions about how you spend your time and which relationships you pursue. You can also gain insight into relationships and how to better interact with your spouse, family members, and colleagues. As an added bonus, it cultivates a sense of freedom to be who are and to care less about what others think of you.

So, dear brother, walk confidently into this new decade! You did such a good job with your 20s, I have no doubt you will conquer the 30s in J.Crew style. 

Deanna Cozart is a temporary assistant professor at The University of Georgia. She should be grading papers, but decided to write this instead.


The Economics of American Madness (1932)

By: Andy Crawford

Last week, I posted a review of Frank Capra’s 1932 classic, American Madness, the story of a bank threatened by panic (or “run”) that was all too common in the early days of the Great Depression. Besides being a great film, it also serves the unintended purpose of instructing the viewer with a valuable economic lesson.

The film begins with Dickson, the chairman of Union National Bank, arguing with the Board of Directors. With the depression deepening, they want Dickson to follow a strategy of keeping more money in reserve. With so many businesses struggling, they see most loans as too risky. If too many people default on their loans, then the bank will obviously lose money in the process. Moreover, as Americans’ fear over the health of the financial system grows, “runs” are becoming a common occurrence. People fear that a bank may fail, and they begin rushing to the banks to empty their accounts. They’d rather keep their money in their mattress than run the risk that a bank will lose it.

Dickson, a forerunner to future Capra character George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life), argues that the bank should continue aggressively lending to struggling businesses. He points out that most of these businesses are run by hard-working people who have track records of being responsible and successful. If they don’t have access to capital (i.e. loans), their business will suffer and lead to mass layoffs. Ultimately, those employees will have no money to deposit back in the bank.

In the first ten minutes of the movie, American Madness explains the cycle of deposits, loans, and wages that serves a vital part in the amount of currency in the economy. Over time, this cycle creates more and more wealth in the economy as a whole. It is the duty of the bank, Capra argues, to keep that money flowing, especially in dire economic times.

Most of us learned in school that the Great Depression was caused by the stock market crash of 1929. Millions of dollars were lost, and people supposedly jumped out of New York City windows. Seeing as public schools teach even less about economics than they teach about 20th century history, most of us have probably taken this as a historical fact and never considered it again.

In this case, what you learned in high school history is dead wrong.

It’s true that the stock market crash serves as an important event that can act as a starting point to the economic downturn. However, this alone could not create a recession, much less the historic Great Depression. (There was a stock market crash in 1987, but no one had to wait in any bread lines in 88 and 89.)

While there are many factors to consider when determining the cause of the Great Depression, most economists agree there was a lack of money in the economy, caused by the banking crisis. Businesses and farms defaulted on loans, and banks began to close. In 1929 there were 25,000 banks in the U.S. By 1932, the year American Madness came out, there were only 12,000. Some of these closed because too many loans defaulted, but many had to close due to runs which emptied their vaults and forced them out of business.

A run on the Union National Bank.

The interesting (and tragic) fact is that this could have been prevented. The Federal Reserve Bank was created under the Federal Reserve Act of 1914. Its sole purpose was to act as a failsafe to banks in case their reserves gave out. For example, in the event of a run on a bank, the Federal Reserve would loan cash to the troubled bank so it could continue to operate. This achieved the two goals of keeping banks in the business of lending and preventing the kind of hysteria that caused Americans to rush to the bank to withdraw all of their money in the first place.

In 1963, Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz published the classic, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960. Through their research they discovered the Federal Reserve did almost nothing to ensure bank reserves from 1930 to 1933. Stated plainly, the Federal Reserve had one job…and didn’t do it. Meanwhile, banks failed, GDP fell 15%, and the economy went into a tailspin.

As the Federal Reserve was created as a failsafe, larger banks no longer kept the huge amount of cash reserves that, along with other measures, prevented depressions during the panics of 1907 and 1893. For this reason, Friedman and Schwartz come to the conclusion that the Depression never would have happened if either 1) the Federal Reserve had acted to shore up the money supply to banks, or 2) the Federal Reserve had never been created at all.

These complex, but fundamental elements of a capitalist system are hard for non-economists to understand. People who suffered during the Depression, however, understood monetary supply all too well. This is why American Madness was a hit at the time, and it’s why it continues to serve the unintended purpose of acquainting 21st century viewers with some of the same truths that continue to influence our economy today.

Andy isn’t an economist, but he plays one on the Internet.