After a few weeks off, I am back in the thick of another Star Trek series. This time, it’s the early 70s Star Trek cartoon. Unlike pretty much every other incarnation of Star Trek, I had never seen an episode of the cartoon until I began watching recently. Overall, I am quite surprised with the quality of the show, though admittedly it does show its age from time to time.
It’s very cool to see some of the best concepts from the original series get revisited. An example would be the Guardian of Forever, from City on the Edge of Forever (the best Star Trek episode ever). The second animated episode, Yesteryear, has Spock use the Guardian to go back in time, visiting his younger self in order to fix a time travel mix-up. Tribbles show up again, as well, and that episode was quite entertaining. I really wish we could have traded a lame 3rd season episode for one of these two stories!
I’ve made some slight changes to the Star Trek Haiku page. All of the Original Series haikus are now in chronological order, in a gallery of their own. The Animated haikus are in a gallery sorted by most recent to oldest, and have their own subpage as well. I will also be posting the haikus on Twitter @marcallie if you are into that sort of thing.
There were only 22 episodes of the Star Trek cartoon produced, so this won’t last nearly as long as the first go round. Still, it should be fun! I’m growing to love Star Trek more and more with every episode I watch. I may need to revisit Star Wars soon before my split loyalties are tilted in favor of the future, rather than that galaxy far, far away…
The long summer project is complete: all 70 original Star Trek episodes have been watched, screenshots have been taken, and haikus written. The gallery is complete. I really enjoyed watching Star Trek every day, and to be honest, not watching an episode at all yesterday felt very strange, like I was forgetting something all day long.
It would be easy to write about my opinions on the best (“City on the Edge of Forever”) and worst (“The Way to Eden”) episodes of Star Trek. But that has been done dozens if not hundreds of times. Instead, I decided to take a look at the most overrated and underrated Treks. I gave each episode a rating from 1 to 10 in a spreadsheet, copied in the compiled ratings from users at the Internet Movie Database, and then found the difference between them. Maybe applying math to something so subjective is folly. But it should give a good indication of the episodes I think are significantly better or worse than the collective hivemind. Each episode title is listed, along with the difference between the two ratings.
We’ll start with the five most overrated Star Trek episodes!
“I, Mudd” (- 5.5)
One episode of Henry Mudd was too many, and of all the great characters in the show, HE gets a return engagement? Pathetic. The episode tries to be funny but isn’t, and the extended slapstick goofball sequence at the end made me want to stun myself with a phaser. I rated this one the same as “The Omega Glory” and that’s really saying something.
“Assignment: Earth” (-3.7)
Season finales are usually something great, but this one wasn’t. For most of the runtime, Kirk, Spock, and the rest are absent. This was intended as a backdoor pilot for a new show, so I understand the lack of, you know, Star Trek elements. However, despite featuring two actors who are usually quite good (Robert Lansing and Teri Garr), the Trek-less parts are uninteresting.
“Conscience of the King” (-3.3)
There are certain elements I enjoy about Star Trek. This episode features none of them. It could just as easily have taken place on almost any other show. A traveling actor is really someone who did something terrible in the past, and when it comes out, bad things happen. There is little in the way of science fiction in this one, and that can certainly work (“Court Martial” is 90% courtroom drama) but this one is just lame.
“The Ultimate Computer” (-3)
This episode isn’t too bad when taken on its own. However, it came at the tail end of the show’s run, and is based on a theme oft-repeated in Star Trek: technology gone amok. The acting is decent, and there are some impressive visual effects, but in the end, Kirk talks a computer to death, AGAIN. According to Memory Alpha, it’s the fourth time he did this in the series, and by this point, I was tired of it. Maybe if it had been in Season 1, I’d feel differently.
“A Piece of the Action” (-3)
Similar to the entry above, this episode is yet another rehash of a common Star Trek theme: a planet just like Earth in the Xth century. This time, due to a book left behind by previous Starfleet visitors, the people have a culture entirely based on Chicago gangsters of the 1920s. There are admittedly some funny parts, and it’s sort of charming in a way. Maybe I’m rating it harshly, but when Kirk started talking in al Al Capone accent, I mentally checked out.
Now that the negative parts are over, let’s take a look at the hidden gems. These are the five most underrated Star Trek eps!
“The Empath” (+1.3)
This is a weird ep, that’s for sure. The set designs are minimalist, probably to save money in the last half of the last season, but the overall effect is eerie and surreal. Kathryn Hays, who plays the titular empath, says not one word, but her expressions and gestures get her meaning across skillfully. The idea of aliens conducting an experiment on the crew is hardly unique, but here it is handled so well that it doesn’t seem stale at all.
“The Enemy Within” (+1.2)
This one is written by Richard Matheson, a master storyteller, and it shows. Two Kirks are running around after a transporter slipup. It would be easy to make one good, and one evil, and it starts out that way, but it goes much deeper. One half is the aggressive, selfish part, and the other, “true” Kirk gets wimpier and less decisive as the episode goes on. Shatner gets a bad rap for overacting, but he’s just marvelous in this one, from start to finish.
“The Gamesters of Triskelion” (+1)
This episode contains nearly all the best elements of Star Trek. There are strange alien creatures of all sorts, ranging from lovely humanoids to disembodied, glowing brains. Spock and Bones use logic and emotion to argue against each other. There’s plenty of action, too, with some excellent fight scenes. In the end, Kirk uses his cunning to outwit the supposedly superior brain-critters, and the planet is left in better shape than when they arrived. It’s only missing a space battle!
“The Tholian Web” (+0.9)
The interplay between Kirk, Spock, and Bones is the heart of Star Trek, and this episode is one of the best examples of it. Kirk, in a super cool spacesuit, goes missing in a parallel dimension. Spock wants to stay and search for him, risking an interstellar incident with the Tholians (one of the only truly alien looking races in the show’s entire run). Bones urges him to leave, as the risk to the crew isn’t worth it. It’s a nice role reversal for the two, and when they hear Kirk’s final orders, only to be listened to after his death… well, it gives me the space goosebumps.
“The Lights of Zetar” (+0.9)
Let me tell you, folks, there are some real stinkers at the end of Season 3. This one is most certainly not one of them. The effects are good, and there’s a tense sequence where the crew tracks the lights descending on the Starfleet library planet that I enjoyed. The episode has plenty of screen time for Scotty, which is a nice change. Too often, the Big Three get all the action, but not here. Scott’s concern for his “bonny lass”, Shari Lewis, of “Lamb Chop” fame, is touching. Lewis also co-wrote the episode, and gave Scotty a romantic interest because “Kirk always gets the girl”. On behalf of non-alpha males everywhere, thanks, Shari!
So there you have it. I always considered myself a Star Trek fan, but now I feel as if I can truly claim to be a Trekkie. Or is it Trekker? I suppose it doesn’t matter too much. I enjoyed the creative exercise of writing the haikus, and plan to continue it in some way. There’s plenty more Trek out there, after all. It wouldn’t be very bold to stop at the end of the original series, would it?
My last day of school was June 3. I set a goal for myself to watch an episode of the original Star Trek every day during my break. Just for kicks, to spur my creativity during the slow summer hours, I also decided to write a haiku for each episode on a screenshot. I was disheartened to realize that there are 79 episodes featuring Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, while I only have six weeks off. Nonetheless, I kept working toward my goal.
Today marks the halfway point. The 40th episode, “Friday’s Child”, has now been screenshotted, written, and posted. I’ve managed to watch Star Trek every day. Most days, it’s one complete episode, though I doubled up here and there in order to stay ahead if needed. One day, I only managed to watch half an episode, but all in all, I’m pleased with my progress so far. I’ve never watched the entire show in order like this, and most episodes either I’ve never seen, or don’t have any memory of watching. The viewing has been quite enjoyable, as I expected. Taking the screenshots and writing the haikus has been even more fun than I thought it would be.
If you look around for the “best” Star Trek episodes, you’ll find that most of them are from Season 1 and the first half of Season 2. Thus, I’ve already watched most of the “best”. Looking forward, only “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “The Tholian Web” are generally thought of as being standout episodes. Few indeed are the TV shows that get better, and not worse, the longer they run, and it would appear Star Trek is no exception. Some of the “worst” of Trek is yet to come, including most notably “Spock’s Brain” which I’ve never seen but cannot wait to experience for the first time. I’m somewhat concerned that it will be hard to get through Season 3 in particular, but momentum is on my side at this point.
There’s a decades-long debate over which is best, Star Wars, or Star Trek. Usually, I answer Star Wars. Jedi Knight and X-wings and Darth Vader have had a huge effect on me since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, sure, but I’ve never had the same fondness for it. However, with a daily dose of Trek this summer, I have grown to love it just as much. Really, Star Wars and Star Trek are totally different from one another. Star Wars is a space opera, an action adventure with some sci-fi trappings here and there. Star Trek is more “hard” science fiction, and explores some heady ideas and concepts that Star Wars isn’t concerned with. It’s more cerebral, if you can say that without seeming snobby. I love it when problems are solved by lightsabers and trench runs as much as the next guy, but in Trek there are conflicts that can’t be solved with phasers, proton torpedos, or fists (though Kirk always tries punching if he can). Picking Star Wars or Star Trek as a favorite is as impossible as picking my favorite child; I love them both equally, yet differently, paradoxical as that may be.
A few random thoughts to wrap this post up:
- Kirk and Spock are great characters, but my favorite is Bones, hands down. McCoy doesn’t get nearly the screen time as the other two, but he always makes the most of it when he does. When he says “I’m a doctor, not a…” it brings a smile to my face. “Friday’s Child”, “Devil in the Dark”, and “Shore Leave” are standout episodes for DeForest Kelley, absolutely worth viewing if you love Bones. (I also adore Karl Urban’s version of the character.)
- Taking a screenshot of each episode made me much more aware of the way the show was photographed. There are some truly stunning shots in nearly every episode. The sets, lighting, costumes, and makeup are fantastic, especially considering they are nearly fifty years old. The use of color in the series, in particular, is truly great. I can only imagine that as color TVs were adopted, Star Trek was one of the most impressive shows to watch.
- I’ve been watching on Netflix, and all but one episode (“Obsession”) has been the remastered version. I don’t want to get into a debate over the merits of remastering here, but I appreciate far more what was done with these Star Trek episodes than I do the changes George Lucas made to the original trilogy. For the most part, the new effects are excellent, and blend in well. The only exceptions are the shuttle craft scenes. They don’t look nearly as good as the Enterprise shots. My favorite alterations were in “The Doomsday Machine”. The titular planet devourer is jaw-droppingly impressive in the remastered version.
So far, I’ve loved my little summer project, and look forward to finishing it up on August 21, 39 days from now. I’ll share my own personal top ten episodes at that point. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@marcallie) or check out the Star Trek Haiku gallery for daily updates!
As a teacher, one of the big highlights of the year is summer break. I always have such great intentions as my six weeks off school begins. However, I hardly ever seem to actually cross everything of my summer list. This year, I am hoping to change that, for at least one of my summer goals.
I decided to watch one episode of the original Star Trek every day. Throughout the years, I have already seen most of them, but probably not all. Watching through them in order, regularly, sounds like a good way to spend an hour every day. But watching TV isn’t exactly the most creative activity, so I decided to make it so (pardon the pun, and I know that’s a Next Generation line, but still).
After I watch an episode, I will write a haiku based on it. I’ll take a screenshot of the episode, write the poem on it, then share it with the world. The running gallery can be viewed here, or from the tab at the top of the page labelled “Star Trek Haiku”. You can also follow me on Twitter @marcallie, or search for the hashtag #startrekhaiku which I will be using for all these tweets.
I’ve watched three episodes so far, and I am truly enjoying them. I have a fondness for the original show, though many find it cheesy and overbearing. The remastered episodes look gorgeous, with just the right level of change to improve the show without being noticeable. (Star Wars did it WRONG, for sure.) I might blog about an episode here and there, if I have something interesting to say. Otherwise, I will just keep it to 5-7-5 syllables! Hey, that rhymes with Tribbles…