(*From the Original Series only. Because let’s face it: The new film is bringing back the original characters.)(On another note, doesn’t this title sound like a book report I am going to share with the class or something? So…quaint. You love it.)
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.
My family on my dad’s side and I don’t have too much in common. I grew up overseas as a bonafine “third culture kid”, so my relationships with my aunts and uncles were never really close. But the one thing I know is universal to the James side of the family is a fierce, unabashed love for Star Trek The Original Series (Next Generation somewhat too, but mostly TOS). Of course, when I was little, I didn’t really notice; my sister and I watched and loved Star Trek, but it was a just another thing we watched. It never occurred to me that other might not watch the show. I mean, who wouldn’t love Star Trek?
I actually didn’t notice how important this was to my family until a few years back, when I took The Boyfriend to a family dinner. While we’re all munching on biscuits at the Red Lobster, waiting for our food, my Uncle makes fun of someone by comparing him to Trelane (from “The Squire of Gothos”). Everyone at the table laughs, while The Boyfriend looks mystified. I explain that it’s a Star Trek reference.
He then commits the One Unforgivable Sin: The Boyfriend says “Oh, Star Trek is lame.”
Dishes clatter. Conversation stops. Every face at the table is turned in animosity towards The Boyfriend (who had it coming).
It’s moments like these that make you realize that despite your differences, family can be pretty cool sometimes.
While I never really got into the other spinoffs beyond some casual viewing (lots of TNG, a few episodes of DS9 here and there), the Original Series will always have a special place in my heart.
SO it is with mixed emotions, again, that I get ready for J.J. Abrams’s reimagined version of Star Trek this weekend. One thing in particular bugs: why stick with the original characters? I love my old Kirk and Spock and Uhura and Bones and Sulu and Scotty…and inevitably will compare the newbies with my notions of how the characters SHOULD be in my head. That said…the reviews I’ve heard thus far are pretty favorable, so, I’m still very excited. Nervous, but excited.
And, in preparation for my 7:30 ticket tonight, here are my top TV moments from the Original Series (in no particular order):
Arena – Bamboo, Mercy and Gorn
The first season will always be my favorite, and this is my favorite Kirk-in-a-gladiator-arena episode. Using his brains to build a canon out of a bamboo shoot (making the precedent for MacGuyver), he outwits the much bigger Dino-head Gorn, and by virtue of taking mercy on his foe is allowed to go his separate way by the Metrons.
Mudd’s Women – Magic Gummy Bears
Harry Mudd, pirate dressing smuggler, is beamed aboard the Enterprise with his cargo: three beautiful women, wives for miners in a far off system. Mudd and his women, however, hide a big secret: Ruth, Magda and Eve are actually hideous old hags who are made beautiful so long as they keep taking Mudd’s Venus Drug (the things that look like Magic Gummy Bears). At the end, Eve takes a placebo (Regular Gummy Bear) and her inner beauty is reflected in her outer beauty. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t like this episode so much (y’know, as an independent minded woman and all), but I really liked the girls’s pretty dresses. And the magic gummy bears.
The Squire of Gothos – “I would have won!”
Trelane, eponymous Squire of Gothos and a cultural enthusiast for all things Earth, transports Kirk and Sulu down to his castle on an uncharted planet against their will. He refuses to let the crew leave, and Kirk ends up breaking Trelane’s magic mirror and outwitting him…that is, until Trelane’s Mommy and Daddy amorphous blobs apologize to Kirk for their child’s spoiled behavior.
Papa Amorphous Blob: Trelane! Stop this nonsense at once, or you’ll not be permitted to make any more planets!
Space Seed – Ahh, Sweet Khan
When the Enterprise stumbles across a seemingly abandoned ship of which there is no record, they board to find its passengers in suspended animation. The crew learns that the ship was launched from Earth in the Eugenic Wars of the 1990s (eee I love how dated this is), and almost immediately upon the crew’s arrival, the life support system starts to fail. Hurriedly the Enterprise takes who they surmise is the leader of the derelict ship, who awakens and after a scuffle with Bones introduces himself as Khan Noonien Singh. Khan and his crew were genetic supermen, bred to be ideal soldiers. Soon Khan, seducing Lieutenant Marla McGivers, tries to take over the ship. When Kirk inevitably regains control, he offers Khan and his people an out – challenging him to start his world anew on Ceti Alpha V. Khan accepts, and he and his soldiers (and besotted Lt. McGivers) go into exile, never to be seen of again…oh yeah, until The Wrath of Khan.
The Menagerie – Christopher Pike FTW
The Menagerie parts I & II (and the unaired pilot episode, The Cage) focus not on Kirk but on the unfortunate Christopher Pike, paralyzed and burned after a training incident. When Spock claims he received a message from Pike, whom he served under for years prior on the Enterprise, he breaks Federation law by helping Pike return to Talos IV. He is soon apprehended before reaching Talos IV, and surrenders himself for trial (where he shows ‘video logs’ – really the transmitted images from Talos – of what happened years earlier on the planet with Pike and the Talosians; footage all from “The Cage”). Thirteen years earlier, Pike and his crew received a distress signal from the planet and so beamed down to find survivors of an earlier crash. Pike falls for Vina, a woman born shortly before the crash, but too late realizes he is being manipulated by the Talosians (whom my father and I nicknamed “The Butt-heads”) who want Pike and Vina to mate and repopulate the planet.
Later it is revealed that the Talosians, masters of illusion, are actually masking Vina’s horrible scarred deformity from the crash – hence Spock’s desire to return Pike to the planet. With the Talosian’s help, he and Vina live together happily.
As the Talosians tell Kirk, “Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.”
Balance of Terror – Aaaaaaaa! Romulan Showdown!
If I had to choose my favorite Star Trek episode, “Balance of Terror” is definitely on the shortlist. For one thing, this is our first introduction to the Romulans. For another, it comes down to an Epic showdown between the Enterprise and the Romulan Bird of Prey (What will win? The Romulan cloaking device plus incredibly damaging plasma torpedoes? Or the Enterprise’s swift maneuverability and Kirk’s unmatched savvy?). I am a sucker for these sort of mind/war game episodes and movies, and “Balance of Terror” does it brilliantly. And the dialogue! It doesn’t get any better:
Romulan Commander: I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.
Kirk: What purpose will it serve to die?
Romulan Commander: We are creatures of duty, Captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform.
Or, more memorably:
Romulan Commander: [speaking of Captain Kirk] He’s a sorcerer, this one! He reads the thoughts in my head!
Mirror, Mirror – Parallel Universe Goatee
Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scottie beam up from a planet expedition…only the Enterprise they find themselves on is not the same. Their suspicions are tipped off when Spock enters…with a GOATEE.
Kirk deduces that they have somehow been transported into a parallel, or mirror, universe. Simultaneously, Evil!Kirk et al have been beamed up to the USS Enterprise and are causing problems there. Kirk and his small team desperately try to throw off their mirror companions and return to their own reality – and manage to do so when both they and their mirror counterparts attempt to beam back. This is the first introduction of the Mirror Universe in Trek lore, and it is totally, undeniably awesome.
Trouble With Tribbles – Insatiable Furry Klingon-haters
A fan favorite, “The Trouble With Tribbles” is pure, Star Trek gold. Brought on board as a pet by Uhura, the cute, soothing little furry animals, Tribbles, start out as lovable companions, but soon make a huge problem of themselves. The Tribbles multiply at an exponential rate, eating all of the Enterprise’s food stores and precious cargo. However, when the Tribbles start to die and uncover an incognito Klingon spy, as a result of poisoned grain, the furry little guys save the day. Sort of. Bonus, the episode has a sweet bar brawl between our intrepid crew and some Klingons. Awesome.
(DS9 fans might remember this episode from the awesome Trials and Tribble-ations homage to the original)
City on the Edge of Forever – Surprisingly Poignant
I’m pretty sure this episode makes it on any fan’s list. Kirk and the crew investigate a temporal disturbance from a nearby planet, where they find the “Guardian of Forever”. After Bones accidentally injects himself with a drug that makes him incredibly paranoid, he ends up traveling back in time and dramatically altering the past (Nazis have taken over the world). Kirk and Spock go back in time to try and undo what Bones did, but in the process Kirk falls in love with a woman named Edith – and the fate of the world lies in her hands. Ultimately, Kirk sacrifices the woman he loves for the fate of the future. And, the Guardian of Forever is left alone once again.
(I live in LA, and last year went to the Long Beach Star Trek Tour, where they had this set piece. It was awesome.)
Plato’s Stepchildren – Singing, Kissing, Togas
The crew encounters a telepathic, toga toting people called the Platonians when their leader, Parmen, is injured and needs medical help. After McCoy heals him, Parmen refuses to let the doctor go on his way, resulting in an angry Kirk. Parmen, using his mind control powers, punishes Kirk by making he and Spock dress in crazy togas, sing songs, kiss and then threaten women. This is the famous first interracial kiss between a black woman playing a fictional character and a white man playing a fictional character (interracial kisses had been shown on TV earlier than this episode, for example on I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez), which is freaking awesome.
Plus, where else will you get Spock singing? (Oh wait, I forgot about Leonard Nimoy and his bizarre Bilbo Baggins song)
Favorite Movie (with the Original Cast, because DAMN I love First Contact so much)?
It’s a tough call. I’m being a bitch and calling it a tie between Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
I don’t think it gets any more poignant than the death of Spock (or RAGE!Kirk). But saving the planet by bringing back humpback wales from the 20th century is freaking awesome too. I am such a sucker for time travel episodes and the ensuing shenanigans. And any time Chekov says “Nuclear Wessles”.
So…any other Star Trek fans in the house? Care to share your favorite episodes (spinoff or original recipe) or movies? We’re all ears…