5. The Enemy Within. This is: the one where a transporter malfunction splits Kirk into Good Kirk and Evil Kirk. Generally it’s a winner but two things in particular about this episode mark Trek’s age. (I mean, there’s a lot about every episode that’s dated, but most of that stuff I’m fine with.) The first and foremost is pacing. Most every episode suffers from slow pacing, at least measured in 2012 TV time, when we simply expect quick pacing and multi-threaded storylines. Trek usually has one storyline and takes its time with it. Not to mention that that shows have a 50-minute running time, and us modern kids are conditioned to like 45 minutes max. I knew I was in trouble with this one when they knew that there was a good an evil Kirk running around at we were only 12 minutes in. “What are they going to DO for the next 38 minutes?” I thought. Turns out, about 20 minutes’ worth of stuff. It’s one thing to be slow, it’s another when it doesn’t even service the story. There was a serious time crisis going down with dudes freezing on a planet’s surface but they kept having measured conversations about how they might resolve it at some point. Sulu was had to be furious if he ever read the ship’s logs later on. Moving on, the second sign of age is something that’s cropped up in a few other episodes, namely “The Deadly Years” (the one where they all get old), the absolute respect of Captain Kirk’s authority. Sure, he’s the Captain and you’re supposed to obey him at all times, even if his motivations don’t immediately make sense. But another thing the modern era has ruined in us kids is such an absolute respect. Way fewer of us ever served in the armed forces, and we’ve all seen way too many movies about corrupt authority or mutinies. It doesn’t make any sense to me that Kirk would remain in charge when he’s clearly enfeebled or split into two separate humans, one of which is evil. But the clear message is that even then, crossing the line of thinking he’s incapable of command is forbidden and rather scandalous. “The Deadly Years” wasted a huge chunk of time holding a hearing about it. They don’t spend that kind of time here, but there are still a lot of wasted words spent trying to get everyone to feel that maybe, you know, it’s OK if Kirk steps down for a little while during the time when his brain doesn’t work. Maybe another sign of age here, though again it’s just sort of the way TV was I guess, is that it’s yet another episode with kinda OK sexual harassment. This is, what, the third episode out of five so far where Yeoman Rand is relentlessly harangued? Evil Kirk is responsible this time around, assaulting her in her own quarters. She fights him off but is obviously rattled by it, of course. Only the show has no idea how to resolve things. Maybe a conversation between Rand and Kirk where she makes it clear it was very upsetting and she knows it wasn’t really Kirk, but all the same, if he could steer clear for a while, that would be polite. No, we don’t get that. Instead we get a weird line from Spock after all is settled: “The imposter had some very interesting qualities, wouldn’t you say, Yeoman?” What? Is this conversation? Is this even legal? Is he suggesting that Kirk’s crazed animal-man side is something girls should dig? That line is baffling. (Memory Alpha has a bit about how the actress who played Rand agrees.) Killer Spock line:”If I seem insensitive to what you’re going through, understand, it’s the way I am.” Overall: obviously some flaws but a solid story that covers a lot of ground. 4 out of 5.
- Shatner Showcase
- Enemy allowed easy access to highly sensitive area of the ship
- Highly experimental plan with low probability of success somehow works anyway
6. Mudd’s Women. Well, that last episode had some sexist overtones, hopefully this next one will have a more progressive attitude…aw, hell. TOS, for all your progressive views on race and multiculturalism and peace, you just really don’t know what to do with yourself in the realm of sexual equality. Sure, women can have real jobs on starships (not captain though!) if they’re into that sort of thing but otherwise they’re pretty cool with being sold as wives to miners on desolate wasteland planets. Somehow this episode has a pretty positive reputation, but I didn’t like it much. There’s one good sci-fi idea of a youth-preserving drug, but the direction they take it is very odd, and mostly I see this one as wasted potential. It should be kind of funny, but it isn’t. It should be kind of character-driven surrounding Mudd and the women, but it isn’t that either. Mudd is memorable but feels like he should be more of a lovable rapscallion (a la Cyrano Jones from “The Trouble With Tribbles”) but instead he’s just kind of a sleazebag. I think this is one that people can remember like The One Where They All Get Old or The One Where They Are 1920s Chicago Gangsters, where the fact that it’s memorable must mean it’s good, but that’s really not the case. I do like one bit of trivia about it–it was one of the very first episodes produced and was under consideration as the “second” pilot. But NBC postponed airing it because they were concerned about its central theme of (per Memory Alpha and Inside Star Trek) “selling women throughout the galaxy” and the guest stars being “an intergalactic pimp” and “three space hookers”. But by the sixth episode I guess that was fine. Killer Spock line: “I’m happy the affair is over. A most annoying emotional episode.” Overall: 2 out of 5.
- Kirk hits it off with alien babe
- “Doctor” McCoy admits he has no idea how Vulcan physiology works
- Lighthearted banter to close episode
7. What are Little Girls Made Of? Watching the third season before this one again gets weird because I’ve seen the main theme presented here before in “Requiem for Methuselah,” only it actually came much later in the series. I thought it was more or less fresh then, and stale now, but I’m backwards. I’m not really worried about spoilers here, so to get it out in the open, there’s a genius whose secret (!!!) is that all his companions are robots he built. Though it is handled differently. In “Methuselah” it’s a big reveal that the cute companion girl is a robot – only after Kirk is in love with her! Oh no! No man should be in love with a machine! Here, we learn what’s up really early on so Kirk can rhapsodize about human superiority over machines, etc., and then he smooches on the robot girl anyway retroactively undercutting every theme and plot point of both episodes. Well anyway, I liked “Methuselah” and I liked this episode. Both are fertile ground for Trek’s overarching theme of humans being totally the best life ever. This one had some extra humor, good pacing, and generally a well-told story, thought it had its wacky moments. For example, of all the sci-fi ways to make android copies of humans, surely having the human lay on a spinning table until the android is generated is the oddest. Maybe, like, angular momentum distills out one’s genetics, if it’s done right, or something. I also liked how the way to distinguish which of the Kirk copies was the real one was for the android girl to offer him a kiss. When turned down, she instantly knows she’s talking to a lifeless android (Real Kirk never turns down a kiss) and vaporizes it. I’ll note there was one major flaw in the whole scheme. Korby loves his whole android-building scheme because he claims you become immortal. Duplication isn’t immortality, guy. That’s great for my duplicate if it lives on forever, but it’s not like that does anything for me. A guy who was clever enough to make clones using a giant merry-go-round never thought of this? Killer Spock line: “Frankly I was rather dismayed by your use of the term ‘half-breed,’ Captain. You must admit it was an unsophisticated expression.” Overall: 4 out of 5.
- Anonymous redshirt killed
- Kirk hits it off with alien babe
- Computers can be buggered by logical traps
- The indomitable human spirit conquers all
8. Miri. I’m not really calling some of the common setups in Trek “tropes.” Even though they probably are. Here we have feral space kids. The last one we had androids. I think they’re more like themes, though. Especially in the sixties, maybe. Everyone was scared about creeping technology and the crazy younger generation. (Not like today! Those fears are totally in the past now!) And AGAIN, a recycled plot from the third season emerges. “Miri” parallels “And the Children Shall Lead.” This time I think the original is much better, as does most of the internet, I think. Though still, the whole idea of crazy space kids is never all that good. At least this time they have a leader in swell character actor Michael J. Pollard, and a pretty well-developed character in Miri. The show is very effective an conveying the crew’s frustration in trying to solve a medical mystery, under deadline, while also having to babysit. It really actually works quite well, and succeeds where ATCSL fails. I can’t find the exact quote or information anymore, but I recall from when I watched ATCSL that third-season producer Fred Freiberger thought his kid episode was good and “Miri” was terrible, and it gave me something to think about as I watched the two seasons. I’ve already ripped on Fred enough in third-season reviews, but man was he wrong, and man did he make some lousy Trek. Killer Spock line: “It could be a beakerful of death.” Overall: 4 out of 5.
- Anonymous redshirt killed No wait! They didn’t die! These were the luckiest redshirts ever, they avoided disease and killer children for weeks
- Badger alien until you get what you want