You know Star Trek, or at least you know of it. It all started with the original series, back in the 1960s. Even though it has been rerun countless times since, maybe you’ve never bothered with it. Or maybe you’ve never understood what the fuss was about, since you only saw the episode titled “Spock’s Brain” and saw “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” on Showtime. Now that all of the original series is streaming on Netflix (again), this is your chance! Check out the following Five episodes and you will see why the show has gone down as one of the greatest of all time.
NOTE: this is really not a “best of” list. If that were the point seasoned fans would see some glaring omissions (“City on the Edge of Forever” anyone?) The point is to present a few episodes that will get viewers who may not be familiar with the show up to speed, and showcase how great it can be.
Balance Of Terror:
The introduction of the Romulans, the “cloaking device” and starship combat as naval warfare. Captain Kirk and his Romulan counterpoint’s cat and mouse game is as riveting as any starship battles in the series, and framing it as a classic submarine battle/chase is inspired.
Why it is good for newbies: This is classic Kirk. He is an awesome strategist, and a master trap layer. The Vulcan/Romulan relationship and neutral zone are all clearly laid out here. And it’s bad-ass: Straight up naval warfare? We don’t get a purer distillation at any point in Star Trek. Plus we get to learn a little something about bigotry along the way, which is of course another hallmark of the show.
Spock’s got the fever, and needs to make an interstellar booty call on Vulcan. BUT AT WHAT COST?!?! Pon Farr has come home to roost, just as it does every seven years, and Spock goes out of his vulcan mind. The Enterprise heads on to Spock’s planet, but his mate has some tricks up her sleeve.
Why it is good for newbies: We get to learn more about Vulcans. The Kirk, Spock, Bones dynamic is showcased very nicely in this episode. The music! Alexander Courage’s Star Trek main theme is known to everyone, but the music in this episode is also some of the best known from the original series.
A transporter accident throws Kirk and his landing party in to a parallel dimension’s enterprise, and Spock has a goatee. The earth runs an evil “Terran Empire”, where Kirk and his friends must try to blend in or be executed. Can they survive the mirror Enterprise , and escape the universe itself?
Why it is good for newbies: This is the episode that introduced millions to the concept of parallel universes, and the fact that evil twins always have goatees. The “Mirror Universe” gets revisited several times in other Star Trek series, most notably in Deep Space Nine, and the origin is as much fun as any other trip. Did I mention Spock wears a goatee?
The Doomsday Machine:
Entire planets have been destroyed. It turns out a giant ice cream cone from hell is responsible. A “doomsday machine” from another galaxy is heading toward the most densely populated part of ours. Matthew Decker, The commander of a doomed starship, and the Enterprise crew race to stop the massive agent of destruction.
Why it is good for newbies: OK, I may be biased here, because as a kid, this episode scared the hell out of me. To this day I’m a sucker for a unstoppable killing machine story. The tension of this episode is unmatched. This wrote the book on Star Trek “by skin or your teeth” escapes.
The Trouble With Tribbles:
The Enterprise travels to space station K7 to defend some grain from the insidious Klingons, and their constant desires to start bar fights. Soon enough K7 and the Enterprise are overrun by tribbles, cute little fuzzballs that reproduce at an extraordinary rate. Can Kirk figure out how to get rid of these annoying creatures? The fate of a planet hangs in the balance.
Why it is good for newbies: Some people might think this is slight stuff for this list, and it is light fare to be sure. But this episode has two things going for it that none of the others here have: light hearted fun, and Klingons. They are THE main antagonists of the original series, so Klingons had to show up somewhere on this list.
And since Star Trek isn’t always a grim affair, this is a classic example of the show just having fun. I recently showed this one to my two girls (10 and 8 years old) and they loved it. Two new fans were born.
There you have it. The best original Star Trek episodes for new viewers, according to Sci-Guy-Jim at least. What do you think? Am I way off base here? Let us know!