Photo courtesy of They Boldly Went: “DeForest Kelley, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy pretend that hand phasers are electric shavers while filming ‘Operation: Annihilate!’ on the TRW Campus in Redondo Beach, CA.”
As I continue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of “Star Trek,” here are some golden moments from many of my favorite episodes from the TV series. As soon as I have finished watching the six movies starring the show’s original cast, I shall have a new post ready with more superb clips.
We begin with the beloved catchphrase of Dr. Leonard McCoy, better known as Bones: “I’m a doctor, not a [insert other profession/object].”
“Charlie X” [S1 E2] – There are some rooms on the Starship Enterprise which we only saw once or twice; one such place is the exercise area, in which Captain Kirk attempts to show a confused teenage passenger, Charlie (played by Robert Walker, Jr.), how to work off his teen angst with some martial arts-lite moves. Kirk’s training tips are not particularly helpful, but it’s an awful lot of fun watching William Shatner roll around wearing what appear to be several layers of Spanx.
“The Naked Time” [S1 E4] – The crew is overwhelmed by an unknown germ which strips them of their inhibitions, like a kind of extraterrestrial alcohol. Sulu believes he is a dashing swordsman – while pursuing Uhura, he makes the mistake of calling her a “fair maiden,” to which she replies, “sorry, neither!” – and Spock’s surge of emotion causes a plethora of problems when he interacts with Captain Kirk.
“The Corbomite Maneuver” [S1 E8] – But first, the tranya. The Enterprise is held in the orbital grip of a frighteningly powerful planet, which appears to be ruled by a grotesque entity (described in one fan’s review as “Nosferatu lying on the bottom of a swimming pool”). The mysterious alien scares the living bejesus out of everyone – or maybe just me – for the entire episode but when Kirk finally beams over to the planet, it turns out that the supreme being he saw was merely a puppet (albeit a very creepy one) and the actual leader is an adult who looks like a small child… played by seven-year-old Clint Howard (Ron’s younger brother).
“Shore Leave” [S1 E15] – Oh, McCoy, you old rascal. Flirtation is usually Captain Kirk’s department, but in this episode our favorite country doctor gets to stroll through a meadow with a lovely young shipmate, Yeoman Tonia Barrows (Emily Banks).
“This Side of Paradise” [S1 E24] – A trip to a utopian colony, which is covered in flowers that spurt magical pollen, allows Spock to feel emotion and fall in love with Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland). Truly, the joys of seeing Spock grinning as he hangs from a tree like a sloth are boundless. In the end, however, he realizes that he must revert to his stoic Vulcan ways and return to the Enterprise. Spock’s recovery from emotion is heartbreaking to watch, culminating in a tearful goodbye between him and Leila. The dialogue by scriptwriter Dorothy (“D.C.”) Fontana’s gives us one of Spock’s best lines: “If there are self-made purgatories – and we all have to live in them – mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”
“The Devil in the Dark” [S1 E25] – An underground mining colony is terrorized by a monster which resembles an old pizza on top of a pile of meatballs. Our favorite Vulcan does a mind-meld with the creature, which we learn is called a Horta. Leonard Nimoy praised the episode, saying that “it was about the way we tend to demonize the things that we don’t know or understand or the people that we don’t know or understand.” And, as we learn at the episode’s end, the Horta also has impeccable taste.
“The City on the Edge of Forever” [S1 E28] – Often cited as the all-time greatest “Star Trek” episode, “City” has a plot that would take me far too long to explain, but there are two things which are clear: 1) Spock wears a terrific hat to hide his ears, and 2) the ending – in which Kirk must sacrifice the woman he loves, Sister Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), because whether she lives or dies in 1930 will alter the rest of human history – is one of the saddest of the show’s run.
“Operation — Annihilate!” [S1 E29] – Attack of the flying latkes!
“I, Mudd” [S2 E8] – For sheer comic craziness, no episode can ever top “I, Mudd.” Captain Kirk and his crew outwit a bunch of androids by acting bizarrely; the illogical actions promptly fry the robots’ brains. I guess that the Academy offered improv classes in addition to all the other Starfleet requirements.
“Wolf in the Fold” [S2 E14] – Captain Kirk should probably know better than to invite Spock to a weird outer space nightclub.
“The Trouble with Tribbles” [S2 E15] – Here we witness one of William Shatner’s most memorable moments on the “Star Trek”: Captain Kirk mired in a swamp of little Tribbles, a number of the fuzzy beasties being thrown directly at Shatner’s head by the show’s crew.
“A Piece of the Action” [S2 E17] – On the fly, Captain Kirk (stuck with Spock and Dr. McCoy in a world modeled on 1920s Chicago) improvises a card game to distract his captors: “Fizzbin.” My personal favorite touch in this gem of a scene: when Kirk explains the astronomical odds of getting a “Royal Fizzbin” hand, Spock nods and mouths “astronomical” in agreement.
“Return to Tomorrow” [S2 E20] – Ancient alien consciousnesses want to inhabit the “receptacle” bodies of Kirk, Spock and Dr. Ann Mulhall (Diana Muldaur) so that the long-dormant beings may live again? Sure, what harm could there be in that? William Shatner does some wonderfully strange/hammy gesticulating when one of the entities, Sargon, occupies his mind for the first time; later, Shatner delivers one of Captain Kirk’s greatest monologues when he reminds his shipmates of the crucial scientific and philosophical imperatives which give meaning to the Enterprise’s intergalactic explorations.
P.S. Fun fact: Sargon is voiced by James “Scotty” Doohan (minus the Aberdeen burr, obviously).
“Patterns of Force” [S2 E21] – Surely the “Nazis in Space” episode, one of the weirdest concepts of the series, deserves an extra commendation for being the only episode of the series in which Spock appears shirtless. (Not to be outdone, Captain Kirk’s always-waxed upper half appears sans clothing in the same scenes.)
“By Any Other Name” [S2 E22] – Scotty is one of my favorite characters; I just adore James Doohan. One of Scotty’s finest showcases is in this episode from the tail end of season two, in which he does his best to weaken an alien intruder by getting him super drunk. Bonus – some delightful decor: the kilt and bagpipes on display in Scotty’s quarters.
“Requiem for Methuselah” [S3 E19] – Where did Spock learn to play the piano? Surely such an endeavor would not be a normal activity on Vulcan since the performance of music requires the engagement of emotion. In any case, apparently Spock is well-versed in Brahms.
“The Way to Eden” [S3 E20] – This is a much-maligned episode (who in their right mind would want to see Captain Kirk deal with space hippies?), but I have a real weakness for its goofy musical scenes. Charles Napier, as an enthusiastic peace-seeker named Adam, leads an embarrassing anthem for his group, but the true joy comes later when Spock joins in with some tuneage from his Vulcan lyre. Far out, man.