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Saturday, October 26, 2013


Here's a rundown of the three BEST episodes of "STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES" (as chosen by me) with commentary by a roundtable consisting of some of my distinguished Facebook friends.  (We discussed the three worst episodes HERE.)

3rd best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"Journey to Babel."

Spock's parents (Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt), lots of aliens, lots of intrigue, and a nail-biting ending. 

Guest stars Reggie Nalder and William O'Connell  play Andorians (white-haired, blue-skinned aliens with antennae), who may be responsible for sending a "kamikaze"-style attack ship after the Enterprise as it transports ambassadors (including Spock's father, Sarek) to a peace conference.
During an ambush in a corridor, Kirk (William Shatner) gets to do his stupid drop-kick move where he ends up on the floor with his back  to his opponent (and, sure enough,  gets stabbed in the back). 

Sarek, meanwhile, needs an operation and estranged-son Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is the only available blood donor--but he refuses to relieve himself  of duty while Kirk is incapacitated, leading to a dramatic scene between him and his human mother, Amanda (Wyatt).  A real "event" episode.

Todd Frye: God, it looks so good with the film restored.

James Cole: "Tellarites do not argue for any reason. They simply argue."

Porfle Popnecker: "SAH-rek of VOOL-can!"

James Cole: "Threats are illogical...and payments usually expensive."

James Cole: I actually have BOTH the original TREATMENT and Final Draft Shooting Script by D.C. Fontana - it's "fascinating". In the treatment, Spock's father was named "Ambassador Karek".

Porfle Popnecker:  I like details like that.

2nd best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"City On the Edge of Forever."

Harlan Ellison's original script was unfilmable, at least for series TV in the 60s, but what was left after Gene Roddenberry's revisions was enough to make for a bonafide Star Trek masterpiece.

 Joan Collins guests as Kirk's Depression-era heartthrob Edith Keeler, a good samaritan who runs a mission for the homeless but,  as it turns out, must die in a traffic accident in order to prevent the timeline from being drastically altered.  

Kirk, naturally, must ensure that this happens--and, needless to say, he's torn between personal feelings and duty to humanity.  Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), meanwhile,  gets to go nuts after an accidental overdose and end up causing the whole mess.

In addition to intense drama,  there are some memorable comedy bits including Kirk and Spock's run-in with a beat cop and Spock's attempts to blend in on early 20th-century Earth.

Probably the most tragic, downbeat, and powerful ending in the entire series.

Carrie Anne Betts: Absolutely!

Porfle Popnecker: A lot of Trekkers would probably choose this as THE best episode.

Carrie Anne Betts: I have a hard time rating things. This is at least in my top 2-3.

Nathan Baxter Simar: Boring ep.

Porfle Popnecker: I think you'd be in the minority on that!

Nathan Baxter Simar: I am amazed, but I can accept that. I never liked the eps where they time traveled.

Porfle Popnecker: You've never heard of what a highly revered episode this is among Trek fans? Especially followers of Ellison?

Nathan Baxter Simar: I don't care. I am honestly underwhelmed about it, and it wouldn't matter to me if the whole population of France had the other opinion.

Porfle Popnecker: There's a whole book about the evolution and history of the episode if you ever suddenly develop an interest in it.

Nathan Baxter Simar: Don't hold your breath.

Porfle Popnecker: I won't. Well, no more than usual.

Carrie Anne Betts: Ellison's a crotchety old man. I love him.

Porfle Popnecker: Me too, but I don't take his opinions seriously anymore.

John Comito: I'll have to catch this, not sure if I have but if I did it was too long ago.

John Comito: Looks great! Here's a teaser:

Porfle Popnecker: I've probably seen it at least fifty times!

James Cole: Ellison's script was rewritten by Steven Carabastos (story editor), Gene Coon, D.C. Fontana, and Gene Roddenberry.

Porfle Popnecker: I knew Gene R. had a toe in there somewhere. Enough to share Harlan's wrath, anyway.

James Cole: This is why [you should read] THESE ARE THE VOYAGES. The chapter on "City" is one of the longest - the details and memos back and forth between Bob Justman and Roddenberry and others - amazing.

Porfle Popnecker: I'll ask Santy Claus for it!

Best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"The Doomsday Machine"

My favorite episode of "Star Trek." Before we got to see starships getting smashed and crashed and exploded all the time, the wreckage of the U.S.S. Constellation was a shocking sight. (Also, having Norman Spinrad as the author wasn't too shabby.)

William Windom guests as Commodore Matt Decker, whose crew is wiped out by a planet-killing war machine left over from some ancient alien battle. He takes over the Enterprise and launches a reckless suicide attack while Kirk looks on helplessly from Decker's crippled ship, with Scotty working to get the engines running so they can intervene.

Windom gives a stellar performance with shades of both Ahab and Queeg, leading to powerful confrontations between his character and both Spock and Kirk. Some "iffy" SPFX, including shots using the actual plastic model kit of the Enterprise, now only add to the episode's retro charm.

The final countdown sequence, fueled by a magnificent Wagnerian musical score by Sol Kaplan, is the most exciting cliffhanger ending of any "Star Trek" episode.

Todd Frye: One of the best episodes. Dang it, you're making me want to go back and watch the whole series. There are a lot of episodes I haven't seen since I was a kid.

Nathan Baxter Simar: I like this one a lot, too.

James Cole: The producers originally wanted Robert Ryan but he wasn't available - lucky us. Windom was astonishing. In my top 5!

James Cole: "VEER OFF!"

Porfle Popnecker: Todd Frye -- no kidding, the only episode I have on DVD right now is the dour "Man Trap." James Cole -- that was a hard-earned veer-off, too! Robert Ryan would've been fascinating in the role, but I love William Windom.

James Cole: "If you do not veer off, I shall....blow my brains out." - Spock, from the Blooper Reel.

Porfle Popnecker: I remember how exciting it was getting to see the blooper reel!

James Cole: Me too. The blooper reels were a huge thrill back in the day.

Porfle Popnecker: I sent in for a blooper record album as well, but it was mostly just unfunny blown takes.

Harcourt Mudd: Commodore Decker is my style consultant, on my better groomed days.

Porfle Popnecker: He does seem to have "the look" down to a precise but still somehow casual science.

Fitz Fitzstephens: 

Porfle Popnecker: I loved that show! It's what turned me into a James Thurber fan!

Fitz Fitzstephens: We have much in common.

Paul Sanchez: Like several TREK episodes, the music WAS the scene burned to memory. Yes, that countdown march used in "Doomsday" (and a few others) was a fave.  Original Trek had so many well done music cues.

Porfle Popnecker: I have the musical score on cassette.

James Cole: Sol Kaplan's score is incredible - and like all the best scores for the show - themes were re-used and cues were "tracked" in later episodes.

Porfle Popnecker: Especially that distinctive "DUH-DUM, DUH-DUM, DUH-DUM"!

Porfle Popnecker: Even the transporter is given its own little theme (also reused later as in "Obsession"). And early on when Scotty's fooling around with some electronics that flare up, that gets its own musical flourish as well.

Bob Shell: I hated this episode.

Porfle Popnecker: No, you said you loved this one, remember?
Bob Shell: Oh, I thought this one was "The Dumbsday Machine." I liked this one, it was great.

Porfle Popnecker: No, that's what they would've called a "Simpsons" parody of it if they ever did one.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion!


James Coode said...

Come on. Balance of Terror! But was Shatner-like with his histrionics.

Unknown said...

I would have opted for "SPACE SEED" instead of Doomsday

J.R. Cunningham said...

Mirror, Mirror is my favorite.

Unknown said...

Number three should be "Amok Time, hands down!!!

RK said...

1 out of 3 ain't bad. Doomsday is great. City and Journeya are the worst. Illogical, space daytimes soap opera level. Check out Paradise for great acting.

Stanley said...

I'm with Simar. I may like City better than he does, but it's highly over rated in my opinion; doesn't make my top 10. Doomsday is the only one of these I would put among the top 5. However, I did enjoy reading your opinions, and respect them, though we may disagree.

Porfle Popnecker said...