This list is for all of you interested in getting into Star Trek, but don't want to go through the hassle of watching of watching every freakin' episode. I know there is quite a bit of episodes to watch – seventy nine in the original series to be exact - many of which are not even all that great, and even some that are horrendous. This is too daunting and trying of a task. So daunting in fact, I didn't even do it. Instead I have compiled a most bizarre top ten list of the best episodes to watch. This is different than most lists in that I didn't assemble it by taking my top ten favorite episodes. Until I recently finished these episodes, I hadn't seen very many Star Trek: The Original Series episodes, (though I have seen countless Next Generation and Voyager episodes). Instead I took ten “experts”, aka Trekkies, consultation on the matter.
If you want to go into the methodology, I simply searched top ten episodes lists of the original series on the web. I then took the ten highest top ten lists giving points to each episode upon reading each list (ten points to a number one on a list, and one point to number ten on a list). The episodes with the most amount of points combined from all the lists made it. So without further ado, here is your top ten.
Synopsis: This episode is most notable for being the first Star Trek episode to showcase the shuttle craft. In this adventure a team led by Spock is sent down to an unknown planet by shuttle craft, the Galileo Seven, when beaming down isn't possible. Something goes wrong and team crash lands on the planet.
Analysis: It is probably my least favorite of the top ten episodes (fitting of its place) with some cheesy acting, scenarios, and over the top lines. Nevertheless, it gives a fascinating insight into Spock as a more fleshed out character and it is a worthy entrance into Star Trek lore.
Synopsis: One of Kirk's old friends becomes infected with a virus seemingly giving him God like power at an exponential rate. Is he becoming dangerous or isn't he? That is what the episode searches out.
Analysis: From a purely philosophical perspective, this is one of the most intriguing of all the Star Trek episodes. The episode itself might be slightly clichéd, but for its existential thoughts alone on obtaining deity level powers make it definitely worth the visit.
Synopsis: The only two part story arc in The Original Series involve a spliced up version of what was meant to be the very first pilot in Star Trek. It is a combination of getting to see a physically mangled Admiral Pike looking back into his younger life, as well as seeing Spock being put on trial from the Federation.
Analysis: The Menagerie episode might bring the biggest culture shock to those unfamiliar to Star Trek. It is one of the quirkiest, cheesiest and most bizarre of all Star Trek episodes. While extreme and a bit unorthodox, it definitely deserves a place on the list.
Synopsis: The crew gets infected with a virus that causes them to lose their inhibitions. Chaos, hilarity, and a half naked crew member sword fencing ensue.
Analysis: It's not my favorite of the episodes, but it does provide an entertaining glimpse of the crew at their most emotionally charged and bizarre.
Synopsis: Another episode of firsts, as we gets our first and definitely not last look at the Romulans. A cat and mouse game of of trying to destroy the other species ship commences.
Analysis: Star Trek was so ahead of its time. Racism is handled in the episode, not all that well albeit, but it handles it nevertheless. Spock is treated in a derogatory fashion because his Vulcan species looks very closely to the Romulans; and we obviously supposed to take from it that just because you appear like some group waging war, doesn't mean you exhibit the same hostile tendencies. The episode itself is also quite good and showcases Kirk at his most crafty.
Synopsis: This is the first episode where they come into conflict with Klingons (without bumps in their heads?! Say What?!). It is also the first introduction to the fury little creatures called Tribbles who breed faster than anything you could imagine.
Analysis: It supposed to be the funniest of all the episodes. While it doesn't reach that mark for me, it is an entertaining episode and one of the most iconic.
Synopsis: Khan!!!!! Wait. . . we don't say that yet. Though, we do get an introduction to Khan Noonien Singh, one of Star Trek's most deadly adversaries.
Analysis: This is simply a fantastic episode. Roberto Montalbon is so charismatic and imposing as Khan and his storyline is one of the most intriguing to come out of Star Trek lore. The episode laid perfect groundwork for Star Trek Wrath of Khan and gives us a look at Kirks most iconic fight moves (Spoiler Examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAWnDksru4g ).
Synopsis: Spock has to have sex or he will die! Dun, dun, dun! Yeah, that's all I got... That's what she said!
Analysis: Birds and the Bees is sort of a messy concept to be talking about on television in the sixties. This in part makes this episode revolutionary and the fact that the sexual heat and intense feeling is coming from someone so withdrawn from emotion makes this episode all the more entertaining. It is, in fact, fascinating.
Synopsis: The crew falls into a parallel reality from a transporting malfunction. There we get a look at Spock with a beard and the ship at its kookiest and most cruel.
Analysis: the first episode I had seen of this kind was In the Mirror, Darkly, a similar parallel reality story from the prequel show Enterprise. That episode was much more cheesy and less entertaining. So when I came across Mirror Mirror, I wasn't expecting a ton. That being said, I was surprisingly entertained by the episode. The characters are fresh, the story is fun, and - more than that - it is simply a great episode. Enough so, that it may just be my favorite of the the top ten from the original series.
Synopsis: Doctor Bones accidentally travels back in time and Captain Kirk and Spock must go after to prevent him from unintentionally changing the course of history. There they meet the beautiful Edith Keeler played by Joan Collins.
Analysis: There is a reason that this is on every single top ten list I searched through, including six number one spots. It is a remarkable episode of beautiful conflict, involving love, sacrifice, and the effects of pacifism. It might have worked slightly better as a two part storyline to further develop a relationship between Edith Keeler and Captain Kirk. That being said, working as just one episode, it is about as good as it gets.
Final Thoughts: Let's be perfectly honest, The Original Series can be quite cheesy, over the top, and lack a level of believability held by other Star Trek series. With that in mind, if you want to get into the series without going through all seventy nine episodes, this is where you'll want to start. Some of these on the list are fantastic. Some are just simply decent. Either way, the series is iconic and helped shape our culture. For better or worse, I'm happy they did and I hope you, dear reader, decide to watch these. You can find them at a Hulu or streaming on Netflix.
Further Thoughts For Those Thinking of Watching The Episodes: I will admit that with most series this list wouldn't work if you want to start watching it, because most programs follow a linear storyline. Just watching the a top ten would mean missing important plot points. With Star Trek, especially the original series, this isn't the case. You can jump in just about anywhere and don't have to feel like you've missed anything. That being said, I would recommend watching these episodes chronologically. A list of them in order are below:
Where No Man Has Gone Before (Season 1, Episode 3) The Naked Time (Season 1, Episode 4) The Menagerie (Season 1, Episode 11-12) Balance of Terror (Season 1, Episode 14) The Galileo Seven (Season 1, Episode 16) Space Seed (Season 1, Episode 22) City on the Edge of Forever (Season 1, Episode 28) Amok Time (Season 2, Episode 1) Mirror Mirror (Season 2, Episode 4) The Trouble with Tribbles (Season 2, Episode 15)