Gene Roddenberry was a master storyteller and like his contemporary Rod Serling his stories were rich in imagery and metaphor. Both wrote fascinating and relevant morality tales couched in a sci-fi/fantasy setting, primarily so they could tackle touchy subjects that TV executives were not ready to handle straight on at the time. Even some of the Star Trek TOS story titles were beautifully poetic, for example this one - Is There In Truth No Beauty? Or how about this one - For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky. I've written several poems with Star Trek themes, most notably my TOS mini-script which I have yet to repost.
Below are my top ten episode choices for classic Star Trek. Some of the choices may surprise you. Why not add your comment on what you liked or didn't like about the show. Feel free to add your opinion on a classic episode you think I missed that should have been included. In the spirit of David Letterman's top ten lists, they are in order from last to first.
10. Day Of The Dove
A malevolent alien force feeds on violent emotions and invades Enterprise, causing conflict between the crew and the Klingons. In the end they join forces to defeat their common enemy. I like this one because I believe there are similar evil forces working behind the scenes today causing mayhem on earth.
9. Doomsday Machine
William Campbell, the guest star gives a riveting performance as a Federation captain gone rogue. The destructive machine reeking havoc in space resembles a large horn of plenty, but if you can look past that this one has plenty of drama.
8. Devil In The Dark
The crew visits a mining facility on an alien world because men are being killed by a creature that can move through rock like we move through air. What is initially viewed as a terrible murderous monster in reality is only a mother trying to protect her young. Spock does a memorable mind-meld with the creature to try and understand it.
7. Where No Man Has Gone Before
Wonderful supporting actors in this early episode. A crew mate who is also a close friend of Kirk develops godlike qualities and in the end Kirk must destroy his friend to save Enterprise.
You won't find this one on some top ten lists but to me it's classic Trek, with a nod to the movie Andromeda Strain. The crew arrive on a planet where all the adults are dead, leaving only a handful of children to live as scavengers. To make matters worse, the crew themselves catch the virus that killed the others. It's a race against time to develop a cure before it's too late.
5. Amok Time
This is the first reference to the Vulcan pon farr, a life event in which a male Vulcan must find a mate (rather quickly it seems) or die. We get more insight into Spock as well as his home world which looks really cool, though I've often pondered why the Vulcan's, who are advanced space travellers, chose to live like cave dwellers. Anyway Spock almost kills Kirk in a hormonal rage only to find out the girl he was betrothed to from youth has already chosen someone else. Bummer.
4. Space Seed
Two words - Ricardo Montalban. His mere presence elevated this episode so much that, as you all know, he was brought back again in the second Star Trek movie, Wrath of Khan. A group of supermen are brought out of stasis after several hundred years and eventually try to take over the Enterprise.
3. All Our Yesterdays
Season three is fairly universally panned due to budget cuts and Roddenberry's legendary burnout, but there are still some outstanding episodes to be found. This gem has some classic sci-fi story elements, an exploding star, a people on the verge of extinction, time travel, etc. And Spock falls in love (though this is not the first time). Mariette Hartley does a wonderful acting job as Spock's love interest.
2. City On The Edge Of Forever
This classic is number one on most lists and for good reason. In this one Kirk falls in love (isn't he always?). City on the Edge is just great storytelling, written by famous sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. Interestingly I have a copy of his original script. There was much controversy between Ellison and Roddenberry due to the fact that much was changed from the original script. I can tell you that, imho, Ellison's dialogue is awful and not very Star Trekky. But some of his vision would have been worthy of inclusion. I'd love to see a faithful remake.
1. The Cage/Menagerie
Not many would choose this as number one. It was the pilot episode that was infamously rejected by the brass as too heady and later incorporated into a two parter - The Menagerie. Jeffery Hunter is awesome and would have made a great captain for the franchise. Again it has some great sci-fi elements, cool looking big-headed aliens who can create illusions, a great story and a competent supporting cast including a smiling (yes, I said smiling) Mr. Spock.
Well, that's it for now folks. Enjoy the rest of your week.