Star Trek: Abridged – Season One, Part I; or, The Yeoman Rand Saga
Space. The final frontier. Unfortunately it’s a frontier which remains unknown to many, despite fifty years of broadcast. Most non-Trekkies are probably more familiar with JJ Abrams’ rebooted film series. Other Star Trek fans seem fine with it, but personally, I think it’s basically Fast and Furious in space. The most recent entry, Star Trek: Beyond, is about as serious about being a Star Trek story as Bones is about being a doctor when he’s hyped up on cordrazine. Everyone might have the same names and ranks, but Star Trek is about more than how cleverly you can kill your enemy.
I think if you want real Star Trek, you have to go back to the source. But where to begin? Welcome to the first in a multi-part series we call Star Trek: Abridged. We’ll be delivering to you the more critical and classic Trek episodes so that you can check out the what’s at the heart of these pop culture jokes you’ve been hearing over the years. Just note that just because an episode’s not on this list doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching – I hope, if you go through this list and the show strikes a chord with you, you’ll back and check them all out! (Except The Alternative Factor. Just take my word on this)
Keep in mind before we begin that the first season of Star Trek was filmed in a different order than it was aired. This was not abnormal in TV at the time, as producers would pick and choose what shows to air based on what they believed would connect best with audiences that week. The progression of the stardates at the show’s opening is a clue as to where that show falls in the production order, but not itself total proof. I think a good argument can be made that these episodes should be viewed in the order they aired, i.e. episode 1, episode 2, etc. However, I think for the new viewer it can be interesting to witness how the show organically evolved through the production of its earliest episodes.
I’ll be listing these in production order, going by the episode listing on Netflix (where these are all available to stream!).
1) Episode 4, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Despite being “Episode 4” on Netflix, this episode was actually the pilot. And it wasn’t even the first pilot – it was the second pilot, after NBC rejected the first one. Roddenberry later recycled that failed pilot for use in the two part episode at the bottom of this list, a big reason why I think new viewers should skip it. It’s on Netflix as Episode 1 (which is why every episode # on this list is one greater than its original air date. For instance, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was actually the third episode to air.
…Wait a minute. Is this going to be the whole thing? Am I just going to drop some trivia and then spoil each episode for you? You can find that anywhere on the Internet! Besides, it’s my firm belief that each episode should be a surprise to the new viewer. Star Trek is at its best, in my opinion, when you have no idea what’s coming. So just believe me when I say these are classic and important episodes, and ignore the nonsense I’m about to write in every synopsis.
2) Episode 11, “The Corbomite Manuever”
A classic episode. The crew of the Enterprise comes up against a giant lemon, and a hungover Kirk tries to figure out how to save them all from a citrus-y end. Meanwhile, Lt. Bailey hasn’t masturbated in nine days!
Seriously, when I say that Star Trek: Beyond and the other new Star Trek movies don’t properly capture the ethos of the original that makes it so timeless, episodes like this are exactly what I’m thinking of. A show about embodying your principles when it’s toughest to do so.
3) Episode 6, “Mudd’s Women”
The introduction of Harry Mudd, a colorful swindler who lands in the Enterprise‘s world of stiff-assed nerds like a blue cheese stuffed olive dropped in the world’s dryest martini. Seriously, he is great.
4) Episode 4, “The Naked Time”
The Enterprise throws the wildest party Federation space has ever seen.
I hate to reveal even this much, but this is a great episode because it just tears these characters open. Also, probably Sulu’s greatest moment in the whole series.
5) Episode 5, “The Enemy Within”
Kirk adopts a horned dog he names Dr. Sassy McFiddleskates. Pokémon Go fanatic Scotty discovers there’s a legendary bird in their space sector and fakes a transporter issue to stall for time. Sulu goes camping.
A classic Trek episode.
6) Episode 14, “Balance of Terror”
Actually no joke, one of my favorite episodes. Kirk matches wits with an elf disguised as an ancient Roman while hallucinating from okay I’m back to joking again.
7) Episode 9, “Dagger of the Mind”
Famous for being heavily referenced in the second season South Park episode “Roger Ebert Should Lay Off The Fatty Foods.” In this deep-thinking episode, Scotty wins a contest to sing the Cheesy Poofs jingle during a live television ad…wait, I think I confused myself.
Also, I hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate how I timed this screen cap for maximum mouth gape-age.
8) Episode 11, “The Menagerie, Part I”
The entire crew of the Enterprise goes to visit a zoo. Uhura falls madly in love with an orangutan. Kirk, irritated at not being allowed to ride the elephants, plans a breakout for the animals. Sulu falls into a pit and stays perfectly hidden from the animals for three days even though he’s only in the zebra exhibit.
9) Episode 12, “The Menagerie, Part II”
Literally this is just the second and third day of Sulu trying to stay hidden in the zebra exhibit. Yet another episode South Park heavily references, along with “The Menagerie, Part I,” in the eight season episode “Pre-School.” Definitely go back and watch these South Park episodes when you can understand the references!
Bet you were starting to wonder where all the green girls you’ve heard so much about were.
10) Robot Chicken “I’m A Proctologist”
Okay it’s not an actual episode of Star Trek. But it’s pretty funny anyway.