Star Trek Abridged: Season One Part II
Welcome to part 2 of “Star Trek: Abridged.” This series is where Geek Melee gives you what William Goldman would call “the ‘good parts’ version” of the classic Trek run. If you’re a casual fan of the new movies looking to dip your toe in the Trek-verse, this is the series for you.
Note this is the second part of the series. If you’d like to start from the beginning, check out the previous article “Star Trek Abridged: Season One Part 1.” If not, then just be aware that this list proceeds in episode production order, as opposed to the order these episodes originally aired. Oh, and all these episodes are currently streaming on Netflix!
10) Episode 18, “Arena”
One of the most “Star Trek” episodes of all Star Trek. An alien race wipes out an Earth colony, and Kirk believes the attack is the precursor to an invasion. He hurls the Enterprise into a chase with an alien ship, but soon the conflict turns intimate. This episode is about much more than defeating your enemy, however. Of course Kirk’s delightfully cheesy fight with the Gorn is iconic for the show. But this episode is also known for its message of understanding as an alternative to conflict. As opposed to, you know, jumping a lot of stuff with a motorcycle, as more recent Trek movies are wont to do.
11) Episode 21, “Return of the Archons”
“Oh! I know what this is! You’ve been able to sustain world peace because you have one night a year where you all run around robbing and murdering each other without consequence!” Sure, Rick and Morty were spoofing 2013’s The Purge, but where do you think The Purge got it?
In “Return of the Archons,” Kirk & co investigate how Lieutenant Sulu was brainwashed on a strange planet. There is actually not much of the actual “Festival” to this episode, but the show doesn’t end until Kirk has completed another famous Trek-ism. I won’t spoil it here, but as to the rest of the episode, the writing is good, the acting is enjoyable, and the plot is a fantastic exploration of a “perfect” society.
12) Episode 23, “A Taste of Armageddon.”
Another “perfect” society, but this episode is less an examination of an imaginary culture and more a hard look at our own species. A Federation diplomat forces the Enterprise to make contact with an alien planet with a giant “No Trespassing” sign. Soon the entire crew becomes victims of a very unusual war.
13) Episode 22, “Space Seed”
Ah, the big one. If you watch only one episode from this list – or, indeed, maybe from the entire original Star Trek series – let it be this one. This is the episode which introduces one of the original series’ most villainous adversaries, Khan.
As Mr. Spock explained to his younger, alternate-timeline counterpart in Star Trek Into Darkness, “Khan Noonien Singh is the most dangerous adversary the Enterprise ever faced. He is brilliant, ruthless and he will not hesitate to kill every single one of you.” Damn.
As much of a geek icon as he is, Bernard “Dr. Sherlock Strange” Cumberbatch’s smugly superior version of Khan in that movie is no match for Ricardo Montalban’s original dominating performance. Every scene with him and William Shatner together seems to burst out of its 60’s TV trappings as these two titans of their eras relentlessly test each other. It is a battle of wills, wits, and philosophies as worth seeing as anything the Star Trek brand has ever put out.
Plus, it’s great set-up for the greatest Trek movie of all time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
14) Episode 24, “This Side of Paradise.”
The Enterprise discovers a human colony where they expected only dead bodies. While trying to puzzle out the mystery of how the colony’s simplistic agrarian inhabitants are surviving deadly cosmic rays, a new mystery appears – Spock is smiling.
The Enterprise is tearing down “perfect” societies all over this list, it seems! Anyway, this episode is not just a great little mystery, but a wonderful episode for Spock actor Leonard Nimoy, who gets to take the Vulcan science officer to emotional places he very rarely gets to go. Possibly Spock’s best episode of the first season.
15) Episode 25, “Devil in the Dark”
The Enterprise crew grab their Level 2 weapons and go dungeon crawling. The dungeon boss: a monster that’s been killing the miners on an important mining colony. But Spock believes there’s more to the situation than they yet understand.
This episode is definitely more of that Star Trek ethos I touted so much in the first article in this series. The crew doesn’t look at things and just see an enemy to fight, but a situation to resolve. This may be one of the best episodes for understanding what Star Trek is really all about.
16) Episode 26, “Errand of Mercy”
Aw yeah. Not only have we had Romulans and Khan this season, now we have a third classic Trek enemy. They’re called the Klingons. Maybe you’ve heard of them.
Tailored from the beginning to be the opposite of the Federation, they are basically the mirror universe Trek crew brought to life. Where the Federation seeks cooperation and mutual progress, the Klingons want only to conquer. It’s like Nelson Mandela meeting Conan the Barbarian, except in this case, Mandela has lasers.
In this episode, Kirk struggles to convince a planet of pacifist aliens to let the Federation help them against a coming Klingon invasion.
17) Episode 28, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
I said earlier that “Space Seed” was the must-watch episode of the first season, but I may have spoken too soon. “City on the Edge of Forever” is likely the best-written episode of the entire original Star Trek run. Penned by celebrated sci-fi scribe Harlan Ellison, this episode is perhaps the most personal and powerful of any in the show.
It starts with a medical accident driving Dr. “Bones” McCoy insane. Kirk and Spock chase him through a time portal back to the United States’ Depression era, where they must undo the damage Bones has done to the timeline. Seriously, I may have already said too much. If you want to see what Trek can do at its dramatic best, see this episode.