These are the Episodes: My 6 episode guide to decades of Star Trek in a Day

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All the captains! All the Ships!

Dear pond readers, today we are going to boldly view what many people have viewed before: a lot of fantastic Star Trek episodes. Now, all of you readers know, I am an avid trekkie. It’s a pretty big deal to me. I grew up on Star Trek and my Barbies were captains of the Enterprise saving the universe through diplomacy and clever plans while other little girls were playing My Little Pony. Okay, I played My Little Pony too, but my ponies were as likely to be aliens on an away mission as they were to be doing horse things. I went to my first convention when I was in elementary school, I have crafted some Star Trek themed things on this blog, and I’ve written about Star Trek a couple times on the Internet before here and here. As I said, it’s a pretty big deal.

A burgeoning geek in my life doesn’t know Star Trek. She knows Game of Thrones, she knows Buffy and Angel, and her primary thing is Doctor Who but Star Trek is a big, gaping hole in her pop-culture/geek knowledge. We had a conversation one night, which consisted of her basically expressing a desire to be a better geek, and me replying, “Well then, you need a little knowledge of Star Trek,” to which she agreed but said, “How?” Challenge accepted! I offered to be her Boothby on a voyage through decades of Star Trek and I have been agonizing for weeks over a viewing list to plan our Star Trek day. Now, life happens and I don’t know if we’re actually ever going to do this amazing Star Trek marathon, but, why let all my pondering go to waste? You, dear readers, might know people or be people who want to be introduced to Star Trek and I, as your friendly neighborhood trekkie-in-the-pond, will help you make it so.

I have chosen one episode from each of the Star Trek series to appear on television and I propose watching them in order. Thanks to streaming platforms, you can stream all of the series very easily and access should hopefully be straightforward for most people. Choosing an episode, one single episode from each show, was pretty hard. I decided that what was most important wasn’t necessarily to select my favorite episode or a fan favorite but rather to showcase an episode that met the following criteria:

  • It has to be stand-alone.
    • No two-parters or something that is part of an ongoing story arc because a completely uninitiated neophyte needs to be able to get what is happening.
  • It has to be main storyline continuity in the primary universe.
    • As awesome as the Mirror-Universe is, as entertaining as parallel dimension/timey-wimey stuff can be, and as popular as the J.J. Abrams movies are, they are the exceptions, the outliers that are only possible because there is a main-universe continuity. Also, I don’t think an episode like “Mirror, Mirror,” has any resonance or impact if you are a newbie who is totally unfamiliar with the characters. A novice would only be able to appreciate the goatees and, fantastic as they are, that’s just not enough.
  • The episode must represent the soul and ethic of Star Trek as well as the unique strengths of that series.
    • Now I freely admit that this is extremely subjective. If you get a roomful of Trekkies together, you will not only be with a lot of nifty people, but you will also get a roomful of subtly different, unique points of view on what the soul of Star Trek is and that is just fine. Also, not all of the series are equally loved. Each series has its fans and good points but there are strong, divergent opinions about them all.To me, and I think to a lot of people, the soul of Star Trek lies in exploring the universe and the human condition through dynamic storytelling, strong characterization, and a native positivity about humanity. Star Trek is about big, knotty ideas that can only be grappled with in a science fiction setting. The ethics of Star Trek also always seem to come back to respect, compassion, and the scientific ideal of an open-mind alive to wonder but full of questions. The Vulcan mantra of IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations really underlies the principles of the United Federation of Planets and its Starfleet’s Prime Directive of non-interference. What would humanity do with replicators and faster than light travel? Some people would say, something absolutely dreadful but, lucky for everyone, Gene Roddenberry thought humans were better than that and decided to tell that story.

      Does the show always manage to pull off all this high-minded idealism? No, of course not. There are all sorts of episodes across all of the series that fall short with the only silver lining being somebody takes their shirt off or there is some kick ass special effects sequence. That’s okay. The fact that over diverse series across many decades with different writers, show runners, actors, and directors whatever Star Trek is on TV at the time actually did pull off idealism repeatedly is extraordinary.

      Star Trek changed television forever and it started cult fandom. More than that though, Star Trek, with its positive vision of a better tomorrow achieved by the work and hope of ordinary people, inspired, and continues to inspire, a lot of people to be the best version of themselves and to create an extraordinary future that is already happening right now. The fact that a fictional show achieved that is pretty blooming amazing but then, a good story can and clearly does, change the world. So, for me, picking the episodes that best live up to what Star Trek represents, while challenging, is a privilege.

       

Below I have written the series, the episode title, the season, episode number, and a short blurb of why I picked that episode. For the bonus viewing, I am including an episode from Star Trek: the Animated Series as well as the fabulous documentary, Trekkies with Denise Crosby. I have written blurbs for both as well. All told, this amounts to about eight hours of viewing. If we ever manage to do this marathon, I plan to question my friend about her reaction and post a sequel to this blog entry with an edited version of the discussion. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, these are the episodes:

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Romulan warbird from “Balance of Terror”

  • Star Trek: the Original Series: “Balance of Terror” Season 1, Episode 14This episode has everything: fabulous writing that grapples with contemporary socio-political issues, intense character moments, and some thrilling action. The performances, especially guest star Mark Leonard and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, are really something special. And that final scene? Be still my nerdly heart! It’s a good episode, especially when you think about the world of the 1960s with all that Cold War tension. ST:TOS really excels at confronting issues of race, prejudice, and the difficulties of maintaining peace with warring neighbors throughout its three season run; this episode is a great example.

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    The computer has a sense of humor.

  • Star Trek the Animated Series: “The Practical Joker” Season 2, Episode 3
    The Animated Series is awkwardly placed in Star Trek.  It is officially licensed, it includes the same voice talent, many of the same writers from the live show write episodes, and some things from the animated series went on to influence the rest of the shows but…it is not canon. Technically, by my own rules, this series shouldn’t be in this viewing day because it is not main storyline. But, given all of the above positives added to the creative renderings of aliens impossible to show on live TV, and the bigger parts given to supporting characters, particularly women, I just can’t help but really love this series. Also, the cheesy animation is entertaining in its own right. Therefore I declare this to be Bonus Viewing! “The Practical Joker” features the “Rec Room,” an early use of holographic technology without which we wouldn’t have all sorts of awesome adventures in other series. I also think showing the pitfalls of the technology that makes this future possible in a comedic way is fun sci-fi.

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    Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!

  • Star Trek: the Next Generation: “Darmok” Season 5, Episode 2
    A fan favorite and a personal favorite, “Darmok,” is about the overwhelming importance of communication and the lengths a committed diplomat will go to make sure that connection is made. “Darmok” also showcases the universal importance of Stories in a very compelling way. It inspired me to read Gilgamesh, actually (you’ll understand why if you watch the episode). This episode has great action, characterization, and more than a few stellar lines by Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. Diplomacy over violence is one of the big points of Star Trek, and Picard’s Enterprise does it so well. Even though this episode is primarily a Picard vehicle, you get to see his crew working as a team to help him through a pretty unique first contact and considering how amazing his crew is, that’s important.

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    Major Kira and an interesting Cardassian visitor from “Duet”

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Duet” Season 1, Episode 18
    Deep Space Nine grappled with the messy complications of war in all its stages: before, during, and after. Through the clean-up of Bajor post-Cardassian occupation and with the Dominion invasion it does this messy job very well with a stellar cast of characters who undergo tremendous growth over the course of the show. I think “Duet” encapsulates all of these themes while showcasing the powerful Major Kira Nerys at the beginning of her journey. Major Kira has some understandable issues with Cardassians and this episode forces her to confront them but it is still a stand-alone, you get all the exposition you need within the first few minutes. Fans generally hate on the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine. While I agree that the show didn’t find its stride until season four, I think there were still a lot of good episodes with compelling stories in the first three seasons and that a show needs time to build momentum, especially a show with a big ensemble cast.

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    Voyager in orbit from “Blink of an Eye”

  • Star Trek: Voyager: “Blink of an Eye” Season 6, Episode 12
    The Prime Directive states that Starfleet personnel are prohibited from interfering in the development of other civilizations. It is their highest principle and it can be pretty hard to hold up sometimes, but what do you do when you’re influencing a civilization and you didn’t know it? This is the main question of this episode and is an excellent showcase for the strengths of Voyager. Within Star Trek the series frequently explores difficult ethical questions, especially when the Prime Directive is in play, and I think that tends to be when the franchise is at its best. The premise of Voyager, a ship lost and alone literally hundreds of years of travel away from allies, particularly lends itself to questions of morality versus pragmatics, pushing the boundaries a little on all those high-ideals Star Trek is known for. But, Voyager has a lot of haters, I used to be a doubter, but I liked the show overall when I got to re-watch it on streaming. I loved the ensemble cast, especially B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, and I liked Captain Janeway a lot. Voyager is definitely worth a second look.

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    Trip and the Cogenitor from “The Cogenitor”

  • Star Trek: Enterprise: “The Cogenitor” Season 2,  Episode 22
    Speaking of the Prime Directive, this is an episode that explores why a powerful, wanna-be-technologically-sophisticated race of explorers might need a rule like that if they are going to go star-hopping. Again, more big questions with good storytelling and the plucky ensemble cast of Enterprise exploring the universe. The premise of Enterprise is that it chronicles the beginning of humanity’s voyage to the stars before the United Federation of Planets was founded. Like Voyager, Enterprise also has a lot of haters, and I also used to be one. But, after re-watching the show, I realized that I let prequel prejudice color my judgment. “Why do we need a prequel? Who needs prequels, anyway?” <–younger, more nerd-rage-y, Ellen. Well, this episode actually gives a good answer to that rather petulant question. Enterprise has its ups and downs, I think it was really hitting its stride in its last season, but this episode is definitely one of the ups.

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    The box cover of “Trekkies”

  • Bonus Viewing: Trekkies (1997)
    The fan culture of Star Trek has a life and significance unto itself, which Denise Crosby sets out to document with love and humor in Trekkies. I think this documentary is splendid. Crosby catches everything from the ridiculous to the affecting as she travels the U.S.A. talking to trekkies of all walks of life. Who knows? Maybe if my geek friend winds up interested in watching more Star Trek, she might even watch the sequel with me another day.

That concludes this briefing. I devised an entire Star Trek themed menu to sustain hungry nerds for almost eight hours of viewing. Hopefully, I will get the chance to cook that menu and post pictures of the out-of-this-world tastiness in a future log entry…er…blog post. Please, leave a comment below with your thoughts on my episode choices in specific, Star Trek in general, or even just your ideas on how you would eat Klingon gagh. Maybe with chocolate? Or Romulan Ale? Hailing frequencies are open! Anyway, thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers; live long and prosper.

 

All images were found using a Google image search, when I remembered to I linked to the Google Image.

 

P.S. If you want to watch some Star Trek now AND support a Trekkie blogger you like, you can pick up some Star Trek using these links: Star Trek: The Complete Original Series (Seasons 1-3) [Blu-ray]; Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Series [Blu-ray]; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Complete Series; Star Trek Voyager: The Complete Series; Star Trek: Enterprise: The Full Journey – The Complete Series Collection box Set [Blu-ray]; STAR TREK-ANIMATED SERIES-ANIMATED ADV OF GENE R(DVD)(4DISCS) and as a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, I will earn a small fee. Thanks for your support!

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13 thoughts on “These are the Episodes: My 6 episode guide to decades of Star Trek in a Day

  1. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    I have no issues with your choices. They are excellent. And I am impressed at your ability to weed it down like that. So many eps, so little time!

    I need to return to Enterprise. I went in eager to love it, and got bogged down by Archer-Angst and T'Pol objectification. I wonder if my view will have changed since I last saw it. I never made it through the series.

    "Okay, I played My Little Pony too, but my ponies were as likely to be aliens on an away mission as they were to be doing horse things." – Mine were the fey-folk (think tricksters and "We daren't go a-hunting for fear of little men") of my horse-universe… I was deep in George MacDonald and The Hobbit during my my-little-pony stage. Star Trek came a little later. 😉

    • I’m glad that you like my selections! I put a ridiculous amount of thought into them but it was a great excuse to review Star Trek in advance of Star Trek day.

      I too did not like the T’Pol objectification. Her character had such potential and was so nifty in so many ways but they kept trying to make her the sex-object of the show. Very disappointing stuff. But Enterprise does still have a lot to offer and I regret being so hard on it when it was on the air.

      Also, My Little Pony fey-folk makes a lot of sense, those eyes already look pretty otherwordly. 🙂

      • You’ve prompted me to try and finish Voyager. After that I may move on to Enterprise and give it another chance. 😉

        Can you imagine seeing an equine with those proportions in real life? Like Barbie, it would be the stuff of nightmares! Still, I have a fondness for my ponies.

      • Yaaaaaaay! I’m glad that I’m inspiring more Trek viewing. I think if I saw a horse that actually looked like a Pony that it would freak me out, too. But I am nostalgic about my ponies. Do you remember the smell? Mine at least had this sort of vanilla/plastic smell that I just loved. I kept my Ponies in a plastic shoebox, too which probably intensified the scent.

  2. I don’t know if you are an x-phile at all, but it amuses me to note that I recently did a run-down of “make sure you watch these, and you can skip these” for a friend wanting to embark on x-files for the first time.

    • I watched a little of X-files when it was on TV the first time. I lost interest in the show but there were episodes I quite liked. It seemed like too many episodes seemed to write themselves into a corner, cut to commercial, and then the show would be elsewhere with no explanation of how. It was like they didn’t have a plan which they probably didn’t. Having a guide of what to watch and not-watch would be very helpful! 🙂

      • Lol, timing!
        I will send you the list, if you like. Do you know what season/seasons you caught? The last few were mostly terrible.
        I do not think they every had a clear plan for the mythology of the show, and so it tends to make little sense, and changes its tack now and again. That is why the monster-of-the-week episodes tend to be my favorites. There are some really good mythology eps, though. My list is very basic, just pointing out my favorites and least favorites.
        My email is cryptarch@yahoo.com. 🙂

      • I can’t remember, it was so long ago and I was so little engaged. I think the ones I remember were the monster of the week type episodes. I remember there was one about a snake handling preacher and there was one about a guy who kept having monster babies. That is the extent of my memory which at two episodes is lamer than I thought. 😦 You should make your list into a blog post! Why not? Honestly, I probably won’t attempt to re-watch X-Files anytime in the next two years but, if I change my mind, I will definitely ask you for your list.

      • I don’t recall the name of the snake-handler one, but the other one is “Terms of Endearment,” (6th season) which is my best friends absolutely least-favorite ep. Neither of the two are good.
        X-files is like Dr. Who, in that the quality of the episodes usually hinge on who is writing them. Some of the writers were brilliant, and some were absolute rubbish.
        I would say, if you want to dip a toe in the x-files pool, try “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” or “Bad Blood.” Both are stand-alone, quirky, and fun, and are eps I tend to show friends who don’t know the series. The former is the ep that changed my mind (prior to that, I had decided that x-files wasn’t for me) and got me into the series. 😉

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