Fifty years ago today NBC debuted a science fiction TV show called Star Trek. You’ve probably heard of it — the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise, and all that? I grew up loving Star Trek (in reruns — I’m not THAT old), so I’d have to be drunk on Saurian brandy or dying of Vegan choriomeningitis to ignore this occasion. Here are my six favourite original series episodes. You can bet I’ll watch a couple on Netflix tonight.
1. “Balance Of Terror”
This episode introduces the recurring Federation foes the Romulans with a Cold War paranoia and racism parable. It also has a chess-like spaceship duel that’s second only to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan’s.
I’m cheating — this one’s from the 1973 animated Star Trek series. But given that all the major actors except Walter Koenig (Chekov) returned for this show (and Koenig wrote an episode, anyway), it’s legit Trek in my book. After Spock is erased from history, he must travel back in time to save his younger self. You’ll never forget Spock’s adorable childhood pet sehlat, I-Chaya. Trust me.
3. “The Doomsday Machine”
Can Captain James T. Kirk use a wrecked Federation starship to defeat a humongous tinfoil space worm? Goddamn right he can. Amusing transporter problems and exasperated Enterprise crew members add to the fun.
4. “Devil In The Dark”
Space miners put jobs ahead of local wildlife and habitat. Sadly still relevant.
5. “Operation: Annihilate!”
Flying rubber pancake parasites from outer space wreak havoc. ’Nuff said.
6. Honourable Mentions
Oh come on, no one could pick only six favourite Star Trek episodes, so here are more: “City On The Edge Of Forever” (time travel, lethal moral conundrums), “Errand of Mercy” (Klingons!!!), “Space Seed” (Khaaaan!!!), “The Trouble With Tribbles” (an ecological meditation on invasive species — plus Klingons!!!), “Arena” (Kirk wrestles a bug-eyed space lizard), “The Enterprise Incident” (Romulans haz Klingon battlecruisers???!!!), “The Corbomite Maneuver” (discussed: the merits of poker over chess), “The Mark Of Gideon” (or: “why condoms matter”), the two-part, brilliantly-retrofitted original Star Trek pilot, “the Menagerie” (which won a Hugo award), and of course “Amok Time” — because A.) horny Spock!!! and B.) the word “amok”.