The original Star Trek ran from 1966-69. The City on the Edge of Forever, Space Seed, A Piece of the Action, Assignment: Earth, Requiem for Methuselah, Spectre of the Gun and A Taste of Armageddon are its top episodes.
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NBC-TV’s Star Trek (1966-69) is a giant in television history. Nearly canceled after two seasons, Star Trek returned for a third and final one, eventually becoming one of the most successful franchises in entertainment history.
Here are seven classic episodes that no Star Trek fan should ever miss. Live long and prosper!
Nearly everyone’s favorite, The City on the Edge of Forever features a trip back through time. While investigating disturbances on a nearby planet, Captain Kirk and company encounter a glowing structure that identifies itself as the “Guardian of Forever.” Beaming down is a paranoid Dr. McCoy, who has accidentally injected himself with an overdose of cordrazine. The delirious McCoy flings himself through the Guardian’s gates, traveling back in time where he alters the course of history.
The City on the Edge of Forever is a time travel classic. The setting is New York City of the 1930s, with guest star Joan Collins playing Edith Keeler, a social worker who is destined for greater things. It’s an interesting “what if” segment, as Keeler later becomes the leader of a pacifist movement that prevents the United States from entering World War II, thus ensuring an Axis victory.
There are plenty of interesting scenes in this one: First Officer Spock having to explain his Vulcan ears; Spock constructing a crude device that enables him to view future newspaper headlines; and Captain Kirk’s brief romance with the doomed Edith Keeler, head of the 21st Street Mission.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Kirk declares after he, Spock and McCoy return from the 20th century. Good idea, as the “Guardian of Forever” is rife with peril.
Guest star Ricardo Montalban appears as Khan Noonien Singh, a late 20th century “superman” who is discovered frozen in suspended animation aboard the SS Botany Bay. Singh and his cryogenic followers – the last survivors of Earth’s Eugenics Wars – are revived, where they later attempt to take over the Enterprise.
Space Seed is among Star Trek’s best, thanks in large part to Ricardo Montalban’s bravura performance as the sinister Khan. In excellent support is Madlyn Rhue as Lt. Marla McGivers, the Enterprise’s young historian who becomes smitten with the 20th century super warrior.
Space Seed – the basis for the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – features an enigmatic ending. Rounded up by Kirk and his crew, Khan and his followers are banished to Ceti Alpha V, a savage planet where their survival is not guaranteed. Lt. McGivers, choosing to avoid a court martial for her role in aiding Khan, will accompany them to their new world.
Kirk, “Spocko” and McCoy beam down to Sigma Iotia II at the invitation of one Bela Okmyx (Anthony Caruso), where they find themselves on a street resembling 1920s Chicago. Relieved of their phasers and communicators by men sporting Tommy guns, the Enterprise crew members are brought to Bela, who is in the midst of a bloody war with rival gang leaders. The Iotians’ entire culture is based on a book left behind by the USS Horizon. Its title: Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.
This delightful episode provides plenty of action and humor as Kirk and his Federation boys – a.k.a. “The Feds” – attempt to bring Okmyx, Jojo Krako (Vic Tayback), Tepo (John Harmon) and other gang leaders to the table in order to restore some kind of order to the unruly, highly imitative Iotian society. They finally succeed through a massive show of force, taking out an entire block of gangsters via a well-placed phaser stun from the orbiting Enterprise. That nets the Federation some respect, and “a piece of the action” for years to come.
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley have a blast in this segment, dressing up as Chicago hoods, affecting “gangsterese” and eventually coming on like G-men gangbusters. Even James Doohan as Scotty gets into Roaring Twenties mode aboard the Enterprise, warning Vic Tayback: “Now you mind your place, mister, or you’ll…you’ll be wearin’ concrete galoshes.” He of course means “cement overshoes.”
Robert Lansing guest stars as Gary Seven, an enigmatic super agent programmed by aliens to save the Earth in 1968. The Enterprise, catapulted back to the same era via a gravitational slingshot maneuver around the sun, takes Seven and his mysterious black cat Isis aboard. Confined to a holding cell, Seven escapes his Federation captors and beams down to New York City where he continues his mission.
James Bond aficionados will love Assignment: Earth, with Robert Lansing employing several sophisticated secret agent devices, including a “servo” weapon disguised as a pen. Time travel fans will also appreciate this segment, as Kirk and Spock are afforded the opportunity to visit 1960s Earth, which is on the brink of World War III.
Teri Garr is a smash as the ditzy secretary Roberta Lincoln while Victoria Vetri goes uncredited as the black cat in human form. Meow?
James Daly guest stars as Flint, the lone inhabitant of a planet which harbors an ample supply of the mineral ryetalyn. The element is needed by the Federation in order to combat an outbreak of deadly Rigellian Fever. On Holberg 917-G, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy meet the mysterious Mr. Flint, whom they discover is an immortal born in Mesopotamia in 3834 BC.
The fascinating story idea provides the real allure, with James Daly (looking fairly well for a 6,000-year-old man) admitting to Kirk and company that his past identities on Earth have included those of Alexander the Great, Lazarus, Leonardo DaVinci, King Solomon, Johannes Brahms, Merlin and Methuselah. A genetic quirk – instant tissue regeneration – has made him immortal, but Dr. McCoy now reports that Flint is now aging like everyone else, with Earth’s protective magnetic force no longer in play on his new world.
Louise Sorel plays the frigid Rayna, a series of androids created by Flint to keep him company through the long years. For techie fans there’s also Flint’s M4, the hovering robot tasked with gathering the ryetalyn.
For violating Melkotian territory, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov are transported back to the town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, on October 26, 1881 – the scene of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The Enterprise landing party now become the future victims: Ike Clanton (Kirk), Frank McLaury (Spock), Tom McLaury (McCoy), Billy Clanton (Scotty) and Billy Claiborne (Chekov). Gunning for them are the Earps and Doc Holliday, who mean to fill them full of lead.
This quirky episode is a cowboy soap opera, with Kirk and company trying desperately to avoid a confrontation with the Earp brothers (Ron Soble, Charles Maxwell, Rex Holman) and their gunslinging dentist sidekick Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman). The laws of nature don’t seem to apply in this illusory world created by the Melkotians, with Mr. Spock concluding that nothing is real and therefore they cannot be harmed.
Prior to the gunfight, Spock performs a mind meld on his comrades, erasing any doubt as to the unreality of their situation. Doc and the Earps open fire, but their bullets prove harmless. When Kirk and his men refuse to kill their attackers, the Melkotians are impressed, and welcome the Federation into their midst.
The Enterprise becomes involved in a longstanding war between Eminiar VII and Vendikar. The war is being fought via computer simulation, with “casualties” reporting to disintegration chambers. When conventional war proved too costly, the two planets agreed to continue hostilities via war games in order to preserve their respective societies and culture.
A Taste of Armageddon presents an intriguing idea – two hostile societies who have reduced war to a neat, sterile pursuit involving simulated computer attacks and an orderly march to the death chamber. But when Kirk and his crew are deemed “casualties,” the Enterprise captain is having none of it, telling one of Eminiar VII’s council elders, Anan 7 (David Opatoshu), that he plans on giving the two planets a real war, complete with all the blood, gore and horror that such an undertaking encompasses.
James Doohan as Scotty shines in this segment. When ordered by Ambassador Fox (Gene Lyons) to lower the Enterprise’s shields in order to show good faith, the wily Scott refuses, surmising correctly that Anan 7 plans to blast them out of orbit once their defenses are deactivated.
And your favorite Star Trek episodes? Beam them below in the comments section…