[personal profile] locker_monster
After attending the Star Trek 50th anniversary con, I was left with a desire to re-watch every Star Trek show, so I got the first season of the original series from the library. I managed to watch 29 episodes (30 if you include the failed pilot "The Cage") in a week, and man, I'm totally not doing that again. I don't know how people binge watch shows. Just sitting there for hours started to drive me nuts.

Funny thing about TOS. I've seen some episodes, but that number before this re-watch probably amounted to less than half; a quarter maybe if I'm generous. On the other hand, I've seen every episode of the other four shows. So why the discrepancy? I think my opinion of TOS was shaped by the general impression non-Trekkers have of the show. When I thought of Star Trek, I pictured cheesy special effects and over-the-top acting and really weird costumes and who the hell wants to watch that? Thankfully, watching all of Classic Doctor Who gave me a better appreciation for 1960s sci fi, so I approached this re-watch with an open mind. And I'm glad I did.

Yes, Star Trek had a small budget (forcing them to film on very Earth looking sets sometimes), but it had big ideas and that's the most important part. It's easy to assume that all of the stories had horribly fakey science with no plot structure at all, but really, the majority of the episodes were human stories in a sci fi setting. That's the element that gets ignored when regular people try to sum it up.

Side note: my library only had the DVD set of the remastered episodes, so I didn't get to see the lovely 1960s special effects. This may have coloured my opinion of episodes.

Some of my favourite episodes from the first season (ranked in no particular order):

- "Balance of Terror": The episodes starts off with a wedding ceremony but it's quickly interrupted by the main action of the plot. While the rest of the episode deals with Kirk matching wits with a Romulan commander, which is a great source of drama, I really liked that opening. It gives you a small snapshot of what life is like aboard the Enterprise. You're out in the far reaches of space, exploring areas for the first time, but regular life stuff still happens. When you see the same 400 people every day, day after day, you get to know each other, so marriages wouldn't be out of the question. To drive the knife home, the groom dies during the battle with the Romulans, leaving the bride to mourn for him. This episode also introduces the Romulans for the first time. I liked that the episode didn't portray them as one sided aliens who only cared about destruction.

- "The Conscience of the King": This episode has no aliens, no epic brawls, and no made-up science. It just has Kirk wrestling with the dilemma of whether an actor he encounters is the mass murderer from his past. Should Kirk get justice? Vengeance? Or should he let the guy go? Take out the sci fi elements and the story still works. This episode also has Kirk's infamous pick-up line: "Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman."

- "Tomorrow is Yesterday": Time travel! The first major use of time travel on the show (barring an accident that sent the ship back a few days in "The Naked Time"). This episode also has an interesting dilemma for Kirk to chew over. Do they return the pilot they accidentally kidnapped to his time even though he has knowledge of the future that could alter the timeline or do they keep him so he doesn't change anything but he's forever separated from his family? I always love time travel, but this episode has some great subtle humour, too. My favourite bit comes when Kirk is trying to record his captain's log and the computer, in a sultry voice, calls him "dear". It's then explained that the computer got an overhaul during one of their stops because the inhabitants thought the computer lacked personality. In addition to being affectionate towards Kirk, Spock also reveals that the computer has "an unfortunate tendency to giggle." That made me laugh. It wasn't just the image of the computer giggling while the crew tried to work with it. This also provided another look at life on board the ship. This is what happens between adventures when they're not dealing with weird aliens.

- "Space Seed": Khan!!!!!! So great to see the episode that eventually spawned Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It's a shame we'll never get to see the Eugenics War. Voyager visits 1996 and there's clearly no war happening.

- "The City on the Edge of Forever": Can't forget this one. It's a classic for a reason. Time travel and human drama, but I do enjoy the bits with Kirk and Spock when they first land in the past. It's always amusing when the crew struggles to fit in in the past. Have any of the shows revisited the Guardian? I can't remember.

Episodes that were better than I was expecting:

- "What Are Little Girls Made Of?": While it does feature Kirk making out with a pretty girl, the plot also involves Nurse Chapel quite heavily. Her plot line with her long lost fiancée is actually quite sad in the end. Ruck's costume is kind of ridiculous, though. It looks like he's wearing a flowery housecoat.

- "Dagger of the Mind": Kirk investigates a penal colony where they're using a machine to brainwash the inmates. The one reason this episode interested me was you get to see Kirk having to work with one of his one night stand's from the Enterprise. In the 23rd century it's probably not a big deal, but at least the show remembered to address the aftermath of some of Kirk's womanizing.

- "The Galileo Seven": Cheesy giant furry aliens aside, the episode examines how Spock approaches being command in a situation and it's not all about logic. He loses two men while they're stranded on the planet and he just doesn't get why it happened. I don't know if the writers showed Spock mellowing as the seasons passed, but it was nice that they had episodes where he tries to balance his two halves.

- "The Devil in the Dark": Spock's line, "PAIN!!!" and the weird looking Horta are the two cheesy things that get perpetuated from this episode, but people forget that the story is about a mother protecting her children. Kirk is in a hurry to kill the Horta but he quickly changes his mind once he encounters her up close. Nice story about fear of the other and the unknown. Also has one of Bones' great lines, "I'm a doctor, not a brick layer."

And just plain bad/silly episodes:

"The Naked Time" (drunk crew!), "Mudd's Women" (Mudd's pretty much a pimp), "Miri" (random planet that looks exactly like Earth and annoying kids), and "The Alternative Factor" (nonsensical story about a guy with an anti-matter double). There were also quite a few episodes where the story resolution involved an all powerful alien. I guess that was the easiest solution sometimes.

But every episode drove home how the Enterprise was exploring areas of the galaxy where no one had gone before. Pretty much every day the crew faced something completely new and unknown and that's both scary and exhilarating. I hope the new show goes back to that idea of exploration. The movies focus more on action and we get little in the way of character development.

I might get around to watching season two, but I can't handle these marathon sessions. Towards the end, I was doing five episodes in a day and that's a lot of Star Trek to sit through.

Date: 2016-08-26 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dbskyler.livejournal.com
Thanks for sharing your reactions! I first saw TOS so long ago, and I was so young at the time, it's impossible for me to approach the material with an adult perspective. For instance, I still love "Squire of Gothos" because when you're a kid, Trelane is a wonderful character.

But I do agree with most of what you say here. And if it tires you to binge-watch, then don't binge-watch it! In fact, I think a lot of older television works best when it's watched as originally intended, once per week. I don't even like to binge-watch all the parts of a single Classic Who episode; I find I enjoy them more when they're spread out, so I try not to watch more than one per day. (Besides, that way the cliffhanger doesn't get immediately resolved!)

Looking forward to reading what you think of season two, when you get around to it.

Date: 2016-08-27 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] locker-monster.livejournal.com
I would have watched the episodes at a more sedate speed, but the library's lending period for DVDs is only one week, so I had to get through everything or face a late fee. For next season, I'll definitely watch fewer episodes at a time. It won't hurt me to borrow the DVD set a few times.

The nice thing about TOS is how there isn't a seasonal arc. You don't have to keep watching to see something resolved. Everything is standalone so you're not compelled to keep going.


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