Where No Man Has Gone Before: kind of a chore if only because I've seen this episode SO many times. And recently. But I didn't want to skip it.
This is a huge step up from the first two episodes and really, IMO, should have been run first. Justman and Solow had gone on record about this one, saying it was to expository to be aired first and a pilot is made to sell the series, not necessarily to air. This, frankly, is ridiculous. You don't pour that much money, work and talent into a TV pilot with no intention of airing it. Even The cage intended to either air or be expanded into a feature. As for exposition, it's no more so than any other episode. It sets of the story, not the series premise. It doesn't spend a half hour introducing every single main character, it actually moves very quickly from the start to the main action and conflict. It's an excellent sci-fi story with lots of theatricality and an an awesome fistfight at the end.
I can only imagine how viewers felt about the sudden changes three weeks in. Costumes, casting, the lack of main title narration all probably took a few people by surprise. Did people know it was the pilot episode? Would they have gotten than info from, say, TV Guide or something? It's a smashing episode with some extremely strong work by Bill Shatner. On his performance alone, I would have bought the series.
The Naked Time: another classic. It's interesting how the series starts off with episodes strongly featuring the supporting cast. It's good for fleshing out the people on screen, but little did the audience know, this practice would end very quickly. Later episodes would focus more on plot, while these early episodes have a feel of "let's take a few minutes for charactwerization."
Even with some humor, this is a tense and fairly grim story, with lots of physical action and a ticking clock that works extremely well. Leonard Nimoy shines in this one, with his one-take breakdown in the briefing room and subsequent recovery as Kirk deteriorates. There's a nice bit where Kirk slaps Spock a few times to get him to snap out of it. One slap, two, three - Spock catches the fourth. Kirk whales him with a fifth, only this time Spock backhands him in reply sending Kirk flying over the table onto the floor. This is the first real example of the superior Vulcan strength and it is not spoken of, only demonstrated. Shatner goes a little over the top in the briefing room, but it is that kind of disease, so he gets a pass. Unintentional humor as McCoy rips Kirk's tuning to give him the shot. Nobody else is standing around with bared shoulders.
More great moments:
"No dance tonight…."
"I can't change the laws of physics!"
"Please, not again."
The brief trip back in time. Amazing how that is just one last plot point at the end of the episode, setting up the possibility of more time travel (which didn't really happen this way).
All in all, a solid, fun, exciting episode. The series was doing very well finding its footing.
Is anyone finding these observations interesting? I know dozens of people have done episode reviews (Warped9 most recently and The Laughing Vulcan did some great reviews) and I may not be bringing anything new to the table. I'll stop if it's boring to folks. Like I said upthread, I have no idea how long I'm gonna go before my ADD pushes me off track anyway.