I love this episode, it’s a solid 10 for me. As far as I’m concerned, Shatner’s performance sold the series. The entire episode stands or falls on the leading man here since he carries the emotional and dramatic burden. It’s Kirk’s story, how he deals with this threat, how it affects his oldest friend and how his decisions will save his crew. It is the template for the series to come, only with extremely little humor.
I always loved how the early nature of the sets, wardrobe, makeup and props set this episode apart visually. Even as a kid, I liked the “episode with two stripe Kirk.”
The music and effects are unbeatable and while Delta Vega is simply Talos IV revisited, the planet sets were never this realistic again. Everything about this episode works for me and I go back to it often. The unaired edit, available on the 3rd season Blu-Ray is my go-to print.
The idea of the barrier (and a thin one at that) doesn't bother me. I don’t miss McCoy and I’m fine with the transporter/helm double up. What I really love is how perfectly the transporter sound effects are coordinated with the buttons as Scotty pushes them. Very cool.
10 out of 10 stars, dammit.