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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old May 17 2015, 03:15 AM   #1
cal888
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Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

Glancing at this forum, it seems like threads of this type come up every few months. Hopefully my contributions aren't too redundant and unique enough to not annoy the regulars <G>.

A bit about my background... Am 31, first got into ST with TNG when I was in elementary school and caught TOS here and there in broadcast syndication during the mid-1990's. I'd estimate I've seen all but 3 of the 79 episodes at least once... and I ended up buying some of the episodes on VHS that I never caught, like "Space Seed" and "WNMHGB". And I at one point even rented each of the TAS tapes from Blockbuster to see those.

My main exposure to TOS was actually the movies, and then later novels and comics. Several episodes I know mainly by "reputation" through references in TOS novels/comics or reference books and Memory Alpha, but luckily I caught "Mirror, Mirror" early on enough not to be spoiled and to appreciate the references from the DS9 MU episodes (I am a big MU fan, and that one is probably the TOS episode I have re-watched the most). I also really liked the Marvel "Early Voyages" comic so was pretty up on "The Cage".

Aside from re-watching ENT when I got a HDTV through HDNET, I haven't watched Star Trek episodes in a row for over 10 years. Again, my main ties to the franchise have been novels and comics.

I finally bought TOS on Bluray, only to end up living outside the US before I got around to watching the collection. Instead I am streaming the re-mastered episodes. I am watching in production order, but saving "The Cage" for later as to not get clip show whiplash from "The Menagerie".

While they are fresh in my memory, here are my observations on the first half of season 1. After watching each episode, I read up on it in Memory Alpha and the These Are the Voyages reference book for some context. In general, I've been suprised with how well the episodes hold up. I'm also much more able to appreciate the sex / politics plot angles as an adult too, and obviously appreciate how ground breaking TOS was for its time.

I grade the episodes on a curve... *** for your average good episode, ** for a flawed episode, **** for an excellent episode, with ***** reserved for wow episodes, and 0 and * for the real failures.

"WNMHGB" ****
I was especially suprised how well this one holds up. The classic cast isn't all there yet, but a great introduction to Kirk and his relationship with Spock. There is a slight echo from "Caretaker" introducing characters that sit in regular chairs, only to be killed off. Kirk faces his first no win scenario and loses his best friend.

"The Corbomite Maneuver" ***
A solid serviceable episode that introduces McCoy, Uhura, and Rand. It could stand to lose around 10 minutes... the pacing is off. My main complaint is with Bailey's character... Kirk took a chance on him for the navigator gig, but he makes many rookie mistakes and at times is grating. But, on the other hand, TOS has much more... human characters than the 24th century, and maybe TPTB were trying to have him serve as a viewer stand in.

"Mudd's Women" **
TOS' first misfire. I neither liked nor hated the Mudd character, but the subplot about the (di)lithium crystal failure / ship in jeopardy was pretty hard to believe. The whole space western mail order brides on drugs plot... was unique at least. A rough episode that at least isn't painful to watch, just requires some greater suspension of belief than usual.

"The Enemy Within" **(^)
Ah the episode with no shuttlecraft in "working order"! But, my main problem with this one was the dark Kirk's attempted rape of Janice Rand and how the characters reacted... even Rand says "I wouldn't have said anything" -- and no one seems particularly concerned with her series allegation or state of mind!! Aside from these two complaints, a really good classic episode.

"The Man Trap" **
Probably the weakest of the season so far (I know "The Alternative Factor" is coming up later!). So good character moments, especially Spock/Uhura and Sulu/Rand/glove plant but the episode just never jells together well and again suffers from pacing. Crater is an annoying character that at least manages to die. The salt vampire manages to create a good sense of jeopardy... but the denouncement of Kirk/Spock/McCoy all in danger takes way too long. A bad, but not painfully so, introduction to the series for anyone watching for the first time in broadcast order.

"The Naked Time" ****
Great episode. No complaints yet no particular observations either accept it manages to be much better than the TNG episode it inspired.

"Charlie X" ***
I wasn't looking forward to this one, but it was much better than I remembered from the 90's. Teenagers can be credibly scary... although would it be too much to ask for a continuity reference to Kirk facing something like this once before from WNMHGB? Aside from Rand again almost being raped, some great moments. Good use of a bottle episode by trapping the characters with Charlie on the ship with no easy way out.

"Balance of Terror" ****
Could have done without Stiles' heavy handedness and the over the top nautical-isms (just fire the phasers already), but, the first episode with ROMULANS. Mark Leonard does a great job, and as an antagonist cannot be accused of being two dimensional. Also, all the episodes have done this so far, but this one really hits home the Enterprise is suppossed to be an ~Earth~ ship... no one came up with the Federation or even Starfleet yet.

"What Are Little Girls Made Of" ***
Old school classic SF. A great examination of man vs machine and identity. Some great production designs considering the 1960's budget limitations. Would have liked to see more of the Android Kirk, but I could see why they wanted to avoid duplicating the Enemy Within plotline. And the redshirt curse is introduced... This one had the potential for greatness, but several minor problems hold it back. Considering all the problems from the behind the scenes information, a good result all in all.

"Dagger of the Mind" ***
Very un-Star Trek, but also refreshing and different. Some great Spock/McCoy moments and the all important introduction to the mind meld. Helen Noel is an interesting foil for Kirk, who doesn't seem to appreciate the danger he is walking into down on the planet. I understand that Dr. Adams' motivation was removed from the episode... but it seems to work well enough without it.

"Miri" **(^^)
Definitely an episode known by reputation from the duplicate Earth hook. Parallel universe overlap? Preserver construction? We don't care about the annoying kids, we know there must be something profound going on in the background and want the episode to come back to this!! Deeply flawed, although showing evidence of great potential, I can see why this episode is so divisive. Although feeling like a rough first draft was rushed before the cameras, this episode actually suffered from multiple script drafts that unintentionally raises many more questions than needed. It offers a genuinely eerie atmosphere that feels much more like a Twilight Zone crossover than Berman-era Trek. The kids are creepy and scary. The virus a genuine threat and its creation a good message parable. Aside from the duplicate Earth plot hole, you have the question of how the kids managed to survive, where their food was coming from, and just how many children survived the 1960's cataclysm on their planet... anyone surviving the initial cataclysm would have much more to fear than the aging one month per century bringing them closer to puberty and death. Kirk's interactions with Miri go up to the line, but don't cross it.

Meanwhile Miri herself seems doomed in every semi-sequel focusing on the kids and not so much on their duplicate Earth. All in all, a unique episode that is hard to easily pin down.

"The Conscience of the King" ***
Star Trek meets Shakespeare in another very atypical episode. The most interesting idea this episode raises concerns the mass executions on Tarsus IV... hard to imagine this featured in 24th century shows. Not an episode to appeal to everyone, but I liked it.

"The Galileo Seven" *** 1/2
Not sure if this is a 3 or 4 star, so a rare fractional grade. Aside from the initial question of why McCoy would be sent out on this particular mission (the plot demanded it), a great exploration of Spock's character under fire and him interacting with both McCoy and Scotty sans Kirk... along with him arguably mistakes, including one that got one of the yellow shirts killed. Some really really bad, really obvious CGI in the remastered version... sometimes the original is better. Don't try unless you can fund your effort to top it.

<takes a breath> In the end, I can see why TOS caught on so quickly.
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Old May 17 2015, 05:07 AM   #2
scotpens
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

cal888 wrote: View Post
"The Enemy Within" **
Ah the episode with no shuttlecraft in "working order"! But, my main problem with this one was the dark Kirk's attempted rape of Janice Rand and how the characters reacted... even Rand says "I wouldn't have said anything" -- and no one seems particularly concerned with her series allegation or state of mind!!
Yes, it's a bit jarring to our modern sensibilities, but it's a reflection of the prevailing attitudes of the time when the show was produced.


"Charlie X" ***
Teenagers can be credibly scary... although would it be too much to ask for a continuity reference to Kirk facing something like this once before from WNMHGB?
Well, yes, it would. In most TV series from the 1950s through the '80s, each episode was a stand-alone story with few or no references to events of previous episodes. Besides, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" originally aired the week after "Charlie X"!


"Miri" **
. . . Meanwhile Miri herself seems doomed in every semi-sequel focusing on the kids and not so much on their duplicate Earth.
By "semi-sequels," are you referring to fanfic?


"The Galileo Seven" *** 1/2
. . . Some really really bad, really obvious CGI in the remastered version... sometimes the original is better. Don't try unless you can fund your effort to top it.
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Old May 17 2015, 05:27 AM   #3
cal888
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

"Charlie X" ***
Teenagers can be credibly scary... although would it be too much to ask for a continuity reference to Kirk facing something like this once before from WNMHGB? Well, yes, it would. In most TV series from the 1950s through the '80s, each episode was a stand-alone story with few or no references to events of previous episodes. Besides, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" originally aired the week after "Charlie X"!
Sorry, should have included a <G> here to indicate irony

"Miri" **
. . . Meanwhile Miri herself seems doomed in every semi-sequel focusing on the kids and not so much on their duplicate Earth. By "semi-sequels," are you referring to fanfic?

The Cry of the Onlies
novel and Marvel's Untold Voyages #3 issue, which both drop the duplicate Earth part and just focus on the kids.
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Old May 17 2015, 04:35 PM   #4
Lance
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

I'm actually in the middle of rewatching Season 1 right now myself, and I have to concur with the OP that the first half of the season is quite a strong unit -- it feels internally consistent, and very focused on it's world-building. In retrospect I can see the wheels kind of coming off a little midway through the season, as we start getting more whimsical kinds of storytelling ("Shore Leave" and "The Squire of Gothos" are two of my favourite episodes, but they are harbingers of the kinds of stories that took TOS down a very different path to that suggested by episodes like "Where No Man...", "Corbomite Maneuver", "Charlie X", "Naked Time", "Balance of Terror", "Court Martial" and so on). I think it would be fair to say that the difference in styles between John D.F. Black/Gene Roddenberry (first half of season one) and Gene L. Coon (second half of season one and pretty much all of season two) is quite noticable, and becomes moreso in retrospect.
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Old May 17 2015, 08:10 PM   #5
gottacook
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

cal888 wrote: View Post
...The Cry of the Onlies novel and Marvel's Untold Voyages #3 issue, which both drop the duplicate Earth part and just focus on the kids...
The James Blish version of "Miri" also omitted the parallel-Earth business - and I was quite surprised when I finally saw the episode several years later (the first episodes I saw on NBC were in 1968-69, and I had to wait until syndication to see the earlier ones). It really was superfluous.

When I think of the early first season, it's usually in terms of "What parts would I be embarrassed about if I showed these to my teenagers?" Besides the treatment of Rand, this category includes such things as the plaster fragments raining down on Mark Lenard et al. during the battle scenes in "Balance of Terror" and the faceless girl in "Charlie X" (how does she breathe?). And in addition there are little storytelling flaws that I wish weren't there - Blish, I seem to recall, has both people whom Charlie disappeared (not only Rand but also the martial-arts guy) restored by the Thasian, but the episode shows only Rand reappearing on the bridge.

But these are nonetheless all essential episodes, even "Mudd's Women." There are so many little moments I enjoy that don't even involve dialogue - such as, in "Balance of Terror," the very last scene of Kirk striding down the hallway into the camera (among other crew members) and then veering off, accompanied by one of my favorite "WNMHGB" music cues.
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Old May 17 2015, 09:12 PM   #6
EnsignHarper
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

[QUOTE=gottacook;11110297]
cal888 wrote: View Post
...The Cry of the Onlies novel and Marvel's Untold Voyages #3 issue, which both drop the duplicate Earth part and just focus on the kids...

When I think of the early first season, it's usually in terms of "What parts would I be embarrassed about if I showed these to my teenagers?" Besides the treatment of

But these are nonetheless all essential episodes, even "Mudd's Women." There are so many little moments I enjoy that don't even involve dialogue - such as, in "Balance of Terror," the very last scene of Kirk striding down the hallway into the camera (among other crew members) and then veering off, accompanied by one of my favorite "WNMHGB" music cues.
The important part of Kirk striding down the corridor, is that another young couple appears behind him, indicating that life continues.
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Old May 18 2015, 08:14 PM   #7
cal888
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

gottacook wrote: View Post
When I think of the early first season, it's usually in terms of "What parts would I be embarrassed about if I showed these to my teenagers.
I actually got the idea for a TOS rewatch when a friend who, ahem, liked ST09 (shudder) and was going to watch TOS on Netflix... I realized I could do the same even separated from my Blu-ray collection.

What's hard for me is Star Trek is something I got into in like 2nd grade and stuck with off and on since... although for about the last 10 years (since ENT was canceled) that has entailed more novels and comics then lots of rewatched episodes -- in this span I did go through ENT again in HD and all of DS9 once. But for TOS and TNG, it is kinda frozen in the 1990's... so rewatching it now removes it from being something in childhood and now gets compared with all the shows that I've gotten into since, which I am far more critical of and have higher time expectations. So I am kinda going for compassionate criticism.

It is interesting to contrast Star Trek aging with how say Battlestar Galactica and Lost have already fallen off most people's radars... I blame heightened expectations and problematic endings, wheras Star Trek has always been more broader and about the format over a tight plot in the episodic vs serial formats.
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Old May 22 2015, 04:23 AM   #8
Lance
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

cal888 wrote: View Post
It is interesting to contrast Star Trek aging with how say Battlestar Galactica and Lost have already fallen off most people's radars... I blame heightened expectations and problematic endings, wheras Star Trek has always been more broader and about the format over a tight plot in the episodic vs serial formats.
I actually think this is where episodic television becomes timeless, and has a considerable edge. One of the problems with 'serialized' shows is that a lot of their appeal comes from the "What Happens Next?" factor. People get caught up in them because they don't know where it's going. I've found that once you've watched a serialized show, and know the eventual outcome, then it loses a lot of it's rewatchability. nuBSG, Lost, Heroes, The Wire, Breaking Bad, heck even Buffy The Vampire Slayer, these shows were all popular in their day, but (I would argue) they have less appeal now because the sense of 'mystery' we had from watching them the first time, and wondering where the story is heading next, can never be replicated on repeat viewings.

Episodic shows don't suffer from that hang-up. Each story is designed to be enjoyed on its own merits, and if you don't like one then there'll be a completely different one along next week.

For all the column inches that Games Of Thrones is getting right now, I honestly don't think it'll be regarded by history as one of the greats. Once it's finally taken off the air, it'll vanish into the ether, only to be remembered by the absolute die-hards. Whereas something episodic like Star Trek have, I feel, got an 'instant gratification factor' that is not diluted by the passing of time.
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Old May 22 2015, 03:03 PM   #9
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

Plus, with episodic shows, you can just plop in front of the TV and watch a random episode.

Of course, you can do that with serialized shows, but it always feels a bit incomplete - as there are the little plot threads that are neither introduced or resolved in that episode.
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Old May 22 2015, 08:53 PM   #10
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

drt wrote: View Post
Plus, with episodic shows, you can just plop in front of the TV and watch a random episode.

Of course, you can do that with serialized shows, but it always feels a bit incomplete - as there are the little plot threads that are neither introduced or resolved in that episode.
Totally agree. To be honest, this is one reason why DS9 is my least favorite. Lots of continuity to follow and with my sporadic watching made it more difficult for me to track. This was of course before DVR, online streaming, etc. Also hard for me to go through a series like "Lost," for example, even if I had the DVDs - just too many episodes normally.
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Old May 23 2015, 02:34 AM   #11
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

Both storytelling styles have their place, but I do think episodic series work better on rewatches.

I honestly can't concieve of ever wanting to watch something like Game Of Thrones or Battlestar Reimagined more than once. The "What Happens Next?" factor was such an intrinsic part of those shows, that I just can't see what enjoyment can be gained once we already know what happens later. Ironically, given they allegedly have more substance than episodic television, I find serialized shows the ultimate in ' watch once, then throw away' TV. Whereas something like Star Trek I can revisit again and again and again, without ever losing my interest in it. There's something about episodic television where having the story all wrapped up in one neat package feels... I dunno. Easier to revisit.

I know I was absolutely entranced with BTVS when I watched it through the first time, but my attempts to revisit the show have seen me lose interest each time. Once you take away the "What Happens Next?" factor, what's left is okay... but it just doesn't have the same 'punch' that it once did.
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Old May 24 2015, 02:11 AM   #12
cal888
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

"Court Martial" ***
Another one of those plots that would only work with TOS... you can't envision what is essentially the ship's head of IT framing Picard or Janeway for their own murder over a past slight. Doctoring computer records to imply a crime was probably new and innovative in the 1960's, so I have to respect it for that one. Apparently, this episode went through a tumultuous drafting process and even had scenes re-arranged in post. Samuel T. Cogley's character is pretty overrated though, on screen he is more of a totem making barely coherent speeches about man vs machine instead of being a competent lawyer. Show, don't tell...

"The Menagerie, Part I" **** / "The Menagerie, Part II" *** ["The Cage" 5*]
This is a weird one for me, I've watched "The Cage" several times, and have much greater exposure to these characters through the Marvel Early Voyages series. "The Menagerie" wraparound I only saw once, 20 years ago. The first part works well enough re-introducing Pike and starting the flashbacks. The second part suffers from pretty clunky and jarring editing of the old Cage clips, plus raising the stakes on Spock so much he has betrayed Kirk and is facing the death penalty, only to have everything hand waved away without any real reflection. I guess that is the main drawback to TOS' format... there really are no long term consequences to what the plot demands in each episode. Oh, it is cool to see The Keeper again at the end!

"Shore Leave" **
This was the first time I actually saw this episode intact from beginning to end (I am familiar with it from having seen the TAS sequel a few times). I know it is a fan favorite, so maybe I was expecting too much. It came across as cloying and a little too whimsical. It's like all the characters got a memo in universe this was going to be a light episode and not take things too seriously from the beginning. The episode just doesn't have enough content to fill 50 minutes... maybe 30 (good god, it felt like Kirk and Finnegan went on for 15 minutes!). The fantasies just don't gell that well. But, good use in the shock killing of McCoy... he wasn't a regular and original viewers had every reason to think he was actually dead... but even Kirk seems to let go of the "death" after the next scene. Location shooting is greatly appreciated though... including the first Vasquez Rocks appearance.

"The Squire of Gothos" ****
This one holds up very well... good mix of humor with danger.

"Arena" ****
Another great episode... I was engaged enough I didn't really focus on the reptile rubber suit haha

"The Alternate Factor" 0
Another episode I saw from complete beginning to end for the first time... or did I? This may actually be worse than "Threshold" (which actually is kinda good for the first 15 minutes and at least had a coherent plot). But this... I know it was a troubled production, but it has so many plot holes and is completely incoherent. Not to mention the self importance of the annoying guest character being able to destroy the universe. This almost belongs in the special features as an episode that almost didn't exist and not something that should be part of the main continuity. And... from what I remember... "Spock's Brain" was better (we'll see when I get around to season 3 how my memory from 1990 was)! Is this considered the worst episode of TOS?

Last edited by cal888; May 24 2015 at 03:25 AM.
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Old May 24 2015, 03:04 AM   #13
The Old Mixer
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

cal888 wrote: View Post
"Shore Leave"

The episode just doesn't have enough content to fill 50 minutes... maybe 30 (good god, it felt like Kirk and Finnegan went on for 15 minutes!).
I feel that Tonia Barrows fills things out quite nicely.

"The Alternate Factor"

Is this considered the worst episode of TOS?
Opinions around here are going to vary greatly, but I think it would win a "least watchable" poll.
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Old May 24 2015, 03:12 PM   #14
Forbin
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

I think we don't consider The Alternative Factor the worst episode because we've all blocked it out of our memories.
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Old June 13 2015, 10:32 PM   #15
cal888
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Re: Re/watching TOS: First half of season 1

^ I finally have reached the third season. Today I watched "And The Children Shall Lead" and "Spock's Brain."

Spock's mindless body being directed around by the colored switch device was over the top in camp, and the whole planet 6 vs 7 thing is annoying... but the episode wasn't ~that~ bad. Maybe I had lowered expectations too much, but it is easily watchable, had good character moments, just was unintentionally hilarious in a few bits. It is no worse than say "The Apple." Good music and one of the better uses of a stage 10 planet. Sigma Draconis is even close to our solar system, and the 21st century and 14th century level planets could make for a good novel sequel, especially considering it must be one of the closest systems to Earth with pre-warp societies.

Now "And The Children Shall Lead"... that is worse than "The Alternative Factor". You can tell the later was something that somehow got cut up to death being produced. It is a "lost episode" that should never have been stitched up together and found.

"And The Children Shall Lead"... WTF. BAD, BAD, BAD. It makes sense, just horrible sense...
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