This is going to be an ongoing project. Expect updates as I go, and I’ll put a link on the website to it in case anyone ever wants to check back.
I was talking with my wife the other day, and the topic turned to Star Trek.
My son has never seen Star Trek.
I’m not talking about being aware of how Star Trek has permeated our culture, influenced our way of telling sequential stories, or spawned countless memes.
He doesn’t know it exists. Period.
Never heard of the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Enterprise, none of the movies.
He has an imagination untouched by the idea of boldly going where nobody had gone before.
No Vulcan nerve pinch. No “Live Long and Prosper”. No “KHAAAAAAAANNN!!!”
Star Wars has remained relevant through the generations. Say what you will of George Lucas, and now Disney, but it is a very visible and vital universe of new creations and stories that our youth enjoy every day. Plus, of course, endless Lego toys.
There have continued to be Star Wars movies, and those movies have had toys and cartoons targeted directly at the younger generations to keep them up to speed.
Star Trek, not so much.
The new Star Trek movies aren’t a good place to begin, because to fully invest in their story you need to have been there for all that came before. If you don’t, then you are left feeling like an outsider as all the cool kids share the in-jokes and secret handshakes around you. When old Spock appears, the experienced and knowledgeable people ooh and aah and get it immediately, while you go “Huh, so this is that Spock dude from the future? Okay, that’s cool, but is that going to be important? And why not take the actor from the movie and artificially age him so it looks more like him?”
Does it feel fun to be the one that doesn’t get the reference everyone else understands? I don’t think so.
Project Star Trek: Generations is born.
My goal is simple. To take the core of greatness that is the Star Trek that I grew up with and present it to my son.
It is my duty to pass the important parts of our heritage on to my son. What he does with it after that is his business.
What makes this a project is, I have no intention of sitting him down in front of three full seasons of original Trek, then Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, etc etc and so forth.
I am not a trekkie. I enjoyed it growing up, but then I enjoyed a lot of stuff growing up. It’s important to me that he groks the heart and the most significant or enduring stories, not that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of it.
If he decides he wants to see it all someday, if he gets hooked, that’s fine. But that’s not the project.
My intent is to cherry pick the very best and brightest episodes of the original series, and follow that up with the best of the movies starring the original cast.
Concerning the Next Generation, I think Next Gen might be fun to watch together when he gets older, I was overseas when most of it was released so I never saw much of it either. For now, Star Trek will mean Kirk, Spock and McCoy. That is what I intend to focus on. Time enough for him to see the Next Generation when he has some distance to make those original cast cameos seem special.
In order to narrow the selection down, I have to decide what ‘the best’ means to me.
To me, what I loved best was the warmth and the camaraderie between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. That held the episodes together for me. Whatever craziness was going to happen, those three would be able to count on each other to succeed, no matter what.
But the best episodes were the ones that took a bold concept and made it fascinating, asking questions that lingered long after the episode was over.
I know the original tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
To me, the series served to boldly explore science fiction concepts that I didn’t see on TV before, concepts that made me think about normal things in new ways.
I don’t have a ‘maximum number of episodes’ that I want to get down to. But I do want each episode we watch to be a ‘must see’. If we start including episodes where there was ‘like this really cool 2 minute segment’ in it, then we would be watching every episode. Even “Spock’s Brain” has to have some cool bit in it somewhere, even if it lasted less time than the lifespan of a mayfly. No, I want to whittle this sucker down to ‘must watch’ core episodes only.
1 “The Man Trap” – the melancholy of the salt vampire is cool, and i do remember the episode, but no.
2 “Charlie X” – hell no, I remember thinking it was crap when I saw it, and I was younger than Alex.
3 “Where No Man Has Gone Before” – no. I remember it during syndication, and I always wondered “where did this almost-trek come from? And where’s Bones?”
4 “The Naked Time” – must watch, an inside look at the hidden personalities of the crew, but I can’t remember details other than it was very revealing and cool.
5 “The Enemy Within” – must watch, transporter malfunction and good kirk/bad kirk
6 “Mudd’s Women” – must watch. Harry Freaking Mudd. Or is it? There is another Mudd later that was very good.
7 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – no.
8 “Miri” – not sure
9 “Dagger of the Mind” – no, I remember this one well, and I never did care for it.
10 “The Corbomite Maneuver” – must watch, I still remember loving how the first encounter isn’t decided by who was strongest, but by who thought who was strongest. Bluff and counter bluff and how belief affects what you think you can get away with.
11 “The Menagerie, Part I” – no. My memories of this were of a horribly dry and boring snoozefest lacking in charm.
12 “The Menagerie, Part II” – no.
13 “The Conscience of the King” – must watch, strong acting between Spock and McCoy, and Shakespeare in space.
14 “Balance of Terror” – must watch due to being highly recommended (I don’t remember it, lol)
15 “Shore Leave” – must watch. I remember this one well, and it has inspired some of my more interesting RPG designs.
16 “The Galileo Seven” – hell no.
17 “The Squire of Gothos” – must watch. The Squire, powerful Spock moments, great fun from the god-being.
18 “Arena” – must watch OMG, GORN and how to make gunpowder to prove all we need is guns, dah de dah da da.
19 “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” – time travel and could be a good preparation for Star Trek IV, but I remember it as being dull.
20 “Court Martial” – god, I hated this episode.
21 “The Return of the Archons” – no.
22 “Space Seed” – must watch, and sets the stage for Wrath of Khan.
23 “A Taste of Armageddon” – possible, I remember this one, and it’s strong send up of the stupidity of war without objectives, for the sake of hate.
24 “This Side of Paradise” – an absolute must-watch, the episode where the enemy is being too damn happy, and Spock smiling and in love.
25 “The Devil in the Dark” – must watch. Silicon-based life forms, judging by appearance instead of by deeds, foul heart concealed by fair face. “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”
26 “Errand of Mercy” – on the fence. first appearance of Klingons, but… I didn’t like this one as a kid, and the Klingons look like, not Klingons.
27 “The Alternative Factor” – hells no.
28 “The City on the Edge of Forever” – must watch, Harlan Ellison’s classic time travel piece and a powerful story that lingers.
29 “Operation: Annihilate!” – maybe, but not remembering anything special.
30 “Amok Time” – must watch, standing by your friends, not being ashamed of who you are, the price of repressing your feelings.
31 “Who Mourns for Adonais?” – I do not mourn for Adonais. Not even slightly.
32 “The Changeling” – nah. The all powerful probe from hell wasn’t that interesting.
33 “Mirror, Mirror” – must watch evil facial hair doppleganger twins! Parallel dimensions of fun! Oh, hell yes.
34 “The Apple” – nope
35 “The Doomsday Machine” – must watch.
37 “I, Mudd”
39 “Journey to Babel”
40 “Friday’s Child”
41 “The Deadly Years”
43 “Wolf in the Fold”
44 “The Trouble With Tribbles” – oh come on, it’s awesome. Must watch.
45 “The Gamesters of Triskelion”
46 “A Piece of the Action”
47 “The Immunity Syndrome”
48 “A Private Little War”
49 “Return to Tomorrow”
50 “Patterns of Force”
51 “By Any Other Name”
52 “The Omega Glory”
53 “The Ultimate Computer”
54 “Bread and Circuses”
55 “Assignment: Earth”
56 “Spock’s Brain”
57 “The Enterprise Incident”
58 “The Paradise Syndrome”
59 “And the Children Shall Lead”
60 “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”
61 “Spectre of the Gun”
62 “Day of the Dove”
63 “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”
64 “The Tholian Web”
65 “Plato’s Stepchildren”
66 “Wink of an Eye”
67 “The Empath”
68 “Elaan of Troyius”
69 “Whom Gods Destroy”
70 “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
71 “The Mark of Gideon”
72 “That Which Survives”
73 “The Lights of Zetar”
74 “Requiem for Methuselah”
75 “The Way to Eden”
76 “The Cloud Minders”
77 “The Savage Curtain”
78 “All Our Yesterdays”
79 “Turnabout Intruder”
“Star Trek – The Motion Picture” – I don’t want to include this. It’s a hard decision, because I loved the core concept – We sent a spaceship out there loaded with things to tell others who we are, and something finds it and follows it back to us that is beyond anything we ever dreamed of. But damnit all, it’s slow as hell, and I hated the uniforms. It was like they pretended time enver passed and the original cast was still in their twenties. The second movie brought that feeling of age and wisdom and experience that the first lacked. Just… brilliant story idea, but as cold in presentation as V’ger itself.
“Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan” – oh hell yes.
“Star Trek III – The Search for Spock” – yep, gotta have it, everyone gets a part to play.
“Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home” – well sure, save the whales, Spock swearing, transparent aluminum, mouse driven computers. The Enterprise in dock. Of course.
“Star Trek V – The Final Frontier” – I think I blocked this out, so I don’t know. I think I hated it, but it’s all a blur.
“Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country” – I remember thinking it was great when it was over, but damned if I can remember anything about it now.
Update 1: added link to the Wikipedia page for the original Star Trek episodes.
Update 2: I welcome your opinions and suggestions on which episodes should be included in the ‘absolutely must be included list’, but please, you must tell me why. And only one episode per comment, please. It will help me sort. I will continue to update episode titles above with comments and my decisions as we go.
Update 3: Added more episode decisions, influenced by comments from Tesh, Ted, Kamalia and Degei.
Update 4: okay, made it into Season 2 a little, made the first cull. Now to sleep on it. I can’t believe how many of these I remember from my childhood.