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Star Trek Shining Lights Part Deux


After every episode is listed, there is a mini-essay. To somewhat justify each pick. To avoid spoilers, the essays can be ignored and just the episode names utilised.

Last Star Trek Day (September 8th 2021 - the 55th Anniversary), I marked the occasion with a handy list of choice cuts of one or two episodes of each entry into the series.

Well, in the time since, Star Trek has gifted us an extra 5 seasons and 2 new shows, plus there are around 850 entries (and those are just the episodes, there are films, games, books and even non - cannon fan projects) and Star Trek is a very rich gold mine. Let’s take a second dive, shall we?

If you are new to this, welcome, welcome welcome, you might want to see the first instalment in this series here and if not, also welcome, welcome, welcome. Star Trek has 12 shows, a movie series with thirteen entries to date, over a half-century of books and dozens of games. This will be a long article, but I aim to (like last year) give you a menu of the choice cuts of Star Trek to help with your journey into the franchise. With each of the televised shows, I’ll mention them in air date. As if I do it on the in-universe date, Star Trek will look like it goes in dramatic ups and down in production quality.

Also, I’ll include the production details. I bet many will be needed for Pub Quizzes.

The Original Series

Ballance of Terror

Original Airdate: 15th December 1966 (remastered airdate 16th September 2006 - the day before I moved to my first Uni), Directed by Vincent McEveety Written by Paul Schneider

OK, I was not too fond of this one when looked upon in micro detail, the shot where the Romulan threat is made abundantly clear being followed by William Shatner’s Kirk just grabbing Yeoman Janice Rand is there to convey how he wants to be supported for all of his crew sure, but wow it ages like milk. Also, this is a widely remembered episode, but owes a substantial amount to an also well-crafted submarine film from the decade that is not remembered as well, namely ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’.

However, taken on its own merits, this is a fine episode to be sure. The story, though scientifically making no sense (space really can’t carry sound waves) is quite well presented and even if you aren’t exactly into submarine pursuit stories, the acting is superb. Particularly from Mark Leonard as the Romulan Commander, his portrayal is masterful and will leave you unquestioning about why he would go on to portray Spock, Sybok and Michael Burnham’s father, Sarek.

Additionally, this episode gave us the following quote from Captain Kirk to Stiles:

“Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the Bridge.”

If Star Trek as a behemoth franchise could be distilled to a single line, I think that line would be overly simplistic, but there is a good and strong case for this being the result. Starfleet is very much an exploratory force, but will fight for tolerance and unconditional love to be the order of the day.

The Animated Series

The Practical Joker

Original Airdate: 21st September 1974 Directed by Bill Reed Written by Chuck Menville

The Animated Series is often the overlooked one of the … 12. Yes, the animation quality with Filmation was not exactly an early Disney feature but … yeah. Anyway, while the maligned reaction to this series is arguably deserved, it really should. Not to be overlooked.

For instance, this episode is pivotal to the history of the Star Trek franchise these past 48 years. This has the first instance of a full Holodeck in the Trek franchise, a stalwart of nearly every spin-off show since.

If you want a laugh, please note how extrapolating how V.R. Is now, it is not exactly a stretch to imagine we will have Holodecks (or something like it). When Star Trek Discovery used a holographic shooting gallery in the 2250s, people were up in rage.

Motion Pictures

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Original release date 1986 Directed by Leonard Nimoy Written by Herve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy

A genuinely rare example of humorous Star Trek which genuinely works throughout. This final instalment in the unofficial Star Trek trilogy makes a marked tonal shift from all those before and since. The comedy genuinely works here but that is not to say that the actual plot is out of place, quite the contrary.

The very environmental and animal welfare plot is sadly as (if not more so) relevant today as it was upon the film’s premiere in 1986. It is often said that this is the only Trek film without a villain. I feel the villain is ever present, it is our own short-sightedness in our love for resources.

On a happier note, one thing is it is basically Star Trek IV: William Shatner learns how to swear in the 1980s. That last sentence is a rare instance of absolute perfection.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

The Measure of a Man

Original Airdate: February 13, 1989, Directed by: Robert Scheerer Written by: Melinda Snodgrass

The first two seasons of The Next Generation are quite often criticised as being so low in quality that the seminal documentary Chaos On The Bridge! Can be summarised as 90 minutes of writers such as Ronald D. Moore repeatedly saying sorry that these arguably lesser episodes exist.

However, a complete exception to this could be argued as ‘The Measure of A Man’. The courtroom drama would certainly become no stranger to the future of the Star Trek franchise (and even some before it too- notably The Original Series’ ‘Court Martial’ and ‘The Menagerie’) but the performances here, from all concerned, are simply breathtaking and are something Star Trek frequently does incredibly well in asking philosophical questions where we possibly take the answers for granted

In this case, whether an artificial creation such as Lieutenant Commander Data has the same rights and sentience as flesh and blood creatures who frequent Starfleet. Jonathan Frakes’ performance when he finds a convincing argument against Data being declared a true sentient and seemingly regrets it immediately is a small performance moment, but it is so often overlooked. Also Patrick. Stewart’s performance over the episode entirely is an enduring highlight.