Dave's Ten Favorite Episodes

By David Beck

*** Warning: This document contains naughty words and "adult" themes. If my parents are reading this document, they are hereby asked to note the byline, because this time it's Dave's fault.***

1. "Doomsday Machine": The best. This episode is not only my favorite, but it can easily be argued to be the best Star Trek episode ever produced. Consider:

Without a doubt, this one's the greatest.

2. "Wolf in the Fold": After "Doomsday Machine" I feel a bit uncomfortable ranking the rest of the best, because they are all equally commendable episodes in their own right. Thus this list cannot be taken as absolute. (Well, it isn't being taken as absolute. However, since it's your opinion, you need not apologize for the possibility of rankling readers with your ranking. -- GP)

"Wolf in the Fold" is outstanding because, like "Doomsday Machine," it too is superlative in drawing us into the story, and the production is superb. Granted, the premise is a little silly: a Jack-the-Ripper space spook leaps from planet to planet terrorzing women (Including the one with rotating hooters. -- GP) as he did on Earth, but that really doesn't detract at all. Kirk et al. have the task of determining just what the hell is happening to the women on Rip's latest excursion, and it is really involving.

In the hearing room on the Enterprise it reaches the moment when all the clues point right smack at Mr. Hengist, and when Kirk turns to him and plainly asks, "Mr. Hengist, would you take the stand," not one viewer could be sober and not feel the goosebumps lace his or her back.

3. "Piece of the Action": The most fun episode of them all -- yes, even more fun than "Trouble with Tribbles."

Kirk, Spock and McCoy have got to try to civilize what is thought to be a malevolent society based entirely upon the cultural norms of a 1920s/mobster Chicago. Actually they encounter a bunch of bumbling goofballs who really don't know what to do with these norms under which they are expected to behave. Kirk et al. eventually outsmart them and bring at least a little harmony, but it takes some doing because even though this planet's people are ignorant, they still all carry enough automatic machine guns to send the episode into a commercial every 15 minutes just after a few are pointed at our precious captain and friends.

What makes all this great is just what Kirk and Spock must do to accomplish their mission and the interplay between the two -- as well as that between them and the "gangsters" they must humble. Great character exposition and a flowing, exciting storyline make this an excellent episode.

4. "Whom Gods Destroy": Terrific acting performances are the hallmark here:

5. "Journey to Babel": Most are certainly in agreement over the place of this episode as one of the best, and all would undoubtedly attribute it mostly to the great exposition of Spock's character. Unlike "Amok Time," "Journey to Babel" is genuinely and exquisitely effective at revealing the person of Spock.

"Amok Time" details Spock's banging reflexes -- and, seriously now, who cares? (Nurse Chapel. -- GP) "Journey to Babel," however, presents Spock in his relationship with his family. From the beginning we are intimately drawn to why Spock seems to feel that his father is worth nothing more than Mugato feed, and vice versa. We find out that Sarek vehemently disapproved of Spock's rejection of science training on Vulcan and naturally Spock is a little bitter over his father's rejection of him and his decision to do what he felt best for him.

Well, Sarek has a heart attack and needs blood only Spock can provide. Logically, Spock would certainly help out, except that Sarek's condition conveniently coincides with a murder, the excruciatingly tense on-board presence of Kirk trying to battle an unknown alien dive-bomber spacecraft while his task is a tad aggravated by the five-inch-deep knife would in his back. Now we always thought that Vulcans have mastered thinking ("Mind over matter thinking," anyway. -- GP) to the point where it's as easy as spitting. But not for Spock here! Oh, no. He finds it is painful, and his expression at one point during all this -- when the only thing running through his mind is, "What the hell am I going to do?" is an absolute classic.

A dramatic, touching, action-sparked, and thoroughly enjoyable episode.

6. "I, Mudd": Another really fun episode to watch -- yes, even more fun than "Trouble with Tribbles." The whole sequence at the end is so monumentally silly and exceptionally well-done that it has busted me up on every one of the twenty-some times I've seen it.

"How can you be lying -- if you must tell the truth but -- if you tell the truth -- you'd be lying but -- if -- you tell -- you lie -- you tell the truth but -- you -- if -- sizzle -- spittle -- splut -- fizzzz... zpipper... tssssss... glonk rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....

7. "That Which Survives": This episode is unique. First and foremost, I love the way it showcases Spock's biting sense of humor. No other episode comes close to showing us Spock the way this one does. For example, somehow the Enterprise encounters some kind of galactic spacequake and gets heaved light years away from its orbit around a planet to which Kirk et al. have just transported. After this severe jolting, on the bridge some crewwoman asks "What happened?" and Spock replies something like, "The front part of my head was forced into an impact with the edge of the chair."

Later Spock exhorts Scotty's help in getting the ship back to where it was and Scotty says something like "I'll keep those engines going if I've got to sit on them and nurse them myself," to which Spock replies, "That, Mr. Scott, would be not only uncomfortable, but undignified."

The second thing of note is how well the "weirdness" in this one is presented. We got a woman who is weirdly attractive who has this weird Midas touch -- except that things don't turn to gold: people turn to dead. Weird. Then we find out that only the person she claims she is "for" will be killed: "I am for you, D'Amato," she says. "Lucky D'Amato," her victim replies, sensing his imminent demise. But when she touches Kirk while she's "for" Sulu, Kirk is unharmed, and then he pushes her away, after which she weirdly folds up like a sheet of paper and vanishes as if she slipped into a different dimension. Most weird. To top this off, not only does she headline with this weird act on this planet, but she makes cameos on the Enterprise as well, which now -- as we know -- is umpteen light years away. Of course, there is a lot of weirdness in most Star Trek episodes, but I just find the weirdness in this one intriguing and imaginative.

The third thing about this one is its refreshing use of several other crewmembers as real, live, active people running a starship. Now there are a few episodes that do this well: "Naked Time," "Balance of Terror," "Squire of Gothos," "Return of the Archons" -- in fact, several of the first-season episodes. And we are talking about clearly featuring crewmembers as intelligent Star Fleet officers, not just catatonic stand-ins or victims of the token death here and there.

(In the third season of episodes, however, all we get are Kirk, Spock and McCoy; Kirk, Spock and McCoy -- Kirk, Spock and McCoy -- Kirk, Spock and McCoy. If the savage tribunal of giant orange schlernblatts gets a little unruly, Kirk is conveniently there to smack 'em around with a little kick-boxing demonstration and humble them into seeing the sense of his noble moral principles. If the landing party's fate lies in determining the time-space specifications of what will happen 10 days from now, Spock simply fiddles with his tricorder, adjusts the Gankoliploid computer of Smegron IV, attaches the the two together, and voila. If a serum needs to be developed to keep Kirk from turning into an Olglarphian gooble-fern picker, then McCoy splashes a few things together and all he needs is for Spock to give Kirk the Vulcan gall-bladder-meld to make it work. Evidently, during all these brilliantly miraculous achievements the rest of the Enterprise crew -- some 400 members -- is in some frozen dimension lock picking their collective noses. Stretches the the suspension of disbelief just a tad much, don't you think?)

In "That Which Survives" we got Science Officer D'Amato, who is introduced as a pretty bright guy. Granted, he does get wasted, but who would expect some silly woman named Losira to give anyone an instantly lethal case of skin cancer with merely a touch? We also got an on-the-ball helmswoman in Lt. Rahada to take the place of Sulu, who's in the landing party. This is so very welcome, compared to every other time Sulu is gone, when we get a dummy sitting there with a robotic arm moving up and down the helm to simulate life. We got Lt. Palmer at communications, a very adept officer and someone who can occasionally give Uhura the weekend off. (So she can continue her English lessons after having her brain spattered by Nomad. -- GP) We get a security guard who actually does something besides get killed when, at the end, Spock has him blast the threatening computer and save the day -- I mean, for cryin' out loud, it's about time they used these guys to actually do that stuff they should be doing. And finally we get Dr. M'Benga, who rarely makes an appearance in the series, but when he does it at least somewhat gives us the comforting impression that of the 400-plus crewmembers, Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel are not the only ones in sick bay. And M'Benga is also a doctor refreshingly presented as an intelligent, savvy guy, not some useless medical technician tweak who goes mad with the latest space schizophrenia the ship encounters.

Overall, "That Which Survives" is an imaginative, cleverly conceived, well-constructed episode that ends with a really nice (and brief) touch regarding the nature of beauty.

8. "Turnabout Intruder": As in "Whom Gods Destroy," we get to see Shatner at his best, again doing someone else, only in this episode he does it throughout most of the show -- an absolute trip to watch this guy perform.

Here he does the psychotic Dr. Janice Lester, yet another former Kirk hon, who is an absolute loon and transfers her mind (or whatever it is) into Kirk's body. It's a blast to watch not only Kirk as Lester but also Spock et al. as astute enough individuals to figure out that Kirk is not Kirk.

Now, we can really be far from surprised that Kirk had such a flake as a former considerable love interest. From my recollection, there are four distinct considerable love interests (as opposed to the one-time-fling kind of thing he has had with virtually everything in the galaxy with breasts):

Now we can barely eke by in our impression of Kirk after Ruth. We are genuinely encouraged when we find that he had something with the bright Areel Shaw. We can somehow sustain at least a tinge of respect even after Dr. Wallace. But Lester blows it all to hell. Of course we get the standard attitude, "But I'm married to my ship." Yeah, sure. I think Kirk is a helluva lot more savvy than one is led to believe. (I take it that you mean "savvy" in terms of hunting for potential crotch-bending partners. -- GP)

(Listed above are the considerable love interests that we know of; there could obviously be countless others. For instance, who the heck is Helen Johansen (mentioned to Kirk in "The Menagerie"), whom he treats with a look that screams out in its subtlety: "Oh, so you know Helen Johansen, that blonde tit-factory who swore she wouldn't mention my name after that last time behind the quadrowankleforbelmodulator on Deep Space Outpost 46.") (Lord only knows what Ol' Jim did to Helen Noel at that Christmas party. -- GP)

9. "Patterns of Force": The premise that Kirk et al. must encounter a society modeled after Nazi Germany may seem silly, but actually it works splendidly. A suspensefully riveting episode.
10. "City on the Edge of Forever": This episode would certainly go at the top of many STVs' Most Favorite list. It is definitely good enough to merit placement on this list, but a couple of things knock it down:

Honorable Mention (in order of broadcast date)

Other Considerably Enjoyable Episodes

Special Mention

Spectre of the Gun": As "Amok Time" is one that everyone seems to think is so wonderful but is really rather annoying, "Spectre of the Gun" is one that everyone thinks is poor but is actually pretty enjoyable.

Apparently the Star Trek people had to think up a story and think it up quick: "Okay... lessee... ummm... Kirk and these guys go into -- trespass into space that -- oh -- these aliens have staked for themselves, and they tell the Enterprise to leave... and... they don't... so Kirk and these guys have to go through some bad experience... like... oh, lessee... a Nazi concentration camp -- no, that's an untouchable subject... besides, we've already done Nazis... how about a weird space haunted house or somethi -- no, sorry, we've done that too... Hey! Get this: we get five guys -- the usual Kirk, Spock, McCoy and, oh -- say -- Scotty and Chekov, and make them the guys that are going to get wasted by the Earps and Doc Holiday and whoever else at the gunfight at the OK Corral!"

Sounds really, really silly, doesn't it? And to be truthful, it is. Most silly. But, would you believe it, the people who put it all together, especially the actors, really give it their best, and they succeed. They all could have easily fallen into the "Omega Glory" trap: "This one is so stupid that let's just get it over with and get on with shooting 'Elaan of Troyius.'" But they didn't.

We are truly drawn into their plight and they all do an outstanding job of making us believe they are really in some neck-deep kukka and had better figure out what to do or at 5 p.m. they'll be made into bullet pin-cushions. The production value of this episode is so good that you're never really let on that you're actually following a ridiculously insipid story concept. Something is happening all the time, so we're never bored, and one of the funniest scenes in the whole series takes place here:

Mr. Scott has volunteered to test a tranquilizer-device that Kirk et al. hope will somehow disable their antagonists. To prepare, he pours himself a swig of scotch at the bar. "It's to kill the pain," he tells Spock as he downs it in a gulp.

"But this is painless," Spock assures him.

"Well, ya shoulda warned me sooner, Mr. Spock. Fire away," says Scott, to which Spock does that intensely subtle, split-second take that only he can do so well.

I have seen this episode the usual seven or eight times. I never get too tired of it. Even the gaucherie of Chekov trying to get under the dress of that painfully silly woman never disappoints because his blatant lasciviousness is rewarded with a most appropriate drilling from a very large bullet ripping through his midsection. Of course, Chekov magically recovers, but not without his just dues. (Bad petey! Bad, bad petey! -- GP)

Again, this is one of the better episodes in Star Trek, and if people would drop that pseudo-intellectually-superior-TV-critic-and-most-pious-TV-noble-message-evaluator mask, then they would see this easily.

Other Episodes of Note

(The following episodes, listed in order of broadcast date, merit comment because they have some special value in Star Trek lore or are unusually well-liked by most.)

Back to It's Not the Giants