Fifty years ago, Gene Roddenberry’s first “wagon train to the stars” began airing on NBC. Star Trek featured a cast of many nationalities, had people of color in important roles, it commented on the social problems of the day disguised in science fiction, and it was the first time we’d seen humanity out in the stars in a ship meant to not only get us to them, but to explore. It was a show about hope for the future, a future that we continue to ape from today with our cellphones, video conferencing communications, and even equipment you can carry around that will tell you the current and future weather conditions.
Was Star Trek perfect? No. Between all the series that they put out from the ’60s, to the reintroduction of the show again with Next Generation in the ’80s, and up through Star Trek Enterprise, there were some episodes that didn’t work, weren’t necessarily poignant, and some that were just not good sci-fi. I’ve seen a number of articles out there listing the great episodes. There are several guides on how to get through the shows as quickly as possible so you get the most for your streaming buck. These guides don’t necessarily go into much detail, though. They list them, but they don’t rate them or give you much info on them. Star Trek Essentials aims to be a little different. I’m going to go over two episodes each week, review them, and talk about what makes them special.
My next two episodes include a young Clint Howard, the introduction of Doctor McCoy, Janice Rand and Uhura, as well as an unused pilot idea that ended up getting developed as an episode. As a note, I’m not going with broadcast order on these, but rather production order, although for simplicity’s sake I’ve got the episode number as they appear on Netflix for those that want to watch these.
The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1, Episode 10)
While a pretty basic episode, The Corbomite Maneuver has the distinction of laying out some ground rules for Starfleet in that they weren’t a shoot first organization and explorers. While exploring a distant region of space, the Enterprise encounters a probe that they’re forced to destroy only to find out it was a warning buoy when Balok of the First Federation shows up with an enormous ship threatening to destroy the Enterprise. Kirk is forced to come up with a poker play to get the Enterprise out of death, but their ordeal isn’t over.
This was the third episode filmed of the show, but it was the tenth aired. They do a decent job of establishing that while they’re explorers, humanity is looking not to conquer or destroy, but to find a way around these things that would force them to do so. While not necessarily a great episode, it is a nice establishing episode, and in the remastered edition, it has some great effects for the massive First Federation ship. It’s also important because we get to see Kirk outsmart his way through a problem instead of having to resort to punching out the bad guy, which is something the networks didn’t go for in the second pilot.
Mudd’s Women (Season 1, Episode 6)
The sixth episode aired, but the fourth episode produced, Mudd’s Women only really made the cut here because of Mudd’s second appearance later on in the show. The Enterprise rescues a con man named Harry Mudd, who is trafficking in mail-order brides. Mudd ries to outrun the Enterprise in his smaller craft, but its engines fail in an asteroid field, forcing the Enterprise to burn out some of it’s crystals that help with powering the ship to rescue him. Mudd ends up exacerbating the situation by getting the miners who were going to supply the ship with new crystals to make demands that Kirk isn’t quite willing to go along with, which included dropping the charges against him. When it appears that the women Mudd is peddling are more than they seem, the Enterprise crew must figure out how to get the miner’s to go along with it before the ship ends up spiraling into the atmosphere.
Mudd is a fun character to mess with Kirk and the crew, but the premise of him being an intergalactic pimp isn’t the greatest. He is sneaky, though, and a nice foil for Kirk. There’s a reason they brought him back in the show later, and again during the comic book run that DC Comics was doing in the ’90s. The premise of the episode is a bit off, even for the ’60s, but what Harry is slipping to his mail-order brides to make them appear even more beautiful has some questionable but interesting effects, and the episode has kind of a moral theme to it at the end, but other than Mudd’s introduction, it’s not necessarily the best of Trek, but needed for Mudd’s return later on.