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 twice a week, review them, and talk about what makes them special.
Things turn a bit more serious as our trip through season two of the original Star Trek series continues. First up is a diplomatic mission that turns deadly with an assassin on board the Enterprise, and the other gets a bit more scientific as the ship intercepts an enormous new alien life form living in space.
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.
Journey to Babel (Season 2, Episode 10)
The Enterprise is tasked with transporting delegates from around the Federation to take them to Babel to discuss and decide on admitting Coridan into the Federation. With Tellarites and Andorians already aboard, they stop at Vulcan to pick up Sarek, the Vulcan ambassador, and his wife. We come to find out this is Spock’s estranged father, and the tension between the two is thick. It gets a bit more harried as the ship is dogged by an unknown vessel that’s extremely fast and has powerful weapons, while an assassin on board has started killing delegates. Things get even worse when Kirk is injured by the assassin, and Spock’s father is dying, with his only hope being Spock, who’s needed in the command chair.
This lays some of the groundwork between Spock and his father that they played with so well in the later films, and in the ’09 reboot as well. Hell, even >em>Star Trek: The Next Generation manages several quality episodes using Sarek and Spock’s relationship here in the best way possible. We get a look at Andorians and Tellarites also who, with Vulcans and Humans, were the founding members of the Federation. Both Andorians and Tellarites wouldn’t get much more air time again after until Star Trek Enterprise, and even then the bigger focus there is on the Andorians. Overall it’s a great episode with a mystery, some great character development and interaction, and further develops the Star Trek universe quite a bit. It has all-around great action, both with the characters, and an enemy starship.
The Immunity Syndrome (Season 2, Episode 18)
After detouring away from some needed shore leave at Starbase 6, the Enterprise encounters an enormous single-celled creature that devoured the crew of the Intrepid, a Vulcan crewed Starfleet vessel. It’s sucking in energy, including from the ship itself as it’s sucked into the organism. McCoy and Spock end up fighting over who’s going to go out and get a better look at it to try and figure out how to stop it, and how to get the Enterprise out of it before it’s too late.
This episode could have easily been a mixed bag, or just plain awful. I mean “Giant Space Amoeba Threatens Starship” sounds like an incredibly corny headline. And I admit some of that premise is, but they treat it so well here, and the crew interactions are fantastic. The banter between McCoy and Spock in this is spot on and worth it almost for that alone. The effects work overall is pretty good, and they replicate a lot of it with the remaster almost exactly as it was originally, which worked pretty well in the first place, but they needed to add in better shots of the shuttle and the ship. There are a lot of great moments in The Immunity Syndrome that easily chalk it up higher than the premise sounds, and make it worth the watch.