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.
Season 3, and our run on the Star Trek Essential episodes, concludes. First up is another episode that tackles not only racism, but class struggles as well, with a very Have and Have Nots type of episode. We finish the series off with a somber look at a planet’s past before its sun goes supernova and Spock finds savage love.
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 Cloud Minders (Season 3, Episode 21)
A botanical plague is threatening Merak II and the Federation dispatches the Enterprise to head to Ardana to pick up a shipment of the only mineral that can stop it, zenite. Beaming down, the landing party is ambushed by Disrupters, a group of rebel Troglytes who have taken the shipment of the mineral. Invited back up to Stratos, one of the floating cities, Kirk and Spock try to deal with the High Advisor to get the mineral as the situation on Merak II is dire, but not is all it seems as the people who live on Stratos are taking full advantage of the Troglytes. who mine the mineral for their own gain. Torn between wanting to help get the mineral, Kirk has to make some hasty choices that will have consequences for everyone on Ardana.
This episode feels very much ripped from the Time Machine novel. The Troglytes being the Morlocks and the people of Stratos are the Eloi. The moral dilemna, mixed with the other threat to Merak II, provides a nice, driving backdrop to this. While the message is a bit muddied from the original intent, it’s still pretty good, and while this definitely delves into Kirk meddling with local affairs a bit too much, I do like his solution. Spock also gets a few moments here as he’s pretty taken in by the Advisor’s daughter and he really puts on the Vulcan charm.
All Our Yesterdays (Season 3, Episode 23)
Kirk, Spock and McCoy transport to the surface of the planet Sarpeidon to warn the inhabitants that their sun is about to go supernova. When they arrive they find themselves in an empty library with no inhabitants remaining. They encounter a librarian name Mr. Atoz and several of his replicas. He informs them that the inhabitants have fled into their planet’s past using a device called an atavachron. While reviewing the library’s past, Kirk hears a scream, and leaps through what he thinks is a doorway to assist, but ends up going through a portal into Sarpeidon’s past. Spock and McCoy try to follow, but end up in a different time period than Kirk. They only have a short time to figure out how to get back before they’re trapped back in time for good.
This is actually a pretty emotional episode for Spock as he feels the effects of traveling through time, and his emotional control slips. He gets some tender moments with a woman trapped in the past who can’t go back with them, and, in a very short time, seems to fall for her. It’s a bit off on that aspect, but it’s a touching story either way, and it’s a pretty interesting and different take than they’d done on time travel before. A much more somber and serious episode than Turnabout Intruder, which ended up finishing the series off, but also a much better one, as the series ended with a huge dud otherwise. This is a much stronger episode all around.