- The Measure of a Man (The Next Generation – S02E09)
- Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series S01E18)
- Darmok (The Next Generation S05E02)
- In the Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine S06E19)
- Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (Discovery S01E07)
- City on the Edge of Forever (The Original Series S01E28)
- Cause and Effect (The Next Generation – S05E18)
- Sarek (The Next Generation – S03E23)
- The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 & 2 (The Next Generation – S03E26 & S04E01)
- The Trouble With Tribbles (Original Series S02E15) & Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine S05E06)
While half the world is already looking forward to Star Wars Episode 183, Marvin’s mind is completely different. Star Trek for example, the franchise that, despite a lot of , also contains mountains of pearls. To prove that, he suggests 10 episodes where everyone gets their Trekkie.
With a bunch of nice cinema films, Star: Trek Discovery and the return of none other than Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard in early 2020, this is a good time to be a Star Trek fan. Yet this is certainly not the highlight of the franchise, which is now 53 years old. With all that new you would almost forget that more than 30 seasons – hundreds of hours of television – have been made and that even the oldest episodes in 2019 hold up well.
Yes, a lot of aspects (especially the image quality and CGI) sometimes leave something to be desired, but the series deserves to be seen by everyone. Two years ago I said there should be more Star Trek games, now I’m telling you that you should also check out the series. Below 10 episodes that prove why.
The Measure of a Man (The Next Generation – S02E09)
Let’s kick off with one of my favorite episodes involving a bunch of guys – but is that walking cookie tin really a man? – sit in a room and discuss with each other. Doesn’t sound interesting, it does. Crux of the episode is Data, an android that would love to be human. When the Enterprise (you know, the ship this series revolves around) is tied to a base for routine maintenance, a StarFleet commander comes on board to investigate Data’s body and technology. Data refuses, and StarFleet soon interferes, telling it to cooperate.
Fortunately, ship captain Picard throws a spanner in the works and demands an interrogation, in which Data’s consciousness is the subject of discussion. Because what shapes our consciousness? What makes us human? And why should an android not be able to exhibit the same properties? A particularly interesting issue, one that was barely raised in the 1990s but is becoming increasingly relevant with the speed at which mankind develops technology.
Arena (Star Trek: The Original Series S01E18)
Anyone who has heard of The Original Series or has ever been on the internet has undoubtedly seen this episode. Namely, this is the episode where Captain James Kirk grapples with a big reptile-human thing. When a confrontation with a Gord ship (lizard people) gets out of control, a third party (the Metrons) comes in and drops the captain of the Enterprise and the captain of the Gords onto a planet and lets them fight it out one on one. .
In typical Star Trek style, though, it’s not the bloody slow fight between William Shatner and a man in a rubber suit (a hilarious highlight nonetheless) that is the episode’s climax. No, Kirk eventually decides to keep the Gord alive and tells the Metrons he doesn’t want the Gord ship to be destroyed either. Their answer: ‘you are still half savage, but there is hope.’ The most intelligent life forms in Star Trek have in common that things like violence and materialism are not addressed to them, we might learn a thing or two from it.
Darmok (The Next Generation S05E02)
We simply cannot ignore The Next Generation. Central to Star Trek is the quest for new life forms and societies, with something called the Prime Directive predominant: StarFleet ships must not affect the natural evolution and development of civilizations and must of course avoid confrontation for as long as possible. Important themes such as faith, love, capitalism, family, etc. etc. are discussed here, but things like language also turn out to be crucial.
After all, communication is of the utmost importance when it comes to meeting strange creatures, and it becomes most evident in the episode Darmok. When the Enterprise encounters a race called Tamarians, it turns out they can’t communicate with each other. The people are too direct in their language, the Tamarians too abstract. Central is one Dathon, who, like the rest of his race, only communicates in metaphors. In frustration, he teleports himself and Picard to a planet to learn to understand each other better. The problem is that the metaphors they use don’t match those in English and are based, among other things, on the horrors their race has endured. His statement ‘Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra’ is one you will hear at many Trekkie conventions.
In the Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine S06E19)
Deep Space Nine is characterized by its ashen atmosphere; central is the fact that war is up and can have a lot of effect on soldiers. The ship and the captain in question therefore make very different decisions than the ‘classic’ captains ala Kirk and Picard, which can be clearly seen in the episode In the Pale Moonlight. The Federation is at war with the Dominion and there seems to be no way out. This leads Captain Sisko to team up with a spy named Garek, who helps bring the Romulans on their side. Garek’s plan includes a bit of assassination, however, and where the average Star Trek captain would never agree, Sisko does. Values and norms are not always black and white, and the way in which Sisko sets aside his own feelings for ‘the greater good’ underscores this.
Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (Discovery S01E07)
Chances are, if you’ve never given Star Trek a chance, you won’t be thrilled to start at the beginning. After all, why would you do that when a new series (including top notch CGI) is already available? Well, there are plenty of reasons, but nonetheless, Discovery wouldn’t even be the worst start. Chronologically, the series starts before The Original Series, and there are a ton of episodes that showcase qualities of the Star Trek franchise. First of all, the story is very engaging and shows the beginning of the war between the Klingon and the United Federation of Planets (quite important for all other series), but to get that right you have to watch all episodes.
In between, however, you will also find a few very nice episodes that almost stand on their own. Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, for example, in which the series tackles a topic that we will also encounter later in this list: a timeloop. Strangely enough, it is also the first episode in which we see the crew a bit relaxed – the timeloop takes place during a party, but it is quite unfortunate that a lot of heads will be rolling by the time the party ends. One Harry Mudd, played by The Office star Rainn Wilson, wants to take over the Discovery and uses a timeloop to make it happen (details will be left out). The series gives its own spin to the timeloop event, making this episode a more than fine indication of what awaits you in Discovery.
City on the Edge of Forever (The Original Series S01E28)
This episode is hailed by many Trekkies as the best Star Trek episode ever, and while that will be debated for a long time, it is nonetheless a damn good episode. Star Trek is at its best when you don’t realize that the writers are deliberately giving you the wrong ideas, and let you empathize with the characters to end up with some big surprises. The surprises in question here are quite… tear-jerking.
Due to circumstances Captain Kirk returns to New York in the 1930s (of the last century) and there meets the love of his life (played by Joan Collins). There is one small problem though, history is changed by the presence of Kirk and co. To make sure everything gets back to the way it was, Kirk must do the impossible and let his sweetheart die. Although Kirk is not known for his subtlety and the way he treats women in 2019 is no longer completely acceptable, the love here is all too believable and the ending of the episode all the more heartbreaking.
Cause and Effect (The Next Generation – S05E18)
The episode Cause and Effect is certainly not one of the most popular episodes, but as far as I’m concerned it shows the powers of the Star Trek franchise. This episode is not carried by brilliant actors like Patrick Stewart (fantastic work nevertheless); especially the writing and film work deserves praise here. The crew of the Enterprise is in a timeloop, and although that in itself is not very original, they still know how to make the best of it. Although the hour of television could be put together with twenty minutes of recordings and a lot of cutting and pasting work, each ‘new’ timeloop was recorded separately. In addition, the makers show a damn good eye for detail and the episode illustrates the power of this franchise: yet another absurd mystery that must be solved, and how.
Sarek (The Next Generation – S03E23)
Want to cry? In the mood for nostalgia? Then you’re in the right place with the episode Sarek. Ambassador Sarek, who you may know as Spock’s father, arrives on the Enterprise to finally complete his lifelong mission of establishing a specific trade route. The fact that he is confronted with his own mortality just then makes this episode quite intense; Sarek is suffering from the Vulcan version of Alzheimer’s and increasingly feels furious and especially desperate.
To do something about his pain, Picard proposes a so-called mind-meld, in which they share their mind including all memories. Decades of pent-up emotions come out, with a lot of attention for his son and his human mother. This episode is extra good for people who have seen the Original Series, but it is also impressive without prior knowledge.
The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 & 2 (The Next Generation – S03E26 & S04E01)
Okay, one more The Next Generation episode then. Purely because the Borg, an alien race that has fused with technology and cannot live without it, are some of the most brutal bad guys in sci-fi history. Oh, and because the aftermath of this episode can make itself felt in the upcoming series Picard and it is just brilliant television. The Enterprise is thrown into the depths of space by a being living partially outside of our dimension, Q, where they first encounter the Borg. A year later, the Borg catch up with the Enterprise and begin an epic battle full of plot twists and cinematic highlights that deserve to be seen in a movie theater. At the end of season 3 (SPOILERS!), None other than Picard is kidnapped and equipped with Borg technology, a huge cliffhanger.
The Trouble With Tribbles (Original Series S02E15) & Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine S05E06)
A movie universe like the MCU is really not unique, just look at Star Trek. The series are packed with references to each other and often enough borrow actors and characters from each other – sometimes ‘new’ episodes even play in old episodes! Let’s start with The Trouble With Tribbles, a fantastic Star Trek episode in its own right that features amazing creatures called Tribbles. When the crew of the USS Enterprise gets one Tribble, a fluffy creature, on board, they soon discover a flaw of this cute breed: they reproduce even faster than rabbits. Many areas of the ship are soon full of fluff balls, which causes a lot of hilarity. The end of the episode is another one that you will not see coming, and that we will not reveal here either. Do not worry,
On to Trials and Tribble-ations, an episode of Deep Space Nine in which the crew goes back in time to the episode Trouble With Tribbles. The fluffy balls aren’t the focal point though, as it’s up to the Deep Space Nine crew to prevent the Klingons’ murder of James Kirk. The actors were digitally put into the old episode, which also uses footage from other Star Trek: The Original Series episodes. Why the writers made this episode? No idea, they reportedly wanted to answer the question of why Kirk gets so often Tribbles thrown at his head – just as absurd as it is brilliant.