Top 10 Star Trek Episodes (Original Series)

I’ve been meaning to do this since last week in the Travelodge in Reading.  I was scanning through the episode lists on Netflix trying to find ones to watch.  I wondered what my top ten would be. Strangely enough, it wasn’t that hard picking the ten.  The hardest part was putting them in order, especially the top three.

Doubtless there will be those of you who disagree.  Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section.  In the meantime:

10 – Day of the Dove


This is a favourite of mine from childhood.  The Klingon captain, Kang is a great foil for Kirk and the idea of them being trapped together in perpetual war is a useful metaphor that highlights the futility of their races’ struggle on the outside of the ship.

Best line: “We need no urging to hate humans.”

9 – The Gamesters of Triskellion


I love this episode and it finds its way into the top 10 on the strength of just how fun it is.  Kirk, Uhuru and Chekov are abducted whilst transporting and pressed into gladiatorial games at the whim of three creatures who are nothing more than brains in jars so to speak.  Each member of the landing party is assigned a ‘drill thrall’ to prepare them for the games.  You have to wonder just how intelligent these beings are if they decided to pair Kirk the way they do.  If they’d put him with the big, hairy dude probably that would have been the end of the series.

Bets line: “A hundred quatloos on the newcomers!”

8 – Who Mourns for Adonais


I enjoy the idea that the Gods of Ancient Greece could have been advanced space travellers.  This episode is an interesting look at how such beings would feel having been forgotten and deprived of the adulation that feeds them.  Apollo comes across as a petulant, selfish figure but he is granted a degree of humanity and sympathy by the writers.

Best line: “You will gather laurel leaves, light the ancient fires, kill a deer!”

7 – The Ultimate Computer


The idea that people could become obsolete and be replaced by machines is a common trope and has been explored in many works of fiction as well as being a theme of much of real life over the past couple of centuries.  Kirk plays the part well, constantly railing against the stripping away of his authority and the way he is outperformed by the machine.  I like the crew’s desperation as the ship is controlled against their will, waging war on the other starships.

Best line: “Regards to Captain Dunsil.”

6 – The Enemy Within


Seeing the Jeckyll and Hyde sides of Captain Kirk is a wonderful notion, and this has been one of my favourites from when I was young.  It must be one of Joss Whedon’s favourites as well, as two episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer play on the same theme of splitting a character into two opposing halves.  So, the makeup and lighting of ‘evil’ Kirk, coupled with the overacting, make for something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jean-Claude Van Damme film.  It’s still great fun to watch.

Best line: “I’M CAPTAIN KIRK!!!!”

5 – Space Seed


Watching this one again, you can see why it was chosen to be the basis of a film.  Khan is truly a great bad guy.  Much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch, there is no substitute for the cruelty and single minded arrogance that is injected into the role by Montalban.  You do have to question just how willing Kirk is to hand over the complete technical manuals of the Enterprise within five minutes of him waking up.  Plus, one security guard on the door?  One?  Love it though.  Blind luck that McGivers has a change of heart and lets Kirk out of the decompression chamber or we could have had a Milton Krest moment.

Best line: “I grow fatigued, again!”

4 – Amok Time


A great opening to Season 2.  This is really good quality stuff, introducing a different side of Spock that none of the audience would have seen.  I love the way this one builds up the bond between Captain and First Officer and the ‘reveal’ at the end is brilliant, no matter how unbelievable.

Best line: T’Pau – “Live long and prosper, Spock.”

Spock – “I shall do neither.  I have killed my Captain and my friend.”

3 – Wolf in the Fold


I don’t remember this one from when I was younger.  I came to it as an adult and it grows in my estimation every time I see it.  I recently posted on the Twin Peaks UK site about the similarities between the forces of evil at work in each story.  An ancient evil that feeds on fear and is able to inhabit humans. There’s also a nice cameo from John Fielder, an alumni of my all time favourite film, 12 Angry Men.  It’s a trusting society indeed that allows someone accused of murder and found with a knife at the scene of the crime such freedom to come and go during the investigation.  Also, I just laughed so hard at the end when they’re all so happy, forgetting the brutal slayings that have occurred.

Best line: “For a minute there I didn’t know if I was innocent or guilty.”

2 – Mirror, Mirror


Parallel universes.  It’s always a treat in our favourite stories to see what characters would be like if situations were different.  Marti Noxon must also have had this in mind somewhere when she wrote the Buffy episode, The Wish.  There are other examples also.  It’s like going on holiday from what you expect.  Sulu and Chekov get to explore their dark sides but Spock steals the show by being pretty much as you expect him to be.  The little McGuffin in Kirk’s quarters is a bit convenient but other than that, its flawless.  There’s some hilarious stunt double work to brighten things up, too.

1 – City on the Edge of Forever


When I came up with the list, this one was pencilled in at number one from the start.  I thought about it.  I know it’s a fan favourite and I would have been happy being contrary but I just couldn’t.  It’s a class above everything else in the series.  Probably it’s something to do with being written by Harlan Ellison.  The story is a classic Butterfly Effect Time Travel problem but handled brilliantly by all involved.  There’s some real pathos in it that you rarely feel in other episodes.  Alright, so Kirk falls in love very, very quickly but there’s only 45 minutes to get it all done so things have to move at a pace.  For once, the emotions seem to resonate all the way to the end.  There’s no laughter on the bridge at the end, no one-liners from McCoy.  Just Kirk looking every inch the man who has been thoroughly defeated by his role and responsibility.  Brilliant television.

Best line: “He knows, Doctor.  He knows.”

Well, that’s it.  Like I said, I’m sure some of you will vehemently disagree.  Feel free to tell me so in the comments.  It’s just my opinion and, I guess if I thought about it again in a few weeks I might see things differently.  One thing’s for sure:  Harry Mudd is never going to appear on this list, or the hippies jamming with Spock!

Thanks for reading


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