Tonight’s episode began our journey into The Original Series. The Original Series has three seasons and 79 episodes. It ran from 1966-1969.
The Original Series follows the crew of the starship Enterprise under the leadership of Captain James Tiberius Kirk and first officer Spock. Other notable additions that we come to know and love include Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Hikaru “Sulu”, Montogomery “Scotty” Scott, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, and Pavel “Chekov”.
The Enterprise is on a five-year exploratory mission to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before” (stolen from the title sequence). The Original Series is largely composed of self contained episodes, without much carrying over from one episode to the next. There are exceptions, but we will get to those when we get there. For now, let’s discuss episode 1!
This episode begins with a few members of the Enterprise beaming down to the planet M113 to conduct routine medical examinations for anthropologist Dr. Robert Crater and his wife Nancy. Captain Kirk is poking fun at Dr. McCoy because as he put it, Nancy is “that one woman in Dr. McCoy’s past”. When they first arrive, you can tell almost immediately that something is up. When Nancy first approaches the landing party, each person sees a different woman. Nancy leaves to find her husband who returns without her and is hella rude to the crew members, telling them to go away.
Things kick up a notch when they hear Nancy scream outside and discover that one of the crew members has died. Nancy explains that the crew member ate a poisonous plant, but the crew member has red splotches on his face, which Dr. McCoy identifies is not a side affect of poisoning. After conducting further research, McCoy finds that the crew member died of salt depletion, meaning that all of the salt in his body was gone.
Kirk is PISSED and wants to find Dr. Crater to ask him further questions, but Dr. Crater tries to deflect his questions and runs away. Kirk discovers that another crew member has died and we learn that Nancy killed him and another crew member, whom she shape-shifts to impersonate. She beams back to the ship with the Kirk and Spock and wanders about the ship suspiciously looking for salt. Having a hard time finding it eventually leads to her draining the salt from, and killing more people.
Kirk and Spock go back to the planet to look for Dr. Crater and are able to stun him. They find out from him that Nancy was killed and that the creature that has been shape shifting and impersonating her is the last of its kind, but needs salt to survive. Dr. Crater tries to argue that the creature has only done what it needed to survive, but Kirk disagrees, as it has killed several of his crew members. He wants the creature found.
The episode ends with Kirk finding the creature, disguised as Nancy, with McCoy and confronting it. McCoy isn’t aware that Nancy is the creature and tries to protect her from Kirk. Creature Nancy is able to stun Captain Kirk and is trying to suck the life out of him when McCoy realizes and believes that it isn’t really Nancy. McCoy destroys the creature and saves Kirk.
We get a classic Original Series ending scene where they are all on the bridge, regrouping after the latest escapades, someone says something corny or witty, people laugh or contemplate what was said, and they cruise away, onto the next adventure.
Welcome to the Original Series
I think because the Original Series was the first series that I was exposed to, coming back to this series will always feel like going home. These episodes, while definitely a little cheesy from time to time, just bring an insurmountable amount of joy to me. From the moment the opening credits played until the last scene on the bridge, it felt so good to be hopping back into The Original Series.
Since my last blog post explored the things about the Pilot that just didn’t quite cut it for me in comparison to The Original Series, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the things I noticed in this episode that I just really appreciate about The Original Series
- Captain Kirk’s Entire Spectrum of Moods. Captain Kirk is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t watched the show. He is a whole emotional roller coaster and honestly, I love that about him. He begins the episode in a very smug mood, swaggering about with a very clear sense of confidence. When things go awry and he doesn’t have all the answers though, he looses all of his chill and yells at Bones, demanding answers. He remains agitated throughout the episode, having very few answers and watching information unfold slowly, but he is also calm and calculated before making decisions. He finishes the episode in a contemplative mood, with the cheesy line “I was thinking about the buffalo” (based on a conversation that he and Spock had with Dr. Crater earlier in the episode). Kirk is one moody guy, but I really appreciate that because I feel like it is not often that we get to see men experience so many emotions so thoroughly. I also appreciate that no matter how many emotions Kirk experiences in a single episode, his default setting is smug and confident.
- The colorful cube food! I don’t know what the crew of the Enterprise eat, but in this episode you see a few crew members eating these colorful cubes and I want to try one so bad! Also on the topic of color, this episode had so much more life and color than the Pilot episode and I hadn’t noticed and appreciated that before.
- The beautifully corny fight scenes! (Perfectly illustrated by this gif)
- Addicting plot lines. I really love how each episode of The Original Series really gives you this sense that the stakes are high and that one wrong choice could spell out trouble, and potentially the end, for everyone aboard the Enterprise. The episodes keep me hooked, and even though I have seen them before and know that everything is going to be okay, I still experience so much stress for the characters as I watch them figure things out and work to solve whatever issues they are facing. This show definitely pulls you in and I love it!
This is a new piece that I want to add and think about for each episode. For this episode I only have one:
- Uhura flirting with Spock, and Spock not quite understanding. This is a very brief moment but one that I think so beautifully juxtaposes Spock’s logical brain with Uhura’s fantasies in a way that shows both characters as quirky and charming.
I think that with this being the first episode of The Original Series, it does a great job of introducing you as a viewer to what you can expect from the series. It is a fast paced episode with an ambiguous plot that slowly unfolds as the episode goes on. It introduces suspicious circumstances that need to be understood to be resolved. To understand, the crew need to uncover information piece by piece, and ultimately do not understand everything until the end.
The episode introduces a theme that we have already seen and will see again that sometimes the more sparsely populated planets hold some of the more serious threats. We saw this in “The Cage” and will be sure to revisit it when it comes up again.
Something that I wonder about this episode is if the outcome was truly the right one. The episode spends a fair amount of time trying to help you understand that the creature’s motivations are not intentionally evil and that it is only doing what it needs to survive. Seeing the creature panic while disguised as McCoy and try to explain that the creature is intelligent and could be reasonable if they provided it with what it needed to survive, I had a moment of sympathy for the creature. I definitely feel like Kirk really did not entertain trying to reason with the creature since he was upset about his crew members being killed. In juxaposition with Spock who is guided by logic, Kirk is often ruled by his emotions and I think that this is definitely a situation where he let his emotions dictate his response. It would have been interesting to see them reason with the creature and come up with a more peaceful solution.
My final thoughts related to this episode are about character development. For just one episode, there is a surprising amount of depth explored in some of the characters. Uhura’s failed flirtatious interaction with Spock in the beginning paired with Spock’s suspicions about creature McCoy introduce you to his mind, guided by logic and intuition. Kirk’s frustration over the deaths of his crew members and insistence that they find the creature shows you how protective he is of the Enterprise and its crew. McCoy is definitely a little off, being confused, stressed, and exhausted throughout the episode, but the fact that Kirk takes the time to apologize for yelling at him and suggests that he take some time to rest illustrates that Kirk respects McCoy and has his crew’s best interests in mind.
In comparison to other episodes, I wouldn’t say this is one of the best Star Trek episodes, but it is definitely a solid one and started The Original Series on a much better note than I think “The Cage” would have.