Saturday, June 12, 2010

Star Trek Season One

Star Trek debuted in 1966, after one failed pilot and an extensive casting overhaul that secured William Shatner as the iconic James T. Kirk. In the first of a series, I begin exploring the episodes and films of the ensuing franchise that helped make me a fan, a narrative and chronicle that attempts to capture the mounting impact of the material, and how it combined to make the franchise continually irresistible.

1x3 “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Given the complicated production schedule, the second pilot wasn’t broadcast until several episodes in, but more than demonstrates the charm Shatner brought to the role of Kirk, making it easy to understand how Star Trek finally made it to television.

1x4 “The Naked Time”
The first of a series of iconic episodes, the crew of the Enterprise find their personalities amplified and distorted, notably characterized by Sulu’s shirtless fencing, setting a strong ensemble tone that helped establish the cast.

1x7 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
The earliest instance of a supporting, non-regular character, in this instance Nurse Chapel (played by the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, who had played the controversial female Number One in the original pilot), sneaking in and commanding an episode.

1x9 “Dagger of the Mind”
One of Star Trek’s hallmarks has been allegorical storytelling. This episode brilliantly explores the issue of criminal reform.

1x11/1x12 “The Menagerie”
Incorporating the original pilot, “The Cage,” which featured a more cerebral approach and Jeffrey Hunter’s Christopher Pike, this was perhaps the first true utilization of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, who was the sole character to survive both of Star Trek’s earliest incarnations.

1x14 “Balance of Terror”
Introducing the Romulans, a brother race of Spock’s Vulcans was this subtle entry of battle tactics and bigotry, probably Star Trek’s first attempt to elevate the material to its highest potential.

1x15 “Shore Leave”
Another iconic episode that allows the show to properly exploit the ensemble, the crew on a pleasure planet that is predictably more than it seems.

1x16 “The Galileo Seven”
Considering that it was basically Spock the network really wanted to lose originally, to stick with the character and develop him as an outsider, especially in an episode like this, was undoubtedly Star Trek’s boldest move.

1x18 “Arena”
Kirk developed a reputation as a lady’s man and futuristic swashbuckler; it was the latter firmly in the spotlight this episode, which happens to pit him in battle against the distinctive Gorn.

1x22 “Space Seed”
Honestly, I don’t know how important this episode was at the time, but eventually it became the basis for the most popular of the original cast films, ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ and inspired several episodes in later series as well.

1x25 “The Devil in the Dark”
Just in case anyone was wondering how intricate its storytelling could get, Star Trek won sympathy for what was basically a rock, with Spock again taking on the pivotal role of interpreter and intercessor.

1x26 “Errand of Mercy”
The first Klingon episode, setting the tone for a rivalry between Empire and Federation that would last and thrive throughout each incarnation of the franchise.

1x28 “The City on the Edge of Forever”
Star Trek was essentially a science fiction series, of course, and many stories were generated on the basis of earning that label, but the first and arguably greatest example swept Kirk, Spock, and Bones (DeForest Kelley) through a time portal into a heart-wrenching dilemma in the past: save the girl Kirk loves, or let her die, as history records it?

It isn’t difficult to see how the first season of Star Trek helped foster a rabid fan following, one that persisted for three seasons, cancellation, conventions, an animated series, a series of films, and finally four TV spin-offs and a wildly successful movie revival in 2009. How this particular fan kept pace with the franchise, how his admiration for Star Trek persisted, despite heavy criticism that doused the interest of so many contemporaries, that story is just beginning…

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