After two seasons, Star Trek had developed enough fans to win a third year, but as much as those fans were forming a community, they weren’t multiplying. In 1969, the show broadcast its final episode.
3x2 “The Enterprise Incident”
The second big Romulan episode of the series takes a fair amount of risks. Kirk and Spock lead an atypical Starfleet mission, one that apparently sanctions espionage and thievery. What’s worse, Spock seems to fall for the Romulan commander. Though he eventually reveals his true allegiances and ditches the girl with his typical cool, it’s still a bit unnerving to believe our heroes are capable of this kind of behavior. Later developments in the franchise, however, will prove this to be less than unusual.
3x7 “The Day of the Dove”
Here’s another Klingon episode, without any Tribble interference.
3x8 “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”
Aside from having one of the most awesome Star Trek episode titles ever, this is the rare hour that concentrates on the good doctor, Bones McCoy.
3x9 “The Tholian Web”
Besides featuring one of the best visuals from any incarnation of the franchise, this entry is another one that sets up a lot of Star Trek lore, and happens to feature tough command decisions for McCoy and Spock when Kirk goes missing.
3x10 “Plato’s Stepchildren”
Plenty of episodes dealt allegorically with topical issues of the day, but this one toppled one of television and contemporary society’s most entrenched barriers when Kirk, through alien coercion, kisses Uhura. Not that he wouldn’t have anyway.
3x23 “All Our Yesterdays”
Lots of episodes also dealt with time travel, but this was one of my favorites, featuring an archive of portals, which predictably disastrous results.
At six episodes, at least from my own survey, I guess it’s no real surprise that the show failed to win enough support for additional seasons. No other series, I might add, will feature such a small ration of episodes from the total count to feature in these overviews. Though Star Trek was the first one I watched, in 1980s syndication, it’s also the one I have the least amount of recent experience with, partially because it’s become increasingly difficult to watch a show from such a comparatively distant mindset. There’s a lot more entertainment, and more hours certainly worth watching throughout its three seasons than are represented here, but as far as those that I would go out of my way to watch again, these are the ones I’d turn to without hesitation. There’s a lot more of what later shows reflect as the strengths of the franchise than what may have been typical of the series, but I think by any standard, the best hours are here, without a doubt.
Based on the diminished returns, again, it’s no surprise in hindsight that Star Trek was cancelled so quickly, despite every other explanation that’s been brought forward over the years, including the oft-referenced Time Slot Change Syndrome. But at the same time, the strength of its best hours makes it easy to understand how so many people found it so hard to let go of an apparent failure. Since there’ll be a lot more episodes in the retrospective surveys of later shows, it’ll probably be apparent why a lot of fans have continued to find it difficult to view any other incarnation with as much fondness. Simply put, when there’s less competition, it’s easier to feel nostalgic. Good feelings and a select number of great episodes, that’s a tough act to follow…