The first season of the series finally ends! It may be worth mentioning that season finales, like a lot of things, were a lot different back in the day. Probably before "Who Shot J.R.?" it just wasn't relevant to do cliffhangers, which were most common previously in the original movie serials that helped inspire Star Wars. It wasn't even a thing in Star Trek until "The Best of Both Worlds" at the end of Next Generation's third season (still arguably the best and most famous such example).
So if you're looking for some kind of season-capping statement from "Operation: Annihilate!" you probably ought to look elsewhere.
No, this one (among a handful of episodes to feature an exclamation point in the title, along with "Rise!" and "Bride of Chaotica!" from Voyager, for lovers of pointless trivia; although the former is just as routinely referred to without it) is about one of those colony worlds in Star Trek that becomes infected with a plague. That's always happening in Star Trek. This, I guess, would be one of those precedents, although nothing too important to get worked up about.
The slightly important bit of trivia about the episode is that it features the debut of Kirk's brother Sam...and his death. Actually, he's not really in the episode, just as a dead body, which happens to also be played by William Shatner (the acting range...!). Sam's son Peter has better coverage. But given that this was a series that featured large vacuums between episodes, in that it didn't really matter what was established from one episode to the next, neither Sam nor Peter amounted to anything in Kirk's greater story. (Sam kind of appears in Star Trek, for the record.)
That's the real shame. It's easy to become frustrated with the series, as a viewer from a different era. That's why it always sucks to hear those original series partisans vigorously defend it as the only true option for best one in the franchise, because aside from its iconic status and the characters who helped embody it...there were so many areas where it could be improved upon, and easily were, that argument grows weaker and weaker with every passing year. We're two years away from the fiftieth anniversary as I write this. I'm not suggesting we retire the series. But retire the notion that it is indisputably the best? Absolutely. This is the kind of episode where you can begin to see how obvious that is.
And "Operation" is also the episode with the floppy spores. For the record. The budget, even at its peak, could do better than that. I'll never knock the series for its economic deficiencies. That'd be pointless. But it's also a good argument that you write to what you have available. Hence the long tradition of "bottle" episodes, stories contained on the existing starship sets.
A bad way to end the season, one way or another, especially directly following the breakthrough "City on the Edge of Forever."
But if anyone wanted to totally revisit the series with expansive new interpretations, this one would be a great place to start. Kirk's family: go!
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