Memory Alpha summary
|via Cygnus X1; and they remained the best of friends|
for years and years and years!
"Albatross" acts as a fine example of the sometimes dubious franchise instinct for stories about a Starfleet officer being condemned by an alien civilization. It's also a medical mystery, which you would probably expect from a McCoy episode. And it's the only instance in the series, other than "Yesteryear," that reaches into a character's past for the purposes of the present.
To reach that point, "Albatross" is also the incredibly rare franchise story that features Starfleet deliberately returning to the scene of a previous mission. One of my personal frustrations with Star Trek has always been the trope that, say, Khan's marooning on Ceti Alpha V seems to have been completely forgotten, which is to say that Starfleet's records seem pretty terrible, that once a world is visited it is basically never visited again. In a series like Deep Space Nine, where they literally stick around the same place the whole time, you can see the benefits of continued contact in a whole spectrum of ways. "Albatross" is not a Deep Space Nine episode by any means, and is otherwise typical of its own series in most other respects, but it's another indication of what the series learned from its predecessor, and what it might have become, or in other words, the beginning of the franchise as fans would come to know it.
And yes, it features some classic character work, which was actually somewhat rare for the series, there being so little time to explore something other than the story at hand in a half-hour animated format. But with one of the central characters in peril, and that being McCoy, you can bet Spock has some quip to make eventually. And of course he does. That's just how these guys are. It's always good to see.
four quarter analysis
franchise * series * essential * character