"...A dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars." -- Captain James Tiberius Kirk
The cover of Newsweek magazine this week featured a story called "To Boldly Go." It was a look at Star Trek, a franchise that began on television in the 1960s and, despite having eulogies written about it countless times, still remains a cultural phenomenon. With a new movie coming this summer from J.J. Abrams, the maker of Alias, Lost, Fringe, Mission Impossible III, and more, hopes are high that the series will finally break through its alleged cult fanbase and rise to undisputed mainstream success.
It is amazing to me that no Trek movie has surpassed the 100 million dollar mark in the domestic box office except for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which despite its success only made about $110,000,000 in the United States.
If any Star Trek movie can become a bonafide blockbuster, the new movie this summer starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto looks like the one to do it. I won't brag about the fact that the whole premise of the "reboot" of the series was my idea, I'm just satisfied with the fact that they're doing it the right way.
Okay, all kidding aside, it's true that I've been proposing for years that they bring the Star Trek story back to basics by focusing on the Classic Trek era of the original U.S.S. Enterprise, even if it means recasting the characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, etc. I tried to find some written evidence that this was all my idea, and the best I could do was a post on my newsgroup from July 1, 2004. So take my word for it. :)
But I digress. Star Trek was one of my favorite shows growing up. It had action and adventure, humor and drama, and it explored fantastic ideas like nothing else I had seen on television before. It made me realize the power and potential of speculative fiction. Even the crappy episodes of the series, like "Spectre of the Gun," "Turnabout Intruder," and the infamous "Spock's Brain," were entertaining in their own way.
Here's a list of my Top 10 Favorites Episodes from Classic Star Trek. I didn't include any of the movies, just the television episodes. And I'm sure many of you fellow Trekkers/Trekkies will have your own favorites that I've left out. There are so many good ones to choose from: "The Trouble with Tribbles," "The Naked Time," "The Devil in the Dark," "The Squire of Gothos," the list goes on and on. But here are the episodes that had a special impact on me as a kid:
"Mirror, Mirror" (Season 2) - Kirk and the gang are transported to an alternate universe where the Federation of Planets is a fascist empire.
"Arena" (Season 1) - Cheesy goodness as Kirk is forced to fight the lizard Gorn captain to the death.
"Where No Man Has Gone Before" (Season 1) - The "second pilot" of the series is a fantastic sci-fi story that explores what happens to ordinary mortals when they receive god-like powers. We're seeing these characters for the first time, and yet we care about them all.
"Amok Time" (Season 2) - Spock returns to planet Vulcan to marry the woman to whom he's betrothed and has to battle Kirk to the death.
"The Doomsday Machine" (Season 2) - A brilliant episode that sees the obsessive madness of Captain Deckard (who is later referenced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture) who sacrifices himself and his starship in order to destroy a deadly "planet killer" (a predecessor and inspiration for a similar entity in Star Trek IV).
"The City on the Edge of Forever" (Season 1) -- Written by Harlan Ellison, this time travel story is arguably one of the greatest television tales of all time.
"What Are Little Girls Made Of" (Season 1) -- This episode, written by horror master Robert Bloch, scared the bejeebus out of me as a child and I think it still holds up.
"All Our Yesterdays" (Season 3) -- The Enterprise crew get trapped in different time periods of an alien planet. Spock's story, as he's trapped in the world's Ice Age and falls in love with a woman he meets there, is heartbreaking, and inspired one of the best Trek novels, Yesterday's Son by A.C. Crispin.
"The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2" (Season 1) -- Footage from the first (rejected) Star Trek pilot is reused here to great effect and lays the groundwork for the Trek saga's laudable attempts at consistent continuity.
"The Enemy Within" (Season 1) -- A transporter mishap splits Kirk into two people, each representing one side of his personality.
I've heard a lot of folks ask, "What do you like better, Star Trek or Star Wars?" I refuse to answer, because it's a comparison of two completely different things. I think you can be a fan of both. Star Trek, however, has a legacy that few science fiction epics (or any epic for that matter) can rarely equal, and that's why it has "lived long and prospered" all these decades.