Comic Book Curious

Starter Guide: Star Trek

August 10, 2021

Look, we get it, scrolling through an infinite number of shows seems overwhelming; even when someone tells us, “Oh, you should check out such and such” there’s a feeling of dread because who knows if it’s worth the time or hassle. Some TV shows have countless episodes or have been running for decades and not all of those episodes are going to be good; there are going to be some clunkers.

This series is here to help you decide if a show is the right show for you by featuring a few highlights for you to check out and see if you want to watch more. These aren’t the best episodes, they’re accessible and ones you can just jump into.

Star Trek, where to start?

Obviously Star Trek has become an enduring franchise with countless spinoffs, movies, comic books, etc. But if you want to start with the original classic, how do you know where to begin? Especially because it was made in a time when the order of episodes or ongoing stories were given no consideration. The original is actually the shortest of any Trek series, lasting only 79 episodes and a mere 3 seasons. That’s still a commitment though, so here’s five key episodes to dive into:

The Trouble With Tribbles (Season 2, Episode 15)

One of the most lighthearted episodes, this is a great jumping on point for someone who is not the biggest sci-fi fan. The plot finds the Enterprise overrun with tiny creatures who reproduce at an alarming rate. The humor in the script allows the cast to show off their comedic chops and has some of the biggest laughs in the whole franchise. The tribble design is incredibly simple but just plain adorable as well. It’s also a rare episode that finds a way to spotlight each of the 7 main characters.

Balance Of Terror (Season 1, Episode 14)

This episode does an amazing job of showing us James T. Kirk’s skills as a commander. Caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a hidden Romulan ship, Kirk must take his ship into a conflict he knows will cost lives. This is one of the best examples of the tactical combat seen across Star Trek, unlike the other Star-titled franchise the battles here are more about outmaneuvering your opponent as opposed to blasting away. The show also presents us with another key element of Trek and that’s the portrayal of humanity and rejection of intolerance. The final moment between Kirk and the Romulan commander as they realize they are more alike than not is a classic moment in the series.

The City On The Edge Of Forever (Season 1, Episode 28)

Often cited by fans as the best episode of the whole show, this time travel tale throws Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy back to the 1930’s. Kirk falls in love with a woman from the time but learns quickly that interfering in the past has dangerous consequences. This is one of the most heartfelt and tragic Star Trek stories and features unforgettable performances from series star William Shatner and guest actress Joan Collins. It’s also written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison.

Amok Time (Season 2, Episode 1)

Many stories are based heavily in Mr. Spock’s Vulcan heritage but this one has some serious stakes. Spock is starting to go insane and Dr. McCoy figures out that what he’s experiencing is called “blood fever” and requires him to return to his home planet to mate. Once there a matter of jealousy and betrayal leads to a fight to the death between Kirk and Spock. This episode not only greatly expands on Vulcan biology and culture but delivers an all time classic action sequence in the final battle scene.

Space Seed (Season 1, Episode 22)

Star Trek is often about big ideas and ideological debates, but that doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally deliver a straight up villain here and there. No villain stands out more than the ruthless and superpowered Khan Noonien-Singh. A vicious dictator from Earth’s past that the Enterprise pulls from suspended animation, Khan doesn’t wait long to attempt to take over the ship. Khan’s mix of brains and brawn makes him a formidable and nearly unstoppable enemy especially in a violent hand to hand fight with Kirk. Khan proved so popular he returned as the central villain in the most beloved Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

A Few Honorable Mentions:

  • Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (Season 3, Episode 15): A great commentary on racism
  • Journey To Babel (Season 2, Episode 10): A interesting dive into Spock’s dysfunctional family
  • The Corbomite Maneuver (Season 1, Episode 10): A nailbiter with Kirk bluffing his way out of a death trap
  • The Naked Time (Season 1, Episode 4): A fun episode where a virus makes the crew go insane
  • The Galileo Seven (Season 1, Episode 16): An extremely tense episode where Spock is forced to take command in a very tough situation.

If you are looking for a new show, check out the MST3K starter guide here!

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