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Star Trek - TOS Recommended Order?


Elmo Lewis
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I have been watching the first season of Star Trek - The Original Series for a few days now and, as the TV-watching ritual demands, I look up every episode on TV.com when it's over. However, I've noticed a discrepancy between the order in the episodes in the DVD set with the order of the episodes listed on the site. I realize the original series might not have aired in chronological order (isn't "Tomorrow is Yesterday" supposed to follow "The Naked Time"? Because they couldn't be farther apart in the set), but I'm confused. I'm currently on episode 9 according to the set ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?"), so it's not too late to adapt to a chronological order. Is there one?

I'll refrain from passing judgment on the series since I've only seen the first third of the first season and obviously those episodes haven't shown any particular style yet, but what I've seen is promising. There's no thrilling action or laugh out-loud humor, and sometimes the campiness can fail to be either endearing or hilarious and simply work against the episode ("Mudd's Women"), but this doesn't make the thing less satisfying. It's a cheap show, which makes it hard to get into, but after a while the cheapness simply becomes one of its charms. It creates a series of meta-rules (you never see characters falling to their death, or morphing into something, or doing any remarkable stunts besides reacting and taking long pauses) that feel like winks from the show itself.

By the way, I knew Wrath of Kahn was a direct sequel to "Space Seed" (which I haven't seen yet) but it seems to borrow a lot from my favorite episode so far, "Balance of Terror".

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I've been re-watching the show in airdate order, but only because that's how the Blu-rays are presented. Production order probably makes more sense though. You don't really have to worry about continuity but you can appreciate the progression of the series that way. Enjoy!

Neil

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I don't find the order to really matter at all. And I largely agree about the quality of the show...the campiness doesn't always work in its favor, but it often does. And at its heart is a series of character relationships that I find more compelling than anything in any of the other series that followed, and that was developed even further in (some of) the films.

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It really doesn't matter because there are no story arc's in Star Trek.

I prefer watching it by air date.

I will say in the 3rd season you will find that the first appearance of the Klingon Battle Cruiser is in the Enterprise Incident as a Romulan vessel, and seen second, but first as a Klingon ship in Day of the Dove.

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One thing I've wondered about is what TOS would have been like with more of a serial structure, with long story arcs and so forth. I tend to like that in shows, but perhaps it would have been bad for TOS. Maybe it could have been done kinda like The X-Files, with some episodes being standalone "monster of the week" stories and others fitting into the larger narrative of the season and/or show.

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One thing I've wondered about is what TOS would have been like with more of a serial structure, with long story arcs and so forth. I tend to like that in shows, but perhaps it would have been bad for TOS. Maybe it could have been done kinda like The X-Files, with some episodes being standalone "monster of the week" stories and others fitting into the larger narrative of the season and/or show.

I agree with Datameister. With TOS, I find that I can "dip into" the shows as and when I fancy. For the love of everything that is sacred, and holy, and profound, PLEASE avoid "Spock's Brain"!

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This is a list I made a while back when Henry was watching them for the first time. There's plenty of room for disagreement, but in my mind these are the essential episodes:

Season One:

The Corbomite Maneuver

The Naked Time

Balance of Terror

The Squire of Gothos

Arena

The Return of the Archons

Space Seed

The Devil in the Dark

Errand of Mercy

The City on the Edge of Forever

Season Two:

Amok Time

Mirror, Mirror

The Doomsday Machine

I, Mudd

Journey to Babel

The Trouble With Tribbles

A Piece of the Action

The Ultimate Computer

Season Three:

The Enterprise Incident

Day of the Dove

The Tholian Web

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In his memoir Star Trek: Memories, William Shatner called this one of the series' worst episodes. Leonard Nimoy, in his 1995 book I am Spock, writes that "frankly during the entire shooting of that [ie. "Spock's Brain"] episode, I was embarrassed--a feeling that overcame me many times during the final season of Star Trek." (p.115)

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This is a list I made a while back when Henry was watching them for the first time. There's plenty of room for disagreement, but in my mind these are the essential episodes:

Season One:

The Corbomite Maneuver

The Naked Time

Balance of Terror

The Squire of Gothos

Arena

The Return of the Archons

Space Seed

The Devil in the Dark

Errand of Mercy

The City on the Edge of Forever

Season Two:

Amok Time

Mirror, Mirror

The Doomsday Machine

I, Mudd

Journey to Babel

The Trouble With Tribbles

A Piece of the Action

The Ultimate Computer

Season Three:

The Enterprise Incident

Day of the Dove

The Tholian Web

Thanks! Also, which episodes do you think are essential awful/infamous ones or ones with really infamously bad scenes? I want to see those too lol. Its the mediocre ones I care less about.

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the idea of Star Trek being serialized makes me sick, I'm glad that Star Trek was just the way it is, its identity is separate from its followers, and still my favorite. It has good and bad episodes but I like them all equally some more equally than others.

and don't miss Spock's Brain just because of some of the one liners.

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I wish the show would do away with those evil-twin-in-unsuspecting-Enterprise or personalities-are-changed-by-outer-influences-in-unsuspecting-Enterprise plots.

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I wish the show would do away with those evil-twin-in-unsuspecting-Enterprise or personalities-are-changed-by-outer-influences-in-unsuspecting-Enterprise plots.

Well to be honest, they have done away with such plots. They're not making any new episodes. Those that they have made, well, they can't very well suppress those episodes at this point.

I mean, it's not like you can make a feature length science fiction movie or TV show, and then cover it up and pretend it never happened. Can you? :)

As for the serialization, it was a blessing in disguise for TOS that it was not serialized, and didn't even have that many two-parters. Just "The Menagerie," which was easy because "The Cage" in the can, making its re-use episode a cut and paste job. But if you started a number of episodes, and certain ones took longer because of incomplete special effects, you could release another episode to take its place, and just release it when its done. Hence, air dates don't match production dates.

It's hard to imagine TOS with serialized stories, because of how well it worked as self-contained stories that resolved in 40 minutes. The 'Trek galaxy was brand new as they were making it up on the fly, so grand story arcs, political intrigue, and protracted intergalactic wars were not practical. They took a big chance promoting serious, cerebral allegory disguised as mature science fiction on television; such serialization would have been more than they could handle. Each episode would invent a new race with each episode as needed to tell the parable of human life that Gene and crew wanted to tell. Sometimes the most interesting, powerful, or personal would be recycled, like the Klingons, Romulans, and Vulcans.

I think that serialization was adopted for DS9 (and much more loosely for Voyager and Enterprise) because by then, the "new alien race of the week" shtick had gotten stale. TOS, TNG, and the films established a lush galaxy with many alien races, some more popular than others, and the 'Trek makers decided to concentrate more heavily on a few of them with long story arcs. Additionally, TOS never really took the time to flesh out the supporting cast, and concentrated on its triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. TNG and the later series used ensemble casts, with all main characters getting their fair share of episodes to define them, and as we knew them better, they could write longer story arcs.

But it's also at the point of TNG that Star Trek turned from a show of "weekly human parables in space" to a show of "weekly adventures of humans in space with high-tech toys and cool special effects." The allegories survived here and there, but TNG and its later spinoffs eventually became mired in the confrontations between the alien races, not necessarily there to provide applicable moral lessons in disguise.

I'm not saying that the characters of TNG, DS9, and Voyager are any more likeable or better performed than the TOS ones. Not at all. We just had more episodes of these later episodes to pack in more trivia about each character.

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TV in general in the 60s was very stand alone and not very serialized, in the US at least, IIRC. Heavy serialization in major shows is a fairly recent trend (as in the last 10-15 years) I think.

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Can I be blamed for expecting new life forms and new civilizations?

you have to remember when and where its from, its before it all, its before 2001, its before everyone knew the Darth Vader was Lukes father, its from before George Lucas knew Darth Vader was Lukes father. Its before the Jupiter 2 went Lost in Space, ahh, ok that parts not true. Lost in Space came first, but Star Trek came before the rest.

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Yea, but new life forms and new civilizations were promoted in the tagline for the show itself.

Altered states of mind or mirror-universe doppelgangers are at best, low budget versions of such promised encounters.

Though Leonard Nimoy in the evil mustache? Classy.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm almost done watching the first season, but I had to comment on "City on the Edge of Tomorrow". I had read in many a place that it was the best episode of the series, perhaps the best in the whole franchise. It disappointed me. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe time-travel stories don't have the impact they did forty years ago on today's modern audience. But I didn't think the story was that compelling -- mainly because I never bought Kirk's falling in love with Keeler (lovely woman though she is) so intensely in such a short time. So there went all drama. I was expecting her to be killed (and in a way that seemed almost stupid: Kirk and co. had to let her die in spite of their presence in the 1920's but she dies because of their presence in the 1920's). Mind you, I'm not saying it was a bad episode -- it was solid and focused like the best of them -- but I was expecting something from "the best of Trek". I was obviously betrayed by my watching Trek with the mind, not with the guts.

Thus, there are several others in the latter half of the season which are just as rock-solid and they deal with more concrete philosophical concepts which makes them absorbing and memorable. "Return of the Archons" for instance (if you overlook its glaring pacing issues and how unexplained the "Red Hour" was though it seemed pretty obvious to me it was some sort of venting-off/mating season), or "A Taste of Armaggedon" or "The Menagerie".

The Guardian of Forever was an awesome concept, though (I loved Spock's reaction when he called Vulcan science "primitive"), and I'm glad it was put to such good use in the Animated Series' "Yesteryear". That remains, season two pending, my favorite Trek episode so far. Although it has a good bunch of close seconds.

is it really the worst episode of the show?

No, that honor belongs to "The Alternative Factor".

Neil

Yes. God yes.

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Sometimes when you hear that something is the best all the time your expectations do get built up. I hope you continue onto season 2 though, as I did recently with the Blu-ray set. There are some really good ones to look forward to. I won't name them though, for fear of making them seem too good. I hope you enjoy it though.

I will say I don't think there is anything as bad as "The Alternative Factor" in season 2, but some get close. <_<

Neil

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I might give it a break before Season 2. I'm not sure the episodes were designed to be watched continuously in long sittings and I don't want to strain the experience but I'll get around to watching it soon. It's certainly enjoyable, re-visitable material.

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I might give it a break before Season 2. I'm not sure the episodes were designed to be watched continuously in long sittings and I don't want to strain the experience but I'll get around to watching it soon. It's certainly enjoyable, re-visitable material.

That's the same way I felt when I got done with season 1 a few weeks ago. It's not a show that lends itself to marathon viewing and I wanted a break before borrowing season 2.

More than ever I felt the Twilight Zone influence on Trek, with all the twist/sudden reveal endings. Not a criticism, just an observation. And so many God-like aliens!

"God like aliens. Man I hate God like aliens. Give me a critter over a God like alien any day."- John Crichton, Farscape episode "Meltdown"

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Now I got through all the 3 seasons.

It was fun but sometimes a little bit hard to stay.

A question: why had McCoy to piss on Spock all the time when Spock had the commando?!

But I'm still happy that I finally watched all episoues from TOS.

Maybe I walk on to Enterprise, I'll see....

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I prefer Alternative Factor to the dreadful last episode of season 3, Turnabout Intruder.

Alternative Factor does have a great shot of the Enterprise from an angle never seen before in the series.

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is it really the worst episode of the show?

No, that honor belongs to "The Alternative Factor".

Neil

Yes. God yes.

HE'S DEATH! ANTI-LIFE! KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL! Dear lord, that was probably the worst excuse for entertainment I ever laid eyes upon.

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The Naked Now was just a retread of a TOS episode. (And even though we got to hear Data confirm what all the ladies were wondering, it would have severely castrated his goal of becoming human if Doctor Soong had built him like a Ken doll.)

I understand that Shades of Gray was an extreme budget episode needed as filler because of a truncated season, but "clip shows" are among the weakest types of episodes in any genre, be that cheesy 80s high school drama or 80s science fiction threatening to slip back into cheesiness. Still a bad episode.

Sub Rosa. Ah yes, apparently it is Doctor Crusher's maternal heritage to be seduced by a male alien succubus of sorts. Meh.

Justice. And here we thought that somehow they would use the Prime Directive to kill Wesley. Nope.

I think Genesis is easily better than those four.

And for those of you who think I was just plagiarizing the first link at Yahoo that appears for "worst TNG episode," I rather enjoyed The Perfect Mate, Menage-a-Troi, and A Fistful of Datas. So there.

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