Category Archives: Star Trek

Also known as TOS (for The Original Series)

The best (and worst) of Trek

Our 18-month mission to … tell you about Star Trek’s most pivotal episodes is (maybe?) over. We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll tackle the rebooted movies or the new series. But one thing’s for sure …

We still have a few things to say about Star Trek.

When we started this blog, we didn’t want it to be a site where we just reviewed every episode. Other sites, like Jammers Reviews, do that well enough. But now, as we close this project, we wanted to identify our 10 favorite episodes in all of Trek, including the movies. Some of these appeared in our Tapestry, others didn’t.

First, some honorable mentions: “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “Mirror, Mirror”, “The Measure of a Man”“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast”, “The Way of the Warrior”, “Timeless”, “Twilight”, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”.

Now, here’s our top 10. Note that this includes a couple of multipart stretches.

“One day, I’ll make Voyager even worse…”

10. “Star Trek: First Contact” — Easily the best of the TNG movies. It’s gritty, visceral and still optimistic with a good supporting cast while being the only TNG film that feels all that consequential. The flawed Borg Queen concept is a slight ding — and it paved the way to defanging the Borg on Voyager — but it’s still a great film.

9. “Azati Prime”/ “Damage”/ “The Forgotten” — Enterprise’s peak in arguably the most daring, and probably the most morally questionable, stretch of Trek episodes, which worked well in the years immediately following 9/11. It’s not Roddenberry’s Trek, but it’s good TV and as edgy as anything the franchise did.

9. “The Trouble with Tribbles” — Trek’s best comedy and also an episode that shows why TOS endures: the chemistry among the cast members. Kirk dressing down Scotty and others for getting in a fight with Klingons is still a thing of beauty.

7. “In the Pale Moonlight” — The episode where DS9 decided to not even pretend to be like the rest of Star Trek. It’s controversial as it makes Sisko, in effect, a criminal, which was just incredibly daring for 1998 TV. It might have been higher on the list if the scope issues that DS9 struggled with — i.e., a handful of people on the station can change and have no problem with changing the balance of galactic affairs — had been better handled.

6. “The City on the Edge of Forever” — Many fans’ favorite, but not ours. Arguably, it had been built up too much by the time we saw it and wasn’t as original in the 1990s as it was in the 1960s. Still, a great episode with Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley absolutely bringing it.

"Shall we swipe left or right keptin?"
“Shall we swipe left or right, keptin?”

5. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” — Trek’s best film. Shatner and Nimoy are pitch-perfect and the story is a great mix of action and science fiction. If you haven’t seen it, you’re not really a Trek fan.

4. “The Inner Light” — Simply an amazing episode in which Picard lives an entirely different life as a way for a dying civilization to not be forgotten. The final scene with Picard in his quarters, as he re-acclimates with his real life, is a gut punch in the best way. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t see more consequences in subsequent episodes and that Picard, more or less, is back in regular form the next week.

3.  “The Visitor” — DS9’s finest episode as Sisko is lost and Jake spends the rest of his life trying to find him. We were often critical of Avery Brooks, but he was absolutely great in this episode. As poignant as Trek gets.

2. “Space Seed” — The setup to the second film is incredible to watch. That it was on television in 1967 is amazing, as Khan’s manipulation of Lt. McGivers is very edgy and provocative. Kirk’s decision to let Khan try to build a world rather than putting him in prison is classic TOS, in that it’s morally justifiable and intellectually curious but also a dangerous and questionable call.

Inform Admiral Kanye, this is the best two-parter OF ALL TIME.
“Inform Admiral Kanye, this is the best two-parter OF ALL TIME.”

1. “The Best of Both Worlds” — No surprise here. This two-parter has everything, and set the stage for cliffhangers for the next 25 years. Jonathan Frakes — often marginalized in late TNG — puts in his best performance and the Borg, as an implacable threat, still seem menacing today. Even the scene where Riker chooses his first officer is great. I would go as far as saying it’s a perfect two-parter, except for the somewhat rushed ending. It’s also bolstered by the idea that Picard wasn’t back at his desk the following week. In fact, he struggled with his experiences immediately after he’s rescued and in the following years.

And now, the bottom 10 (after some dishonorable mentions): “The Alternative Factor”, “The Lights of Zetar”, “Haven”, “Dark Page”, “Star Trek: Insurrection”, “Ferengi Love Songs”, “Spirit Folk”, “The Disease”, “Precious Cargo”, “Extinction”.


10. “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” — The strangest entry in the film franchise. It’s light and jokey at points and heavy and ponderous at others — but it consistently avoids anything approaching subtlety. Co-written by William Shatner, the movie seems intent on lionizing Kirk while painting Spock as weak and evasive (the scene in the brig being the worst example). Worse, the script humiliates Scotty and Uhura.

9. “Course: Oblivion” — One of a handful of episodes that shows exactly what was wrong with Voyager. Instead of using a strong cast and a great concept to write compelling stuff with the REAL Voyager, the creators used those things with a FAKE Voyager. Worse, the fake Voyager should have easily known that it was a fake Voyager, invalidating the whole premise of the episode. And how did the fake Voyager crew build a fake Voyager and survive for like a year outside of the only environment that could support it?

8. “Code of Honor” — Weirdly racist and definitely uninspired. It feels more like third-season TOS than TNG, which sort of makes sense, as it was just the third TNG episode. Still, it’s hard to understand what the creators were thinking.

These are just clips from other BDSM books I've read?!!!?
“These are just clips from other BDSM books I’ve read?!!!?”

7. “Shades of Gray” — The awful Riker flashback episode partly necessitated by a writers’ strike. Yuck.

6. “Profit and Lace” — The worst of DS9’s awful Ferengi episodes. Quark in drag? What drivel. DS9’s obsession with having two Ferengi-centric episodes a year was just ridiculous.

5. “Fascination” — Lwaxana Troi comes to DS9 and everybody — well, at least the main cast and the regular guest stars, minus Sisko — gets horny. WTF, creators?

4. “Threshold” — The most scientifically awful episode in second-generation Trek. It didn’t make the top spot because there’s SOME good work by Robert Duncan-McNeil and it was an attempt at something new and different.

3. “A Night in Sickbay” — Archer as a total huffy asshole, with moronic aliens and a ceremonial apology involving a chainsaw. Oh, and a totally unnecessary sexual fantasy from Archer about T’Pol. The Archer/T’Pol relationship — at least in the prime reality — was professional and friendly, not romantic. Throwing a sex dream from Archer in there really belittled the show.

And, we have a tie for Trek’s worst episode:


1. “And the Children Shall Lead” — Wow. What an absolute train wreck. The kids are annoying and awful, the villain behind their behavior is horribly acted and conceived and even the editing is bad. While “Spock’s Brain” and “The Way to Eden” are the most infamous episodes of TOS, “And the Children Shall Lead” is BY FAR the worst.

Beverly, you've got nothing on Mrs. Darcy...
“Beverly, you’ve got nothing on Mrs. Darcy…”

1. “Sub Rosa” — Of all the awfulness in TNG’s seventh season — it’s worse than season one, folks, as the creators should have known better after six-plus years of the series — this episode is just cringe-worthy. Crusher was the most neglected of the TNG regulars, and it’s a shame that one of the few episodes to feature her is this hideous mess. She falls in love … with a freaking ghost.

That’s it for Trek Tapestry.

Or is it …


The very best of Spock


We at Trek Tapestry were saddened today by Leonard Nimoy’s passing. Nimoy played (arguably) Trek’s most important and consequential character — and was the only actor to participate in all generations of Trek, up through “Star Trek Into Darkness” in 2013.

In honor of Nimoy, who brought so much to Star Trek in nearly five decades of work with the franchise, here are some of our favorite Spock moments.

The Naked Time


The first episode where we get a character study of most of the regulars is (naturally) the first where we learn about the Spock’s inner demons. The briefing room scene is arguably where Spock came together as a character.

Balance of Terror


One of the episodes that made our Tapestry, we learn a lot about how bigotry is viewed in the 23rd century by Kirk’s defense of Spock against the racism of a guest character.

Devil in the Dark


A great episode that shows Trek’s respect for life. Kirk (hesitantly) countermanding Spock’s orders to not kill the Horta is a great moment. Spock’s mind meld with the creature and happiness from Kirk, Spock and McCoy after they avoided killing are signature moments of the series.

Amok Time


Another part of the Tapestry. Our first and only trip to the surface of Vulcan during TOS is arguably one of the most iconic episodes of the series. It’s slightly over the top and (ironically) has logical flaws. But it’s one of Trek’s most engaging hours. The final scene, where a joyful Spock learns that Kirk is, in fact, alive is a key moment.

Mirror, Mirror


As iconic as they come. Evil Spock, with a beard, set in motion dozens of spoofs. But Nimoy might be at his very best in this episode as evil Spock AND good Spock (who’s actually great in limited scenes dealing with the evil Kirk and Co.). Of course, this episode made the Tapestry.

Journey to Babel


Yet another Tapestry episode, we meet Spock’s parents and get a feel of the galactic family that is the Federation. Nimoy hits all the right notes as he plays Spock as more cold and logical than in most episodes with his father around.

The Enterprise Incident


Vulcan eroticism on 1968 TV? Trek pulled it off and somehow got it past the censors. Kirk and Spock doing their “Mission Impossible” thing was truly great. This was another Tapestry episode.

All Our Yesterdays


What happens when a Vulcan devolves? He gets angry. Nimoy plays Spock as he struggles with emotions coming to the surface. As our friends at Mission Log often say, bad things happen when Spock smiles.

Thanks, Mr. Nimoy, for everything.


Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Other episodes that you should watch

Last week, we wrapped our reviews of the episodes of The Original Series that we deemed worthy of the Trek Tapestry — and next week, we’ll get to the movies. This week, though, we’ll talk about the episodes that you probably ought to view as well, though they’re not as historically relevant as the 14 we’ve reviewed so far.

We’ll do this at the end of every series, as a way of giving a nod to significant episodes that didn’t make the cut that we still recommend. Think of these as supplemental reading.

The Enemy Within

A transporter accident splits Kirk into good and evil halves. It’s over-the-top, and one of the episodes that provides the most fodder for Shatner impersonations. But it’s a good early episode that shows what Trek was capable of doing with the right story.

“Why didn’t you include this episode in Trek Tapestry?!”

The Galileo Seven

Trek’s first shuttle-crash episode (which basically inspired about half of “Star Trek: Voyager”). It’s campy and repetitive, but it’s a good Spock show if you swallow that he can be first officer of the Federation flagship without having been in command of anything before.

“It’s not logical that we brought so many people on this shuttle mission.”

The City on the Edge of Forever

Considered TOS’ greatest episode, which defies a sentence-long summary. I’ve always liked it, but thought it was slightly overrated. The events of the episode are never mentioned again and the time-travel reset kept it from our list. But Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley are on their A games and this is just classic science fiction (in a good way).

“I’m a doctor, not someone who should be good at injecting dangerous drugs.”

The Doomsday Machine

TOS’s best example of shipboard battle sequences, even surpassing the very good “Balance of Terror.” It didn’t make the Tapestry because of its one-off nature, but it’s worth a look. It’s also a good example of the TOS creators shoving contemporary messages into the plot. Kirk’s speech about “doomsday machines” is heavy-handed, even for this series.

If anyone ever questioned whether updating TOS’s effects was a good idea …

The Trouble with Tribbles

The best comedy Trek’s ever done. Tribbles do appear in later episodes — and actually play a key part in “Star Trek Into Darkness”“Star Trek Into Darkness”. But we couldn’t quite justify giving it Tapestry status.

“Well, it beats being covered in grain, which is what would have happened if not for the Tribbles. Hmmm.”

Spock’s Brain

Spock’s brain is stolen to help run a civilization. Really. It’s a terrible concept that’s ridiculously conceived (Spock’s body is actually run by remote control for much of the episode!) but it’s enjoyable in its absurdity. It’s also not dreadfully dull, like some third-season offerings. For completists, it’s to Star Trek what the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is to Star Wars.

“Damnit, Spock. I’m a doctor, not a Vulcan remote control operator.”

The Tholian Web

Another one that almost made the Tapestry, but the Tholians are such bit players for the rest of Trek that their introduction is more on par with the Jarada or the Pakleds than the Klingons or the Romulans. This episode does pave the way for the “Star Trek: Enterprise” two-parter, “In a Mirror, Darkly.” But it didn’t quite make the cut. Still, it’s probably Trek’s best Spock-Bones episode (even if Bones goes overboard in some scenes).

“It’s a good thing the Tholians’ weapon takes so long to be used, Mr. Spock. Otherwise, it might pose a real threat.”

Requiem for Methuselah

TOS’s strangest episode, which is a major statement. The good: On an isolated planet, Kirk and Co. find an immortal human who was apparently Alexander, Merlin, Brahms and a bunch of others in Earth history. The bad: Weird stuff about android love and a plague threatening to kill the Enterprise crew. The idea that one human could have been so important in history could have made for a Trek classic. But this all the other stuff in this episode? Not so much.

“Next time, I’ll build an android that can come up with better-written episodes.”

The Way to Eden

Space hippies hijack the Enterprise in search of a mythical Eden, but all the plants there are … filled with acid (sad trombone). Like “Spock’s Brain,” this episode is so infamous that it deserves a viewing — and it’s another one that’s not dull or boring. It is absurdly heavy-handed and even kinda reactionary. If “Spock’s Brain” was the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” “The Way to Eden” is Mark Hamill’s appearance on “The Muppet Show.”

“Yeah, this is a pretty lame gig, but at least I’ll get to be in ‘The Blues Brothers’ in about 10 years.”

Turnabout Intruder

The final episode of TOS, and the only finale that won’t make it into the Tapestry, as it wasn’t filmed as a true sendoff. It’s final episode status makes it worth the view, but it’s also an absurd hour that ends a (mostly) absurd third season.

“Wait. Hold it. They’re canceling us — and THIS is the final episode?”

Others worth a look

Arena (visually iconic fight scene with a Gorn), A Taste of Armageddon (brash Kirk at his best, even if he pisses all over the Prime Directive), The Changeling (pretty clearly the inspiration for “Star Trek — The Motion Picture”), A Piece of the Action (Trek’s hammiest hour), The Ultimate Computer (the most starships seen in one episode of TOS), Return to Tomorrow (includes one of Kirk’s best speeches about space exploration), Assignment: Earth (a pilot for Gene’s proposed spinoff show), A Private Little War (after you’ve seen the Mugato and the Vietnam parallels, turn it off), Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (another visually iconic episode), All Our Yesterdays (the last truly great episode of the series).

Coming next week …

We get into the original six Trek flicks. And, no, we won’t be asking why God needs a starship.

“The Savage Curtain”

“Yep. I’m in a chair, floating in space. Honest Abe, people.”

After encountering Abraham Lincoln (Lee Bergere) floating in space (for realz) the crew beams him aboard. He sort of seems like the genuine article and he vaguely tells Kirk that the answers about him are on a nearby planet the ship was exploring. Upon beaming down, Kirk, Spock and Lincoln are joined by Surak (Barry Atwater), the father of the Vulcan people. Then, some weird rock things who live on the planet tell our heroes that they have to fight recreations of four evil figures from history. The bad guys include Genghis Khan (Nathan Gung) who really likes to throw rocks; some weird witch woman, Zora (Carol Daniels) not to be confused with a witch-ay woman; Kahless the Unforgettable (Robert Herron) essentially, the Klingon messiah who apparently doubles as a voiceover actor; and Colonel Green (Phillip Pine) a notorious figure from 21st-century Earth. All the historical figures are recreations (I guess?) and the rock creatures want to examine the difference between good and evil. After a bunch of by-the-numbers fight scenes where Kirk and Co. win, but don’t kill the bad guys, they learn that it’s mercy or something.

“Live long … and don’t make fun of my really weird outfit.”

Why it’s important

As goofy as this episode is — it seems like something straight out of The Animated Series — it introduces two (possibly three) key figures in the history of Star Trek. Both Kahless and Surak appear in second-generation Trek (Kahless in TNG’s “Rightful Heir” and later references and Surak in the fourth-season Vulcan arc in “Star Trek: Enterprise”). Colonel Green, while certainly not a messiah figure, is an important guy in Earth’s history. He pops up in a recording in “Terra Prime” at the end of the fourth season of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and it turns out he’s a sort of hero to the Earth-for-humans movement because he euthanized a bunch of people deformed by radiation during World War III. Yay!

Now, I’ll give the creators props for sticking with some continuity. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a character like Surak or Kahless to be introduced (particularly in the waning days of TOS) only to be forgotten. Garth of Izar, was introduced in TOS’s third season as the “model” for starship captains and an important historical figure. But we never hear of him after that episode.

(In another example, Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet the immortal human Flint — who had been Solomon, Alexander the Great, Merlin, da Vinci, Brahms and possibly others — in “Requiem for Methuselah,” arguably the weirdest episode of TOS. We won’t review it as it’s not part of any additional Star Trek lore. But it’s worth a watch because its premise surrounds a very, very interesting concept. Unfortunately, the creators decided to take it in a bizarre direction, in which the immortal Flint builds an android to be with him and tries to use Kirk to get her to learn to love, or something. Kirk and the android fall for each other, Flint and Kirk fight over her, the android dies and Spock later removes Kirk’s memories to help with his heartbreak! Oh, and all of this happens in the span of THREE HOURS as Kirk, Spock and McCoy work with Flint to get a drug from his planet to save a dying Enterprise crew. Even stranger, there appears to be no effort after this episode to contact Flint. Given Spock’s statements in other episodes about the opportunities for research, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine” or the weird aliens in “Catspaw”, it’s odd that they just walk away from Flint. Of course, they did something similar in “Metamorphosis.”)

Of course, Surak, Green and Kahless are all very different the next time we see them — with a special emphasis on Kahless …

“You’ll see that we’ve set up a buffet of bad guys, Captain Kirk. It’s like a Golden Corral… of evil!”

What doesn’t hold up

Surak sure looks different (and dresses differently) than he does in Enterprise as does Green. But that’s really not a big thing. The transformation of Kahless, however, is kinda nuts. Here, he dresses like the 23rd-century Klingons we see in TOS, he doesn’t have forehead ridges or long hair (undermining the genetic experiment explanation for Klingon foreheads from Enterprise) he can mimic voices in the stylings of Lt. Commander Data and (probably most importantly) he’s characterized as an evil dude who inspired all the “tyrannies” the Klingons would go on to commit. Oh, and he’s totally subservient to Colonel Green. Weird.

By the time we see Kahless in TNG — or, rather, a clone of Kahless who is made to act like the genuine article — he’s not an evil guy, he has forehead ridges and dresses in garb that’s not out of a 23rd century JC Penney on Kronos. And he has no (apparent) ability to be the Klingons’ very own Mel Blanc. This is actually a case example of how Klingons went from mostly evil, treacherous bastards in TOS and the movies (think Kruge in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”) to honorable warriors in TNG and DS9 (Worf, Martok, etc.). There were some tweeners over the years, like Kang, Gowron and Gorkon. But retconning a character previously equated with Genghis Khan into a mostly good dude? It’s pretty laughable.

I’ve heard the theory that the rock dudes in this episode generated Kahless from what Kirk thought Kahless would be like — which means Kirk heard the name and drew his own conclusions or read a very biased history on the Klingons (does D’Nesh D’Souza write about Klingon history?). But writing the Kahless inconsistencies off as a flaw in Kirk’s version of him is weak sauce, especially because the rock dudes generated Surak, someone Kirk had never heard of (which, by itself, is pretty ridiculous, as it makes Kirk look like a real idiot). Did they pull Surak from Spock’s mind but everyone else from Kirk’s?

Final thoughts

Well, we say it in our About Us page. Reviewing an episode doesn’t mean we endorse it. “The Savage Curtain” certainly isn’t the worst episode of TOS and it’s arguably not even in the bottom five of TOS’s infamous third season. As hokey and goofy as some of it is, it has some zip to it and some decent dialog. It’s not dreadfully dull AND preposterous like “The Lights of Zetar” or “And the Children Shall Lead.” It’s really just preposterous.

Why did the creators decided to put Lincoln in a chair IN SPACE to start the episode? Why did the creators allow a recreation of the father of Vulcan logic to get killed and Lincoln to be impaled by a spear? Oh, and in another ridiculous moment, Kirk tells Lincoln that the Enterprise can “convert” to minutes. WTF? Was Kirk making a really lame joke at the expense of one of his personal heroes and a key figure in Earth history? Kirk and Co. have used minutes since the very first episodes of the series. They use HOURS later in this episode!

This episode also features the really stupid cliche where the bridge crew watches some fight to the death along with the audience — complete with (groan) the same camera angles. This only happens a few times in TOS (“Arena” “The Gamesters of Triskelion” and here) but it’s one of my least favorite TOS devices. Naturally, it shows up in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” the worst of the Trek films.

All that said, I did kinda like the moment where Lincoln says Kirk reminds him of Ulysses S. Grant — and equates Grant with drinking whiskey.