The 10 Best Original Star Trek Episodes for Fans of ‘Brave New Worlds’Reading Time: 4 minutes
There is so much more Spock out there for you to enjoy, nephew.
If you’re a new fan of Star Trek because Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has you hooked, welcome to the club, nerdlinger! Season two of SNW ends this week, so if you have a Star Trek itch, scratch it with Star Trek: The Original Series. SNW creatively goes where no Trek has gone before, but the original series is the source of most of its characters and lore.
But don’t just dive into a random episode of Star Trek:The Original Series. There are 79 episodes (all available for streaming on Paramount+) but only some are actually good; if you pick one at random, you might find yourself wondering why Abraham Lincoln is fighting Ghengis Khan (S3E23 ‘The Savage Curtain’) or why an entire episode is devoted to a wish.com timelord and his wacky secretary (S2E26 ‘Assignment: Earth’). Instead, check out the 10 episodes listed below. Each is a classic that complements and crosses over with Strange New Worlds perfectly.
In the first episode of Strange New Worlds, we learn that Captain Pike has foreseen his own grisly, depressing end. If you want to know what happened to him after that end, this two-part episode is for you. It’s also a feast for fans of noble Spock, whose loyalty is rivaled only by his logic. The bond between Spock and Pike explored in SNW adds depths to Spock’s decision to risk his career and freedom for his old friend.
Both Uhura and Nurse Chapel were iconic characters in Star Trek, but they didn’t get a chance to do that much—Chapel basically helped Bones and crushed on Spock. Uhura’s job was to say ‘hailing frequencies open, Captain.’ But ‘The Naked Time’ is an exception for both charater. In it, a space virus removes the crew of the Enterprises’s inhibitions, allowing Spock and Chapel to express the under-the-surface passion explored in Strange New Worlds. Plus, Uhura gets to deliver the best line in Star Trek history (maybe television history). When a besotted Sulu refers to her as a ‘fair maiden,’ Uhura replies, ‘Sorry, neither,’ with enough power to end the patriarchy in two words.
Like anyone, I love Spock so much I think about him literally all the time, and while there are many episodes of both The Original Series and Strange New Worlds that explore the inner life of the Enterprise’s half-human, half-Vulcan science officer, none is as effective as ‘The Galileo Seven.’ In it, Spock commands a small crew marooned on a shuttlecraft on a hostile planet. He’s forced to battle both the aliens outside the ship and the misunderstanding and biases of his own crew.
Among the great things about Star Trek: The Original Series was the creative freedom that came from making it all up as they went along—the creators of TOS tried anything, and kept the parts that worked. Kirk’s brother Sam seems like one of those ‘sure, throw that in’ things. Samuel Kirk is mentioned once in an early episode of TOS, but his only appearance is in ‘Operation—Annihilate!’ and he only appears as a corpse played by William Shatner in a mustache, and Kirk barely seems to care. I just love that SNW made a forgettable plot device into a full-fledged character.
Much is made of Lieutenant La’an Noonien-Singh’s haunted lineage in Strange New Worlds, and this episode explains exactly why so many people are disgusted and terrified by La’an. Her ancestor, Khan Noonien Singh, is among the most fearsome adversaries in the Star Trek-universe. He’s like space-Hitler played by Ricardo Montalban. In ‘Space Seed,’ Kirk matches wits with Khan. The battle continues in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, arguably the best Star Trek movie, partly because Khan has such good reason to hate Kirk.
Curmudgeonly Trek fans might take issue with the way Strange New World‘s focuses on the crew’s romantic interests instead of fighting aliens and whatnot, but that’s only because they’re forgetting episodes like ‘Amok Time.’ In it, Spock endures Pon Farr, the Vulcan time of mate-or-die. It’s all emotions here, from Nurse Chapel’s unrequited Spock-love, to the troubled relationship between T’Pring and Spock, to Spock’s would-be mother-in-law’s disapproval of his human half, to the fight-to-the-death between Kirk and Spock, emotional as hell in its own way. There’s even a wedding. My favorite thing about ‘Amok Time’ though, is Spock’s logical conclusion about his relationship with T’Pring.
In ‘Mirror, Mirror’ Uhura has a chance to shine, coming out from behind the communication console and kicking some ass. When Uhura, Kirk, Scotty, and McCoy are beamed to an alternative reality where the Enterprise is a brutal ship run through violence, Uhura beguiles evil, scarface-Sulu with her feminine wiles, then pulls a knife on him, proving that the communications officer can throw down if she has to.
Dr. M’Benga is my favorite character in Strange New Worlds, and I was this week years old when I learned he appears in two episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. The main plot of ‘A Private Little War’ is a by-the-numbers, season two story where Kirk and Bones beam down to Planet Malibu State Park and get in the middle of a skirmish among natives. But the real action is in the b plot where Dr. M’Benga uses his knowledge of Vulcan physiology to save Spock’s life through slap-based therapy. His character isn’t explored deeply, but he’s a total badass anyway.
While Lt. James T. Kirk appears on several episodes of Strange New Worlds second season, he’s only a main character in one, and even in that, he’s an alternative timeline Kirk. So viewers of SNW might be asking themselves ‘What’s the big deal about Kirk anyway?’ The Original Series‘ episode ‘Balance of Terror’ gives you the answer. In the best episode of all Star Treks (I’ll fight you over this) Kirk’s desperate, to-the-death, ship-to-ship battle with a Romulan adversary is perfect illustration of why Captain Kirk is Captain Fucking Kirk.
Although the retconning of the Gorn isn’t perfect, (why does everyone act like they have never seen them before?) the Gorn are such a great villain, it’s forgivable.. Every fan of ST:TOS remembers the weird lizard creature that Kirk is forced to fight in ‘Arena,’ but the backstory of the Gorn is left open—just being murderous lizards was enough back then. As we know from SNW, though the Gorn are extremely evil, making the morality of Kirk’s decision to spare his adversary in ‘Arena’ even more ambiguous.
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