The 10 Worst Star Trek TOS Episodes
So a couple months ago I did a 10 Best list (Balance of Terror was my number one if you missed it). However, fairs fair and I really should do a 10 Worst as well. Don’t get me wrong on this. I love Star Trek more than pretty much any other show in the history of television, and would happily watch any of these. Let’s just say my internal groan factor is much higher when I watch these 10.
10. Episode 5 the Enemy Within. I know, most true Trek fans will say that all the worst episodes were season 3 and it is some kind of sacrilege to even mention one from season 1, but there are a couple reasons for this one. First of all, the story is kind of dumb. The transporter can violate all laws of thermodynamics and create a second Kirk based on two arbitrary facets of his personality? Good and evil? Why not the two sides that either like garlic and don’t? Honestly, a freak transporter accident does an in depth psychoanalysis of his brain and splits it that way. Dumb. Also, if Sulu and the two red shirts trapped on a planet are faced with a choice of being split into two or freezing to death, I think I would take my chances on being split in two. At least you would have a perfect alibi for your upcoming life of crime. Finally, when I was in school I took a class on video making and we had a guy come in and give us a lecture on how you could use lighting effects to create atmosphere, and this was the footage he used as an example of the cheesiest lighting ever. If you watch you will see whenever they show good Kirk it is always with very soft, out of focus lighting and whenever they show bad Kirk it is with a harsh light either shining up under his chin or down onto his future bald spot. That has kind of stuck with me.
9. Episode 24 This Side of Paradise. Yes, I know. Another season 1 episode. Don’t hate me. The thing is, I am a huge Spock fan and generally don’t like it when he acts out of what I perceive as his character. Amok Time was acceptable due to extenuating circumstance (and also because Spock was kicking ass) but seeing him as a happy country bumpkin living and loving a woman was seriously disconcerting. Also, if the spores kept the colonists alive and healthy in what was effectively a paradise, why would they want to leave even after Kirk managed to itchy-pants them into a murderous frenzy? I’d walk straight up to the nearest spore plant and take another blast. Are they that loyal to the Federation that left them to die a horrible death? However, this episode, like Amok Time, did show that Spock can kick the crap out of Kirk any time he likes, so you have to love that. Kirk was even armed at the start of the fight. (episode shirt images courtesy of the Star Trek t shirt category)
8. Episode 58 the Paradise Syndrome. Maybe it’s just episodes with the word paradise in them. At least this one is firmly in season 3. Sorry, but this on just reeks of pandering. Kirk catches a dose of amnesia and ends up living with the Native Americans. First of all amnesia as a plot device should be firmly relegated to the land of soap operas. This episode garnered a lot of criticism for racism, something that Gene Roddenberry was trying very hard to avoid. However, even a brain damaged white Kirk is shown as being highly intelligent and capable while the Native Americans are portrayed as kind of stupid and ignorant, if noble. I’m sure this was not at all the writers intention, but it just played out that way.
7. Episode 55 Assignment: Earth. Technically season 2, but the very last one and the episode I will list as the worst one of all time is immediately following. OK, Star Trek garnered a lot of praise for a time travel episode in the form of the City on the Edge of Forever, and Tomorrow is Yesterday was decent. So they decide to again go back in time FOR NO APPARENT REASON WHATSOEVER! The nominal excuse it to clear up some historical anomalies surrounding the rocket launch in question. Is historical accuracy such a priority in the Federation that they are willing to risk destroying their entire universe in order to verify what happened? Wasn’t that the whole point of the City episode? One little change can alter the future forever? Also, this episode was a blatant attempt to force a spin off featuring Gary Seven, the futuristic James Bond (played by Robert Lansing). The real problem with this episode was I keep asking “What is the point” whenever I see it. I think the cat, Isis, was the same cat used in Catspaw (which almost made this list).
6. Episode 65 Plato’s Stepchildren. OK, I bought ancient Greeks in space with the great episode Who Mourns for Adonis, and (sort of) bought Romans in Space in Bread and Circuses, but by this time I think we were all full up on the concept. It really felt like they were looking for an excuse to reuse all the costumes from those episodes. While I give this episode props for featuring the very first interracial kiss on television (Kirk and Uhura), the story concept is just kind of dumb. Something in the food gives normal height people god like powers, and McCoy manages to figure out what it is and refine it to inject into other humans. Wouldn’t that be like the greatest scientific discover in history? At the end of the episode Kirk and Spock have more power than anyone else. Why weren’t they still using them in episode 66, Wink of an Eye? Why doesn’t the Federation not have a cadre of mental super soldiers with which to conquer the Klingons and the Romulans? Even if the effect wears off over time, seems like it would warrant further study of some kind.
5. Episode 59 And the Children Shall Lead. If there is one thing Lucas taught us with the Phantom Menace it’s that kids suck in science fiction movies (OK, the kid in Aliens was pretty cool). Any time kids turn into the main protagonist or antagonists in a show about adults it tends to suck. Also, here is a tip for all you future space explorers. If you should come to a colony in space where all the adults are dead and all the kids still living, maybe you don’t want to just welcome them back with open arms. Do copies of the Children of the Corn no longer exist in the future? I’m not saying to simply execute them. Maybe just study them a little more carefully before bringing them on board your enclosed environment. This rule pretty much applies to any sole survivor or surviving sub group, but should be double true for cute kids. Also let us not forget that the Gorgan, in addition to being a creepy ghost with a pedophiliac voice, is also a SCARY CLOWN! DIE CLOWN DIE!
4. Episode 57 The Enterprise Incident. Ugh. I can’t help but feel this episode was in response to some kind of push from Shatner to add some more espionage to his acting repertoire. Here’s the thing about this episode. While I assume it is possible for a little surgical alteration to mimic the appearance of a Romulan (actually, it was more like a little makeup. Kirk did not really look that different) the thing is, the Enterprise had a crew of about 400 people. I have to assume the Romulan ship had about the same. Over the course of a few months duty I would say it is safe to assume that every crew member has seen every other crew member at some point. My high school had about 2000 people in it and I can say that if someone had shown up I had never seen before I would have at least noticed them. Also, how is it Kirk speaks flawless Romulan, or that the Romulans all speak English?
3. Episode 75 the Way to Eden. I can sum up what is wrong with this episode in one word: hippies. Specifically space hippies who seem to see Spock as some kind of guru. I really can’t decide what the message was from this episode. It was either that smelly hippies suck and should get a job or that peace and free love rule and we should all go to a Phish concert. Also, it is interesting to me that the one time Checkov gets a love interest she ends up a villain (sort of) and leaves to wander the universe. No one can ever do better than Kirk.
2. Episode 77 the Savage Curtain. Abraham Lincoln in space. Literally, floating in space. This episode was a blatant rip off of Arena. I guess the writers were getting tired by then. Also, this is the first time in sci fi history we get to see the recurring turd monster. The thing that sucked about this, aside from the question of how Kirk and Spock are appointed the universal representatives of Good, is that, while Arena was a long game of cat and mouse that ended, like all great Star Trek episodes, with Kirk using his brain to come up with a plan, this one finally resorts in old fashioned brute force.
1. Episode 56 Spock’s Brain. No surprise here. In every list of bad Star Trek episodes this one is listed near the top. Nimoy has said he spent most of the filming kind of embarrassed. Amazon women from the Bikini Planet sneak on the enterprise and steal Spock’s brain in order to regulate their city. Turns out they are stripper dumb until they get info downloaded into their brains. This episode raises so many “what the hell?” questions I don’t even want to get into it. If you are a fan of Star Trek you already know why this one sucks. I don’t need to hurt myself dredging it up.
There it is. Feel free as always to disagree and post a comment here. You can also follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. I really don’t tweet a lot, but when I do you know it’s important (or I am really bored). Thanks for reading. Talk to you all soon.