My Favorite Star Trek Episode

Kish was out of town earlier this week, so I seized the opportunity to indulge in a little Star Trek fix. It had to be something from the original series, of course–those shows I’ve been watching since they first aired during my childhood and that I’ve watched consistently in the more than five decades since. Some of the later Trek series are quite good, but nothing will really overtake the original series for me, with those familiar characters and plot lines that are as comfortable as an old shoe.

Of course, the viewer’s mood can affect show selection. If I’m looking for a lighter episode, I might go for I, Mudd, or The Trouble With Tribbles, or A Piece Of The Action, and if I really want to venture into the realm of guilty pleasures I might go for one of the bad, campy episodes from the third and final season. But I wanted instead to watch one of the best episodes–one of the classic shows that helped to make me into a fan of the Trek world until my last day. I thought about what my all-time favorite episode might be, and after a minute or two of reflection, I opted for Amok Time.

It wasn’t an easy call. Mirror, Mirror and Journey To Babel are great episodes, and so are Balance Of Terror and Devil In The Dark and City On The Edge Of Forever and a few others. I’ve got a soft spot for The Corbomite Maneuver, too. All of those episodes feature crisp plots, some meaningful insight into the Trek universe, and the great byplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy that the fans of the original series love.

Amok Time, where Spock’s biological impulses require him to return to his home planet of Vulcan to mate, and Spock and an unwitting Kirk must fight to the death due to Vulcan tradition, has all of that. It’s the first episode to give the viewers a significant look at Vulcan culture and Spock’s inner turmoil and what lies beneath that logical exterior, and the interaction between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy is all the diehard fan could hope for. I particularly love the scene where Kirk promises to risk his career to get Spock back to Vulcan, the scene where the crusty Dr. McCoy is surprised and honored to be asked by Spock to accompany him to Vulcan for the mating ceremony, and the entire final part of the show, where the quick-thinking McCoy saves the day and is rewarded with a chance to see an emotional outburst from Spock. Amok Time is just some great, vintage TV.

Now that I think of it, I probably should watch some of the other contending episodes, just to be sure that I’m right in picking Amok Time as my current favorite.

Live Long And Prosper

I was very saddened to learn today of the death of Leonard Nimoy at age 83.  He was an accomplished stage and screen actor, poet, and photographer — but to those of us who loved Star Trek, he will always and forever be the man who created Mr. Spock.

Books have been written about Spock and Kirk and McCoy, the complex relationship between that trio that made Star Trek such a terrific show, and the half-Vulcan character who struggled mightily to keep his human side in check in compliance with the dictates of Vulcan culture and its relentless emphasis on logic.  Nimoy made Spock a believable character — and thus a great character — when he very easily could have been as silly as Jar Jar Binks.  After all, an alien with pointed ears, green skin and super-human strength who eschews all emotion?  But thanks to Nimoy’s deft touch, Spock was as real and complex and layered as any character in the TV or film universe.  And, for those of us who were awkward adolescents at the time, dealing with a rush of weird new emotions and our own feelings of not quite fitting in with the rest of the world, Spock was enormously appealing.

I also liked that Nimoy seemed to struggle with the Spock character almost as much as Spock struggled with his human side.  Nimoy knew immediately that Spock was an iconic character, and he wanted to avoid being typecast.  When the Star Trek series ended, he promptly took on a completely different role as Paris on Mission: Impossible, wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock, and seemed to constantly reject the great character he created.  But ultimately he relented, reconnected with the role, and played Spock in a long series of movies and TV appearances — and Star Trek fans are grateful that he did.  Indeed, his connection with the character became such that he wrote a later autobiography called I Am Spock, and by the end of his life, as Richard points out, Nimoy ended his tweets with LLAP — a reference to Spock’s great Vulcan salutation.

Live Long and Prosper.  What a wonderful, simple sentiment from what was supposed to be an unemotional culture!  Nimoy lived that sentiment and gave us an unforgettable creation.  He will be sorely missed.