Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 2 Review

2×01 “Amok Time”

A landmark episode in terms of character development for Spock and worldbuilding for Vulcan. I don’t love the essentialism around mating and reproduction, obviously, and I would love for nuTrek to follow up on how pon farr affects queer Vulcans. But Spock and Kirk fighting with those stupid American Gladiator things is just joyful.

(B-Rank)

2×02 “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

Like, it’s not the worst or anything, but why do so many of these kinds of episodes just have to absolutely hinge on some female crew member we’ve never met before falling head-over-heels for the villain? You get one of those, and you burned it on “Space Seed,” and I actually really liked it but it happens over and over and I just can’t stand it. (Okay, fine, technically you burned it on the second pilot but I’m not counting that as much because almost everyone was a new character we didn’t know and she actually got lines and a chance to actually do her job and stuff.)

Like, yeah, I actually kinda enjoy silly bullshit like the giant hand grabbing the Enterprise and whatnot, but so much of this episode is just nails-on-chalkboard misogyny and I just… I cannot. And it’s not even just all the stuff that happens on the planet, the episode just weirdly starts off with everyone on the bridge fawning over this random lady and being all dumb and competitive and just… gag!! It feels weird even for TOS.

I know some of you are probably thinking about whining “but you have to allow for historical context!” and I hear you, but you have to allow for my historical context of not wanting to watch this shit, and your historical context of eating my entire ass.

(C-Rank)

2×03 “The Changeling”

What if The Motion Picture were dumber and badder. There’s some stuff here I don’t hate, but then there’s all the other stuff.

Also, Uhura’s subplot in this is just weird. TOS was so weird.

(C-Rank)

2×04 “Mirror, Mirror”

This is a landmark episode, and while I disagree with how much of the episode is devoted to the Kirk/Marlena stuff, it’s impossible to overrate its lasting impact on the franchise.

And, I mean, c’mon. Evil Spock with an evil beard.

(S-Rank)

2×05 “The Apple”

The early parts of the episode were a hilarious bloodbath, so that was actually pretty entertaining. But once the racistly-depicted natives and their giant computer got involved it just got boring and awkward as fuck.

(C-Rank)

2×06 “The Doomsday Machine”

This episode rules. It’s got plenty of action, it’s got another Constitution-class ship. It has an important bit of lore with the introduction of Commodore Decker, who is Commander Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s father. The scene where Kirk orders Spock to relieve Decker and assume command of the Enterprise is one of my favorites in the entire series. The dramatic/heroic swell of music when Spock sits down in the captain’s chair is just priceless.

This is definitely one of the episodes I always look forward to. Just a lot of quality Star Trek stuff happening.

(A-Rank)

2×07 “Catspaw”

Fuck you, it’s good.

Yeah, I get it, the big threat towards the end is just literally a housecat that’s composited in to try to make it look much larger than it is. Yeah, I know it’s not convincing at all. But this is a silly Halloween episode, and I’m judging it on those grounds. This Scooby-Doo bullshit is exactly what I want out of a Halloween episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, are you kidding? This is flawless.

(B-Rank)

2×08 “I, Mudd”

This is absolutely a much better Mudd episode than “Mudd’s Women,” but Mudd episodes are just… not great episodes? I’m glad that they was so much better in Discovery, and I’m sure his episodes will be great in Strange New Worlds if he ever shows up there as well. Which is funny because I actually like the way he’s portrayed in TOS a lot better than the way he’s portrayed in Discovery? Like, conniving con man who gets under the captain’s skin is way more Star Trekky to me than just… “straight-up a murderer.” But the episodes around him in TOS are just… ugh.

I loved all the silly stuff Kirk & co did to try to confuse the androids, though. Definitely the highlight of either of TOS’s Mudd episodes.

(C-Rank)

2×09 “Metamorphosis”

I don’t have a lot to say about this one? It’s just… kinda boring and lonely. Cool that they introduced Zefram Cochrane for later shows (even Enterprise) to do a much better job with, I guess.

(D-Rank)

2×10 “Journey to Babel”

This would be a landmark episode if only for introducing Spock’s parents and two founding members of the Federation (the Andorians and Tellerites). But it’s also got some of the most plentiful and in-your-face Play-Doh food of the series, an absolutely bonkers Star Trek fight, a murder investigation, Dr. McCoy doing bullshit Star Trek medicine, a space battle… there’s kind of a lot going on in this episode! It really is one I always look forward to. I really think this kind of stuff is TOS at its best.

(A-Rank)

2×11 “Friday’s Child”

… and this is TOS at its worst.

Seriously, this is so boring. It’s just 45 minutes of nothing! And oh yeah, my abusive ex “ironically” loved McCoy slapping that one lady across the face and then her following him around all doe-eyed for the rest of the episode. So, you know. Not exactly an association it’s easy to get out of my head, and not a pleasant one in the first place.

I’m not just docking it because of that, though. It was already extremely bad all on its own.

(D-Rank)

2×12 “The Deadly Years”

The best part of this episode is when they reuse footage from “Balance of Terror” to make it look like the Enterprise is under attack by the Romulans.

(C-Rank)

2×13 “Obsession”

Hey. Hey. What if we did “The Man Trap” again, but like, kinda worse? Like, not bad bad, but just kinda… ever so slightly worse? And added a whole thing where the monster of the week was just super in Captain Kirk’s head. And he takes it out on some poor hapless security guy. Wouldn’t that be fun!!

… would it not? Where are you going?

(C-Rank)

2×14 “Wolf in the Fold”

Yeah, okay, it’s bad, but it’s still a Star Trek murder mystery, so it’s at least watchable!! Seriously, though, Jack the Ripper is a disembodied psychic force of evil? And he sounds like that? Go fuck yourself lmao.

(C-Rank)

2×15 “The Trouble with Tribbles”

I had this on VHS and watched it over and over and over, and then they did that giftset that bundled it with the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” and a little electronic plush tribble, so obviously I had to get that which gave me a second VHS copy of “The Trouble with Tribbles,” but it had a different cover so I was fine with it.

This is the best episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Let’s just get that out of the way. This is one of the best episodes of any Star Trek series. I think there’s a decent chance this is one of the biggest reasons there are other Star Trek shows.

Seriously, this is the TOS episode. It’s just everything about the show working to absolute perfection. Plenty of characters get meaningful screentime. The tone is pitch perfect. Kirk spars with a Klingon captain and belittles a Federation bureaucrat (that was cathartic given how those interactions usually go). The tribbles are adorable and a genuine menace. There is a Starfleet/Klingon bar fight. Again, there is a Starfleet/Klingon bar fight.

It’s also the standard that all other Star Trek forays into comedy are measured against. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is probably the only more famous example of Star Trek doing comedy well, and that’s only because it’s a feature film. “The Trouble with Tribbles” set the bar, and I genuinely don’t think it’s ever been–or is ever likely to be–surpassed.

(S-Rank)

2×16 “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

Liiiiiiiike. This is a super BDSMy episode with tons of bondage, so I don’t… I can’t completely hate it? But in spite of that… yeah, I really kind of hate it!! And I feel like that should be a pretty searing indictment coming from me?

The campy bondage stuff is great, don’t get me wrong. But the episode around it is just… so. bad!!!!

(D-Rank)

2×17 “A Piece of the Action”

This is freaking adorable. I know it’s kind of a one-trick pony (juxtaposing the Enterprise’s crew against caricatures of the mafia), but they find basically every single possible way to mine comedy out of that one trick and it doesn’t get old!

There isn’t really a lot to this episode, but that’s okay! This is TOS camp at its best.

(A-Rank)

2×18 “The Immunity Syndrome”

This is a good bad episode! I laughed hysterically when I realized it was next, and I laugh every time I see that stupid giant amoeba. I love this shit.

(C-Rank)

2×19 “A Private Little War”

This is a bad bad episode. It’s an anemic attempt to Say Something about U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam, but it pretty explicitly portrays the U.S. as the Good Guys and does a painfully generic bit of “war is hell”/”look what our enemy is making us do” imperialist apologia. With a side of super obvious racism! The planet’s natives, who are pretty blatantly meant to be analogues for the Vietnamese people, are infantilized and given “noble savage” treatment throughout the episode. The whole thing is just hella gross and I’m so glad Star Trek has largely grown past this kind of bullshit.

(D-Rank)

2×20 “Return to Tomorrow”

This is a pretty prototypical TOS snoozefest, notable only for Captain Kirk’s famous “risk is our business!” speech, which despite being stirring and a good bit of character writing, seems wholly out of proportion with the episode it actually occurs in. It’s drastically better if you take it out of context. It’s also hilariously overacted by an increasingly sweaty Shatner. Like, someone really decided, “Yeah, that was fine, let’s go with that take.”

(D-Rank)

2×21 “Patterns of Force”

The episode is boring and generic as fuck aside from an uncomfortably sexy whipping/aftermath of whipping scene featuring gay power couple Kirk and Spock, but the episode is just so fucking cavalier about everyone including the two main characters wearing Nazi uniforms. It even finds an excuse to have Kirk wear two different Nazi uniforms. It’s honestly super gross.

(D-Rank)

2×22 “By Any Other Name”

Like, it’s not good, but it’s harmless TOS bad. Oh also, I love how upon reaching the galactic barrier, Spock recites exactly the same readings as in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It was literally word for word. That was a cute little detail.

(C-Rank)

2×23 “The Omega Glory”

Yeah I misspoke when I said that “The Alternative Factor” is the worst episode of Star Trek. Now, admittedly, “The Omega Glory” is a bit less of a chore to watch. But everything about it is just so antithetical to what Star Trek is, and so unbelievably offensive and racist regardless, that it’s just genuinely pretty hard to watch. Captain Tracy is a much better villain than… evil Lazarus? I don’t even remember what the fuck was going on there, to be honest. And the episode might be more engaging, but for being so loudly and unavoidably the opposite of everything good about Star Trek, this is the worst episode.

(D-Rank)

2×24 “The Ultimate Computer”

The Enterprise is chosen to test the new “M5 computer,” an artificial intelligence from famed scientist Richard Daystrom. You hear that name over and over in Golden Age Trek because the Federation’s foremost computer and robotics laboratory is named after him. He also invented the revolutionary technology that Starfleet’s computer systems are based on when he was a very young man, which the episode presents as giving him a bit of a complex about having made his greatest achievement when he was so young and then watching others get famous building upon his work while he seemingly stood still.

The M5 is going to be tested via some war game simulations pitting the Enterprise against four other Constitution-class starships–the Lexington, the Potemkin, the Excalibur, and the Hood.

Super Star Trek nerd note: interestingly, all four of these are legacy ships! Or, at least, ships carrying the same name appear in later installments of Star Trek. The Lexington is a Nebula-class ship that has brief background appearances in both TNG and DS9. The Potemkin is an Excelsior-class ship that appears in at least one episode of TNG, but is referenced on numerous occasions because Will Riker served aboard it. He also briefly served aboard the Ambassador-class USS Excalibur as acting captain in TNG’s “Redemption, Part 2,” but the ship is perhaps more famous to hardcore Star Trek fans as the hero ship of Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier book series. Lastly, the Excelsior-class USS Hood appears frequently in TNG, and is referenced even more frequently because of its former first officer, one Will Riker.

… hold on a second, really? Will Riker served on ships named after three of the four ships (four of five if you count the Enterprise) in this episode? Are we sure he never served on the Lexington?

At any rate, no sooner is the computer installed on the Enterprise than Captain Kirk has to be thinking “I’m gonna have to talk that thing to death aren’t I?” and Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy have to be thinking “Jim’s gonna have to talk that thing to death, isn’t he?” and particularly savvy members of the audience who have picked up on how bizarrely often Kirk has to talk robots or computers to death are likely thinking “Kirk’s gonna have to talk that thing to death, isn’t he?”

And wouldn’t you just know it, the computer malfunctions and begins treating the war games like they’re real, and attacks the other Starfleet ships with fully-powered phasers rather than low-powered simulated phasers. Shockingly, Kirk ends up talking the computer to death. Truly no one could have foreseen this outcome.

(B-Rank)

2×25 “Bread and Circuses”

They copy/pasted the “Patterns of Force” script and used find/replace to change all instances of “Nazi” to “Roman.” So they did this dumb alternate earth development thing with two of the four eras of history that The History Channel used to cover pretty exclusively. One presumes they would’ve gotten around to ancient Egypt and Civil War America eventually if the series had gone on for longer.

Seriously, “Patterns of Force” wasn’t that many episodes ago, and that makes some of the plot points in this episode so unintentionally hilarious. Like when they’re looking for this captain guy and they’re all like gee I wonder where he could be he’s probably not doing exactly the same thing as that other captain guy from the previous episode right, and then they find out that Rome’s “first citizen”–a sort of lapdog soldier of their Emperor–has a name that sounds virtually identical to his and they’re like whoa hey that can’t be him right, he’s definitely probably not doing the exact same thing that one captain guy did a few episodes ago in virtually identical circumstances right?

Oh wait this does have one distinguishing feature from “Patterns of Force.” I mean, aside from the fact that Roman costumes are way less offensive than Nazi costumes but also they put way less effort into the authenticity of their Roman costumes than they did into their Nazi costumes. Ummm awkward. Anyway uh yeah! The episode also had several moments where the characters stopped just short of turning directly to the camera and saying “hey NBC is thinking about canceling us tell them not to and also that they suck because regardless of whether they cancel us or not they suck.” Sort of like the movie Network, but even less subtle or funny.

(D-Rank)

2×26 “Assignment: Earth”

So just in case the moments in the previous episode where the characters stopped just short of turning directly to the camera and saying “hey NBC is thinking about canceling us tell them not to and also that they suck because regardless of whether they cancel us or not they suck” and the fan letter-writing campaigns didn’t succeed in stopping Star Trek from being canceled, Gene Rodenberry decided to devote the last episode of the show’s second season to a backdoor pilot for his backup plan. It’s really funny that Roddenberry acted like Star Trek was his baby and he deeply cared about it when he spent what he had every reason to believe could have been the last episode of the show devoting all of his time to the television equivalent of “hey, this is the new guy who’s going to be replacing you, please train him” instead of like, I don’t know… doing something that felt meaningful to the rest of the series or its characters or something? Also his super original, creative concept for his next show is just… it’s just bad Doctor Who, guys. It’s just drastically worse Doctor Who.

Oh and things not making sense isn’t… usually something I bother pointing out in TOS. Okay, that’s honestly probably a lie, but I mostly only point them out because they’re funny not because I think they’re worth pointing out. But this episode just opens with a captain’s log where the first words after “Captain’s log, stardate [whatever]” are “Using the light-speed breakaway factor, the Enterprise has moved back through time to the 20th century. We are now in extended orbit around Earth, using our ship’s deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission – historical research.” Like it’s just the most casual shit ever and they do it all the time. And I don’t know I’ve just always found this so glaringly dumb that it feels wrong not to mention it.

But yeah, I don’t know. At least it gives us the crucial information that MR. SPOCK INSTINCTIVELY LIKES KITTIES!!! I knew he was the smartest.

(D-Rank)

S-Rank: 2
A-Rank: 3
B-Rank: 3
C-Rank: 9
D-Rank: 9
Average: 2.23 (C-Rank)

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