Season 1c—Season 2a
Things continue along wonderfully, especially for the time and limitations the series faced. Thoughtful episodes come with regularity at this point.
Episode 23 “A Taste of Armageddon”
Struggle: The concept is a solid, interesting idea, but the execution is a bit flimsy. One struggles to believe that a culture would subsist like this for 500 years.
In a day where America was at war, this show had the audacity to critique the concept. That was culturally appropriate and popular at the time, but that a television company allowed it is a testament to how subversive and sneaky the genre can be. In this story, we hear the argument that war is necessary, and should be done as cleanly and conveniently as possible. Peace at tremendous sacrifice. The Enterprise and crew argue that, considering the cost, peace is something for which everyone should instead sacrifice and compromise. Human life is too important to trade for economic prosperity.
Episode 24 “This Side of Paradise”
Struggle: The flowers that “control” the colony border on silly, and the one that eventually gets Kirk comes out of nowhere.
This story wants to argue that an existence without struggle and effort is actually a hellish one. Star Trek is very big on the idea that toil and suffering are essential qualities of human life, and happiness and provision should always be mistrusted. I don’t know that they really thought things through in this instance. Just because suffering is unavoidable does not make it a good or essential thing.
Episode 25 “The Devil in the Dark”
Struggle: Nimoy’s mind-meld is a bit silly by today’s standards.
This is a great story about the fear of the unknown or different. From both sides of the situation. Misunderstanding and fear lead to death and escalating warfare, but when communication is established, everyone discovers that they are really suited to help each other.
Episode 26 “Errand of Mercy”
Struggle: Star Trek will never get preachier.
Another story that comes very close to commenting on the context in which the show was made. Star Fleet and the Klingons are so condescending to the “helpless” beings that live on the planet they are fighting over. Kirk is so busy being “morally superior” to his enemy that he has failed to see they are actually the same.
Episode 27 “The Alternative Factor”
Struggle: This whole thing is a mess. One wonders if the writers ever wrapped their heads around their concept.
This one tries to be too clever and manages to end up dumb.
Episode 28 “City on the Edge of Forever”
Struggle: Not much. This is one of Star Trek’s best moments ever.
Time travel stories are tricky, and this one does not avoid the paradoxes. That does not matter in the end because this is a story about coming to terms with the regret we live with in a world where mistakes are universal. This is not a redemption story either, but more of a recognition of the tragedies we face. The need for redemption is highlighted, but we leave things at that.
Episode 29 “Operation Annihilate”
Struggle: Pancakes hardly appear menacing.
In a story very similar to “The Body Snatchers” we don’t really get the potential social commentary, just the action.