Season 2b—Season 2d
At the peak of the show’s run we get some iconic… and frankly silly episodes. These are solid, but solidly ensconced in their time…
Episode 15 “The Trouble with Tribbles”
Struggle: The biology of Tribbles is hard to get a grip on. So, they basically reproduce the way other species eliminate waste?
Perhaps one of the better loved episodes because it is so simple and doesn’t try to preach too much. A fun, even silly story where the know-it-all bureaucrat gets his comeuppance, which is something that audiences love to see. (And, Star Trek loves to show incompetent authority figures.)
Episode 16 “The Gamesters of Triskellion”
Struggle: While “The Outer Limits” seems to have done this trope first on TV, Star Trek loves the gladiator games. This is the second of three times that TOS will use this idea.
Star Trek tends to set up straw gods that it can easily knock down. Here we get the very human yet god-like aliens who are bored and obsessed with violence. That is likely more a commentary on society than religion. Gladiatorial stories tend to be a warning about our obsession with violence as entertainment. Here, there is a feeble attempt to introduce compassion and love into the mix, but Kirk just uses that until he can gain the upper hand and then… violence comes back into play. Thankfully, our heroes are better fighters than the trained gladiators, otherwise they would be stuck on this planet forever.
Episode 17 “A Piece of the Action”
Struggle: The premise is interesting, but handled in a very 1960’s TV style.
This is another fun episode playing with a good premise. Whether they pull it off successfully or not is up to the viewer.
Episode 18 “The Immunity Syndrome”
Struggle: The episode really struggles (ineffectively) to communicate the concept of the threat, especially early on. An area of space that is “empty” should really be quite normal. The way Trek “fills” space with stars and life is not very “hard SciFi.”
Again, an interesting premise if only by 1960s standards. Only catch is that this episode is not playful or silly, but is supposed to be serious. The contrast between the concept and attempted atmosphere leave one scoffing just a little bit.
Episode 19 “A Private Little War”
Struggle: The monster is both wonderful and terrible at once. And poisoned Kirk is quite fun.
This episode is pretty up-front in its commentary on the Vietnam War that was the current, and therefore off-limits, topic. Whether it really has anything substantial to say on that front can be argued. Add to that the cool (but ultimately silly) creatures attacking our heroes, and the “MacBethian” sexual politics, and you have a pretty good story.
Episode 20 “Return to Tomorrow”
Struggle: Not much.
When Secular Humanists imagine the eventual progression of humanity, this is likely what they dream about. Noble, god-like intelligence with enough nobility to die out rather than harm others. It is a pretty lame view of divinity once again. Star Trek’s “gods” are best compared with Greek and Roman pantheons, with all of their commentary and obsession with what it means to be human, and little to know serious contemplation on what true divinity could be like.