This afternoon, I finished season 2 of the original Star Trek series. The last few episodes of this season are incredibly bad, even by 1960’s-era science fiction standards. What really gets me about the last few episodes, is the feeling that they were written by grumpy old men, unhappy with the political climate at the time. Let’s take a look at the three worst examples:
Episode 23: The Omega Glory
In this bizarre episode, Kirk finds a star-ship captain violating the prime directive. The Yangs (yanks) and Kohms (communists) are battling one another in a bizarro-world parallel-Earth scenario. Worst of all? The Yangs have their own “American” flag, and the Declaration of Independence is considered their “holy word” (which, ironically enough, is kept in a large King James Bible). Be sure to listen for the strains of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” every time the flag is shown.
Episode 25: Bread and Circuses
While attempting to locate a missing star-ship crew, Kirk and company stumble upon a planet whose oppressive government is a 20th-century version of Earth’s Roman empire. In the final 2 minutes of the episode, Lieutenant Uhura figures out that the “sun worshipers” (who are slaves in this world’s society) aren’t actually worshiping the sun, they’re worshiping the son of God. The “aw, shucks” sentimentality of the crew at this discovery is really misplaced and simply feels tacked on. Maybe a network exec forced the writers to put this twist in?
Episode 26: Assignment: Earth
The season finale plays on the cold war fears of the 1960s, and shows a lot of badly edited NASA footage of early Apollo-era flight tests. A stereotypical “dumb blonde” female character sums up the entirety of her generation’s shortcomings in this unforgettable scene:
Mister Seven, I want to believe you. I do. I know this world needs help. That’s why some of my generation are kind of crazy and rebels, you know. We wonder if we’re going to be alive when we’re thirty!
Is a quote like that the hallmark of an out-of-touch, angry old man, or what? “Kids these days … am I right?”
There are some other particularly annoying episodes, like Episode 22: By Any Other Name. This episode was terrific for the first 45 minutes of the 50 total. In the last few minutes, the aliens who have taken the Enterprise crew hostage simply cave in to Kirk’s reasoning for peace, totally destroying the tension that had built up to that point. I was hoping for the death and destruction of these monsters, but all they gave me was peace and harmony. This could have been a solid episode, but the ending ruined it completely.
I’m looking forward to season 3 (some of the episodes sound very interesting), but I’m boldly going forward with a grain of salt. There are bound to be rocky episodes ahead.