And here we are: this is the last episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, I can hardly believe it! My journey started in December 2018 and it’s ending now, after 78 episodes divided into three seasons. Now I know much better all those characters I was already familiar with thanks to the first seven feature films and for their references and appearances in the other Star Trek series that I knew already: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
I am delighted to have finally filled this (unforgivable) gap and I was definitely impressed by the quality of the whole series. Of course there are many things that aged badly, with many episodes that don’t work nowadays, but the series was created in a very different historical period from the one we live in (more than 50 years have passed)… Yet, there’s an impressive amount of innovative ideas, the cast works very well, the special effects are remarkable, most directors did a good job, sometimes surprisingly good, and the music and the cinematography (I’ve watched the remastered Bluray edition) were amazing. I’ve pleasantly discovered all this in the last year and a half or so!
On the other hand, I should have expected it: these are just some of the reasons why the series is so big in the pop culture of the second half of the twentieth century and beyond! But let me talk about the last episode: Turnabout Intruder. Let’s face it: it’s not the last season’s finale that Star Trek would have deserved. The sexism of the sixties that at times characterizes the series here is practically the protagonist of a story in which a woman, Janice Lester (Sandra Smith), looks for revenge against Captain Kirk who’s guilty of having made her spend her life alone. This would have been acceptable for a man, but it’s worse than a death sentence for a woman (I’m not the one saying this, the episode does). The imaginative plot gives us the chance to see William Shatner playing Captain Kirk possessed by a woman and it’s more than funny, but evidently the underlying message is completely wrong. And Shatner’s acting rather than reminding me of a woman, reminded me of a hysterical woman, thus aggravating the whole message by adding that women should not be in command posts as they are unable to manage the tension.
In short, the Star Trek (temporary) farewell letter goes against all the intelligent messages and cutting-edge ideas that were abundant in previous episodes. And we aren’t even given the chance to see the seven crew officers (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Chekov, Uhura and Sulu) all together one last time! Their last appearance dates back to the (bad) third to last episode The Savage Curtain.
That said, I had a lot of fun watching Turnabout Intruder! Shatner alone is worth the ticket: he trims his nails, slams his fists on the table, struggles not to shout when something goes wrong… On a scale of 1 to Nicolas Cage, he gets to the level of the latter in Face/Off (1997)! But I must admit that All Our Yesterdays would have been a better last episode, and in any case I find it unacceptable that Roddenberry wasn’t given the opportunity to write a real final episode! It’s true that this allowed the return of the characters in the 1973 animated series, not to mention the splendid (for the most part) movies from 1979 onwards, but I am curious about how an actual last episode could have looked like.
What else to say but to reiterate that Star Trek: The Original Series really deserves to be seen at the dawn of the third decade of the 2000s? If you are not an avid fan of Star Trek, perhaps you may limit yourself to a selection of episodes. Let me humbly suggest you not to miss (at least) the following ones:
- The Enemy Within, Miri, Balance of Terror, Arena, The Return of the Archons, Space Seed, and The City on the Edge of Forever of the first season.
- Amok Time, Mirror, Mirror, The Doomsday Machine, Journey to Babel, The Trouble with Tribbles, and A Piece of the Action of the second season.
- The Enterprise Incident, Spectre of the Gun, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, and All Our Yesterdays of the third season.
This means seven episodes of the first season, six of the second, and five of the third one, 18 episodes in total. There are other good ones, of course, but I tried to limit myself and come out with an affordable (in terms of time) amount of episodes that can demonstrate the high value of Star Trek: The Original Series! Ciao!
Previous episode: All Our Yesterdays