TOS S01E05 The Enemy Within (4 out of 5 stars). No Captain’s Log in the teaser! Now that the series has found its feet and established some core concepts, it can start playing around with what else those concepts imply. The transporter was a budget-saving measure – landing a ship the size of a football field on an alien planet every week was financial suicide. But having invented it – what else can we do with it? Answer – duplicate evil Kirk!

What’s fascinating about this episode is the idea that – unlike in the mirror universe stories where we have regular old Kirk vs evil goatee Kirk – Kirk needs this evil side of himself, and without it he’s a weak, indecisive milquetoast. The debate between Kirk and Spock about whether or not to tell the crew is a lovely evocation of this idea. And stranding Sulu on the freezing planet below while the transporter is fixed is a great way of raising the stakes even further (although disliked by original writer, Richard Matheson from off of The Twilight Zone).

Shatner has impressed me hugely so far, but it’s clear that despite his Jewish heritage he has no fear of thickly sliced ham. Here he goes for broke and it’s glorious. He also gets his shirt off again, because of course he does, and the green wraparound top gets another outing. Kirk losing his ability to make decisions upsets the usual dynamic of Spock and McCoy presenting opposing points of view and Kirk casting the deciding vote. His inability to decide whether or not to risk a transporter merger is wonderfully agonising – but what’s missing is the way I’m sure TNG would have played it: relying on the relationship between the two Kirks to arrive at the decision. Here the evil Kirk is only ever portrayed as a duplicitous monster who must be defeated – never as a thinking, feeling being who can be understood and reasoned with.

That weird purple blood is back (maybe they bought a job lot) and, sure, we’re five for five in stories about something nasty sneaking on board the ship when no-one is looking, but this is, if not the very best of the five, very probably the most fun. McCoy even gets to say “He’s dead Jim,” referring to a weird alien dog thing.

TOS S01E06  Mudd’s Women (3.5 out of 5 stars). Some dynamic camerawork gives a dramatic start to an enjoyably silly episode. Then, as his ship enters an asteroid field, Kirk orders “Deflectors on” – first mention of shields I think. We’ve had some amusing character moments between the regulars, but this is the first time that a fully-fledged comedy character has been dropped in amongst the ultra-professional Enterprise crew. Sadly, while Roger C Carmel is amusing enough, the male crewmembers react to his trio of lovely ladies as if they’re in an episode of The Benny Hill Show and the score goes completely nuts as if Kirk and co. have been living an entirely monastic existence to this point.

Kirk also is accused of having exceeded his authority, but we are still no clearer from whence this authority derives. This also has benefits. When out of lithium (not yet “dilithium”) and struggling to maintain orbit, Kirk can’t call on Star Fleet Command to mount a rescue mission. The ship is exploring the unknown in a way which feels very unfamiliar to regular viewers of most later series (which was the problem that Voyager attempted to solve).

The interplay between the playful Mudd and the all-business all-the-time crew puts me immediately in mind of Adam West’s gently mocking performance as Batman opposite a gallery of ripe comedy villains. Batman had been on the air since January and this went out in October so it’s not impossible that it was an influence, but I’d guess instead that they’re both responding to the same cultural touchstones.

Compared to the existential crisis of the last episode and the threat to the whole ship the week before, this is pretty flimsy fare, but it’s nice to see the series trying something new – even if this is yet another version of uh oh, this new arrival on board isn’t quite what they seem, making it six in a row.

The negotiations with the miners also make it clear that money is still a thing in the 23rd century, and Rigel XII feels like a real alien civilisation in ways that other planets we’ve visited haven’t managed. The underlying premise of the story – a woman’s worth is in her attractiveness to men – while it is mildly critiqued, still leaves me feeling a bit queasy. The flip that a placebo can (sometimes) work just as well is neat though – Kirk cons the conman.

TOS S01E07 What Are Little Girls Made Of? (2.5 out of 5 stars). We haven’t had a Sulu episode yet, or a Scotty episode, or an Uhura episode. The nearest we’ve had to a McCoy episode is the first one. We haven’t even had a Spock episode really. So far, this has entirely been the Captain Kirk show with everyone else playing second fiddle. But – here it is! – the Nurse Christine Chapel episode that the fans couldn’t wait for.

“Send down two red shirts,” orders Kirk (nearly) and it isn’t long before both of them stumble into a bottomless pit. And that’s Lurch from The Addams Family as the murderous android “Ruk”, picking up William Shatner like he’s a Captain Kirk action figure. In a rare blunder from the costume department, Dr Brown wears cross-your-heart dungarees in bright blue and puke green. Sherry Jackson as Andrea wears it better. This is the Thiess Titilation Theory in full effect. Andrea’s costume doesn’t get the male audience members’ blood pumping because of how much skin it exposes – the effect is due to the fact that it has no visible means of support and thus can be supposed to be about to slip and reveal far more. Kirk cracks on to her as soon as they’re alone together – all in furtherance of the mission of course.

This slightly fuzzy and sluggish episode can’t quite decide whether it’s about sex robots or free will. It’s too coy to engage fully with the former and its attempts to tackle the latter stumble into a confused muddle of essentialism before everybody kills everybody else. It’s also our second duplicate Kirk in three episodes, but I miss Bones and Spock who are relegated to babysitting the ship till the captain gets back. It’s not bad exactly, it’s just not all that interesting.

This episode doesn’t revolve around a seeming human on the Enterprise who isn’t all that he seems, but the android Kirk does briefly beam back up to the ship and pass himself off to Spock as the real thing.

TOS S01E08 Miri (3.5 out of 5 stars) opens with another really punchy teaser – “Another Earth!” And then before long we’re on the Culver City backlot for, I think the first time. It’s amazing what a difference this makes. Instead of those stagey “exterior” sets we’re in the open air, able to see the sky. And the mystery is fascinating too. Following complaints received after its first UK broadcast in 1970, the BBC did not include the episode in any Star Trek repeats until the 1990s. Three other episodes, Plato’s Stepchildren, The Empath and Whom Gods Destroy were not shown at all until the 1990s. Kim Darby (“Miri”) would be seen a few years later as Mattie Ross in True Grit opposite John Wayne. And that’s Moss from Bonnie and Clyde as “Jahn”.

The threat is a chilling one – a wasting disease which first makes victims feral. And rather than one of the red shirts being infected and dropping dead as an early warning, Kirk himself is the first to notice signs of contamination. This also isolates the landing party from the ship which raises the stakes, but unlike last week, we have our core team all present – and Janice Rand is along for the ride, still seemingly like more of a regular cast member than Sulu, Scotty or Uhura. Don’t get too comfy, Janice.

This is a brilliantly weird episode, tinged with tiny bit of the same flavour as The Prisoner or some of the odder episodes of The Avengers. It’s also thematically rich, playing with notions of childhood and the unsettling changes of puberty. It feels like a story which only this show could tell and yet it’s completely different from any of the preceding entries – not least because there’s hardly any male chauvinism or shirtless cavorting. But the action does flag in the middle – seven days is a realistic timeframe but too long to really ramp up the tension. And the riddle of the duplicate Earth is never resolved.

Key takeaways from these episodes

  • Captain Kirk doesn’t spend his time ferrying diplomats around or observing stellar anomalies. He’s really exploring the unknown, with no Federation to fall back on (although Kirk does contact “Space Central” to come and look after the kids in Miri). It’s not unlike Doctor Who being only gradually revealed as a Time Lord from Gallifrey. But in the British series, the lead character’s origins are established as a mystery in need of solving. Here (as always happens) the universe of the show just gradually accumulates material.
  • Kirk is very much the lead character and we haven’t really zeroed in on that iconic core group of six yet. Sulu, Scotty and Uhura get whole episodes off. In some episodes, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand get more to do than characters who will later be seen as indispensable. Only McCoy and Spock are guaranteed screen time, and even then, neither of them has carried an episode so far.
  • The ambition of the show is growing, almost by the episode, and shows no sign of stopping. Imagine being on this writing team – the whole universe is yours to explore!