TOS S01E22: Space Seed (5 out of 5 stars) is not one I remember watching, but I know all about it because of course it gave rise to The Wrath of Khan. Unfamiliar with Trek, incoming producer Harve Bennett sat down and watched the whole of The Original Series and immediately saw the potential for a rematch with Khan, who in both his appearances is an absolutely exceptional villain. 23rd century Star Fleet officers may have evolved beyond petty grievances but you can’t say the same for a survivor of the Eugenics Wars of the… (checks notes) 1990s?

This is also I think the first true appearance of The Shat. I’ve been impressed by William Shatner’s performances so far and his often-imitated vocal tics have been largely absent. But opposite Montalban’s scenery-chewing, sensitive Canadian actor William Shatner fades away and his evil doppelganger The Shat emerges, who will act you off the screen given half the chance.

In a neat reversal of the usual Benny Hill style capers in the face of a beautiful woman on the Enterprise, here it’s Madlyn Rhue as Lt McGivers who goes goo-goo eyes over Khan. His relentless negging and then near-raping of her is some this episode’s strongest and most disturbing stuff. Her torn loyalties are fascinating and it’s a shame that she too wasn’t brought back for the movie.

The ending is perfection as well – a thrilling race against time, followed by a selfless act of clemency on the part of the Captain (with no chance of anything going wrong). Well played everybody. I say everybody. Uhura is present but largely mute until captured by Khan. No Sulu in sight (and of course, no Chekov).

TOS S01E23: A Taste of Armageddon. (4 out of 5 stars) Having tackled organised religion, Trek now sets its sights on mutually assured destruction. Of course the Captain isn’t going to willingly march into a disintegration chamber for the sake of diplomacy, but nor does he even consider leaving them to their antiseptic war games which aren’t harming anyone else (whither the Prime Directive?). Picard would be wringing his hands far more.

My favourite part of this episode is the way that Scotty is able to see through every deception which Anan 7 tries. He’s indomitable, a magnificently immovable object against which both Ambassador Fox and Eminian’s futilely batter themselves. I love seeing our characters at their very best.

The flip side of this is that we are introduced to The Patrician Federation who knows far better than the inhabitants of the planets they visit what is best for them, and can solve in a few hours problems which they have been wrestling with for years, or in this case centuries. And there’s more 1960s anti-computer sentiment here which has dated badly. I do like that the stuffy ambassador, who is wrong about everything, is given the chance to redeem himself rather than being humiliated and mocked.

Some of the plotting here is fuzzy. The Eminians have orders to fire as soon as the “screens” are lowered. But the ambassador beams down and the ship isn’t destroyed. And is General Order 24 a real thing? Or was this a codified bluff? Some sort of pre-medicated Corbomite Maneuver? I’d like to think the latter but it isn’t made clear.

TOS S01E24: This Side of Paradise (5 out of 5 stars) at first seems like a re-hash of The Naked Time, with a hint of Return of the Archons and a bit of The Cage. But if that’s true, then it outstrips all of them with its fascinating exploration of Spock, its hugely complex problem to solve and the deep relationship stuff between the two leads which resolves the plot. About the only thing which lets it down at all is Jill Ireland as Spock’s girlfriend – she’s a bit stiff and bland compared to McGivers or Mea 3.

Having Spock smile and laugh is wonderfully transgressive, but also a risk. In clumsy hands this could have been pointless and stupid (like all those avaricious producers who wanted Harpo Marx to speak or Buster Keaton to smile). But this script and Nimoy’s sensitive playing make it work brilliantly. It’s genuinely shocking to see him smile and laugh and kiss. Sulu, alas gets less to work with.

When Spock is whammied, it knocks out one of the legs of the command stool so it’s also shocking to see the same plants detonate in the faces of Kirk and Sulu. But Kirk suffers no ill-effects (unlike McCoy who is affected off-screen and who begins happily transporting plants aboard the Enterprise). The sight of Kirk alone on the bridge (and alone on the ship) is very striking and a wonderfully insoluable problem for him. If he beams down, how can anyone get back to the ship with nobody to operate the transporter? If he doesn’t, he’s powerless to solve the problem. But The Shat’s overlong pauses are starting to creep in “I don’t know what I can offer against… …. … paradise!”

The solution, when it comes, is tremendous. Kirk has to make Spock angry, so the resolution doesn’t depend on technobabble but on character, and wildly transgressive character at that. The flicker of sadness across Spock’s face when he becomes himself again is deeply affecting. Nimoy is fantastic in this scene (and throughout). We also learn that Mr Spock’s first name is unpronounceable. I just wish that the inescapable pathogen infecting everyone on board the ship wasn’t deriving from somewhere called “Omicron”.

TOS S01E25: The Devil in the Dark (5 out of 5 stars) Unusually, we start on the alien planet before the Enterprise’s arrival (in the Doctor Who mode) and this mine has very smooth floors. “The Federation” is now referred to with no further explanation and is in desperate need of Unobtanium, adding to the already high stakes. (Death by chemical corrosion is simultaneously very nasty and family-friendly.)

Those high stakes are provided by an undetectable monster (Spock’s notion that it is silicon-based seems to drop out of the air) which sadly, when revealed turns out to be light years beyond what the budget of the show is capable of. But the plotting and the character work absolutely sings. Kirk is clear that killing the creature is the duty of every crew member. Spock attempts to subtly undermine him and suggest that if they could capture it alive, that would save having to exterminate the last member of a species. Kirk is forced to privately admonish him.

Moments later, Spock believes Kirk to have been caught in a rock fall and cries “Jim!” in near panic. When he realises Kirk and the monster are face-to-face, Spock urges Kirk to fire his phaser. Love for his friend overwhelms any scientific curiosity or moral qualms. And brilliantly, the Horta is a mother protecting her eggs, which the miners have been thoughtlessly destroying. This is absolutely magnificent stuff on every level. McCoy even gets to say “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer”.

TOS S01E26: Errand of Mercy (3.5 out of 5 stars) can’t quite maintain the sky-high standards of the last few episodes. I think it is probably the last piece of the TOS puzzle, though. We meet the Klingons for the first time, the United Federation of Planets needs no further explanation and, sadly, The Shat is out in force.

After his open-hearted sparing of the Horta last week, this episode gives us Kirk as ruthless pragmatist (“I’m a soldier, not a diplomat”) opposing the pacifist Organians, whose attitude to violence goes mysteriously unquestioned by Kirk and Spock in order to prolong the episode.

Kirk makes all sorts of offers to the council to share Federation technology with them – again, whither the Prime Directive? But while it’s somewhat of a pleasure to see the sanctimonious Federation be taught a lesson, the cost is that Kirk and Spock come off like chumps, unable to see that the Organians are clearly vastly more powerful than they at first seem.

In the plus column, here’s John Colicos as the world’s first Klingon, a superbly villainous performance from behind some suitably Fu Manchu facial hair. Despite all the contortions that the series will later go through, it’s fairly easy to imagine that Kor and Worf are members of the same alien race.

The Klingon occupation is a riff on the Nazis, although the Klingons will later be re-thought as Samurai, obsessed with honour. Spock is referred to as “Vulcanian” yet again, although later Kor tells him, “All right, Vulcan, you may go.” I also note that money is still a thing in the 23rd century as a great deal of it has been invested in Kirk’s training.

At the end of the episode, the Organians tell Kirk that in the future humans and Klingons will work together. How right they were.

Trekaday 004: Shore Leave, The Galileo Seven, The Squire of Gothos, Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday, Court Martial, The Return of the Archons
Trekaday 006: The Alternative Factor, The City on the Edge of Forever, Operation – Annihilate!