I just watched every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and there’s a lot to say

About 9 months ago, my wife and I started watching Star Trek on Netflix. As in, the ORIGINAL Star Trek. The Kirk and Spock one. Known as “TOS” for “The Original Series,” at least among circles of people who spend their time defining acronyms to help them more clearly talk about TV shows, this show is in the cultural fabric of America. Kirk and Spock are two of the most iconic characters in television history (source: my opinion).

But have you ever gone back and actually watched it?

I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I proudly picked up my first edition copy of the Star Trek Encyclopedia — a physical copy, before e-books were a thing — when I was in second grade. I also dabbled in Deep Space 9, Voyager, and even Enterprise over the years. Yet TOS was never part of my repertoire.

So I decided, after more than a decade of mostly Star Trek-free living, that it was time to see what Kirk and Spock had done to become such important reference points for people around the world. And by “I decided,” I mean “tribbles were literally thrown at us during a toast at our wedding reception, and I figured I should probably show Casey ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ so she knows WTF had happened on our wedding day.”

In true Cody and Casey fashion, I showed her one episode, thinking “this will give her an idea of what this show is like,” and was then surprised by a response of “this is amazing and we are watching another episode right now.” This has happened with a bizarre lineup of shows, including but not limited to Game of Thrones, Akibaranger (a Japanese parody of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, effectively… you can imagine my surprise), and now Star Trek.

About halfway through the series, which we were watching for actual entertainment value more than to get a sense of having completed something, Casey proposed that we make a Top 10 and Bottom 10 episodes list. I vaguely kept this in mind as we watched, but really, we weren’t viewing the show as a means to an end. And I think that’s an important distinction to make. So many people these days literally only consume something or come up with ideas so they can “generate content” or whatever garbage buzzword is popular that day. But we embarked on this journey for ourselves, and only occasionally noted along the way that “this might be a top/bottom episode.” So that’s how we got here.

We wrapped up the series by watching the pilot episode, “The Cage,” which seemed to me like a good way to end. Might as well look at what could have been, right? Then I made some coffee, Casey made some yerba mate, and we sat down to review the descriptions and Netflix thumbnails of each episode in order to make our lists of the best and worst episodes.

The “best episodes” list was 26 episodes long. Basically a third of the series.

So we did some refining. What did “best” mean, exactly? Most entertaining? Most thought-provoking? We quickly found we could easily split these into two separate lists. We also started an entirely separate list that I expertly called “interesting but something f***ing weird happens and it’s like, what do I even do with this?” Once you see that list, you’ll understand why it exists. Like, what do you do when an episode provokes thought about utopian ideals, but you’re cringing throughout the entire episode because Dr. McCoy uses this bizarre southern accent for some reason and a woman from the crew becomes a damsel in distress who gets dressed up like a princess? And that’s the mildest example on the list.

We ended up with FOUR lists, which contain more than half the episodes in the series. But I think they’re good lists. We’ll be posting one of these four Top 10 lists every week for the next 4 weeks.

First will be the Top 10 Most Entertaining Episodes. This is the best place to start because it gets the fun stuff out of the way, not to mention there are probably literally like 80 million lists exactly like this from other people, so at this point it’s pretty tired out. I’m too lazy to do a Google search to confirm any of what I just said, so deal with it. When we say “entertaining” we just mean “fun to watch.” These episodes are not necessarily deep or thought-provoking.

Then we’ll drop straight to the Top 10 Worst Episodes. These are just un-watchably bad. Avoid them at all costs.

At that point, we’ll head over to the Top 10 episodes with good or interesting ideas that ultimately do something so weird, we can’t exactly recommend them in good conscience. The intro to that list is going to be detailed and hilarious, so just trust me when I tell you to look forward to that one. And no, I am not going to initial-cap the stupid title of this list. I’m already over it.

We’ll wrap up with the Top 10 Thought-Provoking Episodes of the show, and this is where being married to someone with a PhD in Comparative Literature is REALLY going to show through. Just kidding, it’s going to show through in every list. But I think/hope this one will be the most useful for true fans of science fiction as a genre of possibilities, and not just a pew pew laser beam fest of mindless entertainment.

We’ll wrap up with a final week discussing some of our thoughts on important elements of the series, like how awesome Scotty is, how Russian Chekov is, and how we feel about Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (spoiler alert: it’s strongly). We’ll also explain why Spock is basically the best character in television history and delve into some of the mystery of William Shatner, who I see on Twitter and who Casey has seen on Boston Legal, which means we have two very different reference points for the legendary eclectic actor. My biggest regret is that we didn’t take notes on the outrageous outfits worn by the lead ladies in each episode, if for no other reason than because Casey actually liked some of them, and I need reference material for Halloween costumes.

Oh, and once all is said and done, we may have a special post on the Star Trek movies, as well. As of right now, Casey has only seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and I haven’t seen most of the other films in many years. Hopefully that’ll be a treat.

So there’s your preview! Look for upcoming lists in the coming weeks. I’ll update this post with links to all upcoming posts I referenced, as they become available. Until then: live long and prosper! Mostly because you can’t click on my links if you’re DEAD. HA HA


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About Cody Gough

Cody Gough is a podcast and digital media executive and award-winning producer. Among his accomplishments, most notably he spent more than a decade on-air at Chicago's WGN Radio, and later produced and hosted more than 1,000 episodes of Discovery's award-winning educational podcast, Curiosity Daily. Cody is a podcast professional specializing in audio programming and production. What sets him apart is that he's a terrestrial radio professional AND a digital native with a social media marketing background. This means he's able to combine the radio industry's 100+ years of learnings with digital content expertise to make superior podcasting strategies and content. As an established radio veteran, Cody spent more than a decade producing and hosting shows on Chicago's prestigious 720 WGN Radio. There, he helped launch the WGN Plus podcast network, where he hosted their first and only dedicated video game podcast, Game/Life Balance U.S. In addition to his broadcast experience, Cody has written for various outlets, including Curiosity.com, the GonnaGeek Network, and HuffPost. He's also a graduate of several improv programs in Chicago (including the Second City Conservatory) and has written and performed for a variety of theater, film, and web productions, as well as industrial/commercial videos.

5 responses to “I just watched every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and there’s a lot to say”

  1. Carol Longhenry says :

    I agree wholeheartedly that Spock is the greatest

  2. robertolddude says :

    Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home. I saw it in a theatre when new. Standing Ovation. Never before and never again did that happen in my experience.

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