For the last several years, as many of you know, I have been watching a metric shit-ton of Star Trek. I have finally hit the point of diminishing returns where watching more Star Trek no longer seems very realistic in the near term, and this has led me to reflect on what I’ve most enjoyed about the experience. Hence I share with you my personal favorite episodes, which often don’t tend to make it onto the all-time best lists, but which made an impression on me. I’ll limit myself to one from each series.
The Original Series: “All Our Yesterdays.” I’ve written about this one here before, and I don’t have much to add to that post other than to reaffirm that I find the premise of a society attempting to disappear into its own past very compelling. The fact that Spock, of all people, is the one who gets most drawn in makes this an especial treat, because it allows Leonard Nimoy to show much greater range.
The Animated Series: “Yesteryear.” I am hesitant to endorse conventional wisdom, but in this particular case, we are dealing with an episode that is clearly superior to anything else TAS did — an exploration of Spock’s past, written by arguably the greatest creative force behind Star Trek other than Roddenberry, namely Dorothy Fontana. Here again, time travel provides a poignant premise: Spock must return to his own childhood to save himself and give himself necessary counsel. Since I’m such a fan of the Animated Series, though, I’ll add a couple honorary mentions: “The Lorelai Signal” (in which Uhura takes command when the male crewmembers are disabled by a Siren-like species) and “The Terratin Incident” (which takes full advantage of the animated format to explore what would happen if the crew started shrinking).
Next Generation: “The Most Toys.” Of all the many Data-oriented episodes, this one pushes things to the limit. He is kidnapped by a galactic collector and exhausts all avenues for resistence — until a last-minute rescue prevents him from carrying out his logical decision that murder is the only answer.
Deep Space Nine: “Melora.” I have literally never seen this episode highlighted in any best-of list, and it does come early in the show’s second season, before it started becoming the more ambitious series that contemporary Trekkies know and love. To me, this is the very darkest episode in all of Trek, as Dr. Bashir falls in love with his patient — and then shows that he really fell in love with his own self-image as her savior. The final scene is truly chilling. (I hesitate to say more because this lesser-known episode arguably remains spoilable.)
Voyager: “Infinite Regress.” I’ve confessed before how much I identify with Seven of Nine, and I’m tempted to choose an episode that I highlighted in that post. Instead, though, I want to put forward Jeri Ryan’s true tour-de-force performance, which challenges the best of the Data “multiple personality” episodes. Truly, Voyager was not worthy of the character — or the actress.
Enterprise: “Carbon Creek.” Star Trek returns to its roots with a true Twilight Zone plot as a crew of Vulcans finds itself stranded in small town America. It’s a cool reversal in many ways, above all in dealing with the question: What would it look like for another species to try to navigate the Prime Directive with us?