A few days ago, I weighed in with my Top Ten episodes of the classic Star Trek series (available here!) and I found myself contemplating what the bottom of the original Star Trek barrel would be.
The thing is, Star Trek is a generally wonderful television series and it offers an optimistic view of the future that is very promising and enlightened. It is hard to complain with that. But at the same time, the series had episodes that were troublingly dated and that go beyond campy to just plain hokey. Because Star Trek is so available in syndication and in various media, it can be most useful to know not just which episodes to watch, but which episodes one may safely avoid. These are the worst ten episodes that Star Trek produced and if given the opportunity to watch them, you might want to strongly consider watching something . . . anything . . . else.
Without further ado:
10. "The Omega Glory" - reviewed here! - At the end of a long series of Prime Directive violation episodes came this installment which put the most obscure metaphor into play. Not-so-cunningly veiled were the Yangs and the Kohms (Yankees and Communists) and while the idea of a disease that crystallizes its victims is intriguing, the rest of the episode is a complete wash. Moreover, the sudden understanding by Kirk of the Pledge Of Allegiance backwards has to be one of the most ridiculous escapes a writer ever used,
9. "The Squire Of Gothos" - reviewed here! - Whenever anyone talks about the heroism and greatness of Captain James T. Kirk, I just say, yeah, but he was defeated by a man in an ascot and ruffles! This is that episode. It's one thing to get your butt kicked by superhumans and aliens who can make your crew into little geometric blocks, but to be menaced by a bad parody of Oscar Wilde and be defeated by that being . . . that's just wrong,
8. 'The Apple" - reviewed here! - Say what you will about the special effects on the original Star Trek, but I think having a paper mache lizard is actually a pretty cool villain. No, the real problem with this episode - in addition to the sudden addition of capitalism in Kirk firing and rehiring Scotty - is a group of nitwits who don't have any clue what sex is. This is just a ridiculous make-out episode of Star Trek and it reinforces the idea that the security officers aboard the Enterprise all had the worst training in the galaxy as they get taken out by poisonous flowers, exploding rocks and idiots with big clubs,
7. "The Changeling" - reviewed here! - Gene Roddenberry ought to have figured that if this episode was so bad on the small screen it wouldn't be much better on the big screen, but he used this as the template for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In addition to the preposterous idea of wiping Uhura's memory and leaving her learning to read at the end of the episode and killing Scotty, "The Changeling" is plagued by the idea that a real smart computer would mix up something like a name and that would be enough to confound it long enough to destroy it,
6. "The Way To Eden" - reviewed here! - Getting into the classically bad episodes (my list omits, for example, the delightfully campy "Spock's Brain") this is best known as the space hippie episode. What makes the idea of hippies in space so bad? Well, they are able to take over the Enterprise and convert some of the crew to their cause and Spock is pretty sympathetic to them. So, other than abandoning the basic principles of StarFleet officers being disciplined or principled, nothing! An easy one to pass on,
5. "Who Mourns For Adonais?" - reviewed here! - The Greek god Apollo shows up. Seriously. Do I need to say more? Okay, what makes this so bad is the idea that every woman aboard the Enterprise will find any godlike man (or actual god) worth running off with and this episode reuses pretty much the same ploys Kirk used against Khan in the vastly superior "Space Seed." And all of the humor in this one falls flat,
4."I, Mudd" - reviewed here! - In Star Trek, computers are portrayed as either all-powerful and oppressive or completely idiotic. "I, Mudd" combines that idea with idiotic androids who are poised to take over the galaxy. And in the original Star Trek, there is (sadly) only one villain who recurs and that is Harcourt Fenton Mudd and this is the episode he returns in. Even so, there is no good reason to watch it as the androids and Mudd take over the Enterprise,
3. "Elaan Of Troyius" - reviewed here! - From this episode, the viewer learns: women are spoiled crybabies and Captain Kirk, who will sleep with anything that moves, can have sex, but still be devoted in as emotionally powerful a way to his starship. Wow, it's bad! This is one of the episodes where the acting is so poor, it is surprising anyone from the show had any form of a career afterward,
2. "Catspaw" - reviewed here! - The Halloween episode of Star Trek is a dismal starting place for the second season. In addition to campy special effects - wonderful costumes! - this episode is plagued by two villains who wield incredible technological power but once again seem to be utter morons. It is unfortunate that the story is so bad and the character portrayals are so ridiculous because . . . no, this was pretty much a bad idea gone bad in the execution. It is not scary (as the teaser sets it up to be), it is not clever and it is ultimately only laughable,
and . . .
1. "And The Children Shall Lead" - reviewed here! - Sometimes an episode is campy, sometimes it is just hokey, sometimes it is bad start to finish. Star Trek never, arguably, got worse than this. It is a shaky premise: a colony of adults have been killed while the children who survive are protected and plagued upon by the villainous spectral Gorgon. This episode is plagued by child actors, unspeakably bad special effects (Sulu menaced by the knives on the viewscreen is so ridiculous it is painful to watch) and not one of the main cast gives a performance worth watching. With a terrible story, poor performances and ridiculous uses of decent characters, this is the worst they could - and did - do!
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best episode to worst across the entire franchise!
©2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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