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John Byrne

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Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 11 January 2020 at 2:21pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

TOS episodes worst to best

Aside from mangling the descriptions of some episodes, this list makes the classic mistake of listing “The City on the Edge of Forever” as TOS’s “best episode”.

Brilliant science fiction it is. STAR TREK it is not.

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Doug Centers
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Posted: 11 January 2020 at 2:36pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

The classic mixing up "favorite" with "best" in my opinion.

Also in my opinion MAN TRAP is way too low.
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Ted Downum
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Joined: 21 April 2004
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Posted: 16 January 2020 at 11:11am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

"The Omega Glory" ranked higher than "The Man Trap". 

"Wink of an Eye" (at #27 overall? really?) ranked higher than "The Changeling," "Friday's Child," "The Cage," "The Squire of Gothos," and "Shore Leave," among others.

Terrible!

(My own favorite episode is "Amok Time," which this writer describes as "A.K.A. 'Spock Gotta Have It.'" Har har.)


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Rick Senger
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Posted: 16 January 2020 at 11:40am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

"Most notable for McCoy's immortal 'I'm a doctor, not an elevator'"?

Plenty of other disagreements but some big ones I have are "The Man Trap" (top 25 for me) at 73, "Miri" (top 25 for me) at 70,  "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (top 10 for me) at 40, and "Galileo Seven" (bottom 15 for me) as the 6th best TOS ever.
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 2:34am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Have to ask why "City..." is not TREK.  
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John Byrne

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Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 3:56am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

As noted, “City” is a top notch sci-fi story, but the familiar elements of STAR TREK are little more than a delivery system. Once the story proper is underway, everything that makes TREK what it is goes away. The ship, the crew, even Spock’s alien nature is subordinated to the time travel love story. Any pragmatic character could fill Spock’s role.

The real test, tho, is this: called upon to pick a single episode to show as representing what STAR TREK is all about, would you pick this one? Much as I love it, I certainly wouldn’t.

(Before anyone asks, I would pick "The Corbomite Maneuver". It contains all the elements of Roddenberry's original pitch, including a rare instance of the crew actually going "where no man has gone before".)

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 10:02am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

"City" may not be the most representative episode of Star Trek, but that does not make it somehow inauthentic as Trek. Taking the above as a guideline, suddenly all landing party episodes become somehow less "Star Trek" than the episodes set on the Bridge and only bottle episodes need apply for the right to appear in a top ten list. They are, after all, more in keeping with the show's bible, and anything not so much so, simply... isn't. 

One of the beauties of Trek's format is that its most common elements can serve as a launching point for stories that take place elsewhere. Travel is a central theme of the program. You can go to New York in the 1930's or to an alien landscape half-imagined as Tombstone in the 1880's. You can visit a 20th Century Rome or be locked in an alien cage for most of the episode. None of that makes a given episode less "Star Trek" than one set aboard the Enterprise with Kirk rubbing his chin to create visual interest.

The idea of the Enterprise as a gateway to adventures and not the primary set for them is also there in the show's bible and was a primary selling point for the show. The Enterprise can go anywhere and the episodes that go to market or have roast beef are in no way less for doing so than the ones that stay home. 

City is a completely legitimate contender (and frequent winner) for "best" episode even if it might not be the first you would show a neophyte to introduce the show. Roddenberry, Fontana, and the writing staff worked hard to turn Ellison's story into "Star Trek," and no one has ever said that they somehow missed the mark on that account. The fact that they so completely bowdlerized his script to turn it into a piece of Roddenberry-style television entertainment was one of Ellison's primary complaints about the episode.

"Best" in no way implies "most generic," a title for which "Corbomite," nice as it is, would certainly be in the running. "City" focuses upon our two main heroes while giving many of the others something to do in the wraparound. Every character in it is shown to good effect, even McCoy who charms Edith Keeler and us to within an inch of our lives upon his recovery. The scope is both large and small and the sacrifice made one of cosmic scale while being intensely personal at the same time. Nothing about about it would have been improved by having Keeler run over on the main viewer with everyone lurching forward in their seats at the moment of impact.

"City" deserves its constant placement at the top of Trek's best episodes and shouldn't be penalized for actually leaving the ship.

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John Byrne

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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 10:20am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

"City" may not be the most representative episode of Star Trek, but that does not make it somehow inauthentic as Trek. Taking the above as a guideline, suddenly all landing party episodes become somehow less "Star Trek" than the episodes set on the Bridge and only bottle episodes need apply for the right to appear in a top ten list. They are, after all, more in keeping with the show's bible, and anything not so much so, simply... isn't.

•••

In a word, no.

You seem to have missed the very important point that a true STAR TREK episode—as opposed to something that could have played just as well on TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS—must involve the ship and crew as more than bookends. This does not require bottle episodes. Consider “Shore Leave”, “Dagger of the Mind”, “Amok Time”, “Return of the Archons”, and more. The main story happens off the ship, but the ship and crew are still involved in significant ways. In “City” the ship and crew are literally erased. The structure of the story does not even allow for cuts to show how Scotty, Uhura and the others are getting along on the Guardian’s planet.

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Doug Centers
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 10:34am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

"The structure of the story does not even allow for cuts to show how Scotty, Uhura and the others are getting along on the Guardian’s planet"

...

Which is one reason I rank TASTE of ARMAGEDDON high on my list. Tho not a "never gone before" place, the cuts back to the Enterprise with Scott and McCoy are classic.

"Aye. The haggis is in the fire for sure..."
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 11:41am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Could "City" not have been anything but a STAR TREK episode? In which ways? I think the story is helped by the viewer already knowing the great love and respect and faithfulness Kirk, Bones, and Spock have for each other. Indispensably helped, though? 

I think that X-MEN #143, with Kitty versus the "Xenomorph" is a pretty terrific story. How much of it necessarily is an X-Men story? More than "City" is to STAR TREK, I think, but still -- would #143 truly rank as the best X-Men comicbook ever?
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John Byrne

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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 11:54am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Good heavens, no!

I think a problem here is mixing up quality with significance. “City” depends on what we know of STAR TREK to actually be STAR TREK. Remember, Harlan’s original script had even less to do with Roddenberry’s “vision”. That’s why it had to be so heavily rewritten (as no script ever had before in the whole history of Hollywood!).

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Brian Hague
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Joined: 14 November 2006
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Posted: 19 January 2020 at 3:21pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

"City On the Edge of Forever" could have been re-jiggered into a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, especially had it been done from Ellison's original script, but so could "Shore Leave," "Return of the Archons," "Dagger of the Mind," "Miri," and a number of others.

You seem to be missing the point (deliberately?) that Star Trek's format was malleable enough to allow for these "anthology" style episodes and not suffer as Star Trek for that. 

"City" well-establishes the Enterprise, the bridge, the regulars, the ship's mission of exploration, & the sense of imminent danger to the ship in its earliest scenes and then moves to an alien planet's surface where the landing party meets an advanced intelligence with much to teach the human race. The themes and premise of Star Trek are well represented by "City" before we move backwards in time and there is no dramatic reason to cut back and forth between the main story and the ensemble to further establish Trek's format.*

There is also no need to be a regular viewer to get what is taking place onscreen. It's all laid out for the audience. Nothing is too "inside" for the casual viewer to catch. I would also contend that Spock is well-served by the episode, alien appearance, pragmatic nature, and all.

The scene with the police officer would not work with just another taciturn joe standing there, while his somewhat merciless conclusions involving the fate of Edith Keeler are in keeping with his attitude in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Enemy Within." The audience does not need to see those episodes to get who the character is, but the fact that his logic runs cold throughout serves to highlight Spock's essential nature. Spock is very much himself in "City" just as Kirk is very much Kirk.

"City" is among television's best both as Star Trek and as a dramatic presentation on its own. The two are not exclusive. In fact, it makes the episode more "Star Trek" that it works that way.

* What would be shown in such shots? Kirk, Spock, and McCoy "only just left a moment ago." Do we need to see the landing party all but motionless, speaking in long, slow tones? Maybe have them milling about, phasering rocks for heat, calling the ship that is no longer there, and wondering how Kirk and Spock are doing?


Edited by Brian Hague on 19 January 2020 at 3:23pm
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