SCORE: (3.72/5 stars)
The beginning of the Star Trek saga starts off with quite a bang and doesn’t let up. While Enterprise was far more about action (as most sci-fi has become these days), The Original Series is about putting a lens to modern issues by removing our preconceived notions. Unlike the other series which are far more of an ensemble show, this show is very much Kirk’s vehicle, with Spock and McCoy as secondary, and everyone else relegated to delivering lines and being ethnic. Not that that’s a bad thing; at this time in American history, you never saw races working side by side. Possibly the best thing the show could do was have different ethnicities just even being there.
Kirk seems to have the most disregard, or most creative interpretations, of the Prime Directive of any of the captains. He frequently contacts pre-warp civilizations and meddles in anything he wants. Of course, to the viewer, he’s almost always morally in the right, but doesn’t that still conflict with the Prime Directive itself? Just because you believe yourself morally superior to another culture doesn’t make it so. There isn’t really such a thing as objective morality; such is the philosophy of the Federation. And yet Kirk still violates it on a weekly basis.
I also feel the show is over-reliant on god-like beings. It feels like every other episode involves some ethereal intangible species with powers far superior to that of mankind, and every time the crew encounters one they act like they’ve never met one before, and we the viewer are supposed to forget that last week Kirk had already argued why humanity was still superior to them. It speaks to the humanist core of Star Trek to some extent, I suppose: the idea that any being who would declare itself a god and demand worship isn’t worthy of either, and so Kirk thumbs his nose at them, while the implication is still that we should aspire to be like them.
One of the few species that was definitively superior to humans were the Organians, who had evolved past the point of war and despised it wholly, to the point of forcing a peace between Earth and Qo’noS. This speaks to the anti-war counter culture of the late sixties, dealing with the first war that was publicly televised. Once people learned the horrors of war firsthand, they decided they didn’t want it anymore. Even as politicians and war profiteers wanted to limit the war press, those whose empathy outweighed their selfish motives decided maybe it would be better if we didn’t force people to their deaths. “A Taste of Armageddon” spoke to this very well; the two planets had been warring for so long and had streamlined the process so well that the horror of it no longer existed, and complacency won out over compassion. Giving them a taste of the true horror might put them off the warpath.
Unlike the other Star Trek series, which had to establish their own identity within the existing universe, The Original Series blazed a trail fresh and unique, and had stronger episodes for it. While most series don’t find their stride until the third season, Star Trek starts off strong and then trails off. But the trailing off hasn’t happened yet. While I still think the best season of Star Trek is ahead of us. TOS has the strongest first season of any series.