William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock
DeForrest Kelley as Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy
James Doohan as Lt. Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
George Takei as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
(Seasons 2-3) Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov
Note: although this show was originally just called Star Trek, it was later lengthened into the five-word title in the name of this review. This is confirmed on the official site.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to do a fair review of this show. The original Star Trek is a cultural icon, yet in many ways it doesn’t stand the test of time. This was a true sci-fi pioneer and, man, does it show. The acting, look, direction, and, to a lesser extent, the plots are very amateurish.
So it should come as no surprise that this show didn’t get all that many viewers and, therefore, died after three seasons, though it was popularized later in reruns. I present to you this series’ most famous scene and one we all forced ourselves to enjoy, even though we all knew all along that it sucked:
But it beat the hell out of that 1950s sci-fi crap. That was full of atrocious dialogue and lame scripts that wanted to scream, “it’s high-tech! This is cool, dammit!” Which just goes to show how little a clue anyone had about this genre.
Point is, we may be spoiled, but we’re spoiled by competence.
The acting is hit-miss at best. I think Leonard Nimoy and DeForrest Kelley were always good actors, but the rest of cast is kind of lacking. William Shatner is, of course, the ultimate overactor. Those Family Guy bits of him changing his expressions mid-sentence really are apt. However, his performances can work simply because of Shatner’s personality. The best way to describe him is as a charismatic guy who can’t act.
The effects were of course underwhelming, to say the least. It was the the 1960s, what do you expect? So we get starships that are essentially cardboard in space, laser beams (called “phasers” for all you ready to fanwank) that sound like alarms, aliens who look like normal people, and so on.
I’m much more praiseful of the plots. These are actually very good stories. The show is about the crew of the starship Enterprise, which is on a five-year mission to explore deep space. This leads to encounters with people on planets. Some friendly, some not. Actually, a lot not, given the need for drama.
Some episodes don’t actually involve meeting aliens. There’s a number of episodes about a crisis like a virus on the ship that causes everybody to lose control of themselves.
Still, I have one major pet peeve about the plots: The fact that they had Kirk challenging the bad guy to a fistfight despite the weapons at his disposal. He would just beam to where his opposite number is and start a brawl. The spin-offs set a century later reveal that it’s since become standard procedure for the Captain to not attend away teams shows that even the writers of those shows didn’t think “beam over there and punch” should be the strategy of the boss of a major military craft.
Star Trek: The Original Series is often associated with tolerance. There was an alien, a black woman, an Asian, and a Russian (keep in mind that this was right in the middle of the Cold War). This was not a small thing. It was still the era of blacks being portrayed as monkeys in some cartoons. And while it wasn’t actually unheard of for an alien to be a hero like Spock is, it certainly was rare. Naturally, this lead to some episodes that gave us an in-depth look at Spock’s people, the Vulcans.
Despite my reservations, I would recommend that you watch at least a few episodes of this show if you haven’t already. May I suggest the Naked Time, Mirror, Mirror, and the Enterprise Incident.
Overall (on a tremendous curve): 8 out of 10