Shiny Shelf

Things We Like About Star Trek

By Shiny Shelf on 11 September 2006

Star TrekLANCE’S

Space Seed / Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
(‘Featuring the ultimate quotable villain, and I don’t just mean in ‘Star Trek’. Ricardo Montalban asked for minimum wage on ‘Wrath of Khan’ because he loved the script so much, and the movie’s the absolute zenith of ‘Star Trek’, with director/writer Nicholas Meyer balancing the action, human drama and overwrought acting that makes the series so great. The original episode, though, is also gorgeous – “Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity. But improve man … and you gain a thousand fold. I am such a man. Join me.”‘)

Amok Time
(‘A great example of an episode that’s been parodied so often it’s useful to go back to the original to see just how clever and well-made it is.’)

The Trouble with Tribbles
(‘A comedy episode, and one where everyone involved tries a little too hard at that, but which makes up for it with some genuinely funny moments, and rather a nasty little story behind it all.’)

Spock’s Brain
(‘Derided by fans, but not even in the top ten silliest episodes that season, let alone in ‘Star Trek’ – it is, for example, better than every episode of ‘Voyager’ by such a distance Janeway and co would need about seventy years at maximum warp to touch it. It’s mad and colourful, just like ‘Star Trek’ should be, and very, very entertaining.’)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
(‘Nicholas Meyer understands ‘Star Trek’ like no-one else, and also understands that to make it work you play around with it and don’t take it deadly seriously. This movie, pretty much the first to (allegorically) deal with the collapse of the Soviet Union and shows Kirk at both his most dashing and open-minded. It’s William Shatner’s best performance as Kirk, and there’s absolutely nothing insincere or backhanded about that as a compliment. Long may Shatner live, but can I be the first to suggest that when he falls, the internet observes a day of silence?’)

TNG: The Best of Both Worlds
(‘All American TV now is cinematic. When this episode was shown, only it and ‘Twin Peaks’ (running at the same time)ever had been. Subsequently, the Borg became just another alien race. Now, the shocking ending of part one is one of the most familiar parts of the mythology. The ending of part two is a bit rubbish. These things all diminish the experience of watching ‘The Best of Both Worlds now’. But that doom-laden first part, where the Federation encounters an enemy that challenges its values by failing to even register the concept of values, that negotiates by taking utopia’s greatest leader and turning him into an automaton … it’s as good as ‘Star Trek’ ever got on television, and that means it’s pretty much as good as production line television gets. It’s ‘Two Cathedrals’ good, and may even have the better cliffhanger.’)

TNG: Darmok
(‘A brilliant standalone episode, one with a high concept behind it, a race that only speak in cultural references, so are almost incomprehensible to outsiders. It plays with the show’s history, starting off like it’s a remake of ‘Arena’, with captains pitched in single combat, but becomes something altogether sweeter and much more clever.’)

TNG: Chain of Command
(‘A powerful episode at the time, this is a story that feels completely different post 9-11, like ‘The Drumhead’ (also good) and ‘The High Ground’ (less so). ‘Star Trek’ is, at heart, utopian. It’s about hope for the future. It’s why the third season of ‘Enterprise’ and its dark, muddled ‘War on Terror’ analogies fell so flat. We didn’t need anyone to tell us in 1992 that torture was wrong. Now, when Picard proclaims it, it feels like his greatest victory.’)

Pocket: Imzadi
(‘A Peter David novel about the great dead end of TNG running storylines, the Riker/Troi romance, but which turns odd lines here or there into compelling story and does all sorts of mad things with future history and sex that the TV series would attempt, but never with anything like the success.’)

TNG: All Good Things…
(‘There were fleeting moments when subsequent stories captured the spirit of ‘Star Trek’, but even these would usually get bogged down by the letter or an overdeveloped sense of restriction. Perhaps it’s just better to say that in 1994, ‘Star Trek’ ended on a high, with its highest ever ratings and a celebration of the humanity, camp and epic ideas that had always made it something special.’)


Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
(‘For the plastic Klingon dog that came with the action figure of Christopher Lloyd’s character.’)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
(‘For Christian Slater’s cameo.’)

Deep Space Nine: Through The Looking Glass
(‘For the mirror universe Bashir’s powerful mullet.’)

Deep Space Nine: Apocalypse Rising
(‘For the fact that when O’Brien impersonates a Klingon, he’s still a ginger. Gingon!’)

Voyager: Warlord
(‘For Jennifer Lien’s ludicrous performance as the elfin Kes possessed by an alien warlord’)


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
(‘Quite simply the best – not least for Ricardo Montalban’)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
(‘Star Trek goes 80s, and not forgetting the “nuclear wessels”‘)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
(‘Christopher Plummer’s hammy Klingon general, some great production design (the Klingon jail) and some of the very best Kirk-Spock-McCoy moments all wrapped up in a working example of the sort of convoluted geopolitical story that ‘Deep Space Nine’ spent most of its time ballsing up.’)

Star Trek: First Contact
(‘Some brilliantly realised set-pieces (the opening battle, the space-walk sequence) and James Cromwell shamelessy stealing every scene.’)

Star Trek: Insurection
(‘Most underrated movie of the franchise – some great moments, the gentle mockery of a ‘fountain of youth’ plot applied to the increasingly matronly Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden (not to to mention avuncular Jonathan Frakes) while F. Murray Abraham diligently studies the book of Montalban and almost pulls it off.’)


The Gamesters of Triskelion
(‘For “I bet 400 Quatloos on the newcomer” and because it’s just so damn alien, yet also reassuringly familiar. And funny.’)

TNG:The Icarus Factor
(For Anbo-Jyutsu, quite obviously The Stupidest Looking Sport in The Galaxy)

TNG: Q Who?
(‘For introducing the Borg and especially the shock appearance of Borg Babies in a drawer. It’s such a creepy idea for mainstream american TV (and they actually stuck plastic prostetics onto babies’ faces!) it really brought home quite how inhuman, and how un-natural-order-like, the Borg are.)

TNG: Qpid/A Fistful of Datas
(‘Because I love any episode in which Worf has to dress up in a silly costume (Cowboy, Will Scarlett etc) and look really, really annoyed about it.’)

TNG: Chain of Command
(‘For “THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!” – because there bloody well are. A true character-climax moment.’)

Captain Kathryn Janeway
(‘For her insistence that she’ll “blow this ship apart” in almost any situation – her dedication to blazing suicidal sacrifice at virtually every turn is admirable. And funny.’)


William Shatner

(The episode where Kirk and that alien get beamed down onto a planet to fight and Kirk wins by constructing a rudimentary cannon. ‘Blake’s 7′ ripped it off for “Duel” and Bill and Ted watch it in “Bogus Journey”)

Charlie X

Kirk getting pissed off with Chekov claiming that absolutely everything is Russian

Scotty failing to give the remotest toss about changing history in The Voyage Home

Kirk facing off against “God” in The Final Frontier – partly because I like it and partly because it represents Roddenberry’s whole view on religion in a nutshell.

TNG: Elementary, Dear Data

TNG: Relics
(The TNG episode where Scotty comes back and explains to Geordi how he became known as a miracle worker by over-estimating his work all the time – it’s funny, it’s a great retcon and it can be applied to your everyday life.)

TNG: Tapestry

Garak – The camp Cardassian tailor out of ‘Deep Space Nine


The Menagerie
(‘Because all that ‘Star Trek’ is is in here. Utopianism, exploration, humanity, friendship, courage, mini-skirts, indoor planets, dayglo backdrops, wonderful aliens, a sense of place, a sincere and worthwhile moral stance.’)

The City on the Edge of Forever
(‘Because, as my charming companion was quick to point out, it contains so many great moments, from the ‘mechanical rice picker’ joke to the heart-rending conclusion. It’s a story that remind you that 60s ‘Trek’ was really about Kirk, Spock and Bones and was all the better for it. It’s DeForest Kelley’s finest hour too. The only reason not to include it in a ‘best’ list would be that it’s always included, and that’s just madness. A beautiful episode and as good as series television gets. )

Mirror, Mirror
(‘For Spock’s Beard – and for inventing a TV genre and doing it with such style the episode is still rivetting four decades on. Special Bonus Points for Evil Mirror Sulu.’)

The Doomsday Machine
(‘The beginning of the show’s obsession with ‘Moby Dick’. A great revenge/adventure story with an amazingly tense finale and a pitch-perfect Shatner.’)

Spectre of The Gun
(‘Startlingly imaginative and both gorgeous and odd to look at, with an odd sense of both doom and fun.’)

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
(‘Because, flawed as its climax is, it’s visually amazing, Nimoy has never been better and it’s pretty much the purest, most Roddenberry-controlled ‘Star Trek’ ever.)

TNG: Who Watches The Watchers?
(‘The angriest, most beautiful, most passionate declaration of atheistic principles that modern America has ever produced.’)

TNG: Redemption (Parts I & II)
(‘In a time before Klingons were the most boring thing ever, this was heady stuff and awesome court drama with an epic scope and a sense that things mattered. Magnificent.’)

Voyager: Timeless
(‘A brilliant standalone, easily the best episode of ‘Voyager’. Harry Kim (of all people) gets to be a complex hero. Great visuals too and real heart. You could show this to anyone and they’d get it.’)

Enterprise: In A Mirror Darkly
(‘For the astonishing FX and recreation of a Constitution Class ship and the real sense of this being ‘about’ ‘Star Trek’ and its brand of secular humanism still having value.’)

Star Trek XI
(‘Cos it’s JJ Abrams and because this is ‘Star Trek’ and looking forward, with anticipation, into the unknown is important, dammit.’)

More Shiny Shelf articles reviewing, praising, mocking, criticising, eulogising and sometimes just mentioning ‘Star Trek’ can be found in archive here.

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