It takes a very good writer not to mention fantastic actors to take an idea which is absurd or makes no sense, and turn it into one of the best loved episodes of a series. In fact some of the best episodes of Star Trek involve plots that would be, well, really silly or even stupid. Not to mention laughably impossible or make no sense. But through great writing and acting, fans are able to overlook the goofiness or blandness of an episode, and find what’s really good.
For instance, last April for fun I nitpicked “City on the Edge of
Forever”. And yeah, it has it’s flaws and things you could roll your
eyes at. But the script is so well written and the acting, especially
Shatner and Joan Collins, is so captivating that you can’t help but be
taken in. And it’s one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever produced.
Here are five more episodes like that :
“The Naked Time (Star Trek-TOS)
I can prove how bad this idea really is with just three words. “The
Naked Now”. Why is this episode considered a classic when the Next
Generation episode is considered one of the worst of the entire series? I
mean, when you think about it the idea is just primed for goofiness. A
disease makes the crew act crazy and release their inhibitions? Ooooh,
what groundbreaking sci fi! And a lot of it is like that, like Sulu and
his sword playing or Riley and his annoying singing which are just silly
moments. But the tide is turned after Spock is infected, and we see him
try but fail to control his inner feelings. It was one of the first
signs of what made the guy tick, and a fantastic piece of acting by
Nimoy. Then Kirk is infected, as we get insight into his character and
his love for the ship. Spock sees his friend suffering and that helps
him to fight the disease and resume control. The episode works because
we’ve gotten to know these characters, so the goofy stuff is funny and
the serious stuff is very introspective. Unlike TNG which did this with
their second episode, before we really knew anyone, and the whole thing
“The Inner Light” (Star Trek-TNG)
I once talked about how god awful boring I found this episode..at
first. The truth is I just didn’t get it and it’s a really beautiful
episode that I have leaned to love. But….think about it. Picard gets
zapped by a probe and lives a whole other lifetime in twenty minutes??
How is that even remotely possible? How could that society even create
the probe in the first place? Did I mention zero action? Yeah this
episode should have sucked! But it works. Between very strong writing
and fantastic acting specially by Patrick Stewart we get a very
touching, moving episode which almost everyone considers one of Trek’s
finest. In fact it’s considered one of the finest hours of science
fiction period, and who am I to disagree? The episode basically shows
snippets of this guys life, and we find out in the end that the aliens
did this so that someone would remember their long dead civilization.
Truth is every time I see it I feel like it goes by to fast and wish
we’d had more of this “other life”. It takes a good episode to make you
“It’s Only a Paper Moon” (Star Trek-DS9)
This episode had so many things working against. Focus on Nog? Yawn.
Lots of Fontaine? DOUBLE Yawn. No B story and hardly any of the main
cast? Yawn!! But, the truth is there is some great stuff here. After Nog
lost a leg during combat, he comes back to DS9 suffering from Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. He gets lost in the world of the holosuite
and Vic Fontaine. To my surprise, it’s a very moving episode! I even
cared about FontainE a bit, what are the chances? The best part comes
when Nog is forced to accept reality, and finally breaks down and cries,
getting out his grief and explaining how he never thought he could get
hurt and can’t deal with it. The thing is, he is doing it to Fontaine!
What could have been a silly scene becomes one of the best I’ve ever
seen on this show. But what is even better, I love that follow up moment
when Nog rejoins his family with a big hug. The Ferengi are usually
played as jokes, here it is played straight and you really feel like
they are not only people but a family who love each other. Fantastic!!
“Real Life” (Star Trek-Voyager)
I had to really think about this one, and it may be a cheat. That’s not a
slam on Voyager. It’s just every “best of” list seemed to have
different episodes on them. So I chose this one, which is not on many
that I saw. It’s not really one of their best, one reason being that the
A story sucked. But the B story is the real focus here. It would be
sooo easy to nitpick the story here regarding The Doctor and his fake
holodeck family. Oh, are we supposed to really care for these characters
who aren’t real and who never appeared before? This episode had boring
written all over it. But after Torres fixes it so the family is
realistic, The Doctor’s daughter ends up hurt, badly. Rather than face
the situation he ends the program. The best part is the exchange he has
with Paris, and Paris sympathizes that anyone probably would do that if
they could. And it’s true, if you could turn off painful experiences
wouldn’t you? But then Paris reminds him that tragedy is part of life.
If he wants to know what real life is like, you need the good with the
bad. If the doctor wants to know what it means to have a family he
should experience everything. So The Doctor resumes the program and
plays the tragedy out. Ok the weight is not as strong as could have
been, but it still works.
This episode surprised me. Yeah it can be nitpicked. Oh another “Reset
button” episode where we know it’s going to be undone in the end? And
Archer has a condition where he can’t retain long term memory? Sure
haven’t seen that yet in “Finding Nemo” or “50 First Dates”!! How dull!
But the truth is, it works. First of all we see the possible end result
of the Zindi war, and the destruction of the Earth is one of the best
Trek teaser’s since “Cause and Effect”. Also, Scott Bakula isn’t always
my favorite actor but he really sells the scenes he is in. We feel what
he is going through. If you didn’t get the premise from my snark, an
accident causes Archer to be not able to retain any memories past a day.
We then flash forward and see how this affects T’Pol and the others.
Long story short T’Pol has been taking care of him and we get hints that
their relationship has evolved but it’s never made clear. The end is
what you would expect to happen on a “reset button” episode, but the
stuff in the middle with T’Pol and Acher is very good stuff. And for
Enterprise, that’s high praise!!
When I finished this I realized that these episodes had one very big
thing in common. They are all character pieces, and when we get good
characters that we care about and want to learn about then we can ignore
lack of action of the fact the plot is a bit silly.