Excuse me while I let my nerd flag fly.
Among my friends, I’m the biggest Star Trek fan. I think my love of Star Trek is pretty obvious since I have the USS Enterprise on my homepage. I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a little kid. I owe my nerdiness to my mom who first exposed me to Deep Space Nine in the ’90s. I’ve been a Trekkie and a self-proclaimed nerd ever since.
Now, even though I’m a Trekkie, I had only seen a handful of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). I saw a couple of episodes when FX or Syfy would show a marathon on a random Labor or Memorial day. A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon The Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast, offered by Nerdist. Each podcast episode corresponds to an episode in the series. I use this as a companion guide to the series. I’ll watch an episode on Netflix (it’s available for streaming) and then listen to the corresponding podcast episode.
In the podcast, the hosts, Ken Ray and John Champion, discuss each episode. They divide the podcast episode into three parts. First, they provide a broad overview of the episode. Then, they get into the details of plot and technical aspects. Finally, they attempt to answer the larger question: does this episode and the lessons learned from it still hold up today?
Through them, I’ve learned interesting little tidbits about each episode. For example:
1.) Episode 9 (‘Miri’): Toward the end of the episode, the little girl that William Shatner holds is his own daughter.
2.) Episode 1 (‘The Cage’): Gene Roddenberry had considered doing a full length feature movie about the crash of the Columbia.
3.) Yeoman Rand played by Grace Lee Whitney started out as a potential love interest for Captain James T. Kirk but then the writers decided to back track. The last time she’s really featured prominently as a character is in Episode 9. By episode 11, she’s gone from completely which also coincides with Whitney leaving the show.
I could pepper you with many more but I’ll stop…for now.
In discussing the all important question of whether or not the episode and its themes hold up, Ray and Champion have broached larger topics of human evolution and even questioned Starfleet’s entire mission. This third segment is by far the most engaging, insightful dialogue between the two hosts. They make me think things I wouldn’t have with each episode.
One of the coolest things by far is seeing all the iterations of some key characters, specifically Spock and Kirk. We know Spock as stoic, emotionless Vulcan and Kirk as the playboy of the galaxy. But, in the first couple of episodes they weren’t like that at all. In the earlier episodes (The Cage, Charlie X, The Enemy Within, Naked Time), Spock starts out kind of cocky. He comes off as an uber smart guy who knows it. In pretty much most of those episodes, he often has a smug look on his face. The only thing that made him different from everyone else was his pointy ears and green blood. This smug Spock boggled my mind. I was like, who is this guy?!
Interestingly, the name James T. Kirk has become synonymous with playboy or Lothario (not often you use that word!). But, in the first couple of episodes, Kirk is quite commanding and, surprisingly, restrained when it comes to members of the opposite sex. For the first few episodes, notably ‘The Naked Time,’ ‘What Little Girls are Made of,’ and ‘Miri,’ he resists temptation. He’s a starship captain who’s first love is the Enterprise and his crew. And if it was a choice between his crew and “getting some action,” the former would win out every time. And, as an actor he’s pretty solid. He’s no Shakespearean actor but he’s pretty good. I’ve heard that later on in the series this changes.
Whether you’ve seen all of the original series or haven’t watched a single episode, I recommend you listen to this podcast as a companion guide to the series. Trust me, you’ll find it quite entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking.