Welcome to the latest installment of what will be a lengthy ongoing series of reviews on ObsessiveViewer.com.
Throughout my life, one of the largest gaps in my love of television (and frequent flirtation with science fiction) has been Star Trek. Now, by the grace of Netflix, I’m rectifying that injustice. My plan is to watch everything Star Trek related by the 50th anniversary on September 8th, 2016.
Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 2
- Episode Count: 26
- Air date: Sept. 15th, 1967 – March 29th, 1968
- Network: NBC
Captain James T. Kirk commands the U.S.S. Enterprise as it traverses the final frontier of space to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations and, of course, boldly go where no man has gone before.
Review of Season 2
Trek’s 26-episode second season expanded the mythology by putting more emphasis on the Federation and its “prime directive” not to interfere with developing alien cultures. Joining the cast is Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov. Episodes featuring Chekov were aired out of production order with a couple of his early appearances featuring a terrifically awful wig.
Despite this, what made season one so enjoyable is still very much present. The crew’s adventures still follow an episodic self-contained story structure. Often these stories involve Kirk and company orbiting a planet and fixing problems once they beam down. It worked well in season one. But season two polishes it and refines it. Star Trek: TOS season 2 is the series’ comfort zone. The episodes are fun and Shatner’s portrayal of Kirk is just a bit more over the top. This strangely serves the series well as Shatner hamming up the screen with his theatrical delivery is incredibly entertaining. This is Kirk and I love it.
Walter Koenig’s presence as Chekov is a welcome addition to the cast. Having seen JJ Abrams’ movies (and having not lived under a rock for my entire life), I knew going into season two that Chekov would be as iconic a character as anyone else on the bridge of the Enterprise. I read in passing that Koenig’s addition to the cast made George Takei’s experience on the show a struggle as both were rumored to be competing for screen time. Though I left my review of season one with the hope for more Mr. Sulu, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount of screen time either character was given.
There is a running gag where Chekov tries to claim that a variety of trivial things are of Russian origin. It’s unique and took a few instances for me to get into the humor. It felt slightly odd at first. Adding a Russian crew member to the already diverse crew of the Enterprise is a strong message in the 1960s. With hindsight, it feels really important. But the tongue-in-cheek of Chekov falsely assigning Russian origin to things felt slightly too “modern” for a show that demonstrated such cultural tolerance and acceptance. It eventually grew into a fun character quirk, but those first couple of times felt a little too much like potshots at the 1967/1968 audience’s feelings toward the Soviet Union.
There were a few episodes in this season where the Enterprise discovered planets whose inhabitants’ culture mirrored certain aspects of human culture. They find a society made of people who pattern their behavior after 1920s Chicago mobsters, they find a Nazi planet, and they discover a planet with an Ancient Rome feel. It’s a really interesting narrative device and you will see one of these episodes in my Noteworthy Episodes list below. However, by the end of the season, it felt like the show was in danger of leaning on this narrative device. I hope season 3 doesn’t overdo it.
Overall, Season two of Star Trek: The Original Series was a blast. I still have a lot of Star Trek ahead of me. That is obvious. After finishing season 2 of TOS, I still have 662 episodes of television and 13 movies to go through. But as I move forward into this sprawling universe, I’ll remember season 2 of The Original Series as the season that made me fall in love with Star Trek. Season two builds well upon a strong first season. Knowing season three is not only the last season for TOS, but also the victim of some budget cuts is cause for alarm. But season two feels like a show that has found its groove and if the writing and acting can endure a tighter budget, I’ll have fun with these final 24 episodes.
Also, season two made me want a pet tribble. I know that would cause problems but, come on, who wouldn’t want one of thousands of those adorable little things?
Season Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Some Noteworthy Episodes You Should Watch
- Mirror, Mirror – A transporter malfunction sends Kirk and his landing party into an alternate universe where the Federation is a barbaric empire.
One of my favorite sci-fi tropes is the alternate or mirror universe. It brings endless questions and plenty of plot opportunities. Mirror, Mirror is such a fun episode as it gives viewers a look at what a dark Federation is like and, more importantly, what a barbaric version of the Enterprise’s crew is like.
- The Deadly Years – A landing party from the Enterprise is exposed to a strange form of radiation that rapidly ages them.
This might very well be my favorite episode of season 2. Actually, it might be my favorite episode of Star Trek that I’ve seen yet. Maybe it’s because of the time I’m at in my life (I’ll be 30 before this review series is done), but seeing the crew age rapidly while struggling to complete basic tasks struck a nerve with me. The premise of The Deadly Years is absolutely terrifying to me and the episode handles it so perfectly.
- The Trouble with Tribbles – To protect a space station with a vital grain shipment, Kirk must deal with Federation bureaucrats, a Klingon battle cruiser and a peddler who sells furry, purring, hungry little creatures as pets.
This episode is just so much fun. It’s different from the wealth of “crew beams to a planet, fix problem” episodes and gives us a look behind the curtain with the Federation. It also has some fun scenes of the crew members interacting with one another. It’s fun and I still want a tribble.
- A Piece of the Action – The crew of the Enterprise struggles to cope with a planet of imitative people who have modeled their society on 1920’s gangsters.
This is another really fun episode but it comes with the added bonus of making you wonder just how the crew is going to get through this situation. I’m fond of the ‘20s gangster era (read my Boardwalk Empire reviews here) and seeing Kirk and his crew playing in this culture is a blast. The last act of the episode includes some of the funniest things I’ve seen in the show.
- By Any Other Name – Galactic alien scouts capture the Enterprise for a return voyage and a prelude to invasion. Kirk’s one advantage – they’re not used to their adopted human form.
Episodes like this are what make the thought of watching and reviewing every incarnation of Star Trek seem like a breeze. The Enterprise is in danger, and its crew are facing death. The only thing Kirk and the crew can do is use their wits to find a solution. Sure, there are some hilarious and fun moments in this episode, but the excitement of watching Kirk take back control of his ship make this episode standout more than anything else.
- Assignment: Earth – While back in time observing Earth in 1968, the Enterprise crew encounters the mysterious Gary Seven who has his own agenda on the planet.
I debated whether or not I wanted to include this episode in this list. It was a “backdoor pilot” for a series that never got made and it feels that way. Gary Seven is an intriguing enough character (though, a little Doctor Who-ish) but the mystery surrounding his character doesn’t overshadow the disappointment that the questions raised by this episode will go unanswered. However, I’m including it because it’s a time travel episode and plays with the paradox of intervention that I love about time travel stories. Plus, I got a kick out of seeing Kirk and his crew being just as bewildered by Gary Seven as I was while watching it.
Obsessive Viewer Supplemental – The Trouble with Netflix
Something that was frustrating with my viewing of this season was some problems with Netflix. A handful of episodes (about every 4th episode in the season) were formatted incorrectly. The picture was off-center and made watching the episode nearly impossible for me. I’ve already contacted Netflix about this issue, so by the time this review is posted, it may be a non-issue. However, I am thankful to have Amazon Prime because Star Trek is also available on Prime Instant and the files in their catalog are not corrupted.
Oh, and one episode of season 2 on Netflix wasn’t the remastered version of Star Trek. I didn’t notice it until the opening theme song (which is really loud, I must say) played. I won’t fault Netflix too hard on this point, however, because it did put something into perspective. The remastered version of Star Trek looks really great and I appreciated the window into 1960’s television picture quality that Netflix’s screw up briefly gave me.
I’ll be slowly reviewing every iteration of Star Trek. There’s no schedule for the reviews currently, but you can find my archive of all things Star Trek on this website at https://obsessiveviewer.com/startrek