Must Watch Episodes from Star Trek TOS Season 3

Must Watch Episodes from Star Trek TOS Season 3

When Star Trek the original series first aired interest was low. When the series failed to garner desired ratings, it was canceled after just three seasons. The series didn’t become a hit until reruns aired via broadcast syndication. It picked up traction throughout the 1970’s and eventually achieved cult classic status.

Star Trek spawned 8 different television series, 13 feature films, and numerous novels and comics. It is now widely considered one of the most popular and influential TV series of all time. In fact, Star Trek fans helped develop modern conventions as they came together from all over the country to share their love of the series and its ideas.

Star Trek has sparked hope in the hearts of many viewers young and old over the years. Its optimistic view of a future where humanity has come together to overcome all obstacles set in its path is a soothing balm for a world that struggles with equality and diversity.

But while Star Trek presented a vision of united humanity that was years ahead of its time, it struggled with some aspects of its own proclaimed morality. Season 3, for instance, features an episode which declares boldly that women are not allowed to be Star Fleet captains because their emotions get in the way. One ambitious woman is so determined to become a Star Fleet captain she actually body snatches Kirk… thus proving their point instead of the fact that, you know, their rule was garbage.

Despite the series flaws, subsequent iterations of the show have continued to tackle moral questions such as individual rights, gender identity and even same sex marriage. For that reason, I hope you’ll give the episodes I’ve listed in these three posts a try.

1. Plato’s Stepchildren

If you watch only one episode from Star Trek’s third season, make it this one. In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a race of ultra powerful telekentics who fancy themselves like gods. They have, however, lost the ability to heal themselves, so they want to keep Doctor McCoy among them. To celebrate his forced entry into their court, the telekentics make merry by forcing the rest of the crew to perform for them.

Why is this episode so important? It features the first interracial kiss on television, performed between Uhura and Kirk. This inclusion was so controversial when the episode was filmed, station critics came down to the set to determine whether or not the scene would ultimately be allowed in the final cut. Aware of the importance to both the story and cultural impact, William Shatner insisted on filming the kiss scene numerous times until they ran out of time to film the scene without the kiss. And just to make sure the critics wouldn’t choose the non-kiss scene – he purposely flubbed the single take.

While the episode and story might not be one of Star Trek’s best, the inclusion of TV’s first interracial kiss stands at the pinnacle of what Star Trek represented. When this episode was made, it was considered highly inappropriate for Kirk and Uhura to kiss because of the color of their skin. But today, in part because Star Trek paved the way, we think little of black and white actors kissing.

2. The Mark of Gideon

This episode has been mentioned numerous times in recent days, usually in relation to the availability and social benefits of birth control. In this episode, Kirk is essentially kidnapped by a group of long-lived aliens with innate regenerative abilities. Their society has all but eliminated disease and steadfastly refuses to use birth control to control their population. Kirk is seduced by a young woman who proves to be the princess of this planet. She describes her life as one of misery, constantly surrounded by the press of population, without the luxury of priavcy.

This princess seduces Kirk specifically so that she can become infected with a disease in his blood. A disease for which her people have no cure and no immunity. Her plan is to return home and introduce the virus to her population with the intent to cull.

The fact that the subject material remains relevant to discussion today is reason enough to give this one a watch.

3. For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

This is another of those haunting episodes that has stayed with me since first viewing. Another episode that has spawned numerous other science fiction stories based on its content. In this episode, McCoy suffers from an incurable disease that will soon claim his life while the crew of the Enterprise investigate a rogue asteroid on a collision course with a nearby inhabited planet.

What they find inside the asteroid is the remains of a civilization whose planet came to destruction long ago. But the founders of their civilization hatched a plan to save their society by sending a piece of it to another suitable planet light-years away. There’s just one problem… the remnants of this society have no idea that the extent of their world is the interior of an asteroid, and a powerful ancient computer intends to keep it that way.

This episode always struck me as just a really good story. But it also presents another of those classic Trek moral conundrums – to interfere or not to interfere?

4. The Paradise Syndrome

This is another episode I added to the list because I liked the story. And because I have seen it spawn other iterations. (I’m looking at you Stellaris.) In this episode, the Enterprise is trying to save yet another inhabited system from the impending approach of an asteroid on collision course. While exploring the planet below, Kirk is shocked by an obelisk and awakens with amnesia.

Shortly after, Kirk is discovered by some of the planet’s occupants. They carry a drowned boy to the base of the obelisk. Kirk leaps into action and uses CPR to revive the child the villagers have already declared dead. This instantly earns him the status of god. He is granted a beautiful wife and pretty much sits on cloud nine for a little while.

But as the asteroid continues its approach, and the Enterprise crew struggle to deal with it, the villagers turn to Kirk to fix the problem. But since he isn’t actually a god, this presents a bit of a problem.

5. All Our Yesterdays

You may have noticed that most of my Season 3 picks fall into ‘good story’ territory. Most of Star Trek’s really heavy-hitting episodes came earlier. At least in my opinion. So the last season is mostly just for fun and enjoyment, aside from one or two really iconic episodes.

All Our Yesterdays involves another away mission to another planet about to be destroyed. This time by supernova. An away team beams down to check it out, some of them inadvertently stumble through a portal that takes them to different time periods in the planet’s past. Spock finds himself in a time period before Vulcans had learned mental discipline and, as a result, starts to experience strong emotions for the first time in his life. He also decides that he likes it. (This is something of a running theme with Spock… embracing his emotions only to have the experience robbed from him.)

Unfortunately, it turns out that you can’t just waltz through the portal without preparing first, and time is running out in the present to fix the problem.

I hope you find something on this list that interests you, and I thank you for joining me on this jaunt through Star Trek’s original series. Though the show is full of camp and cheese, there’s something truly charming about it that will stay with you if you find the episodes that resonate with you. And there’s a little something for everyone in Star Trek, even if you like different episodes than I do.

Final Star Trek TOS Thoughts

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other episodes. The first is Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Part of me feels like I really should have included it above. This is one of Star Trek’s most famous episodes. The crew find two survivors of a deadly war. One’s face is half black and half white. The other is half white and half black. You can probably guess the theme of this episode. The reason it’s in honorable mention instead of the main list is that I found parts of this episode somewhat difficult to watch. It’s dry and bits of it feel dragged out. There’s a painful war flash-back sequence that flashes over the two actors faces… I would say it’s a case of great concept but poor execution. Still worth your time, though, if you don’t mind the oddity.

The last episode I want to mention is The Way to Eden. This episode has a lot of mixed reviews. It focuses on a group of space hippies searching for paradise, despite the wisdom offered to them by the crew of the Enterprise. When they finally arrive at their destination, the space hippies discover that their Eden is full of acid and, thus, they have been robbed of what was promised them. The story is predictable, and the naivety of some of the characters is frustrating. But, this episode does offer an interesting commentary on counterculture, one that shifts as our perspective does.

So tell me friends, should I continue this list with Next Generation episodes?

3 Replies to “Must Watch Episodes from Star Trek TOS Season 3”

  1. Growing up in the 1960s, Star Trek was, and remains, one of my favorite shows. I absolutely loved the ep when Spock experienced emotions. It was so weird seeing him smile and laugh.

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