Where No One Has Gone Before

 

I hope that my fellow Richochetti are Trekkies, too. I know that @jameslileks certainly is. I’d like to talk about something–anything–other than politics. I was excited to see that, yet again, we have landed a rover on Mars. I can’t get over how cool it is that we can put such an advanced piece of equipment on another planet. It got me thinking about space. So, let’s talk about something that no one has strong opinions about . . . Star Trek.

What I want to know is this: what is your favorite Star Trek episode and why?

I saw this question posed on Twitter, and it got me thinking about my favorite Star Trek episodes. You see, I love Star Trek. I have since I was in elementary school. I went as Captain Kirk for Halloween in 4th grade (I even made a communicator out of Legos–you really cannot imagine how cool I was). I still remember seeing Star Trek VI at our downtown movie theater (remember those?).

So, what is your favorite Trek episode? I don’t care which series. I also don’t want to know the “best” either. I want to know which episode you just enjoy watching.

I’ll go first. I only really know the Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. I’ve watched Voyager, but never got really into it. My favorite episode of TOS is probably Space Seed. Who doesn’t love Khan? But my favorite episodes of all time are Q-Who on TNG and In the Pale Moonlight on DS9.

I love Q-Who because it’s the introduction of the Borg. The Borg are the ultimate villain. Yet the reason I love it is a brief scene at the beginning of the episode between Q and Guinan. Q and Picard appear in Ten Forward and there is a brief, but very tense exchange between Q and Guinan. They have obviously encountered each other before. Q warns Picard that Guinan is “an imp, and where she goes trouble always follows.” The exchange is short. An utterly forgettable moment. But in that brief exchange, Guinan’s backstory is limitless. Her “powers” are unknown. It is a great jumping-off point for an underrated character. I’ve always wished that the show ran with that. But, alas, they forgot it. Anyway, I love that episode and happily rewatch it.

As for In the Pale Moonlight, it is–hands down–my favorite Star Trek episode. I love the entire Dominion War story arc in DS9. I think that the concept of a multiple-season plot was new for that time period, and DS9 did it well. What stands out is that DS9 was grittier and more realistic than other Trek series. What I like about In the Pale Moonlight is that it is told simply, and without regret by Captain Sisko. Avery Brooks gives what I think is his best performance. Through the plot device of a personal log, Sisko walks through a series of events that leads him down a path from which he cannot turn back. Sisko knows that it is a dangerous path, but he also knows that the risk of not acting is too great. In the end, his monologue is perfect. I don’t know why. It just . . . is.

Star Trek is the ultimate escape for me. I think it’s a great franchise with a number of great episodes. I can’t wait to hear what others think–and I can’t wait to watch the episodes you all recommend.

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  1. Dill Coolidge
    Dill
    @Dill

    I’ve never liked the Q episodes much, although the Borg are great. I think the best-written TNG episodes are “The Best of Both Worlds” parts one and two, but they are really intense, more movie-like than TV-like. (Together, they’re like an hour and a half). So when just watching a Star Trek episode to relax before bed, I will usually go for something lighter. To avoid corniness, I skip episodes with Deana Troi or Wesley Crusher featuring prominently in the episode description.

    • #1
  2. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Dill (View Comment):
    I’ve never liked the Q episodes much, although the Borg are great. I think the best-written TNG episodes are “The Best of Both Worlds” parts one and two, but they are really intense, more movie-like than TV-like.

    Agreed. Greatest cliffhanger in the entire ST canon: “Fire.” But it’s not a favorite single ep, so I might go with “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” While it may be one of those dreaded time-warp things, like the old Superman comics that posited “What if Superman . . . was a circus performer??” it has a great sense of dread and drama, duty and honor. 

    No arguing with “Pale Moonlight.” The Dominion arc is the best thing about DS9, which might not be the purest Star Trek – until they got the Defiant, there wasn’t a lot of boldly going – but overall is probably the best Trek. Every other series had their alien-of-the-week with some facial detail (ridged ears! Cauliflower ears!) but Ds9 spent a lot of time with two opposite cultures, the Bajorans and the Spoonies, and while the Founders were necessarily enigmatic, their engineered race of soldiers provided for some remarkable stories. There was a fine scene where the Jem’Hadar and the Red Shirts were heading off on a rare common mission, and the Jem’Hadar captain gave a speech to his men: “We are dead,” he began. “We go to reclaim our lives by force.” Words to that effect. When it was Miles O’Brien’s turn to address his troops, he stated his name and said “I am alive and I bloody well intend to stay that way.” (Words to that effect.) It wasn’t a scene they had to do, but the show was smart, and knew moments like that made its world richer.

    Plus, Mirror Kira. Rawr.

    Voyager: hard to say. It’s the least of the Treks, but has so many fine moments. “Year of Hell” – yes, a 2-parter – works, because it blows up the standing idea that the ship is just cruising home and everyone’s wearing clean uniforms and there’s plenty of food.

    Enterprise: such an underrated show. There’s a scene early on where Malcolm, the bitter little Brit, and Trip, the jaunty Southerner, are marooned, drifting, probably doomed, and arguing; Malcolm is downplaying the United States for some reason, and Trip reminds him that he didn’t see no Bosnia-Hersgovina or whatever on the first plaque left on the moon. (Words to that effect.) It’s a great USA! USA! moment.

    Plus, T’pol. Rawr.

    Discovery: there are no good episodes of Discovery.

    TOS: This isn’t hard, even though there are so many. Most of the shows that have Important Messages are lauded for their Important Messages. There’s nothing that tops “City on the Edge of Forever” for its gut punch at the end, but what we really want is spaceships doing space things, and that means “The Doomsday Machine.” It has it all: the wrecked Constellation, William Windom’s over-the-top job as Commodore Decker, and a great soundtrack that saws away like the “Jaws” theme as Scotty curses and jams a sonic screwdriver into a sparking port in the Jeffries tube, because Ach the transporter’s out. It’s the tightest thing they ever did, and it’s a testament to the ep that no subsequent show has ever encountered another one of those hellish cornucopias. 

    • #2
  3. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Not only did I participate in the survey that launched the abysmal original Star Trek movie, but I had a custom made uniform (I could sew in those days apparently) and I worked at a number of Star Trek conventions. The Wrath of Khan was good. Deep Six Nine was okay at first. But there will never be a Star Trek to equal Star Trek. I don’t quite get why younger folk think it’s hokey. Okay, it was hokey, but it was real theatre. And… it was… great… Misterspock!

    My favorite episode is also my most embarrassing, because it was barely science fiction. But seeing City of the Edge of Forever in wide-screen in a mezzanine theater holding a couple thousand is unforgettable.

    EDITH: That toolbox was locked with a combination lock and you opened it like a real pro. Why did you do it?
    SPOCK: I needed the fine tools for my radio work. They’d have been returned in the morning.
    EDITH: I’m sorry, I can’t —
    KIRK: If Mister Spock says that he needs the tools and that they’ll be returned tomorrow morning, you can bet your reputation on that, Miss Keeler.
    EDITH: On one condition. Walk me home? I still have a few questions I’d like to ask about you two. Oh, and don’t give me that “questions about little old us?” look. You know as well as I do how out of place you two are around here.
    SPOCK: Interesting. Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?
    EDITH: You? At his side, as if you’ve always been there and always will. And you? You belong in another place. I don’t know where or how. I’ll figure it out eventually.
    SPOCK: I’ll finish with the furnace.
    EDITH: Captain. Even when he doesn’t say it, he does.

    • #3
  4. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member
    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai…
    @Gaius

    Thanks for this post. I could talk about Star Trek until my head fell off but rarely get the opportunity. 

    So much of the best of DS9 which is the best of star trek consists of multi-episode arcs that presage the current binge-watching culture, so it’s hard to pick out one though pale moonlight is definitely a good choice. (Picard which is excellent has a similar mini-series quality) His Way is one that always hits home for me on a personal level. 

    TNG offers more than a few contenders. Hide and Q is the first one that comes to mind. It’s the best example of the mix of interesting philosophical questions and zany silliness that really makes star trek what it is, as well as just fun to watch as are all the John DeLancie appearances. “Games mon capitaine!? And if perchance a deadly game?” Is a line that pops into my head constantly. The Inner light is also just beautiful.

    Seeing Spock react at the sight of Kirk whom he believed dead in Amok Time is the best moment of TOS, and The Omega Glory is a great political allegory I reference frequently. Also A Piece of the Action for sheer enjoyment.

    I’m impressed with myself for only giving six when you asked for one.

    • #4
  5. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member
    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai…
    @Gaius

    I also remember fondly the first episode I saw of each series when I was still just catching them out of order on cable in my early teens. That’s The Doomsday Machine, The Battle, and Cardassians. None of those are first tier episodes objectively but the universe was still fresh and mysterious. They seemed like the greatest thing I’d ever seen at the time.

    • #5
  6. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member
    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai…
    @Gaius

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Voyager: hard to say. It’s the least of the Treks, but has so many fine moments. “Year of Hell” – yes, a 2-parter – works, because it blows up the standing idea that the ship is just cruising home and everyone’s wearing clean uniforms and there’s plenty of food.

    Enterprise: such an underrated show. There’s a scene early on where Malcolm, the bitter little Brit, and Trip, the jaunty Southerner, are marooned, drifting, probably doomed, and arguing; Malcolm is downplaying the United States for some reason, and Trip reminds him that he didn’t see no Bosnia-Hersgovina or whatever on the first plaque left on the moon. (Words to that effect.) It’s a great USA! USA! moment.

    Plus, T’pol. Rawr.

    Discovery: there are no good episodes of Discovery.

    Okay; controversial opinion time. The only bad Star Trek is on the big screen, which includes the majority of the films (I,IV,V,VI,Insurrection, Nemesis, The Abramsverse). The series are varying degrees of awesome.

    Voyager is an interesting comparison with TNG. One has iconic characters it wastes on episodic story telling while the other is a character driven show with a profoundly mixed bag of characters. (Neelix, Chakotay and Kes should have gone out the airlock with Wesley.) It also had a consistent episode quality without the highs of tng but also without the cringey lows.

    If you’ve given up on Discovery I’d give it a second or third chance. It really hits its stride in the latest season. The woke stuff will one day be a relic of what was considered forward thinking at the time and just as much as Let This be Your Last Battlefield. And the writers are at least self aware enough to know what they’re doing and put those ideas under the microscope. My favorite character is Emperor Georgiau. The writers clearly love her but seem aware of the temptation to use the badass girlboss trope to valorise behavior they’d otherwise abhor. It’s a tension that’s exploited fruitfully.

    Speaking of relics though for all the sixties camp and eighties interior decor of the earlier shows, Enterprise is the most dated of them all. In what decade other than the aughts would it be assumed that audiences want a “relatable” captain you’d want to have beer with, presumably while he’s hanging out with his beagle and watching water polo. It’s proof that the you’d have to try hard to make bad star trek which is nothing the creators of enterprise could ever be accused of. The core concept of a still NASA Starfleet was compelling enough to limp along with one nacelle for five seasons.

    And to correct for a glaring omission:

    Seven of Nine. Rawr.

    Jeri Ryan’s in her forties now for Picard but honestly still Rawr.

    • #6
  7. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):

    The core concept of a still NASA Starfleet was compelling enough to limp along with one nacelle for five seasons.

    Four seasons.

    And to correct for a glaring omission:

    Seven of Nine. Rawr.

    Jeri Ryan’s in her forties now for Picard but honestly still Rawr.

    Fifties.

    • #7
  8. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    TOS: This isn’t hard, even though there are so many. Most of the shows that have Important Messages are lauded for their Important Messages. There’s nothing that tops “City on the Edge of Forever” for its gut punch at the end, but what we really want is spaceships doing space things, and that means “The Doomsday Machine.” It has it all: the wrecked Constellation, William Windom’s over-the-top job as Commodore Decker, and a great soundtrack that saws away like the “Jaws” theme as Scotty curses and jams a sonic screwdriver into a sparking port in the Jeffries tube, because Ach the transporter’s out. It’s the tightest thing they ever did, and it’s a testament to the ep that no subsequent show has ever encountered another one of those hellish cornucopias. 

    What about Balance Of Terror?

    • #8
  9. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    My favorite Star Trek episode of all time? I’m going with “Journey to Babel”. Why? Because it gives us a terrific amount of character insight into my favorite character, Spock, and also gives both Kirk McCoy heroic moments, not focusing on any single character to expense of the others as sometimes happens in ST. Kirk, still suffering a life-threatening injury, has to convince Spock that he is well enough to relieve him on the bridge during the Orion attack and gets trapped on the bridge longer than planned, putting him in mortal danger, and he still comes up with the tactic that saves the ship. Great drama. And Mark Lenard appears as Sarek and Jane Wyatt as Amanda for the first time. And we get an on-screen depiction- limited by 60s make-up technology and the show’s budget of course- of the Federation behind this Star Fleet. 

    There are several which vie for this title in my affections, though. “Doomsday Machine”, “Errand of Mercy”, “Space Seed”, “Balance of Terror”. All fine examples of TV SF drama. As I have gotten older, though, some of the episodes I did not like as a kid and then young man have really grown on me. “Conscience of the King” and “A Private Little War” among them. 

    To differ with Dennis, though, there are absolutely lousy episodes of TOS. I am never showing my daughter “Miri” or “Way to Eden” among others. 

    Favorite TNG? “Darmok”. I’m a linguist. Close second: “The Defector”.

    Favorite DS:9? “Starship Down.” Close second: “Sons of Mogh”

    Favorite Enterprise: “The Andorian Incident”. It introduces Shran and picks up the idea of the Vulcan/Andorian War from the pre-Federation era that was current in ST fanfic I read as a kid in the 70s. I am sure I was not the only grown-up fan boy who noticed and cheered. 

    • #9
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    James Lileks (View Comment):

        1.  There was a fine scene where the Jem’Hadar and the Red Shirts were heading off on a rare common mission, and the Jem’Hadar captain gave a speech to his men: “We are dead,” he began. “We go to reclaim our lives by force.” Words to that effect. When it was Miles O’Brien’s turn to address his troops, he stated his name and said “I am alive and I bloody well intend to stay that way.” (Words to that effect.) It wasn’t a scene they had to do, but the show was smart, and knew moments like that made its world richer.

          Voyager: hard to say. It’s the least of the Treks, but has so many fine moments. “Year of Hell” – yes, a 2-parter – works, because it blows up the standing idea that the ship is just cruising home and everyone’s wearing clean uniforms and there’s plenty of food.

          Enterprise: such an underrated show. There’s a scene early on where Malcolm, the bitter little Brit, and Trip, the jaunty Southerner, are marooned, drifting, probably doomed, and arguing; Malcolm is downplaying the United States for some reason, and Trip reminds him that he didn’t see no Bosnia-Hersgovina or whatever on the first plaque left on the moon. (Words to that effect.) It’s a great USA! USA! moment.

           

           

      Wasn’t “Year in Hell” a 3-parter? Anyway, good choice for Voy. I liked the warped version of the TNG crew in “Equinox” better though. 

      All my military friends cheered at O’Brien’s response to the Jem’Hadar. So did I. 

      And that scene with Trip and Malcolm was indeed terrific. My second-biggest beef with ENT is that they wasted the Beatrice and Benedict potential with Trip and T’Pol instead of going all in for it from the start. The death of their daughter in season 4 would have been meaningful if they had not made her very existence a plot device to expose the perfidious “Earth Firsters” /”Human Supremacists”. 

     

    • #10
  11. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    To differ with Dennis, though, there are absolutely lousy episodes of TOS. I am never showing my daughter “Miri” or “Way to Eden” among others. 

    You think there are no messages or lessons to be gleaned from either of those?

    Favorite TNG? “Darmok”. I’m a linguist. Close second: “The Defector”.

    I’d be interested if you could explain how a species that supposedly communicates only by metaphor, ever… well, accomplishes much of anything, really. Including being able to teach their young how to speak in the first place.

    And that episode was pretty off-the-wall itself, really. How is Darmok supposed to understand “Gilgamesh, a King.” For starters. And how could Picard possibly explain it to him? Remember, using only metaphor!

    There might be other episodes that conveyed that issue better than “Darmok.” Perhaps including “Ensigns Of Command.” And there was “The Big Goodbye” in season 1 where Picard must address an alien race using a very complex language.

    Meanwhile, you might find “Memoirs Of A Spacewoman” by Naomi Mitchison to… scratch your linguist itch?

    From “Ensigns Of Command:”

     

    • #11
  12. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Already mentioned twice: The City at the Edge of Forever from the original series.

    First, it has the best name of any episode. Second, it was written (mostly) by Harlan Ellison. But mainly, it transcends the cheap irony, slapstick humor and space opera action of most of the rest of the series. There may not be any space battles, but there is time travel. The characters appear real, not mere caricatures or empty-vessel NPCs. As @flicker points out, the dialogue is probably the best-written of the entire run of the series. This episode does the best job of showing the relationship between Kirk and Spock. The ending is truly tragic.

    I was to busy working to get into any of the other series, but these guys have some ideas about TNG:

    • #12
  13. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    To differ with Dennis, though, there are absolutely lousy episodes of TOS. I am never showing my daughter “Miri” or “Way to Eden” among others.

    You think there are no messages or lessons to be gleaned from either of those?

    Favorite TNG? “Darmok”. I’m a linguist. Close second: “The Defector”.

    I’d be interested if you could explain how a species that supposedly communicates only by metaphor, ever… well, accomplishes much of anything, really. Including being able to teach their young how to speak in the first place.

    1. Other than Hippies were dumb and authority is good in the latter? No. 
    2. Language-minded fans have been discussing this one for decades now. Of course the language has to have some vocabulary for expressing personhood, commands, naming objects, talking about mathematics, and so on. The focus in the episode is on the idea that metaphor can become so thick in language that it becomes incomprehensible to people outside the language community. For example, if I were to literally translate a highly colloquial sentence about arguing with a juvenile delinquent until late at night from German into English (closely related languages), it would read. “The fat boy kept threshing, a real waterwheel, till we got to the statues.” Or, talking about the absent financial security of a particularly dumb guy, “The strawhead couldn’t get his sheep dry.” The conceit in “Darmok” was just an unusual and unexpected way to address the issue. 
    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    To differ with Dennis, though, there are absolutely lousy episodes of TOS. I am never showing my daughter “Miri” or “Way to Eden” among others.

    You think there are no messages or lessons to be gleaned from either of those?

    Favorite TNG? “Darmok”. I’m a linguist. Close second: “The Defector”.

    I’d be interested if you could explain how a species that supposedly communicates only by metaphor, ever… well, accomplishes much of anything, really. Including being able to teach their young how to speak in the first place.

    1. Other than Hippies were dumb and authority is good in the latter? No.

    What about naively following leaders who might have other agendas, etc? Or believing that one’s own cause or goal is sufficient to justify endangering or even outright murdering others? That might even have some relation to current-day politics. Let alone Stalin, Mao, etc.

    1. Language-minded fans have been discussing this one for decades now. Of course the language has to have some vocabulary for expressing personhood, commands, naming objects, talking about mathematics, and so on. The focus in the episode is on the idea that metaphor can become so thick in language that it becomes incomprehensible to people outside the language community. For example, if I were to literally translate a highly colloquial sentence about arguing with a juvenile delinquent until late at night from German into English (closely related languages), it would read. “The fat boy kept threshing, a real waterwheel, till we got to the statues.” Or, talking about the absent financial security of a particularly dumb guy, “The strawhead couldn’t get his sheep dry.” The conceit in “Darmok” was just an unusual and unexpected way to address the issue.

    I think my first response might be that slang or colloquialism are different from… gibberish? And I’m not sure what example you’re using, but “literal” translation might be technically impossible in situations like that. It’s (probably) “always” (more or less) possible to use less ambiguous language, which I do for example when using Google Translate. I would not try to translate “is this right?” because “right” might be a direction, so I would use “is this correct?” which loses the ambiguity. I would use “also” or “additionally” rather than “too.” And so forth. I also often will take the result and translate it back to Engrish to check. If what comes back is not what I meant, then I change the wording that I’m translating, and try again.

    • #14
  15. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Already mentioned twice: The City at the Edge of Forever from the original series.

    First, it has the best name of any episode. Second, it was written (mostly) by Harlan Ellison. But mainly, it transcends the cheap irony, slapstick humor and space opera action of most of the rest of the series. There may not be any space battles, but there is time travel. The characters appear real, not mere caricatures or empty-vessel NPCs. As @flicker points out, the dialogue is probably the best-written of the entire run of the series. This episode dose the best job of showing the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

    “Wrath Of Khan” might do that better, although that’s not an episode so….

    I can think of episode candidates that might at least arguably do as well, if not better. “Amok Time” comes to mind.

    The ending is truly tragic.

    More tragic than “The Paradise Syndrome?” Or “Requiem For Methuselah?” Not sure I can agree. If only because Miramanee and Rayna didn’t “have to” die the way Edith did. But I guess it could be seen as just the opposite, too.

     

    • #15
  16. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Already mentioned twice: The City at the Edge of Forever from the original series.

    First, it has the best name of any episode. Second, it was written (mostly) by Harlan Ellison. But mainly, it transcends the cheap irony, slapstick humor and space opera action of most of the rest of the series. There may not be any space battles, but there is time travel. The characters appear real, not mere caricatures or empty-vessel NPCs. As @ flicker points out, the dialogue is probably the best-written of the entire run of the series. This episode dose the best job of showing the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

    “Wrath Of Khan” might do that better, although that’s not an episode so….

    I can think of episode candidates that might at least arguably do as well, if not better. “Amok Time” comes to mind.

    The ending is truly tragic.

    More tragic than “The Paradise Syndrome?” Or “Requiem For Methuselah?” Not sure I can agree. If only because Miramanee and Rayna didn’t “have to” die the way Edith did. But I guess it could be seen as just the opposite, too.

    I loved Star Trek when I was growing up, but in retrospect a lot of the episodes were pretty silly. The Paradise Syndrome was one of these.

    Growing up in New Mexico, I knew a lot of Native Americans. The way the natives were depicted was just embarrassingly awful. The Deux Ex Machina obelisk was also pretty ridiculous. I was reading a lot of real science fiction* at that point, and nothing in the plot worked for me.

    As for Requiem For Methuselah, I remember the immortal character and thought that was an interesting idea (Although the concept had been explored earlier in the better Wolf in the Fold, and was also obviously a ripoff of an homage to Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children). I don’t even remember the Rayna character from that one.

     * What’s the golden age of science fiction? 12.

     

    • #16
  17. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    What about naively following leaders who might have other agendas, etc? Or believing that one’s own cause or goal is sufficient to justify endangering or even outright murdering others? That might even have some relation to current-day politics. Let alone Stalin, Mao, etc.

     

    I think my first response might be that slang or colloquialism are different from… gibberish? 

     

    1. Eehh… they made that point better in “Patterns of Force”. 
    2. To the hearer who belongs to the language community, the terms are not gibberish. To hearers listening to literal translations? Completely. Professional translators understand this. Sometimes, the source text is so laden with jargon, metaphor, set phrases, idioms of a trade or profession and other colloquialisms, including literary referencs, that the translation into the target language will bear little if any resemblance to the word-for-word meaning of the source. That was the point which a purely rules-driven Chomskyian analysis of the use of language in “Darmok” steadfastly misses. Another point seemed to be that the best computer translation could never match human(oid) interaction in conveying meaning, and my own experience with machine translation has affirmed this. A computer translator might do just fine with a description of a medication from Merk or Abbott, but give it a page from Heinrich Böll or Marga Minco to turn into English or Spanish and the thing will fail spectacular every time. See also Studio C’s Google Translate sketch.

    Studio C- Google Translate

     

    • #17
  18. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JosePluma (View Comment):

    Already mentioned twice: The City at the Edge of Forever from the original series.

    First, it has the best name of any episode. Second, it was written (mostly) by Harlan Ellison. But mainly, it transcends the cheap irony, slapstick humor and space opera action of most of the rest of the series. There may not be any space battles, but there is time travel. The characters appear real, not mere caricatures or empty-vessel NPCs. As @ flicker points out, the dialogue is probably the best-written of the entire run of the series. This episode dose the best job of showing the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

    “Wrath Of Khan” might do that better, although that’s not an episode so….

    I can think of episode candidates that might at least arguably do as well, if not better. “Amok Time” comes to mind.

    The ending is truly tragic.

    More tragic than “The Paradise Syndrome?” Or “Requiem For Methuselah?” Not sure I can agree. If only because Miramanee and Rayna didn’t “have to” die the way Edith did. But I guess it could be seen as just the opposite, too.

    The best non-canon thing that has been done with “The Paradise Syndrome” was the “White Iris” episode of Star Trek Continues. I recommend it flaws and all. 

    But it did have the virtue of being one of the few episodes in the entire canon to remember that sub-warp travel between planets takes months. Even in the 23rd century. 

    “Amok Time” is also great. And a great start to the second season. 

     

     

    • #18
  19. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    What about naively following leaders who might have other agendas, etc? Or believing that one’s own cause or goal is sufficient to justify endangering or even outright murdering others? That might even have some relation to current-day politics. Let alone Stalin, Mao, etc.

     

    I think my first response might be that slang or colloquialism are different from… gibberish?

     

    1. Eehh… they made that point better in “Patterns of Force”.
    2. To the hearer who belongs to the language community, the terms are not gibberish. To hearers listening to literal translations? Completely. Professional translators understand this. Sometimes, the source text is so laden with jargon, metaphor, set phrases, idioms of a trade or profession and other colloquialisms, including literary referencs, that the translation into the target language will bear little if any resemblance to the word-for-word meaning of the source. That was the point which a purely rules-driven Chomskyian analysis of the use of language in “Darmok” steadfastly misses. Another point seemed to be that the best computer translation could never match human(oid) interaction in conveying meaning, and my own experience with machine translation has affirmed this. A computer translator might do just fine with a description of a medication from Merk or Abbott, but give it a page from Heinrich Böll or Marga Minco to turn into English or Spanish and the thing will fail spectacular every time. See also Studio C’s Google Translate sketch.

    Studio C- Google Translate

    I did a post about that awhile ago:

    King of Assyria

     

    • #19
  20. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Your choices are good ones. I think that “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (TNG) is the best-ever episode of Trek, but everybody knows the list of Great Episodes. As you suggested, instead I’m going to name a favorite: an episode I’m particularly fond of, irrespective of how “good” it is (whatever that means). It’s probably a controversial choice: “Remember Me” (TNG).

    People who are allergic to Beverly Crusher will hate it. I enjoy it because it’s just such a fun, ridiculous premise, and yet the script sells it and tells a good story with it. The science-fiction situation is complete technobabble, but it’s clever, internally logical and entirely consistent with what has been established before; no unfair surprises or Deus Ex Machina solutions. And it gives us one of the best lines from all of Trek: “If there’s nothing wrong with me, there must be something wrong with the Universe.” (Words to live by, nowadays.)

    • #20
  21. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    kedavis (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    TOS: This isn’t hard, even though there are so many. Most of the shows that have Important Messages are lauded for their Important Messages. There’s nothing that tops “City on the Edge of Forever” for its gut punch at the end, but what we really want is spaceships doing space things, and that means “The Doomsday Machine.” It has it all: the wrecked Constellation, William Windom’s over-the-top job as Commodore Decker, and a great soundtrack that saws away like the “Jaws” theme as Scotty curses and jams a sonic screwdriver into a sparking port in the Jeffries tube, because Ach the transporter’s out. It’s the tightest thing they ever did, and it’s a testament to the ep that no subsequent show has ever encountered another one of those hellish cornucopias.

    What about Balance Of Terror?

    That’s my favorite, I think. I love so many of the original series, but that was a gripping and moving episode.

    • #21
  22. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    To differ with Dennis, though, there are absolutely lousy episodes of TOS. I am never showing my daughter “Miri” or “Way to Eden” among others.

    You think there are no messages or lessons to be gleaned from either of those?

    Favorite TNG? “Darmok”. I’m a linguist. Close second: “The Defector”.

    I’d be interested if you could explain how a species that supposedly communicates only by metaphor, ever… well, accomplishes much of anything, really. Including being able to teach their young how to speak in the first place.

    1. Other than Hippies were dumb and authority is good in the latter? No.

    What about naively following leaders who might have other agendas, etc? Or believing that one’s own cause or goal is sufficient to justify endangering or even outright murdering others? That might even have some relation to current-day politics. Let alone Stalin, Mao, etc.

    1. Language-minded fans have been discussing this one for decades now. Of course the language has to have some vocabulary for expressing personhood, commands, naming objects, talking about mathematics, and so on. The focus in the episode is on the idea that metaphor can become so thick in language that it becomes incomprehensible to people outside the language community. For example, if I were to literally translate a highly colloquial sentence about arguing with a juvenile delinquent until late at night from German into English (closely related languages), it would read. “The fat boy kept threshing, a real waterwheel, till we got to the statues.” Or, talking about the absent financial security of a particularly dumb guy, “The strawhead couldn’t get his sheep dry.” The conceit in “Darmok” was just an unusual and unexpected way to address the issue.

    I think my first response might be that slang or colloquialism are different from… gibberish? And I’m not sure what example you’re using, but “literal” translation might be technically impossible in situations like that. It’s (probably) “always” (more or less) possible to use less ambiguous language, which I do for example when using Google Translate. I would not try to translate “is this right?” because “right” might be a direction, so I would use “is this correct?” which loses the ambiguity. I would use “also” or “additionally” rather than “too.” And so forth. I also often will take the result and translate it back to Engrish to check. If what comes back is not what I meant, then I change the wording that I’m translating, and try again.

    I remember reading years ago about one of the first computer programs for translating English into Chinese. One of the first tests was to type in the colloquial English sentence “ Out of sight, out of mind”. A set of Chinese symbols then appeared. To check the translation, the programmers had the symbols translated back to English, which resulted in the phrase “ invisible idiot”.

    • #22
  23. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I liked “Gary Seven” from the original series as my favorite episode, and The Wrath of Khan as my favorite movie based on the original series.

    I much prefer The Next Generation movies over the series, with First Contact being my favorite. Who wouldn’t love blasting off Earth to the tune of Magic Carpet Ride?

    • #23
  24. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    TOS: This isn’t hard, even though there are so many. Most of the shows that have Important Messages are lauded for their Important Messages. There’s nothing that tops “City on the Edge of Forever” for its gut punch at the end, but what we really want is spaceships doing space things, and that means “The Doomsday Machine.” It has it all: the wrecked Constellation, William Windom’s over-the-top job as Commodore Decker, and a great soundtrack that saws away like the “Jaws” theme as Scotty curses and jams a sonic screwdriver into a sparking port in the Jeffries tube, because Ach the transporter’s out. It’s the tightest thing they ever did, and it’s a testament to the ep that no subsequent show has ever encountered another one of those hellish cornucopias.

    What about Balance Of Terror?

    That’s my favorite, I think. I love so many of the original series, but that was a gripping and moving episode.

    Me too. Before playing Sarek, Mark Lenard was excellent as the Romulan captain in this episode.

    • #24
  25. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Over the last half-decade, I’ve rewatched the entirety of The Next Generation (some of it holds up well, a lot of it does not), and Deep Space Nine (most of it holds up very well), and I’m halfway through a re-watch of Voyager (better than I remembered, but still lesser Trek.) Deep Space Nine is still my favorite, with too many good episodes to choose from. (The arc that begins at the end of Season 5 and stretches into the first six episodes of Season 6 is among the best Trek has ever been.)

    But browsing through the comments above, nobody’s mentioned Star Trek: Picard, which I legitimately enjoyed, both as a long, unfolding conspiracy/mystery, and as a love letter to the Next Gen era of the show. I don’t think a season two is even necessary. It’s a good, self-contained miniseries.

     

    • #25
  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    TOS: This isn’t hard, even though there are so many. Most of the shows that have Important Messages are lauded for their Important Messages. There’s nothing that tops “City on the Edge of Forever” for its gut punch at the end, but what we really want is spaceships doing space things, and that means “The Doomsday Machine.” It has it all: the wrecked Constellation, William Windom’s over-the-top job as Commodore Decker, and a great soundtrack that saws away like the “Jaws” theme as Scotty curses and jams a sonic screwdriver into a sparking port in the Jeffries tube, because Ach the transporter’s out. It’s the tightest thing they ever did, and it’s a testament to the ep that no subsequent show has ever encountered another one of those hellish cornucopias. 

    So, Mr. Lileks speaks for me on TOS

    TNG: “The Inner Light” and “The Drumhead” are both great Picard Episodes. The Drumhead seems especially important today.

    I liked “the Enemy” where Worf refuses to be a donor and a Romulan dies and the episode lets it happen. No bushing things over. 

    I have DS9 Three seasons and it never spoke to me. I was watching B5 at the time which was much better story wise and gave up. I watched one episode of VOayager and found they were trapped because they could not figure out how to put a timer on a photon torpedo. Stupid. 

    Never watched Enterprise.

     

    • #26
  27. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):
    Seeing Spock react at the sight of Kirk whom he believed dead in Amok Time is the best moment of TOS,

    As I may have mentioned before, we used to do “One Word Star Trek Challenge” on my radio show. I’d say the word, and people would have to supply the ep. One of the entries was simply “Jim!” and everyone got it right away . . . because of the enthusiasm.

    and The Omega Glory is a great political allegory I reference frequently.

    Eeeeehhyah, I can see where the part about E Plebnista applying to Comms as well as Yangs is necessary, but Hodgkin’s Law of parallel planetary development always struck me as an excuse to use backlot Mayberry / Gunsmoke sets

    Also A Piece of the Action for sheer enjoyment.

    See above, although they used the John-Gill Patterns of Force dodge, if memory (alpha) serves, right? Someone left behind a book and they adopted their entire civilization based on an account of gangland Chicago. Ohhkay. By the way, weren’t they supposed to have come looking for a piece of our action eventually? What I wouldn’t give to have seen Bela Oxmyx in the captain’s chair. How youse doin’, citizens. Set the Universal Translator to Runyonesque!

     

     

    • #27
  28. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):

    And to correct for a glaring omission:

    Seven of Nine. Rawr.

    How could I forget. She liked a tweet of mine once. Still not over it.

    • #28
  29. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):
    Okay; controversial opinion time. The only bad Star Trek is on the big screen, which includes the majority of the films (I,IV,V,VI,Insurrection, Nemesis, The Abramsverse). The series are varying degrees of awesome.

    It is controversial, inasmuch as it is wrong. ;) The first movie gets a lot of flak, partly for its stately interminability that answers the question of what you would get if you said to Doug Trumbull “Okay, you got 20 minutes to do what you want” but the director’s cut improves upon things. (Still odd to think that that director was the editor for Citizen Freaking Kane.) People wanted fun Trek with phasers and space combat, and they got a Spock who behaved like the Vulcan he was supposed to be. 

    IV is not bad by any definition. Sorry. One thing that stuck out, though: so Klingons have . . . Pepto-bismol colored blood? We thought their ship interiors were red because, you know, BLOOD and WAR, but if their blood was pink, shouldn’t their lighting and decorating scheme be pink as well? Imagine that. 

    Insurrection . . . I didn’t even like the new design of the ship. Nemesis had some great moments. I enjoyed the Abrams reboots, partly because Quinto and Urban were excellent as Spock and Bones, and Pine did a damn fine Shatner without a slavish imitation. 

    • #29
  30. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):
    But browsing through the comments above, nobody’s mentioned Star Trek: Picard, which I legitimately enjoyed, both as a long, unfolding conspiracy/mystery, and as a love letter to the Next Gen era of the show. 

    Agreed. I decided early on to just let myself enjoy it without fanboy nitpickery. It was interesting to watch Stewart, who is old, play Picard, who was older. The slight frailties and quavers and uncertainties. And you have to love a show that has an inert Borg Cube used as a research station that has a sign “This Facility has had 245 days without an assimilation” as a humorous OSHA notice.

    • #30