Out of all the various iterations of the Star Trek franchise over the years, the original series that debuted in 1966 is perhaps the purest encapsulation of Gene Roddenberry’s intention – a science fiction world and plots as a means to exploring the nature of humanity. It’s not difficult to see why the original series often struggled with ratings and was frequently on the chopping block for cancellation – there’s a cerebral element to many of the show’s episodes that doesn’t shy away from exploring a character’s inner demons or the internal struggle of opposing natures.
Starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, Star Trek is often immensely entertaining and thought provoking. This first season set provides a great glimpse at the evolution of the show – earlier episodes are more straightforward in nature, with simple chase and destroy whodunit-type plots, but as the series progresses, both Kirk and Spock have to wrestle with their share of personal issues. Kirk struggles with being both a decisive and compassionate leader, exemplified in episodes like “The Enemy Within,” where the two sides are literally pitted against one another when a beaming error creates a second Kirk. Spock deals with the battle of his Vulcan nature and his human nature against one another, and the mysterious quality this gives him is often used to keep the audience guessing about his true intentions, such as in “The Menagerie.” Other than Kirk, Spock, and the chief medical officer, Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), the rest of the characters are rather flat, but the interaction the scripts develop between the three more than makes up for it.
More than 40 years later, the show holds up extremely well. Small, campy elements can be found in every episode, from the often hilarious costumes to the sly, womanizing side of Kirk to the garish set colors that are utterly ubiquitous, but these elements only add to the enjoyment. At the center of most episodes is a solid script grounded in characters more than science fiction outlandishness.