The Top 10 Original Star Trek Episodes

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In “Space Seed,” Captain Kirk gets a taste of Khan Noonien Singh’s genetically modified strength. The former dictator had ruled Asia with an iron fist after the Eugenics Wars of the 20th century. CBS/Landov

In a new special edition, Newsweek celebrates 50 years of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry’s legendary sci-fi creation that spawned a movement. This list is excepted from the full issue, Star Trek—50 Years, by Issue Editor, Tim Baker.

Season 2, Episode 6: “The Doomsday Machine”
Kirk and his old comrade Commodore Decker search for the Doomsday Machine, a device capable of destroying whole planets. While Kirk approaches the challenge as another in a long line of assignments in his five-year mission, for Decker the search has become an all-consuming obsession. In a classic Kirk moment, as he’s about to be destroyed by the machine, he repeatedly asks of his crew: “Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me back up.”

Season 1, Episode 22: “Space Seed”
Though it introduced the greatest villain in Star Trek history—Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh—“Space Seed” is also a special episode for the way it shows off Trek’s trademark futuristic optimism. Khan, who came from what was then the near future, represented a nadir for humanity, but Kirk and his crew represent how far the human race was able to come between the 20th and 23rd centuries.

Season 2, Episode 4: “Mirror, Mirror”
The first ever use of the now-common sci-fi device of the mirror universe, “Mirror, Mirror” imagines a reality in which the Federation is replaced by the Terran empire, a ruthless and Klingon-like entity. Everything in this reality, from the uniforms to the attitudes of those on the Enterprise, is the polar opposite of the Federation we’d come to know. 

Season 2, Episode 15: “The Trouble With Tribbles”
When Cyrano Jones, a galactic smuggler and general hustler, brings furry creatures known as tribbles aboard Deep Space K-7, he unknowingly starts an interplanetary incident. Unbeknownst to Lt. Uhura, who buys the first creature, tribbles reproduce at a prodigious rate, and the Enterprise is soon overrun with them. But when the tribbles, who coo around humans, are introduced to Klingons, they emit a terrible hiss, which helps identify an undercover agent, Arne Darvin.

Season 3, Episode 2: “The Enterprise Incident”
The Federation is extremely jealous of Romulan cloaking technology, so they assign Kirk and Spock to go aboard a Romulan vessel in disguise and steal some so that it can be reverse engineered. The episode’s real appeal comes from Spock’s uncharacteristically cruel, mission-based seduction of a female Romulan.

Season 2, Episode 10: “Journey to Babel”
Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites appear in a Star Trek episode together for the first time, making this episode the first on-screen reunion of the founding members of the Federation. This episode teaches us a great deal about galactic politics through the Babel conference, as well as Spock’s past with the presence of his mother and father.

Season 1, Episode 14: “Balance of Terror”
The first appearance of the hostile Romulan race on Star Trek, “Balance of Terror” was also meant to represent the first time the Federation had made direct visual contact with the Romulans. Despite having fought a war with them 100 years earlier, neither species had seen each other before the neutral zone incursion that sets off the action in this episode.

Season 1, Episode 18: “Arena”
For nearly four decades, the only appearance of a representative of the Gorn species took place in “Arena.” The lizard-like creature forced to battle Kirk on a desolate planet, the Gorn became a cult favorite, but in the episode’s action, Kirk comes out ahead thanks to his superior ability to think on his feet.

64460301_H14307026 In Season 2’s classic premiere, Mr. Spock gives the now-famous Vulcan salute. Based off an ancient Jewish greeting, Leonard Nimoy often accompanied the salute with the words, “Live long and prosper.” CBS/Landov

Season 2, Episode 1: “Amok Time”
When Spock begins to feel the effects of his people’s mating ritual, Pon Farr, he acts strangely enough for the Enterprise to reroute itself to Vulcan so Spock can take care of business. But when he arrives, he finds that the Vulcan female to whom he has been promised prefers another, and the resulting fight is one of Trek’s most memorable moments. 

Season 1, Episode 28: “The City on the Edge of Forever”
The Trek episode that changed the way time travel was dealt with on-screen, “The City on the Edge of Forever” sees Kirk and Spock travel back in time hoping to rescue a raving mad McCoy, ending up in 1930s America. There, Kirk meets the love of his life but finds out that the woman, Edith Keeler, must be allowed to be hit by a car in order to save the future.

This article is excerpted from a Newsweek Special Edition, Star Trek—50 Years, by Issue Editor Tim Baker.

Star Trek Clockwise from bottom left Photos 12/Alamy (2); AF Archive/Alamy (4). Digital Imaging by Vanessa Ynda