Five Captain Kirk-Era ‘Star Trek’ Episodes That Shouldn’t Be Missed

Director/producer J.J. Abrams’ franchise reboot of “Star Trek” beams into theaters this week, and it ought to serve as a good introduction to the universe for folks who have never seen any of the shows. Hopefully they’ll walk out of theaters curious to see what other “Trek” is out there. Which episodes should they look for? How will they know which ones truly deal with the background and characterization of Kirk and his enterprising crew (see what we did there)?

Don’t worry, soon-to-be-“Trek” fans. Cast your eyes downward for a breakdown of choice episodes from the original “Star Trek” series, which is now available in full on DVD.

“The City on the Edge of Forever”
Original air date: April 6, 1967

Many fans who don’t watch Trek are nonetheless aware of this classic episode. After discovering a sentient time portal known as the Guardian of Forever, McCoy is accidentally sent into the past, where he alters history. To restore the timeline, Kirk and Spock follow their friend into the 1930s, resulting in some hilarious moments as the Captain attempts to explain Spock’s unusual appearance to the humans they encounter. However, the heart of this episode is when Kirk falls in love with a woman whose very existence may threaten the future. This episode delves deeply into Kirk’s emotions and reinforces his long-standing friendship with Spock.

“Balance of Terror”
Original air date: December 15, 1966

A well-written classic, this episode is significant on many levels. It is the first in the series to feature the evil and cunning Romulan race (see also: the villainous Nero, as played by Eric Bana in J.J. Abrams “Star Trek”). The episode reveals that Romulans are actually an off-shoot of the Vulcan race, leaving Spock open to the suspicions of those who thought they could trust him. We also get to see Captain Kirk bare his soul a little bit, when he expresses his fear that one day he will let his crew down and they will die as a result. The climactic ship-to-ship fight plays like a submarine battle from one of those classic World War II flicks. Kirk and his unnamed opponent watch one another and wait, calculating their moves like chess-masters. By the time the credits roll, fans see that victory is not always a thing to be celebrated, but rather a sign that most of your friends survived.

“Amok Time”
Original air date: September 15, 1967

Ever wonder how emotionless Vulcans date, marry, and reproduce? In this adventure, Kirk is amazed when Spock begins acting irrational and violent. It is eventually revealed that Vulcans pay for their repressed emotions by succumbing to their primal drives and falling into madness every seven years. During this time, known as Pon farr, they must choose a mate or die. Ignoring Starfleet orders, Kirk takes the Enterprise to the planet Vulcan. Seen for the first time in this episode, vi that Spock’s people are not merely scientists; they are also deeply invested in their own brand of mysticism.

“Mirror, Mirror”
Original air date: October 6, 1967

No matter what, William Shatner’s Kirk always knew he could trust his crew. That script is flipped in this episode when a freak accident sends Kirk and several of his senior officers into a parallel universe. Here, the Federation is a tyrannical empire and officers move up in rank through scheming and assassination. Surrounded by corrupt, murderous versions of their friends, Kirk and the others need to find their way home before its too late. This episodes was so influential that many TV shows and comics have emulated it. If you’ve ever wondered why “evil twins” seem to always have beards, take a look at the Mirror Universe version of Spock.

“The Doomsday Machine”
Original air date: April 19, 1967

Kirk has fought Romulans, Klingons and all manner of otherworldly beings, but only as a last resort. In this adventure, the Enterprise faces an enemy that cannot be reasoned with: an enormous automated weapon of unknown origin, traveling through space and obliterating any planet that crosses its path. As if that’s not bad enough, Kirk finds himself trapped on a wrecked starship while a revenge-crazed superior orders the Enterprise to destroy the weapon in a suicide run. Similar events in the new film make this episode a must-see.