Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Well, it's almost time for the traditional post-thanksgiving Star Trek Marathon (a tradition of the Harrison family that I have been privy to in the last 3 years). In preparation for that long-weekend marathon of all 11 Trek films, we were considering other viewing to supplement the marathon, and came up with this- our list of the matching episodes for each of the 11 films. The rules? While DS9 or Voyager might have a more appropriate episode, each companion piece must be a precursor from the same series as the movie's cast is (with Generations clearly qualifying for both.) Include additional viewing- other applicable thematic or historical episodes, and even a bonus applicable episode from The Animated Series (TAS) - and you have enough to make each film a marathon on its own! So, our list of the 11 Precursor Episodes to the Star Trek films are:
1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Companion Episode: The Changeling
Why: Thematically, it is an extremely similar story- one the plot of TMP has often been accused of ripping off- in which an old Earth probe, amplified in power enormously by an alien presence, returns to humanity looking for its creator, and Spock mind-melds it.
Turnabout Intruder - The last episode before this one, and the end of the series... it feels appropriate.
Squire of Gothos - Thematically, another all-powerful being that turns out to be a child.
The Ultimate Computer - Thematically, an Earth-created computer achieves sentience and greater power than it was ever designed for, but is not emotionally mature and endangers Starfleet.
TAS - One Of Our Planets Is Missing - Another massive, cloud-like entity that the Enterprise must enter inside to convince that they are actual life-forms.
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
Companion Episode: Space Seed
Why: Do I even need to explain? It's a direct prequel.
Where No Man Has Gone Before - Some claim Carol Marcus is first referenced in this episode- the 'little blond lab technician' that Gary Mitchell hooked Kirk up with.
The Doomsday Machine - Trek greatest space battle to this point.
The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a main character bridge-crew member whose five-letter name begins with S is killed.
TAS - The Infinite Vulcan - Another Eugenics-Wars menace who's a megalomaniacal madman...
3. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Companion Episode: Return to Tomorrow
Why: An establishment of precedent for the procedure, Spock's Katra is removed from his body, which is killed, and stored inside the mind of a prominent physician on the Enterprise until it can be re-integrated. As a bonus, a mysterious dead planet in which life exists solely within an underground cave, while more relevant to Star Trek II, still applies to Genesis here.
The Enterprise Incident - This is a tricky one, but diving into the history of this film, Krudge was originally intended to steal a ship from the Romulans- hence his vessel having a cloak, a bird on the bottom, and being called a Bird of Prey. With that omission, Klingons suddenly grew all of these characteristics (as indeed they and the Romulans seemed to swap everything post-TOS, with the Romulans becoming sneaky plotters and the Klingons a highly honorable society) on their own, and the Enterprise Incident is a key and crucial link in establishing a precedent for the Romulan/Klingon technology exchange that makes this possible and introduces the Bird of Prey as such an integral element to the future Trek films, and the franchise on a whole.
Dagger of the Mind - The crucial Mind Meld is first introduced here, wholly unblemished by the connotations later apocryphal 'Trek' series would try to saddle it with.
Amok Time - Thematic... Pon Farr and much of Vulcan ritualism is also established here. Starfleet orders are defied to travel to Vulcan and save Spock's life.
Let This Be Your Last Battlefield - The Enterprise Destruct sequence is first activated, identically to the film.
Spock's Brain - Thematic, the search for Spock actually requires searching MULTIPLE planets!
The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a main character bridge-crew member whose five-letter name begins with S is brought back to life.
TAS - The Infinite Vulcan, again - ...Also all about Spock's Katra being transferred to another body, and searching for Spock.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Companion Episode: Tomorrow Is Yesterday
Why: The lightspeed-breakaway/slingshot maneuver is discovered and refined as a method of time travel in this episode.
The Naked Time - The slingshot breakaway is also prefigured here.
Assignment: Earth - Well, more thematically than anything else- this is a story about a time-travel-to-present-day adventure involving the future of humanity in which a sentient animal plays a large role.
Squire of the Gothos (again) - Thematically, a comedy in which Kirk is on Trial.
The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a probe of alien origin with planet-destroying powers is on its way to Earth and must be halted by the Enterprise crew.
TAS - The Ambergis Element - Lots of underwater action!
5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Companion Episode: The Way To Eden
Why: A rag-tag group takes over the Enterprise to go and look for Eden... what else do you need?
Who Mourns for Adonias - The Enterprise encounters a false god, and affirms that the real God doesn't act like him.
Tomorrow Is Yesterday, again - Due to strange malfunctions in the Enterprise being a key subplot of both.
The Galileo Seven - Shuttlecraft are introduced here, and fare just about as well.
Day of the Dove - Thematically, Klingons and Humans celebrating at the end instead of fighting due to the common defeat of a god-like entity.
The Changeling (again) – Thematically, an individual hijacks the Enterprise to search for his creator, and Uhura has a musical number.
TAS - The Magicks of Megas-Tu - This time, they go to the center of the universe to find Satan instead!
6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Companion Episode: Errand of Mercy
Why: This episode establishes the Klingons as antagonists, prefigures the possibility of war, and has Kirk at some of his bare-knuckled brawling-est, most personal conflict with them.
The Conscience of the King - Thematically, another Shakespeare-obsessed villain. (SPOILER: No, not him- her!)
Balance of Terror - Thematically - The first, and quintestential, battle with a cloaked Bird of Prey (albeit, this one Romulan).
The Changeling (again) – Thematically, Uhura has to read from a book due to a lack of necessary knowledge.
Also, breaking the rule: Voyager's "Flashback" - It takes place during, and part of, the events of this episode.
TAS - The Time Trap - A Klingon/Human alliance, albeit a temporary and treachery-filled one!
7. Star Trek: Generations
Companion Episode: Family
Why: The first (only) appearance of Robert Picard and his son Renee, who in this film enact the oft-requested internet meme and die in a fire.
Redemption, pt. 1 and 2 - The introduction of the Duras sisters!
Relics - The return of Montgomery Scott, the first bridging of the generations! Well, save for a short scene in...
Encounter At Farpoint - A brief generational crossover, and an appropriate in-between, the beginning of the TNG era and the Enterprise-D, which is lost here.
All Good Things - A precursor to this film, like Turnabout Intruder for The Motion Picture... it sets the stage.
(TOS) The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a stellar-cartography search for a relevant planet is plot-critical, a deadly piece of technology introduced into engineering threatens the ship, and the Enterprise faces destruction at the hands of a much smaller spacegoing foe’s weaponry.
TAS - The Counter-Clock Incident - A generations of its time, featuring the original captain of the Enterprise, Robert April, meeting with the next generation... as embodied by Kirk and crew. A shame JJ Abrams didn't put in at least a passing reference to him...
8. Star Trek: First Contact
Companion Episode: Best of Both Worlds
Why: Just like the Wrath of Kahn, do I even need to say it? Not only among TNG's best, but also a direct prequel to this tale... in fact, without it, very little will make sense to you. (That is, assuming you are, for some reason, watching First Contact while having never watched Star Trek before.)
Q Who - The introduction of the Borg!
I, Borg and Decent, part I and II - Those post-Locutus Borg adventures where Picard acted so unstably and gave Starfleet a reason to doubt him. Oh, wait...
Breaking the rules again, sorta: TOS - Metamorphosis - This original Star Trek episode is, in a way, a sequel (bloody time travel!) to this episode, showing what became of Zephram Cochrane...
(TOS) The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a cybernetic organism boards the Enterprise, takes control of the computers, and kills many security guards.
9. Star Trek: Insurrection
Companion Episode: Too Short A Season
Why: Thematically, a de-aging man, and a Starfleet admiral with an ethical issue and a dirty secret.
Who Watches The Watchers - A Federation duck blind on a pre-industrial world fails, exposing the Starfleet operation.
Rascals - Thematic... another de-aging show, though this one goes a bit further.
The Defector - Thematic... Data's first theater work.
Brothers - Thematic... Data goes crazy and opposes his friends.
Liasons - Because Picard's relationship with his stalker here feels more natural than his romance with Anij.
Okay, so the connections here are weaker than most...
(TOS) The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a main cast member is made to act stupid, and singing is shown to have no useful purpose in Star Trek. A race of very short people is invited aboard the Enterprise. A really advanced piece of technology created in association between Earth technology and an alien power is now threatening the genocide of an inhabited world.
10. Star Trek: Nemesis
Companion Episode: Tapestry
Why: The Picard of his youth is shown (and implied to have HAIR, ya stupid movie!), and many of the choices that shaped Picard's life and made him who he is, a central theme of this film, are examined.
Time Squared - More double Picards. And the goofy, screaming, moaning one in sickbay still does a better and more reasonable job of handling the existence of his duplicate. Picard also kills someone who looks exactly like him without hesitating, freezing up, or freaking out about it.
Datalore - The compelling reason why you DON'T just assemble and activate the new Soong-type android you just found... they are all TREACHEROUS!!! (Interestingly, other selected viewing in this article also covers Lore's entire story... in reverse!)
Second Chances - Among many, the Riker/Troi romance (that culminates in this film) is best explored here, I think.
Rule-breakingly, TOS - A Piece of the Action - Thematically, proof that Starfleet had abandoned wheeled transportation in favor of anti-gravs centuries before, thus making the Starfleet dune buggy total nonsense. Even moreso than it already was.
(TOS) The Changeling (again) – Thematically, a robot is sent out into the vacuum of space all by himself in the finale.
11. Star Trek: Arrogantly Forgoing A Subtitle
Companion Episode: The Cage (Remastered)
Why: Going back to the very beginning, seeing Pike, the only adventure to possibly take place Chronologically before this one.
Errrr...? Only to cover what the movie changed- such as Operation: Annihilate for Kirk's older/younger brother... Where No Man Has Gone Before (again) for the original Delta Vega, etc. It's better to skip these, since this is a new continuity and watching these just highlights the differences.
Okay, okay, actually a few do come to mind:
Journey To Babel - Showcasing Amanda.
The Immunity Syndrome - Thematically... LOTS of Vulcan die all at once.
(TOS) The Changeling (again) – Thematically, an entire planet is wiped out in an instant, and a long-dead Kirk is important to the plot foundation.
Oh, and the Animated Series (TAS) episode Yesteryear - focusing on Spock's childhood.