When I’m not writing for all you fine folks, I’m generally hanging out with my nine-year-old son, a budding engineer and scientist. If you have an intellectually curious child it’s best to feed their head, so we give him a steady diet of Lego Tech sets, electronics kits, and educational shows.
(Thank you, National Geographic, for getting my kid to actually ask to see documentaries on Saturday mornings.)
As we all know, there’s nothing better for a young mind than some good science fiction, so we’ve been watching Original Series Star Trek. The blend of action, humor, science, sociology, and good old silliness is what makes the program a classic. It’s hard to pick which episodes are the most fun for kids, so I gathered a panel of experts (i.e., my Facebook friends) and asked them. It turns out many parents agree on the best episodes.
Many of their suggestions overlap with what I’ve already shown him. The kid and I started with “The Doomsday Machine,” which has lots of suspense and cool music. Then we watched “Devil in the Dark,” which is spooky for a nine-year-old. Then came “The Galileo Seven” with the cheesy giant and good example of teamwork and problem solving. It also gave me a chance to point out sexism on television. Only one of the seven crew members is a woman, and when Spock is asking each person for their opinion on what to do next, he asks everyone but her!
While he hasn’t yet seen the famous Kirk/Uhura kiss, we’ve talked about her importance and the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. requested she stay on the show as an example of a positive African-American role model. We’ve also talked about some of the other issues the show brings up, like eugenics, militarism, and xenophobia.
The next one we watched was “Space Seed,” because Khan, then “Let that be Your Last Battlefield” for the important although somewhat heavy-handed discussion of racism. “Arena” was the latest we’ve seen. Kirk defeats the Gorn using basic chemistry and engineering! How cool is that? Hopefully the kid won’t try to make his own cannon. I did when I was a teenager, but that was before the Patriot Act.
See kids, don’t the race haters look silly?
While my panel of experts mentioned all of those episodes, they also came up with some that I’ve missed. Everyone suggested “The Trouble With Tribbles,” which will be the next one I show him. Not only does it have tribbles, but also the best bar fight in television history. Other suggestions included “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” which a friend said was “an episode that has everything” and “Spock’s Brain,” about which a friend commented: “People may poo-poo this episode. But the kid in us all loves alien brain theft.”
There are a few episodes I’m saving to creep my kid out on a dark and stormy night. “Miri” is a disturbing with its sick and violent children, and I remember being freaked out by the witches in “Catspaw” (Caaaaptain Kiiiiirk!), but by far the scariest one for me at his age was “Charlie X.” That faceless woman haunted my dreams!
So what do you think? What are the best Star Trek episodes for kids? What are the worst?
Also, one friend suggested he watch Star Trek: The Animated Series, especially the episode “The Magicks of Megas-tu”. Somehow I’ve made it through three decades of fandom without ever seeing an episode of the animated Trek. Is it worth a look?
Sean McLachlan is a freelance travel and history writer. He is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and the post-apocalyptic thriller Radio Hope. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.