What Are the Best Star Trek Original Series Episodes for Kids?
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.”
“Eeeeeew, they’re smooching!”
“Quiet, this is historically significant.”
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.
Da-da-da-da, da da da DA-DA-DADA!!!
Such a completely brilliant tune. It always cracks me up to no end any time it’s parodied.
And yeah, some of the monster designs were freaking terrifying!
I have to say Original Series never did it for me, having started Star Trek in the early 90s somewhere in the middle of TNG. And then it was Star Trek five times per week, until DS9 started and it was six times per week! When they did a Kirk rerun a few years later, I of course watched it, but it never really did much for me. Deep Space Nine is really the only show I still love to come back to (and even then I skip all the episodes about Starfleet rules).
Hmmm. I’ll have to think about this, but my initial response is a negative one – NONE of the ones prominently featuring children!
Ok. Thinking done. “The Ultimate Computer.” How much of our value do we derive from what we do? What makes us different from our machines, and how much responsibility do we bear for the things they do? (Questions that are more pressing now than they were fifty years ago.)
And it’s just a great episode, period.
I think “Devil in the Dark” is hands down the best episode for kids. I loved it as a kid, and it’s still my favorite episode.
The Doomsday Machine, Devil in the Dark, The Galileo Seven, Space Seed, Arena… I’m rather astonished to discover that you chose the exact same episodes to watch with your kids that I did.
The others we watched were “The Corbomite Maneuver,” which shows just how cool the regular crew is under pressure (by putting one panicky crew member, Bailey, on the bridge); and “The Immunity Syndrome,” with the giant space amoeba, which is an extraordinarily tense episode, with a great lesson in how logic is not the only way to solve human problems.
All good choices. I love that you started with The Doomsday Machine, my personal favorite.
Errand of Mercy is a good one, not just because it’s the first appearance of the Klingons, but because of the numerous dilemmas Kirk is faced with when trying to protect those he believes to be needing protection. And there’s the great scene in the end when he finds to his discomfort he’s trying to defend war.
A Taste of Armageddon is a good episode, one that I’ve actually grown even more fond of over the years, for a variety of reasons. A great look at the horrors of modern warfare conducted in a “civilized” way, far from the front lines. I do wish the director had remembered to get the computer translator into the shot when Anan 7 is trying to lure the Enterprise crew down, because without it there he seems just to be an excellent mimic…
…I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I started watching Trek when I was 5, and I didn’t have a parent to guide me through it. Maybe it would have been a more educational experience if my parents had been more interested in science fiction, but I didn’t find any of the episodes so frightening that I flipped out, probably because the heroes dealt with the horrors, and that frequently what was perceived as horrible turned out to be more complicated. (In classic Trek, usually the worst horror was what man was willing to do to man.)
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I think my favourite episode of all time is the Balance of Terror. Has to be the best episode ever and a great set of lessons on many levels for kids: The pointlessness and glorification of war, racism, strategy and sheer stress – it has it all. Maybe not the best episode for young kids though.
I also like the Gorn episode and a certain set of live fire cannon episodes with the author. I can state from experience that if you cannot even hit the side of a large clothing box at a range of 10 feet then Kirk had no chance of hitting the Gorn. Plus our barrel kept bursting!
If you want to get in touch Sean – I am now at firstname.lastname@example.org