Worst Episode of Star Trek Ever
Space is the final frontier which Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise had a five-year mission to explore. Unfortunately, NBC decided they only had three years before cancelling the show. But with only 79 episodes Star Trek left an imprint on pop culture few shows can hope to match. The cult audience it had during it’s original airing only grew, as reruns and syndication turned countless TV viewers into Trekkies. Series creator Gene Rodenberry seemed to have a perfect grasp on how science fiction could be used to tell very human stories which would resonate with audiences. Despite the aliens and spaceships, Trek was ultimately a show about humanity which tackled topics like; war, racism, sexuality, politics and religion. However, in the third season, the network infamously moved the burgeoning show to the Friday night death slot and forced Rodenberry to dumb it down in hopes of appealing to a younger audience. This led to many of the goofiest episodes of this cerebral show’s run, and it all kicked off with the episode seen by many as the worst Star Trek episode ever “Spock’s Brain”.
It opens with a familiar scenario, the Enterprise is venturing through space when it runs across a mysterious newcomer who kicks the action off. This time the newcomer is a woman in a ridiculous outfit (even by Trek standards) who uses a hi-tech bracelet to incapacitate the crew, but pays particular attention to the resident science officer Spock. Once normalcy is restored, Kirk is alerted by McCoy that Spock’s brain is gone!!!! Restoring the brain to Kirk’s right-hand man of course is the priority, which leads them to the Sigma Draconis system. After a confrontation with a race of cave men they venture underground where they meet Kara, the mysterious woman who caused this trouble to begin with along with her ward Luma. They learn that Kara was responsible for taking Spock’s “Controller” for her society to utilize. McCoy successfully retrieves the brain of his shipmate, though he doubts his skills to return it to it’s rightful place. Luckily Spock is able to communicate via communicator and aids the doctor in putting his brain back.
While “Spock’s Brain” has earned all the ridicule and scorn which It has received over the years, there is no denying a certain silly B-movie charm to it. While the tone seems more in line with a Roger Corman film than an episode of Star Trek it is quite entertaining in a certain way. That being said for those accustomed to the cerebral science fiction they have been watching for the past two seasons, the silliness of the crew looking for Spock’s brain surely made many viewers stop and say “…the hell?”. Of course in the world Gene Rodenberry created is one of aliens and spaceships, but a character loosing his brain and his friends having to find it is really pushing the envelope in terms of what has been established as acceptable.
While Star Trek was never renowned for it’s special fx and production values, “Spock’s Brain” in particular lacks in this department. The sets look cheaper than in the past; the editing is off; and the costumes look sillier than usual. While the performance of William Shatner has never been considered subtle, the actor seemingly dials it up a few notches for this particular episode. Whereas he is usually balanced out by his co-stars, for this episode he seems to drag them along for the ride. In particular DeForest Kelley grimaces and pantomimes his way spectacularly through the episodes. The normally stabilizing force of Leonard Nimoy is largely reduced to stiffly wandering around being remote controlled by a silly device which has been rigged up for the brainless Vulcan.
“Spock’s Brain” has become synonymous among fans of science fiction in general with poor quality television. While it is far from the worst episode of a TV show ever, it’s pop culture legacy has been cemented. It is largely emblematic of the decline the once powerful show took as it began it’s final journey. While I do not recommend it to someone checking out Star Trek for the first time it is worth a watch if not for curiosity sake.