To Boldly Go...
If, like me, your favourite Star Trek series is the original one then you might like the pearls of wisdom and wit scattered across the episodes like stars in the galaxy.
Why, do I prefer the original series? That’s easy - it’s funnier, wittier and has a simple home-grown wisdom flowing though it that some of the subsequent incarnations are missing. I don’t mean to say that it was without drama and tension; there too, it scored highly. It’s just that the offspring of the original series tend to take themselves a little too seriously. I also think the balance of characters in that first series was near perfect – the combination of Kirk’s wit, Spock’s dry and sardonic observations, Scotty’s panic-stricken outbursts and Bones’ sarcasm – made for a great dynamic.
Out of all the original Star Trek characters, who had the best one-liners, the most biting wit or their fingers on the pulse of a generation…?
Mongomery 'Scotty' Scott
‘Scotty’ was the Chief engineer of the Enterprise played by Canadian, James Doohan. Stubborn and emotional, ‘Scotty’ was the glue that held the ship (and often the crew) together. Scotty knew that if he looked after the Enterprise, she would look after him. Still, in nearly every episode there was a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ situation, usually culminating in the phrase “She canna take no more, Captain!”, shortly before he miraculously fixes the problem (Apollo 13 style). Even if Scotty, was not the wittiest of characters, he was pivotal to many of the story lines and was blessed with a straight-forward approach that endeared him to fans and gave him the authority to deliver some of the best and most direct lines of the series.
“The best diplomat that I know is a fully loaded phaser bank.” – Scotty in ‘A Taste of Armageddon’
Leonard 'Bones' McCoy
Dr McCoy (or ‘Bones’) played by DeForest Kelley, was a close friend of Captain Kirk, and as such was an influence on Kirk’s decision–making process (as was Spock). However, McCoy was the complete opposite to Spock, in that he was cranky, blunt and very human. This made for an interesting juxtaposition between Kirk, Spock and McCoy – usually with Kirk in the middle of two very different arguments.
“You! What planet is this?” – McCoy (to a poor hobo in 1930’s Chicago) in ‘City on the Edge of Forever’
Like the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, McCoy was not afraid of voicing his opinion, especially when it came to arguments with Spock, and like Scotty he was fixated on his role within the Enterprise; that of a doctor. Whenever a moral argument arose during an episode (which happened nearly every time the show was screened), you could guarantee that McCoy would be in the middle of it, wearing his ‘doctor’s hat’ and arguing fervently with Spock.
Like many of the main characters in the show, McCoy had interchangeable catch phrases – McCoy’s usually starting with an exasperated: “What am I, a doctor or… (Fill in the blank)?” - or something similar.
“What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?” - McCoy in ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’
“Near as I can tell, they’re born pregnant... which seems to be quite a time-saver!” – McCoy (talking about Tribbles) in ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’
Spock, often known as Mister Spock (Leonard Nimoy), is one of the most well-known characters of any science fiction series ever. Half-Vulcan and half-Human, Spock, was able to walk the tight-rope between totally logical (Vulcan) thinking and understanding (Human) emotions – although he often struggled in that respect. This ability to see both perspectives enabled Spock to aid Captain Kirk with detached and cool observations. Unfortunately, that same ‘detachment’ also brought him into direct conflict with the highly emotional Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy.
“The readings are perfectly normal for me, Doctor, thank you. And as for my anatomy being different from yours, I am delighted.” – Spock (in conversation with Bones) in ‘The Naked Time’
Spock’s quiet and dry humour proved a perfect counter foil to Kirk’s more robust shenanigans, at the same time he offered plenty of pearls of wisdom (although, even he, got it wrong sometimes).
“The mid-1990s was the era of your so-called Third World War” - Spock in ‘Space Seed’
Captain James T. Kirk
James Kirk, was the captain of the Enterprise, and played with gusto by William Shatner. Although Shatner has often been criticised for ‘camping up’ or over–acting in the role of Kirk – I don’t think the series would have been a hit without him. The greatest thing about Kirk’s character is that he was all too human, he made mistakes, he suffered and he fell in love (nearly every episode) – he also had a ‘cocky’ arrogance that was quite appealing, and an irreverent humour that was a perfect opposite to Spock’s dry introspections. Kirk was also a man of action, throwing himself gamely into the most dangerous situations and coming out unscathed and wiser (while the unknown crewman in the ‘away team’ wearing the red shirt invariably perished).
“There’s only one kind of woman...or man, for that matter. You either believe in yourself or you don’t.” - Kirk in ‘Mudd’s Women’
“One of the advantages of being a Captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.” - Kirk in ‘Dagger of the Mind’
Of course there are other memorable characters for the original series, such as Uhura, Sulu and Chekov – but the four above are my favourites.
Hope you enjoyed this dive back into the archives of Star Trek: The Original Series. And remember...Live long, and prosper.