Recurring Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig
Star Trek continues its trend to be reliable television and little else. Take all the stigma of the fact it is Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry’s cult hit gets by episode after episode without rocking the boat, or starship, too much. While it is hard to pinpoint many weak moments in the season, each episode being an individual, strong adventure, there is a definite sense that there are a lack of strong moments too. The season finale is a tense cat and mouse game between the Enterprise and a stranger, but bears little difference to the twenty five episodes that came before it. The series is written, so it can be shuffled about at will, audiences picking up any one at ease (George Takei is actually absent for a large part of the season due to conflicting projects, but in cleverly shuffling the episodes, it isn’t as noticeable). However, this also leads to too many episodes coming one after the other with the same plot. Season Two enjoys stories about one of the Prime Directives being broken, where the Federation are unable to introduce any of its technologies to a primitive species. This is admittedly a fun topic, because the heroes find themselves unable to defend themselves from tribal savages with their phasers, which brings up some fun problems to be solved. However, when the third episode on the trot, reaffirms what the Prime Directive is, you begin to lose patience with the writing. It makes it for a frustrating watch, because, at some moments, this is a much stronger season. The Klingons crop up regularly, if not in person, in conversation, so we are always aware that there is a background conflict between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. There are hardly any duff episodes, which Season One was guilty of. Certain beats show off stronger writing. However, there is still a lack of desire to push itself, so by the midpoint in the season, the qualities are lost upon the audience.
Star Trek is always fun though. In fact, this sense of fun is built upon since last time. There are far more moments in Season Two, where you feel that Roddenberry has decided to have his cake and eat it. Filler episodes are made worthwhile, due to a nice portion of comedy. It impossible not to have an episode where Kirk is faced with a super computer and not have Spock’s cold logic poked fun at. It makes for an entertaining thrill ride and while Season One had stronger moments, Season Two is never anything less than fun. It is also here that we see William Shatner come into his own. Shatner is the talk of much controversy in the acting fraternity, claiming that the man uses melodrama too often, the opposite of how a character should act on-screen. But it cannot be denied that without Shatner, we would have half a show. Whether he is raising an eyebrow to a comical situation or monologuing about human values with undeniable passion, Shatner is a commanding presence. He is less a foil for Spock this time around and more a lead hero, someone we tune in every week to see. Certain moments in Season Two would not have worked without Shatner as James T. Kirk and little gems like that is why people return to this original series time after time to satisfy their Star Trek desires. It’s not all fun and games though. There are some strong, emotional moments. Surprisingly, Episode One is probably the highlight, Spock suddenly growing erratic and violent as his mating season draws near. The episode is constantly unpredictable and ends in a shocking and genius way; one of the moments that can be held up as Star Trek at its best. There are also strong moments in a murder mystery where Spock meets his father and an episode where the Enterprise come up against an intergalactic Doomsday device. It is also quite touching to see Spock become more open to the human way of life as the season progresses, shown only in how he interacts with Kirk and Bones throughout the season. I would still appreciate an ongoing story arc through the season, but in the meantime, this is a strong substitute.
Final Verdict: Star Trek’s second season embraces the playful side of Sci-Fi, but still lacks a strong ongoing story arc.