The release of a new Star Trek movie has always been a self contained holiday for me. Even as The Next Generation era films declined a bit in quality, the days never brought with them any trepidation or concern; it's new Trek which is always a cause for celebration. As a lifelong Trek fan, I've found different facets to love in each incarnation of the show, but my strongest feelings and deepest wells of nostalgia are reserved for The Original Series and The Next Generation. I have early memories of watching reruns of the former all the time on our pre-cable TV, and the latter started while I was in grade school. Part of my love of reading originates in the hundreds of Star Trek novels I read in my youth. There's simply so much to love in this universe and about these characters.
To that end, I decided to spend this week's Shock-O-Rama highlighting the top five best Original Series episodes for horror fans. These are the episodes which most resemble horror films in either theme or plot elements. Without further ado, the fifth most frightening original Star Trek episode is....
5. What are Little Girls Made of?
Episode Seven of Season One
Original Air date: October 20, 1966
With a erie resemblance to both Westworld and The Stepford Wives, this episode see one Dr. Roger Kolby, the now deranged former fiancé of Nurse Chapel, attempt to take over the galaxy with duplicate androids. The flaw in his plan? In his arrogance he duplicated the irreplaceable James T. Kirk, intergalactic ladies man extraordinaire. Spock's mama didn't raise no fool and the jig is quickly up. The really interesting reveal is that Kolby himself is now an android, having transferred his consciousness into his new body before his organic original succumbed to frostbite. As was the case with many of these scenarios, Kirk rolls a natural 20 on his bluff to convinces the machine that he is nothing more than that. Kirk and Spock do this so often than intergalactic AI suicide hotlines must have crafted contingency plans around it. This episode is also noteworthy because it marks the point where Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett Roddenberry) becomes a regular character.
4. And the Children Shall Lead
Episode Four of Season Three
Original Air Date: October 11, 1968
Where will they lead us? Why, to their fields of murder corn, of course. The resemblance to 1984's Children of the Corn could only be more uncanny if the kid in charge was an odd looking ginger...oh. At least the oddly tall leader of these mental murder spree darlings isn't named Malachai. It seems a malicious spirit-like entity (Gorgan) is influencing the children into committing horrific acts, which leads to the deaths of all of their parents. Before the crew are able to unravel the truth, the children's illusionary magic fools Kirk into beaming two redshirts into empty space (to be fair, Kirk thought they were still in orbit over the expedition site thanks to space kiddie mojo). Trek fans know this isn't the worst thing to ever happen to poor, trusting red shirts, but being spaced has to suck something fierce.
3. Cat's Paw
Episode seven of season two
Original Air Date: October 27, 1967
Released the week of Halloween in 1967, this episode makes the list by virtue of its gothic horror trappings. Taking place predominantly inside a medieval castle, replete with dungeons, this Hammer horror flavored adventure is based on the Robert Bloch short story "Broomstick Ride". It features zombified crewmen (Sulu, Scotty, and later McCoy), voodoo starship curses, magic transmutation, and a black cat that is more than she appears. The true root cause is still aliens with advanced technology, Kirk still becomes the object of a space babe's affection, and some poor crewman (in this case Jackson) still dies horribly. Yup, it's still Star Trek, but the infusion of style from the house that Lee and Cushing built is a welcome change from the standard formula.
2. The Man Trap
Episode one of Season one
Original Air Date: September 8, 1966
Remember the time before vampires sparkled and stalked romanced teenage girls? Oh boy Leonard McCoy sure does! He'd love to tell us all about, but first he and the Enterprise have to go and check up on archaeologist Professor Crater and his wife Nancy (an old flame of the good country doctor). McCoy hasn't seen Nancy in ten years but boy does she still look young and pretty. What's that? Oh the extra large delivery of salt tabs? Crewman Darnell has that right outside...oh my god! He's dead, Jim! His body's completely drained of all salt *blink-blink*. All jokes aside, The Man Trap had the honor of being the first episode of Star Trek to hit network airwaves. It features solid story telling with classic call backs to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Nancy, who is really a salt vampire, is eventually done in by distraught former lover McCoy, in a scene very reminiscent of Lucy Westenra's death from the granddaddy of all vampire tomes. A great episode in general, but one of the best of the horror-esk installments.
1. Wolf in the Fold
Episode fourteen of Season Two
Original Air Date: December 22, 1967
Th affable Mr. Scott stands accused of murder most foul on the planet of Argelius II. We know he couldn't be the culprit, not our lovable chief engineer, but the evidence sure does seems stacked against him as he's discovered over the body, in a fog soaked alley, with a bloody knife in his hand! If this at all reminds you of a slasher film, that's because it's a tale based around the most famous real life slasher killer of them all: Jack the Ripper. As per the lore set down during this gripping installment of Trek, the essence of the ripper is a mind controlling electrical entity called "Redjac" (or Red Jack, one of the names given to Jack The Ripper). As an immortal entity, Redjac despises women and feeds on their terror. Eventually Kirk uses the transporter to scatter it across a wide swath of space, but not before we're terrorized in the style of the best (albeit tamest) of Italian Giallo flicks. A seriously memorable episode, especially for anyone who is a sucker for expanded fictional truths to real historical events.
If you're patently awaiting Abrams' newest take on Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, you might as well put that Netflix account to good use and enjoy some of the scariest that classic Trek has to offer.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.