Part I: The Defiant has arrived at Earth and Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Lt. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) are beamed to the surface, where they will address the Starfleet Symposium in San Fran on the situation in their area (the Gamma Quadrant). But they never arrive! Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) has no clue what happened; it was a transporter accident (very common in the ST universe). Meanwhile, the three find themselves in San Fran, but the time is 2024. Bashir and Sisko are arrested and put the Sanctuary District (a ghetto where homeless, jobless, and mentally ill people live). Sisko notices this is a few days before a major riot breaks out (a pivotal moment in history). Lee (Tina Lifford), a woman working at the processing center, gives them ration cards (for food) and explains how things work. Dax is assisted by Chris Brynner, a wealthy businessman, who helps her get an ID and hotel room (assuming she was mugged).
Part II: Sisko has taken the place of the revolutionary Gabriel Bell to ensure the hostages at the processing center stay safe. He needs to keep the trigger-happy B.C. (Frank Military) and security guard Vin (Dick Miller) calm and away from each other. Bashir fears for the captain’s life, as the original Bell died in the riots. When their new friend, Webb (Bill Smitrovich), manages to reach the processing center, Sisko asks him to find some stable men to guard the hostages. Dax decides to take action, frustrated w/ just watching the news on the riots. On the Defiant, Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Chief O’Brien decide that their only option is to go back into the past, though Odo (Rene Auberjonois) looks a bit worried. (This ep as directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker on TNG.)
Sisko: By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.
Bashir: Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?
Sisko: No, people with criminal records weren’t allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.
Bashir: Then what did they do to deserve this?
Sisko: Nothing. Just people, without jobs or places to live.
Bashir: Ah, so they get put in here?
Sisko: Welcome to the 21st century, Doctor.
Bashir [after a day at Sanctuary]:Causing people to suffer because you hate them… is terrible. But causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care… that’s really hard to understand.
This is the first Star Trek production to feature scenes set in the 21st Century. Ira Steven Behr’s inspiration to create the Bell Riots was the 1971 riot in New York’s Attica Prison (where inmates demanded better living conditions). While this ep was being shot in LA, the city was deciding whether they should set up a separate area for the homeless. This is the kind of story that Roddenberry would’ve approved of, as it tackles current social problems under the guise of sci-fi. If you (or a friend) are new to Trek, these might be up your alley.
Chris: Don’t worry, your friends are fine. That’s the whole point of the Sanctuary, to give people in trouble food and a place to stay.
Dax: If that’s all it’s for, then why is there a wall around it?
On the Women at Warp podcast (May 8, 2016), they discussed these eps in depth. Sisko and Bashir (both men of color) are quickly taken away and arrested; Dax (who landed in a different area) and is a beautiful white woman was the one who got rescued. Though Dax is not human (she is a Trill w/ hundreds of years of knowledge), she easily explains that her markings are tattoos. Later on, we see her at a party w/ Chris’ upper class friends; one couple is annoyed that protests in Europe led them to cancel their vacation. Dax knows just how to charm Chris and uses her privilege to help her friends. Sisko decides that Webb (an even-tempered white man w/ a family) should be the public face of the riot; this is a clever move. While police surround the area, Webb gets on the call w/ Det. Preston (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and states the demands of the Sanctuary residents. Bashir, young and coming from a sheltered background, learns much from Sisko and experiencing hardship. Kira and O’Brien provide a sprinkling of humor in the dark story by hopping through time periods.
 Filled with action, intrigue, a dash of horror and mystery, along with a good deal of fret by both sides of the coin, this episode brings the awful truth of wartime drama to the audience.
 This episode delivers a few memorable scenes of our heroic Enterprise officers behaving in atypical fashion, recalling a few other episodes where they were subverted mentally somehow. In this case, it involved reversion to basic primal instincts such as race hatred and bloodthirst, allowing actors Kelley, Doohan, Koenig and even the usually placid Nimoy to tap into their inner rage. The intense quarrel between Spock and Scotty is especially startling.
 Michael Ansara’s Kang was superbly cast in his role as the Klingon commander who has no qualms about torturing Chekov or shutting off life systems in those sections of the Enterprise which the Federation crew still control. Bixby also gives an important role to Mara, Kang’s wife and one of the only Klingon women ever depicted in TOS, as the peacemaker of the show who ultimately convinces Kang to reach a truce with Kirk.
-Excerpts from IMBD reviews
After receiving a distress call, the Enterprise goes to a Federation colony; when the landing party beams down, they find no one. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise have to deal w/ a nearby Klingon ship which they believe to be responsible. When the Klingon ship is disabled, they assume the attack came from the Enterprise. Commander Kang (Michael Ansara) argues with Kirk about who attacked who, then holds Kirk and his party hostage. Kirk sends Spock (Leonard Nimoy) a signal before they’re beamed up. Spock beams the landing party up and keeps the Klingons de-materialized until a security team is ready to subdue them. Kirk imprisons the Kilngons (about 40 in total). Kang wears the same golden sash that would be worn (on the opposite shoulder) by Lt. Worf in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Spock informs Kirk that the Klingons were too far to attack the colony. After some Klingon plotting and waiting to take over, the Enterprise crew loses control (the ship starts warping in a random course). A large portion of the crew becomes trapped on an isolated area of the ship, leaving 40 men. The usual phasers we see turn into swords; this ep has sword fighting. Kirk uses a US Model 1860 cavalry saber. Scotty finds a type of sword in the armory which Scots are very proud of- a basket hilt Claymore (from the Elizabethan era or later).
Mr. Spock: [deflecting Scott’s maniac temper from Kirk] Easy, Mr. Scott.
Scott: Keep your Vulcan hands off me! Just keep away! Your feelings might be hurt, you green-blooded half-breed!
Mr. Spock: May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.
Scott: Then transfer out, freak!
An alien creature of unknown origin has come aboard; it feeds off hate and violence! A wild-eyed Scotty (James Doohan) nearly gets into a fight w/ Spock (who is also changed) on the bridge; the captain has to intercede. Chekov (Walter Koenig) wants revenge for the death of a brother (though Sulu explains that he’s an only child). He nearly assaults Mara (Susan Howard), Kang’s wife/science officer, but is stopped by Kirk and Spock.
Dr. McCoy: Gentlemen, if we are pawns, you’re looking at one who is extremely sorry.
Mr. Spock: I understand, Doctor. I, too, felt a brief surge of racial bigotry. Most distasteful.
I was looking up reviews for this ep when I found a (hilarious) Trump parody.
The Enterprise is transporting several diplomatic delegations to a conference on Babel re: the future of the mineral-rich planet, Coridan. This ep introduces the Andorians and the Tellarites; later in the series, we learn that they are two of the four founding members of the United Federation of Planets. Among the passengers are Mr. Spock’s parents, the Vulcan ambassador, Sarek (Marc Lenard), and his human wife, Amanda (Jane Wyatt from Father Knows Best). There is obviously a chill between father and son. It turns out that Sarek is very ill w/ a heart condition; Dr. McCoy wonders if/how he can be saved. To add to the drama, there tension among the delegations; a spy is transmitting messages to a hostile ship which is following closely. When Capt. Kirk is wounded in an attack, Spock takes command just as his father needs a transfusion (that only he can provide)!
In the first ep ever to feature Spock’s parents (who are fan faves); Lenard received more fan mail than Nimoy for two weeks after this aired. We learn that Vulcans have a longer lifespan than humans. Being new to the show, Lenard and Wyatt asked Nimoy for advice on how the two of them could display their love in a subtle way. Nimoy suggested Sarek and Amanda touch and stroke each other’s hand by the index and middle finger. In S1 of TOS, Lenard (who was only 6 yrs older than Nimoy) played the unnamed Romulan commander in another terrific ep- Balance of Terror. Lenard had been a potential candidate for the recasting of Spock (when salary negotiations w/ Nimoy were going on at the end of S1).
Writer D.C. Fontana chose the name “Amanda” for Spock’s mother b/c it means “worthy of love” in Latin- how cool! She had become curious about past references to Spock’s background and fully fleshed them out here. Fontana also thought this would be an interesting way to reflect issues of the Generation Gap. Roddenberry wanted Kirk to be more involved with the story, so he wrote the scene where Amanda explains to Kirk about the rift between her son and husband. However, Fontana felt that it would be inappropriate for Amanda to discuss this w/ someone she had just met.
 …though there are some humorous moments, it’s mostly an episode driven by intrigue, suspense and interesting drama on the Vulcan side, where even more backstory is revealed on Spock…
Nimoy gives another subtly excellent performance; his demeanor is slightly different when speaking with his mother about the situation between himself and his father. Despite the Vulcan reserve, you sense his discomfort and sadness.
 The presence of Spock’s parents allows writers D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry to further their character development of Spock as a man half-Vulcan and half-human. There are a number of wryly humorous moments between Spock and his father, who we learn not only have the normal Vulcan unemotional relationship, but who have some bad feelings towards each other. Maybe because they’re feelings, they don’t talk about it, and just ignore the situation as best as they can. Amanda… proves to be a surprising fulcrum balancing the two.
This was the first episode of the original Star Trek to air on TV. We get to see the developing chemistry between the main crew members, an alien creature, and interesting planetary scenery. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a young redshirt (Michael Zaslow, who later became a soap opera star) beam down to a planet to provide medical supplies to Dr. Crater and his wife, Nancy, a former girlfriend of McCoy’s. Oddly, each man sees Nancy as a different woman from his past. Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms and/or characters who are expendable, and often killed.
The joking banter between Kirk and McCoy shows that the captain is not just an authority figure, and the doctor has a lot of charm. We learn re: Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and his logical Vulcan personality. There is a flirty early scene between him and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); this (no doubt) inspired the romance between the characters in J.J. Abrams recent reboot movies. Uhura tried and succeeded in making Spock hot under the collar (notice the little move Nimoy does at end of the clip).
Episode 4: Where No Man Has Gone Before
The episode title was the closing phrase of the opening credits (voiced by Shatner) and has gone on to shape sci-fi and pop culture! After investigating what happened to the Valiant, the Enterprise encounters a magnetic space storm that gives Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) dangerous/godlike powers and ESP. When Mitchell, a friend of Kirk’s from Starfleet Academy, unleashes his powers on the crew, Spock suggests that he should be killed. Kirk disagrees and takes him to a remote planet, but there is more to the story.
There is action and fine acting by Lockwood and Sally Kellerman (psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner). Lockwood (a former football player and stuntman) was the star of Roddenberry’s first TV show- The Lieutenant (1963). In 1968, he was cast as the co-lead in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic sci-fi film- 2001: A Space Odyssey. You get a glimpse into humanity’s struggle for power and the corruption it breeds. Kirk knows that Mitchell didn’t ask for what happened to him; thus begins a tradition of complicated/sympathetic villains in the world of Star Trek.
Episode 5: The Naked Time
Spock and a redshirt- Tormolen- beam down to a planet (wearing funky/orange environmental suits) to investigate. They discover a frozen lab w/ 6 dead scientists. They also get exposed to a substance that strips people of their inhibitions. After beaming back aboard, Tormolen ends up killing himself (riddled w/ self-doubt). You get to see the chemistry between Bones (Kirk’s nickname for McCoy) and the captain; they’ve known each other a long time.
Riley, another young crewman, begins acting goofy (going on about being Irish and singing songs). Most famously, Sulu (George Takei), begins to parade around w/ a sword (like a musketeer). Riley ends up taking over the engineering room, and basically, the ship becomes chaos! Spock stops Sulu by applying the Vulcan nerve pinch (which Nimoy came up w/ himself, as an alternative to a violent strike). As you see in S1 E6, it was Shatner’s over the top reaction that sold this move to producers. Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) and Spock have a nice scene, and he gets infected (after she holds his hand). There is a lot of comedy, but fans also love it for Nimoy’s terrific performance. Capt. Kirk is even infected, so we hear his regret at not having a personal life.
Episode 6: The Enemy Within
Star Trek takes on Jekyll and Hydew/ an ep focused on Kirk (and Shatner’s unique style of acting). During a survey of a new planet, a technician is exposed to a substance that alters the Enterprise’s transporter. When Kirk beams aboard the ship, he is split into two: one good, one evil. After the lustful/violent Kirk attempts to assault Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney), Spock deduces that there is an imposter aboard. The good Kirk is lacking confidence and indecisive (looking to Spock for his trusted guidance). The episode looks into the duality of human nature; the two halves need to coexist together inside one body. There is also an alien animal which is (obviously) a small dog in a furry costume w/ a horn on its head- LOL! This ep was directed by Leo Penn (father of actor Sean Penn); he went over-schedule, so was sadly not asked back to work.
Episode 11: The Corbomite Maneuver
While developing star maps of a distant region of space, the Enterprise is confronted by a box-shaped alien ship commanded by a powerful being- Balok. When he threatens to destroy the ship, Kirk comes up with a cunning bluff to convince the alien that the Enterprise is carrying a deadly substance (corbomite) which could destroying both ships. This is the first ep to show Kirk’s daring in a face-off w/ another ship in space. Kirk bends the rules for the greater good and turns a potentially fatal situation into a victory. By using his imagination instead of violence, a better outcome is achieved.
Episodes 12 &13: The Menagerie (Parts I & II)
The only 2-part episode of ST: TOS which calls back to former star dates when the Enterprise was comprised of a different crew (aside from Spock). Before Shatner was cast as Kirk, Star Trek shot a pilot (The Cage) starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike and Number One (Majel Barrett)- his female first officer. The network rejected that pilot, considering it too cerebral and thinking it too unrealistic to have a woman as senior officer. Barrett would play Nurse Chapel on the show (w/ a blonde wig) and the voice of the computer system. She married the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, in 1969.
This is a clip-show w/ Starfleet’s version of a courtroom drama. Spock abducts his former commander, the recently disabled Capt. Pike, and heads for Talos IV, where The Cage took place. The punishment for traveling to this planet is death, according to Starfleet. Spock turns himself in and presents an elaborate story in defense of his actions. We meet a beautiful/mysterious human woman (played by Susan Oliver) and the Talosians (a large-headed alien race who communicate w/ their thoughts and have the power to create illusions which look like reality).
Episode 15: Balance of Terror
At the 50th anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in August 2016, fans voted this the 8th best episode of the entire franchise! The Enterprise battles a Romulan ship suspected of destroying outposts in the Neutral Zone in this tense, intelligent, and though-provoking ep. The Romulan Bird-of-Prey has a cloaking device. Since two-way visual communications didn’t exist during the Earth-Romulan War about a 100 yrs ago, Romulans and humans have never seen one another. The Enterprise has to confront a brilliant enemy leader and also its own bigotry, as the unnamed Romulan commander (Marc Lenard, who later played Spock’s father- Sarek) resembles a Vulcan! Budget and time constraints prevented the make-up and costuming departments from dressing up each of the Romulans in Vulcan ears. They decided to give the lesser Romulans helmets, which were redressed Roman helmets from the studio’s Biblical epics of the ’50s.
Network restrictions at the time forbade the tackling of any controversial subjects (EX: Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the rise of feminism). ST: TOS, under the form of sci-fi, boldly flouted these rules! This story openly deals with the subject of racism, as reflected through Lt. Stiles’ (Paul Comi) opposition to Spock. Lenard (who worked mainly in theater until his early 40s) said: “The Romulan Commander was one of the best roles I ever had on TV. In many ways, I did enjoy that role [Sarek], but I think the more demanding role and the better acting role was the Romulan Commander.” When Nimoy held out for a better contract (after the first season), Lenard was one of the leading candidates to replace him as Spock. Nimoy (who received more fan mail than Shatner and an Emmy nom) eventually got a raise from $1,250 to $2,500 per episode.
Episode 17: The Galileo Seven
This ep features a shuttlecraft (for the first time). Spock leads a research team aboard the Galileo on a mission that begins as an investigation of a mysterious quasar-like formation. Forced to make an emergency landing on Taurus II, a fog-shrouded planet, Spock and crew face off w/ large/ape-like creatures armed w/ huge spears. These creatures pose immediate threats to the crew, but Spock also goes up against hisgreatest enemy– his own logic- when faced w/ decisions of command. Nimoy comes center stage (for the first time and proves that Spock can serve as the driving force of an ep). Spock’s logic is thwarted by several events. In a desperate attempt to escape the planet, Spock makes an illogical gamble!
Episode 23: Space Seed
This very famous ep introduced Star Trek‘s most popular villain: the genetically enhanced superman from the 20th century, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán). Following positive feedback from producers and the network, this was the first episode to feature a prominent role for Scotty (James Doohan). The Enterprise comes across a long-lost Earth vessel, the Botany Bay, containing a cryogenically frozen Khan and his crew. After manipulating historian Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) w/ his strong will/magnetism, Khan and his superhuman soldiers take command of the Enterprise. Carey Wilber (the scriptwriter) used the 18th c. British custom of shipping out the undesirables as a parallel for his concept of “seed ships,” used to take unwanted criminals out to space from the overpopulated Earth.
Khan is the perfect villain for Kirk to take on, as he is a mentally/physically superior being who threatens his command and crew. Montalban was always the first choice for Khan; he had been suggested by casting director Joseph D’Agosta, who was not looking to cast an actor of a particular ethnic background due to Roddenberry’s vision (of race neutrality) for the series. Montalban (born in Mexico to Spanish parents) came up in the theater, like several actors in the Star Trek franchise, and does a terrific job. The actor thought his role was “wonderful,” saying “it was well-written, it had an interesting concept and I was delighted it was offered to me.” This episode inspired two films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), in which Montalban once again played the role, and Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) w/ Benedict Cumberbatch.
Episode 25: This Side of Paradise
Was humanity meant to live in an Eden? This memorable ep explores that question when the Enterprise investigates a colony destroyed by deadly ray beams on a planet. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and some redshirts beam down to the planet’s surface to discover that Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton) and his colonists are still alive and in perfect health, enjoying a pastoral existence off the grid. The colony’s botanist, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) knew Spock 6 yrs ago and has deep feelings for him still. She leads him a flowering plant whose spores cause euphoria and loss of inhibitions. Spock declares that he loves Leila and agrees to live in the commune! As you will see in the clip below, Nimoy plays this scene totally straight (revealing that he does love Leila, but was unable to express it before).
This ep has mutiny, temptation, and comedy. Kirk struggles to maintain control over the crew members who have been exposed to the spores. McCoy starts talking more Southern (w/ a slow drawl) and looking for ingredients of a mint julep- LOL! Writer D.C. Fontana (who started as a script editor) thwarts audience expectations by putting Kirk in the intellectual lead, while Spock’s half-human side is further developed. Nimoy was initially taken aback when he was told that they were working on a love story for Spock, but said it turned out “very lovely.” Here is a (funny) clip; we also get to see Nimoy’s smile.
Episode 26: The Devil in the Dark
The Enterprise travels to the planet Janus 6 to assist a mining colony. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to the planet where Chief Engineer Vanderberg tells of a creature loose in the mine tunnels killing his men. It seems to appear out nowhere, then disappears just as quickly. Finding that the creature, a Horta, lives in a newly-opened part of the underground mining complex, Spock uses the Vulcan mind meld to determine why it is killing the miners. Nimoy said the closing banter between Spock and Kirk was one of his faves, as “it was a wonderful moment which defined the relationship and defined the whole Spock character’s existence and his attitude about himself.”
Roddenberry considered this one of the best eps, saying: “The Horta suddenly became understandable… It wasn’t just a monster- it was someone. And the audience could put themselves in the place of the Horta… identify… feel! That’s what drama is all about. And that’s it’s importance, too… if you can learn to feel for a Horta, you may also be learning to understand and feel for other humans of different colors, ways, and beliefs.” Shatner identified this as his fave ep, b/c his father died during filming and Nimoy’s delivery of the mind meld lines made him laugh. He thought it was “exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks.”
Episode 29: The City on the Edge of Forever
This ep (loved by TV critics and fans) by Harlan Ellison shows us a sympathetic tale mixed w/ elements from the best of sci-fi. This was the most expensive episode produced during the first season, and also the most expensive episode of the entire series, except the two pilots. The average cost of each S1 ep was around $190,000. Production went over schedule, resulting in 8 shooting days (not 6, as usual). Ellison won a Hugo Award and a Writer’s Guild award for best teleplay. Joseph Pevney was chosen to direct on this episode because of his experience in directing 20+ films.
After an accidental overdose which makes him temporarily insane, McCoy beams down to an alien planet. A gateway, The Guardian of Forever, sends him back to Earth during the Great Depression. He somehow alters the course of time, erasing the Federation from history! Trapped in the limbo, Kirk and Spock travel back in time to 1930 (a week before McCoy) in an attempt to correct the course of history. They meet Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), a social worker who runs a mission and has dedicated her life to the needy. Spock works on building a computer to access material on his tricorder. Kirk and Edith have a romance; there is great chemistry between Shatner and Collins. The shocking truth is revealed- in order to fix the time alteration, Edith must die! When asked whether this ep was consciously commenting on the anti-Vietnam War movement, associate producer Robert H. Justman answered (in 1992), “Of course we did.”
Ellison’s original story outline and first draft script featured a crewman named Beckwith (not McCoy), who was dealing drugs. Beckwith murdered a fellow crewman, LeBeque, who was on the verge of turning him in, escaped to the planet the ship was orbiting, and went through time and changed history. The Enterprise was gone, and a savage pirate ship was in its place, full of renegade humans. Kirk and Spock follow Beckwith through the time portal to 1930 in NYC. Kirk still falls in love w/ the young social worker. Finally, w/ the help of a disabled WWI vet- Trooper (who dies in the action)- Kirk and Spock find Beckwith. In the end, Kirk does not stop him saving Edith, but freezes and Spock prevents her rescue. In the epilogue, Spock tries to console Kirk by saying: “No other woman was offered the universe for love.” This script was unusable for different reasons, so was rewritten several times. Roddenberry objected to the idea that drugs would still be a problem in the 23rd century, and even present among starship crews. Also, the production staff was strongly against Kirk’s final inactivity. It seemed that being unable to decide and act, viewers could never be able to accept him as the strong leader in later eps. Some elements were simply impossible to create on the series’ (low) budget.
The Killing (1956) starring Sterling Hayden, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr, Joe Sawyer, Timothy Carey, & Coleen Gray
None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They’ve all got jobs. They all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But, they’ve got their problems and they’ve all got a little larceny in ’em. -Johnny explains re: his team
After being released from a 5 yr. stint in prison, Johnny Clay (Hayden), has assembled a five man team, incl. two insiders, to carry out a $2M heist at Lansdowne Racetrack. Besides Johnny, none of the men are criminals in the usual sense. He has also hired two men (external to the team) for a flat fee; these men won’t know re: the bigger plan. Each of the five men has a specific reason for wanting his share of the money. Johnny wants to marry his long-time girlfriend Fay (Gray). Mike (Sawyer), a bartender, wants better healthcare for his sick wife. A cashier- George (Cook Jr.)- wants to make his cold/sarcastic wife- Sherry (Windsor)- happy.
I know you like a book. You’re a no good, nosy little tramp. You’d sell out your own mother for a piece of fudge; but, you’re smart along with it. Smart enough to know when to sail and when to sit tight and you know you better sit tight in this case. …You got great big dollar sign there, where most women have a heart. -Johnny sizes up Sherry
The total budget for the film was only $320,000; United Artists provided $200,000 and the rest was raised by producer James B. Harris. Initial test screenings were poor; the non-linear structure was the main problem, so Kubrick (just 27 y.o.) edited the film in a linear fashion (making the film even more confusing). In the end, it was released in its original form, and is often cited as being an influence on Quentin Tarantinoand Christopher Nolan. Kubrick wrote a script outline, then asked Jim Thompson to add the dialogue. The narration was added by the studio; Kubrick hated the idea. The film wasn’t marketed much by United Artists, premiering as the second half of a double feature. However, Kubrick (working for the first time w/ a professional crew) impressed Kirk Douglas (who soon hired him for Paths of Glory).
I read praise re: this movie recently (on Twitter and Facebook); it’s notable in the genre of film noir. The pacing and editing are very well-done. This is one of the first films to use natural lighting (EX: lamps) instead of studio lights, adding to its realism. There are no good/moral/heroic characters- quite rare for a ’50s film. The film had themes and characters identifiable (and recognizable) w/ any period. The supporting characters are almost as interesting as the lead.
Paths of Glory (1957) starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Joe Turkel, & Timothy Carey
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. -Synopsis
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. -Col. Dax describes Gen. Mireau’s (a line attributed to Samuel Johnson)
 It will really make you question things about our troubled, convoluted world and how things are to often immorally and inhumanly run all in the sick name of greed and destructive power. Not too lovely, for the director pulls no punches. This film really has grown more profound (and currently pertinent) since its initial release.
 Menjou and Macready portray two different military types. The arrogant MacReady as versus the very sly Menjou. Not very admirable either of them. Menjou was not very popular at this time in Hollywood because of the blacklist. He favored it very much, his politics were of the extreme right wing. Nevertheless he was a brilliant actor and never better than in this film, one of his last.
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews
Kubrick (then only 28 y.o.) purchased the film rights to Humphrey Cobb’s novel for $10,000. He approached Douglas with the script who fell in love with it, saying: “Stanley, I don’t think this picture will ever make a nickel, but we have to make it.” The film was not a success at the box office. The young director, who became known for his perfectionism, made Menjou (a veteran actor), do the same scene 17 times! Six hundred German policemen were hired as extras to play the French troops, while six cameras tracked the attack, recording their deaths. You see Kubrick’s trademark- the attention to the composition of shots (reflecting his background as a photographer).
The film is set in WWI amidst the incredibly destructive and futile trench warfare between France and Germany. Colonel Dax (Douglas) is ordered to make an impossible assault on a heavily-fortified enemy position. The only reason this charge is being made is that Gen. Mireau (Macready) believes that capturing the position will earn him a promotion. When the assault doesn’t happen b/c of heavy enemy bombardment, Gen. Mireau is infuriated and demands that three men be arbitrarily chosen to stand trial for cowardice (punishable by death). Col. Dax defends these men at their court-martial.
One memorable scene is where a soldier is nervously rambling to his buddy: “Most guys say that if they got shot they’d want to die quick. So what does that tell you? It means there not afraid of getting killed, they’re afraid of getting hurt. I think if you’re gonna get shot and live, it’s best to get shot in the rear than in the head. Why? Because in the rear its just meat, but the head, that’s pure bone. Can you imagine what it’s like for a bullet to rip through pure bone?” This dark humor helps show the insanity of their situation.
There is great use of irony in the film. The title comes from a poem by Thomas Gray called Elegy In a Country Churchyard where he noted that the paths of glory lead but to the grave. In the end, no one finds glory; Col. Dax loses the fight and turns down a promotion (b/c of his disgust for the army). Gen. Mireau is found out and court-marshalled. Churchill said that the film was a highly accurate depiction of trench warfare and the sometimes misguided workings of the military mind.