The first regular Star Trek episode to be made, "The Corbomite Maneuver" originally aired after several other episodes because of the time needed for the massive amount of unique special effects; but it's a chance to see Trek in its infancy with a bridge-based bottle show designed to highlight the interaction between the characters. (In fact, with DeForest Kelley and Nichelle Nichols - not to mention Grace Lee Whitney - joining the cast for this episode, it marks the first time the original Star Trek crew we know and love was able to begin building their chemistry as a whole).
Like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, much of "Corbomite" features Kirk and his crew standing on the bridge watching effects and attempting to outthink an unknown adversary who doesn't know what to make of them. It's not a story for everyone, with some people preferring more action and excitement (or more pretty girls); but it's very Star Trek, and director Joseph Sargent successfully builds the tension in each act, creating a natural sense of curiosity for first time viewers unsure about what's going to happen next.
Anthony Hall stars as Lieutenant Bailey, with the character getting his own little story here (with enough interest to merit a sequel, though it never happens) but it's Ted Cassidy ("You rang?") as the voice of "Balok", the alien puppet, that steals the show.
The main cast members themselves begin to settle into their roles quite nicely. McCoy delivers his first variant of "I'm a doctor, not and Spock (at the request of the director) responds to a stunning sight with "fascinating" for the first time. Kirk himself is firmly in command of the ship, almost enjoying the cat and mouse game with Balok. But the chemistry between the three is not yet there. McCoy spends much of the time playing the ship's counselor, talking down to Kirk and ignoring Spock (who sits helpless in his chair, unable to present Kirk with ideas and strategies). Looking back, it's easy to see how the relationship needs to be reshuffled to set up a tripod upon which an episode can be built upon.
Other rough edges would later be smoothed out as well, including lighting issues, awkward camera angles, extraneous stage noises and uniform inconsistency. But for a beginning, "Corbomite Maneuver" accomplishes a lot, giving future directors a nice example of what a bridge-based story should look like.
Remastered Version: As an effects heavy episode, this one provided CBS Digital with lots to do, though the original effects are rather stunning themselves and an example of early Star Trek's best work. As such, the remastered version is fun to watch but not as much of an upgrade as some other "effects" episodes (like The Galileo Seven and The Doomsday Machine). Sticking to the original ideas, the CGI team basically gives us the original ideas in a more realistic way. But with about six minutes of new effects, the work stands out.
Almost as notable as not fixing Kirk's grave in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", CBS Digital leaves another mistake alone here: Sulu, supposedly responding to Balok announcing "You now have two minutes" says, "I knew he would". It would be a genuinely funny moment, except the sound editors forgot to insert Balok's line. While some versions of the episode delete Sulu's line to eliminate evidence of the mistake, the Blu-ray edition keeps it intact. (On the other hand, the ship's chronometer, with the original (also appearing in "The Naked Time") being incorrectly geared, is replaced with a visual that counts down time correctly.