Friday, December 24, 2010

Star Trek For Beginners: The Television Series.

I'm currently on vacation, so posting in this in absentia:

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For those of you who are not already familiar with Star Trek, I'm going to break down all six of the Trek television series. I'll list them chronologically by date of production:

Star Trek (now called Star Trek: The Original Series). 1966 - 1969.

This was the show that started it all. Created by Gene Roddenberry it focused upon the crew of a starship called Enterprise in the 23rd century. The show had three main characters: Captain James T. Kirk, Science officer Spock, and Doctor Leonard 'Bones' McCoy.

A product of the late 60s, the stories were often parables about the cultural, and political ills of that era. The series conveyed a hopeful message that humanity would survive the 20th century and go on to create a great civilization based on the principles of equality and freedom, a love of science and complicated hairdos for women.

I started watching Star Trek in 1983 when I was ten. It was being rerun nightly on an American station out of Washington state. My appetite for science fiction had been whetted by Star Wars, Tron, The Black Hole, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I'd watched a few episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica series, but wasn't too impressed. CBC broadcast Dr. Who reruns that completely freaked me (GAH. I still hate that theme song. Its too spooky). So Star Trek was a nice, positive, non-scary anchor for my spacey, sciencey interests. Also, I thought Kirk was kinda cute.

Star Trek: the Animated Series. 1973-74.

The Enterprise's five-year mission continues. But with an even smaller budget.

I saw a few of the 22 episodes of this cartoon in reruns when I was about 8. I'm not a fan of cartoons, so it didn't interest me and I can't really offer up a real opinion about it.

The series is mostly noteworthy because it gave prominence to the original series supporting characters (ie Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Rand, etc) who appeared alongside the core triad of Kirk, Spock and Bones.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. 1987-1994.

Set approximately 100 years after the first series, this is about another crew on another ship named Enterprise.

The Next Generation aired while I was in junior high, then high school and during my first three years of university. I can not over state how it influenced every aspect of my life and inspired me in a myriad of ways.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. 1993-1999.

This series is set on a space station built near the mouth of a wormhole that leads to a distant quadrant of the galaxy.

Oh, God how I hated this show. Just this week I re-watched the premiere episode on youtube and it was just as horrible as I remember. I was at my friend Huge Eug's house and we sat in stunned silence during that train wreck of an episode. Kira Nerys was a one-dimensional shrew. Quark was suppose to be menacing, but he was just silly. There was a whole bunch of metaphysical nonsense with non-linear worm hole aliens/gods. Commander Sisko was a RUDE asshole who HATED our beloved Jean-Luc Picard. Oh. It was/is a bad episode.

I watched DS9 only sporadically through the series run, but it never intrigued me.

Then in 2002 we moved to a new town. I didn't know anyone. We were in a dumpy rental property. My husband was working long hours. We had a new baby. It was all very depressing. The one small bright part came after we hooked up our new satellite dish and I realized that Deep Space 9 reruns aired 4 times a day. I quickly became hooked.

In the post 9/11 era, when there was constant talk of sleeper-cells, the threat of domestic terrorism and the anthrax hysteria, Deep Space 9's story arcs about the Dominion war became much more compelling. The characters were -- I soon learned -- more nuanced than other incarnations of Trek. It was darker than Gene Roddenberry's original vision, but it was also more timely.

Today, I think Deep Space 9 is the BEST of all the Trek series.

Star Trek: Voyager. 1995-2001.

A federation vessel is thrown halfway across the galaxy and must travel back home (a voyage they estimate will take 70 years).

I loved this series when it first ran. Loved it. Couldn't get enough of it. Bought a tv and vcr when I moved out of my parents house just so I could watch it.

And now? Now...not so much. My boys love it. My six year old is fascinated by The Doctor. Both boys think Neelix is hysterical. I like how the women of Voyager are strong and cunning. But...I just can't get the magic back.

The problem is that we bought a copy of the first season. And when you watch those early episodes, it becomes obvious that it never fulfilled its potential. Robert Beltran's talent was wasted -- Chakotay in the early episodes is a sexy beast, and his chemistry with Janeway is hawt.

(This doctored photo was just too amusing to pass up.)

Janeway is kinda of Kirk-like in the earlier seasons, and I love that. I wish they'd killed off Kes AND Harry Kim -- both were dull. The holodeck was relied on waaaaaaaaaay too much for plot lines. And yes, they did get home to the Alpha quadrant -- was there ever any doubt?

Star Trek: Enterprise. 2001-2005.

Set prior to the original series, this series focuses on the very first warp-capable (READ: can fly super fast!) ship designed by humans. Interesting premise, stymied by the limitation of remaining true to a 'history' created by the five earlier Trek incarnations.

Complete crap fest, for the most part. By attempting to lure new fans to the show (initially it was called simply Enterprise), the producers wound up alienating the core audience of Trekkies. Well, the first two season were bad. The third season was just okay. The fourth season was brilliant, but by then no one was watching and the show was cancelled and concluded with a really insulting finale.

And now if anyone is still reading this marathon long post, I will reward you with a shot of Patrick Stewart:

Oh yeah, baby.

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