Thursday, July 31, 2008

This One Goes to 11

Putting together the pieces of Star Trek 11
With the release of the posters for the upcoming Star Trek 11, I thought back to the most important television show I ever saw in my life and came up with a little retrospective. Trek 11 has some things going against it, the recasting of key roles always draws fan boys ire when the comparisons start and it's an odd numbered Trek film. While my fandom waned as the original crew went to pasture, I have seen all the Star Trek series (though not in their entirety). So here it goes, my recollections of Trek in order of preference.

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

There's a book that says "Everything I needed to know in life I learned through Star Trek" or something like that, that book title pretty much sums up my experience. The original show had fantastic characters, great stories and a prescient cultural image. All of the characters were memorable, particularly "the big three" of William Shatner's swaggering Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy's analytical Mr Spock and Deforest Kelley's irascible Doctor McCoy. Great episodes like "Balance of Terror" and "City on the Edge of Forever" displayed action, space adventure and social commentary disguised as pure Sci Fi. But the biggest impact to me was the general concept, the idea that people of all races and cultures would be able to overcome differences to establish a unified Earth and explore the galaxy. And so much technology from our present has been clearly modeled after Trek whether they're communicators (cell phones) or phasers (stun guns). The Original Series had its cornball moments ("The Omega Glory") but was the strongest influence on my childhood outside of my family. That's because Kirk proved you CAN mix matter and anti-matter cold. I'm a blogger, not an engineer!

2. Star Trek - The Motion Picture thru Star Trek VI (1979 - 1991)

Sportin' the pajama uniform look from Star Trek-The Motion Picture

Despite having the same cast and characters, I consider The Original Series and the first six movies to be two separate things. That's for two reasons: There was a ten year gap between the two and the Great Bird of the Galaxy Gene Roddenberry saw his involvement reduced after the first movie. Star Trek - The Motion Picture was a staggering monument to the cerebral vision Roddenberry had of the future...and it was really boring. Starting with one of the greatest movies of all time Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan, The Federation moved with the times by becoming more militant ("Admiral on the Bridge!") and driven by the equivalent of nuclear fear ("What if Genesis was used where life exists? It would destroy such life, in favor of its new matrix"). Producer Harve Bennett and Directors Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy drove the films to Star Fleet magic. The rest of the series was all about Spock - Spock died, go get Spock to resurrect him, Spock gets funny, Spock takes a back seat to Kirk and then Spock solves the mystery of universal peace. All because the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few.

3. Star Trek Voyager (1995 - 2001)

a fitting picture for Voyager, they look ready to throw down!

For me, one of the key components of Star Trek was exploration. Voyager excelled at this by getting tossed into the Delta quadrant with no Star Fleet to support them. Led by the strong willed Captain Janeway, the Voyager crew had a solid mix of characters and one breakout star-Borg babe Seven of Nine. I haven't seen all of the episodes so when I watch Voyager, its usually for the first time which is nice because there's always some new Trek to view. While Voyager lacked charismatic characters overall, they had the best adventures of any of the modern shows by wrestling with the quest to explore versus the need for survival. It was the scrappiest of the Star Treks and I enjoy watching the Voyager blow up one episode after another (it always turns out to be some time space continuum fake out). Other than Kirk, Janeway is the one Star Fleet Captain you don't want to mess with. Once you've hit her, she'll go through hell and back just to jack you up.

4. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 - 1994) and Star Trek: Generations thru Nemesis (1994 - 2002)

Looks like somebody bought Khan's line about rich Corinthian leather bucket seats.

When Roddenberry announced he was creating a new Star Trek series, ripples went through the Sci Fi community. How could it live up to the original? And so millions sat down for the much ballyhooed debut episode in 1987 - and watched a British sounding Frenchman Captain a new Enterprise that had the plush interior of a Chrystler LeBaron walk through a two hour episode that basically remade Star Trek - The Motion Picture. For a few seasons, Roddenberry got to give a full dose of what his vision entailed: Intellectual and caring people exploring the universe to gain knowledge and create peaceful relationships with other cultures from a moral and ethical position. When Roddenberry decreased his input after season two ended, the show changed a little to make the characters less perfect and more relatible. The Borg (resistance is futile), Data vs Lore, expanding the Klingon mythos were all great accomplishments in the Star Trek Universe.

Considered the best Trek by many, I just didn't like it as much as the originals or Voyager. For one thing, there was way too much technobabble - like I could complete this post if I reroute the Impulse engines on Deck 12 through the sensor array to create a tachyon field around the Dyson sphere unless I overload the Warp Core resulting in rerouting subcircuits through life like this just went on and on. I hate to think what engineering marvel they would have to pull off if the toilets jammed on Ten Forward. Also, they hardly explored anything. The Enterprise seemed to go to known parts of the Galaxy most of the time, more like a patrol boat than an exploratory vessel. And how many times do they need Data or Wesley Crusher to save them? If it wasn't for androids and children they would have been so screwed. To the show's credit, the characters were well drawn and acted. And the show continued the spirit of the original series in making modern social commentary among laser beams and funny costumes. And the movie First Contact was awesome. A special bonus was my wife and I were compared to Beverly Crusher and Picard while we were dating (mainly because I'm bald). Make it so!

5. Star Trek - The Animated Series (1973 - 1974)

The last two years of the five year mission were a little cartoonish. Oohh, that's bad.

Just when kids thought Star Trek was just the same three seasons of episodes repeating endlessly, we got a treat on Saturday mornings when the Sci Fi show was revived as a cartoon. They thoughtfully used the animation to show landscapes and characters not possible with the special effects of the day and struck a strong balance between kiddie tv and the show's serious nature. And no cartoon could contain the full power of Shatner! In the early 70's, these episodes made my day. And the episode where Spock is a kid and his pet dies is a classic.

6. Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 - 2005)

When ratings are low, logic dictates the girl's clothes should come off

The Star Trek that tried everything it could not to be Star Trek. Enterprise tried to have it both ways by playing with Trek lore of the formation of Star Fleet while acting like it was Babylon 5. Sexy Vulcans, the first transporter, the Quantum Leap guy as Captain and a Diane Warren theme song wasn't enough to hide the fact that there had been too many Treks at this point. The only new wrinkle on this show was the more desperate they got for ratings, the more often girls had to strip down to their skivvies to "decontaminate". With nothing new to do, the Enterprise seemed like a show in search of a mission. Time to jump out Sam.

7. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999)

Gold Press Latinum lovin' fiend!

There are many Trek fans who love this show and if they read this they'll probably not be too happy about my ranking. I can't stand Deep Space Nine, I find it relentlessly dull. If the original Trek was Wagon Train, Deep Six Nine was Gunsmoke with Captain Sisko as Sheriff.

Yes, there was a lot of characterization and they eventually added Worf. But the only character I truly liked on this show was Quark, the sleazy Ferengi whose blatant attempts at manipulation caused chaos - upsetting security officer Play Doh (Ono? Odo? Ohno? What was the guy from Benson's name?) . He always said Quark's name with the same amount of stuck up contempt he said Benson's. And then he would transform into a pool of Jello. Can I stand the excitement?

I don't know, it was like the Star Trek B players to me with a bunch of second stringers slapped together in a tiny little spot next to a wormhole. They had wars, some mystic mumbo jumbo about Sisko being "The One" or something...I just didn't watch enough to care. Miles O' Brien was robbed! He should have stayed on the Enterprise.

And this brings us full circle. Can Star Trek 11 live up to the legacy of past Treks? I'm skeptical. But then, that's how I go into any new Star Trek venture anyway. Beam me up, Scotty.

Additional Note: I just noticed the website that had the Captain Kirk inspirational poster above asked if a link to their site could be added if the poster is used-so here it is:


Arsenette said...

Ahhh.. Star Trek'ing.. across the Universe.. ehm.. sorry.. channeling my husband here.. (if you don't know what I'm referring to .. LOL)

K let's see.. Hmm.. Star Trek.. I watched it when I was in College.. again.. the whole I'm catching up to American classics, tv, radio, etc. that I couldn't do when I was growing up. Liked the tribbles episode of the original and some of the movies (something about a whale but I didn't watch Khan.. (hubby's favorite.. because we all know.. even number Star Trek's don't suck..).

HATED Voyager.. both hubby and I wanted to put "ENGAGE" Janeway with the borg and hit warp drive to get out. Hubby did love Voyager for one thing.. he liked Jeri Ryan (you read that blog LOL)..

He adores New Generation from about midway point.. he concedes it was boring at first but watched it because it was STAR TREK BABY! I didn't like it because it was too dang preachy like most of Gene's stuff.. and considering that he preached in every episode he did.. yeah.. you can see why I didn't like it that much.

I met hubby in 1996 and my first movie with him was "First Contact".. I still dont' forgive him for taking me to a movie that started with a scene with a drill going into an eyeball.. WTF!!! He's still in the doghouse for that.. liked the movie though after I needed therapy for the opening scene... Heck.. the soundtrack (the soft music part) I used for my WEDDING! :D

Enterprise. LOVED the opening song.. hated the series.. tried too much.. and Quantum Leap Bakula is still stuck in my brain for being part of a series with the WORST ENDING EVER!!!!!!!!! So I couldn't get past it..

Deep Space Nine.. Sucked.. hubby thought it sucked too :p

Mr. Mike said...

Hi Arsenette! I almost included that song Star Trekkin in this post, I used to have the record back then (not sure if I should brag about that). I understand you and your husband didn't like Voyager, it seemed like the second least popular Trek overall. But I get a kick out of Janeway, she's the one Captain that when motivated would happily phaser someone's leg off and stuff it down their throat then lecture them on why it was the right thing to do.

I think it's great your first date was First Contact and you used parts of it for your wedding. And I agree that Enterprise tried too hard and had a horrible ending, it was like some holodeck ending or some kind of bunk and the most likeable character was dead. And Yeah, DS9 was DOA.

pamwax said...

I loved Jean Luc Picard.

Mr. Mike said...

Hi Pamwax! Picard and Patrick Stewart are great, my favorite Star Trek TNG episode was the Die Hard like one where he was trapped on the Enterprise with thieves while a disintegrating scanning beam was going through the ship. That and the "Darnak and Tanagra" one.

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

And just exactly what do you have against Gunsmoke?! :)

I'd put Next Generation just below the original Star Trek, and only because without the original there would obviously be no others.... Jean Luc Picard/Patrick Stewart is a BABE! Oh yeah, and he can seriously ACT, too. I love this show. The woman who played Deanna Troi was so beautiful, I thought. She played in a A&E episode of Sherlock Holmes, too (ever see those? they were fantastic).

Don't much care for the other Star Trek shows and have only seen... I think... maybe 3 or 4 of the movies. The one about "V-ger", "The Wrath of Kahn", the one where they found Data's head on old Earth... And I think I saw the one with the old and Next Generation characters in it. What was that one? Was that the one with Data's head? Anyway...

Loved Star Trek growing up. Was my favorite after school show. Beat all hell out of old re-runs of Dark Shadows, which is what my sister prefered to watch. :) For many years I had the most incredible crush on Leonard Nimoy (sp?) still do, actually. He was/is great.

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

By the way, the guys name was Rene La something or other, wasn't it? I actually thought he had the best part in the entire show. No one else could turn into a pile of jello. Having that ability would be so cool, don't you think?

Mr. Mike said...

Hi some kinda wonderful! Nothing against Gunsmoke :), I just felt DS9 suffered from not being a show about exploration and having most of the show occur on a relatively dull space station set. Since they set the show on a space station, they should have made it the Love Boat set of space stations.

Patrick Stewart is an excellent actor who I like to do a bad imitation of. And my wife's favorite Stewart line is "It happened in the past!" from the last regular episode. Deanna Troi did look nice once they got her out of that hair bun look from the first season.

The Data's head on Earth movie I get confused with regular episodes where similar things happened so my guess is it's Nemesis? The original series I have down pretty good but past that I didn't bother to learn everything Trek. The one with both the old and new generation was Generations though.

On DS9 without looking it up I think the guy's name is Rene Aberjonois? I mainly remember it from Benson because I watched that show a lot. His ability to turn to jello...I don't know if I would want that ability, it would be too tempting to eat myself like that Simpsons episode where Homer's head was a donut and he kept eating his own head.

Jeannie said...

I thought Enterprise had potential, yet I just didn't watch it. I really liked the Suliban aliens. Mark my words: they'll be a cult hit!

I'm just starting to enjoy Voyager, but the lack of a sympathetic character makes this show ho-hum in my book. I guess I didn't care whether or not they made it home. And Neelix and Kes annoy the heck out of me. The only one that really doesn't annoy is Seven Of Nine. I mean c'mon- she has a rack that even women notice!!

I did enjoy The Next Generation and although it was too technical, it mirrored the original in many ways: Data/Spock saves the day; Crushes/Bones argues with the captain and turns out to be right sometimes. Two different captains totally though, which is cool. You've got "Hit them below the belt" Captain Kirk and "Throw the book at them" Captain Picard.

Oh, and Jonathan Frakes was nice. Mummmmmm, I know whose Number 1!!

P.S. I have seen a number of episodes of Deep Space 9. There was nothing else on t.v.

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

I LIKED all that technical jargon on Next Generation. I thought that lent a certain continuity to the whole Trek theme. Without that it wouldn't have worked at all. I thought this crew was the best lot of actors. Although you just can't beat Shatner for sheer campiness. And I think that Spock would have fit right in with bunch. He would have loved Data, don't you think?

And by the way, why no mention of Mr. Scot? Next to Spock, he was my favorite of the original crew.

Mr. Mike said...

Hi Bunny! Yes, Kneelix (is it spelled like Kleenex? probably not) and Kes are annoying little cheer leaders and were really more trouble than they were worth. And Sexy of Nine? I bet the Borg loved "making her part of the collective" with all their Swedish learned ways. Can you say Borg Orgy? If one feels something they all feel it. Lots of stuff happens in that flying metal square. And I forgot how much you liked Number One.

Hi Some Kinda WonderfuL! You're right, I did skip over the supporting original cast including Scotty. Favorite bit of trivia, in the series Scotty died and came back to life before Spock did in "The Changeling". I also liked that Scotty was both technical (his favorite hobbies were reading technical manuals and drinking) and a little bloodthirsty, he always wanted to shoot things as a first course of action and didn't hesitate when Kirk gave General Order 24 (the Order that says phaser the entire planet to dust) in "A Taste of Armageddon". I'm sure he would have went through with it if Kirk didn't call the order off. A posessed Scotty also killed a bunch of people with a knife in "Wolf in a Fold". My favorite Scotty bit came in The Next Generation where he tells Geordi LaForge to multiply his time estimates on repairs so people will think he's a miracle worker. Oops, went on a total Trek geek tangent there.

Spock and Data met during the next generation series and got on famously. I think they rigged a Romulan hologram or something together.