I have seen many Sci-Fi shows, but there is something special about Star Trek that makes it stand out among the rest.
Yes, Star Trek is quite the franchise. Spanning currently 7 different series, 13 movies and hundreds of episodes, you can’t complain about lack of content. I feel recently Star Trek has had a weirdly negative wrap to it. I know that sounds weird defending one of the most profitable franchises in the history of Television and one of the Father’s of Sci-Fi, but hear me out.
I think that people have forgotten how great Star Trek truly is, there is this misconception that it’s just a silly Sci-Fi show for nerds and….while yes that may be true it is also so much more than that. Star Trek is an incredibly well written franchise, containing some of the best episodes of a series I have ever seen, even managing to hold up against the best shows that we have today. Writing wise a lot of Star Trek has aged like a fine wine, managing to still be relevant despite some series being decades old.
Now is Star Trek perfect? No, at the worst of times you question how some episodes can even be from the same show from how awful and flat out stupid some of the episodes are. The next generation has an episode where a character has sex with a ghost. Deep Space Nine had an episode where the crew get sucked into a game board, while one of the main cast has to play the game that has them trapped. Enterprise famously has a finale that is considered one of the worst episodes in the franchise. It’s stuff like this that makes me black out for 45 minutes and makes me wonder if what I was watching was even real, that being said this is the minority of the franchise and is in no way a representation of the franchise.
Now with me gushing over this franchise you would think that I grew up with it or something right? Well that’s where you’d be wrong as it turns out, I myself avoided Star Trek for so long because of its representation, I thought it was the typical Sci-Fi show that didn’t age all that well, quite like classic Doctor Who….or modern Doctor Who, anyway I didn’t truly give Star Trek series a chance till I was 19 and even by then I was reluctant to try it out, but when I started with The next Generation, I was hooked. This post will be talking about what I like about each individual series as well as the order I watched them in, now I will like to preface that I have not seen all of Star Trek, heck many hardcore fans would say I’m not very far at all. I have finished The next generation (twice), 5 seasons of Deep Space Nine, 4 seasons of Voyager, 8 out of 10 of the original Star Trek movies, the 3 Kelvin timeline movies, the first and last episodes of Enterprise, about 2 episodes of the original series, 4 episodes of Picard and none of discovery, so this post is definitely subject to change and may require a follow up. Regardless I have at least seen enough to tell you why it is great and that you should see it if you haven’t.
The Star Trek movies are a mixed bag, but when they’re good they’re really good.
My first real exposure to Star Trek as a whole was from a little underground YouTuber called ‘The Nostalgia Critic’ (irony fully intended), he was doing a marathon of the “bad” Star Trek films and my little 14 year old self, laughed and slapped his thighs together at this funny man making comments about how silly these movies were, but it had the unintentional effect of actually getting me interested in the films. My friend in secondary school was a big Trekkie (or is it Trekker?) and I asked him if I could borrow some of those films on DVD, before streaming services were the norm we had to watch our films in physical form kids. So I marathoned those films and at the time I thought some were great and some were really bad, so let’s go over the quality of each one real quick.
I. The Motion Picture: Beautiful looking movie, but really boring. Great at introducing you to the main cast of the original series, especially for someone like me who has never seen it. Decent start 6/10.
II. The Wrath of Khan: One of the best Sci-Fi movies ever, tells an excellent story about one of Kirk’s old enemies coming back for revenge and a very powerful ending. 9/10.
III. The search for Spock: Not a bad effort here, but it suffers from being in between two of the best movies in the franchise. Kind of undoes the ending of Wrath of Khan in quite a strange way but overall still pretty fun. 6/10.
IV. The Voyage Home: Excellent time travel story that’s one of the more fun entries in the series, it’s just great to see these characters go back to the past (to play those s***** games that suck ass) and interact with people from the 80’s. 8/10.
V. The Final Frontier: What does God need with a starship? 3/10.
VI. The Undiscovered Country: Great sendoff for the original cast, great villain introduced in this one too. 8/10.
VII. Generations: The proceeding movies goes on to ruin said great sendoff and instead shows Picard looking at an old photo album and having a little cry. 4/10.
VIII. First Contact: Very fun Sci-Fi movie, weird characterisation for Picard in this one but overall I like the horror atmosphere of this one and that soundtrack is fantastic. 7/10.
If you want my ranking personally I would rank them II > IV> VI > VIII > I > III > VII > V
And what about those characters? Well I’ll go into the next generation cast later but the Original series cast are all very fun to watch and have great chemistry. It’s no wonder that Captain Kirk and Spock became cultural icons, they are always great on screen together and characters like Bones is one of the funniest characters in the series for his more down to earth characterisation compared to the rest of the cast, these characters aren’t particularly deep or anything but they are well written and I would recommend the movies for someone’s first exposure to the series, it worked for me.
Shortly after checking out those original movies, I went on to watch the Kelvin timeline movies as at the time into Darkness was on it’s way out in 2013, so I thought I may as well check out the 2009 one. Here’s the thing I don’t think these movies are bad, in fact I find them rather enjoyable, not so much with into Darkness, but the other two are pretty good summer action movies. The characters are, again quite likable, being a reboot of the original series they captured elements of the original characters well, while putting a little twist on them. Captain Kirk was known for being a ladies man in the OG series so now we get to see him actually have THE sex I’ve heard so much about on the big screen, when I first saw this my eyes bugged out of my head in a cartoon like style, that’s for sure.
Into darkness unfortunately has the issue with remaking an all time classic so it was going to suffer as a result, I don’t think Cumberbatch captured the more spite filled performance of Ricardo Montalbán’s take on the character of Khan and it reeked of “You know this right? Remember this?” That being said the other two films I do enjoy, they are more action packed than your average Star Trek and are filled with Lens flare for some reason, but I would check them out if I were you, they’re enjoyable romps, but if you don’t like them you didn’t hear it from me.
When I said the Kelvin Timeline movies were my next introduction to the series, I meant it. I didn’t touch a Star Trek series at all until the year of 2016, after I had saw Beyond in cinema. I felt like it was time to check it out, if I enjoyed the movies, surely, I could enjoy the series that they spawned from, right? Well to say that the Next Generation is a good series would be understatement of the century. The next generation really is something special, its characters are fantastic, the episodes tell some of the best stories you will ever see on the silver screen and it has some of the best writing I have had the pleasure of seeing.
The characters are so diverse and are more interesting than the OG series, which I already enjoyed from the movies. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played excellently by Patrick Stewart) is the best captain in the series, not only do most the best episodes revolve around him, but it’s his ideals that make him one of the more interesting characters in the series. Picard tends to follow orders from Star Fleet and for the most part even if it may seem like a bad thing to do at the time, Picard will follow orders, quite unlike a Kirk, that broke the rules all the time. It’s this element of Picard that makes him really fascinating to watch, a by the books captain was the best way to go for a series like this, most the time Picard will not resort to violence and will choose to talk his way out of a situation instead. He’s stern but also fair and seeing his interests in the performing arts and literature just adds more to this already interesting character.
The rest of the supporting cast are great too. Data, an android with no emotions but wishes to understand them is another great character rivalling Picard in popularity, watching him be put in situation that revolve around his lack of emotions and if he counts as a lifeform makes for some of the best stories in the next generation. First officer Riker, is also another great character to watch, he’s everything you want from a first officer, he’s more fair than Picard most the time but he can be quite stern too when he needs to be and a lot of great episodes revolve around what he decides to do when Picard isn’t there to give him orders. The final character in this series I want to touch on is Worf, the security officer who is also a Klingon who was raised by humans. This added an element of an outsider on the crew to the series, there are many episodes where he has to deal with his culture as a Klingon vs his place on Star Fleet, this really was progressive writing for the time it came out.
I will go over some of the episodes in the show that really show off how fantastic this series really is.
The Measure of a Man (season 2): One of the, if not the most famous episode of the show. Data’s identity as a lifeform comes into question when a scientist wants to take him apart. A hearing is ordered, with Picard defending that Data is indeed a lifeform. This is the episode that won me over on the series and showed me that The Next Generation was truly something special.
Yesterday’s Enterprise (season 3): A fantastic episode, where the Enterprise gets caught in a different timeline where they are at constant war with the Klingons. Shows that Star Trek could tell these alternate reality stories extremely well.
The Best of Both Worlds and Family (season 3 and 4): The Borg show off how deadly they are by taking Picard and turning him into one. One of the greatest cliff-hangers is the history of television, please watch this. Family shows the aftermath of the situation and shows an emotionally weakened Picard.
Clues (season 4): A fun episode where the crew of the Enterprise wake up after blacking out for what they think is a small period but actually turns out to be longer than expected, this turns into a mystery to find out what’s going on as one of the crew might be holding back some information from the others.
The Drumhead (season 4): One of the best episodes in the series for how it, for lack of a better term tackles racism. Picard has to defend a member of his crew who is Romulan, which is an enemy of the Federation. "Have we become so… fearful, have we become so cowardly… that we must extinguish a man? Because he carries the blood of a current enemy?"
I Borg (season 5): A Borg is taken aboard the enterprise with the intention of infecting the rest of the collective, but the longer the Borg stays on the enterprise, the more of its humanity it gets back. Picard has to decide whether it’s right to kill this Borg or if it has the right to live like everyone else.
The Inner Light (season 5): Picard lives out an entire lifetime of someone he does not recognise, he grows close to the family of the person he is living out the life of and it becomes a rather emotional and sad tale. Don’t miss this one.
Chain of Command (season 6): Patrick Stewart shows off some of his best acting, when he is taken away and tortured. This shows the psychological torture Picard has to endure and the final few minutes of the episodes are as chilling as they are brilliant.
Tapestry (season 6): Picard has a chance to redo his life after his artificial heart gives out and Q offers him to go back in time so that he never needed an artificial heart at all. Great episode that shows us not to regret our actions but instead learn from them and better ourselves.
All Good Things… (season 7): A fantastic finale that brings the series full circle with the very first episode in the series, where we get to see 3 different versions of these characters from different time periods. Excellent finale.
To wrap up what I have to say on The Next Generation, it really is a fantastic series and they don’t make them like this anymore. Sci-Fi has lost a lot of the intelligent writing that went along with it, nowadays the genre needs to have action and explosions in it to appeal to a mainstream audience. No one wants to see an episode that questions what we consider a lifeform or an intelligent discussion on if we should follow orders all the time even if it’s not always the right thing to do. Why watch that when we can see starships blowing up. Hahaha, I love space pew pew pew shoot the lasers KA-BOOM HAHA IS THIS SCI-FI YET? IS THIS THE GENRE YOU ALL LOVE SO MUCH? IS THIS SCI-FI YET?