Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek: The Television Shows

I'm not going to go into detail here like I did in my individual film reviews, but I wanted to give my thoughts, opinions, and observations on each Trek TV show. I'm going to try to keep these as brief as possible.

The Original Series

The Original Series is classic. This show is Star Trek. Not only was it a brilliant, visionary series that set the tone and foundation for all other series and films that followed, it is, quite rightly, what most people envision when they think of Star Trek. What can I say about this show that hasn't already been said a million times?

I can think of one thing: It hold up better than you'd think. A lot of people laugh at this show and call it cheesy or poorly made or overacted or any other such nonsensical criticism. Sure, the show's sets, wardrobe, and effects are somewhat dated, but the show itself holds up remarkably well, with far better acting than most people will give it credit for, and some of the best written, and most thoughtful science fiction stories you'll ever seen on TV.

This is a great show, and if you don't believe me because you either haven't watched in a few years or not at all, do yourself a favor and give it a look with an open mind. You'll discover an absolutely brilliant show with superb acting and engaging stories.

Except for, you know, the episodes that are really terrible. But what show doesn't have some terrible episodes? Season 3 in particular gets pretty sketchy, but it never gets boring or lacking in entertainment value.

The Next Generation

Next Gen is my personal favorite Trek series, perhaps because it premiered when I was a kid so I was able to watch it as I grew up. Whatever the reason, Next Gen always stands out to me as having the best overall series run, with some exceptional episodes that stand up to the best science fiction has to offer.

I will admit that Next Gen got off to a rocky start, with the first two seasons being lackluster and somewhat forgettable, with the exception of a few stand out episodes along the way. For those first two years, the show mostly got by on the basic appeal of having a new Trek show, and because of the overwhelming charm of the cast of characters. Put Riker, Picard, Data, et all, in a poorly written episode and it'll still be watchable, if not incredibly brilliant.

But luckily the show got better and better as it went along, at least until the the seventh, and final, season, where things started to get really weird. This show is probably the best series for first-time viewers or newbie Trekkies, since the episodes are so well done, so clever, and mostly stand alone. Also, All Good Things is the best series finale ever, Star Trek or otherwise.

Deep Space Nine

If I had to be completely objective and pick a "best" Star Trek program, I might choose Deep Space Nine, even though it isn't my personal favorite. As a whole, however, it follows such a strong story arc, takes risks, and really delivers in terms of characterization, science fiction storytelling, and overall brilliance. It's really a remarkable show.

Like Next Gen, it got off to a rocky start with a first season that is less that stellar, though the first episode is probably the best of all the Star Trek pilots, immediately setting the tone for the show as a bold departure from what we had come to expect from the first two Trek programs. The show finally hit its stride and found its niche with the introduction of the Dominion and the War, though it did take a long time to get there. And while the characters may not be as immediately memorable as those from TOS or Next Gen, I think Avery Brooks is probably the best actor who's ever worked on a Star Trek show. That's right, I said it.

Also, if I were asked to pick a best Trek episode of all time, DS9's Far Beyond the Stars would be as good a pick as any.


Voyager is the only Trek show I actually dislike. It's also the only Trek show I haven't watched completely, from first episode to last. It's just... boring. And kind of annoying. And lame. But, it's still Star Trek so I watch it whenever I happen to catch a rerun on Spike or TNT or wherever, but I don't really have any emotional investment in it.

I did try Netflixing the series recently, because it always kind of nagged at me that there are actually Star Trek episodes in existence that I haven't actually watched yet, but I gave up after making it through four seasons. I just wasn't enjoying it and realized that I was watching it just to watch it, and life is way too short for that. I have blogs to write!

It wasn't all bad, however, since the effects are fantastic and some of the plots are interesting and well written. With a better cast, many of these stories would've been great entertainment. But that cast... I just couldn't get invested in any of them, except for Tuvok, because I love Vulcans and because Tim Russ is a great actor, and Kess, because Jennifer Lien is a wonderful actress who deserved better. Once she left the show and was replaced by the "sexy" Borg (who was actually really boring and kind of unnatractive. Lien was far sexier, in my opinion), the show never recovered. And I also loved Robert Picardo's performance as the Doctor, but the character was a little too unbelieveable and annoying to be all that great, but it was still a clever idea for the character, and they pulled it off extrememly well.

Also, there were a few standout episodes, my favorite of which was Tuvix. This was actually a brilliant episode with a really powerful, brave ending, where Janeway was forced to "kill" Tuvix in order to save Tuvok and Neelix. Great episode, and there were a few others, but none as immediately memorable as that one.

At the end of the day, it was a ship that wasn't just lost in the Delta Quadrant, but it was lost without a real cast too. And Janeway was the worst captain ever, and not because she was a woman, but because she never showed any real leadership ability, in my opinion, and was poorly written and acted.


I like Enterprise, though it isn't quite up there in my estimation with the first three series. But it's still a quality show that deserved better.

Enterprise was doomed right from the start, since the idea of a prequel would never sit right with most die-hard Trekkies. There was no way to get around how often they would be rewriting Trek continuity and canon. I'm also a die-hard Trekkie who hates retconns and changes to continuity, but at least I can respect a good show that keeps me entertained. All things considered, Enterprise kept the continuity mostly intact, with very little for me -- or anybody -- to complain about. Trekkies will never forgive them for that theme song, however, even though I actually kind of like it.

Enterprise is also a fantastic looking show, since it's all CG, shot in widescreen, and filmed in HD. Great looking cast too, with two of the most gorgeous women in Star Trek history. Scott Backula is easy on the eyes too, and a favorite among sci-fi fans already because of Quantum Leap. More importantly, the cast of characters were all really likable, though Hoshi was kind of annoying and Travis never had anything to do. Phlox is my second favorite doctor after McCoy, and Trip is just awesome.

The show never quite managed to find its voice, however, since it aired in a different time than the other shows, a time when a program has to be an immediate success or else it goes away. As the other shows have proven, only the Original Series started out strong and got worse. Every other show started out weak, and got better. Enterprise just didn't have a chance to grow at its own pace and find its voice along with an audience, so the producers kept changing things and hoping to make an impact. The first two seasons are my favorites because they feel more like Star Trek, with standalone episodes as the norm, while the last two seasons are way too focused on long story arcs that were never all that interesting.

At the end, Enterprise was a show that deserved better, in my opinion, but it still stand as an interesting and entertaining failure, even if it was never allowed to become the show I had hoped it would be.

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