STAR TREK (aka “TOS” - The Original Series - 1966-1969) introduced us to the optimistic world of Gene Roddenberry. I discovered Star Trek when I was 11 years old, and this show helped to create my values and worldview. Acceptance. Tolerance. "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” The values of the Federation became my values. But Captain Kirk also taught us the importance of tempering rules with compassion. As a latchkey kid, the only child of a single parent, I cannot overstate the impact this show had on the formation of my values.
The characters are iconic, the show legend. The storytelling is excellent, but the effects cheesy by today’s standards. Nevertheless, Star Trek will never not be worth watching. It’s a brilliant classic. Kirk! Spock! McCoy! Scotty! 10 Stars
STAR TREK TOS FILMS:
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) was dreadful. Long loving lingering shots of the Enterprise combined with the introduction of guest characters we didn’t care about. Still, it was wonderful to see the old gang back together. Enough people watched so that sequels were made. 2 stars
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) brought back Ricardo Montalban (and his sculpted chest) in the role of Khan. The storytelling was much improved. The fans were happy. And the track record of “the even-numbered movies are better” began. 5 stars
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) was a good movie, just not as good as it’s immediate predecessor. 4 stars
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) is my favorite of the TOS films. In this movie, the gang ventures back to our time to acquire a pair of humpback whales and save the planet (again). The plot is actually less compelling than the humor inherent in the situation; our Starfleet officers bumble their way around San Francisco in our century. 5 stars
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) focuses on Spock’s religious brother. This film was so forgettable that I had to remind myself of the plot for this review. 3 stars
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) has Kirk attempting to forge a lasting peace with the Klingon Empire. 4 stars
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (aka “TNG” - 1987-1994) picks up nearly a century after the events of TOS. Nevertheless, the show runners found a way to bring in old favorites from the original series:
- Spock was still alive because Vulcans have a long life span.
- McCoy was still alive but very very old.
- Scotty was still alive because he was trapped in a malfunctioning transporter or something.
- (Kirk was also still alive, but that was saved for the TOS/TNG film Generations.)
Originally, many Star Trek purists (myself among them) were appalled at the idea of a new Star Trek series introducing new characters. (Note that the original characters were still appearing in the Star Trek movies.) But of course we had to check out the new series and the producers were quickly forgiven for their hubris. It was a great show!
We were introduced to Captain Picard, a Starfleet captain who was significantly different from Captain Kirk and yet just as principled and dedicated. Womanizing first officer Will Riker and boy wonder Wesley Crusher were standouts, but android Lt. Commander Data was an instant fan favorite. Unlike Spock who preceded him and was forever denying his humanity, Data’s biggest wish was to become more human.
Excellent storytelling. Much better effects than the original. Compelling characters. Slice of life moments, particularly those involving Data and his cat Spot, are the best part. TNG really nailed it. 10 stars
STAR TREK TNG FILMS:
- Star Trek Generations (1994) unites Captains Kirk and Picard in Captain Kirk’s last outing. Malcolm McDowell plays the villain. Together, our heroes save the day. Again. 4 stars
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996) sees the Borg going back in time in an effort to prevent first contact between Earth and the Vulcans. This is the best of the TNG movies, loaded with humor. 5 stars
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) delivers the message that it is not acceptable to relocate people from their native lands. 4 stars
- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) finds Picard facing his own clone. 3 stars
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (aka DS9 - 1993-1999) is considered by many to be the best show of the franchise. Since we follow the adventures of a Starfleet crew stationed on a space station, there is considerably more storytelling involving other species, specifically the Bajorans, the Cardassians, and the Dominion. For the first time, we catch more than fleeting glimpses into lives on other worlds.
Miles O’Brien from TNG is a regular on DS9, with his wife Keiko making occasional appearances. Eventually, Worf also finds his way to DS9, a very welcome addition to the show.
DS9 is excellent, but it is not my favorite. That is yet to come. 8 stars
STAR TREK: VOYAGER (1995-2001) takes us into uncharted space when Captain Janeway commanding Voyager chases a Maquis ship and both are swept up by an alien into the Delta Quadrant. Both ships sustain heavy losses and they are forced to combine crews in an effort to get back home. Making it back to Earth is the overriding plot of the series, but of course this cobbled-together crew has many adventures along the way. The crew dynamics provide an interesting twist, as Janeway finds herself with a former Starfleet Maquis first officer named Chakotay, while Chakotay has to contend with a head of security who was a Starfleet spy aboard his Maquis vessel and double turncoat Tom Paris, a Starfleet officer turned Maquis who helped Captain Janeway find the Maquis ship in exchange for a reduction in his prison sentence.
Voyager is my favorite Star Trek series. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it is the fact that Star Trek finally introduced a female captain (awesome once she got over walking around with her hands on her hips). Maybe it’s the compelling character of Chakotay. New villains, new species, new tales to tell; all likely played a role.
Voyager is consistently strong - with a couple of notable exceptions when the UPN network did a crossover episode or two with its powerhouse WWF wrestling show. I also could have done without the introduction of Seven of Nine, a human reclaimed from the Borg; she was introduced to attract the young male demographic and received a disproportionate amount of screen time. Nevertheless, it was a great show. 10 stars
STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (2001-2005) took us back in time to the early days of Starfleet before the formation of the Federation. From its opening montage to its largely uninteresting characters to its storytelling, Enterprise was inarguably the weakest of the Star Trek series. It also ran for fewer seasons than any Star Trek series since the original.
Enterprise started off without compelling characters. Captain Archer was good, but his first officer, the Vulcan T’Pol, was incredibly unlikeable and Commander Trip Tucker was just plain bland. The show bled viewers, leading to increasingly questionable developments. Specifically, in an attempt to attract the young male demographic, ludicrous scenarios were devised. For example, emerging from a maintenance shaft, Communications Officer Hoshi Sato loses her shirt and finds herself topless. Whoopsie! Another time, T’Pol is massaging Tucker for reasons I can no longer recall and we are treated to her hindquarters poised just about his line of sight. These scenarios were just as ludicrous as they sound. Also, they didn’t work. The show was cancelled. 2 stars
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY premiered in 2017. I have not seen it because CBS obnoxiously premiered it on its CBS All Access channel, meaning that viewers were forced to pay to see it. This I refused to do. However, since they are about to repeat this scenario with the upcoming Picard series, I imagine this will change in the future. Obnoxious as it is to force us to pay extra to watch the first run of a Star Trek series, watching Picard is, of course, mandatory.
STAR TREK: PICARD will premiere in 2019. Can’t wait!
If you like Star Trek, you will also like THE ORVILLE. It’s what life would be like aboard a third rate Starfleet vessel populated by normal people instead of the best of the best. Soda on the bridge! Officers hitting on each other! Too much alcohol! It’s a very funny send up of Star Trek.
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