Star Trek Celebrates 50 Years
To commemorate 50 years of boldly going where no one has gone before, And There Came A Day presents a weekly countdown to September 8, 2016 – 50 years to the day of the premiere of Star Trek.
Related content from And There Came A Day
This week, we rank the Star Trek television series from Worst to Best. I am hopeful that Star Trek: Discovery lands somewhere nearer the middle or top of the list than the bottom!
Televised Star Trek – Worst to First
Star Trek: Enterprise
For a Star Trek show, this one ran pretty hard away from its roots. Let’s remember it was only called Enterprise when it premiered, it featured a pop song for its opening credits (a song I liked, by-the-way) and it had a embargo on connecting too readily to the established Trek canon. While most of those strictures changed during the run of the series, this Trekker had stopped watching before the “good” part of the show. When Star Trek loses me, it loses what should be its most easy audience. I wanted this show to be great. It wasn’t.
Star Trek: The Animated Series
A cut above normal children’s Saturday morning cartoons in writing if not in execution, Star Trek: The Animated Series is notable as it brought back many of the writers and almost all of the actors (sorry, Walter Koenig!) to the roles that made them famous. While some of the episodes are simply bad and others are bizarre, there is an amazing Star Trekiness about most of them. Freed of budgetary constraints, the animated series provides some interesting if barely more than 2-dimensional imagery. It also provided us with Kirk’s middle.
Star Trek: Voyager
It must have been hard to be Star Trek: Voyager. There is much to like about the show: the concept of being stranded far from Federation space, the inclusion of natural foes the Maquis (a subplot far too quickly resolved), Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway… there is a lot to like. But, at the end of the day, the show was simply too bland to make much of an impression. Perhaps the idea that there was a glut of Trek is to blame, because there WAS a glut of Trek: two television shows, a movie series, a wildly popular fiction imprint. Trek was everywhere. Perhaps the creators behind the show were too much in a groove – they knew how to do Star Trek and they stuck too long with the same plan with which they’d seen success. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… I am sure Voyager is someone’s favorite Trek. It just isn’t mine.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation did what was considered impossible: it (almost) made people forget Kirk, Spock and McCoy. It certainly established Star Trek’s bonafides as one of the most influential science fiction franchises ever. It launched Patrick Stewart, gave the vernacular the phrase “resistance is futile” and was Game of Thrones and Walking Dead level watercooler fodder each day after episodes aired. The totality of the seasons probably represents the “best” in quality televised Star Trek had to offer and the Next Generation is truly the touchstone for an entire generation of Trekkers. And that is appropriate. At its best, it was thought-provoking, heartwarming, entertaining and engaging. At its worst… well, The Next Generation didn’t have a lot of worst.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
For sheer audacity of storytelling, especially in the last three to four seasons, no Star Trek series matches Deep Space Nine. Created from the perspective that this new Trek should not be ship bound, featuring the first black captain (though Sisko was oddly only a commander in the initial seasons) and showcasing a cast of characters that truly had conflict with one another, Deep Space Nine was, in many ways, the most profound of the Star Trek series. Dark and gritty, it’s spiritual successor is far more the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and far less Star Trek: Voyager, the Star Trek series which premiered during its run. It also features what might – might – be the best hour of filmed Trek ever: Far Beyond the Stars.
The first remains the best. We’re not necessarily talking about overall and consistent quality of episodes, but in terms of creating the model, the mission and the mode that would be considered Star Trek, there is no substitute for the original. What each subsequent incarnation of tried to replicate most was the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad and the chemistry among the progenitor “magnificent seven.” If we’re honest with ourselves, I think each of the subsequent versions came up short. This is the gold (shirt) standard. Though the sequel series defined the parameters of Star Trek more than the original did, everything Star Trek flows from here. Everything.