Star Trek

I know I’ve seen bits and pieces of Star Trek episodes, but I don’t believe I’ve ever sat through a single one all the way.

I went with friends to see the 2009 Star Trek movie at the Catlow and thought it was pretty good. It was somewhat odd because I kept recognizing parts that were in-jokes based on the original series, but I didn’t actually “get” most of them. Still, I enjoyed enough that I thought I should give it a try.

I started by posting to facebook:

If somebody (like me, for example) has never seen an entire episode of a TV show (like Star Trek, for example), how many episodes do I need to watch to be qualified to form an opinion?

I got this response:

Jack A Clark — Enough to make you like it for what it is and isn’t.

Jeff Weddle — Count how many episodes there are in total, use the same percentage you use for pages in books before giving up on them.

Andrew Dormeier — The breakdown:

  • Star Trek: The First Pilot (“The Cage”) – 1 episode
  • Star Trek: The Original Series (“TOS”) – 79 episodes
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series (“TAS”) – 22 episodes
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (“TNG”) – 176 episodes
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“DS9”) – 173 episodes
  • Star Trek: Voyager (“VOY”) – 168 episodes
  • Star Trek: Enterprise (“ENT”) – 97 episodes
  • Star Trek: The Movies – 11 feature films (6 based on Star Trek: TOS, 4 based on Star Trek: TNG (although the first of these four was a “crossover” of sorts), and 1 based on the reboot of Star Trek).

So, about 720 episodes, give or take. Or, if you are a fan of Doctor Who, it’s around 50 fewer episodes than the British series’ various incarnations totaled up over the last half a century.

Steve Wick — I was into Next Gen. Much deeper plots and themes. I don’t think I could deal with the old Shatner version now.

Me — Wow. So … if for now I just want a taste to see what it’s all about, where should I begin? Do I have to watch TOS in order to understand the later series?

Rae Lyn Sperry — You have to watch the original just for Mr. Spock!

Kelli Wick — You have to watch the original as a teenager and you do the dishes and have it on the little mini TV screen in the kitchen and then your dad comes in and picks up a towel and dries them for you and you watch it and laugh together. You can’t judge a show strictly by its merits. You have to have context and you can’t force context.

Steve Wick — Maybe just watch the big movies with the original cast? That would give you a good taste without all the cheesiness. Then watch The pilot and maybe the first season of a Next Generation and see what you think. While you’re in space you should also check out the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers with Gil Gerard. Then we could meet at Smokin’ Will’s to discuss.

Phillip Sperry — All of them. I didn’t truly appreciate Lost until the last episode. Even then, you know what they say about opinions.

Andrew Dormeier — I think Steve has the best idea. TOS is not really needed for understanding most of what came later. I’d refine it to say: Watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The first movie was a little too 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than Star Trek). Then follow Steve’s advice regarding TNG. You can go from there depending on if you like any of it. For reference, TOS will have more cheese and feel dated compared to the movies featuring the same cast. And TNG will get progressively better over the 7 seasons. They don’t really find their stride until season 3 or so. If you find yourself feeling like season one isn’t that great, you could jump and watch some of the stand-alone ones from later seasons. If you go that route, ask and I’m sure people can recommend many good ones.

I never knew so many of my friends and, especially, relatives were so into the show. Having digested all that, I began

The Cage (1965) — Pre-Shatner, although Spock was along for the ride. Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) is captured by a race of creatures with heads that look like butts. They want him to mate with a female human captured years before to start a colony of servants, but when they realize humans would rather die than endure even pleasurable captivity, they let him go. The acting is rather wooden. The director must have said, “Show as little emotion as possible and most of the time, stare intently off screen.” Still, it wasn’t horrible.

Star Trek (1966-1969) — I’ve seen Shatner mostly in commercials and parodies so it was weird to see him being serious. In the first episode ever shown to the public (The Man Trap), Dr. McCoy’s old girlfriend turns out to be a salt vampire. The sets were cheap, the special effects were lame, the acting was still wooden and the plot was creepy. This was the best they could come up with for a first impression?

Star Trek (1973-1975) — I watched the first episode of the animated series (Beyond the Farthest Star). A sentient energy being gets aboard the Enterprise and commands the crew to take it home. They manage to dump it on a deserted planet, and as they fly away, they hear it bewailing its loneliness, which I found hilarious. The animation was pathetic. It was voiced by the original cast who sounded bored and a bit embarrassed to be involved with this. I did get some enjoyment out of reading the reviews from people who claimed this was not only excellent but innovative.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) — I was told by many that this was the best Star Trek of all, but if the pilot (Encounter at Farpoint) is any indication, the best isn’t all that great. The crew is put on trial by some weird dude named Q for the past crimes of humanity (even though Q has no problem lying and killing). Captain Picard suggests that his crew be put to the test to see if mankind has improved, and they pass the test when they rescue a giant space jellyfish that was being used as the power source for a space station. Hmmm.

I watched the next two episodes from season 1, The Naked Now, in which the entire crew catches a virus that makes them act drunk, and Code of Honor, in which the leader of a planet that appears to be a country in Africa takes Lt. Yar by force to be his wife. I wasn’t impressed with either of them.

I almost ended my exploration of Star Trek right there. I did a search for “stand-alone episodes” and found a post from some fan who claimed that The Next Generation was hugely ground-breaking and cerebral. He said his favorite episode was Tapestry, from season 6, in which Q gives Captain Picard a chance to go back in time and discover what life would be like if he “got rid of some of his loose threads.” Picard discovers that pulling the loose threads “unwound the tapestry of his whole life.” It was a much better episode than those I watched from season 1, but I was still pretty bored.

I fully intended to continue my “study” by watching a couple episodes from the other versions of the show, but I just never seemed to be in the mood. I think it’s safe to say I don’t care for Star Trek much.

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