Monday, October 21, 2002

STAR TREK REDUX, introduction.

In the wake of my enormously successful James Bond Redux series of posts (see "Notable Dispatches" at left for links), I've decided to do the same thing with another long-standing film franchise: the Star Trek films. (Of course, "enormously successful" is a relative term for a blog that averages 33 hits per day....)

I've loved Star Trek pretty much all of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of watching episodes of the original series (hereafter referred to as TOS). I used to be so well-versed on Trek: TOS that I could name all of the episodes and give small plot summaries. Sadly, I have forgotten many of them over the years, especially since TOS has vanished from syndicated TV except for certain cable-stations. I was thrilled when The Next Generation came along and I loved it, although I don't think that TNG hit the heights that TOS did on as consistent a basis. TNG was more consistently good than TOS, but while TOS had some amazingly painful episodes (particularly late in its run, with such abominations as "Spock's Brain" and "And the Children Shall Lead"), it had more truly great episodes than TNG. I'm thinking of amazing stories like "Journey to Babel", "The Trouble With Tribbles", "The Menagerie", and of course, the towering classic "The City On the Edge of Forever". TNG was, though, a very worthy addition to Trek lore. TOS was less an ensemble show than the subsequent series, but the whole Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic continues to amaze. TNG did more as an ensemble, which has hurt the TNG films somewhat in my view. (I'll say more about that when I get to those films.)

Then, of course, came Deep Space Nine. I just may love DS9 most of all, with the edgy tone that it often achieved and its structure, with long story arcs as opposed to stand-alone adventures. I've always felt that DS9 was tremendously underrated. It achieved a character dynamic that was unique in Trek, even when it added Worf to the mix halfway through its run, and it experimented quite boldly with its storytelling in a way that TNG and Voyager really never did. I'd love to see a DS9 feature film.

Voyager, though, was the least of the Trek shows. Its concept was an interesting one, but it was never employed to tell daring new stories, and was thus a tremendous disappointment. Voyager was probably the purest evocation of Gene Roddenberry's original conception of Trek: "Wagon Train to the stars", with the biggest reliance on the whole "Boldly going where no one has gone before" bit that Trek was about in the first place. How disappointing, then, that Voyager pretty much served up more variations on the "aliens who are really nothing more than humans with odd-looking latex prostheses" bit, along with the worst villains Trek ever conceived: the horrible Kazon, whose hair (or whatever that stuff atop their heads was) never failed to put me in mind of Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. The lead characters, also, were never really drawn sharply enough to become interesting to me.

(To date I have not been able to see a single episode of Enterprise. I have heard mixed things about it: from what I have heard it is very blatant in its deviation from established Trek history, but then I have also heard that setting continuity aside, it's a fine show. Unfortunately, it was only available on cable channels in Buffalo, and the same applies in Syracuse. As my family has opted out of cable for now, I cannot watch Enterprise.)

Before I get on to the films themselves, I should name my favorite Trek episodes of all time. In no particular order:

TOS: "The City On the Edge of Forever", "The Menagerie", "A Piece of the Action", "Metamorphosis", "The Trouble With Tribbles", "The Gamesters of Triskelion".

TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise", "Tapestry", "Redemption" (both parts), "Best of Both Worlds" (part one), "Disaster", "The Pegasus", "All Good Things".

DS9: "Emissary", "The Visitor", "Trials and Tribblations", "Blood Oath", "The Quickening".

Voyager: "Caretaker", "Phage".

To be continued….

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