Friday, July 22, 2016

Nostalgia Nugget: Star Trek was Always Around - Part 2

If you didn't get a chance to read part 1, check it out first to read my thoughts and memories about Star Trek the original series.

Q's Galactic Nets. Keeps freshness in and keeps
Picard out!
Star Trek was always around.

But I have to admit in 1987 I was way more into Star Wars. It was the ten year anniversary of my favorite space adventure series, and I was really getting back into it at that time. I was listening to the scores on cassette tape and reading my Role Playing Game book, and even writing my own fan fiction. But that is when I heard about a new Star Trek series coming to television

At this time I had a friend who insisted everyone call him Spock, even our teachers. Seriously. I went to school with "Spock" for two years of junior high, and he ended up going to a different high school. I ran into him a couple years later during summer school, and greeted him as "Spock". Wow, he looked like I had slapped him. The guy had gone all goth and Depeche Mode in the past couple years. Star Trek was far behind him. He may have insisted I call him by his true name, but I still thought of (and think of) him as "Spock".

Spot tried to watch Encounter at Farpoint.
I'm not sure what happened to "Spock" in those two years, but I can tell you what happened when I watched the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was actually a pretty big event in my house. We got the VCR ready to tape the episode, which was a full two hour (two episode) event. I don't remember if my grandmother was still living with us at that point (I don't think so), but we were still fans because of the films in the 1980s.

So Encounter at Farpoint starts, and we are enjoying the new characters, the new ship, the new look to everything, but also kind of puzzled at how much different everything looks and feels. Then about one hour into the episode one by one my family starts getting distracted and vanishing from the sofa. I was the only one left to see the ending. To this day, I don't know if the rest of my family has seen the whole episode.

Now, I do remember revisiting the taped version (commercials and all) a few times over the years and having the same issue. I thought maybe I just wasn't giving it a chance. But it took its damn time doing anything, and that the story just wasn't terribly interesting. I thought Q was pretty cool and funny, but the rest of the episode just felt kind of flat. I remember giving the next couple episodes a chance. But when you've got the one two punch of The Naked Now and Code of Honor, well let's just say, this isn't The Next Generation at its best. In fact Code of Honor is often listed as one of the worst episodes in the entire Star Trek franchise. You know right under Spock's Brain.

Wow, this picture is filled to bursting with nerdy
So I went back to Star Wars and kind of forgot all about The Next Generation for a while. I would catch episodes here and there. I specifically remember seeing Elementary Dear Data and Sarek which made a big impression on me. At some point I remember there being a big hullaballoo about Spock returning to Star Trek. I remember my family once again sitting down to watch both parts of Unification and wondering how it would all tie into Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But time went by and I never really got into the series.

I still made a point of seeing The Next Generation films in theaters. But even though I found First Contact entertaining (Farmer Hoggit in SPACE!) I just didn't feel a connection to this crew. I ended up giving Insurrection and Nemesis a pass during the theatrical run, and saw them on home video.

Star Trek had a collectable card game too, but I
didn't care. TEAM DEATH STAR!
By this time we are in the 1990s, and I was still a Star Wars fan. But an odd thing happened in that decade. With Deep Space Nine and Voyager on the air, there was a saturation point to Star Trek that Star Wars just didn't enjoy. I think a lot of Star Wars fans got a little bitter about the whole thing and this strange rivalry started. Suddenly, you couldn't like both series, you had to pick one. I was on team Star Wars for sure, especially when the Timothy Zahn books and the collectable card games came out. With the Star Wars renaissance occurring I declared Star Trek too boring and cerebral to have fun. I ended up avoiding all things Trek (aside from the original series movies which already had the nostalgia glow on them).

Even Mr. Triquarter is begging him to stop.
Looking back on the whole thing it just seems silly. Kind of reminds me of the whole DC vs. Marvel debate going on these days. Trek vs. Wars - there was no winner. Because Star Trek ended up with Insurrection and Generations, and Star Wars got the prequels. We all ended up losing.

Still, when Enterprise was announced in 2001, I was willing to give it a shot. I liked the idea of tackling that period of history in the Trek universe. I also thought that Scott Bakula would make a great captain. It looked like there was going to be a good mix of adventure and action, so I was looking forward to it. So my wife and I sat down to watch the first episode Broken Bow and wow was it underwhelming. I thought it was going to be more about the prequel elements of the concept, but that didn't really seem to be the point. Instead it we were given some bland storytelling with a new coat of paint. And don't get me started on that odd decontamination massage scene - wow was that embarrassing.

"So we want you to take this survey after you watch
Broken Bow and tell us what you think."
We gave Enterprise about two more episodes, and they were mostly harmless, but not really engaging. Or at least not what we were expecting from something that was supposed to be leading up to The Original Series. It seemed way too much like The Next Generation, and missing a lot of the fun and adventure of the 60s series. The the trailer for the next episode featured the hilarious "pregnant man!" gag, and we just said "no thanks" and went back to watching anime.

I eventually changed my tune about The Next Generation. I knew too many folks whose opinions I respect tell me about some of the really great episodes of that series. Hell, even one of my video store friends (who was also a huge Star Wars fan) got into Deep Space Nine when the Dominion war heated up. He kept trying to convince me to give it a chance. I called him a traitor to the cause and tried to Force choke him - but yeah that just never works out for me.

A fan's vision of Star Trek anime!
Eventually The Next Generation appeared on Netflix download. I decided to give it a chance, and try watching a few of the episodes that people kept telling me were so good like Inner Light and Darmok and of course The Best of Both Worlds. That convinced me. Off and on over three years I watched all seven seasons of The Next Generation. It was quite a ride and I had a good time, getting to know and appreciate this crew and some of their stories and situations. It made The Next Generation films have a greater impact for me, and made me appreciate the Star Trek legacy even more. In the last couple years I've delved into Deep Space Nine and have been enjoying that series. Might be time to give Enterprise another chance too.

I really liked the series finale. Thought it was better than
most of the TNG feature films actually.
That said, Star Trek has always been around. There have been good stories and characters and bad stories and characters.  But I kind of like the comfort at having that galaxy out there. It is a vision of the future that is unique in some ways and so influential in others. With a new television series coming soon, I'm actually looking forward to it. I just hope that the first few episodes are more engaging then Encounter at Farpoint or Broken Bow.


  1. I never thought Encounter At Fairpoint was that engaging either. For a creature with God-like powers, John de Lancie, just seemed a poor choice. He's a good actor, but a bit, hard to put my finger on it, foppish? He seemed more like a cosmic prankster like maybe Mr. Mxyzptlk from Superman than a God.

    That aside, the first Next Gen season was a bit weak, but tolerable. It got better, but never achieved what TOS was like. I think some of that was Roddenberry's direction, when he was still alive, and trying to create a universe without conflict or beyond fist fighting. Supposedly humanity had grown beyond that, but fist fighting or conflict is one of the aspects of TOS, among others, that keeps it vital. Fans may disagree on that, but I think that's one of the reasons the other Trek series haven't lived up to the original. Next Gen did have too many soap opera episodes dealing with one of the crew's love life or lack there of, etc. I don't know if that was trying to appease the female fans or what, but blah...

    I think the new movies reboots are going back to the basics as far as that's concerned (more action), but some fans don't care for them either. So it's a franchise that is always going to have its pros and cons with fans I guess.

    1. I had heard that Roddenberry was trying to create a concept of Starfleet without conflict. An interesting idea, but one that doesn't work so well with television. You need conflict to create good drama. The first couple seasons are pretty rough. But there are a few good episodes in there (and even a great one or two). But once they got Roddenberry out of the writing room in season three, things really seemed to pick up steam.

      Eventually they were able to keep the Star Trek optimism but include conflict and drama among the crew. Yeah it got a little soapy at times, but that seems to be the case with nearly every television show at some point. I still like the original crew the best, but TNG did a good job when they hit their stride. I do have to say I think I might like the character mix in DS9 a little more than TNG and maybe even more than TOS. But we'll see.

  2. Roddenberry seems to have gone through some personal evolution that, however rewarding it may have been for him at a private level, was not good for television. It’s an old adage that conflict = drama. If everyone’s in harmony… well… that’s just a glee club. Greek drama supposedly began when Thespis went beyond simple choral singing by getting on stage as an actor and exchanging words (conflict) with the choragus (chorus leader). I guess it was an 80s thing because Roddenberry did more rough-and-tumble pilots in the 70s. Even though they weren’t picked up I liked a few of them including Genesis II, Planet Earth, and (especially) Spectre.

    Star Trek TOS aired while I was in my young teens so it had more effect on me than Star Wars, but the later rivalry of the two scifi camps puzzled me. But then, so does the Yankees/Mets rivalry. One can prefer one home team without hating the other it seems to me. Perhaps I just don’t get something.

    1. Yeah I'm not even sure how that rivalry started. I just remember it really kicking in in the mid 90s. Trek fans were calling Wars fans dumb and Wars fans were calling Trek fans nerds. Just plain odd.

      Seems like most folks have lightened up these days. Everyone is a nerd now and that is OK. :)