I have to be completely honest here. I’ve always been much more of a Star Wars fan than a Trek fan. Those Trekkies seemed too clean cut and rule-abiding for me. I’m all about the Han Solos of the universe, going around, blaster in hand, defeating the evil empire.
Those like Kirk, Picard, Sisko, or Janeway fight on the other side of the law, they fight to uphold the empire. . . I mean, the Federation. It just doesn’t seem as cool.
However, a year or so ago, I decided to embark on a quest to watch every single Star Trek episode ever. I had always kind of enjoyed the movies, and there were definitely some happy times watching The Next Generation with my dad as I was a kid. But I never really got into it. It was something I’d watch as a kid if absolutely nothing else was on, or if my dad decided he wanted to have some male bonding over some phasers. Both of those situations occurred rather infrequently.
As I got older, some new series came along, and I remember really enjoying Star Trek: Voyager quite a lot. I never really watched Deep Space Nine. Not sure why. Probably wasn’t around the TV when it was airing.
As of this writing, I have now watched every episode of The Original Series, The Next Generation (a title which seems too reminiscent of Saved by the Bell: The New Class), and half of Deep Space Nine; and I have reached an entirely new conclusion on all of it. It’s brilliant.
I know I wrote a post not too long ago on this subject, but I have had time to think about it since then and have reached some new thoughts on why it is true.
You see, Star Trek always wanted to keep itself above the standard science fiction television shows, like the iconic Doctor Who series (another series I’m working my way through). It had an eye toward intelligent discussion of the issues of the time. I mean, hell, in The Original Series, they had not only a woman on the bridge, but a black woman. . . This was the late 60’s on prime time television. They were breaking boundaries, and have continued to do so for their entire run.
But, even more than that, they weren’t afraid to test the waters and try entirely different approaches to story telling. The perfect example is a recent episode of Deep Space Nine I watched, called The Visitor. It focused on the relatively minor character of the son of Benjamin Sisko (the dude who runs the space station the series is named for). They had an accident at the beginning of the episode which sent Ben through time. Yet, the episode didn’t really care about his dilemma, he was just used as a plot device to tell a story about Jake (his son).
This story told the story of Jake’s life, had his father not been there, beginning with his depression from the loss of his father (he was under the impression his father was dead), his success as a writer, his family life as an adult, his loss of his career due to the obsession of saving his father (after he found out that his father was stuck in subspace), and his death. Not only that, but all of this was done in flashback, as an aged Jake was telling a fan the story of his life.
There were no aliens involved (well, not really), they spent very little time on Deep Space Nine, or even off the planet earth. No, this was a story about humanity, and what causes us to do what we do. And. . . it had almost nothing to do with the series’ main cast of characters. It was an experiment in story telling, done in such a way that none of it ever actually happened (I won’t spoil it for you. . . but it’s ret-conned very sweetly, not in one of those crappy Dallas-style dream answers).
And this happens throughout the series, throughout all of the series (except maybe TOS). They have their standard format, but they break away from those formats from time to time to tell a different story, a story that has very little to do with the science fiction world they are in, but have everything to do with the human condition.
And the fans ate it up.
So, it was while I was thinking about how I was going to write this article today that I came across the trailer for the new Star Trek movie. . . and that’s when I found myself actually geek-gasming over Star Trek, for probably the first time ever. . .
It’s only rumored . . but it’s pretty darn obvious that this movie will mark the return of Khan, quite simply the most iconic Star Trek villain of all time. See for yourself: