With the release of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, and upon reading a review recently by “Keith and the Movies” of ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ (found here) I was led to reflect on the Star Trek franchise and what it means to me.
Despite the fact that I have watched everything Trek up to the conclusion of DS9 and a little bit into Voyager I have never considered myself a Trekker and would never refer to myself as such. It is, in fact, my Father who is the Trekker in the household and was perhaps the key influence on me to watch it.
I have some early, nostalgic memories of the Original Series cast motion pictures in the eighties. Back in the days when there was only 4 channels and a Christmas premiere of a Star Trek movie was a family event and we would all settle in and watch the films together. To some small degree I remember Star Trek movies from that time in my life with a similar fondness as I do other such franchises that appealed to my boyish love of some good adventure. One vivid recollection I have from my childhood is being totally grossed out by the early Chekov scene in ‘Wrath of Khan’ with the alien earwig-y things.
The Original Series was always around in my childhood – I remember it often on the telly on weekend afternoons. I’m not certain I’ve ever actually seen all 79 episodes of the show; weekend afternoons in front of the TV were mostly reserved for rainy days when we couldn’t play curby on the street, ride our bikes to the local woods & fields (to climb trees, obviously), or play toy soldiers in the garden with our Action Force (Better known as G.I.Joe in the States).
Thinking of Star Trek; I also am reminded of a time as an adolescent in the UK when I was a regular viewer of programming that was televised in the 6.45pm slot on BBC 2. I know for certain that anyone of my generation reading this post will know exactly what I am talking about when I reference that particular time-slot. On any given week night in that time-slot through the late 80s to mid 90s you could see the popular US imports such as Quantum Leap, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Adventures of Lois & Clark, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I used to religiously watch this time-slot, and if something was going to prevent me from watching a show I’d blag my Mum & Dad to set the video recorder to tape that night’s episode (Ahhhh, VHS!). I’d go absolutely apeshit if a show went on hiatus for a couple of weeks to accommodate some sporting event like the darts or snooker. TNG and DS9 were a big part of this time in my life as they were shows in this beloved time-slot.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is by far and away my favourite Trek series. I absolutely loved it, so much more than I did TOS or TNG. It’s the only of the Trek shows I have watched again since initially seeing it in the 90s. One thing I have always lamented as a casual Trek fan is the fact a DS9 movie was never made – I feel aggrieved that the one I connected with the most has never been made into a motion picture. The nature of the space station setting greatly appealed to me; we got to see how people really lived and interacted in the 24th Century so much more so than any of the other shows. Some of the key characters were civilians – it wasn’t all Starfleet, all the time.
It was also the series that showed us the darker edge of Trek universe. The aftermath of Bajor’s occupation by Cardassia, the brutality of the Dominion War, and Maquis terrorism gave us sight of a grittier and, for me, a more watchable, show. The writers were given quite an opportunity with DS9 and they seized it – taking solid war-time tropes and giving them a fascinating home in the Star Trek universe.
After my love of DS9 and its edgier tone I then lost all interest in Trek with Voyager. I watched it for a bit but mostly out of habit. After DS9 it just felt a bit twee and I couldn’t get much on board with it. Nobody had any balls and everything was solved after the third ad break with a bit of Trek techno-babble. While there is no denying that techno-babble is ever present in any Trek series Voyager took the warp nasals and reverse polarities to new heights of deus ex machine.
That was really it then – I took little interest in Enterprise and the Next Gen movies passed by uneventfully, with only First Contact being of any real interest to me. The new movies are certainly breathing new life into the franchise and I’ve found them to be an enjoyable watch so far. They have both been pretty good action sci-fi romps that I have found greatly enjoyable… even in spite of JJ Abram’s involvement!