The Bar Pops Pink Champagne for Star Trek

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"Star Trek", by Abagond

Since I blog mostly on the weekends now, I struggle to pick topics (since there are so many things to talk about).  The 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise seemed a no-brainer.

The Original Series

Star Trek: The Original Series first aired back in 1966 on September 8th, same as my younger brother's day.  Side note, I know some of you are like, "Um...K?  You've never mentioned having a brother.  We've heard and seen all about your sisters, but not your brother, K."  I just met him for the first time back in May, y'all.  But that's another topic for another day.

Back to TOS...one of my fondest early childhood memories was watching this show with my father back in our old (and admittedly ratchet) apartment in Austin, Texas.  My father's fandom was what made the experience memorable, not so much the show.

Despite my love for the iconic Spock and the goddess Uhura, I don't really watch TOS anymore (for obvious reasons).  It's just far too dated for my taste, and unlike many Trekkies, I don't like Kirk.  He served his purpose introducing us to the Star Trek universe, but that's pretty much about it.

The Next Generation

I remember exactly where I was when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted.  I was with my father and older sisters in Institute, West Virginia.  There had been slight confusion; we knew there would be Star Trek on that night but when we heard new music and saw the words "The Next Generation" my father practically exploded with glee.

The characters Riker, LaForge, and Worf took some getting used to.  At first I liked Troi, and to an extent still do, but that was mainly because Dr. Crusher just never measured up to any of the other doctors in Star Trek, and because I never liked Yar - ever.  Troi was the best female character left standing.  When science fiction is primarily being written by men and starring men, the writers often struggle with female characters.  It's as though they just don't know what to do with women.

Therefore, it's no surprise that falling in love with Captain Jean-Luc Picard was both easy and immediate.  In my humble opinion, he was and remains a vastly superior Captain to Kirk in every way.  Picard's characterization is more professional and realistic in that he didn't try to seduce (or allow himself to be seduced by) everything with pretty eyes and a pulse.  He was emotionally detached, inspiring awe and fear among the crew, with his majestically Shakespearean demeanor, his signature taste for Earl Grey tea, and his brilliantly perceptive nature which made him the perfect choice for meeting new species and (mediating between others).  He also was a damn fine pilot.

Another TNG character which permanently captured my heart was Data.  Portrayed by the inimitable actor Brent Spiner, Data was brilliantly characterized.  Despite some limited and short-sighted writing over the years, the android was obviously a deeply sensitive being, with his imaginative paintings, his evocative violin-playing, and his beautiful bromance with Commander Geordi LaForge.

TOS may have brought us into the Star Trek universe, but it was TNG which solidified its place in history.  TNG was where Star Trek truly came into its own as an epic and immortal franchise.

Deep Space Nine

Many of you already know of my enduring and borderline obsessive love for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  To me, this was when the franchise reached its zenith.  The writers faced head on darker themes like holocausts, terrorism, colonization, racism, and a war which spanned multiple seasons, leaving 800 million dead.  This was the show which reached out to and commanded the interest of non-Trekkies, as well as maintained almost consistent acclaim.

We had a Black man portraying a Commander, then Captain, then a god.  Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko was an exceedingly versatile Captain, being an engineer, a father, and a religious icon, in additional to a Starfleet officer.

We had Worf, who finally came into his own when he arrived in Season 4.  He brought a regal, almost aristocratic warrior's presence to the show, which was an excellent complement to Sisko.  We also had a Central Asian doctor who was sexy, charming, brilliant, and a favorite of the ladies.

And speaking of the ladies, DS9 did the best job of all the shows with its female characters.  We had a science officer who, depending upon your perspective, was either a young woman, or a very old being.  Jadzia Dax was also ether non-binary or transgender, depending upon how you viewed her.  Considering this show is almost 30 years old, DS9 was way ahead of its time in terms of diverse casting and characterization.

We also had a female first officer who was an ex-terrorist/freedom fighter.  To be honest, I didn't like really like Kira Nerys all that much, but I respected what the writers did with her.  I also respected the actress; Nana Visitor needed zero time to "get into" her character - she was Kira was from the get-go, which is very, very rare.

We also had a selection of Dabo girls who, in their own way, contributed to the show.  Every so often their presence prompted dialogues similar to the discussions we have now about sex workers and their rights.  Although Dabo girls technically didn't sleep with customers, they used their beauty and sensuality to influence how customers drank and played.  It often led customers and employers alike to...assume things, which caused problems.

We had a looooot of bromance on DS9, which characters like Bashir and Garak deliberately played up, thus raising eyebrows at times.  And that's what you want; you want your audience to raise its eyebrows every now and again; you want them to wonder.  When Bashir admitted he loved Ezri Dax "passionately", but that he liked O'Brien "a bit more", it was very telling...and daring.

We also had more aliens than on any other show which, demographically speaking, was more realistic.  Humans would not be the majority on an alien space station in alien space, so it was a good thing that the writers were cognizant of that.  This allowed them to flesh species like the Ferengi, the Cardassians, the Romulans, and the Klingons, who in previous incarnations, came across rather one-dimensional at times.

Voyager

While TNG was a continuation of the ideas first presented in TOS, DS9 and VOY showed the creativity of the writers in thinking of new premises for shows.  DS9 took place aboard an alien space station beyond Federation space, next to a wormhole which led to the other side of the galaxy.  That was major, and it predictably produced a lot for the writers to work with.

Voyager, which unfortunately heralded the beginning of Star Trek's decline on television, once again began with a brilliant premise.  What happens when a small starship with a small crew (less than 200 people) gets stranded on the other side of the galaxy?  Picard was afforded the luxury - the privilege, if you will - of being either in or near Federation space throughout his tenure.  Sisko was afforded a slightly similar privilege; even though he wasn't in Federation space, the Federation was still in hailing distance and starships were always coming and going from Deep Space Nine.

Captain Kathryn Janeway, however, had no such privilege.  The character was often the subject of sexist jokes; I remember that well over a decade after Voyager ended on TV, men would still make cracks to the effect of, "The minute Starfleet gave a woman a ship, she got the whole crew lost" - bullshit like that, which ironically reinforced the need for a female lead in the Captain's chair.  The Season 2 episode "Death Wish" even made a point to incorporate that joke directly; Q - baffled as to why humans are in the Delta Quadrant a full century ahead of schedule - figures that this is "what happens when you have a woman in the Captain's seat."

Janeway had to make do with a small ship, limited crew, and no allies.  For seven years, they navigated through predominantly hostile territory - while battling the Borg in their native quadrant.

We also had our first Black (and full-blooded) Vulcan on the bridge, who won us over with his dry wit and ruthless sarcasm.  Nobody in all of Trek threw shade like Tuvok, for his snark was glorious.  We also had a Native American on the bridge as First Officer, who brought his honesty and perceptiveness.  We had an East Asian operations officer who played the young, good-looking heartthrob (who unfortunately didn't always do so well with the ladies).  And we had a holographic doctor who became sentient.

In short, we had the makings of a flawless victory, and yet the writers' laziness and diminishing enthusiasm did irreparable harm to the show, and the franchise over all.

Enterprise

According to some VOY cast members, the eagerness to begin a new show (with a White man back in the Captain's chair, along with predominantly White human crew) was what caused the decline on VOY.  Well, karma is a bitch in stiletto heels.  VOY got its seven years, and financially set its cast for life.  ENT lasted four years, and couldn't get off the air fast enough.

Like VOY, ENT had a bold premise.  Even in the time of Kirk and Spock, fans were taking a lot for granted.  We had an already established Federation and a large, highly advanced starship.  So the writers asked: what about before there was a Federation?  What was it like when humans first met Klingons?  How did humans and Vulcans become such close allies?  And what were the first starships like?

This is the sort of premise which practically hands its writers an Emmy, season after season.  Instead, ENT was an epic flop.  The desperation to put White people back in the forefront was like a coffin nail for a franchise known for its diverse casts.  The actors themselves were poorly chosen; previous Trek shows chose actors of exceptional talent and presence, and with the exception of Scott Bakula (Captain Archer) and sometimes Phlox (the doctor),  ENT just didn't have that.  When writers fail, a strong cast is a show's last fail safe.  That's what rescued previous Trek shows during weak writing periods.  ENT didn't have that fail safe.

Discovery

I'm more nervous than excited about Star Trek: Discovery.  It's set to debut in January, and yet we know so little about it, which means either it will be brilliant or we're in for epic amounts of fail.  Showrunner Bryan Fuller once said he would cast Angela Bassett as Captain and Rosario Dawson as First Officer if he ever was allowed to run a Trek.  Well, half his dream came true; he is in charge of DSC but I doubt we're going to get the cast he originally wanted.  Trek almnus Alex Kurtzman is also returning; he's a proven Trekkie, but after what we saw on FOX's Sleepy Hollow, I'm not so sure we want him touching, well, anything ever again.

So what about you, Bar Patrons?  What are your favorite Trek memories?  And what do you expect from the new show?

Comments

  1. All I know about the show is the stories you've written and any commentary you make about the show. Your stories are the best, so unless the show can top your writing I'll take your word for it.

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  2. I remember watching reruns of the original Star Trek when I was a kid. I admit I was a Voyager girl when it first came out. I couldn't get into the rest of the shows for some reason. I was always trying to figure out how they were connected. I didn't like the fact that the first woman captain "got lost". I was like really.

    I JUST started watching TNG. I love Patrick Steward. I agree that his was the only captain that felt right in my book. Maybe its the accent.

    I realized the other day as they replayed episodes of the original series that
    Diana Muldaur aka Dr. Pulaski was in the original show (a couple of episodes) as well as TNG.

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    1. Picard, I think, represents the ideal Starfleet Captain. That being said, I think the fact he commanded the flagship and operated either primarily within or near Federation space allowed him to be so. Patrick Stewart, of course, set a very high standard portraying him (and yes, it was the accent ;))

      On the other hand, Sisko and Janeway broke the mold because they were not operating under ideal circumstances (Janeway got the worst deal of all). When you're commanding a Cardassian station in Bajoran space while trying to fend off the Dominion, it's hard to adhere to the utopian ideals of the Federation. You're not in utopia. Quite the opposite. So you have to adapt and improvise, which I think Sisko did quite well.

      Same thing with Janeway. When you are Absolutely Nowhere Near Home, you don't have the luxury of being a proper Starfleet officer, especially not when keeping the crew's sanity together is your number one priority. While I didn't like the first female captain getting lost either, I found it subversive that of all the captains, she wound up in the shittiest situation and handled it like a boss. Like, can you imagine Picard or Sisko in her situation? Picard would've struck the very first deal he could with Q just to get home.

      Besides...when you need someone to trade barbs with the Borg Queen, it's better if you have a woman in the Captain's chair.

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    2. Yes I hated what they did to Janeway. Plus she had no real love life. Granted Picard did not either, but he did have minor it dalliances. Granted we didn't really learn a whole lot about her. I think could have done a better job of ending the series also.

      As I mentioned I JUST started watching TNG. I did see bits and pieces of DS9 and never bothered with Enterpirse. It looked boring so why bother.

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    3. Oh my God...the ending of VOY was horrible. I felt the entire half of the last season should've been dedicated to their returning home and dealing with the trauma of their mission, not just a few minutes. Whoever was the brainchild behind that fuckery should've been fired and then blacklisted from ever working in the franchise again.

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    4. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought so. The Voyager crew returns to Federation space. The end? I was hoping for an episode that dealt with what happened afterwards.

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    5. The first time I was introduced to the Trek was through the animated series when it appeared on Nickelodeon. I instantly fell in love.

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