Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
In the unnecessary and unfair space nerd dichotomy of Star Trek vs. Star Wars fandom, I fall firmly on the Wars side. I also fall more on the Battlestar Galactica side. The Stargate Side. And, obviously, The Doctor Who side. Possibly even the Sliders side.
This is not because Star Trek is bad, though, some of it, like some of Stargate, BSG, and Sliders, is Very, Very Bad. This is because, like Doctor Who, there is So Much Star Trek that there can't help but be a ton of Awful Crap. So, even though it means I'm wading through a lot of Awful to get there, I've decide to do a reimagining of the entire Star Trek Universe, where each season is about ten episodes long, and tries to hold a theme or tell a particular story. Consider this a guide to enjoying Star Trek, if you're not already a Star Trek fan.
Unlike my other reimaginings, I'm not saying how many seasons this will be, because I don't know yet. As I write this, I have just finished watching The Original Series, and a few scattered episodes of Enterprise. While I have, at one point, watched much of The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine, I did most of that watching in the 90s. I skipped most of Voyager, and all of Enterprise until last week. I Doubt that this will only be ten seasons, but I'll shoot for it. I'm already into season three, and I'm only up to the TOS movies. Updated to add: Now that I've watched the entire franchise, including the first season of Discovery, I've switched around some of the orders for thematic reasons, moved the episode count to eighteen, and peppered both Discovery and Enterprise mostly in the early seasons of the chronology.
Season one is a crash course in well-intentioned, poorly aged feminism as written by white guys in the 1960s. I didn't intend to do this, but most of The Original Series can be broken down into: Woman Are A Lot Like Aliens, Starfleet Captains Go Crazy All The Time, Big Balls Of Energy Will Possess Your Body In Order To Be Immortal, Greek And Roman Societies Were Sure Fucked Up On Earth But Even More Fucked Up In Space, Children Are Creepy, or No Alien Race Understands What Love Is Until William Shatner Shows Up. I tried to not to have multiple episodes with similar themes but I wrote "women as objects" as a predominant theme for 85% of Star Trek The Original Series episodes, so I tried to cluster as many of them as possible into the first season, while also trying not to completely overwhelm myself or anyone else watching this order with the theme. Then I added in the Enterprise and Discovery episodes that referenced (I don't want to say "mirrored" because that will happen soon enough) the TOS storyline.
Star Trek Season One:
Episode 1: The Balance Of Terror
(Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Rand, Sulu, Scott, Uhura)
Kirk is one of the worst parts of The Original Series (TOS). He's frequently possessed, crazy, or trapped on a planet while his ship is in peril. He's always off on ill-advised away missions, and if you cut out Shatner's dramatic pauses, the average TOS episode is only four minutes long. But in this episode, we see him at his best. The Balance Of Terror introduces us to The Romulans, a species whom The Federation is at war with. Kirk engages in what would be a submarine chase movie, if submarines were starships, and water was...well, you get the idea. This is my favorite episode of the series, and a decent introduction to the major players of TOS.
Episode 2: Dear Doctor
(Phlox, Cutler, Sato, T'Pol, Archer, Mayweather, Reed, Trip)
The series Enterprise is a prequel to TOS, but to watch it first, and then follow it with TOS is a disservice to both, as is watching it after the other modern series, so I'm sprinkling Enterprise as backstory during the entire series. In this first glimpse into the days before TOS, we witness The Enterprise through the eyes of the ship's Doctor Phlox, and meet the crew of the original Enterprise, as they grapple with an odd stage of evolution in an alien species.
Episode 3: Galileo Seven
(Spock, Scott, Kirk, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura)
While on a research mission, led by Spock, a small crew of Enterprise officers is stranded on a planet. For once, Kirk is not on the away mission, and so he and The Enterprise search for Spock and the shuttlecraft. The focus on the Vulcan logic vs the human crew's emotions is handled much better here than in most episodes. Plus, we rarely get to see Spock and Scotty play off each other as often as they do here.
Episode 4: Shuttlepod One
(Reed, Trip, Archer, T'Pol, Phlox, Sato, Mayweather)
While on a research mission, led by Trip, a couple of Enterprise officers are stranded in space. For once, Archer is not on the away mission, so he and The Enterprise search for Reed and Trip on the shuttlecraft. The focus on Reed's dispassion vs Trip's...this is So Familiar. But also more fun, despite the lack of giants.
Episode 5: The Man Trap
(McCoy, Kirk, Spock, Rand, Sulu, Uhura)
Moving on to the next Doctor on The Enterprise, McCoy ends up running into an old flame on a research station. This being Star Trek, things are not as they seem. This is on some peoples' Worst Episodes list, but I think it's ridiculous sixties sci-fi in a fun way, and it's focus on the often under-used McCoy makes me happy.
Episode 6: Naked Time
(Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Riley, McCoy, Scott, Rand, Uhura, Chapel)
A disease that causes its victims to act irrationally ends up on Enterprise, severely affecting the crew, particularly Sulu and Riley. Mind control is The Most Frequent trope in TOS, but here it's focused more on fun than on allowing Shatner to overact.
Episode 7: Conscience Of The King
(Kirk, Riley, McCoy, Spock, Rand, Uhura)
Shakespeare in space! An acting troupe may be hiding a mass murderer, and it's up to Kirk (who's totally in love!) to draw him out. Sadly, this is the last time we'll see Rand and Riley for a very, very long time.
Episode 8: Context Is For Kings
(Burnham, Saru, Stamets, Tilly, Lorca, Landry)
In the very early days of the Klingon War, Starfleet's first mutineer is taken on board a science vessel comprised of some of her former shipmates. This episode is a great balance of sci-fi and horror tropes, and a cool intro to the pre-TOS crew.
Episode 9: Dagger Of The Mind
(Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura)
An escaped mental patient (from a planet-sized asylum, of course) beams onto The Enterprise. When Kirk and one of McCoy's staff go to examine the psych ward, they discover something nefarious, of course.
Episode 10: Devil In The Dark
(Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott)
This little one-shot of a small portion of the crew trying to help out a mining planet was a ton of fun, and it turns out that it's on many of the actors' Favorite Episodes list. You can see how much fun they're having as they run into another new form of alien life. This time there's no mind control, this alien is just going to straight-up kill you. See, FUN!
Episode 11: Is There No Truth In Beauty?
(Kirk, Spock, Scott, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov)
I am avoiding most of the Energy Creatures possess the Enterprise crew stories, but this episode features a humanoid who accompanies an energy creature who means well but who causes any human that gazes upon him to go Insane. His assistant is a low level telepath who senses that someone on the ship is A Murderer! (dun-dun-DUNNNNN)
Episode 12: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry
(Burnham, Saru, Stamets, Lorca, Tilly)
The Discovery's sister ship, The Glen was destroyed by Klingons, but Burnham and the crew found a creature called a Tardigrade on board. It appears to be one of the missing pieces to help The Discovery make faster jumps. But Burnham suspects the creature may be sentient and that using it as fuel may be causing it irreperable harm.
Episode 13: Mudd's Women
(Kirk ,Spock, Mudd, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura)
Ladies, amirite, gents? A sleazy con artist, lonely crystal miners, and three beautiful women combine to make one of the season's most stunning examples of Good Intentions In Writing Women In Twentieth Century Sci-Fi Haven't Aged Well.
Episode 14: Choose Your Pain
(Burnham, Saru, Lorca, Tyler, Stammets, Tilly, Mudd)
Lorca is kidnapped by Klingons and jailed on one of their ships. The crew believes the only way to save him is to use the Tardigrade to make a massive jump into Klingon space. But Burnham and Stammets both believe this will kill it. Also, one of Lorca's cellmate turns out to be that pesky jerk we just met in the last episode of The Original Series!
Episode 15: Yesteryear
(Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty)
An animated episode? Yes. Fun with Spock and time travel and portals! On the way back from a time adventure, Spock and Kirk return, only to find that nobody on The Enterprise knows who Spock is. Let's see if poorly animated space travelers can restore the timeline!
Episodes 16 & 17: The Menagerie
(Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Scott, Pike, Uhura)
A reshoot of TOS's pilot features Spock appearing to commit mutiny (man, Sarek is a Bad Influence) in order to take his previous captain, Pike, back to a planet where he was once part of a zoo. Part flashback, part trial, part sci-fi adventure, this two-part episode shows that it was Pike, not Kirk who was into making out with multi-colored aliens. And it leaves us with a nice Starfleet themed episode to conclude the season.