I’ve been re-watching all the Star Trek series over the past year or two when I can. I’ve been doing it in a different way though. Instead of watching from original on, I’ve been going through the series backwards. I started with Enterprise, moved on to Voyager, then DS9 and now I am watching The Next Generation.
First, I gotta say that while Enterprise disappointed, it did get much better in the last year of its existence in particular. A lot of the early story line that was silly got left behind and we were left with a truer Star Trek that was worth watching. I loved Scott Bakula before this show, however this show was not good for him which is too bad. He looked terrible in it.
Voyager is always kind of the example to me of the sins of Braga and Berman. They seemed to have great ideas but then they would bury the show in stupidity. This show had great promise. Take opposing sides in a conflict, fling them across the galaxy and stick them both on the same ship. Oh and lets have them struggle for things like power and food while we are at it. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Well the two opposing sides were best friends after the first two or three episodes, and after those first few the power and food situation wasn’t really a problem either.[1. Of course both of these had some issues pop up from time to time but they were few and far between.] They then added a borg to the ship to add more controversy on the ship, but again the struggle wasn’t major and didn’t come up too often. A holographic doctor? Yeah he’s more human than the rest of the cast combined. Still, they did great with the Q, with the Borg, the predator race (whatever they were called), and many other things. It was a show I wished was good.
DS9 is, in my opinion, to this day the most overrated show in the series. I have a friend who loves this show and when I talked to him he said wait till you get past the first couple of seasons it gets much better. And to be sure it did. The first two seasons are just utter crap. I mean Voyager and Enterprise weren’t good as a whole but i don’t even think they had seasons this bad. It did get better once the dominion war came about. But then Worf joined the case, at an obvious grab to try to get Star Trek fans back into the season. You know, that guy from TNG that nobody actually liked. Well maybe DS9 is for those few Worf fans. But for me, I was annoyed that the show went from not having traditional races like Klingons and Romulans to being all about Klingons all the time. I thought one of the nice things of DS9 early was its exploration of new races, but they quickly got rid of that. Was anyone else as disconcerted as I was that some founders could emulate humans perfectly but the main founder woman could not do any better than Odo? Was anyone else annoyed by the fact that they had the same actor playing the three different villains so that he could be in every episode?[2. The guy was great, he’d later play a few more villains on Voyager and Enterprise, finishing as the main Andorian in Enterprise. But he has such a distinctive voice, it really was off-putting.] Anyone else not like the weird mental breakdowns of Sisko?[3. This refers to the several times where they had him imagining himself in the 1950s as a black writer for a newspaper where he went insane talking about a space station.] And then the show got worse for the last season again. Overall, it was still a bad show. Probably not as bad as what followed overall, but still not good.
And now I am on The Next Generation. I am only into the second season but it strikes me at how good this show is. It is REALLY good. I remembered TNG as being a very political minded show, and to some degree it is, but it still was very much a show of discovery the same way the original series was years before. It was just discovering the universe in a more civilized setting. It wasn’t the old west anymore, it was Discovery in the 19th century. But the dynamics that Roddenberry had here was more than just discovery. It was between the characters. He had the juxtaposition between Wesley Crusher and Picard. The young and Naive versus the older and experienced captain. Picard went from despising the child to be a fill in father, which worked so well considering he was partially responsible for the father’s death. Then there was the friendship between Data and Jeordi. Both Disabled in their own way, and computerized in their own way. But working hard to overcome their deficiencies even with the help of modern technology. And then Jeordi also turns out to be Data’s doctor too. I’m sure he has a line of like “Damn it Jim, I’m an engineer not a doctor.” But if they don’t they should have because it would have been a nice touch. The crew though was balanced. Everyone had an interaction and a story so much better entwined than any Star Trek got afterwards. Roddenberry’s genius in this particular series was evident from the get go. It was too bad that when he died the show got left in the hands of who took it over because the show deserved better.
Luckily, JJ Abrams is doing it right these days. Let’s hope that continues.