If you’re an avid reader of my blog (and if you aren’t then why not? Go back and read all the previous ones now… It’s ok, I’ll wait for you… Done? Then we can continue!) then you’ll know that I’m a Trekkie.
For those who didn’t go back and read the previous blogs, here’s the recap…
I was maybe twelve years old, and on holiday in Florida with my folks, when I bought (or begged my parents to buy for me!) a pair of science fiction books. They happened to be Star Trek books, and it fuelled in me a desire to devour more of this world. I started collecting the books, watching the TV show and the films. For years, I lived for Kirk, Spock and Bones. The voyages of the USS Enterprise became almost an obsession.
Right, so now that you’re up to speed, let’s get on with the blog post.
With the obsession came a sadness, though. There were only three seasons of Star Trek (plus the animated series), and four movies. While the books kept coming (and the hopes that new movies would come every few years), I had now watched all there was to watch. Well, fuck!
Then, in 1987, more Star Trek arrived. New Star Trek.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Captain Jean Luc Picard made his debut, along with his crew and a brand new USS Enterprise (that kind of looked like it had been trodden on! Sorry, folks, I’m an ardent preferer of Kirk’s ship as it looked in the movies).
At first, it was an adjustment for me to follow a new captain and his squashed ship.
Everyone was dressed in pyjamas or intergalactic cheerleader outfits (men and women, this was an equal opportunities show for the skirt wearers!). There was an annoying kid whose mum was the hot redhead doctor…who was replaced by the drag version of Dr. McCoy for the second season. There was an android character who really just seemed like a second-rate Spock. The ship was being piloted by a blind man, (which I assume was a move to be purposefully ironic) and the first officer had a special way of mounting a chair…
But, as time went on, I found myself loving these new adventures.
Patrick Stewart brought a gravitas to Picard that drew me in as the series settled down. As the years went by, I fell in love with the crew – Data’s humanity, Spot, the Borg, Q, the holodeck…and so much more.
Then came the news that ANOTHER series of Trek was coming.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
By this time, I was conditioned to accept more from this universe than simply the original trio and their five-year mission. Picard and Co. had prepped me for more and here it was, and it was refreshingly different.
I’ll confess it here and now… ST:DS9 is easily my favourite of the Trek series.
It’s such a thought-provoking series, dark and dramatic in places, and covering some tough subjects in really interesting ways. Sisko’s story as a Starfleet captain AND a religious icon is fascinating. But it was something else that made me adore this series.
This was serialised science fiction. A show that played the long game and drew out a storyline over years. Where TNG had dabbled with multi-part stories, DS9 took it to a whole new level. Not just season-long arcs, but multi-season arcs. The Dominion War and the Emissary storyline to name but two.
Post DS9…the rot started to set in a little for me.
Star Trek: Voyager & Star Trek: Enterprise
Star Trek: Voyager was not a hit with me. It was okay, but I didn’t much like the characters. That and they seemed to throw away the premise of the show far too quickly for my money. And don’t get me started on how they effectively neutered the Borg.
Then came Star Trek: Enterprise…and while I watched for a couple of years, finally I was out on Trek.
I don’t think it was just me either.
Love or hate Enterprise, but it was the Trek series that nailed the coffin lid shut. The previous three shows had all gone 7 seasons, but Enterprise only managed 4. It wasn’t well received critically and after its cancellation, the Trek franchise lay dormant until JJ Abrams rebooted the movie series.
In the meantime, the world of TV had changed considerably.
And for us sci-fi geeks, it was another old franchise that was leading the charge.
Along came a reboot of a show from 1978 called…
The show was a revelation.
It hit the ground running from the pilot movie, instantly hooking you into the storyline and the characters. I was already in on the show, but became truly hooked by the 1st season premier called ‘33’. It’s a tense and claustrophobic piece of TV that sells you immediately on the stakes of their predicament. After that, I was on the rollercoaster ride that was BSG.
It was sophisticated storytelling. Compelling to watch. Dealt with real issues such as terrorism and religion. It was created and broadcast in the aftermath of 9/11 and it shows with its themes, which are intensely relevant to the time. It had twists and turns and jaw dropping moments all the way through, with characters that you fell deeply in love with. It also FEELS adult, dodging the censors with its own made up swear word ‘Frak’, and having very adult relationships between characters.
It also benefited hugely from its leads being Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, who both brought instant gravitas to the series. Like a Patrick Stewart x2!
I could wax lyrical about Battlestar Galactica all day if you let me, but I’ll spare you and stop now.
(Suffice to say, if you haven’t seen this show… GO WATCH IT NOW!)
The finale of the show was in 2009.
It was a huge influence on the science-fiction landscape and in its wake came a slew of mature new sci-fi shows:
- The Expanse
- Altered Carbon
- Lost in Space
- Black Mirror
…to name but a few.
But where was Star Trek?
The TV show that had started the whole thing back in the 1960s was nowhere to be seen, bar a few movies showing diminishing returns.
Then, practically within a week of each other, 2017 saw the debut of two new Star Trek shows… Okay, one Star Trek show…and one show that could very well have been one.
The Orville & Star Trek: Discovery
On the 10th September 2017, Fox TV debuted The Orville
This is really a comedy show that lovingly homages Star Trek (probably most closely TNG). It’s a Seth McFarlane show and if the thought of that puts you off in any way, then think again. It IS funny, but it’s also hard sci-fi. If you love old 80s Trek, then you owe it to yourself to watch this show.
Meanwhile, a week later on the 19th September, the real deal returned with a gritty new take on the Star Trek universe.
Star Trek: Discovery.
It is a prequel series, set before the time of Kirk and Spock, and it…was okay.
It certainly looks the part. Modern CGI and special effects. A good cast and an interesting premise. But something was missing in the mix.
To me, it felt like the world had moved forward since Trek was last on the air, and now the franchise found itself boldly following, instead of exploring, brave new worlds. It felt like it was playing catch up to the new more sophisticated and stylish sci-fi that had flourished in it’s wake.
The second season saw a little course-correcting and was much better. I’m looking forward to the third season.
For me at least, I’ve found my new Trek for a new era.
On the 23rd January 2020, Star Trek: Picard debuted.
And it is GLORIOUS!
I won’t go into spoilers here, but I will go into a few generalities about the show. So, if you think this might spoil things for you, then turn away from the screen now and blindly fumble around for the back button on your browser.
Okay, those of you who are still here…here we go!
The biggest problem I had with both ST: Enterprise, and the more recent ST: Discovery, is that they’re supposed to be prequels to the 60s show, yet they look…modern. It weirdly makes the original Kirk and Spock series feel like an odd outlier to the franchise. The uniforms, the ships, the tech…everything just feels out of place.
Kirk and Co. had flippy switches, floppy disk drives and clunky tech. Discovery has holographic technology and touchscreens. It makes the 60s show feel like it’s from some weird alternate universe for me. I can cope with the tech jump from TNG to Discovery (or vice versa timeline wise). It’s not too much of a leap. But the leap from Discovery to the 60s show… I can’t reconcile that in my head as well.
So, for Discovery, I can’t understand why they didn’t just make it a show set AFTER the events of Voyager rather than pre-Kirk. There’s no real reason for it as far as I’m concerned. The story elements they’re using aren’t KEY to the plot – they could easily have used the same story arcs in a post-Voyager continuity with a few tweaks.
This is a show that, for me, gets it just right.
Patrick Stewart is 79 years of age.
Jean Luc Picard is likewise.
This is a Starfleet captain, retired and living his life out post-space exploration. And it’s like he hasn’t skipped a beat. Stewart IS Picard from the moment you meet him on-screen. An older, jaded Picard, but Picard nonetheless.
Everything FEELS right.
We knew from the old 80s TV Show that he had a family vineyard, and here he is tending to it in his retirement. But, when adventure calls, he is unable to resist. He IS the CAPTAIN we remember, with all the charm and gravitas we remember.
TV special effects have moved on, and it feels COMPLETELY right. This is a future set 35 years after the events of TNG, so a leap forward in the on-screen tech just feels correct. Even the intro of new characters fits perfectly.
The show sprinkles in Easter eggs and cameos, but never seems to force them. Each comes in a natural way and all feel like they earn their place. And, believe me, there are some obscure references to pick up on.
This is Star Trek finally getting it right for the new age of TV.
This is the show that has dragged me back into the Trek-fold.
Where Discovery was a show I enjoyed…it was not a show I felt compelled to tune in for. I didn’t feel a need to binge watch it either. It was competing with other shows that felt like that for me, not just sci-fi.
Every week I eagerly look forward to Better Call Saul. I’m hooked on Westworld again. The Expanse and Altered Carbon I devoured in day-long binges! Discovery…not so much. I watched it when I had a free hour here or there, but in the grand scheme of things, it could wait.
Every Friday I eagerly fire up the Xbox and hop into the Amazon Prime app and I’m watching the latest episode.
I’m already eagerly awaiting season 2!
I know in the US that Star Wars kind of beat Star Trek to the punch. I get a similar vibe from The Mandolorian, in that it’s a wonderfully realised show that is set in that universe, but goes its own way while paying just the right amount of homage to the original films.
But here in the UK, Picard beat it to the punch. While I’ve watched only the first two episodes of The Mandolorian (that’s all Disney has allowed us over here, despite the fact that the internet exists and, if we really wanted to, we could have watched the whole series already! Really, Disney? Get a clue! I imagine that they’re doing it to try and keep subscribers, but don’t you think that the hard core Star Wars fans who you’re trying to encourage to watch it week-by-week might have already gone online and grabbed it on one of the many pirate feeds? Someone needs to teach Disney what the internet is and how it works. Rant over!), I’ve now watched the entire first season of Picard, all the way to its emotional climax.
I love Picard.
Not the man. (Though Patrick Stewart is one sexy beast of a man!)
No, I love the show.
THIS is the Trek I’ve been waiting decades for.
This is Trek, FINALLY, growing up and taking its place.
Live long and prosper