I’ve mentioned before I don’t do cable, I stream. The problem with streaming is that you can just head off on random tangents. Oh, I don’t mean stuff like binge-watching every single episode of Game of Thrones in a single weekend. No, I would never do something like that. Not me! Nothing to see here, just move along…
No, lately I’ve been going, err…”research”. Doing the old “compare and contrast” shtick from my school essay days. Things like comparing both versions of Battlestar Galactica, or the old campy 60s Batman* versus the more current movie iterations, that kind of thing…
*How the hell did Bruce Wayne escape a life sentence, anyway? He kept a young boy in a cave!
Anyway, part of my little experiment has been rewatching the various Star Trek series. Now, I need to set the stage by admitting my complete addiction to the original series. An addiction, I should add, that dates back to when I was like five years old.
The original series will always, always, always have a special place in my heart. Kirk – and Jack Aubrey, for fellow historical fiction fans – is still the ultimate prototype for what a sci-fi/adventure captain should be. Shit, I still want to grow up to be Kirk…
But the best of the lot? Deep Space 9. Odd, I know. That one is pretty much the red-headed stepchild of the Star Trek world. It’s the part of the universe that’s not really part of the universe. That’s one reason why I like it so much.
Leaving the different captains and characters aside, each of the series had its own personality and focus. And those differences are why I prefer DS9 above even the original:
The original Star Trek series was a commentary on the politics, culture and social problems of its day. While that is what sci-fi can do very, very well (hey, I chose it as a genre for a reason!), it made that series more about plot than anything else. The situations into which Kirk and the others were placed were in total control. Everything else (characters, tech, etc…) was there to serve that plot.
Next Generation, on the other hand, was really all about the tech. Oh, there was still some commentary, but it was less important than the gee-whiz tech (and the consequent special effects). This was also the most…unrealistic of all five series. Jesus, this thing drove me nuts with its saccharine cheerfulness. To me, it’s still the worst of the lot.
Voyager? Voyager followed closely in TNG’s footsteps. In spite of some good performances – and some real improvement in writing and directing in the later years – it’s still a show about a ship. With some people on it. And aliens. And reversing the polarity of something…on every single goddamned episode. Find a new throwaway line, for fuck’s sake!
Enterprise tried to get into characters, but it took until like season three for you to give two shits about any of them. Two-thirds of the characters on that show needed to be punched. Repeatedly. It tried to escape the mold of the other series (being the last one made), but never lived up to its premise, nor escaped the shadows.
And then there’s DS9. In spite of the criticisms above, I actually liked all the shows, but DS9 is my favorite for one simple reason: it’s a show about the characters. The station is just a backdrop, it means nothing. The setting and tech are there just to support the damned characters. That’s the way it should be. Oh, and I suppose I should mention that it’s also the darkest of all five. It succeeds with themes and problems the others could not do well. It also brings a certain bit of jaded cynicism the other shows, far more optimistic and happy, could never even consider.
Dammit…my little 400-word post (wishful thinking, I know) has blown up on me, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Shit, I could do a twenty-thousand word paper on this and still leave crap out.
I think I’ll just cut my losses and go nerd out on some anime now…The Eccentric Family at the moment, if you’re wondering. Absolutely gorgeous animation that is also pretty unique in terms of style, and a story that is simultaneously funny and dark as hell.
There is a (kinda old) joke that the two best Star Trek movies ever made are “Galaxy Quest” and “Master & Commander”. It’s funny because it’s pretty much true…