Roddenberry on the Rocks
I admit, I haven’t seen much of Gene’s original opus, Star Trek. I have the requisite number of films under my belt, to be sure, but the show itself has never held much appeal. It was just a little too 60’s for my tastes. I can appreciate what it was trying to do, and I understand why some will hold that it’s the best (or even the only good) Trek to be had, but I fear it is largely lost on my puny, video-game-addled brain.
The Next Generation, on the other hand, was a completely different story. The continuing adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his disgustingly wholesome crew cemented early what would become a life-long love affair with science fiction. Star Wars taught me that spaceships were cool, but it was Next Gen that explained why they were important. Sure, the show is so cheesy you could spread it on a Ritz, and looking at it in the rearview I can honestly say the bulk of it is obnoxiously hard to take seriously. It will forever occupy a place of honor in my heart, though.
Try as it might, however, it will never touch Deep Space Nine. I admit, as a kid that show really put me off at first. What do you mean we’re not on a ship? Who are all these non-Federation characters? And what the hell happened to the tone?! I was a really stupid kid. For my money, DS9 was where Trek finally got it right. Or as right as Trek is allowed to get, anyway. By letting us see the universe from a perspective outside Starfleet, it painted a much more interesting picture. Let’s face it, there’s only so much sanctimonious preaching one can take from the inhabitants of Paradise before you just wanna stand up, scream, and shank a fucker.
I love the Randian nightmare that is Ferengi society. I love watching a former terrorist try to lead her people out of the rubble of genocide. I love seeing Starfleet willing to do some serious dirt to uphold its ideals in spite of its ideals. I love characters that hate each other, unhappy situations with unhappy endings, and the tangible character growth that you get from a story with an arc. (A very loose arc, but it was there often enough.) It still falls short in some areas, sure. It’s still Trek. But Deep Space Nine is the best that franchise has to offer.
And then there’s Voyager. I tried. Dammit, I really did. And I suppose it’s a neat premise, but it was largely squandered on exploring the Borg. Apparently, the less we know about them, the more interesting they are as a villain. The characters are far and away the weakest, which is a crying fucking shame given they did stuff like putting a woman in command and casting the first officer as a Native American. There’s kernels of greatness in there. The Doctor is one of my all-time faves. But it also has friggin’ Seven of Nine. And Neelix. Fucking Neelix. Oh well. At least the theme song was really good.
Enterprise I skipped. Between Voyager and the largely god-awful Next Gen films, it was clear that Star Trek wasn’t for me.
Besides, I’d seen Babylon 5 by then. And lets be perfectly honest here. Once you’ve had real orange juice, you just can’t go back to Tang.