Talking Trek

I have now seen all of the Star Trek movies and varying amounts of all of the TV shows (bar the animated series). I’ve seen all of Picard, Discovery and Enterprise, a handful of episodes of TOS and the first seasons of TNG, Voyager and DS9. I should probably wait until I have seen more of the shows (they do have seven seasons after all) but I feel like rambling about this now.

This post started off as an attempt to rank the various movies and TV shows in order of how much I like them. However, I ran into problems with that. In a lot of respects it’s hard to compare the shows against one another because they are different. I was just talking with a friend about trying to do this and we said that we like things for different reasons – so how can you put one above another?

There is also another point in that shows change over time. I have only seen a fraction of TOS, TNG, Voyager and DS9. If I take Enterprise then I would say the first two seasons were solid but I really disliked the last two seasons. How do I rank Enterprise then? Do I base the ranking on the first two seasons, or on the last two? If I compare the show as a whole then I’m comparing the entirety of Enterprise to fractions of the rest and that’s not really fair. Those other shows might improve or they might get worse like Enterprise did.

Basically what prompted me thinking about this post today is how much I’m liking DS9 which I did not expect. I very nearly didn’t start watching it because I was watching TNG and Voyager and introducing another show seemed like a lot.

I’m going to swerve now and mention Marvel.

Way back in time I first got a Netflix sub because I wanted to watch Daredevil. I loved Agents of Shield and I love the Marvel movies and more Marvel seemed great! However, I really did not like Daredevil. I forced myself to watch the first season and then Jessica Jones came out. I watched the first episode of that and didn’t like it and had a moment of revelation.

Why was I watching something I didn’t enjoy all that much just because it was ‘Marvel’?

There’s no requirement to watch everything in the Marvel universe. If I don’t like something then that should be ok. Just because it’s Marvel doesn’t mean I have to like it and this has been playing in my mind again. Quite simply just because it’s Trek doesn’t mean I have to like it or watch it if I don’t feel like it. I watched all the movies despite thinking “why?” on a couple because they were movies (a one-off) and once watched they were watched, they don’t persist like TV shows.

TOP 5 – The movies
Full confession over my biases before I begin. I’m not keen on Shatner as Kirk and my taste runs to modern over classic. Basically I’m more inclined to like something that’s newer. That’s just my personal preference.

#1 Trek Movie – Beyond
It’s hard to put into words the feeling this movie gave me but it was one of warmth. I liked the details like the Kelvin Pods. I liked how more of the crew got a chance to shine, Uhura had a badass moment, Sulu’s determination was clear, Scotty was funny and poignant in equal turns – the loyalty on display was great. I really felt like they were a crew and that extended beyond just the main bridge team.

#2 Star Trek (2009)
#3 VIII: First Contact – this was actually the first Trek move I ever saw
#4 IV: The Voyage Home
#5 II: The Wrath of Khan

I’m stopping at the Top 5 rather than ranking them all because at a certain point I’m not sure. I know I place the first Trek movie, The Motion Picture, dead last on any list. I’m not keen on VII: Generations because of the teddy bear (petty I know but it’s my abiding memory of the movie) and I don’t like Into Darkness because of Cumberbatch.

Apart from that the varying movies had moments to recommend them – Bones is always good and I like how Riker always looks like he enjoys his work. I like characters and so there are little moments in all the movies which are good. However, they mostly don’t really stick out to me. I actually had to refresh my memory on the plot of a couple despite having only seen them in the last few months. The exception of course being Data’s sacrifice to save Picard in Nemesis, I’ll never forget that.

Back to TV (or perhaps more accurately to characters)
I like spaceships but I don’t watch Trek for the Enterprise – I watch it for the characters. It’s the characters that make me invested in the shows, that make me want to watch their adventures and spend time with them. There are characters I like and characters I don’t like. I’m fully capable of watching a show even if I don’t like the main characters (e.g. Alias) if the side characters are compelling enough.

These shows are full of characters. I went crazy over Discovery in season two because I fell headfirst for Pike, Number One and Spock and I want an Enterprise series with them so badly. Their relationships with one another are also a huge draw (or very off-putting). For instance take Enterprise, I loved the friendship between Archer and T’Pol but I have a complete NoTP with T’Pol and Trip, I hated it when they were on screen together. All of this creates an impression – a feeling – about the show which is hard to quantify or explain.

Back to the lesson I should have learned from abandoning Marvel TV, I am currently trying to force myself to watch TOS. I don’t much like it but I feel like I should watch it anyway. To a certain extent this applies to TNG as well. I feel more attached to the TNG bridge crew than I do TOS: Picard, Riker, Data etc. I like them. However, there are certain things that bug me about TNG (Wesley Crusher is a big one) and I’m just wondering whether the show improves as time goes on. I watch TNG because I feel like I should, not because I actually feel like it.

Voyager suffers from the fact that I don’t like Tom Paris or Neelix and if Netflix shows them in the episode picture or talks about them then I tend to avoid clicking play for a while. I do like Janeway and Kes and the EMH and I want to watch more to get to when Seven of Nine is introduced – I really like her in Picard!

Right now having finished watching Picard and Discovery season three still an unknown amount of time away the Trek I’m turning to is DS9. It’s not because I like it a lot more than I like the rest of the Trek shows, it’s because there isn’t any character I dislike so I don’t avoid watching it. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for Quark but that’s the same as disliking him. I admit there is more I wish they would do with DS9, the episodes are a bit uneven with how much time they spend with the characters. I feel like some characters really could do with more screentime – some relationships too like between Sisko and Dax. I find Dax a fascinating character that hasn’t been explored properly yet.

So where does that leave us with ranking Trek TV?

To be blunt I don’t think it can be ranked because it’s too broad. There are good episodes and bad all within the same show. It comes back to liking things for different reasons and how do you compare that? I will say that I don’t enjoy TOS and that I’m finding TNG a bit of a slog despite liking the characters well enough.

Maybe the problem is more to do with the fact that there isn’t a stand-out show. There isn’t a show that absorbs me the way some other non-Trek shows have. I’m obsessed with Trek as a general universe more than any specific entry into it.

Now if Pike, Spock and Number One get their own show that might be a different matter…