This past Thursday was double-up time on our newer Star Trek shows: the final episode of Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard dropped as well as the new prequel series, Strange New Worlds.
Two new Star Trek episodes in one day!
We had to double up on or viewing time to catch them both, but it was well worth it.
The new one stars Anson Mount (whom we adored in the AMC series, Hell on Wheels) as Capt. Pike, the lead character from the original Star Trek pilot episode, The Cage — later resurrected as the basis for a two-parter, The Menagerie, in the first season of the original series.
Pike reappeared as one of the few bright spots in season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery — AKA “Star Trek Disappointment.” Despite my desire to stay open to the weird Klingons and absurdly out-of-time-sequence technology like the impossible, nearly omnipotent “X drive,” I eventually lost interest. Sorry, but I skipped the 4th season entirely — simply not interested.
Anyway, as a lifelong Trek fan who had to struggle to see the original episodes Back in the Day, it’s been a long journey as we watched various attempts to transport us back to that future. For now, Picard is our favorite of the newer shows, bringing back a beloved old friend not simply to continue his prior adventures, but as an ongoing character of interest. Season 2, in particular hit the mark for us. Now the long wait for the final, third season starts. Sigh…
Not that Trek fans haven’t had to wait before. When the original series ended after 3 short seasons, we waited. And waited. Reruns were helpful when you could find them, because back in the Dark Ages — the ’60’s, kiddos —if you missed an episode on its first showing, you might never see that one. Even the reruns were only rarely available.
So, we were all quite excited to find out our favorite spaceship and crew would be returning after a 10-year absence with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The anticipation was palpable and only matched in magnitude by how bad that movie turned out to be.
“Star Trek: The SLOW-Motion Picture” some people nicknamed it. We just watched it again yesterday to verify how truly terrible it really was. We were smugly satisfied to see our prior perceptions were on target. This movie sucked. Even the cast knew it. Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy thought it turned out so badly that it signaled the end of the franchise.
Glad they were wrong!
Instead, it lead to a series of successful movies with a pattern Trek fans would come to know too well: the odd-numbered movies sucked and the even-numbered ones brilliantly brought us back to the future we already knew.
Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan featured the return of a classic enemy from the original series in a thrilling adventure once again worthy of the franchise. Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock was better than the first one — but that’s not saying much, and it wasn’t much better, either. The fourth, The Journey Home, provided us with a good story, but better yet, featured once again the intriguing and funny characters we had come to know and love in the first place. Then it was as if Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, took it as a challenge to get worse again with a “search for God” theme creator Star Trek Gene Roddenberry for some reason thought would be a good story. It wasn’t. Thank goodness they followed it up with a good one, The Undiscovered Country.
By this time, they realized they had the fan following that could support a new TV series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first true extension of the original series’ format, took off. ST:TNG remains far and away our favorite Star Trek series — although, of course, without ST:TOS (The Original Series, as it is now known), it never could have happened. Still, those seasons of Capt. Picard and Commander Data and Ryker and Troi resonate deeply to this day. That’s why Picard works so well.
Somehow, I never really got hooked by either Voyager and Deep Space Nine. I’m still uncertain why those never interested me much. No, once more, after TNG came to en end, it was back to waiting for more Star Trek movies. The TNG movies — Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis — certainly did not disappoint us along the way. All of them proved to be solid stories well worth repeating beyond an initial viewing.
We loved Star Trek: Enterprise, the next entry in the TV catalog of Star Trek storytelling — but it never really did catch on. Too bad, as I felt they were doing a great job of not just giving us more prequel back story but tying up some loose threads from prior plotlines.
The 21st Century rebooted James T. Kirk in a new origin movie simply called Star Trek. Energized by another Enterprise crew we already knew but still had yet to meet, we eagerly any sequel, and were rewarded with Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond, more stories from this alternate Star Trek timeline. Sure, same people, different timeline branching off. Why not? It’s science fiction, folks! Nothing like multiple timelines and overlapping realities merging and diverging to generate endless story possibilities, right?
The continued interest in the various Trek iterations and the emergence of streaming services prompted the birth of Star Trek: Discovery, ushering in an era of new shows. I sure wish that Discovery felt less like a disappointment, but it never actually felt anything like a prequel, as billed. It never even really felt like it belonged in the same set of stories. I guess it did serve the purpose of continuing the franchise, enabling both Picard and Strange New Worlds.
Thanks for that. We’re still boldly going into the Star Trek future’s past — if that makes sense. But, hey, it’s science fiction — it doesn’t have to make sense.
It just has to make good story.