Star Trek at Fifty
Happy 50th anniversary, Star Trek!
Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
My first memories of Star Trek are spending mornings with my parents on weekends watching back-to-back reruns of the original series and Lost in Space. They must have known that they had a fan on their hands when I asked my dad one day if we could construct the Enterprise out of Legos. We didn’t watch much of The Next Generation in first-run syndication, but we watched every one of the movies with the original crew at every possible chance, and I caught up later after Star Trek: Generations and my good friend Ryan McCarthy rekindled my passion for the franchise in the mid to late 1990s. After that, it was almost appointment watching for each series and film.
There was a rough time in my fandom in the era around the end of Star Trek: Enterprise and the debut of the JJ Abrams films, which I credit to a wave of “true fan” negativity that spread virally through the internet. With the resurrection of the franchise under Abrams, I was able to overcome my conflicted emotions and determine that it really didn’t matter what other fans thought. I realized that my fandom is mine alone, and my passions cannot be helmed by the fickle attitudes of the internet.
I often used Star Trek quotes in my essays for school and college, and I patterned my writing style off of the authors I read as I grew up, including so many in the continuing voyages.
Star Trek truly helped form me into the person I am today.
My favorite series is Deep Space Nine, followed by The Next Generation and Voyager in a close second. I truly believe that Voyager gets a lot of undeserved flack for its seven-year run. It had a lot of problems, especially in the strict adherence to the Trek writing formula, but it also returned to the core of the franchise in exploring the unknown. I wanted more conflict between the Starfleet and Maquis crews, and I wanted Voyager to be less pristine after all of the conflicts. They made a big deal out of conserving power and replicator rations, but the ship was nearly always flawless. I always point to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica as an example of what I expected, but with a much lighter story.
Deep Space Nine was unique because it turned the tables on the Trek formula in exploring the human condition by bringing the galaxy’s diversity to the characters. I loved the explorations of faith and religion, as well as the link to faith-based conflict and the American fascination with war. My single contention with DS9 is how the Bajoran story was left unresolved: Instead of ending the series with Bajor finally being admitted to the Federation, the show ends with the resolution of the Dominion War, which was not part of the overall premise.
My least favorite series is Enterprise, mostly because of the chaotic mess that it was. In an added moment of truth, I have yet to sit down and watch the entire animated series.
My top films are The Voyage Home, The Wrath of Khan, First Contact, and Star Trek Beyond. My least favorites are The Final Frontier, Into Darkness, and Nemesis. Between those poles, the order shifts around substantially. The Motion Picture does the most amount of moving because it’s a beautiful picture and among the most Trek of the franchise, but it’s also very slow and deliberate. It is very much a Robert Wise film.
My favorite captain is Sisko because I see a lot of myself in him. He’s emotional and conflicted, but he’s also willing to go against the Starfleet bureaucracy to get things done. Picard and Janeway are close seconds.
My favorite characters are the Prime Universe Spock and Data, though the Kelvin Universe version of McCoy is rapidly climbing the ranks to join them. I admit that Spock and Data have suffered a bit in my eyes with their latter appearances. Without a doubt, my least favorite character is Voyager‘s Kes because of the sheer amount of untapped potential and wasted story in that character. She could have been so much more.
My favorite ships are the Defiant and the Enterprise-D.
I also have two favorite Star Trek podcasts. The first is Women at Warp, which is a podcast that explores the Trek universe from a woman’s point of view. It has helped me to see many aspects of the franchise from a different point of view, and they are always respectful and thoughtful with their analyses. The second is Mission Log, which is an excellent episode-by-episode review of the franchise with some additional supplemental material from the Roddenberry archive. One of my favorite elements of this show is producer Rod Roddenberry’s journey as he comes to terms with his father’s legacy.
I am very excited for the future of the franchise, including the greenlit fourth Kelvin Universe film, and I am happy to see the return of Trek to television with the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. The future is bright, and it has the potential to inspire future generations as it helped inspire me.
My deepest gratitude goes out to the casts and crews, authors and artists, game studios, and my friends and family for keeping this ship flying for fifty years. May she continue to boldly go for many more.