To Boldly Go – Star Trekking
I like Star Trek well enough, but I’ve never really been a Trekkie. I watched reruns of The Original Series, growing up; Then the movies (that first one was terrible). I liked The Next Generation and it has remained a favorite, including the movies. John deLancie’s Q is my favorite character across the entire franchise (even making up for Whoopi Goldberg). Deep Space Nine was okay, though I gave up on it before the end. I doubt I’ve seen half of Voyager – Kate Mulgrew (Mrs. Columbo) didn’t work for me at all. And I haven’t even seen the pilot of Enterprise. I like Scott Bakula, but it just didn’t appeal. I haven’t read any of the books, though my buddy David Marcum loves them (I read a ton of fantasy, but not much scifi).
The past month-plus, I’ve been on quite a Star Trek binge. I find myself watching episodes of Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, ST Continues, and The Original Series. And overall, it’s been great!
I got CBS All Access last summer to watch season one of Lower Decks. I liked it. I didn’t bother with Picard, or Discovery. Just wasn’t interested in live-action Star Trek. I preferred Galaxy Quest, and the TERRIFIC documentary (streaming on Prime), Never Surrender.
Rewatching the beginning of Twin Peaks on Paramount+ (CBS All Access was rebranded), I kept seeing the icons for Picard and Discovery. Late one night, I decided, ‘Why not?’ and I watched the first ten minutes of Picard, with as much interest as watching paint dry. It was dull: Battlestar Galactica-pacing dull (I gave up on season one of that show. I don’t know how it could have moved any slower). Clicked over to Discovery.
WOW!! From episode one, I was hooked. I stayed up past midnight watching the first two episodes, and binge-watched season one, totally caught up in the show. I managed to finish episode one of Picard along the way, but it didn’t get more interesting. And who shows up on screen in season two, but Anson Mount?! I wrote about Hell on Wheels here at Black Gate. It was an excellent Western Noir series, with a great cast. Mount was perfectly cast as Cullen Bohannon (and The Next Generation’s Colm Meany was a compelling railroad baron). If you haven’t seen Hell on Wheels, it’s out there for streaming. Go read my non-spoiler essay and then give yourself a treat. Since they planned the final season, it closes out everything well.
I was excited for season two, with Mount playing Christopher Pike. And man oh man, was he good! It’s a completely different character than in Hell on Wheels, but that just shows Mount’s range. I loved his full-season run as the star of the original Star Trek pilot. And tying his story line in with The Cage/The Menagerie, was simply brilliant. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming series, Strange New Worlds. It’s another prequel series for Paramount+, with Mount and Ethan Peck (Spock in Discovery) giving us more early adventures. Filming was completed in July. Yay!!
Giving Pike a center role (it’s not all about him – other stuff goes on too) for an entire season makes me happy. And Mount hits at least a two-run homer. Maybe a three-run shot – Giving hope for a grand slam with Strange New Worlds. I feel like I waited my entire life for a Pike season on Star Trek, even though I never knew it.
Story, casting, visuals – Discovery is simply strong. Soneqa Martin-Green is a good lead as young officer Michael Burnham – though her character’s sense of self-guilt and hubris is a bit wearing over two seasons. The rest of the cast is very good, though I don’t recognize any of the actors. Except for Michelle Yeoh, who has some kick-butt fight scenes which remind me of Ming Na Wen in Agents of Shield.
I’m not going to drop any spoilers here. The show digs deeply into the Klingon culture, painting a much more then two-dimensional picture of the long-time bad guys (they’re still bad guys). I literally was hooked in the first ten minutes, and kept on going to the end of season two. This show is faster-paced than The Expanse (another scifi series I very much like), and looks great on screen. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons. I’m taking a bit of a break to savor them, and then I’ll move on to season three.
Season two of this animated series started dropping weekly while I was watching Discovery. I think Lower Decks is a fun Star Trek show. It doesn’t have the heft or gravitas of Star Wars Rebels, or The Clone Wars. Or the recent The Bad Batch. It’s more of a ‘Family Guy does Star Trek.’ But I liked season one. It’s not quite a cartoon reality show about the Star Trek equivalent of the servant class. But it is a show that’s not just about the Bridge crew (though they’re pretty prominent).
I like this more than What If, which drops about the same time each week. And over the years, I’ve definitely been a bigger fan of Marvel than Star Trek. Lower Decks is an enjoyable side trip for the Trek fan. Episodes are quick, easy watches. Go ahead and check out season one and see what you think. It’s a much ‘lighter’ experience than the animated Star Trek series from the seventies.
The Original Series
I did not see The Original Series when it first ran, since I was only 19 days old when the final episode of season one ended. But I saw the show growing up in the seventies, and I liked it. I remember the first movie being a big disappointment, and then Wrath of Khan being awesome. I don’t go back and watch reruns of The Original Series very often, but I like it.
Discovery’s season two episode, If Memory Serves, opens with scenes from The Cage, the unsold pilot for The Original Series, with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike. NBC ordered a second pilot (a rare occurrence for the time, and prompted at least partly by Lucille Ball’s urging. Her Desilu Productions was behind the Star Trek proposal), but only Leonard Nimoy’s Spock was retained from the first episode. The Cage was repurposed by Gene Roddenberry into a two part season one episode, The Menagerie, which used a ton of footage from the original.
So, I took a break from Discovery, on the spot, to rewatch it, and then The Menagerie. Discovery had me so enamored I was re-watching tangential episodes of The Original Series, rather than another episode of Picard. Another character from The Original Series appears in season two of Discovery, so I watched another old episode featuring that one.
And all of this Star Trek watching led me to another series I didn’t know about; with strong ties to The Original Series.
Star Trek Continues
Howard Andrew Jones wrote about this pre-eminent fan series here and here. I had just seen a FB reference to it in the comments to one of my glowing posts about Discovery. But I knew nothing about it, even though there were eleven full-length episodes (and three vignettes) between 2013 and 2017.
Star Trek Continues is aptly named, as it continues The Original Series. The episodes represent the Enterprise completing their five year mission. It recreates the tone, feel, look, and even sound, of The Original Series. I’ve only watched the first couple episodes, but I think it’s great. I consistently recommend Solar Pons for folks who want more Sherlock Holmes, but don’t want to read the same original stories over again.
If you want more of The Original Series, but to not just watch it yet again, go to YouTube and check out Continues. It will absolutely give you more of what you want.
There are guest appearances from actors associated with the Star Trek franchise, as well as other scifi shows. This includes Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, John deLancie, Erin Gray, and quite a few others.
Once you get used to it NOT being Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly (though James Doohan’s son plays Scott, which is neat) and bunch, it really is like watching more of the original show. The sound effects, the way the sets are constructed, the speeches by the actors – they did this right.
I’m going to watch all of the episodes, and if you like The Original Series, I recommend checking them out. They’re on the web, and at Paramount+. This show is more than an homage; it really is a sequel.
There’s even a blooper reel from the second episode, Lolani, which is fun to watch. And that, by the way, is an excellent episode, thematically.
Which gets us to Picard. Season one is ten episodes, and I’ve managed to watch the first three. It’s been like sitting at the dinner table and making myself finish my meatloaf. I’m one-third done. As I’m a Next Generation fan, I thought I’d like this a lot more. Where Discovery totally ensnared me, Picard actually put me to sleep.
It’s just soooooo slow early on. The Expanse has slow parts, but everything else more than makes up for it. This is more like Battlestar Galactica, which was so ponderously paced, I gave up on it late in season one. I don’t want watching something to feel like a chore (Hello, WandaVision). I’m going to watch the rest of season one because several people have told me it gets better. And I imagine it will. But so far, it’s my eighth-favorite Star Trek series, behind The Animated Series, and Voyager.
And having mentioned The Animated Series, it certainly should appeal to fans of The Original Series. It’s very much like watching the show, even to the voices of the cast.
UPDATE – Last night, I watched episode 4. Something interesting happened at the very end of it. And episode five was the first one I liked. So, things did pick up. Both those episodes were directed by Jonathan Frakes (Riker), which might have had something to do with it. His imdb credits show an impressive list of TV episodes which he has directed, including for some of my favorite shows: The Good Guys, Leverage (original and reboot), Castle, Burn Notice, The Librarians; and lots of Star Trek stuff.
Of course, the guest appearance of a familiar face from the Trek-verse might have been it too. 🙂
Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made it’s Black Gate debut in the summer of 2018 and has returned every one since.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.
He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series.
He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI and XXI.
He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.
Am I the only person who liked PICARD? Sometimes it seems like it. Maybe it’s just Patrick Stewart. Anyway, if liking PICARD is wrong I don’t want to be right!
DISCOVERY started strong but overall it has kind of let me down. They seem to be so busy with the flash-bang that they always seemed to rush through their story ideas–and some of their story ideas were quite good, so why rush them?
LOWER DECKS is by far my favorite, since it plucks the abundant low-hanging fruit of humor in the Star Trek universe(s).
I, too, have been re-watching the original series. About 3/4 of the way through the first season. Like you, I grew up with these in the background, and watched all the episodes of various times in high school and college. Of course that was (mutter mutter) years ago, and it turns out I’ve forgotten quite a bit. It is a remarkable show, though, even with its odd missteps. Also, they were clearly not broadcast in the order they were filmed, so that creates some odd disconnects.
Speaking of TOS, that has made me much more interested in watching STRANGE NEW WORLDS.
Have you seen the original animated series from the 70s? So weird and 70s, but also has some good stuff. Larry Niven’s “The Soft Weapon” was adapted into an episode, leading to arguments about if the Kzinti are actually a canon race in Star Trek– I’ve seen at least two Kizinti in LOWER DECKS (or maybe the same one just shown twice), so perhaps that debate has been settled.