The Trek Trek, Part I: An Introduction

by Paul Zurheide

 Part I: Boldly Going Where I Have Not Gone Before
            I’m going to just go ahead and assume you already know Star Trek. Rather, you know of Star Trek. Certainly the science fiction cult phenomenon created by Gene Roddenberry; which first aired in 1966 is hard to ignore. In fact, I’m willing to bet you know exactly who Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are, and can name the actors who played them. More so, I’ll even bet you can do what someone has called a “pretty good” impression of William Shatner. I’ll even go so far as to say you already know whether you can or can’t make “that V thing” with your hand, don’t you? Yeah, me too.
            In the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” Jim Carrey says “Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a pool man!” When I was a child and first saw this, I knew exactly what Jim Carrey was quoting, and I laughed. I still do. You want to know what’s strange about this? I had never once seen one single episode or movie of Star Trek. I didn’t know who Leonard “Bones” McCoy was, but none the less, I knew what it was from. You might think people teach Star Trek in pre school, because it somehow just seems engrained in everyone’s subconscious.
Glasses still generally categorized as “Bad Ass”

Now obviously, when saying I’ve never seen an episode, I’m not talking about “The Next Generation.” I doubt you can find anybody who was alive and coherent in the 90s and hasn’t seen The Next Generation. In fact, I remember watching that show a bit, but did I retain any of that information? Not at all. A few names, a love for Patrick Stewart, and some hazy recognition of a few characters is all I held onto from that series. (There was the bearded guy…) I just remember it being on, none of what happened. I was a kid, my main motivation to watch it was that the “Reading Rainbow” guy is wearing cool glasses.

            For now, as an introduction, I’d simply like to discuss Star Trek as a whole. It’s a funny thing how being a cult phenomenon works out. How did Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), which ran for a mere three seasons grow to be so powerful as to have a vast army of devoted followers? It has since spawned 4 spinoff series and 11 films. Not to mention the hundreds of novels, a bunch of video games, comics, etc… etc… The most notable achievement in my opinion though, is the complete and coherent Klingon language which has developed from the series. Not bad for a show constantly on the verge of cancellation, huh? The downside for any cult hit is that it ends up with a stigma associated with it. You know, the old “Star Trek is for nerds” one. I’m sad to say it’s that very stigma that kept me away from the series as a whole. I was short in high school (still am), I wore glasses (still do), and was dealing with an unhealthy Pokemon obsession throughout my teen years. (Happy to say I’m over that.) I didn’t need Klingon as a second language and an emergency pair of Vulcan ears in my desk drawer to add to it. Now though, as I approach my thirties, stigmas of being a nerd no longer hold any relevance. Not to mention that my favorite eight bucks I spend a month, Netflix, has offered me the chance to watch not just one Star Trek series, but all of them.
            Which brings me at last to my mission. To watch, chronologically, every single episode and movie of Star Trek,  starting with TOS. (This is not entirely true. Chronologically speaking, Star Trek: Enterprise takes place before TOS, but I felt it important to leave that until the end so I can have an appreciation of the things that Enterprise is showing the origins of.)
So the order I will be watching will be as followed:
*(Author’s note: I was told to put the 2009 reboot at the very end of my Trek to appreciate it the most. I originally intended on putting it between Star Trek VI and The Next generation)
            Of course it’s not all that clear-cut. The Next Generation and the first few seasons of Deep Space 9 overlap timeline-wise. As does the last seasons of Deep Space 9 with Voyager, and The Next Generation films. Which, courtesy of Wikipedia, can all be neatly spelled out for you episode to episode here.
            Thanks again Wikipedia. Now I didn’t know any of this overlapping nonsense until I looked at the wiki. I didn’t know which movies go where on the timeline or anything, which is why I looked at the wiki to begin with. Like I said, I didn’t and still don’t know much. Another inconsistency I’m sure someone could notice is that the JJ Abrams reboot is a prequel, so it should go before TOS. Well, as a big JJ Abrams fan, I of course saw the film when it came out. I genuinely see it more as a sequel for Spock as opposed to a prequel of the series. Though we’ll get to that in a few blogs from now.
            So why mention any of this? Why proudly proclaim that I am venturing deep into the bowels of dorkdom and watching 30 seasons and eleven films on one topic? Well, because it’s most likely worth the ride. Any story that can hold onto such longevity, affect so many lives and ingrain itself so deep into worldwide culture has to be at least of some quality. My next blog will be entirely encompassing Star Trek: The Original Series. Which as of writing this I am mostly through watching. So far I will merely point out that I find it surprising, smart, fun, poignant, and all in all pretty damn wonderful. There are some fantastic episodes and some really, really awful ones. The characters though are engaging, and the series is intelligent and meaningful.
            The purpose of these blogs will be to discuss each series and film. I will find out what makes it work and what doesn’t. I will look at it from the standpoint of an outsider looking into a world he knows little about, a perspective often shared by the heroes of these tales. I want to investigate the character relationships, the overall message, the best and the worst. I want to find out what exactly the plot of this whole Star Trek thing is. It seems people who love Star Trek are so caught up in these tiny nuances, the actual point of the story has gotten lost. It’s become a legend of sorts, with the popularity of Star Trek having become more popular than Star Trek itself. I mean, with as much as you and I know about Star Trek, do you actually know what Star Trek is about?

            Keep in mind, I am no Trekkie, or Trekker I believe is the politically correct term these days. I’m not going to squabble over inconsistencies or fight over whether or not Klingons have a better outlook than Vulcans or whatever the worst case scenario is that you may expect out of a Star Trek blog. I’m simply a writer with a love for science, and an appreciation of sci-fi who enjoys a good story and can laugh at a bad one. I enjoy character arcs and interactions. Most of all though, I just plain enjoy a good television show. I’m looking at a whole universe worth of stories for the first time and stating what is simply my opinion. It’s a series which I know is worth watching for me, and perhaps maybe for you. After all, this is a series that like it or not, has and will continue to “live long and prosper.”
            …Yeah, I kind of threw up a little bit in my mouth after writing that last line.
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