this post was originally published in 2018, hence the lack of in-text reference to Star Trek: Picard
It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family
I’m a big Star Trek fan. So I’ve been massively excited by the new Star Trek TV series, Discovery, and couldn’t wait to see the first episode on Netflix! Will it be a hit or a flop? Only time will tell, though most of my non-Trek friends are surprised to hear there’s a new series. Either way, it raises the question: which Star Trek series is best?
The Original Series (1966-1969)
Okay, so I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, this show was always hopelessly dated for me. I like the themes, and I am thankful it gave us the Trek franchise, and yes, some of the films featuring the original cast were pretty good. But sorry: the series is naff and painful. It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family; there’s no doubting the depth of affection for her, we just don’t want to ever see her again because she is an out-of-date embarrassment.
The Next Generation (1987-1994)
So this is what got me into Trek. I saw my first episode around 1995. To today’s kids, this must look as naff and dated at the original series looked to me when I was a kid (The Original Series was 25-ish years old when I got into The Next Generation, and The Next Generation is now about 25 years old itself). Asides from the early episodes which were very campy and involved soon to be jettisoned stuff like Troy’s bizarre accent and Picard’s peculiar Frenchness, the series was fairly solid with a lot of great episodes.
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
For me, this is the best Trek by far. It’s where the franchise decided to bravely seek out new worlds that Star Trek could go. It straddles the old world of rose-tinted optimism and 22 episode seasons of random adventures, and the new post-Battlestar Galactica world of tense, tightly plotted, ten episode seasons, where the world is shades of grey, not a simple good versus evil. From the start of the Dominion War arc, DS9 also foresaw the tight central plot arc and went to dark places not explored before or since in Trek.
Too much, too soon. Next Gen was just winding up, and DS9 had barely begun let alone found its groove. Voyager would have benefitted from a couple of extra years development. Yes, the concept was good: a squabbling crew thrown together on a Federation starship hurled roughly 70 years from home. A female captain was much appreciated. And the show features one of my favourite Trek characters of all time: the Doctor, who was the Emergency Medical Holographic backup program which was forced to run full-time when the actual doctor got killed. A great spin on the non-human coming to terms with and trying to become human (see Data in Next Gen, Odo in DS9). Sadly, most characters were crap, and it took about four years to even get going.
Brilliant costume and set design, a real gritty and primitive edge, wonderful developments of the early Federation: earth is barely united, and the Vulcans are very much senior partners. Great characters, great acting. Yes, it also took a while to get going. Not helped by the name, “Enterprise” as opposed to “Star Trek: Enterprise”, even the program-makers realised their error and re-inserted the “Star Trek” branding in the fourth season. But by then the damage was done. Premature cancellation in season four makes this show a somewhat frustrating, what-could-have-been.
Hardly fair to judge it on the first season alone. And Star Trek is notorious for slow-starting series which only gear up after a few seasons. None-the-less, Discovery has great design and some lovely characters. There were some shocking twists, yet never for the sake of it. I can’t say it was perfect. I think 7/10 is a fair rating. Never-the-less, this might be the best first season of a Trek ever.
So which Star Trek series is the best?
© 2017-2018, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry