Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Star Trek Love Song

Part I

*if you don’t like Star Trek  this post will bore you out of your head – Don’t feel obligated to read. Seriously. I won’t get mad*

I mentioned a few weeks ago about my long dormant love affair with Star Trek. Something that I fully expected to continue fading into the night as more and more years went by. I mean, other, grittier, more emotionally driven shows have really upped the ante since ST was on the air. Well, entirely out of the fondness of my memories for the series, I added them to my Netflix queue as soon as they came available. I cherry picked episodes on TOS and TNG to watch for a while, I didn’t bother with DS9 however, as I made the complete run of DS9 a few years ago when they came out on DVD, and that show is a bit more serialized than the other incarnations so seeing an episode out of context can leave me scratching my head and wondering what it was I was forgetting.

Anyway, earlier in the month, I found myself with 45 minutes or so to kill, and I had recently seen the Abrams reboot and Star Trek was on my mind. I was thinking about it some, and I realized that my viewing habits with Voyager were somewhat spotty. It wasn’t entirely my fault. If I recall correctly, Star Trek Voyager was the show that the mega-geniuses over at Paramount decided to use as their flagship for their fledgling network, UPN.

I'm not entirely sure they put in the effort
they could have into their logo.

What that meant to people like me was that Voyager wasn’t viewable. UPN was trying to strong-arm cable companies into carrying the rest of their programming – mostly urban sitcoms - and no longer allowing Voyager to be shown in first run syndication.* I believe this all came to a head around the end of season 3. And up until that time I had not missed an episode. After that time, I had nothing, no access at all, I couldn’t watch the show.**

And just like that, I moved on. Yes, things eventually got worked out, but I missed most of the fourth season before someone locally stepped up and decided to carry the UPN network. By then, I wasn’t that interested, I’d learned to live without it. That isn’t to say I never saw another episode, I did, I saw lots of them. But the spell was broken and I just wasn’t as interested anymore.  That huge gap in my Star Trek knowledge was damning.

You see, I spent most of my online time back then – the late nineties I guess – on the Trek BBS. I was there every day. Had been for years. I loved it, talking about the episodes, the technobabble, real science, and my favorite, the neutral zone, a board where folks argued about politics, religion, all sorts of stuff like that. In fact, After Voyager disappeared from my local programming, I switched to that portion of the Trek BBS and almost never discussed Star Trek at all after that. Well, until a year or so later when the BBS switched servers and lost all my account data and I had to be reset. Since newbies weren’t even granted access to the controversial portion of the forums and my post count went back down to zero, I had no reason to even go back there anymore… the last of my Trek fandom died then. I just let it go.

So, back to Netflix, I was recalling all this and decided to pick up where I left off with Voyager. I watched the last episode of Season 3 (A cliffhanger involving the Borg) and finally jumped right into the black hole of my viewing, season 4.

And through the first 9 episodes of that season, I felt like the show was very well done. I think I’d caught most of them later, but not all. Still, I thought it was an impressive run of quality. The 10th episode though, one entitled, Random Thoughts, was a bit of a mess. The crew visits a peaceful planet full of telepaths where Voyager’s engineer gets arrested for thinking a violent thought.

Not a bad premise I suppose, not really original, it made me think of that early episode of TNG where Wesley committed some minor snafu on a peaceful planet and was sentenced to death, but the execution of the Voyager episode was ludicrously stupid. At one point, the constable of the alien city is aghast at the barbarity humans displayed by even have a brig to hold people against their will. She moralized a bit and stressed that they rehabilitate their criminals, they don’t imprison them. Then, only moments later, she arrests Voyager’s engineer and starts a procedure to lobotomize her. Not one shred of irony was expressed by anyone. In fact, when the real criminal is caught later, the Vulcan seems to take some pleasure in relaying that they were keeping him in the brig. I mean, really? The entire episode was poorly conceived and poorly executed. That brought back a flood of memories in of itself, not everything Trek did was gold.
Let's see. The evil thinking engineer is the bumpy headed girl with a perm

I think I was like a guy that was romanticizing a long lost relationship, conveniently editing out the unpleasant parts. Star Trek wasn’t all awesome. There were some dark times in there.

So, here’s to a second romance. I’m still loving my run through Voyager, and look forward to watching the final four seasons straight through. Then I’ll jump onto Enterprise.  Good times are ahead.

*If memory serves, the first few years of Voyager were shown on UPN, but not exclusively, as UPN did not have an affiliate in my area at the time, local channels were allowed to carry the program.

**At the time, Nielsen ratings for Star Trek were falling like dollars at a Vegas strip club. At its height, I believe TNG was pulling in something close to 10 TIMES the viewers than Voyager was getting by the end of its 3rd year. Seems like a bad time to trying to bully people by threatening to take away your product, but whatever.


Tonja said...

I love Start Trek, but I don't think I saw many Voyager episodes or DS9. A Star Trek marathon would be fun.

Brent Wescott said...

I think the same thing happened with me watching Voyager. I don't remember if I watched all three seasons, but at some point, I wasn't able to watch it any more, then when I could again, I just didn't care. I don't know why, but I think the same thing happened with DS9. By the time Enterprise came along, I wasn't interested at all.

Now I've started watching some on Netflix myself. It should take a while, but maybe I'll go through all the seasons of all the shows. How fun!

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

I watched most of Voyager's run because we had a UPN affiliate around here, but I never really warmed to the show. For one thing, the "Lost in Space" aspect seemed pretty implausible especially since like "Lost" they didn't seem to have that much trouble surviving even though they were thousands of light years from home. And the Maquis people joined with the Federation people too seamlessly. There should have been more tension between them.

Then they brought in 7 of 9, which was just a blatant attempt to bring in some sex appeal. (I mean Jeri Ryan in a skintight bodysuit is pretty obvious.) My brother and I had a joke where pretty much it became "alien of the week" where they'd run into some alien and then usually 7 of 9 or the Doctor would save the day because they were the most popular characters.

Huntress said...

For me, ST started with first-run episodes on a TV with a fuzzy picture. The first movie was jaw-dropping fantastic. But my rabid enthusiasm waned over the years.

IMHO, it ran out of gas after TNG. Only now, with Abrams’ reboot, is it rising from the grave.

Jay Noel said...

I watched a few episodes of DS9, and lost interest right away. Tried Voyager, and didn't like the captain's nasal voice. But never watched Enterprise - but liked the premise. Plus, I'm a huge Scott Bakula fan.

I did enjoy the reboot, though. Thought it was fantastic!

David P. King said...

I'm not exactly a fan of Star Trek, but I read your post. There are some things I like about some parts of the whole franchises. I will admit the J.J.Abrams version spock, er, spoke to me more.

Briane P said...

I stuck with that post to the end, even though I've never been much of a fan of Star Trek. And now that I've finished it, I see I have to go edit my Star Trek fanfiction spec script in which I have the whole gang visiting a planet of peaceful telepaths who punish crime by using transmogrification technology to make all the bad guys look like Richard Nixon.

Is it Trekkily-correct to refer to them as "the whole gang?"

Matthew MacNish said...

TNG was the only Star Trek I ever really got into, but I remember dial up Bulletin Board Systems fondly.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Star Trek Voyager was my favorite of the Trek series. I loved the entire cast.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I saw all of Voyager through its run, although I didn't appreciate it as much back then. After running through it again two years ago with NetFlix, I realized it was really quite good. And now that I've seen all of them, I can say the only ones that were hard to watch were the first two years of Next Gen. They really were cheesy bad.
DS9 will always be my favorite. It had the best cast of characters.

Andrew Leon said...

Enterprise is the only one I've seen straight through, mostly because I like Bakula. I thought it started well but lost itself somewhere in there.
Actually, I probably saw all of TOS, but that was when I was a kid, and I've never gone back to watch them as an adult.

Honestly, the first season of TNG was so bad that I've always been amazed it made to a 2nd season.

Danette said...

I wasn't a big Voyager fan at the time but if Star Trek were on at a regular channel I would try to watch it. I sometimes catch the original Star Trek at night and always enjoy it. I don't think there are better shows than that on now.

Gail said...

This is an old Star Trek fan speaking...every Friday night, I rushed to watch the next episode, the next adventure with Spock, Kirk, and Scottie.

Went to a Star Trek movie in later years and it was like an entirely different universe in the lobby. Dozens of people were talking in detail of old episodes...and I knew exactly what they were talking about...My favorite episode, The Menagerie.

I have followed all children of this first series but never got to watch Captain Jane very often.

Talk about rambling...I need to go find some caffiene.