Before we get to the Star Trek talk I need to explain what’s been going on and why I’ve been allowing the Journal to lay fallow all month. My Mother I Law passed away two weeks ago after a year of struggling to recover from surgery on her spleen and liver. I’m not going into details mostly because the pain is still too raw. My family is still grieving but mom had a good full life and I don’t think she died with regret. The only reason for even mentioning this is to explain why my productivity has been in the basement all month. But mom was one of my biggest supporters and she would have slapped upside the head if I allowed my mourning to keep me from doing what I love.
I love you mom and I know you are always with us.
This week we are going to discuss the remaining Star Trek Television series. I will be addressing them in order of debut as opposed to show continuity. Therefore we will be going Deep Space 9, Voyager, and finally Enterprise. So sit back and read more of inane rambling about the aspects of Star Trek which inspired me as a writer.
It’s also appropriate that I am in the middle of discussing Star Trek at the time mom passed. Mom and Dad were the biggest Trekkies I’ve ever known. They had every novel and every episode of The Original Series and The Next Generation on VHS along with the animated series.
I remember when it was announced that there was going to be a new Start Trek series. I’d waited so long for The Next Generation (TNG) to be made, as I know most Trekkies did, that it seemed impossible to consider two different shows running at the same time. My friend Jeff Rowland was the only other Trekkie I knew back in the days before the internet and we both anxiously tracked the progress of the show via articles in TV Guide, Star Log, and the official Star Trek magazine.
Yeah… I’m really old.
Initially Deep Space 9 (DS9) was to be launched off of TNG with the reoccurring character of Ensign Ro Laren. The actress who played Ro apparently was worried about being type cast as a Star Trek actress and declined the role. I suggest you go to IMDB and see how her career progressed following the decision not to star on DS9… yeah that was a wise choice right there.
DS9 was a major departure from what Star Trek had been in the past. Instead of being set on a starship traveling the galaxy DS9 was a space station near a planet (Bajor) recovering from centuries of occupation by an aggressive alien race (The Cardassians). DS9 was also parked at the lip of a portal (Wormhole) to the other side of the galaxy (Gamma Quadrant) created by a mysterious race of aliens worshipped by the natives of the planet (Bajorans). The commander of the Station (Benjamin Sisko) was anointed the Emissary by the Bajorans after he made contact with the Wormhole Aliens.
The show was amazing.
I make no bones about it. In my opinion Star Trek Deep Space 9 is the single best installment of the franchise. From the setting, to the characters, to the storyline DS9 is more than a show. It is a sweeping epic which in one way or another bridges every version which came before it. DS9 solidified an instinct I’d always had as a storyteller, for me arching interlocking stories interspersed with stand alone episodes was the way to go. DS9 delved into subjects Star Trek had always shied away from or never confronted head on. From homosexuality, sexism, racism, terrorism vs. freedom fighting, and religious freedom DS9 didn’t shy away from the darker areas of science fiction but still maintained the Star Trek philosophy.
It also made me love the Ferengi…
… and Mourn, Mourn was fucking hardcore!
In 1995 Paramount launched its own network UPN. As we all know UPN is the number one network in the world and has enslaved several Caribbean nations. With its mega hit shows The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer and Love Boat the Next Wave UPN has redefined entertainment as we know it.
What do you mean that never happened?
No I have been smoking the pot!
What the fuck is the CW?!?!
Okay so I have been informed that I have been looking into alternate realities in my dreams again. In this universe the UPN was the bitch network of the six network system. Perpetually ranking below the WB and FOX, then eventually ceasing to exist when it was merged with the WB to form the CW. Yeah I was there and it still confuses the fuck out of me, all I know is that they didn’t cancel Smallville or Supernatural… so yay CW or some shit.
In 1995 the flagship launch show of the UPN was Star Trek Voyager.
I was excited about Voyager. Not only was it a new Star Trek series but it would it be running concurrently with DS9. Add to that the original story idea and I was hooked. Voyager was about a Federation starship (Voyager) which through the actions of a powerful entity is flung across the galaxy and stranded with a crew of Marquis freedom fighters. Realizing it will take 70 plus years to get home the two crews join forces and begin the long trek home. I waited with baited breath when the pilot episode aired.
I was underwhelmed to say the least.
My first complaint was the Captain. No I am not going to bitch because Captain Katherine Janeway was the first female Star Trek Captain. It was that they cast an actress as talented as Kate Mulgrew and then didn’t let her act! Watch the first season of Voyager then compare it to the last three and tell me I’m wrong.
I fucking dare you… I wait.
See what I mean?!?!
Anyway the first season was a bit of a slog although the character of the Doctor played by the impeccable Robert Piccardo did tend to save some of the rougher episodes for me. But sometime in the second season the show began to gain some traction and in the end I came too really like Voyager. When the show found its voice, it’s about a very large dysfunctional family trapped far from home, I was proud to say I was fan. Voyager tends to be the show fans make fun of. It’s the one most of the Trekkies can agree had the most flaws.
But I learned from it.
I learned that even something which starts out rough can be worked and turned into something good. Mediocre plots and characters can eventually be changed into something I rewatched to this very day. I know it sounds lame but I like to think Voyager helped to inspire to me salvage works I’d decided needed to be shit canned.
Also they got rid of Kess… sometimes you have to kill Kess.
Now we come to my single greatest Star Trek heartbreak, now we will talk about Enterprise. Star Trek Enterprise was to date the last television gasp of the Trek universe. There have been numerous rumors of a new Trek TV series in recent years but I will believe it when we see it. It only lasted four seasons but Enterprise was a love letter to the fans and should have been a major hit. Unfortunately it was on UPN at the end of its existence and was thus doomed to die an early death, but damn it went out with a bang!
Enterprise was that rare television entity. It was a prequel that worked damnit! Enterprise told the early story of mankind’s initial steps into the galaxy before the formation of the United Federation of Planets. With a cast of top notch actors and actresses and having the amazing Scott Bakula in the lead role of Captain Jonathan Archer I loved Enterprise from day one.
But they shouldn’t have tried to push water polo as the sport of the future.
I mention Enterprise more because it rounds out the Star Trek television universe and I loved it than because it inspired me. I was nearing my return to writing in the years Enterprise was on up to and including writing several rough novellas that will never see the light of day. But Enterprise did show me how to successfully work new tails into the back end of a successful franchise.
But seriously… water polo.
Some of you might be wondering why I didn’t list episodes I particularly loved in this installment. The short answer is age. I watched TOS and TNG when I was a child and they were integral in my development as a creator. But I consumed the rest as a teenager and adult. This isn’t to say I don’t love them just as much, and in some cases more, it just means they aren’t part of my creative foundation.
Next time we will wrap up our Star Wars experience by discussing the movies, novels, and comic books. I will also be touching on the JJ Abrams relaunch and my feelings on those movies.