Treknobabble #21: Ranking the Star Trek Series, Part 1


Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

My favourite Star Trek series is the Original Series (OS). I suppose this might be explained by the fact that I grew up with the Original Series and thus have formed an attachment based on familiarity and sentimentality. As suggested by Rusty James, I will attempt in this article to examine the pros and cons of each of the television series and list them in order of personal preference. Perhaps my biases will become apparent, but hopefully you might gain an insight into your personal favourite or even give a particular series a chance and seek out the series on DVD.

As in my previous article, something that is a pro for you might be a con for me, and vice versa. As a follower of the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC, I will say, “To each his own.” Debate is encouraged although, remember, stubbornness is a particular Vulcan trait I have adopted.

I have chosen to discuss the series from most favourite to least favourite, thereby ruining any suspense as to what my most favourite is, because if you’ve been reading the previous Treknobabbles, then you already know what my favourite is. (Hell, if you read the first sentence of this article, then you know what my favourite is.)

I’ll also mention some of my favourite episodes of each series. I’ll refrain from listing my least favourites, because I can be entertained by “bad” episodes. I even like the most reviled episode of the OS, “Spock’s Brain.” (Fred Freiberger was brought in as producer of the third season of the OS after Roddenberry left the show, carrying out his threat that he would leave the show if the OS wasn’t given a better time slot. The third season is generally acknowledged as the worst season of the OS. Interestingly, in the ’70s, Freiberger was brought in to save the UK televison series Space: 1999 by making it more Star Trek-like. Didn’t Gerry Anderson, creator of Space: 1999, know that Freiberger made Star Trek worse? True to form, Space: 1999 was cancelled after a year with Freiberger at the helm.) Having written that long aside and now that I think about it, the Next Generation (TNG) “Shades of Gray” clip-show episode was pretty bad. It was put together as a cost saving second season finale by incorporating footage from previous adventures. Definitely my least favourite episode of any Star Trek.

So without further ado, let me begin by going through the reasons why the Original Series is the best Star Trek series. Each of the Star Trek series has its own unique characters, but the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are the penultimate friendship because they each idealize a particular aspect of the human psyche that flourishes when combined together. I could go into Freudian or Jungian psychology here, but I’ll limit myself to speaking in everyday parlance. McCoy represents the emotional side. Spock represents the rational thinker. And Kirk is the conscience who initiates the action after integrating both sides of thought. (If you’re into academic readings for the layperson, I recommend you seek out “Meaning in Star Trek” published in 1977 by Karin Blair. A blurb on the cover of my paperback edition asks, “Why was Star Trek the most popular series of all time?”) Kirk is the typical hero, but he’s aided in his adventures by his friends. The enjoyment comes from seeing how the three of them interact during the adventures.

The stories are simple, moralistic tales told in a linear fashion.

The female guest stars with the risqué costumes make the show eminently watchable for me. So even though this series was made in the ’60s, to paraphrase and précis a speech uttered by Kirk, “A woman is always a woman.”

As for the cons, most people point out the papier-mâché rocks, spare set design, laughable creature make-up, and primitive and repetitive visual effects. I wonder if the redone special effects for the latest release of the Original Series in HD has made the series any more watchable for the younger generation.

The OS is prone to ridiculous fist fights, but I personally think all the Star Trek series used ordinary fight coordinators. Kirk’s flying drop kick was kind of cool even though it was impractical. I remember seeing on YouTube a fight from the OS labelled as the worst fight scene ever with Kirk actually using his rear end to knock someone down in an Enterprise corridor!

The acting was kind of theatrical with Shatner’s pausing widely made fun of, but Nimoy was Emmy nominated for his acting, so people did recognize Nimoy’s craft in portraying a character stifling his emotions.

The music is bombastic, but the OS is not known for its subtlety.

The humour was forced.

When one tallies up my pros and cons for the OS, one might wonder why I love the OS so much. As depicted in the movie Free Enterprise, I guess I’m just one of many people who wishes he could be Captain Kirk.

My next favourite episode of the OS after “City on the Edge of Forever” (which I’ve mentioned in a previous Treknobabble) would have to be “Amok Time” because of Spock’s admonishment to his no longer wife-to-be who has logically manipulated the rules in her favour and forced Spock to kill his best-friend, Kirk: “Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” I know Spock isn’t the originator of this pearl of wisdom, but it was an appropriate thing to say.

Deep Space Nine (DS9) is my second favourite of the Star Trek series. What made the series special for me was the unpredictability of what would happen and being entertained in the process. The introduction of Worf, the spacecraft Defiant, the holographic crooner Vic Fontaine, Ezri Dax, Section 31, etc., were all elements that kept me anticipating the next instalment.

I have to admit having a thing for the character Kira starting with the premiere episode even with the nose bridge make-up appliance, unfeminine uniform, and unattractive page-boy hairdo.

The Bashir/O’Brien relationship seemed forced at first, but it was interesting seeing how Bashir stopped being annoying and grew to be someone who O’Brien enjoyed being around.

The Ferengi characters who were used as comic-relief did become funny with “Little Green Men” postulating that the Roswell aliens were actually Ferengis.

Admittedly, besides the premiere, the first season of DS9 was rather undistinguished although most people acknowledge the episode “Duet” as a highlight in which Major Kira meets a Cardassian who was not responsible for oppressing her race and learns to have compassion for him.

Most people pointed out that DS9 was stationary, so the Star Trek concept of exploration was missing. The producers tried to address this with the Defiant. But the places visited by the series with ships all tended to be Earth-like anyway due to budget limitations.

Commander Sisko comes across as a very loving father, and respected by his staff, but the character seems very bland. The blame can’t be placed on the actor Avery Brooks, because he was capable of creating the charismatic character, Hawk, in the “Spenser for Hire” series. In later seasons, Sisko was made more Hawk-like when Sisko had his hair shaved off.

Odo’s shape-shifting ability was never sufficiently explored, and was virtually ignored after the first two seasons. Having him lose his ability emphasized more that this ability was unnecessary.

My favourite episodes of DS9 are “Far Beyond the Stars” which hypothesized that DS9 was the creation of a ’50s black science-fiction pulp-writer, and “Trials and Tribble-ations” which I thought was a brilliant melding of the DS9 characters with the OS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

I feel like I’ve only superficially touched on a few things in my two favourite Star Trek series. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to elaborate in future articles. I will finish ranking the rest of the series in Part 2. But let me end on a non sequitur.

I bought a cheap, used DVD of a movie called Mach 2 starring Brian Bosworth. “Why?” you might ask. Well, Michael Dorn (Worf from The Next Generation (TNG)) was listed in the starring credits. This movie was made around 2000 after the end of TNG. There are some respectable actors like Cliff Robertson in this movie. The whole movie feels like a television movie. The script. The direction. The cinematography. The movie is rated R for violence, but the violence is so tame. Anyway, guess who shows up piloting the Concorde? Robert Pine! Chris Pine’s dad!

  • Your two faves are my two least favourites. I think you’re onto something with the OS being your favourite because that’s what you grew up watching. I grew up watching TNG and that’s my favourite with Voyager a far second but second none-the-less.

  • ProjectGenesisGangster

    Mach 2 was way before its time for 2000. Its terrorists on planes and evil Vice President plots are very soothsaying. I wonder what the Boz knew then and why didn’t her warn us!

  • Thanks Reed, I owe you one.

  • Lucas

    Ezri Dax was the one negative thing about DS9. I can’t watch a single episode with her and not want to throw her out of the airlock