I’ve long been a fan of Star Trek. Recently, I’ve been re-watching all the Star Trek series. I’ve made it through Enterprise, the Original Series, the Animated Series, and The Next Generation and I’ve just finished the second season of Deep Space Nine. I’ll go on to watch Voyager and Discovery after that.
I think the first two seasons of the original series (TOS) were pretty good. The third season is where it started to go downhill. They started encountering several earth-like planets (a gangster planet, an ancient Roman planet, a western planet) which were probably filmed just because they had access to the Hollywood back lot. Also, the third season turned Kirk into a womanizer and began the cliche of killing off red shirts. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were compelling characters for the most part. The rest of the crew didn’t have much personality, though, being stand-ins for nationalities rather than fully realized characters of their own.
The animated series did a surprisingly good job of picking up where TOS left off. All of the original cast (except Chekov) returned to do their voices and they often used scripts that were written for the original series. It didn’t feel like it was written with children in mind. Since it was animated, they were able to do things the live action series couldn’t do due to special effects constraints. Two very alien-looking crew members join (which would be hard to pull off given the makeup effects of the time), the holodeck is introduced, they encounter strange aliens including an underwater species and a giant amoeba, and Uhuru gets to sit in the captain’s chair for one episode. I think the fact the episodes are just half an hour long instead of a full hour also makes them better because there’s no room for filler.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) had a lot of good episodes. I think the Warf story lines were good until he suddenly had a kid. The Romulans were never a very good villain. They were better at making threats and coming up with overly-complicated plans that fell apart at the last minute. The Borg and Cardassian episodes were probably my favorites. The characters are compelling, but except for Warf and Data, I don’t think any of them really grew. I feel like the best characters (Ro Laren, Tasha Yar, Katherine Pulaski) didn’t get enough episodes.
On Enterprise, the only compelling character who actually had a story arc was the Vulcan, T’Pol. Everyone else was pretty interchangeable in terms of personality, remaining the same person at the end of the series as when they started. From what I remember of Voyager (I haven’t re-watched it yet), the only character who experienced any growth was The Doctor.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) is my favorite Star Trek series, although, upon re-watching the first two seasons, I have to admit they have some problems. The wormhole aliens not understanding time doesn’t really work. Dr. Bashir continually pursuing Dax after she’s repeatedly made it clear she’s not interested is particularly hard to watch. As cringe-worthy as Bashir’s womanizing is, I suppose he’s just carrying on the tradition of third-season Kirk from the original series and Riker from TNG, although they didn’t tend to meet women who weren’t interested. Another problem carried over from TNG is the sitcom husband/wife relationship between Obrien and Keiko in which they just seem to bicker all the time. Also, Obrien continues to be racist against Cardassians even though he seemingly overcame this in TNG.
Odo, the shape-shifter, is a bit of a problem too. Sometimes his com badge is part of his body and sometimes it isn’t. He weighs less when he turns into something smaller, and he goes unconscious when he gets hit on the head even though he’s not a humanoid. We’re also told he’s not skilled enough to look like humanoids, not being able to quite get the ears right, but this doesn’t make sense either seeing all the other flawless shape changes he can perform.
And how does Quark continually avoid punishment after all the shady things he’s done including being an accessory to murder? The first two seasons are still too episodic. They don’t contain enough continuing story line, which is understandable since it was made back when people couldn’t stream TV shows. Also, like the other Trek series I’ve watched so far, there aren’t enough female characters.
I think the reason I liked Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) more than the other Trek series is the characters seem more like real people. They sometimes have to choose between two bad options and do morally questionable things. It also has more of a continuing story line than the other series I’ve watched. (I haven’t gotten to Discovery yet.) The setting is also a nice departure. It takes place on a space station on the edge of federation space in a recently war-torn area. Things are tense. They’re not on a space ship, so they can’t just fly away. They have to deal with the consequences of their actions in a way the characters in the other series don’t.
It’s darker and grittier than the other pre-Discovery Treks. Commander Sisko having a son is a nice change from the other captains who don’t spend any time with their families. DS9 is often called the dark trek, but with all the Ferengi episodes and the appearances of Q and Troi’s mom (at least early on) I think a good case can be made for it also being the silliest.
I do think the characters on DS9 grow more than the characters on the other Trek series. Over time, Kyra becomes more than just a fighter. Quark becomes more than just a businessman. Sisko overcomes the loss of his wife. In fact, DS9 is the only Trek which doesn’t have an emotionless character as part of the main cast. The original series, Enterprise, and Voyager all had Vulcans, while TNG had an android. In fact, in DS9, the Vulcans we meet aren’t as emotionless as they claim to be.
More of the main cast are aliens than other Trek, and there’s more civilian characters in the main cast as well. I like that Obrien and Bashir don’t like each other for the first couple seasons, unlike other Trek in which everyone gets along with each other pretty much from the get go.
I personally think Duet is the first really good episode. Gul Ducat is a great villain. I like that there’s tension between the religious Bajorans and the godless Federation. Whispers is another stand out episode in which everyone treats Obrien differently, but you don’t find out why until the surprise ending. I also liked Maquis in which tension within the federation is revealed and we find out that Cardassians have such disciplined minds, the Vulcan mind meld doesn’t work on them. Sisko is forced by circumstances to work with the villain Gul Ducat. I liked Sisko’s speech about how it’s easy to be idealistic on Earth where there’s no problems, but not out on the frontier. The speech seemed to be directed at the early Star Trek series. The Collaborator is another stand out episode.
DS9 may have gotten off to a rocky start the first two seasons, but things really start getting good by the end of the second season. I can’t wait to continue my rewatch.