Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to watch Star Trek

By Aaron Sherman

A while back, I did an essay about Babylon 5 that was primarily a guide for those who had never seen the show. I feel that watching it start-to-end is a bit of a mistake at this point, and there are places where you really should take a break and review what you've seen.

Star Trek isn't the same sort of thing. Star Trek is more of a mythology than a story, and as such you can pretty much jump in anywhere and enjoy it. That being said, I have definite opinions on how you might go about this. I recently put part of this together for a Google Plus response to someone who had never watched the series, so here it is (a bit expanded) for everyone:

Getting your feet wet with the original show (no particular order):

  1. "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
  2. "The City on the Edge of Forever"
  3. "Space Seed"
  4. "Balance of Terror"
  5. "Mirror, Mirror"
  6. "The Devil in the Dark"
  7. "Journey to Babel"

The Movies (in order):

  1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
  2. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

These three really are a trilogy, and though some will say that you should avoid the middle one, I can't imagine the discontinuity being fun... and frankly, though the second half of SfS is kind of iffy, the first half more than makes up for that. It's funny, has some great character moments (especially for Bones, Sulu and Scotty).

After that, skip ST:V at all costs. Really, it's that bad. See VI if you feel like it, but there's no strong need. Skip the rest for now.

Okay now you're ready to see the new JJ Abrams ST (but you already have... just being complete) along with its sequel.

Now you can dip into The Next Generation. I would suggest a progression:

  1. "Encounter at Farpoint" (parts 1 & 2 if you're seeing the version that was broken up)
  2. "Where No One Has Gone Before"
  3. "Datalore"
  4. "Heart of Glory"
  5. "Skin of Evil"
  6. "Q Who"

... at which point you can watch "The Best of Both Worlds" I & II... from there on, I'd say that if you like the series, just keep watching. There are some truly great episodes in the middle of the series, though it's always uneven.

A note on Encounter at Farpoint: This is not a great episode (and it's 2 hours long), but you should start there. You've just watched a lot of other Trek, so I think you should be okay with some uneven storytelling as the price for getting up to speed on a new show, but just keep in mind that that's what you're doing. Farpoint is a bit goofy, but it introduces the characters, especially Data and Riker. Their relationship is key to the dynamic of the rest of the series. Riker is deeply and unashamedly the avatar of masculinity and data is, in many ways, an idealized version of a man, but with none of the traditional qualities of masculinity. That tension plays out through the rest of the series, right up to season 7. If the show has an arc (it really doesn't) that's it.

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