July 2nd, 2009

Alien tech

Star Trek? More Like Bar Dreck!

Over a month and a half ago, I enjoyed Star Trek: Alternate Original Series (is that what we've settled on?) so much that I was inspired to finally watch Star Trek: The Original Series. So using this guide, this list, and your recommendations, I put together a list of thirty some-odd episodes that would give me the optimal Star Trek experience. That's right, for the first time in the history of new show squee, I will be reviewing a series I haven't watched all of.

My impression of the series from the first episode I watched was not that favorable, but it deserved the Pilot Pass. Subsequent episodes were much better, and I found myself really enjoying the series and the characters. There was something comforting in the formula and lack of continuity. In each episode, the crew face some crazy shit, and by the end of the episode, they have prevailed and everything is back to normal. In fact, in another departure from my usual viewing methods, there were a couple episodes I watched out of order! Even though the characters never change, the actors made every single one of them iconic.

Kirk (William Shatner): Captain James T. Kirk is true captain material, except for the part where he disobeys Starfleet command all the goddamn time. But that's because he has a heart, dammit! Kirk is always right, even when he's lying through his teeth, which is frequently. While the Kirk Knows Best philosophy became tiring after a while, I appreciated how idealistic he was. It was so quaint. And I kind of love Shatner's delivery. It just seems so right, somehow. He makes it sound like that is a natural way for Kirk to speak, and it fits with his personality, the way part of the sentence gets thrown out before a short pause introduces the next part with a slightly different inflection. That's how Kirk operates; he rushes headlong into trouble before pausing and taking a different tack when the first one doesn't work.

Spock (Leonard Nimoy): Spock! Half-Vulcan and half-human, he self-identifies as Vulcan and views everything in terms of logic. Nimoy could basically make anything sound awesome; he just has that voice and that carefully precise delivery. As a result, any episode focusing on Spock (with one notable exception that focuses more on, er, his brain) is sure to be gold. He's the most interesting character in the mix because of his background and alien way of life.

McCoy (DeForest Kelley): Bones! Oh man, DeForest Kelley owns. Dr. McCoy is Chief Medical Officer, but more than that, he's Kirk's friend and frequent confidant. He's a curmudgeonly bastard with a wry sense of humor, and he complements Spock by being the voice of humanity and emotion. I love him to bits even though he's kind of totally racist against Vulcans.

Scotty (James Doohan): Man, I can't believe James Doohan is Canadian. He sounds so good Scottish! Most of the time, the Chief Engineering Officer doesn't get much to do besides give the ship more power and pull a bunch of levers and yell technobabble through the intercom, but he's totally lovable while doing all those things. And for some reason the chain of command gives him the ship whenever Kirk and Spock are taken hostage (which is a lot), so he gets to be all awesome and loyal to Kirk in those moments.

Sulu (George Takei): SULU! Oh man, Sulu is the best. He's this happy-go-lucky Japanese dude who...I don't really know what he does, but he plots courses or presses buttons or something. Takei's deep, rich voice sometimes seemed at odds with Sulu's personality, but other times it worked perfectly and you just wanted to hear him speak. Sulu is terribly underused and rarely gets to do anything of import, let alone leave the bridge.

Uhura (Nichelle Nichols): Uhura is even more underused than Sulu. I hardly ever saw her standing up; she was always sitting in her chair and listening to communications or sending them. She's basically a switchboard operator. Occasionally, however, she gets to be fierce. What I found interesting was that the show never ever commented on the fact that she was black and Sulu was Japanese. Their races were treated as non-issues. There's no racism in the future! Except against Vulcans.

Chekov (Walter Koenig): He's Russian! He likes Russian things! He talks about Russia a lot! Chekov, like Sulu, plots courses or presses buttons or something. He seems to be a pretty serious kind of guy for the most part, at least on the ship. He loosens up when he's off the ship.

I had no idea that the show was basically the Kirk/Spock/McCoy show and everyone else was just there. I'm so used to ensemble shows that it's beyond me that you wouldn't take more advantage of your strong supporting cast.

I could attempt to summarize my feelings about the show in general, but I think anything I say has already been said a million times by more intelligent people in the last forty years. A better way to get across my feelings about the show would be to present capsule reviews and letter grades for all the episodes I watched. And, hey, aren't you glad I did that?

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The best thing about new show squeeing right now is that I am posting about how much I love the show...and there is still more show for me to watch! (Plus movies!) I plan to watch the episodes I skipped in syndication (or CBS.com) so I can continue to get my Star Trek fix, even though I've seen most of the best episodes, which means I have a lot of bad episodes to look forward to. And Star Trek gave me a whole new perspective on bad television. But it also gave me a whole new perspective on good television. It's easy to see why the show is a classic, and its influence on all sci-fi television following it is undeniable. I was interested in it as a cultural text, but I wound up enjoying it as a television show.