With Star Trek: Discovery just around the corner (Update: it’s now available to watch on Netflix, here’s what I think so far!), my wife and I have been re-watching each of the previous series. I thought I’d write a little Star Trek guide for anyone unfamiliar with the old shows. Renewed interest in the franchise came after the movie reboot. If you’re interested in the new saga which is coming soon to Netflix, but want to catch up on Star Trek history, look no further!
Star Trek Guide – Where to Watch
There’s good news to begin with! All of the classic Star Trek shows are available on Netflix, which means for the price of a good pair of pants you can watch the whole lot.
I’ll admit, there’s quite a lot to get through. But think of this as the ultimate nerd challenge. See how many days you can go without sleep before you imagine you can build your own warp drive.
Star Trek Guide – The Original Series
In the dark and distant past (the 1960s) a chap called Gene Roddenberry had an idea. That idea became one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises ever created. Star Trek was born, bashed repeatedly by critics and production execs and promptly died after only three series. Thankfully, among a small fan base the show gained enough recognition that it was not left to rot.
These three original series are, I’ll admit, probably very difficult to watch for a newcomer. They’re loud, brash and often a little cringe worthy. What’s still great about them however is the sense of adventure. Every encounter is a new step into the unknown and there had never really been anything like it before.
The main trio of characters should be familiar to everyone. There’s Captain Kirk, Spock and Doctor McCoy. You’ll also be introduced to the iconic star ship Enterprise and the supporting cast members like Mr Scott, Sulu and Uhura.
Star Trek Guide – The Animated Series
In 1972 after successful syndication of the originals and with increasing fan pressure, the animated series made its debut. There were two seasons, for which most of the original cast reprised their roles.
Although the animation suffers from technical limitations it did produce a few advantages. The alien life encountered is often more elaborate than it’s live action predecessor. There were no makeup budgets to worry about after all.
The two series consist of only 22 relatively short episodes, so it’s a quick watch. The animated series in an excellent way to get your kids into Star Trek too.
A Note on the Original Crew’s Films
Before moving on to the next TV series, you might consider watching the cinema outings of the original crew. There are six movies, some of which are sublime (Wrath of Khan) and some of which are downright absurd (The Final Frontier).
Go for the even numbered films if you want to see the best on offer. Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and finally Undiscovered Country.
Star Trek Guide – The Next Generation
The Next Gen as it’s known, has a holy grail like status among Trekkies. Living legend Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard leads a cast of incredible actors across seven series.
Meet Data, the android with human ambitions. Commander Riker (Picard’s iconic “Number One”), Worf (the grumpy Klingon), Geordie, Councillor Troi and Doctor Crusher complete the main line up.
The first two seasons of 1987 and 1988 are a bit rigid, but once the show found it’s feet there was little to criticise. In fact the feature length conclusion of season seven is widely considered one of the best TV finales ever.
You’ll learn a lot more about the United Federation of Planets and its principles. The most iconic alien civilisations are given a deeper meaning and their back stories are fleshed out.
The Next Generation and the originals are the only two outings so far that have received the HD treatment, having been completely re-scanned from the original film. They’ve also seen the addition of new special effects work.
A Note on the Next Gen Films
There were another four big screen appearances for the Next Gen crew. Generations is ok, it’s a nice crossover between the two crews if nothing else. First Contact is brilliant, sensibly focusing around the Borg.
Insurrection is complete nonsense in my opinion. Finally, there’s Nemesis, which I’d warn you not to watch just yet. We’ll be covering Star Trek Voyager in part two and there are some spoilers in Nemesis!
Star Trek Guide Part One Wrap Up
So there we have it. As there was so much to cover I’ve split the guide into two posts. You can find part two of the guide here.
Do you have a favourite sci-fi franchise?