Friday, June 15, 2012

#427. The Star Trek New Classics Project

I've been working on the Star Trek Fan Companion for several years now.  The whole point has been to try and rehabilitate the reputation of the franchise.  I found this necessary even after the wide success of 2009's Star Trek because it seems most fans still think the conditions that ground the franchise to a halt in 2005 are best described by this statement: "Star Trek grew greatly diminished in quality."

Now, this conclusion was reached by a combination of factors.  The first was the failure of two successive Next Generation movies, Insurrection in 1998 and Nemesis in 2002.  The second was the perceived notion that two successive TV series, Voyager and Enterprise failed to motivate the core audience, and find one outside of it besides.  Ratings and box office results fell at an astonishing rate.  Apathy was the name of the game.

Now, there's a lot of analysis possible for why exactly that happened, and I've certainly done my fair share of that, but what I'm really trying to get at here is that Star Trek as a whole is still worth considering.  That used to be far easier when there were far fewer screen adventures to consider.  I think at a certain point it became a little overwhelming, and fewer fans tried to make the effort to determine what exactly still made Star Trek worth celebrating.

So I launched the Fan Companion in 2010.  At first, it was a simple survey, and it covered every TV season and every movie, and my rather extensive notes, and I thought that was that and I moved on.  I didn't illicit much interest, so I figured there wasn't much interest.  Eventually I came back to it, because of all the topics I covered at the Fan Companion blog, Star Trek had, of what interest at all I garnered there, the most of it.  I started writing about individual episodes, individually.  I set up certain criteria, fairly objective, so that if these criteria helped explain how these episodes were relevant to certain elements of what made the franchise interesting, then so be it.  I always thought Star Trek was about more than just random sci-fi adventures.  Sure, you could watch it from that perspective, and if you did, then maybe you'd get your fill and move on and maybe not care how many Star Treks there were.  If you liked it for the story, then chances were the story came from a certain perspective, how the series in question tended to tell them, whether you're talking about one of the series with a particular premise or not.  If you liked it for a particular character, then it didn't hurt to try and explain how an episode helped define that character.  And as an added bonus, I wanted to make it known whether or not an episode was essential to understanding how any of these elements really worked.

Four four specific criteria, each episode had a shot to be considered, as I eventually realized, a New Classic.  When it was just the original series, classics were easy to define.  "The City on the Edge of Forever," that kind of episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles."  You get what I mean.  The ones that really stand out, that define a legacy, that shape what Star Trek actually means.  This is the kind of thing that got lost along the way.  Fans started watching just to see if they liked a series, and if they liked an episode, that was fine.  Star Trek began to be taken for granted.  It was no longer special.  It was just something that wouldn't end, until it did.

Well, now that I've been doing that for a while, I've started compiling a list of these New Classics.  Because I'm trying to provide commentary on every episode, this is going to be a long process.  I'm nearing the end of the second season of Voyager.  So far I've covered that one, of course, as well as the fourth and sixth seasons.  I'm doing the first season of Deep Space Nine next, and then the second and fourth seasons of Enterprise, and these seasons in particular, in this kind of order, because they were the popular season summaries from the original Fan Companion effort.

I'm trying to make it okay to like Star Trek again, not just the ones you know and already love, but the ones you maybe hated, or never watched, or were ambivalent about.

(Here I'll make another plug for the "Star Trek '12" project over at Sigild V, exploring the years 212 thru 3112 in franchise history, all the little bits of franchise lore that help explain what it is.)

7 comments:

Leslie S. Rose said...

Wow. What an undertaking, but Star Trek is totally worth it.

Tony Laplume, Sith Architect said...

This one's definitely a long-term project. But it's worth it.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I don't know how you can run all these blogs Tony, but this is a worthwhile effort. Keep on trekking.

- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

My thought is that the Next Gen movies failed because Paramount didn't put the money and effort into them that they put into the 2009 "reboot." I mean they never recruited any big name directors or anything like that. And "Nemesis" they released against LOTR, which was a doomed proposition as even nerds only have so much time and money to spend on the movies and are you going to watch a big budget spectacle like LOTR or a relatively low budget Star Trek movie? I didn't like the reboot movie but its success proved that if Paramount had actually sunk some real money and talent into the franchise it wouldn't have really needed a reboot.

As for the TV shows, I think they really just ran out of ideas, as evidenced by having to resort to a prequel series.

MOCK! said...

Life caused me to drift away frm DS9 right after Worf joined the cast....I've been thinking of finding all the series on DVD and introduce it to my son. He's enjoyed the movies and the VHS copies of some of the "classic" original series...

Tony Laplume, Sith Architect said...

That's funny, because that almost happened to me, too. But DS9 only got better. You missed the whole Dominion War!

MOCK! said...

I've seen occasional episodes from that time and SO wanna see them all!

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