Weekly Trek – April 4-10, 2016

A few weeks ago in THIS POST, I laid out in exhausting detail just how much Star Trek there it.  Spoiler Alert: There’s A LOT!  To someone coming at it for the first time, it’s likely such a daunting amount that could dissuade said someone from even embarking on the enterprise in the first place (And yes, I did just use enterprise that way in a sentence about Star Trek, and it was completely on purpose.  Horrible of me?  Certainly.). 

I took a bit of time at the end of that post to offer a few suggestions of possible places to start watching the franchise.  My suggestions were nothing unusual.  Either start with the original Star Trek television series (TOS) or jump in with “modern” Trek and start with Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).  What I didn’t say is that both of these plans have their drawbacks.  The original Star Trek aired from 1966 to 1969, and its style, which groundbreaking for the time, can be tough to stick with today.  Yes, the stories are slower paced and the effects aren’t the best, but the bigger issue could be how stylized the acting can feel compared to today’s performances. 

As for TNG, I’m going to be honest: the first two seasons are not great.  Some of it is actually pretty dire as the show tried to find its footing, and the writer’s strike that hit at the start of the second season doesn’t help matters.  Season Two ends with an episode called “Shades of Gray,” which is basically a clip show and quite possibly the lowest point in the series’ run.  On the bright side, both TOS and TNG are mostly episodic in nature, so you can really pick just about any episode to watch without worrying about continuing storylines.  Arc-based storytelling didn’t really come to Trek until Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

This week, though, I came across an article presenting an entirely different path into the franchise.  Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com posted “How To Get Into Star Trek If You Only Know the J.J. Abrams Movies.”  Her idea is to start with the film Star Trek: First Contact.  On the surface, this seems like an odd idea.  First Contact is the second film to feature the TNG cast, and is in many ways a sequel to “The Best of Both Worlds” a big two-part episode from the television series.  However, as Anders points out, it does a good job of explaining the situation for viewers without a lot of Trek knowledge and it is also a solid action film.

Next Anders advocates watching “The Best of Both Worlds,” which is the end of Season Three of TNG and the start of Season Four and then just continuing on with TNG.  Yes, this has viewers jumping into the middle of the series, but, as I said before, the show is episodic, so this really doesn’t matter.  Season Three has many strong episodes, but Season Four and Five are also fantastic.  Starting at this point is a good way to get hooked on TNG and also possibly get interested enough to investigate the other series.

Granted, Anders’ approach assumes that potential viewers have seen the J.J. Abrams films, but it is in no way necessary for her idea to work, particularly since TNG doesn’t involve any of the same characters as the Abrams movies. 

The Anders Plan is a great idea.  If you gave TOS or first season TNG a shot and couldn’t get into it, try It her way.  Hopefully it will work for you.

- Alan Decker

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