With the upcoming television return of Star Trek coming September 24th many people are curious where to start with the venerable franchise. With 50 years of history, including 726 television episodes, 13 theatrical films, and countless works of tie-in fiction it can seem like a daunting task.
Don’t worry though, YOUR brain won’t explode like poor Ensign Haskell’s did. If you’re interested in getting into Star Trek for the first time, you don’t need to spend 23 straight days of you life watching every episode and movie. (Leave that to us crazy people) The purpose of this series of articles is to give people with little or no knowledge of Star Trek a foundation to learn what Star Trek is, and whether or not it’s their cup of tea. (Earl Grey, Hot. Thank you very much.)
We’ll briefly explore the history of the franchise, explain some of the broad strokes you need to know before diving in, and then watch and discuss a few key episodes you should watch before Star Trek: Discovery premieres. So yes, I’ll be giving you homework, but don’t worry, it’s fun homework.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF STAR TREK
Star Trek first warped its way onto viewer televisions on September 8th, 1966. It followed the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, captained by one James T Kirk, as they explored space, on a 5 year mission, assigned to them on behalf of an interstellar government called the Federation by an quasi-military organisation called Starfleet. (It also had a bunch other weird names like Space Central and Space Fleet. Consistency wasn’t a big deal in the 60’s apparently.) The 5 year mission was cut short only 3 years in when poor ratings caused the show to be cancelled. That should have been the end.
Surprisingly, in the years that followed Star Trek developed a loyal fan following, and the box office success of Star Wars in 1977 led to Paramount green-lighting a theatrical Star Trek film, which hit theatres in 1979. In the following 8 years, 3 more films were released, and in 1987 a sequel series was developed. Entitled Star Trek: The Next Generation it followed the crew of a new Enterprise, 100 years after the original series. This time they were led by everyone’s favourite tea drinking, shirt tugging French/Englishman, Jean-Luc Picard, played wonderfully by Sir Patrick Stewart.
This ushered in a golden age of Star Trek, which ended 18 years, 4 TV series totalling 25 seasons, and 6 theatrical films later, with the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise. At the time, many felt that Star Trek had run its course, after having dominated nearly 2 decades of television. The franchise again lay dormant, until 2009, when the J.J. Abrams’ directed Star Trek hit theatres to both box office success and critical acclaim. As a result of the success of that film and its 2 sequels, development began on the newest chapter in Star Trek’s history, Star Trek: Discovery, which will see the franchise return to the small screen after a 12 year absence.
(I tried to keep that as short as I could…)
Star Trek Discovery Trailer 1 (Link opens in a new tab)
Star Trek Discovery Trailer 2 (Link opens in a new tab)
What you just watched is the first 2 trailers for Star Trek: Discovery. There isn’t a lot to go on in it, but based on the little we can see I am personally very excited to the premiere in September. One part that intrigues me the most is the appearance of a classic Star Trek character, Sarek. For those new to the series, he’s the guy with the pointy ears who you see to the right of this paragraph. Sarek is the father of one of Star Trek’s most beloved and recognisable characters, Spock, so Sarek’s inclusion in the new show provides a concrete link between Discovery and the original series. As the trailers mention, this new show takes place a decade before the adventures of Captain Kirk and the original crew of the Enterprise.
With that in mind, it’s time for your first viewing assignment. Next week we’ll be discussing Journey to Babel, which was episode 10 of the second season of Star Trek. It marks the original appearance of Sarek, and establishes much about his personality, his relationship to his son, and the politics of the Federation. It has drama, intrigue, obvious stunt double fights, and a dab of humour. Give it a watch! I’ll see you here next week when we discuss Journey to Babel and what hints it gives us for Discovery.
So give Journey to Babel a watch. (PSSST, clicking on the name of the episode will open the episode on Netflix for all readers in North America.) Let me know what you think of the episode on social media using #RCStarTrek, and we’ll meet here next week to discuss the episode, and learn more about Star Trek: Discovery.
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