My Breakup with Star Trek

The Original

When I was young and impressionable, Star Trek was great. The idealism, the thoughtful stories, the memorable characters, the goofy rainbow sets… It was all great. It pulled me in. I was a trekkie.

Then they started to make movies… The Motion Picture dragged on and on (okay, V'ger is gigantic. We get it.), but it was an uplifting story that kept some of the idealism of the 60's.

The Wrath of Khan blew me away with a well crafted, well directed, intensely personal story about loss and revenge. There was colour, unlike TMP, which would scarcely have been changed had they filmed it in black and white. There was passion, even if some of it involved William Shatner screaming "Khaaaann!!" at the top of his lungs. There was pacing, action, and a naval battle in three dimensions.

The next two films were solid, I felt, but not worth mentioning here. The fifth film is definitely not worth mentioning, although I do not think it was the worst Star Trek film. More on that below.

Phase Two

Then, there was The Next Generation. After a rocky start, they started to pick up speed in the second season, and really found their wings in the third. I was completely hooked. I watched religiously. I debated treknology on internet newsgroups. I was a trekker.

The character of Q was interesting, I thought. Although I felt that the episode in which Riker is invited to join them was contrived and predictable, I thought Q was used to great effect in the episode "Tapestry." In it, Picard relives a pivotal event in his early adulthood, and discovers that the bar brawl in which he suffered a heart injury - which he had perceived as a terrible mistake and a curse - turned out to be one of the most positively influential events in his life. That is my favourite TNG episode. I've always had a thing for stories about personal destiny.

And in what I felt to be a fantastic wrap-up, Q returned in the last episode to "judge," once again, the human race. It was not the best episode overall, but I feel it was the best possible finale they could have made for the series.

Then they devastated me with the most bitterly disappointing Star Trek film ever: Star Trek VII: Generations. Why? Well, there are too many reasons to write here, so I'll talk about them elsewhere. They redeemed themselves by making First Contact, but I think Generations left a bad taste in my mouth that has never gone away. I'd lost my faith. I no longer felt that my beloved franchise was in hands I could trust.

Number Nine

The only exception to the downward spiral since TNG was Deep Space Nine. Here was a show that was not afraid to show the darker and seamier side of the Star Trek universe. Religion and spirituality took a much greater role, unlike any other series (the silliness of Star Trek V notwithstanding).

DS9 also had my favourite Star Trek episode of all, out of all the series, and of all time. It was called "The Visitor," and involved Captain Sisko getting trapped in a time loop that caused him to disappear from the universe, only to reappear for short periods of time, once every ten years. From his perspective, over the course of a few hours, he sees his son grow from a teenager to an aged man. It was very Ellison-esque. The depiction of understated passion from the deepest love shared between this father and son was easily the most breathtakingly touching story ever to appear on Star Trek.

270 Degrees North

I waited for Voyager with great anticipation. The premise was not a bad one, I thought. It would be interesting to see the adventures of a ship that was not the Federation flagship. Most importantly, I'd read a description of the characters, and I was impressed. I saw a lot of potential.

It was squandered.

I was disappointed right from the start. Janeway's decision to stay in the delta quadrant made absolutely no sense to me. The prime directive is about damaging cultures at a lower level of technology. And besides which, the spirit of the rule points toward minimizing your interference. The way to do that would have been to get out of the delta quadrant as soon as possible. She had the opportunity. I think it was totally worth the cost. After the premiere, I was shaking my head. The premise made no sense to me. The whole series was soured.

The next disappointment was the first episode in which Q made his appearance. This was a chance, I felt, to give the series a story arc. In my opinion, when Janeway entreated him to send them back to the alpha quarant, Q should have said something like this (I can't remember how he actually answered, probably because it just disgusted me):

I'm sorry, captain, I can't do that.
Why not? Some kind of Q prime directive?
(chuckles) No, nothing so quaint, my dear. But we do have rules. Rules that transcend space and time. Mind you, I don't agree with most of them… But I do agree with this one, this time.
I don't understand.
And I can't explain it to you. Suffice it to say that you need to be in the delta quadrant at this point in time. (disappears in a flash)

A mysterious pre-ordained purpose! So Voyager is not simply high-tailing it back to the safety and comfort of Earth, even though they might have thought they were. Is Voyager a pawn in some game that the Q-Continuum is playing? Purpose! Mystery! Conspiracy! It would have allowed me to forgive the premiere episode, because there would have been the possibility that Janeway was under the influence of the Q.

But no. Voyager continued to wander aimlessly. The acting always seemed stiff, the situations contrived, the writing uninspired. None of the characters seemed geniune.

And a hot blonde in spandex didn't fix it for me.

Now, there's Enterprise. I want to like it too, you know. I really do. But I've lost interest. And I pretty much have nothing to say about it.

So that's it. I don't watch Star Trek any more.

I can't pinpoint the moment when Star Trek and I broke up. It happened gradually, the way these things often do, without either of us being conscious of it happening. It was only after I stopped watching Voyager that it became evident.

© 2003-2011 by Takashi Toyooka