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Series Review: Star Trek: The Original Series
The original Star Trek series is truly one of the best series in television history, with well-deserved success, critical acclaim, and a cult following of devoted fans. Even though many of the stunts and special effects look cheesy today, they were nothing short of revolutionary at the time. Star Trek, in my opinion, was elevated above the other TV shows of its day, creating something that was more timeless and less dated than the brainless sitcoms popular around that same time. This show truly defined what it meant to "boldly go where no man has gone before".
In the universe of Star Trek, the main characters are the crew aboard the space ship known as the U.S.S. Enterprise. Starfleet sent the ship out into the unknown reaches of space, as the beginning sequence states, to "seek out new life and new civilizations". For the sake of humanity, the Enterprise crew act as explorers in the vast depths of the cosmos. They meet many alien races and discover many strange planets in the course of their adventures. Sometimes, they are confronted with hostile aliens, sometimes with simple human or mechanical failings. Most of the action and drama is concentrated around a few main characters:
- Captain James T. Kirk: Leader of the Enterprise. He has a dazzling service record and will do anything to protect his ship and his crew.
- Lt. Spock: Science officer. Half Vulcan, a race of logic-driven aliens, he is useful in the show many times over because of his inability to be swayed by emotional manipulation. He's Kirk's loyal second in command and best friend.
- Dr. McCoy: Medical officer. He always argues with Mr. Spock, because Dr. McCoy is suspicious that as a Vulcan, Spock is "cold-blooded" and not capable of empathy. This suspicion is misguided, and over time, McCoy comes to get over his prejudices.
- Other main characters: Uhura, the communication officer, Sulu, helmsman, Scotty, chief engineer, Yeoman Janice Rand, and Ensign Chekov, a navigator. Janice stops appearing in the show about halfway through, and Chekov isn't introduced until the second season. These characters usually end up the focus of certain episodes, but are often in the background during others.
If you kind of think of the main three characters as Spock representing brains, Kirk representing courage, and McCoy representing heart, it makes a lot of sense. Much of the show's drama revolves around conflicts between these characters having differing perspectives on the same situation.
Well, this show became a big hit in syndication after its cancellation, and went on to spawn a major sci-fi franchise. What can be said about it that hasn't yet? I enjoy it because it's entertaining, each episode is both emotionally and intellectually compelling. While science fiction existed prior to Star Trek, no TV sci-fi series before it achieved so much mainstream popularity or massive success, and sci-fi movies at the time were notoriously poorly written, low in budget, and badly acted. Star Trek at the time was a risk for the studio, but it certainly paid off. Star Trek took place at the time of America's space race, and so it simply carries the concept of American space travel further into a future where America and the world, having achieved a nearly ideal society, venture into the unknown to help distressed forms of alien life. While some aspects of the show haven't aged well, it had special effects, costumes, and makeup that were extraordinarily creative and innovative at the time.
I like Star Trek: The Original Series for its creativity, emotional and philosophical interest, and imagination. I like the way Kirk can teach most people a thing or two about leadership, and how Spock kicks ass with logic. Many of the stories involve tricky conundrums, and they solve things with words first whenever possible, trying to avoid having to resort to violence. They explore many social issues of the day. For example, there's an episode in which two aliens show up, which are both colored half white and half black, but one thinks himself superior to the other because his race has the white and black on different sides. This is the writers really taking a stand against the absurdity of racism, and that was an important issue at the time and still is. "Mudd's Women" and a few other episodes explore issues associated with gender roles, women, beauty, and sexism.
I like Star Trek: The Original Series because it imagines a utopian society where greed doesn't pay, and where people of diverse backgrounds can work together in harmony. It also shows the importance of loyalty, duty, and honor. This utopian ideal of Starfleet is taken further in later shows in the Star Trek franchise, especially with Next Generation.