ST:TOS, ST:TAS, ST:TNG, ST:ENT
If you know immediately what the heading above means, the page is probably just a lot of old hats to you. You already know that it might be dubious for TAS to be on the partial list above, and you know the full list certainly includes it along with DS9 and VOY.
If this all seems alphabet soup, here’s the deal: They’re all three-letter acronyms (TLAs) for the six different Star Trek TV series. The nomenclature is almost canonical; the third series, the first modern one, is Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG). From there it was easy to name most of the rest. Only Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Voyager didn’t fit the obvious pattern, but ENT and VOY borrow from another key three-letter trick: taking the first three letters. In this case, the new short words are not offensive or silly, so they work well.
Oh, if only there had been a series, Star Trek:Worf Talks Fighting. Oh, if only.
The TV Shows
There are six canons (five by some reckoning) of Star Trek:
ST:TOS—The Original Series (1966-1999) Three seasons. The canon of Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, Dr. “Bones” McCoy, Engineer Scotty, Comm Officer Uhura, and drivers Lt. Sulu & Mr. Checkov.
Note that the abbreviation, TOS, comes from a name made up by fans. Obviously the show was never actually called “The Original Series.”
Back when these first aired, I was glued to the set! Sometimes I used my dad’s reel-to-reel tape recorder to tape the show and listen to the dialog again (and again). There was a time in my life when I could quote large parts of many episodes! It’s safe to say this was one of the most significant TV shows of my childhood.
ST:TAS—The Animated Series (1973-1974) One season. Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scott, Uhura, Sulu & Checkov return in an animated series. Some consider this series canonical, some don’t.
Again, the abbreviation, TAS, is from a name invented after the show aired. In fact, both TOS and TAS are retronyms applied during the TNG era. The cool thing about TAS was that the original actors did the voices!
We were not allowed Saturday morning cartoons in our house (in fact, our TV viewing was fairly strictly curtailed), so I missed these when they first aired, but I’ve enjoyed them off VHS (and now DVD) as an adult.
ST:TNG—The Next Generation (1987-1994) Seven seasons. The canon of Captain Picard, Riker, Dr. Crusher, Data, Troi (Data + Troi = Spock!), Worf, La Forge & of course, Wesley (the avatar for a young Roddenberry).
We should also mention the other doctor, Dr. Pulaski, as well as the short-lived security chief, Lt. Yar.
For my money, this series is the Best of Class. Ironically, I hated it at first (and admittedly, that first episode is a bit of a stinker), but it didn’t take long for it to win me over. (If anyone is wondering “Ginger or Mary Ann?” for me it was definitely Crusher all the way. Never really bought Troi as a professional; to me she was just eye-candy and an attempt to have a Spock of some sort. “Captain, I sense the Klingons are angry!” “Gee, Troi, what was your first clue? The photon torpedoes they just fired?!?”)
ST:DS9—Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) Seven seasons. The canon of Captain Sisko, Dax Kira Nerys, Odo, Dr. Bashir and—best of all (most fun, anyway)—Quark!
I always had trouble with Farrell’s Dax (very much along the same lines I did with Troi: did not buy the character as a professional in their field, but Nana Visitor’s Nerys more than compensated (both the actress and character have interesting names, don’t you think?). Things got really spicy when she encounters her “evil” twin from the Mirror Universe!
ST:VOY—Voyager (1995-2001) Seven seasons. The canon of Captain Janeway and crew. Not only not an Enterprise series, but not even a Federation quadrant series!
(And, sorry fans, not even a Star Trek series in my mind; this is the only series I don’t own on DVD. I never bought “Mrs. Columbo” as a starship captain, and there wasn’t a single character I liked even a little on the series. And there were some—the holodoc and Neelix—that I loathed.)
ST:ENT—Enterprise (2001–2005) Three seasons. The canon of Captain Archer, Dr. Phlox (gotta have at least one alien), alternate race Comm Officer
Uhura Hoshi Sato, Engineer “Trip” Tucker (never really liked that guy that much) and Security Guy Malcolm Reed.
Oh, and extreme eye-candy and Spock stand in, T’Pol. (I know, we’ll have them rub “decontamination gel” on each others bodies!)
Despite my tone—and unlike many—I was a fan. It’s probably my lowest ranked of the above (except for VOY), and I can see why many fans didn’t care for it. It never rose to the level of pissing me off, and it was Star Trek!
There is also a set of movies. The movies were considered canonical by Gene Roddenberry, the man who started the snowball rolling down the hill. But it’s hard to say if he would still think that had he been able to see them all. It would be especially interesting to see what he thought of the most recent entry!
ST:TMP—The Motion Picture (1979) Long awaited by the fans; not just the return of Star Trek, but the first movie! There are some long, slow shots (first time you see the Enterprise, for example) that at the time were impressive and showy (and wonderful for fans in the case of that Enterprise approach). Now they mostly seem just long and slow (but for me they still have a little something).
ST:TWK—The Wrath of Khan (1982) Many fans consider this one the best of the lot. Good space battle; no question about that. And, of course, Ricardo Mounteban! And a very dramatic death of Mr. Spock! One for the Many, and You have always been my Friend. [sniff]
ST:TSS—The Search for Spock (1984) Spock comes back to life! And has sex!! On the other hand, Kirk’s kid… There’s a truism among fans that the even-numbered movies were the better ones. I think that fails on #6, but a trend did begin here comparing movies #1 and #3 to the excellent #2 and the amusing #4.
ST:TVH—The Voyage Home (1986) The funny one. It starts with a giant, dangerous space vehicle endangering earth, because it wants to speak to the (long extinct) whales. So on their way home, Kirk (and Spock!) and crew take a quick detour back in time to retrieve a pair of whales. And Kirk, of course, gets a girl-friend.
ST:TFF—The Final Frontier (1989) Many fans consider this the worst of the lot. Directed by William Shatner. I tend to fall asleep each time I watch it. I’ve realized it consists of very slow scenes interspersed with a number of extremely slow scenes. “God.” “Barrier at the center of the galaxy.” Meh.
ST:TUC—The Undiscovered Country (1991) The last of the movies with just Kirk and crew. (In case you’re wondering, “the undiscovered country” is from Shakespeare.) The only Star Trek movie that stinks worse than this one is the previous one, but I’ve never liked shape-shifters (and, yes, that includes Odo). And, what, seriously? The Klingons never noticed that big-ass communicator thingy Spock clapped on Kirk’s back? Also, who would guess that the fierce space-faring warriors, the Klingons, would be so discommoded by a loss of gravity. The film largely lost me in that first stupid scene. Meh.
ST:Generations (1994) This is the transition movie. Kirk hands off the movie franchise to Picard. Watch for the horsemanship by Shatner (those are his horses). And this is the one where Kirk dies. Originally they had him getting shot in the back, but fans hated it during pre-screenings (gee, ya think?). So they re-filmed it for a more noble exit. Plus you get Malcolm McDowell doing his typically wonderfully awful villain.
ST:First Contact (1996) Directed by Johathan Frakes. Picard and crew deal with the Borg, an almost sexy Borg Queen (the marvelous Alice Krige) and going back in time. Also, warp drive is invented, and the Vulcans show up to say, “Hi!” Best scene by far: a drunk Troi (and Riker’s amusement)! And James Cromwell! This one ranks among my favorites.
ST:Insurrection (1998) Also directed by Frakes (who, these days, is a director). Picard and company deal with a conspiracy and save a species. The underlying plot is pure Star Trek melodrama with high ideals and stakes. And the two stop-time scenes are kinda cool (the first being a nice example of Chekhov’s Gun).
ST:Nemesis (2002) Bad Romulans. Very bad Romulans! Cool ship, though! And a last-ditch sacrifice play by Data.
Star Trek (2009) A new Kirk and crew. By J.J. Abrams. I have extremely mixed feelings about this, but I’m mostly coming down on the, “oh, god, my eyes, my eyes” side. Update [11/8/2013]: I’ve finally had a chance to watch this a second time. I tried very hard to have an open mind. All I can say is that J.J. Abrams has killed Star Trek for me. It’s dead, Jim. (Look at it this way: Same guy picked to direct both Star Trek and Star Wars? If you don’t see anything wrong with that picture, I don’t want to know you. I saw him interviewed on Jon Stewart; he totally does not get Star Trek!)
There are many, many novels; fan fiction legitimized. A few of them are quite good (or at least interesting), but most were just time killers in a pleasing flavor. A few were embarrassing to read; they were so clearly someone’s long-time fantasy. The young (female) ensign who catches Kirk’s eye or the studious young engineer who saves the day. Who among us fans has not had that sort of day dream? Most of us just have the good sense to keep it inside our own skulls!
As one might expect, over time I’m posting a lot of Star Trek articles. There is a list of them on the Reading List page, but I realized they belonged here as well. So here there they are:
- Why I Hated the Holodeck—I’ve always thought Picard should have welded the doors shut for all the problems this thing caused. And it’s a lame idea executed poorly!
- Sideband #39: “Star Trekking It”—When you (the reader or viewer) make up stuff to make the story actually make some sort of sense, then you’re “Star Trekkin’ It”!
- Star Trek vs Star Wars—Which is better? Seriously??
- ST:TOS, TAS, TNG, ENT—It’s Star Trek Tuesday! (A kick off to a series of Trek posts.)
- ST: Edge of the Galaxy—This is a Trek rant that’s far older than my Holodeck one. This one goes back to the second episode ever created!
- ST: Transporters & Replicators—The thing is, they had a way to make the transporters and the replicators make a lot more sense!
- ST: Did I Do That?—Did I possibly contribute in some small way to one of my favorite TV shows ever?!?!
- Brain Bubble #7 — Peaches & Red Shirts—Hey, nice red uniform shirt! But why is there a target printed on the chest?
- Google Trek—Open up the bubbly, it’s Star Trek‘s 46th birthday today!!
- ST:TNG Happy 25th Anniversary!—An old friend is growing up. I know co-workers who love this show, but were born about the same time it was!
- Captain Shatner—Loved him… then hated him… now I love him again! I’ve gone full-circle on William Shatner.
- Boldly Going—So I built my own Enterprise (NCC-1701)!
Clearly more Star Trek posts are required. I’ll get right on that!