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50 Years of Star Trek

Longtime friends of TV Calling will know my deep love for Star Trek.
In fact, you might remember I even wrote a spec pilot for a new Trek series not too long ago (yes I’m still talking about it).

There are too many “think-pieces” to count today, so instead of writing yet another one to compete, I’ll simply bring up several of my favorite articles about the show. Both from my own website archives and other people’s, as well as list my Top 50 episodes from the entire franchise.

As mentioned, I wrote three years ago Star Trek: Terran, a spec pilot for a new Trek series.
(This was during the dark ages, when a new “official” series seemed but a dream.)

In that time, I also wrote about what Star Trek has meant to me, and why I believed we needed–and still need–a true Star Trek series: “Why Star Trek?” – The State of an Enduring Franchise.

One of the most interesting trait of the genre has always been that it could serve as an echo of reality. And the world desperately needs a reflection of itself.
You could make a pretty long list of contemporary issues that are begging to be explored (surveillance, social class, role of government, etc.). These are issues that would still be prevalent within the Trek-verse. In fact, the franchise has always been great at taking on societal and moral issues throughout its series (some more contemporary than others).
Even more importantly, Star Trek endures because it always has been forward-looking.
Star Trek stands for hope. Reaching for the sky and going where no one has gone before. It is sending a positive outlook about people. A better humanity, united, and equal. We need Star Trek on TV to inspire society, but also a new generation, people growing up to be explorers in their fields. This is about believing in a better future and striving to better ourselves.

Star Trek has done so much for people around the world, and television itself–not the least of which is coining the term “Bottle Episode.”
Earlier this week, I discussed on Paper Team what I consider to be the most influential TV show of all time. I think you know where I’m going with this.
You can listen to the episode (and get the shownotes) over here. The Star Trek fun starts at 09:40

With the fiftieth anniversary happening today, there have been some articles on the franchise.
Here are a few I’ve found particularly interesting and relevant to Star Trek‘s own mission.

Deep Space Nine is my favorite Star Trek series, and one of the greatest television shows of all time. It paved the way in many ways to our current “serialized” fascination. That is, on top of being an amazing work of science-fiction.
Two recent articles specifically tackled why Deep Space Nine is truly the best:

Deep Space Nine Is Star Trek’s Best World, Because It’s the Real World

Deep Space Nine took the world established in the previous shows and opened it up to all the longstanding complexities that would come with it. We got to see how these different species groups lived and worked together over a long period of time. We saw amazing friendships and bitter rivalries developing side-by-side. (It’s why having the show take place on a space station made so much sense.) And while the Federation was still as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever, dedicated to making the universe a more peaceful, prosperous place, we also got to see that not everyone has the same idea of what’s best, especially when it came down to different species. Sometimes it went hand-in-hand with humanity’s mission, other times it was completely the opposite. But we had a great crew that knew the value of compromise.

What Deep Space Nine does that no other Star Trek series can

Without this stubborn nugget of hope at its core, DS9 would be more like the 2000s version of Battlestar Galactica—a story about space mysticism and war that’s laced with a fatalism about humanity. Ron Moore was an executive producer on DS9 and the creator of BSG, so the overlap makes sense. But on DS9, we are immersed in a world where our faith in the basic decency of intelligent beings can remain unshaken. Whether solid or liquid, most of the creatures who live on the space station always do the right thing. And most importantly, the good guys prevail not just because they are good, but because they are able to put their ideals to practical use.

Star Trek is also about representation, diversity, and social progress. Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor did an amazing essay on why On Its 50th Anniversary, Star Trek Must Recommit Itself to “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”.
This is an especially relevant article in light of the new cast of characters announced for Discovery (including, finally, a lead gay character). The article also highlights other issues at play with disabilities, current issues, faith and prejudice.

And speaking of having an impact beyond the small screen, Vanity Fair did a list of 50 Things That Happened Because of Star Trek. In 1979, NASA brought Nichelle Nichols to help recruit women and minorities for the space program!

Finally, if you’ve ever been curious as to what my favorite Star Trek episodes are, well I’ve got good news. For the 50th anniversary, I decided to compile my Top 50 Episodes across all five series!
They’re divided by show, and chronologically, so it’s really more of a general list of my faves.

(Let’s be honest. I’m really writing this list so I can send it directly to people who ask about the best episodes.)

My Top 50 Star Trek Episodes (so far…)

The Original Series
spock tos

Balance of Terror (1×08)
The Devil in the Dark (1×26)
The City on the Edge of Forever (1×28)
Amok Time (2×05)
The Doomsday Machine (2×06)
Mirror, Mirror (2×10)
The Trouble With Tribbles (2×13)
Journey to Babel (2×15)

The Next Generation
picard tng

The Measure of a Man (2×09)
Q Who? (2×16)
Yesterday’s Enterprise (3×15)
Darmok (5×02)
Unification (5×07-08)
Cause and Effect (5×18)
The Inner Light (5×25)
Chain of Command (6×10-11)
All Good Things… (7×25-26)

Deep Space Nine
sisko ds9

Duet (1×19)
Necessary Evil (2×08)
The Wire (2×22)
Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast (3×20-21)
The Visitor (4×03)
Little Green Men (4×08)
Homefront/Paradise Lost (4×11-12)
Hard Time (4×18)
The Quickening (4×24)
Trials and Tribble-ations (5×06)
Children of Time (5×22)
Far Beyond the Stars (6×13)
In the Pale Moonlight (6×19)

janeway voy

Distant Origin (3×23)
Living Witness (4×23)
Timeless (5×06)
Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy (6×04)
Pathfinder (6×10)
Blink of an Eye (6×12)
Author, Author (7×20)

archer ent

Dear Doctor (1×13)
Future Tense (2×16)
The Expanse (2×26)
Damage (3×19)
Babel One/United (4×12-13)
In a Mirror, Darkly (4×18-19)

There are a lot of episodes (especially with Deep Space Nine), which I simply didn’t have the real-estate to add in this Top 50. Suffice it to say, they’re all worth watching all the way through!
(Well, maybe not all of Voyager.)

Here’s to another fifty years of the greatest and truest science-fiction franchise across all media!

And here’s to Star Trek: Discovery! Gonna have to get used to typing DSC instead of DS9…

Live Long and Prosper.

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