A Sci-Fi “Star” Franchise Exploration into “Trek,” “Wars,” “Stargate,” and More — Part 2
The Multi-Media-Verse Battle of the Centuries
Upon viewing the opening sequence of any random episode of the original Star Trek television series, such as, “Miri” or “Metamorphosis,” the viewer immediately knows what to expect: an entertaining ride. The story and action are set up in the tease, and boom — the theme music commences and the segment begins to boil. The crew of the Enterprise begins a quest to some mystic or fantastic world. They receive a distress signal, or their journey is disrupted by an alien force who we’re certain at one point will zap at least one of the crew members across the planet’s surface with a resounding bolt.
Trek fans ultimately craved similar segments, and eagerly anticipated small-screen viewings upon hearing of The Next Generation’s debut (in syndication in 1987). But after a while, as many critics pointed out, one kept waiting for something to happen. But nothing ever did. Oh, sure, the late, great DeForest Kelley’s reemerged as Dr. Leonard McCoy from the original Trek for a cameo appearance in TNG’s pilot. And later, Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock and even James Doohan’s Mr. Montgomery Scott came aboard that new edition of his Enterprise (in episodes, by the way, which happen to be the highest-rated and best-loved segments in Generation’s history); even William Shatner’s iconic Captain Kirk paired up with Patrick Stewart’s TNG’s Captain Picard in the big-screen Star Trek Generations in 1994.
But the sacred triad of Shatner’s Kirk, Nimoy’s Spock, and Kelley’s McCoy were nowhere to be seen in their regular weekly TV spot, docked or in flight, on their own beloved Starship Enterprise.
As I stated in Part 1 of this article (see link below), original and true Star Trek fans never asked for the film series (the second of which, The Wrath of Kahn, released in 1982, is at least superior to the TV sequels), or a Next Generation, or new characters on a new ship Voyager. And Enterprise, the fifth Trek TV series prequel, focused on the formative years of the Federation, pre-Kirk, Spock, etc., while heaven only knows what Discovery focused on, or the new Picard series now, for that matter.
It’s all very nice, but true “Trekkies” (or “Trekkers,” which they…ahem, “we” prefer to be called) never ultimately received what we originally wanted. And what was that? New adventures of the same wonderful people that we had come to know and adore — on the small screen — in our living rooms, every week.
That’s it. Nothing else. But that’s precisely what we did not and will never get.
Even Trek maestros Gene Roddenberry was displeased with the way the franchise developed after the first year of TNG. Rumor had it that he was also not fully satisfied with the Trek films (which he wanted to circumvent around the adventures of the Enterprise, and not Kirk and Spock).
In truth, Roddenberry’s true resurrection of his original concept worshiped by millions never came to be.
Instead, original Trek-lovers were treated to unfamiliar Trek sequels, produced from what looked to be a parallel universe.
Neither Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery or Picard has lived up to the name of their legendary older brother/father. The Next Generation, ignited by Roddenberry was a worthy attempt (certainly in its very Star-Trek-Original-Series-esque first season), but after Roddenberry passed away (in 1991), TNG just didn’t cut the mustard. And Deep Space Nine was a very nice science fiction program (especially upon viewing its last few seasons). But it wasn’t Star Trek, at least not any Trek that Roddenberry had in mind. If Roddenberry-successor and subsequent 1980s-90s Trek franchise king and executive producer Rick Berman wanted to create a new sci-fi military-bent about space travels, then he should have done that. But labeling Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise as party to Star Trek was, well, as Bill Shatner once stated early on the Trek revamp era, “a misnomer.”
And the same goes for whatever the heck Alex Kurtzman and A.J. Abrams have tried to do with Discovery and Picard and the rebooted Star Trek feature films that were ignited in 2009.
Even with Kirk essentially split it two on TNG (with Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard and Jonathan Frakes’ Number One), a poor-man’s Spock (Brent Spiner’s Data), and a prettier-than DeForest-Kelley doctor (Gates McFadden’s Beverly Crusher), true Trek fans still merely pined for the charm of the original show, which never came into fruition.
But with a gift like Stargate SG-1, well, that’s a different science fiction story and franchise altogether. The original SG-1, before it branched out into a few small-screen sequels of its own, not only outshines the TV Trek sequels (along with the J.J. Abrams feature revamps), as well as other now-sci-fi military classics like Babylon 5 (sorry, “Fivers!”), but even the 1994 Stargate feature film upon which it is based (sorry, Kurt Russell-ers!).
Certainly, there have been other solid sci-fi/academy-like contenders. Although some of the alien make-up was hideous and insulting, and some of the characters, just plain silly, Roddenberry’s very own Andromeda syndicated series of the early 2000s (produced posthumously by his wife Majel “Nurse Chapel” Barrett-Roddenberry) held up well. Others of that time, like Farscape, which aired on Syfy, was elegant and elaborate and reached a praised hierarchy in certain fandom quarters. And while Sliders nailed it a few times with imaginative stories, frequent character-replacements killed any sense of lengthy on-screen camaraderie. It would have been much cooler if the characters had been given a ship in which to travel through time, instead of employing a Time-Tunnel/SG-1-like funnel effect).
And certainly, countless new sci-fi series takes from today, in general, are relatively impressive (if still way too dark and edgy).
But none of them, and I mean none of them, ever came close to Star Trek: The Original Series, except Stargate SG-1 which, even though the military crew on this show, too, never utilized a ship for their journeys, at least their core portal was stationary, with solid outlets spanned across variant worlds.
Suffice it to say, SG-1 doesn’t disappoint on any level. The show employed spectacle, fancy, aptitude, humor, and adventure, all wrapped within a neat package that continues soar with entertainment and sophistication, displaying a media mosaic of imaginative, fictional disclosure.
What else could any sci-fi TV fan want? Or better yet — it’s exactly what any true sci-fi “Wagon Train to the stars” (military-based or otherwise) should be.
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Click below to read Part 1 of A Sci-Fi “Star” Franchise Exploration into “Trek,” “Wars,” “Stargate,” and More: The Multi-Media-Verse Battle of the Centuries: