By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
September 8 marks the official date Star Trek came on the air for three years of this original series’ five-year mission. Fifty years later, it has expanded to look at different frontiers. Soon, there will be a new series, titled Star Trek: Discovery, which will become available on CBS All Access and other networks around the world.
Comics and books are already being planned to expand upon this prequel series. Everyone will be excited and some of us will ask if it will be faithful to creator Gene Roddenberry‘s vision? According to StarTrek.com, yes! Older fans will be thrilled and for a new generation, they get a taste of what made this universe great! To get bold new adventures “on television” after a decade-long absence will be particularly thrilling.
The reboot movies fit into its own universe. Yes, it belongs to the franchise, but the texture is more in the mainstream summer blockbuster vein than a meaningful saga.
In looking at everything that’s out there, I offer my top ten picks (ranked in no particular order) of what I enjoyed from the past 50 years, books included.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
(movie and novelization)
The fourth movie in the saga brings closure to a three-film story arc which treated the U.S.S. Enterprise as my fair lady. In this film’s case, she’s been sadly destroyed and the U.S.S. Bounty becomes their flotilla to make their way home. Jim Kirk’s crew have been drummed out of Starfleet because they are doing what is best for their fellow crew mate, Jim’s best friend, Spock. This Vulcan sacrificed his life to save everyone, and when McCoy exhibits strange behaviour and Kirk is asked to retrieve Spock’s katra (in Transformers lore, it’s like the spark), the question of where is it is in question. Along the way, they discover their fallen hero is not dead.
The crew’s adventure is not over and this film sees them travelling back in time to save their planet from a strange invader. The novelization is one of the best books to own. It adds to the story by explaining an aspect from the film which to many, will feel like a mystery. The dialogue exchanged by the cylindrical object and the whales is exchanged.
Both picks show not all journeys have to be about exploration, but to be in tune with the universe at large.
Star Trek “The Man Trap”
If readers are sensing a theme with this selection, then you are right! I really love this episode because it looks at the frontier Old West style and the story is mostly concerned with developing some terrific back story about Leonard “Bones” McCoy.
The ship’s doctor is the focus in this episode, and to learn he was romantically involved with Nancy Crater gives viewers a sense he was not always abrasive. But nobody knows she died a long time ago. When the crew makes a medical stop on planet M-113 to check in on two researchers, one of whom being the doctor’s old flame, little do they know that there is more to her than meets the eye. Without giving the plot away, just what happens next simply shows whether or not Bones can bury his feelings or not. What he has to do, or not do, is not easy. By the episode’s end,
Kirk sympathetically compares what had to be destroyed to an extinction level event from long ago on Earth. It’s not easy to blame humanity on killing the last of a species, whatever the reason — either due to hunting or through drastic changes in natural environment. The American Bison are considered “near-threatened” and we, as humans, have to do something to prevent them from completely dying out.
“The Devil in the Dark”
Similarly, Spock gets to shine in this episode which studies how a last of a species will defend her nest until her dying breath. While this tale deals more with seeing this Vulcan express the human side of himself through a telepathic bonding with a lava-like Shoggoth-like creature (think H.P. Lovecraft), the themes this tale explores is exactly as I thought when writer Gene L. Coon revealed, “I thought [it] was a wonderful episode about the fear of the unknown, how we fear and even hate something that we don’t know anything about, learn who your enemy is, and it’s not, maybe then it’s not no longer your enemy.”