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
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.
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.”
“In the Pale Moonlight”
In the Federation’s darkest hour in their war with The Dominion, life is pretty grim at the outpost which orbits the planet Bajor. Whoever controls this planet will ultimately hold the fate of the sector since it is a strategic launch point for either side to launch a counter-offensive. On Stardate 51721.3, Captain Sisko records a log entry to rationalize his decision to bring the Romulan Empire to the war, and in why this episode succeeds is that it shows how cowboy diplomacy and ethical dilemmas can turn the tide.
While this story is part of a greater arc which spans the last three seasons of this series, it stands well on its own without having to know a lot about the scope of everything that’s going on. Avery Brooks makes for a great “Devil.”
Star Trek: Deep Space 9
“Take Me Out to the Holosuite”
In another perfect standalone episode is an examination of the crew dynamics which exists. If everyone does not help each other, then divided they fall instead of united they stand. Everyone loves the Ferengi Rom. He’s irrepressible and a clutz with a heart of gold. When Sisko dismisses him from the team, everyone stands for the little man instead of the captain, who happens to have an unhealthy rivalry with a former schoolmate turned captain. Worse of all, he’s Vulcan and he gets to hide his chagrin well. This episode is as amusing as it is telltale. The metaphors are obvious, and yes, no matter what the craft the crew is operating, they have to be functioning as a team if they are to beat any odds.
Star Trek: Deep Space 9
(available on Amazon
As part of the 10th Anniversary of this particular series, a set of books was released as an unofficial continuation of where the finale left off. Captain Sisko is now with the “wormhole” aliens, learning what it means to be a profit, and his son, Jake, is now the focus. He’s trying to pick up the pieces but is feeling mostly lost deep inside. He misses his father and decides to enter the wormhole to find him.
In where he ends up is a very Farscape style adventure where he has to make new friends with an alien crew. He discovers more about himself and his self-worth. More importantly, there’s added mythology of how the Prophets are viewed by other civilizations.
“The Best of Both Worlds”
Ever since the Borg was introduced to the Federation by the cosmic entity known as Q, the eventuality this cyborg race will invade finally arrived. To effectively wipe out a species means they have to kidnap someone they can turn. Jean-Luc Picard’s humanity is stripped and is made into an effective aggressor. The follow-up episode, “Family” made for a fantastic look at the stress this captain faced before, during and after the fact he was converted. Sadly, to make this threat a continuous villain the Alpha quadrant has to face mellowed their ominous aggression. I found later episodes about them not as exciting. At least this two-parter hit all the right notes.
The Eugenics Wars:
The Rise & Fall of
Khan Noonien Singh
(available on Amazon)
This two-part book series creates an in-depth look at one of the greatest villains to grace this Star Trek universe. No, we’re not talking about Q. Ever since his introduction in “Space Seed” and is the antagonist in Star Trek II: The Revenge of Kahn, this enigmatic figure proves he can not be put down easily.
As with any good villain, a back story needs to be developed and this book does a great job at looking at this figure as he moves through history and plotting how to overtake several countries through subterfuge. He is one of the Children of the Chrysalis, mentally and physically superior men and women genetically engineered. His story intertwines with other figures from Star Trek lore. Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln encounters him, and there’s even a secondary plotline where James Kirk gets involved in a tale of whether or not a colony of superhumans should be allowed to join the United Federation of Planets.
“The Q & the Grey”
In this universe, when fans talk about the Federation’s greatest threat, they will most likely say The Borg. The Romulans have always been something of a threat, and the Klingons, well … some truce was made.
When talking about individuals, Kahn, Gowron and Q comes to mind as the big three. When it comes to the cosmic misanthrope with a one letter name, the debate is perhaps still ongoing about whether Trelane from the classic series is one or not, even though Peter David’s book Q-Squared states that he is. I think he is not and believe this species makes for amusing foils in each of the Star Trek series as a counterpoint to the captain of the ship. The best episode to explore who they are is the Voyager episode where Q appears to ask Captain Janeway to bear his child. Following the events from before, after one of the continuum decided to become mortal and commit suicide, the rest of the Continuum have chosen sides. A Civil War has broken out, and while what’s manifested is a metaphor for mortals to comprehend, what’s actually happening was described as cosmic fireworks. Had there been a planet of stone age people, they would be worshipping the skies as gods. In what makes this episode enjoyable is with how this world gets interpreted, and much of the Victorian age with its stagnation, the Continuum’s conundrum is to find vitality so fresh perspectives can be rediscovered by a force that sees itself as divine.
Following the events from before, after one of the continuum decided to become mortal and commit suicide, the rest of the Continuum have chosen sides. A Civil War has broken out, and while what’s manifested is a metaphor for mortals to comprehend, what’s actually happening was described as cosmic fireworks. Had there been a planet of stone age people, they would be worshipping the skies as gods. In what makes this episode enjoyable is with how this world gets interpreted, and much of the Victorian age with its stagnation, the Continuum’s conundrum is to find vitality so fresh perspectives can be rediscovered by a force that sees itself as divine.
Star Trek: Enterprise
“In a Mirror, Darkly”
Not many stories from the original series manage to work its way through the universe like the Mirror Universe. First met and set up in The Original Series in “Mirror, Mirror,” the popularity only grew when interest was piqued in Deep Space 9. Just why The Next Generation never explored it was never explained, at least to my knowledge, but to get peeks into what happened past, future and present and to ask who wins is nastily answered in the last series to hit the screen.
The introduction uses a scene from Star Trek: First Contact and how the Humans of Earth conquered space is mightily explained in the opening credits sequence. Given the recent success of a certain DC Comics property, this episode gives true meaning to what the Suicide Squad has to represent, than a gleeful romp to save the planet, much less each other in a bid to be Emporer of the Galaxy.