Friday, December 28, 2007

Star Trek: "The Menagerie" and "City on the Edge of Forever"

Start Trek: "The Menagerie" and "City on the Edge of Forever"
1967 and 1968 Hugo Winners for Best Dramatic Presentation

For a nerd I'm not much of a Star Trek fan. Oh I used to be. I watched every episode of the original series and read a pile of associated material and obsessed over it. Things started to change when Next Generation hit and I slowly got weaned off Trek by season after season of mediocre shows. I was young and stupid then and had not learned to not become a drooling fanboy yet.

These days I look at the original series and I think to myself "Wow! They managed to get one full season's worth of decent shows out of three full seasons on the air!" This being a much more impressive ratio than Next Generation's twenty-odd episodes that I found worthwhile out of seven seasons. And don't get me started on what came after.

(Okay, I got myself started. Locally Babylon 5 was shown at 9pm while Voyager was on at 8pm and I had roommates who didn't have the love of Star Trek drained away. So at the apex of Babylon 5's quality I had to sit through at least some of the nadir of Star Trek's quality so that I wouldn't miss a bit of my show. It gave me a special hatred of that program in the midst of the great B5/Trek Wars of the mid-90's...)

Getting back to the topic at hand, as one of the cornerstones of geek culture two of the most beloved episodes (three if you count "The Menagerie" as two parts) from the first two seasons of the show were awarded Hugos. Only the presence of one of the most beloved science fiction films of all time stopped "Spock's Brain" from picking up the third Hugo.

Okay, I was joking about "Spock's Brain" being up for a Hugo. It was "The Way to Eden".

I could write some fairly conventional reviews for these episodes but once more I feel that it is a waste of everyone's time. If you like Star Trek then you already know and love them. If you don't like Star Trek but came here because you like science fiction you still probably know them (at least "City on the Edge of Forever").

I will say that if you have never seen a bit of Star Trek then "City on the Edge of Forever" is easily my pick for the best episode of the original series (it's a popular choice for that distinction) and any science fiction fan should have seen it at least to know what the fuss about Star Trek was.

We've reached a point where I feel that Star Trek fandom is fading fast. The original series is hardly picking up any new fans and what has now reached decades of weak programming has reduced Star Trek to shadow of its former self. I won't say that it's impossible for the new movie to revitalize interest in the show but Star Trek has become the show that the current generation's parents watched and it's just a matter of time before it fades completely from view. (Don't get smug Star Wars fans; your turn is coming especially given how hard that franchise is being milked.)

I should say something about "The Menagerie" since it is the other episode to win. It was never a favorite of mine. I found it to be a bog standard, generic Star Trek plot though at the time it was voted in it probably wasn't clear yet that Trek would return to that same story over and over again. God like aliens offering a paradise would have seemed novel on television at that moment. I'd probably go with "Balance of Terror" as my favorite from those first few episodes.

Finally I leave you with these scenes from the episodes...

...No, wait, that was Futurama's "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". It's easy to mix those up.