Talking About 'Star Trek': Is 'Star Trek: The Original Series' worth watching today?
You know…I had to ask that question to a few of my friends who were into Star Trek back when I was in my early teens….back in the late 1970s.
I was born just a few years before Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966, so I wasn’t what you might call a First Generation Trekker. I think I first saw Star Trek in the early 1970s (or maybe 1969) when I lived in Colombia with my mom, older half-sister, and other relatives. It was, of course, dubbed in Spanish and was titled Viaje a las estrellas. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I didn’t watch it a lot. (Don’t judge me…I was only 7 or 8 years old at the time!)
Intriguing looking ship….too bad it isn’t as detailed as the ships in Star Wars……
When we moved back to the States in 1972, Star Trek was in its “lost in the wilderness” stage: NBC had canceled the show three years earlier, but it was popular in syndication. I was space-crazy at the time (Apollo had still one more mission -Apollo 17 - to launch when we arrived in Miami) so I tried watching it again. But my English language skills weren’t yet good enough for me to grasp the show…so I lost interest in Star Trek.
Fast-forward to 1979. Two years earlier, I had seen Star Wars and got caught up in the enthusiasm for George Lucas’s space-fantasy epic. I knew it wasn’t science fiction (I was savvy enough to know the difference even back then), but Star Wars opened my mind, however slightly, to science fiction. I tried reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (a meh book, to be sure, but better than nothing), watched Battlestar Galactica (another meh TV series, but…it had cool special effects), and began to watch Star Trek on reruns.
This time around, I couldn’t get past the cheesy 1960’s era effects, its “in living color” red-blue-gold colored uniforms, or its “obviously shot on a sound stage” look. So I thought I didn’t like the show…except I kind of did like the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy….and I kind of liked the design of the Enterprise. I just wished it looked more….realistic.
Then, in November of 1979, I saw this poster hanging on the wall of one of my junior high classes:
(Well, not that poster…the one I saw had an Opens December 7, 1979 tagline…but you get the picture, right?)
Now, having seen both Star Wars and Superman: The Movie (my favorite comic book movie of all time), I figured that I’d have to go see that movie on opening day.
Long story cut short: I did see it on opening day….fell asleep during the Enterprise’s trek through the V’ger “cloud”…..but fell in love with Star Trek. (I didn’t love the story of The Motion Picture, mind you, but the franchise - such as it was - had possibilities.)
So this is what I did…and what 21st Century first-time viewers need to do if they want to enjoy the series.
I taught myself to look beyond the admittedly low-tech special effects and Buck Dent space outfits and get into the stories. My epiphany moment…the moment I knew I liked the series…was when I realized that “Balance of Terror” (Episode Nine, Season One) was actually a retelling of The Enemy Below.
…was this, in 23rd Century clothing. (Kirk played the Robert Mitchum role, obviously.)
As I grew older and a bit more educated, I realized that Star Trek not only captured the zeitgeist of the 1960s (Roddenberry and the writers deliberately injected social commentary about American society, culture, sex, the Vietnam War, and racial relations into the stories), but it also alluded to mythology and literature. “The Enemy Within” was Star Trek’s version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and several episode titles were references to William Shakespeare’s works (“The Conscience of the King,” “All Our Yesterdays”)
So, yes…Star Trek is definitely worth watching in 2019…and beyond. If you have a Blu-ray player and can afford to buy the entire three-season set, you can choose to watch Star Trek: The Original Series (as it is now called) with the original 1966–69 effects or the “remastered” 2006 effects. I prefer the remastered version, but that’s just my opinion.