Saturday, June 11, 2011

To Slowly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

In the works is a labor of love. I've been slowly chipping away at what will be the longest blog post I've ever written (which is impressive, considering my review of Mega Man 10), but it's for a good cause: it's a beginner's guide to the original Star Trek.

Anyone can conjure up detailed descriptions of what happens in each episode, or list off their favorite episodes. I'm taking a different approach, inspired by the summer I spent watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my sister. With only an uncertain-yet-limited amount of time to expose her to my favorite fandom, how was I to decide what she should watch?

Going through Next Generation one episode at a time, in order, would only get us to the second season by the end of the summer. I saw an opportunity to lead a sort of survey course of TNG; being a longtime fan of the show, all I had to do to get started was call up the episode list on the Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha. We went through the list, skipping most of the fluff to get to my favorite episodes, and the episodes that made a meaningful contribution to the greater series and provided background for the feature films.

We got halfway through Season 5 before we had to wrap things up.

That same year, my sister's fiancée attempted to watch the original Star Trek with her. Things didn't go as well--he gave up on the series fairly early on in the first season. I fully realize that Star Trek is not for everyone, but I can't help but wonder whether a more systematic viewing approach would have helped matters.

I suggested we start watching through the first six movies; I figured a departure from the vintage feel of the 1960s, along with increased levels of character development and plot continuity, might help the situation. We've gotten as far as IV, and the kids (I still call them kids) have both enjoyed each one more than the last. Take that, odds/evens rule!

Between the successful selective romp through TNG and the sorrowful straightforward slog through TOS, I got to thinking about the factors that contribute to a person's appreciation of Star Trek, or lack thereof. While there are plenty of factors, I kept hearing one theme from my sister's fiancée--confusion. Who were these characters, what was this technology, and where did these aliens come from? I take for granted that I can tell a Klingon from a baffle plate. What of those who can't? Who watches out for the watchers?

Well, for one, I do. At least, I'm working on it.

I'm going through every season of Star Trek and picking out, in order, the episodes that someone with limited time or interest should watch to get a fuller understanding of what the show is all about. I'm focusing on accessibility and lasting significance in the greater Star Trek universe, and it's been dorktastically enjoyable to dig through Memory Alpha to find all the plot threads and connections between the original Trek and the rest of the series. I'm crafting a guide to the original series that'll also act as a precursor to the guides I have planned for TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT. It's a hefty undertaking that's already been going on for weeks, but I am loving it.

When all is said and done, I might just have the comprehensive first guide on the Internet for total beginners. I'm sure I'll catch flack from diehard fans whose favorite episodes weren't on my list, but it's been an interesting experience to examine a few popular episodes such as "The Devil in the Dark," and consider cutting them from my list. Don't get me wrong--the episode is great Star Trek, but it doesn't seem to introduce or demonstrate anything major that isn't already featured in another episode on my list. I'm always open to suggestions, but I feel almost obligated to stick to my guns here, because this isn't a detailed synopsis of every episode or a list of the Best Episodes.

So it's a challenge, but a worthwhile one. Stay tuned--with any luck, I'll have it ready for next weekend, and we can all have a party.

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