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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Star Trek Reviews: '90s Trek TV

Part Three of my reviews for all of the Star Trek shows and movies, split across several posts for each “stage” of Trek:

  1. Early Trek (TOS, TAS)
  2. TOS Trek Movies (ST MP through ST VI)
  3. ’90s Trek TV (TNG, DS9, Voyager)
  4. TNG Trek Movies (Generations through Nemesis)
  5. Enterprise
  6. Trek Reboot Movies
  7. Streaming Trek (Discovery, Picard, Trek shorts)

See the first post for an explanation of my letter-grade ranking system. The short version: C is average, something I have no strong feelings about one way or another. To avoid uncontrollable rage, please remember: Average is not Bad. It’s just average.

This post is all about ’90s Trek, the TV shows that aired mainly in the early '90s, although '90s Trek really begins in the late '80s with…

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Rating: B-

Again, there was an exciting announcement: Trek is finally coming back to TV! Not the Star Trek Phase II or whatever it was called that they once talked about, but a new crew on a new version of the Enterprise, farther in the future.

And again, there was a little disappointment. After watching the first few episodes of The Next Generation, I gave up on it for a long time. Came back just in time for “The Best of Both Worlds” and started watching regularly. The series was better by then, but it still had bad spells. I eventually saw the episodes I’d missed and realized I hadn’t missed much. A couple years ago, I started re-watching all the episodes, in order, more than once, to make sure I filled in all the gaps. And I still have mixed feelings.

I gave TNG a lower grade the first time I rated it. First, because the first two and a half seasons are generally bad, mostly C quality, some D quality, and only a few that rise above that. Second, because the pacing in so many episodes, even in good ones, is slow, sometimes plodding along until you scream “Just get on with it!” It’s a bad sign when most of your hour-long episodes could be compressed to fit a half-hour time slot and would actually be improved by the effort.

But let’s face it: there are a lot of B and A-quality episodes in TNG. Some of the best Trek episodes ever, like “Darmok” or “Tapestry”, are TNG episodes. The fact that it has more C and D episodes than any other Trek should lower the rating a little, but not drastically. It’s still a very re-watchable series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Rating: B

I only watched the first one or two episodes of DS9 when it first aired. It didn’t “grab” me, so I gave up. I knew people who praised DS9 and claimed it was the best of Trek, but I couldn’t be bothered.

But when I filled in my gaps on TNG, I also watched all of DS9. I’m still not enthused about the series, although there are a couple episodes I like. But regardless of my feelings, I still recognize that it’s a very well-made series, especially in comparison to TNG. It does have longer, more carefully crafted plot arcs, although that’s a major reason why I don’t feel enthused. It takes too much effort to get into DS9 compared to something more episodic.

One thing I do not like is the space battles. My feeling about space battles is that, space being as big and empty as it is, tight formation space battles or attempts to barricade a space route are just ridiculous. And I’m just not the kind of person who likes lots of explody action. The space battles in DS9 and late TNG mark the point where I stopped liking a lot of the military conflicts in Trek.

Still, I rate DS9 as a B. Originally, I had it lower, but that was only because I sorted all the series into tiers, assigned TAS a C grade, and made all other ratings relative to TAS.

Star Trek: Voyager

Rating: B

When Voyager was announced, I had the same reaction as many: “It sounds depressing, like Lost in Space. Not very much like Trek at all.” But I watched the first few episodes, stuck with it longer than DS9. Missed some chunks of episodes, but I liked it better than DS9. When I went back and fill in my gaps later, I decided I liked it better than TNG, too.

It’s not a great series. It has fewer A-grade episodes than TNG and less plot development than DS9. It has some of the same pacing problems as the other '90s Trek shows. But here’s the thing: it’s more consistent in quality throughout the series run. Everything’s fairly close in quality. When you get to a bad episode, you don’t discover it’s the first in a long string of bad episodes. And honestly, if we’re going to have nerd fights about who the better captain is: Kirk is the more interesting captain, Picard is the more diplomatic, but Janeway is the best overall.

Next Post: Back to the big screen.

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