The original “Star Trek,” created by Gene Roddenberry, was, with a few exceptions, bad in every way that a science fiction television show could be bad… As science fiction, the series was trapped in the 1930s — a throwback to spaceship adventure stories with little regard for science or deeper ideas. It was sci-fi as seen by Hollywood: all spectacle, no substance…
The later spinoffs were much better performed, but the content continued to be stuck in Roddenberry’s rut. So why did the Trekkies throw themselves into this poorly imagined, weakly written, badly acted television series with such commitment and dedication? Why did it last so long?
Here’s what I think: Most people weren’t reading all that brilliant science fiction. Most people weren’t reading at all. So when they saw “Star Trek,” primitive as it was, it was their first glimpse of science fiction. It was grade school for those who had let the whole science fiction revolution pass them by.
— Orson Scott Card, “Strange New World: No ‘Star Trek'”, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2005
My earliest memory is from infancy, of looking out through my crib at a television set, watching reruns of Bewitched, Space: 1999, and Star Trek. It was 1973, and by then, reruns of American TV had made it across the Pacific to Taiwan.
I was hooked immediately. I hadn’t been around for the Golden Age, and neither have most of Trek’s current fan base– something that Card grumpily chose to ignore in his diatribe. We didn’t miss the revolution on purpose, okay, grandpa? This was my first exposure. But after I’d had a taste, I wanted more.
(Aside: due to irregular syndication schedules, I didn’t see “The Trouble with Tribbles,” widely regarded as Trek’s best comedic episode, until years after I’d seen every other damn episode of the original series several times. It drove me crazy, and you kids should be glad that you have TiVo to make such annoyances obsolete.)
As soon as I learned to read English, around 1979, I began knocking back the hard stuff: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Niven. Sure, I was still blowing my cash on Star Trek novels all through high school, but I had discovered a whole universe of science fiction and fantasy. And even if most of it was better than Trek, I still had affection for my first love.
And then Enterprise broke my heart. Forget being good science fiction; it wasn’t even good television. Insipid characters, rehashed plots, and blatant disrespect for even internal consistency– let’s not get into how egregiously the producers flouted 35 years of Trek continuity at every turn. And now they’ve just thrown up their hands and turned the final season into a fanfic free-for-all. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
I’m glad it’s over. One can only hope that now, with the media all atwitter about how Trek’s time has passed, someone with a great idea for a real science fiction series (not a space opera) will get a chance to explore new frontiers.
Then again, look what happened to Firefly.
There ain’t no justice.