Star Trek: Stuff I Enjoy
I hear from a lot of my friends that Star Trek is dead to them. They don’t believe there is any Star Trek out there worth taking notice of. I believe there are tons of Star Trek stories out there to enjoy if you simply look. Much of what I like is older, but it’s new to you if you haven’t been exposed to it previously. Everything from TV shows, cartoons, movies, comic books, manga, video games, novels, role-playing adventures, fan fiction, and so on. Some are good, some are great, and some are crap. The trick is finding what you might like.
There is one trait that many Star Trek fans have mastered that Star Wars fan lack. After decades of the Star Trek franchise wandering aimlessly, many of the fans have developed the ability to ignore the crap they don’t care for related to their obsession. For example, a Trek fan who doesn’t care for ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ just thinks to themselves, “Whatever, I’m not going to watch or care about that garbage. Oh, wait… that Seven of Nine is pretty hot, but forget the rest.” Whereas when a Star Wars fan is presented with something they don’t like, they typically go out of their friggin’ minds. They will endlessly rage against Episodes 1-3, ‘Clone Wars’, the Yuzhong Vong, or George Lucas himself until they use up all the viable oxygen on the planet. They should learn to take a chill pill. Take a page out of the Star Trek fans playbook and simply say to themselves, “Hmmm… Jar Jar Binks f-ing sucks. I’m just going to ignore that excrement. Wow, Jango Fett is kind of a bad ass. That’s cool.” Figure out what is good and ignore the rest.
That’s what I’ve had to do to keep the Star Trek flame burning in the back of my mind for many years. There are a lot of Star Trek stories I’ve enjoyed, and a lot I’ve disliked, or just plain ignored. I’m excited about the new movie because there really hasn’t been much to pique my Star Trek interest of late. The later TV series relied too much on sex to sell the shows (Seven of Nine and T’Pol), so hopefully the movie won’t do that as well. I’ve outlined below the Star Trek stories I’ve enjoyed, paying particular interest to the novels because I really enjoy them and feel they don’t get the respect they deserve. Basically this post is partially to serve as recommendations for you, and partially to enable my OCD for making lists. 🙂
- Star Trek – The Original Series (TOS) – The original series is obviously one of the favorites. It’s just so fantastic, bigger than life, and full of awesome. I even like the recently updated special effects. Pretty cool.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (ANI) – I’ve only seen a few episodes, but I loved the heck out of them. I have a soft spot for anything by Filmation in the 1970s.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) – Loved this show. I really stepped up my game as a Star Trek fan during the run of this series. I watched each episode at least three times; once when it aired, once with my brother, and then once with my friend Race. I still have every episode on video tape somewhere packed away. I have a hard time turning the channel when I stumble across this show on Spike nowadays. Some of the earlier episodes didn’t age well, but you can appreciate how good it was at the time.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) – I really liked this show early on. However, I lost track of it somewhere around season five or six. I still watched the big important episodes, but stopped watching it on a regular basis. I know lots of people think this was the “smartest” Trek series, but for me it’s sort of “Meh”.
- Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) – I tried to like this show. I really did. I gave it a few seasons before totally abandoning it. I tuned in for the occasional big episode, but that was it. I liked Tom Paris, but otherwise the entire show could be forgotten as far as I’m concerned. Every episode hit the “reset” button. Ugh.
- Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT) – I think I’m one of the few people that actually enjoyed this show. I’m still working my way through some of the later episodes, but that’s only because I didn’t have time to watch them when they originally aired. Good stuff. I think people should give this one another chance. Bakula made a phenomenal Captain.
- Classic Series Movies – Out of the entire Star Trek franchise, I think the classic series movies are my absolute favorite things. I love the usual ones:
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- and even Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Next Generation Movies – These have been pretty hit and miss. I think ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ is possibly the greatest Star Trek movie of all. The rest follow far behind. Ones I enjoy are:
- Star Trek: First Contact
- most of Star Trek: Nemesis
- some of Star Trek: Generations
There have been a number of Star Trek comic book series over the years. I’m not going to list all of them, just the ones that interest me.
- Star Trek (DC Comics – 1984-1988): I never read this series, but it looked really good. The stories did their best to be relevant, but were hampered by the time period they were being published during. Many of them were published after Star Trek III, but before Star Trek IV. So while there really wasn’t a gap between Star Trek III and Star Trek IV, the comics had to figure out a way to create one. If I remember correctly, the crew took over the USS Excelsior (as the Enterprise had been destroyed in Star Trek III). There were also several Mirror Universe stories in this run. Someday I’ll have to find these issues and read them.
- Star Trek (DC Comics – 1989-1996): The real stand-out thing about this run is that the first year was written by Peter David. That’s about how long I collected this book. It was definitely a good read. Much better than its TNG sister series at the time.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Malibu Comics – 1993-1996): I didn’t read a lot of this series, but the issues I read were pretty good. They did a good job telling a strong story, while remaining true to the characters. I was also a sucker for anything by Malibu at the time, so I may have been a bit biased.
- Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (Marvel Comics – 1996-1998): A really fun series and the best of Marvel’s Star Trek efforts. This comic followed the Omega Squad, a group of cadets at Starfleet Academy, as they got into misadventures.
- Star Trek: Assignment Earth (IDW Publishing – 2008): A nice five-issue mini-series by John Byrne that followed Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln. A spin-off from the TOS episode, ‘Assignment: Earth’.
- Star Trek: New Frontier (Wildstorm – 2000 & IDW Publishing – 2008): Peter David writes comic books. Peter David writes ‘Star Trek: New Frontier’ novels. Hmmmm… let’s put these things together. Like peanut butter & jelly. Good stuff. If you enjoy the ‘New Frontier’ novels, be sure to check out the comic books.
- Star Trek: Armada & Star Trek: Armada II – These are the only Star Trek video games I’ve ever played at any length. I’m not much of a gamer, but since I was already a fan of ‘Starcraft’, this game was an easy fit. Lots of fun building your armadas and attacking!
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game by Decipher – During the summer of 1994, we played the heck out of this game. While it didn’t really feature new stories (like a comic or novel), it did allow you to play in the Star Trek universe. The game mechanics weren’t as good as ‘Magic: The Gathering’, but we were willing to ignore that just so we could play in the TNG universe. Good times.
For whatever reason, I have enjoyed many of the Star Trek novels since I was a youngster. Maybe it’s just my passion for reading, or maybe Star Trek just happens to translate well into the written word. I feel the Star Trek novels don’t get enough respect in the Trek scheme of things, especially considering the quality of storytelling in many of them. Here are some of my favorite Star Trek novels and authors:
- Star Trek: New Frontier (1997-current) – Peter David’s own little corner of the Star Trek universe. These are by far the best Star Trek novels. There are over 20 novels in the series already. They take place during the TNG era, but are focused on a completely different ship and crew, the Excalibur. I can’t recommend these books highly enough.
- Star Trek TOS adaptations by James Blish (1967-1975) – The first Star Trek books I read. These made the most sense to my young mind since I had seen many of these episodes and could visualize the story easily.
- Dreadnought! (1986) and Battlestations! (1986) both by Diane Carey. These books tie together and take place during the TOS era.
- Strangers from the Sky (1987) by Margaret Wander Bonanno – A great book that detailed the first contact between Humans and Vulcans, long before ‘Star Trek: First Contact’. One of the neat aspects of this novel is that it flashes-back between a couple different time periods (the TOS era and the classic movies era). One of my all-time favorite Trek books.
- Final Frontier (1988) and Best Destiny (1992) both by Diane Carey. These books tie together and deal with Kirk’s dad pre-TOS era.
- The Lost Years (1989) by J.M. Dillard. I’ve only read the first one in the ‘Lost Years’ series, but I enjoyed this. It begins to detail the period of time between the end of the television series and ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’.
- The New Earth series/Challenger Series (2000) by various authors. This started off as a six book series detailing an attempt to establish a new Earth-like colony deep in space. It depicted the events of a second five-year mission taking place between the events of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ and ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’. The publisher was hoping to spin-off a new series of books called ‘Star Trek: Challenger’ that covered the settlers. I enjoyed most of the six ‘New Earth’ books. It was an ambitious project and worth the read. I did not however pick up any of the ‘Challenger’ novels.
- Vendetta (1991) by Peter David – As always, Peter David delivers a great story. This time it’s a TNG novel where the Enterprise has to face the Borg again, and even features a Doomsday machine from the TOS era. Good stuff!
- Dark Mirror (1993) by Diane Duane. This is a TNG novel that is a sequel to the classic TOS episode, ‘Mirror, Mirror’. Keep in mind this novel was written before DS9 or Enterprise featured episodes dealing with the Mirror Universe.
- Q-Squared (1994) by Peter David. This time Peter David links the character of ‘Q’ from TNG to ‘Trelane’ from TOS. As always, his books are great!
- Crossover (1995) by Michael Jan Friedman. This was a fun TNG novel because it included Spock, McCoy and Scotty all as they were during the TNG era. It even included Scotty hijacking an old Constitution-class starship from a museum. Fun!
- The Best and the Brightest (1998) by Susan Wright. This was a fun story that may have been a back-door attempt to launch a Star Trek Academy series of novels. This story is set during the TNG era and some parts even take place during the movie ‘Star Trek: Generations’. If you like Star Trek Academy stuff or the TNG episode ‘Lower Decks’, then you should enjoy this book.
- The Captain’s Table novels (1998) by various authors. Star Trek: The Captain’s Table was a series of thematic crossover novels that spanned several eras (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, New Frontier, and even pre-TOS with Christopher Pike). The Captain’s Table is a mysterious bar that appears to exist in another dimension because its door can appear anywhere around the galaxy, and it is visible only to captains. Drinks in the bar are provided free of any monetary charge; the “payment” required by the proprietor is for the captain to tell a story to the rest of the patrons. Thus, the Captain’s Table novels are a collection of short stories, each told by a captain or commander from Trek lore, bookended by short sequences taking place inside the Captain’s Table bar. This was a nice loosely-connected series with some good stories.
- Section 31 (2001) by various authors. Star Trek: Section 31 was a four-part series of thematic crossover novels that spanned TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY. The common theme among all these books was the influence of the Section 31 agency during a particular story. I read the TOS story ‘Cloak’, and the TNG story ‘Rogue’. Both were good reads. I liked the dark aspect of the Section 31 intrigue.
If you were ever a Star Trek fan, I encourage you not to walk away from the entire Trek franchise. You can still dabble and enjoy some good quality Star Trek stories. You just need to find what you like and ignore the rest (like “How to Speak Conversational Klingon”).