Space. The Final Frontier. The vastness of space has been explored by many different science fiction shows and movies. Star Wars was a space opera, yet placed the audience in a time period long, long ago. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey falsely predicted where our society would be at the beginning of the 21st century and also gave us a cryptic understanding of our relationship to the universe. The Stargate television series had explorers traveling the cosmos thanks to alien technology, and it became less about exploration and more about defending the Earth from the evil Goa’uld. Then came Star Trek. The Original Series premiered in 1966 and gave audiences one of the most human explorations of space we’d ever see. Roddenberry’s idea was that humans would explore space not thanks to alien technology or gifts from gods, but through ingenuity and scientific curiosity.
Star Trek went off the air in 1969, just 47 days before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. However, years later, Star Trek would re-emerge with a variety of spinoffs. Deep Space Nine explored life on a space station near a stable wormhole, whereas Voyager followed a Federation vessel’s 70,000 light year journey back home. Although set in the Star Trek universe, the spinoffs were quite different in tone and approach to the material created by Roddenberry back in the 1960s. But which Trek is king? Is the Original Series the show that will always be considered the best of the best, or is it too dated to outdo the more modern incarnations of the series? Which version of Star Trek do you prefer? Discovery? Enterprise? Which shows travel at Warp 10 and which ones can’t break orbit?
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20 SPINOFFS COULD EXPLORE TOPICS RODDENBERRY WOULD NEVER ALLOW
Gene Roddenberry was the big boss man. He would often rewrite scripts and make producing decisions that angered people. He even had some ideas that (fortunately) didn’t make it, such as lyrics to the opening theme song of the Original Series. Maybe now you won’t complain when you watch Star Trek: Enterprise.
Star Trek owes a great debt to Roddenberry, but shows like Deep Space Nine and Discovery were created not under Roddenberry’s guidance and had elements he would never allow: character conflict and expansive story arcs. It’s these un-Roddenberry things that makes the spinoffs so very much Trek.
19 ORIGINAL SERIES WAS LIKE THE WILD WEST
Why was the Original Series so good? Possibly due to Roddenberry’s vision of it being basically a Western in outer space. If you think about it, Star Trek treated the 23rd century like the wild, wild west. Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as a “Wagon Train to the stars” which makes the Enterprise one big wagon.
It also makes the show more grounded. Whereas sci-fi can get a little too cerebral and inaccessible, the Original Series was a great balance of action, philosophy and character drama. Other Trek spinoffs got caught up in politics and wars, but TOS stayed true to its “western” roots.
18 SPINOFFS DON’T FEEL AS DATED
Now that everything is in high definition, sharp-eyed viewers have spotted some strange things in films from the past. There are some rumors floating about regarding hidden and inappropriate messages planted in Disney animated movies that are now visible thanks to HD, but we’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Apologies to the Original Series, but we could tell even back in the 1960s that the panel of blinking lights was just that. The subject material and characters from TOS were fantastic, but everything else feels dated. Even Discovery and Enterprise, shows that take place before TOS, look sleek and modern.
17 ORIGINAL SERIES INFLUENCED ACTUAL SCIENCE
Do you like using your mobile phone? Enjoy talking to loved ones over great distances via video chat? These are all things that The Original Series predicted and possibly influenced in their creations. Heck, thanks to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, there’s actually such a thing as transparent aluminum!
Although Picard was in his Ready Room with something that looked like an iPad (it was also called PADD), are there other Trek shows that have influenced actual science? Any Emergency Medical Holograms appearing at your hospital? We didn’t think so.
16 SPINOFFS PROVIDE TREKS FOR DIFFERENT GENERATIONS
Star Trek, although timeless, referenced what was happening in the 1960s. “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” reflected race relations in America and “The Way to Eden” commented on hippie culture. These were great for the time, but what about other generations?
Each Trek wonderfully captured what was going on at the time the show aired. After all, good science fiction should be a mirror to the world around it. Next Generation, Voyager and other spinoffs had great commentary on same sex relationships, AIDS, equality and other issue that relate better to the modern viewer.
15 ORIGINAL SERIES HAD MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO DO GROUNDBREAKING WORK
Will and Grace, which originally aired in 1998, featured a gay character in a lead role. Transparent was a show that premiered in 2014 in which the lead character was a trans woman. There are still plenty of barriers to breakthrough on television now, but it seems like there have been barriers as long as there have been cinema.
The Original Series having an ethnically diverse bridge crew was as radical as it was inspiring. One of the big moments in TOS was the interracial kiss between Uhura and Kirk. Those were hard steps to follow by the spinoffs and arguably the future Trek shows haven’t broke as much ground as the original did.
14 SPINOFFS DID LONGER STORY ARCS
Roddenberry was pretty insistent that Star Trek be a certain way. He wanted most episodes to end on a cheery note with everyone laughing for camera. He also wanted shows to be concise stories that didn’t have long, drawn out arcs. True, there were some reoccurring characters, but mostly things were self-contained shows.
After Roddenberry passed away, Next Generation had some longer arcs during some of the seasons. Deep Space Nine had several story arcs going on simultaneously that lasted for many episodes. Voyager and Enterprise would also feature plots that would last an entire season, something that Roddenberry would never have supported.
13 ORIGINAL SERIES HAD LESS TECHNOBABBLE
In Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, problems were often solved with the help of technology. Thanks to the scientific knowledge of Data, Geordi, O’Brien and Seven of Nine, disasters were averted thanks to the push of a button.
The Original Series tended to solve their problems more dramatically. Sometimes it would be a karate chop from Kirk, but the results were more satisfying than uncoupling the Heisenberg Compensators. It was Kirk’s diplomacy and Spock’s logic that got the Enterprise out of most sticky situations.
12 SPINOFFS PROVIDE MORE TREK CHOICES TO CHOOSE FROM
One show can’t be everything, so as good as The Original Series was, the spinoffs could be the things that Star Trek could not. Deep Space Nine was about humanity surviving during a costly war. Voyager was about a crew struggling to adhere to their principles while being in uncharted space.
If you thought DS9 was too dark, you could always watch The Next Generation, which had more balance. Voyager was space exploration without the politics that appeared in Next Generation. Enterprise and Discovery were prequels that showed you how it all began. The spinoffs show there’s enough Trek for everyone!
11 ORIGINAL SERIES BETTER DUE TO RODDENBERRY’S INVOLVEMENT
Although the 50th anniversary of Star Trek was a time to celebrate, enough time has passed to have some frank conversations about Gene Roddenberry. He had made some amazing contributions to Star Trek, but also made some bad decisions and struggled with personal demons.
As complex as his issues may have been, his involvement with Star Trek is why the Original Series is probably the best of all of the Trek incarnations. It was his initial vision, his casting and assembly of writers and producers that made some of the best science fiction ever to appear on television.
10 SPINOFFS HAD MAIN CHARACTERS DIE
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then you watched the show every week to see if your favorite character survived the season. Other shows like Oz and The Sopranos had no problem whatsoever with ditching main characters. The spinoffs of the Original Series had no problems with this either.
Discovery saw the passing of several main characters, including Dr. Culber, Captain Georgiou and even Captain Gabriel Lorca (at least the Mirror Universe version of him). In Next Generation, Yar would not get past the first season and Jadzia Dax wouldn’t get past season six.
9 ORIGINAL SERIES HAD LESS SCI-FI COMPETITION
When Ds9 came out, there was some controversy as to how close it was to Babylon 5. Also in the 1990s were such great hour long sci-fi shows as Stargate SG-1 (which would also produce a rich franchise of spinoffs), Farscape, Roswell and Earth: Final Conflict.
Even now there’s a great wealth of science fiction, ranging from The Handmaid’s Tale to Black Mirror. Although there were some great shows around Star Trek‘s time, there simply weren’t as many shows out there competing for audience’s attention.
8 SPINOFFS BUILD UPON FOUNDATION OF PREVIOUS SHOWS
The Mirror Universe is a place that gives us alternate, often evil versions of our favorite characters. This alternate reality was established in the Original Series but explored in Ds9, Enterprise and even in Discovery. Hey, if something is good, why let it go to waste?
The spinoffs gave us a chance to let great ideas and characters breathe. Klingons, Romulans and Andorians all had their stories start in the Original Series and continue in the spinoffs that followed. Developing these characters and plots is what gave Star Trek such a phenomenal universe of stories.
7 ORIGINAL SERIES PROVIDES PUREST TREK MESSAGE
Gene Roddenberry was fascinated with space. He knew that, mathematically speaking, there were millions of Earth-like planets in the galaxy. Roddenberry wrote a column entitled “Science Fiction Thing of Past” and in it he talked about the goals of Star Trek.
The Enterprise wouldn’t be a space ship, but a flying city. The more exploration the Enterprise did, the more we’d learn about our own humanity. Aliens became allegory, and the technology was so believable we’d emulate it in real life. Roddenberry knew this, and he made sure it hit home with the Original Series.
6 SPINOFFS HAD MORE ALIENS IN THE CAST
When the Original Series aired, producers were nervous about how audiences would perceive the character of Mr. Spock. There was a fear that the pointy-eared Science Officer might be mistaken for the Devil! Besides Spock, the cast featured an ethnically diverse crew.
In future versions of Trek, it would be unusual to not have an alien on the bridge. With each series, more aliens were added to the main cast, allowing for more storytelling opportunities, cool makeup and moments of drama. Odo, Tuvok and Saru are some of the great aliens to be in the main cast of their spinoff.
5 ORIGINAL SERIES BUILT THE TREK UNIVERSE AS IT WENT ALONG
Wait, how many moons does Vulcan have? How far away is Qo’noS from Earth? Where exactly are the Borg in the Delta Quadrant? How do stardates work? The problem with the expansive Trek Universe? You need to keep track of it, because the history of the future is pretty darn important.
Whereas shows like Voyager and DS9 have suffered from continuity errors, the Original Series was making it up as they went along, and weren’t bogged down by the massive rules and history that was set up by all of the spinoffs. The Original Series didn’t have long arcs, but that made for easy viewing.
4 SPINOFFS HAVE BETTER SUPPORT STRUCTURE FOR FANS
If you love Star Trek (in any form) you owe a lot to superfan Bjo Trimble. Bjo and her husband, John, were part of the successful letter-writing campaign that had the Original Series run a third season. The Trimbles also helped on the campaign to get a NASA shuttle to be named Enterprise.
Those fans were instrumental in a show’s success back in the day, but thanks to social media it’s quite easy to be a fan of a show and connect with others. Social media have allowed Trekkers and Trekkies to show off their fandom and connect around the globe, something impossible to do back in the 1960s.
3 ORIGINAL SERIES DIDN’T HAVE THE BURDEN OF SETTING UP ANOTHER SHOW
If you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are constantly thinking about franchising. Films lead to toys that lead to television shows that lead to comic books that lead back to films. The Star Wars Universe thinks about franchising and so does Star Trek as well, but was it on their minds in the 1960s?
Over 50 years later we have a new Picard series coming out as well as a film being developed by Quentin Tarantino, but Roddenberry in the 1960s was just concerned with keeping his little show afloat. Any modern version of Trek is burdened with carrying the franchise and setting up the next show to come out after that.
2 SPINOFFS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NEW MEDIUMS
Back in the 1960s, there were only three television channels to watch. In modern times, we’re virtually inundated with media, with hundreds of different channels, with each of those channels having hundreds of shows that have hundreds of episodes. New shows for new times.
Next Generation, instead of airing on a network, was syndicated. Discovery can be watched by paying to subscribe to CBS All Access. On All Access, Short Treks premiered, which featured 10 minute episodes spotlighting the Trek Universe. Fan films, VR games and more allow for the spinoffs to be experienced in ways never thought possible.
1 ORIGINAL SERIES SETS STANDARD THAT OTHER TREKS ARE JUDGED BY
The Original Series still resonates with people over 50 years later, and with good reason. The show’s episodes tackled high concepts as well as offered complex characters that people could identify with and aspire to be. The Original Series came first and set the bar for other Treks (as well as other science fiction shows) to come.
As good as the Next Generation, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise and Discovery are, there will always be that little voice in the back of your head going: “But how is it better than the Original Series?” If Kirk, Spock and Bones already did it, why try a second time?
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