Why Do I Love Star Trek - TOS?

So, I’m ahhh… in between jobs at the moment and although I’ve been busy with interviews and job searching I have taken some time to watch some original Star Trek episodes on the Space Channel at 1:00 P.M. EST.

I have not seen many of these episodes in maybe 20 years, and suddenly I LOVE them! OK, sure they’re corny. OK, sure they’re over-acted and over-dramatized. OK, sure the sets and props are hilariously fake. OK, sure I need to suspend every ounce of disbelief in my brain, but holy crap I’m loving my reunion with these episodes and am now really looking forward to the new movie.

What is the catch with these old corny episodes anyway? (And don’t say the short skirts on the female crew members, although that certainly doesn’t hurt!)

It’s all in the "special Effects’. :rolleyes:

Interesting question that I think applies to many (myself included). Some theories:

  1. Despite all the cheesiness, particularly for their time (with the exception of the last season), they were well done. You connected with the main characters. The stories were topical and usually had some moral or lesson learned twist to them. There was a lot of intelligent science fiction presented - it wasn’t just all monster aliens. And they were well done - you got caught up in the story. It was entertainment that made you think.

  2. Since you are old enough to acknowledge not having seen many of these in 20 some years, they “bring you back” to that time when you first saw them, and remind you of how much you enjoyed them then. In a sense, they are like a time warp - by seeing these familiar characters in their prime, you are reminded of how much you enjoyed them way back when.

  3. Star Trek is all about “hope” of what the future may look like - that we can travel to all these distant places, have achieved all this amazing technology to do so, and the unimaginable things that could be encountered. We have achieved a lot since the show was on, but we’re still a far cry from an Enterprise. So that “hope” is still valid. That is, since we haven’t ventured far into space, no one has invalidated the possibilities that Star Trek presented.

Live long and you know the rest…

When there was a moral lesson, it wasn’t nearly as hamfisted and simplistic as later Trek shows. It’s as if Gene Roddenberry thought the audience of 1987 was stupider than the audience of 1969.

Spock bemused.

Just got the HDDVD version of season 1 (Yest HDDVD,… I still have it) and was watching with my kids. Up till now they did not care for it but suddenly they just got it… Maybe the stories suddenly made sense or something but they find them compelling as I did when I was their age.

Sure the effects, even the redone stuff, are cheese but a good story over comes the limitations of the time. (After all Casablanca isn’t sneered at for the cheap model planes it used)

I think the character interaction and stories make this still worth watching. Of all the Trek nothing has come close to the Kirk Spock McCoy chemistry

I think it went from “good” to “old-fashioned 60’s cheese” and has come around to “so 60’s cheesy that it’s good fun.” It’s so over-the-top! I’ve watched a handful online recently and was quite surprised at how entertained I was, aside from what is now obvious blatant sexism on occasion.

A thing about TOS that’s striking to me is that it’s so colorful - lots of bright reds for example. I know that at the time they were trying to sell color TVs and needed bright lights to film with. The follow-up series always seemed so dim and moody.

Agreed, also I liked how they used different colored lights on the walls to set mood and tone giving the bland gray some color. It was very simple but effective, same room different colored lights equals different set.

The Music was great.

I think some of their effects still hold up well, the Bridge set for instance. The close ups of the Enterprise in some episodes looks fantastic, the re-mastered Enterprise looks far inferior IMHO, it screams CGI.

Just plain good stories and good writing. In addition, the Spock/McCoy/Kirk trio was entertaining to watch, and actually had some interesting philosophical points (Was logic the answer? Or emotion? Or was the middle path – Kirk – better in the situation?).

TOS had a lot more action and adventure. I recently watched the old Captain Hornblower film and it reminded me of quotes about Kirk being Hornblower in space and this was really driven home watching the film.

The original had far more action and far less angst. Most of the messages were less ham-fisted then later shows. The half-black/half-white episode being the one very notable exception. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

The character’s also had great interactions with each other. The dynamic between Kirk, Spock and Bones has rarely been reproduced and Scotty was well Scotty.

The outfits and mini-skirts of course really did not hurt.

I love the chemistry between the main characters - in the show and in the movies.
Also, I think it’s kind of cool and retro how it often seems that only one character is allowed to act at a time. I think the show is great - gooey cheesy goodness!

I heard those last four words - “great-gooey cheesy goodness” - in my head in a William Shatner voice. :cool:

Star Trek was quite different as a show from any of the later incarnations. It was an action/adventure show, for the most part. Even when they were being silly (Piece of the Action, for example), there were usually elements of adventure involved. The other shows are not adventure shows (except when the Borg show up, in which case all normal episode mechanics go out the window, which is why the Borg episodes are generally considered to be the most like the shows from the original series, and often considered fan favorites).

Star Trek also had a chemistry among its lead characters that none of the other shows ever managed to replicate. What made a show like MAS*H fun to watch wasn’t so much the jokes (telling jokes is easy) as the existence of a relationship among the characters that allowed for interesting dialogue and plot development.

A good example of this is the episode “This Side of Paradise.” As an audience, we find ourselves torn during the episode. On the one hand, to see Spock able to be liberated from the confines of his self-imposed emotional control makes us happy for him: he can LOVE! On the other hand, we worry about the ship and the crew, and feel a sense of angst over the fact that the story appears to be leading to a breakup of our familiar space-faring family. How can we be happy about a Spock who won’t be at the computer, helping the Captain in the crucial moment with some vital bit of data? And the struggle the Captain goes through pulls us in as well. We identify Kirk with the Enterprise, as if they are a unit, more than a marriage. How painful must it be to yield this for happiness?

One of the all-time best sets of scenes in the show comes in the second half of that episode. Yes, Shatner can’t act his way out of a paper bag (I Can’t LEAVE!), and yes, the situation is a bit contrived, and yes, all the usual plot holes exist. But from the moment Kirk comes to his senses in the transporter room, through his harranging of Spock (“right next to the dog faced boy!”), to the tearful scene where Spock turns his back on happiness, and admits to Leila that it’s a self-imposed rejection of her love, we cannot help but identify with, and feel for the characters. We want a resolution, yet the resolution, when it comes, leaves us grieving.

There were sooooooooooooooooooooooo few situations like that in the later series, and it’s in large part due to the fact we never really identified with the characters and cared about their interaction, which always seemed a bit forced. In the few episodes where they allowed character development, it drew us in (“The Inner Light” for example) and we cared. But this sort of caring was much more prevalent with the original series.

I’ll always be a bigger fan of the original series, despite the fact that it was far less “good” in certain classical senses. I always wished they would dump their stupid A-plot, B-plot silliness from TNG, and get back to some real ACTION episodes, with characters who you could really get into and believe in. When Tasha Yar was killed off, I remember thinking, “Eh.” When Wesley Crusher left, I though, “Good riddance.” I’d have never thought those things about anyone in the original series, even Riley. :slight_smile:

As others have posted, I think the main reason is the characters. Whatever you may say about the acting, there was real chemistry between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. I read somewhere long ago that the three represented the aspects of the human mind that are always in conflict: McCoy is your emotions, Spock is your cool logic, and Kirk is the “real” part of you, the decision maker, that always has to balance the emotions and logic and decide which one to listen to.

But even just Spock and McCoy together had great chemistry. It’s been too long since I’ve seen any episodes to be able to bring in a cite, but there were a number of scenes between just the two of them that were truly great. Oh, thought of one: When Kirk is trapped on the ship that’s fading in and out, Spock and McCoy have a great confrontational scene that ends with McCoy saying something about wondering what Kirk would say if he were there. Spock responds, “I think he would say, ‘forget it, Bones’” (forgive me if I didn’t get the quote exactly right). To me, that little almost-throw-away-line speaks volumes.

Also as others have said, I think the simplicity of the stories back then was a definite good thing. I think modern story-telling (in all genres, not just TV) has just gone too far down the path of “everything has to be complicated”. Every TV episode, even a sitcom, has to have at least two if not three separate stories. You watch an old TOS episode and it was: go to the new planet, deal with the crisis there, make the little closing quip from the bridge, the end. It was a straight shot from the beginning of the episode to the end; later Star Treks had to wander all over the place.

Continuing on with the theme of characters, TOS obeyed the rule of 3. TNG had way too many major characters. Plus, Spock, McCoy and Kirk were superego, id, and ego, with Kirk integrating the very different opinions of the two others… Cheesy Freudianism, I know, but it worked.

I’ve begun a project of watching all TNG episodes from NetFlix. I’ve seen many, but seeing them in order helps solidify why I never liked it as much as TOS. One thing is the almost total lack of humor in TNG (except Brent Spiner, sometimes.) All three of the main actors, and Doohan also, could be damn funny when needed. Patrick Stewart may be a better actor than Shatner (though I have arguments to the contrary) but Stewart couldn’t get a laugh if his life depended on it. Picard and Riker are both pompous assholes much of the time.

Third, the Federation in TOS time is not so sure of themselves. In several episodes Kirk or Spock get told by superior aliens that humans might have a future, and are rather surprised. Picard, on the other hand, has this smug superiority even against Q. I think that is why the Borg episodes work - they actually have to struggle. Look at the end of Errand of Mercy, where Kirk realizes that, despite his self-image as a man of peace, he has just been arguing, with the Klingon, to be allowed to go to war. That is a beautiful piece of character development and playing against the stereotype (and a great piece of writing too.)

Finally, it struck me that Kirk is the center/hero of TOS in the way no one is in TNG. In nearly every early episode Kirk makes the crucial decision resolving the plot. It struck me from the first half of the first season of TNG, at least, that things just happen to Picard. Most of the time Riker or Data pulls his ass out of the fire, or he basically does nothing and the situation resolves itself. I know that TNG addressed the criticism about the stupidity of the Captain going on every landing party, but it killed Picard as the protagonist. I just watched The Long Goodbye, the first holodeck episode, and again Picard never actually did anything. He didn’t even seem to care that he was not going to make it out in time for his important phone call.
TOS was also paced better. The scripts for the first season of TNG threw away moments of potential drama left and right. No matter how many times I’ve seen them, Balance of Terror and The Doomsday Machine, to mention two, still are exciting.

TOS was first on the air the year I was in sixth grade. Just the right age to get involved in adult style ideas, but there was a lot of great adventure too.

When I saw “Journey to Babel” I learned something about husbands and wives, even though I hadn’t hit puberty yet. Right at the end, when Amanda blows up at Sarek and Spock, “Logic! Logic! I’m sick to death of logic! Do you want to know what I think about your logic?” Then she realizes, insomuch as it is possible, her husband and son are teasing her, and she smiles and relaxes.

“Devil in the Dark”, with the Horta. taught me that sometimes the ugly monster can be the good guy(gal, rather)

The bar fight in “The Trouble with Tribbles”, is my favorite single scene in all of TOS. It’s a classic, a cliche really, you can see rival groups duking it out in just the same way in many other genre of TV or movie fiction. When Scotty asked the Klingon “Laddy, don’t you think you’d better…rephrase that?” I knew the Klingon would be snotty in reply, and I *knew *the chairs would start flying.

The endings were clear, but not always happy. something different for the time.

Great posts. I’ll add that TOS characters basically came across as 20th century people (with enlightened attitudes for the most part yes, but…), while TNG seemed more like what someone (Roddenberry) imagined 24th century people would be like. Being on Kirk’s ship I think I’d feel perfectly at home, while being on the Enterprise D for any length of time would drive me wiggy in pretty short order (and I’d much rather have Guinan be my therapist than Troi).

I’ll add my first encounter-11 years old, at my grandmother’s house after my grandfather’s funeral. Saw Changeling on an old black and white and was immediately hooked.

Ahhh… A lot of help here understanding my newfound appreciation.

I agree with almost everything mentioned, especially the character development and interaction. And most certainly the whimsical humour sprinkled about, especially the obligatory bridge scene during the epilogue, inevitably ending with a campy shot of Spock standing somewhat bemused with one arched eyebrow. (And a smirking Kirk and McCoy)

Can’t wait till next week!

Whoa, pardner. A Private Litte War may look like a heaping bucket o’ cheese with Hill People v. Village People and a guy in a gorilla suit with fins, but that episode had a deeper statement to make about the bipolar politics of the day, namely that it was impossible to avoid proxy wars, bloody though they were, since they kept the larger powers from engaging in all-out mass destruction, hence it was necessary to arm the Hill People. Consider what Picard would have done in that situation: made some moralizing speeches and had Geordi and/or Data whip up some technobabble way to solve the problem and slap on a happy ending.

And can you imagine Picard saying “We may be barbarians, but we’re not going to kill… today.” ? Picard would cheerfully admit that humans in the 20th-Century were barbarians, gleefully barbarianing up the place every chance they got, and calmly maintain that 24th-Century humans were finally civilized now that they didn’t have greed or money or shit like that.