On the recent passing of a friend with whom I’d lost contact long ago, several of her friends started a Facebook group to celebrate her and share stories of her life. I feel honored to have been invited to be a part of that group. And it turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) that many of these people share similar interests, and a discussion started about science fiction, to which my friend Christina said she’s tried but can’t seem to get into Star Trek and she feels like something’s wrong with her for it.
Now, I’m speaking as someone who’s watched all of the more-than-650 hours of Star Trek TV series, movies, and worthy derivative works (such as Star Trek Continues) that have been produced over the past more-than-60 years, so I feel somewhat authoritative when I say that … there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her for not getting into Star Trek! There’s so much to get into, and the focus of each series (and quality of its writing) varies greatly.
But if she (or you) ever wanted to try the very best that Trek has to offer, I recommend three specific Next Generation episodes. These are wonderful stories:
- “The Inner Light” (you’re an android if this doesn’t have you misty-eyed by the end)
- “Darmok” (it will teach you a new way to communicate and a new way to appreciate the way you already do)
- “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
As for the Shatner-era series, I don’t know which episodes are on the ‘best of’ lists, but I’d recommend:
- “The City on the Edge of Forever” (with Joan Collins – set in pre-WWII America, a terrible choice needs to be made)
- “Space Seed” (with Ricardo Montelban – and then follow it up by watching the movies Star Trek II, III, and IV, which together tell a story)
- “The Trouble with Tribbles” (and then follow it with Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations”; both of these are really fun – and then, if you subscribe to the Paramount streaming service, “Short Treks: The Trouble with Edward” because H. Jon Benjamin is hilarious)
- “Mirror, Mirror” (sets up the idea of the mirror universe)
And I can’t think of an excuse to mention my other favorite Deep Space Nine episodes, so I’ll just toss ’em out here:
- “In the Pale Moonlight” (a man must decide between his morals and other people’s lives)
- “Far Beyond the Stars” (the African-American space station captain wakes up as a writer for a pulp sci-fi magazine in 1950s America, where prejudice is a part of life)
- “Waltz” (which showcases one of the best villains of this series, which is known for its great villains)
The reason I love Star Trek is that it’s always been about a group of diverse people coming together for a common goal, helping overcome each other’s weaknesses with each other’s strengths. Sometimes the characters don’t even like each other, but in every series there’s skill and there’s respect. Best epitomized by the original Star Trek series: Spock’s logic, McCoy’s passion, Kirk’s decisiveness. They can be like rock-paper-scissors sometimes.
Star Wars is often about the Chosen One wielding supernatural powers to fight against evil. In Star Trek there is rarely evil, just misunderstanding.
To find something relevant to add to the group, I went looking in Memory Alpha (the Star Trek wiki) for the articles on Death, Afterlife, and Resurrection. Though I keep thinking back to the final toast scene at the end of the Babylon 5 TV series. The fact that four of the six actors around that table are no longer with us makes it hit that much harder.