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These Were the Voyages — Looking Back on 13 Years of Star Trek Rewatches

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These Were the Voyages — Looking Back on 13 Years of <i>Star Trek</i> Rewatches

Home / Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch / These Were the Voyages — Looking Back on 13 Years of Star Trek Rewatches
Rereads and Rewatches Star Trek

These Were the Voyages — Looking Back on 13 Years of Star Trek Rewatches

Thoughts on rewatching over five decades of Trek, from "The Cage" to "Star Trek Beyond"

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Published on March 4, 2024

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Composite image of five captains from various Star Trek series: Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer

It all started in 2011, which, somehow, is thirteen years ago.

Well, strictly speaking, it started a couple of years earlier when Eugene Myers and Torie Atkinson commenced their rewatch of the original Star Trek on this here site. They did the first two seasons, but then moved on, and my fellow Trek scribes (and dear friends) Dayton Ward and David Mack stepped in to do the third season.

That finished in 2011, and the next logical step was to do The Next Generation. However, that was a much greater commitment—seven seasons’ worth of episodes rather than three, which would require two entries per week instead of one—and Dave and Dayton didn’t really have the time to devote to that. They recommended me, instead.

The transition from one to the other involved several different writers taking a look at each of the original-series movies, with Dayton, Dave, myself, the late great A.C. Crispin, and site staff writers Ryan Britt and Emmet Asher-Perrin all taking a look at each movie before I dove into Picard and the gang.

And what a long strange trip it’s been.

In 2011, I just was grateful for the work. While I was part of the regular stable of Trek fiction writers throughout the first decade of the millennium, editorial changes at Simon & Schuster following the economic crash of late 2008 resulted in me no longer being in that stable. And my other regular gig—scripting the Farscape comic books for BOOM! Studios in collaboration with that show’s creator Rockne S. O’Bannon—was also coming to an end. The opportunity to write two articles a week about one of my favorite subjects appealed greatly from both a professional and personal standpoint.

One of the first things I wanted to do was give my rewatches their own format and style distinct from what Eugene, Torie, Dave, and Dayton did. So I stole the format used by Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping for their various unauthorized guides to genre shows published in the 1990s by having the rewatches divided into various subsections, ideally with funny titles.

Because I wanted to have fun with this, dagnabbit.

I really wasn’t thinking ahead when I started in 2011, but when 2013 rolled around and I was into the seventh season, I had a decision to make. It was, mind you, a very easy decision. The TNG Rewatch entries had proven to be quite popular and were prompting nifty discussions in the comments.

(Let me pause here to once again sing the praises of the folks here at Reactor Magazine for having a comments section that belies the usual Internet truism to never read the comments. The beneath-the-article conversations on this site have been one of the best things about writing for this site the last baker’s dozen of years.)

So after we did a second movie marathon (with me and staff writers Emmet, Ryan, and Chris Lough each doing one of the TNG movies), I launched the Deep Space Nine Rewatch, which proved to be just as popular and full of nifty conversation. I also have to confess that some of my favorite pieces for this site were for the DS9 Rewatch, particularly the ones I wrote for two of the show’s finest episodes, “In the Pale Moonlight” and especially “Far Beyond the Stars.”

As I barrelled through the Dominion War that ended DS9 in 2015, however, I had another decision to make. I didn’t really want to move on to Voyager, as I was never a big fan of that particular spinoff. But it had been a few years since the original series rewatch, and my own takes on TNG and DS9 had been popular enough that I thought it was worth doing my own look at the original series, especially given that we were coming up on the show’s 50th anniversary in 2016. To make it stand out from what Eugene, Torie, Dave, and Dayton did, I had two additional features. I didn’t just cover the 80 episodes that were produced between 1964 and 1969 (counting “The Cage” in there). I also looked at the animated series released in 1973 and 1974 and all the movies featuring Kirk and the gang from 1979-1991 as well as the re-cast ones released between 2009 and 2016.

Once I finished that off—which included some lengthy discussions of the movies—I figured I was done. In 2017, I moved on to do the Superhero Movie Rewatch, which kept me going for some time. Plus, I still had Trek stuff to write about, as Discovery debuted that fall, and—having, at that point, written a ton about Trek for six years—I was excited to review new episodes as they came out, which I have done, not just for Discovery, but also Short Treks, Picard, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds, plus periodic pieces on the kids’ show Prodigy. (This will continue, as I’ll be reviewing the final season of Discovery when it debuts in April.)

And then 2019 was coming to a close, and my superhero movie rewatch was catching up to real-time. I found myself confronted with two facts: (1) 2020 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Voyager’s debut. (2) A lot of people—mostly women who grew up in the 1990s and for whom Janeway was their captain—thought I wasn’t giving Voyager a fair shake.

So in January 2020, I started rewatching Voyager. This turned out to be a much more important thing than expected thanks to the apocalypse that started a couple of months later. For myself and for a lot of readers, having a new Voyager Rewatch twice a week was a welcome bit of consistency in a world that had gone completely batshit. Best of all, it was a very enjoyable experience for me to get to rewatch Voyager with fresh eyes.

Once I neared the end of 2021 and Voyager’s final season, my next step was inevitable. I’d rewatched all the other older shows and I’d reviewed all of the newer shows—to not do an Enterprise Rewatch would’ve just been silly. I needed to have a complete set, after all.

(To that end, I also needed to cover two more feature films. While I did all the movies with Kirk, Spock, et al, as part of the original series rewatch, I’d only covered First Contact of the TNG films. I included Generations as part of the original series rewatch, but that still left two unrewatched by self. Luckily, Picard’s third-season reunion of the TNG crew gave me the excuse I needed to do rewatches of both Insurrection and Nemesis in 2023.)

Now I’ve come to the end of that, and I find myself disappointed that it’s over—seriously, doing these rewatches has been tremendous fun—but also satisfied with the body of work that I’ve created. I especially love hearing that people are doing rewatches of their own and then reading my entries after each episode. Best of all, folks are still commenting on things I wrote over the entirety of the last thirteen years.

The most interesting part of the rewatches for me has been the revelations. I’ve been watching Star Trek since birth. I grew up on the reruns of the original series on Channel 11 in New York City, and eagerly consumed all the movies as they were released, was a devoted viewer of TNG and DS9, a somewhat less devoted viewer of Voyager and Enterprise, and now am an equally devoted viewer of the various new shows.

On top of that, I’ve been a professional Trek fiction writer since 1999, having written sixteen novels, thirteen novellas, ten short stories (with two more on the way), six comic books, one reference book, one RPG module, and a bunch of material for an RPG sourcebook.

I mention all that, not to show off, but to say that I know a lot about Trek. Despite this, each rewatch gave me new insights into the shows in question that I did not expect.

Image from Star Trek episode Operation Annihilate, showing Spock, Kirk, and McCoy
Credit: CBS

The original series. After decades of watching the show, I’d kind of settled into the notion that the first season was uneven but very good, the second season was the show at its best, and the third season was crap.

Rewatching it from 2015-2017 revealed two big things: one was that I was at once unfair to season one and too kind to season two. Both are uneven, both are very good—and in particular, I found that the second season moved away from one of the things that makes Trek unique and important. The first season wasn’t about scary monsters that had to be destroyed, but rather about people, even if they were alien: the salt vampire was the last of its kind trying to survive, the creature killing miners was a mother protecting her eggs, the Gorn invasion turned out to be the Gorn responding to an invasion, and so on. But in season two, it was all kill-the-monsters: the giant amoeba, the doomsday machine, the cloud creature, etc.

Also, while the third season was, indeed, terrible, it did have one thing going for it. Where most of the female characters in seasons one and two succumbed to the stereotypes of the era about the so-called fairer sex, the final year gave us some fantastic women: Elaan, Dr. Miranda Jones, Gem, Mara, Natira, Deela, Losira, Zarabeth.

Image from Star Trek: The Next Generation showing Data, Riker, and Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise. Worf stands in the background.
Credit: CBS

The Next Generation. I went into my TNG Rewatch with the notion that Jonathan Frakes was a fairly limited actor and that Riker went from being conceived as the big action man while Picard was the cerebral captain to being Picard’s second banana in more ways than one. I also went into it with the notion that Geordi La Forge as a character was mostly harmless, the dorky engineer, created as a nice tribute to a fan. (George La Forge was a quadriplegic Trek fan who died in 1975; at David Gerrold’s instigation, the differently abled member of the Enterprise-D crew was named after him.)

I came out of my TNG Rewatch with a much greater appreciation of Frakes as an actor. He was superb in many of his spotlight episodes, most notably “Frame of Mind” and “The Pegasus,” plus he just had a general relaxed charisma that worked beautifully. The first season had way too much strutting and lookit-me-I’m-manly writing of the character, plus Frakes himself was wooden as hell in that first year—but so was most of the cast. Growing the beard for season two obviously relaxed him some, and he settled into a good character played by a much better actor.

As for La Forge, the character’s actions in “Booby Trap,” “Aquiel,” and most especially the morally repugnant “Galaxy’s Child” have aged very very badly. His treatment of Leah Brahms in the latter episode especially makes it hard to sympathize with the character in any way. I hasten to add that none of this is the fault of Burton, who is a national treasure.

Image from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 depicting Sisko and Kira
Credit: CBS

Deep Space Nine. Of all the shows, DS9 is the one that had the least difference between how I felt about it when I started the rewatch in 2013 and when I finished it in 2015. I love DS9, it’s both my favorite of the Trek shows and, in my opinion, the strongest of them (though SNW is challenging it in the former category). Most of my feelings on the show—lots of good, some bad—didn’t change on rewatching.

However, there was one negative that came out of writing about the show for this site, and that’s this: the all-male writing staff really blew it by totally missing that they made Benjamin Sisko the product of a rape, then compounding the error by having all the characters being totally okay with it.

Star Trek: Voyager "The Voyager Conspiracy"
Credit: CBS

Voyager. The primary benefit of rewatching Voyager in 2020 and 2021 was to give the show a fair shake. As I just said two paragraphs ago, DS9 was Trek at its finest, and Voyager’s first five seasons had the misfortune of airing alongside DS9’s final five seasons, and it was bound to suffer from the comparison. Plus, I found it overwhelmingly frustrating that the show kept running away from its premise.

Knowing that going in, I was able to focus more this time on what the show was as opposed to what it wasn’t, and they did some damn fine individual episodes. Voyager was often brilliant at the execution of the high concept, and telling a cracking story in 42 minutes (or 84 for the two-parters).

I also came away from the rewatch with a much greater appreciation of Roxann Dawson as an actor. She created a wonderfully complex character in B’Elanna Torres, one who struggles with depression and anger issues, and is that rare half-human, half-alien character in Trek who doesn’t really embrace either side of her heritage, and finds herself lost because of it.

Image from Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Home", depicting Archer and other members of the crew
Credit: CBS

Enterprise. Alas, where my negative impressions of Voyager were ameliorated by my rewatch, the same cannot be said for the first Trek spinoff to fail in the marketplace. My lack of interest in Enterprise’s weekly portrayal of Mediocre White People Failing Upward in the early days of the millennium felt completely justified in the early 2020s.

But I did come away this time with one happier thought regarding the show, and that’s the work done by Jolene Blalock as T’Pol. Rick Berman-era Trek had a tropism for hiring women for their looks to then play complex characters who were nonetheless male-gazed like whoa, starting with Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax, continuing to Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. Blalock was the worst example, because at least Dax and Seven were written well, mostly, but Blalock was constantly being written in ways that pandered to the heterosexual-teenage-boy-who-wants-to-see-boobies demographic.

But Blalock did superb work to rise above that, and also to take advantage of the other way she was written, which was as the only grownup on the NX-01. T’Pol’s logic and experience saved the crew’s asses more than once.

50th anniversary. One other item I want to mention: In addition to the original series, I also rewatched another TV show that celebrated its golden anniversary in 2016: the Adam West Batman. To close out the 2016 calendar, I celebrated the double anniversary with four extras: The Green Hornet (produced by the same folks that did Batman), Incubus (a movie starring William Shatner that was entirely in the constructed language of Esperanto), preview shorts featuring Batgirl and Wonder Woman (again, produced by the same folks who did Batman), and finally a joint endeavor, the failed 1964 pilot for an Alexander the Great TV series starring Shatner and West. Had it gone to series, the pop-culture landscape would’ve been so different

It has been a joy and a privilege to do these rewatches of the first five decades’ worth of Trek on the screen, from “The Cage” to Star Trek Beyond. And who knows? Maybe in a decade or so, I’ll think about doing a rewatch of Discovery

In the meantime, on the 18th of March, I’ll be debuting my next big project for Reactor Magazine: a Babylon 5 Rewatch! 2024 marks the thirtieth anniversary of B5’s debut as a TV series (following the pilot that aired in 1993), and with creator J. Michael Straczynski planning a reboot, now seems the perfect time to look back at the original. icon-paragraph-end

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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