Friday, August 14, 2015


Daughter Jessie hangs with the Klingons
I had a blast last weekend playing the part of Big Time Author at the Shore Leave Science Fiction Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I signed books at the Meet the Pros event and in the Dealers’ Room, geeked out at a session with DEFIANCE stars Jaime Murray, Tony Curran and Jesse Rath (the love-to-hate-’em Tarr family) and sat on three pro panels with other authors.

I had the most fun at one of those panels: The Best and Worst of STAR TREK and STAR WARS. The panel was originally supposed to be a Battle Royale between fans of the various TREK incarnations, in which I am always prepared to defend The Original Series above all others. But an overabundance of panels meant we had to combine ours with one about the best and worst of STAR WARS. Which meant we ended up with  fans of the two largest franchises in SF history in the same room. Anyone unfamiliar with SF might be na├»ve enough to ask why that is a problem. (Mundanes often confuse  the two anyway.)  Anyone else knows to batten the hatches.

Well, it’s not like the old days. Everyone played nice and left the bat’leths and light sabers at home. Many of the writers on the panel had written pro novels in both universes. But it did give me an idea for this blog.

So, here, IMHO, are my five best and worst things about TREK:


--Characterization. In particular, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are the Holy Trinity of characters, representing, depending on your perspective, Mind, Body, Spirit; Id, Ego, Superego; Thesis, Argument, Synthesis; Physical, Emotional, Rational. Need I go on?

--Technology. The special effects might have been less than stellar in the early going, but you can’t discount the inspirational effect of TREK’s tech. The communicator is now in everyone’s hands because a guy who watched that show wanted to make it happen and invented the cell phone. NASA, computer labs, biotech firms and engineering companies everywhere are full of people who grew up on TREK and want to see that stuff become reality.

--Vision. And talk about inspiration. Not just the tech, but the kind of world we want to create, with a bridge full of diversity and a mission to explore, not dominate. 

--Adult Perspective. This may seem a strange quality to praise in a show that has spawned generations of cosplaying, action-figure-collecting fans, but the concerns of TREK are not coming-of-age, finding our true roles in life, accepting/rejecting our fathers’ choices or any of the other concerns of young adults. They are more about accepting the “evil” that may be part of us, negotiating difficult relationships with others, leading men and women through impossible hardships, the immediacy of war vs. the delicacy of diplomacy, the nature of love, responsibility, duty, friendship. (Let’s hope J.J. Abrams remembers this before it’s too late.)

Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel
--“Darmok”.  One of the best episodes in TREK comes not from TOS, but from NEXT GENERATION in “Darmok.” Captain Picard and the Enterprise encounter an alien culture that communicates entirely in allegorical phrases, negating the ability of the translator to help them bridge the communication gap. This episode stands out because the aliens in it truly think differently. And for once, TREK’s tech is of no use; only the human ability to make an intuitive leap saves the day. Kirk would have been proud. 


--Wesley Crusher. See “Adult Perspective” above. The presence of Wesley on the bridge seriously disrupted the TREK force. Chekov came close to this annoying role in TOS, but he was older, and everyone had permission to ignore or abuse him.

--Similarly, anytime there were children on TOS Enterprise, trouble—and bad acting--ensued. “And The Children Shall Lead” comes to mind.

--Cheesy effects. We all know they did the best they could on TOS, but sometimes you just have to close your eyes and ears. And, seriously, if the turbulence is that bad, couldn’t you just install seat belts? So many bodies on the bridge!

--ENTERPRISE. Almost everything about it. I love Scott Bakula, but he was seriously miscast in this murky “prequel” to TOS. We went nowhere and we did it tentatively, hounded by Starfleet Command back home and the interfering Vulcans along the way.

--Hippies in space. (“Journey to Paradise” TOS) Abuse of the holodeck (multiple epidsodes TNG,VOY). Ferengies. (DS9) Impenetrable politics. (DS9) Sorry, I couldn’t decide which was worse.

So, what do YOU say? What are the best and worst of TREK in your opinion?

And, since I’m not a huge STAR WARS fan, I leave it up to our resident STAR WARrior, Laurie, to give us her list of the best and worst of SW.  I can just kick it off by offering my best—Han Solo—and worst—JarJar Binks—may he be encased in carbon forever.

Cheers, Donna


  1. I'm not a huge Trek fan. I went off the original series (yes, I'm that old) in the third season, when it all got too silly. I became very tired of encountering human aliens, such as the Roman gods, out there in the wide beyond.

    More recently, I watched "Into Darkness" because... well... grudges. What's the first thing I see? The captain and the first officer running away from a bunch of (human) savages. And (oh my eyes) the Enterprise is parked under the friggin ocean! Really??? You know, spaceships, pressure...

    At least they made a plot point about the fact that Kirk never, ever acts like a captain. If he was in my Starfleet I'd shunt him sideways into a special ops post and give command of my billion dollar star ship to somebody who knows how to command.

    There. I look forward to what Laurie has to say about Star Wars. :)

    1. Oh gosh. JarJar Binks, for sure.
      Child Anakin Skywalker
      Young adult Anakin Skywalker
      The Pod Race
      The poorly developed romance
      Oh heck, let's just say the whole second trilogy.

      As for the original trilogy, I loved almost everything about it, but was put off by the whole "jetfighters in space" scenario where starships banked and moved in a vacuum as if they were in atmosphere. And sound effects? In space? Thanks to Star Wars an entire generation has misconceptions of how space flight dynamics. Firefly did a much better job. The exterior space shots were absolutely silent and all the swooping and banking and fancy flying were pretty much left to atmospheric encounters.

    2. Oh how I wish comments had an edit feature! That should have read "misconceptions of space dynamics."

    3. LOL, Laurie. Yes, I agree totally about the second trilogy. As for the first trilogy, I think it shares that aspect of "space fantasy" with TREK, despite TREK's cool tech. I mean, the only reason the ENTERPRISE wasn't banking and swooping in the beginning was because they couldn't afford the special effects to make it happen. Well, they call it space opera for a reason, don't they? :)

  2. As a college-educated adult, I adore what you said about characterization. But, as a kid-at-heart, everything else you said generated laughter in me. "Who cares?!" the child barks, laughing all the while. "It's simply great entertainment, and great representation for other 'species' when we could barely get other races in the entertainment industry's offerings."

    Otherwise, my brain's working on a plot bunny, so I'll have to revisit this post someday...!

    1. Yeah, I know, Eva. My oldest daughter even said she'd put the cheesy effects in the "best" category because that's what made watching fun for her! But, you know, I never stopped watching, and I keep seeing things in a different light.

  3. I'd put the Darmok episode in the worst category. You can't have allegory without language or its structure and the underlying meaning and/or significance of events. Otherwise, spot on.

    1. Well, WE can't have language without that structure, but who's to say an alien race, integrally tied to its cultural past, couldn't? That's why I loved that episode.

  4. I prefer Trek to Star Wars. TNG is my thing then DS9. My sister's all about TOS. We all love the new movies.

    I don't like the Darmok episode either, for the same reasons Kayelle gave. Yeah, it was a nice try, but it absolutely didn't work within the context of spoken language. I'll go right past that episode if it's on TV, and I don't rewatch it on DVD either.

    I actually don't hate Wesley, but that might have something to do with the fact he was close to my age when I really started watching TNG and paying attention. He's not my favorite character, but I don't understand the intense hatred of him. Wil's not that much older than me.

    Enterprise should not exist. I was okay with it until they brought the Borg in without explaining anything about why they were screwing up the timeline. The "it's an alternate universe" after two seasons of fan outcry was a total cop-out, IMO.

    I'm also in the minority that thinks Star Trek: Nemesis is brilliant. I think Roddenberry would have been proud of it.

    1. TNG had much to like about it, but it was never my TREK. It was always too detached and cerebral for my liking, and I've always believed TNG had to have three characters (Picard, Riker and Troi) to replace the complex character that was Kirk. Agree totally about ENTERPRISE. Just don't know what anyone was thinking with that one.


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