The Wild West of Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Original Series is all about adventures with insights: lots and lots of "What ifs". I approve.

I confess, I have greater familiarity with The Next Generation, partly because I was a teen when TNG began and partly because I find it slightly more relaxing. However, I've always had great respect for TOS. Some of the most classic episodes in all of television come from TOS. And nothing has ever measured up to the Kirk, Spock, McCoy combination or, I should say, the Shatner-Nimoy-Kelley combination (sorry, Pine-Quinto-Urban).

I'm happy to report that TOS also has its bonuses from the writing perspective. 

To relax between grading papers (as I wait for the next one to come in), I added to my personal Star Trek fan fiction. Lately, that fan fiction tackled The Original Series, and I found that it has one major bonus in comparison to the other series. While TNG supplies the open environment and Voyager the closed environment, TOS supplies grit and a world without rules.

Sure, sure, there are rules. In fact, one could argue that the non-family-occupied Enterprise of TOS would entail far more regulations than the later family-oriented "we're not anything that resembles the military" Enterprise of TNG. But with TNG, I always feel like bureaucrats are breathing down everybody's necks. Bureaucrats can be amusing as Yes, Prime Minister proves. And they can be useful in terms of plots.

They can also often get in the way.  

One thing I really like about "Galileo Seven" is that the
Enterprise gets to the planet where the shuttle crashed but
can't automatically find the away team--cause, ya know,
planets are big and technology isn't perfect.
In my version of TOS, which may or may not be canon but fits my personal view of TOS, the First Contact office that I have fully staffed in TNG--full of Federation diplomats and Starfleet personnel and civilian experts--is so short-staffed during "Shore Leave" that one of my lowly characters can get a job there simply because he got on the Enterprise by accident (a bureaucrat back on Earth gave him VIP travel status to try and impress the character's relations, which put the character on a planet where the only way off was to catch a ride with the Enterprise, along with a bunch of actors, which proves that bureaucrats are still useful plot devices).

That kind of "hey, you folks need help?" approach doesn't fit the other series (even when the writers tried). TOS reminds me of Barney Miller and early Law & Order, back when police stations were actually dirty and busy and things fell through the cracks. There's something so engaging about TOS being on the edges of civilization: out there, out of contact, and willing to improvise.

In TOS, Deep Space truly feels like Deep Space.
This may be why I've never gotten into the more recent series--or even the more recent movies. The desire to "fix" TOS is too strong. Even some Star Trek novel writers can't help but back-fill TOS with current and TNG technology. I admire Diane Duane's novels, but I mostly ignore that she gives TOS holodeck technology--simplistic holodeck technology, granted, but still not my idea of grit and grime and surviving on the edge of nowhere.

TOS is all about clunky machinery that goes beep--and captains who mostly ignore the bureaucrats on the home planet--and characters who actually can do what the writers wanted Wesley to do in TNG, only in TNG it truly made no sense.

In TOS, adventurers and mavericks and outliers may apply.

Remastered TOS is lovingly done and quite impressive in some ways.  
But I regret some changes, like this. TOS is the wires and batteries.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I believe in some of the later series they would make comments like "These aren't like the days of Kirk. We have rules now."