Hello everyone! This is the fiftieth “Trek Tuesday” entry! I am honestly surprised this column has lasted this long! To celebrate this “milestone”, I am going to look at, arguably, one of the more perplexing questions facing Star Trek fandom: how to introduce Star Trek to new fans.
A few months ago, my girlfriend and I were channel-surfing before the Super Bowl when we came across an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She, who knows little about Star Trek, said we should watch some of it while we waited for the game to begin. The episode in question was “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – arguably the most inaccessible episode of TNG possible (largely due to the alternate reality element of the episode’s narrative). Coming in mid-way through it did not help matters in the slight.
Over the next twenty minutes, I found myself trying to explain what was happening, how and why it was different from what is usually on the show, and what it meant for Star Trek overall. More and more questions continued to emerge every time I explained something. It was a losing battle.
Star Trek wants to welcome you!
However, this situation did get me wondering on how do you get someone who isn’t a fan into Star Trek? The Star Trek franchise is so big, that it is tough to sift through it all. True, you can start with one of the pilots, but which series would you pick? “Caretaker” is a great first episode, but the rest of the series is lukewarm at best. Also, wouldn’t you want to show something Trek that really shines?
There are lots of Star Trek episodes that are critically loved. Perhaps one of those? But would some of those be too entrenched in their own mythology to really be appreciated by the non-fan?
One can make are argument to show a strong episode from the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are cultural icons. They present a familiarity that people can be comfortable with. The problem with that is that the show is from the 1960s. TV production/storytelling was very different back then. It can be tough to really adjust to the form. I don’t think that would be my first choice.
The original Star Trek movies might be good to consider, particularly The Wrath of Khan. However, like the original series, there could be a slight roadblock with the slow-burn nature of the films. None of this is a bad thing, but if you want to hook someone, you need to know if the person can appreciate older films and their styles.
An episode of The Next Generation? That is certainly a possibility. It was, after all, the most popular of all the series when on the air, and Patrick Stewart has since become a household name (thanks, in large part, to this, the X-Men film series and his appearances on American Dad). The only issues with a TNG episode is that some of their best are either “one-off” episodes (“The Inner Light”, “Lower Decks”) or banks on a familiarity with the show (“Family”, “Sins of the Father” and, to an extent, “The Measure of a Man”).
I wouldn’t even consider Deep Space Nine or Voyager for one reason: No USS Enterprise. I know that seems petty, but if you want to hook a new fan, there needs to be something that people know and the Enterprise is that thing. For that matter, I wouldn’t consider showing an episode of Enterprise either, despite my love for the series. There is an Enterprise, but there needs to be more. Don’t get me wrong though, there are plenty of good episodes in those series I would show after the indoctrination introduction has begun.
While I would lean towards the original series films or an episode of The Next Generation, I have to admit that if I was going to get someone into Star Trek and I needed a gateway drug, I would have to pick 2009’s Star Trek.
The perfect Star Trek gateway drug.
I know. I bunch of Trekkies just punched their computer monitors. Here me out. While it isn’t as strong as some of the prior movies or TV episodes, it has nearly everything for a non-fan to get into the franchise:
- A ground-zero approach. You don’t need to know anything.
- It’s fun and adventurous. Very much in spirit of the original series, but with a modern approach.
- It still has a sense of history. The movie is a reboot, but feels like it is connected to something bigger.
- It is Star Trek at its core.
If you show this to a non-fan and they like it (even just a little), then you can start bringing in the big guns. This worked in 2009. It can work again. Star Trek Into Darkness would also be a viable candidate if it wasn’t for the Old Spock cameo.
2009’s Star Trek can do what “Yesterday’s Enterprise” couldn’t: get someone interested in Star Trek. From there, you can start to bring out the bigger guns such as “The Inner Light” or “The Trouble with Tribbles”.
Keep in mind, this is just my reasoning. Whatever is chosen, the key is knowing the person you are trying to hook. If you know what they like when it comes to TV/Movie entertainment, chances are Star Trek has an entry that they will enjoy. From there, it is just all down here!
To another 50 more!