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Why Star Trek : TOS will always be the best

Ghostmojo

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Report this Jul. 03 2011, 3:36 am

To throw the cat amongst the pidgeons I would contend that despite everything that has been thrown at us in the nearly 50 years since Roddenberry formulated his wagon-train to the stars - the original 1964/65/66-69 programmes were and remain the very best of Star Trek.


I have always thought this since the arrival of The Next Generation. I loved that later 80s series. It was a very worthy successor. But perhaps they should have stopped there. That was enough. We didn't really need DS9, VOY or ENT in my opinion. They haven't added much to the equation. If anything they have merely watered down a great concept and some great televisual and cinematic archetypes.


Proof if it were ever needed that the Kirk & Co. crew are paramount with Paramount is in the JJA retelling - which of course goes right back to square one and tries its hand at starting again ... from the beginning (or near enough) - in its own sweet way of course.


My opinion is reinforced by watching the series again recently on disc. I have been working my way through the blu-ray collection of TOS (something I treated myself to after a period of laying off big expenditure items) and my faith has been utterly reaffirmed (not that it was ever seriously questioned).


OK there are certain criticisms that can be levelled at TOS but they are largely cultural and technical. The chief fact is that this series remains stubbornly the key to Trek because its quality has lasted undiminished for over 40 years. Its chief quality in my mind is that it has at its core a theatrical pedigree that brings it closer to a stage production than any of its successors. And to me that can only be a good thing.


The play's the thing...


The fact that it was made on a tight budget and that much of it was studio set-based is less important than the quality of its acting compliment and its provocative stories. There is just something about that show that is far more dramatic than any of its successors. There are a number of reasons for this but it becomes a case of the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Perhaps it is because when it is absolutely at its best you really are gripped to the edge of your seat.


I could point to a number of factors and I'm sure others will add to them. For starters the music (both thematic and incidental) is well-used and always supportive of what was happening on screen. It was scored so well that the music has become memorable in itself. I remember buying an LP of the music when it first appeared. It had the main theme of course - but also all those other little segments we have become so fond of. Whether it is a love scene; an eerie expose; a dramatic increase in tension; a climatic moment etc. it is all there neatly covered (courtesy of Alexander Courage, Fred Steiner, Gerald Fried, Sol Kaplan, George Duning and Jerry Fielding).


Another thing would be the cinematography. The camera angles, close-ups etc. were well utilised to add tension and import - and of course the use of lighting was key to this. There are many memorable scenes in my mind where we see a character neatly juxtaposed by a well-chosen background or in shadow etc. And then of course there is the colour - washes of it in almost technicolor - to enthrall an audience only just getting used to abandoning their black & white sets.


Ultimately, much of it rested with the actors, and a very fine bunch of lead, supporting and guesting stars was available at the time. Many of them were character actors and many of them had stage careers prior to television - which in many ways was still in its infancy. Some of them (like DeForest Kelley) had even lengthy cinema careers behind them. This complete power over the camera was at the heart of their performances and has rarely been matched by any of the lightweight offerings in later series (with a few notable exceptions of course).


There is an intensity to much of this work which has rarely been repeated and even more rarely bettered by what followed.


A final word perhaps for the special effects which were in their infancy in those days and yet still stand up well today. I have been comparing the new remastered versions (with all the CGI updates) against the originals and I reckon there is not much to choose from them. OK the new CGI is technically very skillful - but it does look a little too perfect at times and it does look very CGI. The old composited images of models and back-drops were actually pretty good. That comes from the fact that Matt Jeffries' models were so great. I have seen the original USS Enterprise (in the Smithsonian in DC) and it is mightily impressive. I accept that occasionally you see a black edge to a ship (especially Enterprise going into orbit) and that the planets were a bit fuzzy, but that model was very convincing and had a sense of scale. The CGI shots manage this from time to time - but more often than not they do not. The CGI enhancements are at their best when they add a little to the existing footage - rather than replacing it.


But as much as I loved the original ship and special effects, they were secondary to the action and the people. In terms of the latter you have to go a long way to match Star Trek The Original Series and I don't think that particular magic was ever captured again ...


to boldy go where no man has gone before

konarciq

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Report this Jul. 04 2011, 1:30 am

I can agree with some of the practical things you say (especially the quality acting!) even though generally speaking, TNG for me is the best of the two  ;-)


Why? I prefer the ongoing storyline and character development of TNG over the strongly episodic TOS with its magical reset button for the characters.


One thing I strongly disagree though: the music in TOS. For my taste, it´s too present, too loud, too overpowering. When I´m tired, I will never take out a TOS episode to watch, because the music is simply too invading, too overpowering. TNG however, I can watch without such worries.


If there is nothing wrong with me, then maybe there´s something wrong with the universe? -Dr. Crusher

HaventGotALife

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Report this Jul. 04 2011, 3:05 am

I agree with the quality of The Original Series writing and acting. But I disagree with most else you wrote. If I could re-do anything about the show, it's not the special effects. It's the music. Kirk and Crew have a poignant scene that simultaneously works to move the plot along, allows the themes to shine through, and has emotion, and as they get up from the table to walk out the door, here's a clunky and loud piece of music that is unrelated to the content of what we just watched. It gets worse as season two becomes season three.


I disagree about nothing coming after it being worth having. Deep Space Nine remains close to my heart (just look at my profile). This does not have to be mutually exclusive. The first season of The Original Series, especially, is great. Most of my favorite episodes come from this season. The writing is just spectacular. These include Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Conscience of the King, The Man Trap, The Enemy Within, Miri, The Corbomite Maneuver, Balance of Terror, Galileo Seven, Court Martial, Space Seed, City on the Edge of Forever, Errand of Mercy, and the Alternative Factor.


Trek, early Trek, is about Kirk and his burden of command. His decisions lead to the tension in the show. In re-watching the show last year, I enjoyed this season the most. Season two is almost as good, but it has some clunkers in it. The Deadly Years and The Apple come to mind. At the same time, I can enjoy the fourth-through-sixth seasons of Deep Space Nine. I just pop on an episode and I become immersed in the universe. DS9 is underrated, in my opinion.



Does it touch the Original Series? Apples and Oranges. You have to establish the Star Trek universe before you watch DS9. Otherwise you will think it's just another Science Fiction show.


 


Its stories are about the depth and complexity of human interaction and relationships. It studies us and asks us to look within ourselves, to relate, to ask how would we respond to all that is in their world?

Ghostmojo

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Report this Jul. 04 2011, 12:34 pm

A good response - thanks to all of you

KelisThePoet

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Report this Jul. 07 2011, 11:24 am

The original series of Star Trek has the benefit of being original (as much as anything can be).  Everything that came after was derivative and had to work against the disadvantage of being derivative.  Some people condemn the later series and movies for too closely following their pattern, not being original enough, whereas others condemn them for losing their way, not being derivative enough.  And among those who want the later derivatives to be "truer" to Star Trek and the original series, there is no clear consensus as to how.  I posted a topic a few months ago on the original series' board asking which other series of Star Trek was most like the original, and different people posted different, legitimate reasons why they felt a particular later series was most like the original.  Every subsequent series was the subject of at least a few interesting posts about why it was the most like the original.  I think this is because different people and different kinds of people get different things from the original show, itself, which is a testimony to how rich and multifaceted the original Star Trek is.


So, in my opinion, the original Star Trek is the best, the highest quality offereing, and I actually think that the variety of derivative stories inspired by the original series is evidence of its quality.  But I enjoy the derivative series and movies for what they are.  And given how hard it is to write good sequels and prequels and whatnot, given how badly other franchises have floundered in their attempts to expand their fictional universes, I personally am impressed with how the Star Trek franchise has grown.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

konarciq

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Report this Jul. 08 2011, 2:59 am

Quote: KelisThePoet @ Jul. 07 2011, 11:24 am

>

> And given how hard it is to write good sequels and prequels and whatnot, given how badly other franchises have floundered in their attempts to expand their fictional universes, I personally am impressed with how the Star Trek franchise has grown.

>


True.


If there is nothing wrong with me, then maybe there´s something wrong with the universe? -Dr. Crusher

konarciq

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Report this Jul. 08 2011, 3:01 am

Quote: /view_profile/ @

>

>The reason there was little continuity in the earlier episodes of TOS (...)

>


Um... have I failed to see the continuity present in the latter episodes then? I´ve seen the entire series, and my favourite eps more than once of course, but as far as I can tell, you can mix them up in any order without having to know what happened the ep before.


If there is nothing wrong with me, then maybe there´s something wrong with the universe? -Dr. Crusher

rocketscientist

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Report this Jul. 08 2011, 6:35 am

Quote: konarciq @ Jul. 08 2011, 3:01 am

Quote: /view_profile/ @

>

>

>The reason there was little continuity in the earlier episodes of TOS (...)

>

Um... have I failed to see the continuity present in the latter episodes then? I´ve seen the entire series, and my favourite eps more than once of course, but as far as I can tell, you can mix them up in any order without having to know what happened the ep before.


What you say is mostly true, but there are a few references to previous episodes.  For example, previous episodes are referenced in the final episode "Turnabout Intruder," "By Any Other Name," (Spock's planting a suggestion in Kelinda's mind), "I, Mudd," and probably a couple of others.  Generally, though, you're right, TOS wasn't serialized.  Mostly, I think, the development occurred in the relationships between the characters, especially Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  That, to me, was far more important than if they referenced episode so and so. 


 


KHAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!!

rocketscientist

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Report this Jul. 09 2011, 6:52 am

I can agree with some of the practical things you say (especially the quality acting!) even though generally speaking, TNG for me is the best of the two  ;-)


Why? I prefer the ongoing storyline and character development of TNG over the strongly episodic TOS with its magical reset button for the characters.


I don't agree at all with TOS having a "magical reset button for the characters."  Just because TOS didn't have as much serialized story-telling as TNG didn't mean its characters were flat.  In point of fact, they very obviously weren't, as Servalfan pointed out.  I think you're confusing serialized storytelling with the difference between flat and round characterization. 


Also, as Servalfan pointed out, I think the relationships between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were much more interesting than, say, for example, Picard, Riker, and Data.  TNG was governed largely by "Gene's edict" that there would be little to no personal conflict between the characters (Worf being the exception, as pointed out by Michael Pillar at a seminar I attended).  I think that largely held their relationships pretty fixed and made them flatter characters.  It's the reason why, as he said in his interview, Ira Steven Behr left TNG.  Ron Moore and other writers really disliked that rule too.


One thing I strongly disagree though: the music in TOS. For my taste, it´s too present, too loud, too overpowering. When I´m tired, I will never take out a TOS episode to watch, because the music is simply too invading, too overpowering. TNG however, I can watch without such worries.


Wow, I feel just the opposite.  I love the music for TOS.  It is so good it stand on its own as concert music.  It supports the show's great drama and humor.  TNG's music, due to Rick Berman's orders, was relegated to just background muzak for the most part.  Frankly, I found it so boring that I sold back my CD of "Encounter at Farpoint."  Ron Moore didn't like it either.  He lamented not having Jerry Goldsmith scoring Generations, instead using TNG's Dennis McCarthy. 


 


KHAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!!

2takesfrakes

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Report this Jul. 09 2011, 6:55 am

The Original Series will always be best recognized,
but in terms of best overall quality, that would be
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION!


rocketscientist

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Report this Jul. 09 2011, 7:20 am

I agree with the quality of The Original Series writing and acting. But I disagree with most else you wrote. If I could re-do anything about the show, it's not the special effects. It's the music. Kirk and Crew have a poignant scene that simultaneously works to move the plot along, allows the themes to shine through, and has emotion, and as they get up from the table to walk out the door, here's a clunky and loud piece of music that is unrelated to the content of what we just watched. It gets worse as season two becomes season three.


Really?  I find that really interesting in light of how much praise there is for the scoring of TOS.  Now, I can understand criticism due to the re-use of the music.   Thanks to its significantly lower budget (and I'm accounting for inflation as well when I say this), something like only 15 or episodes of the original ST was scored.  You can get all the music on 4 CDs.  That's it. 


But I never felt a musical cue was mis-used anymoreso than one on TNG.  In point of fact, I often felt the TNG music was irritating because it all sounded the same and was so uninteresting.  It doesn't stand on its own at all.  Now, we all know why.  Rick Berman gave explicit instructions to the composers to make their music background muzak.  He didn't want them to do their best work for the episodes.  It's just another example of Rick Berman's lack of understanding of what constitutes good drama. 


If you could offer any examples on where a musical cue was mis-used on TOS, I'd be interested in reviewing the respective episodes.


 I disagree about nothing coming after it being worth having. Deep Space Nine remains close to my heart (just look at my profile). This does not have to be mutually exclusive. The first season of The Original Series, especially, is great. Most of my favorite episodes come from this season. The writing is just spectacular. These include Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Conscience of the King, The Man Trap, The Enemy Within, Miri, The Corbomite Maneuver, Balance of Terror, Galileo Seven, Court Martial, Space Seed, City on the Edge of Forever, Errand of Mercy, and the Alternative Factor.


I agree with you and others.  I think TOS is the best of the bunch.  It has elements that are unique to its DNA, thanks to its nature as well as GR choosing to over-regulate TNG with his rules.  That said, I thought that TNG was a very worthy follow up (after the first two clunky seasons) and DS9, which I'm re-watching with my wife (who's not a ST fan but really likes the show), is just great.  VOY, though, I could've done without.  I think its largely a re-tread of TNG, though with a less-likable group of characters and less thoughtful writing.  I have no opinion on ENT.  At that point, I was burned out on Berman/TNG-Trek and just could not get into that show.


Trek, early Trek, is about Kirk and his burden of command. His decisions lead to the tension in the show. In re-watching the show last year, I enjoyed this season the most. Season two is almost as good, but it has some clunkers in it.


Actually, I think season 2 is better.  Gene Coon really cemented the McCoy-Spock bantering and brought a lot of humor to the show.  Shatner's book has a whole chapter devoted to him.


The Deadly Years and The Apple come to mind.


Deadly Years was season 3, and I liked that one.  The Apple, well, it was an interesting concept, but I do think they did it better with the similar "The Return of the Archons." 


The "Clunkers" for me are the boring episodes or ones I just can't connect with, even for sheer, unintentional silliness, like "Spock's Brain."  I love "Spock's Brain."  Can anyone really think of a crazier TOS episode than that?  Not only is Spock being controlled by a TV clicker but Kirk and company get captured by dumb, beautiful women who leave their men freezing on the surface of their planet!  It's so bad, it's good! 


The ones I don't like are "The Alternative Factor," and "The Lights of Zetar."  Neither of those episodes did anything for me.


At the same time, I can enjoy the fourth-through-sixth seasons of Deep Space Nine. I just pop on an episode and I become immersed in the universe. DS9 is underrated, in my opinion.


Oh, it totally is.  I wonder how each of the spin-off series, now that they're in syndication, does ratings wise?  Now, it's obviously a far different era than when TOS was first in syndication.  There are far far more choices for people wrt entertainment.  They've had stories on NPR on how this has hurt water-cooler conversation at work.  There isn't generally one show (i.e. Seinfeld, X-files, etc.) that most people are watching anymore.  And, being in syndication, I don't believe all the spin-offs are even on the same channel or showed at the same time, so things are probably not equal in that regard. 


Still, I think of the spin-offs, DS9 was the best of them all.  I think, in some ways, i.e. characterization, it is closer to TOS than TNG was.


 Does it touch the Original Series? Apples and Oranges. You have to establish the Star Trek universe before you watch DS9. Otherwise you will think it's just another Science Fiction show.


Well, I do think it's Apples and Oranges, but not necessarily for the reason you stated.  I think the fact that DS9 took place on a space-station, rather than on a starship, was probably a bigger difference.   Also, just the time it was shot.  DS9 obviously had a more contemporary production design, not to mention more luxurious due to the greater budget.  It had more and better sfx due to better techniques of the 90s as well (Interestingly, TOS paid about the same as TNG (adjusting for inflation) on sfx.  The difference was that such sfx were harder to produce.  They didn't get as many for the same amount of money.)  Finally, DS9 had serial story-telling.  That was something that TOS generally didn't have (with a couple of exceptions), because the networks didn't want it at the time.  It can be a good or a bad thing, obviously.  It's great for people who follow the show, but, on the other hand, it makes it harder for new viewers to get onboard. 


KHAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!!

Starfleet Officer

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Report this Jul. 10 2011, 9:38 am

...but TNG is the best


"Let's make sure history never forgets the name, Enterprise!" – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

3 of 12

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Report this Jul. 10 2011, 11:32 am

Agree with the part of TOS being the best. I do like the other series but just not to the level of the original series. Did it always hit a homerun? No. But all the other series had stinkers to.


Are you worthy of being added to the Collective's perfection?

Ghostmojo

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Report this Jul. 10 2011, 2:54 pm

I'm surprised that anybody found TOS music intrusive. To me it merely reinforced the urgency (or whatever emotion was being expressed) of the moment. It is almost omnipresent, however, and I do accept that. This is clearly not too everybody's taste - but for me it was a major supporting factor in the overall magic.


And it was real quality stuff - well thought out melodies or fanfares.


In those days scoring of television was important. Thereafter it became less so and nowadays I think that genre generally only resides with the movies, which is a shame.


I agree with the comments made about TNG in this respect. I don't actually remember any significant incidental music from that show at all - only of course the memorable theme tune ... which after all - began its life elsewhere.


The same could be said for the lighting. TNG was too brightly lit with the bridge looking more like somebody's front room than a starship command centre. I liked the fact that TOS Enterprise bridge had more subdued lighting and plenty of shadows. It added to the atmosphere.

KelisThePoet

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Report this Jul. 10 2011, 11:08 pm

. . . and yet, for all the shadows and subdued lighting on the original series' sets, they were never so dark that you couldn't tell what was going on.  A major problem with Enterprise, in my opinion, was that everything was shot so dark, which was especially hard to see over the air waves in places with bad reception.  Voyager also sometimes underlit the sets, in my opinion, particularly when they went to red alert.  I never understood why "red alert" meant "turn the lights off" on Voyager.  I can understand occasionally doing a literally dark episode to tell a specific kind of story, as in the Enterprise episode "Rogue Planet," but the philosophy with Enterprise seemed to be always keeping the sets dark, in order to suggest that the technology was less advanced.  That may have been an interesting idea and an accurate one for all I know, but it just made the show hard to watch and boringly monochromatic to look at.


But I agree that the Next Generation sets were too bright (as were the 2009 Enterprise sets, in my opinion).  The original series had the perfect balance with the lighting, I think.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

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