Sci-Fi: Ways to Get Into ‘Star Trek’

Promotional image of Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, and LeVar Burton for ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. Copyright goes to Paramount Productions and Roddenberry Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’ve been talking about ‘Star Trek’ a lot recently and I’m not the only one. Since the release of some of the more recent shows, this franchise has started rising in popularity again. ‘Strange New Worlds’ in particular dominated streaming service viewership while season one was airing. But for many people, this ‘Star Trek’ can be daunting. This is the pinnacle of Sci-Fi, meaning while some episodes are more lighthearted and action-based, other episodes are slower and more philosophical. For some people that makes ‘Star Trek’ sound like a boring show, but as someone who had that exact same fear before jumping into it, I can confidently say that it isn’t boring at all. That said, there are definitely shows and media that are easier to get into than others. And while I have a lot of respect for ‘The Original Series’, it’s a bit of a rougher place to start than other series. So, if you’re looking to get into ‘Star Trek’, here’s a few less-daunting things to start with.

The J.J. Abrams Movies:

For a long time Trek fans would take offense to the suggestion that a new fan should start with these movies. But more recently fans have been reconsidering that stance. These movies are quite a bit different from any of the ‘Star Trek’ series you’ll watch. They’re not at all focused on deeper themes but instead focus on huge action sequences and space battles. But that doesn’t make these less valuable than the rest of ‘Star Trek’. Instead, it gives you a really fun action flick to watch while it introduces you to ‘Star Trek’ concepts. And it doesn’t skip out on any of the lore. We get full looks into Vulcan, Star Fleet Academy, and even Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. We get introductions and backstories for all of the characters, some of which deviate from ‘The Original Series’, but all that give new viewers an excellent idea of what the characters are like. The best part of these movies though, is that they keep intact one of the most valuable things about the franchise: The relationships between the characters. Each ‘Star Trek’ series is made up of a strong ensemble cast that gets to know each other as their respective series plays out. That’s definitely true of these movies too. We get to watch the characters slowly get to know one another and begin to see each other as family. These bonds endear you to the characters, make you want to route for them, and make them memorable long after the final movie ends. Not to mention the amazing cast that not only makes the characters likable, but has such good chemistry that you believe the friendships you see onscreen. These movies are by no means hard to get through and they’re excellent first steps into ‘Star Trek’.

‘Strange New Worlds’:

If you haven’t watched any ‘Star Trek’ shows, you might be wondering why the hell I’m suggesting the most recent addition to the franchise as an introduction. Lucky for you, ‘Strange New Worlds’ is a prequel to the majority of the ‘Star Trek’ franchise. It benefits from giving a new viewer canonical introductions to all of the characters, including characters that pop up frequently like Kirk and Spock, all with modern writing and storytelling. When I talk about modern writing, I’m specifically referring to the more modern practice of connecting episodes with a larger storyline and diving more deeply into the characters. While older series, like ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’, has less of these things (Which is one of the biggest reasons why newcomers struggle with it), ‘Strange New Worlds’ is full of deep character moments and overarching plots that make it a bit easier to get engaged with. While ‘Strange New Worlds’ does have some callbacks to other ‘Star Trek’ series for long-time fans, it doesn’t rely on any of them. In fact, it actually elaborates on some of the things found in other series, making ‘Strange New Worlds’ a more thorough introduction to things like the Gorn or characters like Uhura. It’s also a good mix of comedic, action-packed, and contemplative stories which gives new viewers a really good idea of what episodes for other series are like. And even better, there’s only one season so far. So if the length of a full series of ‘Star Trek’ contributes to your hesitations with this series, ‘Strange New Worlds’ won’t take you too long to watch through.

‘The Next Generation’ Starting With Season 2:

‘The Next Generation’ is probably the most popular ‘Star Trek’ series of all time. It has an excellent cast, some really good messages throughout its episodes, and some iconic villains. I mean, the captain is Sir Patrick Stewart. You can’t really go wrong with this one. The nice thing about starting with ‘The Next Generation’ is that it moves much quicker than ‘The Original Series’ right as it starts, so you don’t have to adapt to a slower pace right away. You also get a lot more of the plots and concepts fans constantly gush about, meaning you get to start your experience with this franchise with exactly what fans love about ‘Star Trek’. However, starting with ‘The Next Generation’ comes with some caveats. The main one is that you should skip season one. You can watch episode one of the season for context, but do yourself a favor and skip the rest. If you’re like me and you find that you really like the series after watching the rest, you can go back through some of the episodes you missed. But in the meantime, season one of ‘The Next Generation’ is known for having some really awful episodes that make new viewers want to abandon the series entirely. Even long time fans admit the season isn’t very good. In other words, don’t feel guilty about skipping it.

Look Up Episode Guides:

While you can start with any of the shows above, you can easily start with any series. All ‘Star Trek’ series are connected, but not strongly enough that you have to watch any of them in any particular order. They all stand alone pretty well. So if you’ve heard good things about ‘Voyager’ and want to start with a character like Janeway, go ahead and do that! If you heard fans like me talk about ‘Deep Space Nine’ and how that series’ storytelling drew us in as newcomers, start with ‘Deep Space Nine’! And if you want to start with where it all began, go ahead and jump over to ‘The Original Series’. But it’s true of all of these ‘Star Trek’ series that there are some episodes that might kill your motivation to continue on with this franchise, especially episodes in the first few seasons. That’s where episode guides come in. There are many, many, websites that will give you a run down of each episode and a ranking to go along with it. These rankings will save your life. If you see a low ranking, especially if it’s ranked low by more than one website, skip that episode for now. It’s much better to go back to it knowing you like the series than to watch it and find yourself unwilling to continue. There are even episodes that are so dated, you may never want to watch them. Many of the writers and actors would even thank you for moving past them. These episodes will never be the majority of the episodes in any series or season. But it’s good to know about them, especially if you’re trying to get a feel for ‘Star Trek’.

And that’s it! I had to try a few different things before I found something that pulled me into ‘Star Trek’, and that might be true for you too. You might have to try out a few episodes of a few different series before you find something that really works for you. But that’s the nice thing about ‘Star Trek’. There are many series with different moods, characters, and storylines to draw you in, and you don’t have to know all of the previous stuff to try out a series. For me personally, ‘Deep Space Nine’ was just the right amount of action, philosophy, and strong characters (In particular, strong female leads), to get me obsessed. I promise you, you’ll find a series that’ll grab your interest too! ‘Star Trek’ is such a rewarding franchise to follow and a beautiful look into our society. If you move past some of the slower moments, you’ll quickly realize why so many people consider this franchise to be so influential.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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