What makes an enduring fandom? From Star Trek and Star Wars, to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, what makes a fandom lasting and persisting? Why do some fandoms garner such a huge following, while other fandoms simply fall away? I think there are many factors, but for me, two of the biggest draws are the story and the characters. If those two factors are solid, I think a fandom has a chance of lasting a good long time.
As some of you may know, I work at a major thrift store in Provo. We get thousands of items donated daily. I work in the back sorting through those donations to see what’s good enough to be resold and what’s not. I have been working there for eight months now and I have seen lots and lots of geeky items. If you follow me on I Love the Star Wars Prequels, you know that I post updates sometimes about prequels-related merchandise. Star Wars is perhaps the biggest franchise represented as far as action figures, toys, and collectible items. This is a sampling of some of the geek items I’ve seen at the store from a variety of fandoms and favorite media.
Recently, Tim Champlin tweeted me and asked if I could do a list of my ten favorite movies. I thought it sounded like a great idea, so I jumped at the opportunity to do it. Before I get into this list, I want to set a few ground rules. First, these are my favorite movies. I don’t know how to quantify “favorite,” but I do know that it is not the same as a list of the ten best movies. Some of these movies may not be great, but they are movies I could sit and watch again and again, for the most part. Also, you can’t argue someone’s favorite movies. You just can’t. Another rule I set for myself was limiting myself to one movie per series. Otherwise, this list would be nothing but Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. That would be boring. So, in no particular order, here is my list.
I know this is over a week later than it should be, and I’m sorry. Star Trek Beyond hit theaters on July 22, and being a huge Star Trek fan, I should have been first in line to see it, and I wanted to be. There were a few things that kept me from seeing it right away, and then writing about it right after I saw it. OK, not a few things, but one thing, or one person. The weekend Star Trek Beyond came out was the same weekend that our sixth baby was born. So, I was a little busy, and as much as I love Star Trek, the baby had to take priority.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone! Being a dad myself, this happens to be open of my favorite holidays. For this special post, I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few of my favorite fathers from some of the fandoms that I enjoy. I thought about doing a really long list, but decided to keep this one a little shorter, and a little simpler. I narrowed it down to three of my favorite fathers, so this is by no means a comprehensive list, and there is plenty of room for other fathers from your favorite shows or movies or books. In any case, I hope you fathers out there have a wonderful day, and I hope we all have a “father” in our life that we can look up to and think of on this day.
Ok, so the first part of ranking the Star Trek movies caused quite a stir. A lot of people didn’t like where I had a couple of the films, and I get it. Any time you’re talking about things like this, everyone has an opinion, and some people are passionate about it. I think one of my favorite things about this site is that I have an opportunity to talk about things that I love and things that I am passionate about. Even more fun is hearing from you about what you love. So I welcome the comments and enjoy hearing your point of view. If you didn’t read the first post, you can click here to read it. In case you don’t want to read it, here is a quick rundown of how they were ranked:
I thought it would be fun this week to take a look at the Star Trek films. I love each Star Trek series, and I love to sit down and find a random episode to watch. Sometimes, thought, I want something more. Something a little more substantial, but still Star Trek. When those times are upon me, I turn to the films. Not all Star Trek films are created equal, though, and there are some I can sit and watch again and again, and others I have only seen once or twice. Which is which? Today I am going to start my own personal ranking of the Star Trek films.
One of the biggest stories on my Facebook feed last week was the announcement from CBS that a new Star Trek series was in the works and would be hitting our screens January, 2017. My initial reaction was excitement at the news. I am a big believer that television is where Star Trek belongs. That’s where it started and where it thrived from the late 80’s through the 90’s. Star Trek just belongs on TV, and it has been a while since we have had that, so the fact that they were developing a new Star Trek series was awesome.
For another project I have been working on, I have been thinking a lot about myself and how I got involved with my first fandom. I don’t consider myself an exclusive member of any one fandom, but a card carrying member of numerous fandoms. I can carry my own with the Whovians, the Star Wars fans, the Marvel fans, the Lord of the Rings faithful, DC fans, and yes, Star Trek fans. My first love, however, was Star Trek. That was the first show I remember being obsessed with as a kid. The first convention I ever went to was a Star Trek convention. Star Trek was the franchise that launched me into a life of geekdom. For me, when I think about all the things I enjoy today, about all of my geekiness, it all comes back to Star Trek.
Why Star Trek? The short and simple answer is that Star Trek is the greatest Science Fiction show to ever air on TV. Pretty straight forward. It is hard for me to think of any show being better than Star Trek. There was just something totally immersive about the franchise. To be clear, when I say Star Trek, I am mostly referring to TNG, but I was blessed to be an adolescent during the ultimate Star Trek age. Think about it, in the fall of 1996, Deep Space 9 was going into its 5th season, Voyager was going into their second season and First Contact was playing in theaters, which was the best of all the Next Generation movies (probably my favorite Trek movie). It was a great time to be a Trek fan, and that is probably why Trek was more than just my first passion. It’s always my favorite. It always comes back to Trek.
I loved the message of hope that Star Trek represented. This wasn’t a dystopian future where we totally murdered each other and blew up the planet. This was a future where we faced trials and came together as a result. Knowledge and tolerance won out in the end, over hate. That was an important message for me as a teenager. I wasn’t ever popular in school. I always had my own little group of friends, and some of these friends are the best people I have ever known, but i was never homecoming King material. Looking back, that’s totally fine. I think in the end, we geeks have inherited the Earth, or we are at least on our way. Back then, though, it was rough. Star Trek always offered me an escape from a tough time. I was the fat kid who didn’t grow up in the neighborhood and who didn’t quite always fit in. When I watched Star Trek, I felt at home. I felt like I belonged. I know that sounds cheesy, because it was just a TV show, but it is a reality for a lot of kids. The only place they really feel like they belong is when they are part of whatever fantasy world they love. Star Trek was always that for me.
I know it doesn’t have all the same kind of action and adventure that other Sci Fi franchises have, but that was appealing as well. It wasn’t a shoot first galaxy in Star Trek. It was galaxy that valued diplomacy and peace, using the weapons as a last defense. The Enterprise, the largest ship in the fleet was not a war ship. It was an exploration vessel. That was their mission, not to conquer new worlds, but to explore and discover. What a cool thought. When I was a kid, I remember watching that, and Picard was awesome because he could end a conflict with his words instead of fighting. I wanted that skill. If only I could find a way to get the mean kids at school to leave me alone just by talking like Picard did. He was like a superhero.
As I have gotten older, those lessons have always stuck with me. I manage a team at work, and sometimes I find myself thinking about how Captain Picard would react to a certain situation, and then I try to do it. I’m still the fat guy at work, but that’s ok now. I have learned how to work with all sorts of people who are very different than I am, because I learned from Star Trek that those differences make your team stronger. I learned, from Generations, that the most important thing i could have is my family. Both Picard and Kirk gave up the opportunity for a family for their careers, and regretted it in the movie. I won’t make that same mistake. These are the kind of lessons I learned from Star Trek, and how they apply to me.
I don’t know why it started with Star Trek instead of something else, like Star Wars, but somehow, I am glad it did. As I look at who I am and what I enjoy, it all comes back to Star Trek, and frankly, I am glad it does. I think that’s why I get a little upset with the reboot movies, and Paramount who is pushing them to be less and less Star Trek-y. What’s wrong with being Star Trek-y? I have spent my whole life being somewhat Star Trek-y, and I’m better for it.
What about you? It may not be Star Trek, but what was your first passion? Which one from your childhood resonates with you still today?
There have been 5 live action Star Trek series over the years, each one different and unique and each one adding to and building upon the Star Trek universe. Each has its own pace and tells its own story, so the argument could be made that none of them is better than the others, they’re all just different. On a certain level, I could and would agree with that. On another level, I also think it is fun to try to rank things and decide and argue which one is best. That’s the point of this post. Which of the series is the best series? Which one is the worst? I’ll be deciding that here, and I’m sure you’ll disagree. All Star Trek fans are pretty passionate, especially when it comes to their own, beloved series. Please let me know which is your favorite in the comments. i would love to hear from you. Here is how I have them ranked:
5. Star Trek: Enterprise
Oh Enterprise, where do I start? I never could get into this series. I tried, I wanted to like it, but I just never could. It was the newest series, but it was supposed to set the furthest back in time of all the series. It was a starship that predated the NCC 1701 Enterprise by about a hundred years. It takes place before there is a United Federation of Planets. In some ways, it was very cool. It was cool to see the struggles of early travel to the stars for Earth, breaking away from the Vulcans who were monitoring everything since First Contact. All of that was interesting, and then it wasn’t.
For me, the highlight of the series was Captain Archer, played by Scott Bakula. He was great, and I had little to no issues with him. He was a cautious captain, but also knew when to take risks. He also ends up being very important for the formation of the Federation. His character was good, and if we were ranking Captains, I don’t know that he would end up in last place.
The low-light for me was the series finale, which was sudden, to say the least, and felt more like an episode of The Next Generation, as a result of the appearances of Troi and Riker, and that they were observing all the events from a holodeck. What a weird way to end a series.
4. Star Trek: Voyager
Alright, I’ll be honest, numbers 4 and 3 are almost interchangeable for me. I enjoyed both series quite a bit, and it is almost unfair to rank one above the other, but I’m going to, and when we get to 3, I’ll tell you why it lands higher on the list for me. One of the best things about Voyager, for me, was that it got back to space exploration, and it introduced a bunch of new alien races, as they were stuck in a completely different part of the galaxy and had to make their way home.
This is a great series to watch if you want to learn about managing and putting together a team. Janeway had her hands full as she had to bring together Star Fleet officers and members of the Maquis, all of whom did not like each other, or the prospect of working together. Janeway was a level-headed commanding officer, and she made it all work, somehow, and brought everyone home.
For me, the toughest stretch in this series is the first season. It is necessary to watch to get what is going on, but the series gets much better after the first season. I love that they have encounters with the Borg, and I also love how the team evolves over time and become a strong crew, despite their initial differences. All around, an enjoyable series.
3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Let the debate begin. You might argue that Voyager was better, because it was more traditional Star Trek, with a starship and exploration and all of that, and you might be right. Nonetheless, I rank this show higher because this was my wife’s first introduction into my geekiness. We sat down and made our way through all the episodes of DS9 together, and she really enjoyed it. That’s why this one makes number 3, and no other reason.
This was a very different series in that it was driven by long story arcs, instead of being more episodic, like TNG and TOS. If you started watching it, you needed to watch the next episode, and probably the next and maybe even the whole season before all the story lines were wrapped up. That takes some adjusting, and may not be what a lot people preferred for the time, but I think it was ahead of its time, really. How many popular shows are there now that are the same? Long story arcs that draw out over a full season, or possibly longer-it happens all the time now.
This was another series where the finale was not so great. The final episode felt cramped and rushed as the tried desperately to wrap all the loose ends form he entire series, which they didn’t really. Then there’s the whole Sisko becoming a god thing. That was just unexpected and strange. I did love, though, that they eventually brought on Worf to boost ratings. Any show with Worf is ok in my book.
2. Star Trek
This is it, the original series, the show that launched the franchise. As such, it automatically gets moved almost to the front of the line. There was nothing like Star Trek, when the series landed on TV in the 60s. It seemed like it had a history and culture already fleshed out when it began airing, and it created a fan culture unlike any other. The series itself only lasted a few years, unfortunately, and then it was canceled. They tried to bring it back as an animated series, and then it was brought back as a series of feature films.
Fans latched onto Star Trek and never let it go. And that all started here with this series. We were racing to get to the moon, and Star Trek provided us an example of what we could do once we got there and then went further. It also painted a picture of a society with intolerance or hate. It was an ideal, utopian society with really cool phasers and communicators, and transporters. The bridge crew was diverse with different nationalities and races represented well, including an alien with pointy ears. The original crew, led by Kirk, will never be forgotten, and there’s a reason that the reboot started with them. Everything we love about Star Trek is thanks to Kirk and Spock and Bones.
1. Star Trek: The Next Generation
What can I say? This was my Star Trek. I don’t think I really realized I was a geek until I started watching this show. I loved it. Granted, watching it now, i wonder how it survived past the first 3 seasons, but I am glad it did. Once “Best of Both Worlds” hit, TNG had cemented itself as the best of the Star Trek franchise, at least in my heart.
This was similar to TOS, but also very different. Everything looked newer and was sleeker, for one thing. no more buttons, it was all touch screen. Picard was a very different captain than Kirk (a debate for another time), and his crew seemed to have a very different mission. Yes, the opening credits said it was the same mission, but in reality, this Enterprise explored less and was more of a diplomatic powerhouse sent in to end in any conflicts within the Federation. The crew had a different chemistry, reflective of the late 80s, early 90s. Picard was in charge, but the crew discussed things a lot more. It was more cooperative, whereas Kirk was much more authoritative.
As I mentioned, the series had a rough start, but got better with each season. I have two measuring sticks when trying to decide if an episode is worth re-watching: 1. How tight are the uniforms? the more skintight, the less likely that it will be one of the better episodes, as this indicates it is an earlier episode. 2. How long is Worf’s hair- the longer the hair, the later the episode, so it may be better.
What do you think? which was your favorite episode? Did you know, that starting in 1987, we had 18 years straight of new Trek on TV. We are now coming up on a full decade without any. I think it’s high time we got a new series of some sort on TV. Trek in the movie theater is one thing, and rebooted Trek is another thing entirely. Where the franchise really belongs is the small screen in a weekly series. That’s what i think most fans want. In any case, let me know in the comments how my list compares to yours. It is always fun to see how people view these things differently.