Hello and welcome to To Boldly Go, where I weekly review every episode of Star Trek over the next few years.
The Original Series
It’s well-known that the third season of the original series was saved only by fan intervention, but at the same time it’s also well-known that the third season is pretty rubbish. After pushing my way through it, I can safely say that it is exactly as terrible as anyone says it is. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Lets start with the best, for there is only one fantastic episode this season, and it’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”. Sure, it’s a bit on the nose when it comes to the racism angle, but it’s still a pretty good episode to watch nonetheless. As for the worst episodes…
“And The Children Shall Lead” deal with a bunch of children having to learn that their parents dying is a bad thing; while “Is There No Truth In Beauty?” is literally unwatchable due to how bad the flashing lights get in it (as well as having a rather threadbare story). “For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” has a title longer than the actual plot of the episode, while “Elaan of Troyius” is uncomfortable when it comes to the slightly sexist text. Meanwhile “Requiem of Methuselah” is full of rather bizarre plot-holes that don’t make any sense at all, while “The Way to Eden” features hippies taking over the Enterprise in a premise that is just as stupid as it sounds. “The Cloud Miners” has a pretty absurd plot (like so many of this season), while “Turnabout Intruder” ends the series on a somewhat depressingly sexist note.
That’s not to say all of season three was bad, but it certainly wasn’t that good. It’s at this point where the campy nature of Star Trek takes over for good, leading to many absurd stories that don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things. In many ways this season sums up almost every complaint people have of Star Trek as a whole, from its overt silliness to its somewhat ugly sexism.
With a dismal score of 48.33%, it manages to be the second worst season we’ve seen so far (after TNG’s legendary bad first season), and I’ll be surprised if it gets beaten at some point. At the end of the day there’s very little to recommend when it comes to season three. Sure, the charm is occasionally there, but it has been swept away by the silliness of it. In many ways it’s a tragedy, that such a mighty series would fall so badly. But, as we all know, season three wasn’t the end of Star Trek. It was only the beginning.
The Next Generation
Well Season Three has, admittedly, been better than the first two seasons… doesn’t necessarily make it good though… Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Season Three does have its good moments, but they’re just too few and far between.
Let us start with the best first, since it’s a short list. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is a brilliant idea executed flawlessly, and will no doubt make the ‘best of’ list due to it giving a good alternate ‘what-if’; while “The Best of Both Worlds” is easily one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever made.
And onto the worst. “Who Watches the Watchers” isn’t bad, but just full of plot holes the moment you stop and think about it; “The Bonding” is all talk and no action, making it a bit of a bore; “Booby Trap” features Geordi falling in love with the Enterprise, and it’s just as weird as it sounds; “The Enemy” once again features a plot hole that could easily have been avoided, but unfortunately isn’t; “The Vengeance Factor” is more talk and no action, but not that that’s bad; “Hollow Pursuits” is more an episode of ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ than of ‘Star Trek’; “The Most Toys” isn’t terrible by any means, and is only worse by circumstance; whereas “Ménage a Troi” is terrible by two important means, both of which I despise greatly; while “Transfigurations” is just there.
So we have two good episodes and a few bad ones, though some aren’t terrible as they are just not great. It does paint a misleading picture of the show, I’ll admit, and the show has gotten second place quite a few times here and there. More often than not bad circumstances keep it out of the top spot than anything wrong with the actual show. The characters are fleshed out and interesting, the plots are often clever, the show isn’t bad.
But, sadly, it’s yet to really win me over, and perhaps it never will. Most say that Season Three is where TNG got good (and Season Four is where the show overcame its TOS heritage to be its own thing), and I don’t dispute that. But compared to the classic camp of the original series, or the more experiment nature of the later series, TOS just can’t help but be a but dull. TOS has the best ensemble cast out of them all, so it tends to steal spotlight in that regards. Likewise DS9’s cast is pretty strong, while Voyager and Enterprise tend to have interesting episodes worth talking about. So TNG is stuck in the poor situation where it can never quite seem to catch a break.
Is Season Three worth watching? I’d say so, yeah. There’s a lot of good stuff in it. Admittedly the bad stuff is especially bad, bad in the sense that it’ll be forever remembered for being terrible, but it’s consistently good. It’s just that, in terms of how the ranking system works, it’s not consistently great. And that’s perhaps its biggest flaw: It just can’t sustain being great against the competition.
With a final score of 48.61%, it would come at the bottom of the list if not for TOS unbelievably bad third season. As it stands, it is probably best to say that it’s half good, or occasionally good, or sometimes good. Because at the end of the day it’s as I said before: It’s good, but its yet to be ‘great’.
Deep Space 9
It’s probably biased to say that Deep Space 9 is my favourite Star Trek series, and probably slightly wrong due to how much I love some of the others. But I think Deep Space 9 is the Star Trek that is most consistently good, rather than campy fun or pleasantly great. This season just continued to prove that.
Lets get the worst out of the way first, since it’s a much shorter list. “Equilibrium” isn’t so much that it’s bad but more that it’s completely skippable in theory, but we’ve already seen one continuation of it. “Fascination” features Troi’s mother, and at the end of all this I might have to make a list of ‘the best worst Troi’s mother episodes’.
And now, onto the best. “Past Tense” is a great piece of satire that is relevant today, as well as being a strong episode in its own right. “Life Support” is exactly as crushingly depressing as it sounds. “Prophet Motive”, meanwhile, manages to be the rare Ferengi episode that’s actually funny and enjoyable to watch. “Through the Looking Glass” brings back the Mirror Universe, and those are always fun to watch on principle alone. “Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast” is a Garak episode, and those are also always fun to watch on principle alone. And finally we have “The Adversary”, which does a fantastic job setting up the future by showing just how bad things are going to get for the Federation.
So we’ve got a show that’s had two bad episodes (and one of those was more dull than terrible), and six good ones. It just goes to show, Deep Space 9 often brings its A game to the rankings, even if it ends up being beaten by other shows doing something better. It helps that it perhaps the strongest of all the casts, with the characters being the most interesting ones on screen. While the other crews may be more iconic, the different positions the characters hold give them something over the competition, really helping Deep Space 9 stand out as its own show. Of course, the dense continuity might put off some people, since at this point you almost need to watch every episode to understand what’s going on.
Nevertheless, with a score of 72.31%, it really goes to show just how good Deep Space 9 is. This is the season where it really starts to stretch its leg and do its own thing, quickly becoming one of the better shows out there. I highly recommend checking out this season of Deep Space 9. Even the bad stuff isn’t as bad as some other show’s can get in this time.
Voyager really is a mixed bag, isn’t it? The overall premise is still there, but at this point there’s more misses than hits. While I don’t think it’s quite deserving of the scorn heaped onto it by fans, I will admit that it is struggling to find its place at times.
But lets start with the best and worst of this season, with the best first up. “Future’s End” is a neat little two-parter, which is probably the most dated thing Voyager has done at this point (given how it’s roughly two decades from when it first aired), but gives the Doctor a chance to leave sickbay as well as poke fun at the then current culture. “The Q and the Grey” features Q and, well, I’m always a sucker for a Q episode. “Macrocosm” is Voyager doing ‘Alien’, which is the sort of campy goodness that makes me love Star Trek at times, even if it’s a completely bonkers idea. “Alter Ego” is best in so far that it was up against “Spock’s Brain”, and would otherwise not even be mentioned. “Scorpion”, however, is a pretty fantastic episode, even if the cliffhanger is a bit weaker than it could have been.
The worst, meanwhile, is pretty bad at times. “False Profits” essentially shoehorns in a reason for Voyager to come into contact with the Ferengi, and features a massive plot hole in the climax that cripples it from being good (even though it’s not a terrible episode). “Sacred Ground”, meanwhile, is an episode that exists but is hardly going to excite anyone into going out and watching it. “Blood Fever” feels like some inane piece of fan fiction to get B’Elanna to go into Pon Farr, even though it makes no sense and comes off as disturbing at times. “Rise”, much like “Alter Ego”, isn’t strictly terrible, but rather than being better than terrible things it’s just not as good as the great things going on at the time. “Favourite Son”, meanwhile, is a neat idea that can’t sustain the running time and ultimately bores the viewer. “Real Life”, on the other hand, has a neat idea but lacks any real dimension since none of the characters are real, and a simple wave of the hand could fix everything. “Distant Origin” isn’t bad, but once again, it shows how Voyager struggles to do well against the other series’ at times. “Displaced”, however, shows why Voyager isn’t the best series out there.
So that’s five good stories and eight bad ones, leaving the rest somewhere in the middle. Indeed, with a final score of 53.84%, the middle is about the right place for this show. Voyager isn’t a bad show, but it’s a show that still doesn’t know what it wants to do. At times there’s little to distance it from the other shows, since the whole ‘lost in space’ aspect isn’t really a central theme. You could put the TOS or TNG crew in this situation easily enough without creating too many conflicts.
I suppose the biggest problem comes down to the characters being… unengaging. They’re not bad characters, but at this point they seem like archetypes we’ve already seen before. The Doctor stands out as being the best character, if only because he seems to have some sort of character growth to him. As for the rest, nothing has really changed since we started this season, and I can’t really signal any significant moments where I felt like the characters grew. You have a static season, where the stories may be good, but the cast is stuck in one place.
But Voyager’s third season isn’t bad to the point of being unredeemable. There’s stuff here to like, though it’s a coin-flip about whether it’s good or not. Maybe it gets worse in the later seasons, but at the moment I can’t see what there is to hate about it.
I’ve said week after week that I’ll talk about the Xindi plot as a whole when it comes to the final recap, so now seems as good a time as any. So, cards on the table: Is the Xindi arc any good? Short answer: Yes, for the most part. Long answer…
Lets start with the worst episode this season, because there’s only one: “Harbinger” is the classic ‘this is an episode that’s not worth talking about’ review, so I won’t mention it here.
As for best, we have a few. “Twilight” is a pretty clever premise all up, one that ultimately works pretty well as a ‘what if’ that gets resolved in a decent way; “North Star” is a fantastic bit of camp missing from the series, setting the show in the Old West and bluntly telling the audience how ‘racism is bad’; “Chosen Realm” is a relevant message that only Enterprise could due to the culture surrounding it, a message that still holds up today; while “Damage” shows Archer at his darkest as he weakly tries to justify his actions.
So, about the Xindi arc… I suppose we have to address the elephant in the room and say that if the end of Season Two was a 9/11 allegory, then this season has been one for the war in Iraq. Not in a literal sense of course, since the show ends with both sides making peace. But in a thematic sense, this is the second time Star Trek has gone to war with another species for a pro-long period of time. In fact it’s interesting to compare the Dominion to the Xindi, to see how the 90s saw things differently from the 00s. But I’m getting sidetracked. This season ultimately works because the Xindi storyline never loses momentum. Every episode adds something to the story, pushing the narrative forward, and giving us some resolutions to things while opening up more. The latter half of the season especially starts to make the whole season feel interconnected, that single episodes aren’t the best way of talking about the story as a whole. At the end of the day the season holds strong, giving us one of the best seasons of Star Trek period.
In many ways it’s a shame Enterprise couldn’t have continued for seven seasons. While TOS shows that the third season can be a curse, and TNG shows that a third season doesn’t necessarily mean the show immediately becomes better, Enterprise finally figures out what it wants to be. Yes, doing the story across the entire season might get a bit stretched at times, but I think it works in the episode’s favour. Had it been condensed to one or two episodes, or even half an arc, would have made it feel a bit too rush.
As such, it’s ultimately a shame Enterprise got cancelled after only four seasons. With a final average score of 67.5%, it has the second strongest show of force of the five series in the running. Enterprise deserves more love, and this arc proves it. Hopefully more people will discover it as time goes on.
First: DS9 94/130 aka 72.31%
Second: ENT 81/120 aka 67.5%
Third: VOY 70/130 aka 53.84%
Fourth: TNG 63/130 aka 48.46%
Fifth: TOS 58/120 aka 48.33%
First: TAS 89/132 aka 67.42%
Second: DS9 255/382 aka 66.75%
Third: TOS 261/417 aka 62.59%
Fourth: ENT 239/402 59.45%
Fifth: VOY 215/362 aka 59.39%
Sixth: TNG 174/392 aka 44.39%
So there you have it. Another week of Trek. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.