In part one of this two-part series, I explained the challenges of introducing Star Trek to kids in an era where scores of other TV and movie franchises compete for their attention. I also recapped how I became a Star Trek fan in a very organic way. Knowing that my kids would be extremely unlikely to discover Star Trek on their own, I formulated a plan to indoctrinate them into the franchise.
Without any further ado, below is how I decided to sequence Star Trek for my kids.
1) First Contact: The Original Series
Without much internal debate, I decided the best strategy would be to expose them to TOS first, for a couple of key reasons.
First, the show’s look is the most dated due to the advances in TV production and special effects since the 1960s. I think if you were to watch the higher production quality of any of the other series first and then go back to watch TOS, you could end up bringing an unfair bias against the show.
Second, the show introduces nearly all of the core themes and technologies of Star Trek, including the most iconic characters in the franchise. Once you become familiar with Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of the crew, the stage is set for you to enjoy not only the original cast Star Trek movies (#1-6 in the series) but also the most recent movies from J.J. Abrams set in the alternate reality Kelvin timeline (#11-13).
So, starting when my daughter was around 10 years old and my son was around 9 years old, we began watching TOS. I showed them about 20 episodes (of the show’s 79), including my favourites along with other “important” episodes. My son watched a handful more on his own. He probably liked the series a bit more than his sister, but both of them responded to it, which naturally warmed my heart.
Which episodes should you show a kid? That’s pretty subjective, but as a general rule, you can throw out season 3 and focus on the first two seasons. You can’t go too wrong with the top 20 episodes from Hollywood.com’s Ranking of All 79 Episodes. Many other sites have similar lists.
Quite deliberately, the last episode I showed them was “Space Seed” (guest starring Ricardo Montalbán as the villain of the week, Khan Noonien Singh), which set the stage for us to move on to phase two of my plan…
2) Phase II: The James Tiberius Kirk Era Movies
Next up in my campaign to indoctrinate my kids into Star Trek was to watch most of the movies together.
Just about any Star Trek fan will tell you that the worst movies in the series are the first (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and the fifth (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) — so, I highly recommend skipping them.
Accordingly, my kids and I started the movies with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, shortly after we had watched “Space Seed.”
We followed up by watching Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
My son did later go back and watch The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier. He’s not a masochist, but he is a bit of a completionist. You may have noticed we DID NOT proceed to watch Generations which also prominently features Captain Kirk in the storyline.
Instead, after finishing the movies with the original cast, we watched the J.J. Abrams reboots (with a new cast playing the classic characters) in our home theatre: Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. Later, my son and I would see Star Trek Beyond in the movie theatre shortly after its release.
3) Assimilation: Meeting The Next Generation
Next up in our journey towards fandom was the TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I don’t remember the first episode we watched, but it was not the series premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” which I consider to be one of the worst of the series. The episode is worth watching only because it introduces some key characters and serves as a bookend for the final episode of the series.
Instead, we watched a sampling of episodes, maybe 15 or 20 — ones which I thought were noteworthy or exemplary. My kids took a few episodes to adjust to the new set of characters, especially Captain Picard as compared to Captain Kirk. In the end, however, they found it entertaining, and my daughter seemed to like some of the Klingon mythology. Over time, my son grew to like TNG’s crew more than the crew in TOS.
4) Return to Tomorrow: The Jean Luc Picard Era Movies (#7-10)
Now that my kids were familiar with the TNG cast of characters, we could go back and watch the TNG movies: Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis. If you would like to be more selective, you could easily skip the first and the last of this series.
5) Insurrection By My Daughter
Sadly, around this time, my daughter’s interests started to diverge, and she lost most of her appetite for science fiction and mega action movies. Despite my best efforts, she hopped off the bandwagon for the rest of the Star Trek journey.
6) Sunday Night Fever: Going to the DISCO & Hopping Aboard The Orville
In September 2017, after much fanfare, Discovery, the first new Star Trek series in 12 years premiered on CBS All Access (the first episode also aired on CBS main). While the show has been controversial among the fan base, my son and I immensely enjoyed watching it together each week after new episodes dropped. He had already soaked in enough Star Trek lore to appreciate the new mythology and recognize the puzzling divergences from canon.
Around the same time, The Orville (a TNG-inspired comedy from Seth MacFarlane) premiered on FOX, and we had great fun watching that together as well.
7) Resistance Is Futile: More TNG
As we waited for the second seasons of Discovery and The Orville, my son and I further caught up on The Next Generation. Out of 178 episodes, I consider about 40 to be exceptional episodes, and we slowly worked our way through them. I’d seen most of these episodes only once before, when they first aired 25+ years ago, so watching them again felt like the first time in many cases.
When we finally watched the series finale — “All Good Things…” — my son (like many fans) agreed with me that the episode is not only one of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all time, but also superior to any of the four TNG movies.
My son and I recently finished watching the second seasons of both DISCO and The Orville. The latter was inconsistent but still fun and featured surprisingly deep character development. Though far from perfect and full of plot holes, Discovery took a quantum leap in its sophomore effort, with a gripping story and compelling characters (old and new). My son marvelled each week at how rousing the story was and how improved the series was as compared to season one.
We will excitedly jump aboard for more adventures with Discovery when it returns for season 3 in 2020. Without question, we’ll also try out the other numerous new Star Trek series CBS is planning for its All Access service, including the highly anticipated Picard series (starring Patrick Stewart) expected in late 2019.
I am not sure yet what I will do about Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as only so many hours exist in the day, especially when considering common sense limits on a kid’s screen time. Perhaps, we’ll move on in our journey and watch a cultivated list of episodes from those shows. Or maybe I’ll leave my son to explore these series on his own when he is older. TAS (which I like) and Enterprise (which I don’t) are definitely his own responsibility to watch or skip as he sees fit.
At this point, over four years into our slow-paced Star Trek viewing marathon, I consider I have done my duty and have succeeded in creating at least one new Star Trek fan on the planet. Even if Star Trek is not any more special to my son that are the millions of other franchises he also likes, it’s enough for me that Star Trek is in the mix — and that he has developed curiosity and excitement about its mythology.
I make no claim that the way I introduced my kids to Star Trek is the only way or the best way. My intent with this post is to plant the idea that the future success of Star Trek depends, in part, on each generation of fans carefully introducing Star Trek to the next generation. If that continues to happen, then Star Trek should have a decent chance to live long and prosper.
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