Monday, June 3, 2013


Today, the Writer's Guild of America released their list of the top 101 TV shows of all time. On that list are such visionary shows as "The Sopranos", "Seinfeld", "Mad Men" and "Hill Street Blues". And coming in at number 33 – right between "Deadwood" and "Modern Family" – is the original "Star Trek".

Of course this comes as no surprise to a life-long Trek fan like me. Whenever people ask those that were involved with the original series what is was that set it apart, there's always one clear delineation – the writing. For modern viewers, every year that goes by means the sets become cheesier-looking, the costumes more outrageous and the aliens less exotic. But the writing endures.

"Star Trek" took TV writing where it had seldom been before – into relevance. Many of the stories were a reflection of what was happening in the turbulent 60's, including war, racial tensions, Communism, over-population, artificial intelligence, and abuse of power. "Star Trek" used its science fiction setting to put a spotlight on the society of the day, much like the earlier "Twilight Zone" (3rd on the WGA list) had done before, but in a more subtle way. After all, phasers and starships can't have anything to do with over-population, right? Of course, sometimes, the message hit us over the head, as with the cringe-worthy episode "The Way to Eden" with it's all too obvious story of counter-culture, or the (literal!) flag waver, "The Omega Glory".

"Spock's Brain" – a low point
Naturally, there were several episodes that were simply bad. "Spock's Brain" is usually identified as the single worst episode of "Star Trek", and while that is debatable – there's several awful ones – it demonstrates that not all classic "Trek" is golden. But the handful of lousy episodes demonstrate how good the vast majority of "Trek" must have been to still be recognized today as one of the best written shows (and frankly one of the best shows, PERIOD) to ever exist. It's worth noting that the WGA list includes only a few entries from the fifties and sixtes, which makes the inclusion of "Star Trek" all the more rarified.

It's younger sibling, "Star Trek: The Next Generation", came in at number 79 – an indicator of its overall quality as well.

"The Trouble With Tribbles" – a very high point
Long ago, "Star Trek" entered the pop culture lexicon with phrases like "warp speed", "live long and prosper" and the ubiquitous "beam me up, Scotty". Everyone knows what a phaser is and can identify the Enterprise and a tribble. Now the heart and soul of "Star Trek" – its superior writing – has also been recognized. It's only logical.



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