You may have caught notice last week that we jut celebrated the 50th anniversary of when Star Trek debuted on television. The original series lasted from 1966 until 1969, and was cancelled despite some valiant attempts by fans to encourage CBS to keep it on the air.
But for anyone younger than 47, the show was gone before they were even born. They might have caught it as a re-run later… or they might have caught one of the many subsequent iterations that followed. The Animated Series began in 1973, and there were motion pictures released in ’79, ’82, ’84, and ’86 before The Next Generation began in ’87. And there have been nine more movies and three more TV series since then. Not to mention countless novels, comics, and video games. So there have been plenty of opportunities for people to discover Star Trek over the past half century.
But is all Star Trek made equal? Does someone who saw the original episodes air for the first time like the more recent movies which rebooted the property? For that matter, do they even like The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, which were deliberate continuations of what was started in 1966?
The answer, of course, is “not necessarily.” While the basic premise remains largely the same, there are any number of variations on the ideas and themes. Like any artistic work, it’s created and reflective of the culture it’s created in. So what may have been relevant and deeply resonated in 1966 might not do so in 2016. What fans responded to in one era of the show might not be present in other versions.
The same can said of any long-running property. Doctor Who, Batman, Sherlock Holmes… they’ve all been iterated enough times over the decades that they can draw on very different types of fans. One could ask “Who’s your favorite Doctor?” and a person’s response will likely be the iteration of the character when they first discovered him.
That’s not necessarily the first time they encountered the character, but the first time they really found something that clicked. The first time that they saw themselves and the culture they know reflected in the show. While I’d certainly seen some of the original Star Trek growing up, that show reflected a reality from before I was born. It wasn’t until The Next Generation that I saw a show that spoke more directly to what I was seeing and experiencing in the world around me; consequently, that’s the version that is my favorite.
That doesn’t make any one version better than any other, of course! It just means that different fans from different eras respond to different things. And if an older Trekkie thinks Captain Kirk can be played by no one but William Shatner, while a younger fan thinks Chris Pine is the business, that’s fine! You don’t have to love every version of your favorite IP to still be called a fan. That’s one of the great beauties of fandom: you can pick and choose not only what you’re a fan of, and you’re not required to like every instance of it! Like what you like, and let others like what they like!