If you’ve read that headline, and have even a passing familiarity with the Star Trek franchise, you understand that this is no ordinary task. I am a huge Trek fan, and have been as far back as I can remember. Some of my first memories are watching The Animated Series in my living room (back when TAS was in syndication on the Scifi channel … or at least I think it was that channel).
As far as I can tell, only one person has ever done this before, and no one has done it the way I am intending on doing it. I will watch each episode of every series in the order in which it was aired (except for “The Cage” which I will watch first because it was the first episode. Feels wrong not to), and give you a full, detailed review just like I would any episode of any other series if it aired today. Depending on the episode I’ll unpack it’s themes and content, and I will also grade it on a scale of quantifiable metrics so that I can have a real scale to compare, for instance, The Original Series episodes and Deep Space Nine episodes in as objective a manner as you can get in a review. The reason? I want to settle, beyond any doubt, what are the best episodes of the franchise (and also the worst).
Here are the metrics:
- Plot: How well does the plot fit together? Are there any plot holes or things that just don’t make sense? Is it well written or just thrown together? Does it provide sufficient motivations for the characters actions? Basically, is the plot good?
- Cinematography: How good does the episode look? Is it inventive or by the numbers approach to film making?
- Character Development/Character Moments: Does the story further develop the characters, or deepen our understanding of them?
- Acting: This should be obvious … how much ham does Shatner smuggle into this episode, or how much did the cast phone in their performances (looking at you Voyager).
- Trekiness: This will separate the wheat from the chaff. Essentially this category will be about determining whether or not the episode lives up to the ideals of Star Trek and is uniquely a Star Trek story. For instance, could the who episode work as a Twilight Zone episode? Is the story essentially ripped from another movie (like how both the TNG episode “The Enemy” and the DS9 episode “Waltz” are both essentially the movie Enemy Mine with two radically different endings. The vast majority of Star Trek episodes won’t actually have this quality, but the best will).
I am still playing around with the rubric, and I still think I need a sixth category, but I can’t quite figure out what it should be. However, I am currently grading the reviews on a pass/fail basis. If the episode succeeds in plot, it gets a star, which I’d like to call a “Shatner.” If it succeeds in four categories but fails in one, it gets four Shatners. There’s also going to be a red shirt kill counter. Once this enterprise is finished, I’ll compile a definitive list of the best episodes. Until then, you can checkout the list of completed reviews here.