Star Trek: The Original Series, or “TOS” as it’s known among fans, is perhaps the most iconic of all the franchise’s many incarnations; yet when you think about it in relation to the other entries, it kind of failed miserably.
Consider for a moment how much programming Kirk and Crew gave fans compared to how much Picard and the rest churned out.
When you break it down to numbers, there’s really no comparison.
The original Star Trek ran for only 79 50-minute episodes — three seasons — totaling just 3,950 minutes. Add in the six original films, and you get an additional 689 minutes. Then, there is the Animated Series — approximately 660 minutes — and that brings the Shatnerverse to 5,299 total minutes, or just north of 88 hours.
Now run the same experiment on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seven seasons, 176 episodes, roughly 44 minutes each, for a total of 7,744 minutes. They also pumped out a total of four feature films, totaling 448 minutes, for a final tally of 8,192 minutes, or over 136 hours of programming.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? Seven seasons, 173 episodes, 45 minutes a pop, 7,785 minutes, or close to 130 hours.
Star Trek: Voyager? Seven seasons, 170 episodes, 45 minutes each, 7,650 minutes, or around 128 hours.
Star Trek: Enterprise? Four seasons, 42 minutes each, 4,116 minutes, or just under 69 hours. In this case, Enterprise comes up short, but remember that TOS only beat it by 19 hours, and it had to spread that out over a live-action television series, an animated series, and a series of six films.
What could Enterprise have done with the same second chances? Fans will likely never know since by that point, the world had seen a Star Trek overload, and they were starting to tune out.
As a result, Enterprise often gets unfairly blamed for temporarily killing the franchise.
It wasn’t until the new Star Trek films launched in 2009 that Captain Kirk and crew would get a chance to catch up to TNG, DS9, and Voyager. Considering how tricky it is to recast these iconic characters, movie audiences aren’t likely to see the films put a dent in that deficit.
Plus, even though Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, and the rest do a great job of breathing new life into TOS characters, it really isn’t the same.
While the mimicry is there, the storylines have been more Star Wars than Star Trek, and that has been off-putting to many purists, who would rather it be about exploration and new worlds than the latest bad guy intent on destroying the universe.
Star Trek Beyond promises to change some of that, but the trailer that dropped at the end of 2015 shows little promise that it will succeed.
One of the biggest problems that the 94 seconds of trailer time highlights is a need to continually copycat TOS feature films.
Into Darkness was basically a reworking of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Beyond looks like what Star Trek III: The Search for Spock might have been had Spock not died at the end of STII.
There is the destroyed Enterprise, the Genesis-like planet, the Klingons.
It’s not a facsimile, no, and it will likely be significantly different, but the shades of STIII are there, and that’s not very “seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before,” is it?
The message you should take from this is not that TOS was terrible. It wasn’t. In fact, it is more often than not the Star Trek series I prefer to re-watch.
But the other entries in the franchise proved this universe could live well beyond the specter of Kirk and Crew. Why not go back to that same spirit of adventure with future television shows and movies?
Which Star Trek series is your favorite? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Star Trek: The Original Series]