Header Ads

How to Watch Star Trek TOS and Not Laugh

Most people love Star Trek from the movies or the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, but never watch the original series because it looks goofy. But, any show that's in the Smithsonian Institution deserves some respect. Read this quick guide and you'll appreciate the show for the television landmark that it is. Plus, we'll give you some tips so you don't look goofy in front of the Trekkers.

Roll Call - Captain James T. Kirk is the swash-buckling playboy. Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Medical Officer) is the cynic. Mr. Spock (Science Officer) is an alien Vulcan and the representation of the ID. Pavel Chekov (Navigation Officer) is a Russian teenager when Communist Russia was hated. Nyota Uhura (Communications Officer) is a progressive black woman. Mongomery "Scotty" Scott (Chief engineer) is a hot-tempered genius. Hikaru Sulu (Helmsman) is a smooth, non-stereotypical, Asian.

Best Example: "Mirror, Mirror" created evil duplicates of each character, and features intense characterization.
Caution: Mr. Spock is an alien. Dr. Spock is a child medical specialist. They are not the same dude.
Everything is Social Allegory - That guy with one side black and the other side white wasn't just a random alien ("Let_That_Be_Your_Last_Battlefield"). His struggle mirrored the struggles of African-Americans in the US at the time. Most of the episodes were like that.

Best Example: "The Doomsday Machine" was a modern retelling of the classic novel Moby Dick.

Caution: The Star Trek fans are not called "Trekkies." They prefer the term "Trekkers."

It Was the Groovy Sixties, Man - Everybody wears bell-bottoms. Chekov is wearing a Beatles wig. Uhura is wearing a miniskirt. Pastel colors are everywhere. Now it looks lame. Back then it was cool. Just ignore it and you'll be fine.

Best Example: "Space Seed" features Ricardo Montalbán as a groovy latin ladies man. This is pivotal to understanding the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

Caution: Each Star Trek show has its own moniker and acronym. The 1960s Star Trek is known as Star Trek: The Original Series (ST: TOS).

Star Trek Set the Bar for Science-Fiction Television - The show created a lot of the science-fiction stereotypes we know today. Transporters "beaming" people down to the planet. Doors sliding open automatically. Military style organizational structure. Faster-Than-Light space travel. Personal communication devices. Every other show imitates it knowingly or unknowingly. Its a formula that works and people understand it.

Best Example: "The City on the Edge of Forever" is considered the best episode of the first season and won numerous awards.

Caution: The spaceship from the original series was The USS Enterprise 1701. All others are similarly named with slight variation.

Hey Kids, its Science-Fiction! - Before Star Trek, science-fiction was relegated to Saturday Morning cartoons. We can thank Star Trek for prime-time science-fiction like X-Files and Lost.

Best Example: "Amok Time" was a very mature storyline as Spock struggles to control his carnal urges.

Caution: There was a Saturday morning animated series of Star Trek (1973-1974), but it was still hardcore for its time.

So, if you're ready to enjoy Star Trek we'd recommend buying or renting The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series.

What do you think? Do you appreciate the original series more? Any tips we missed for Star Trek newbies? 


  1. I don't compare TOS to the current CGI extravaganzas—I compare it to other Sci-Fi airing *at the same time*!
    So, all you have to do is watch some "Lost in Space" or "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" to get an appreciation of how far ahead of its time "Star Trek" was.

  2. Classic TREK was also political commentary. If any other series at the time had attempted to comment on the Vietnam War as TREK did, it would have never made it to production.

    With it being sf, the commentary aspect zipped right over the network and censors' head, but the audience certainly got it.

    Also, before TREK, TV aliens were monsters, not people. For example, the intelligent rock monster protecting her babies instead of being a mindless killer was totally unheard of at the time.

    As someone who watched the original TREK when it was first on the air, I'd suggest you younger folks concentrate on the characters rather than anything else.

    Spock, Bones, and Kirk were the perfect storytelling trio of head, heart, and the synthesis of the two in Kirk's actions.

    There have been very few series who have been able to create such a dynamic group of characters to tell each story, and the secondary characters were interesting and fun, as well.

  3. I love TOS, it's way to long since I watched it. Now I have to. Great post!

  4. @Ove Glad you liked it Man! Star Trek TOS doesn't come on TV as much as it used to, but whenever its on I try and catch it.

  5. I agree. Watching "Lost in Space" and "Star Trek" back to back, you would think they aired in different times and years, not that same. "Lost in Space" is a kid's show.

    On the other hand, you have to admit the beehive hair-dos and mini-skirts don't age well.

  6. "Caution: The Star Trek fans are not called "Trekkies." They prefer the term "Trekkers." "

    Not the bulk of us, no. But the girls (and they usually were) who organized the cons early on were big on that, for some kind of empowering reason.

    The rest of us are content with Trekkies, knowing that "Trekkers" isn't going to change anybody's mind about us. (Gene agreed, FWIW.)

  7. vigleikfromnorwayJuly 19, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    Yes you missed the cronological aspect, to really get involved with out spoiling the fun, it´s probbaly an order to watch it all. I don´t know where to start - continue - and end. And also what to skip. Do you have any suggeston ?

    I just want to get into it the perfect way.

  8. Vigeik, I would start with IGN's top ten list and go from there http://uk.tv.ign.com/articles/973/973606p1.html

  9. Didnt know they made Citizen Kane in 3D as well ... oO

  10. @MByerly "Political commentary." Good choice of words. You make a good point about the aliens too. Even seemingly stereotypical aliens got a unique twist or voice.

  11. @cljohnston108 Its not fair comparing *Star Trek's* SFX to *Battlestar Galactica*, but people do. Comparing *Citizen Kane* to *Avatar* is the best example I can come up with.

  12. Thanks for the inside info! I always thought Trekkies sounded better anyway.

  13. Wow, I had no idea the original Trek had gone from a classic to something that gets mocked.  


Thanks for commenting!.