I wonder just how many science-fiction fans were brought into the genre by one or another of Roddenberry's creations? One of the first things I remember looking forward to on television was the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation on BBC back in the day; I maintained my interest all though TNG and DS9...and most of the way through Voyager, though I regret to say that I never managed to get into Enterprise. By then I was at my 'crazy hours' job and following a TV series was impractical (though I managed with Battlestar Galactica most of the way through – I guess the series just never enthused me.) Obviously I watched the Original Series whenever it was on. Heck, I bought them on DVD three times over the years...
So that's where I start – from the television point of view. I think I grew up at just the right time – when I was in my teens I had Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, the X-Files, Dark Skies...the 1990s, looking back, were a bit of a golden age for science-fiction on television. And these are all still heavily represented among my DVDs now, naturally...which might, thinking about it, be a reason why these shows aren't on the air as much. When something of that ilk emerges, then it's just as easy to throw on a DVD. When I started to really get into reading, it was probably only natural that I gravitated towards Star Trek novels; I had hundreds of the darn things, and quite a few of them became firm favourites...(again – back in the day TOS had the best novels. The quality really seemed to drop for shows that were on the air, though there were notable exceptions. (Watch out for some reviews in the future.)
Aside from Trek, I really was into the older stuff. Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and the like (these days...really only Asimov has held up on my bookshelves, I must confess.) Walls full of the stuff – you'd think that nothing had been published past about 1980. I think...I like the grand vista. The potential of a limitless universe that anything can happen, though grounded in sufficient reality to give it a sense of realism that makes it feel as if it could happen. (It took me a while to get over the disappointment that I wouldn't attend Starfleet Academy, I can tell you!)
As this sort of sci-fi has faded from the screen...it picks up in original novels. Honor Nels...Harrington, for example, though I must confess I never proceeded that far down the novels. Started to feel as if I'd already read it when I studied Naval History at King's. The stand-out for me is probably John Hemry's Lost Fleet...the only reason I won't be reading the final-final book in that run on the day it is out is because I have been told I'm getting it for my birthday, four days later. Not that it does anything...massively original – but it is an excellent, solid, gripping, entertaining read. It doesn't have to pioneer new ground for me to have read the whole run four times in as many years. I'll throw out another one – Helfort's War, though that rather collapsed somewhere around Book 3 for me. We seem to have moved from single books to series – written today, Mote in God's Eye (still the best single-volume mil-sci-fi I have read...well, that and Space Viking, but I rate that on a different scale) would probably be a five or six book series. I know there are likely to be dozens of recommendations here for other series...but in a way, that isn't the point. None of these quite scratched my itch. I felt...that perhaps there was something here I could do. There are a lot of military science fiction series – lots of space navies roaming around the fictional universe. But let's get back to the original here...Star Trek.
That was a lot more than a military science-fiction show. A lot more than...well...flying around and blowing things up in big wars (that are NOT WW2/Napoleonic/Civil War...let's make that clear right now). Yes, there was a military element to it, and that's an important thing – it creates drama. But a lot more of it was a sense of exploration, of taking that big step out to see what lay beyond. Best line is from the TNG episode Q Who: “It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires, both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid." Now that strikes me as a great tag line to launch some sort of adventure.
Ape Star Trek? No. Not as such. Try and capture a similar sort of feel through a lens we can be more familiar with today? Perhaps. Star Trek – in all honesty – became less and less this as time went on, until it really became another mil-sf show. Not that it was a bad one, quite the reverse, DS9 has some of my favourite episodes...but what happened to the opening from Encounter at Farpoint?
“Our destination is planet Deneb IV, beyond which lies the great, unexplored mass of the galaxy.” (Emphasis mine – but it's the way Patrick Stewart says it.)
There is a grandeur there. An almost sensual desire to see what lies beyond the known, and explore the unknown. Ironically the much-derided first season did this reasonably well – later it seemed to lose sight of this concept and lose the fun which I liked in those early episodes. There's an optimism there, and that is something that definitely is missing today. Look at when the original series aired – man was on the verge of exploring space for real. Now we are apparently further from the Moon now than we were then. Astounding.
That is where Battlecruiser Alamo comes from. While I can't use those great, stirring lines about Brave New Worlds...I can certainly try and put them into practice.