tos binging

February 15, 2016

Decal_29With my knee in its healing phase there’s not a lot for me to do outside of personal rest and home PT. For whatever reason I started to binge watch the original series Star Trek on Netflix, the series I came close to memorizing back in the mid-sixties when I was in the equivalent of middle school in Atlanta, Ga.

As a kid I’d gotten a small reel-to-reel GE tape recorder one Christmas, and I quickly pressed it into use recording the audio from each episode. I eventually had two stacks of tapes, one for season one, and one for season two. I never recorded season three; after spending one evening watching “Spock’s Brain,” I never turned Star Trek back on again because that episode was so bad. I spent the rest of the third season replaying my audio tapes, imagining the visual portion of Star Trek while the audio and music played from my tape player. After the original series was canceled I concentrated on Apollo up through 1972, when I graduated from high school and headed off to college. Those tapes got recycled into other recordings, and eventually into the trash when they were worn out.

Over the years that’ve followed I’ve watched some of the movies (“The Wrath of Kahn”), some episodes from the spin-offs like Next Generation, and even gone back to watch the occasional rerun of the original series. To this day I still can’t watch “Spock’s Brain” or any of the third season episodes.

These past few days were an opportunity to kill some time by binge watching TOS. I’ve had a Netflix account now for years, starting back when you got physical DVDs in the mail. The physical media’s long gone, but I still stream. So I fired up my iPhone 6s+, pulled up the Netflix app, and went slumming through all those old episodes.

The version of TOS that Netflix has are the updated episodes where CBS went back and redid nearly all the old special effects. Planets really look like planets, especially when that planet is Earth (“Tomorrow is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth”), the spaceships were cleaned up, as were the movements of ships in space. With all the science fiction that has been produced since TOS first aired, it only made sense to update the effects. And I certainly appreciated those updates.

The only problem is that those cleanups made all the episodes look that much worse for their age. What was entertaining and exciting for a middle-schooler in the 1960s now seems worn, frayed around the edges. The plot holes are too obvious and too numerous to mention, cause and effect too silly. I grew up during the period of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, watching real astronauts fly into space. It was watching real rocketry that made me believe we might have something like Star Trek in the future. When it all got shut down and replaced with the Shuttle, Star Trek became part of the “kid stuff” I left behind. Along with a lot of other silly Hollywood science fiction.

I’m glad I got a chance to skip through all those old episodes. I think I finally got the very last vestiges completely out of my system.