When we came out of the 70's, Star Trek faced a daunting future. They had done well in syndication, but now they were facing the epic grandeur of the silver screen. After a mediocre first try, they started realizing that to be really successful they had to shift their focus from the story to the characters. The story is important, to be sure, but these characters are the ones with whom we are sharing the journey. The characters are the people we've come to love and count as friends. The stories may teach us a grand lesson about life in general, but the characters give us a feeling of family - they're the glue that holds everything together.
|Where everybody knows your name.|
The preceding followed just Spock's arc through the movies, simply because it's really the easiest to follow, but Kirk does not take a backseat to the story. All along the way he's coming to terms with his old age. He learns he has a son, tries to get back into his life, loses him and then faces the reality of resentment and the temptation of revenge. In the movies we see Kirk facing challenges that his five-year mission could never have afforded him. We've seen him act brilliantly in battle, we've seen him command a starship like a pro, but now, in his midlife, we see him face the challenges of fatherhood and age - things we humans have to deal with every day.
|Things like dealing with your son falling for a Vulcan.|
By the time Deep Space Nine came around, the producers were keen for a full-on soap opera with episodes that flow on to the next one as smoothly as a movie cut for television. Voyager cut back only slightly on that, but still found time for some heavy arcs, and Enterprise followed basically the same structure as Voyager. As Trek grew into a full on cultural phenomenon, we were taught more about Trek's universe than Trek taught us about ours. Continuous stories pumped up the drama between characters and dropped little nuggets of truth where in The Original Series the nuggets were boulders and the drama was consequential.
|As the Station Turns...|