Though the idea of webcasters analyzing old episodes of Star Trek is one that’s relatively new, some people have been at it since before it could qualify as nostalgia. Indeed, while our friends at Mission Log – whom we looked at yesterday – started in 2012, Chuck Sonnenberg was reviewing episodes of Voyager while the ship was still stuck in the Delta Quadrant. In the last article in our Remember Me series, we explore yet another way to look back at Star Trek’s run; and, this time we’ve got statistics! Hit the jump for Part Three.
“I started it originally because I was practicing web coding skills and needed to have content to work with, so reviewing Star Trek: Voyager episodes (which were still coming out at the time) seemed like a fun way to come up with that,” said Sonnenberg, host and producer of the popular Sci Fi (or SF) Debris, which started with text reviews in 1999 and switched to video in 2008.
Billing himself not as a Roger Ebert-esque authority and but simply “a viewer with an opinion,” Sonnenberg has avoided becoming a Comic Book Guy-esque, whiny, nit-picking nerd. He doesn’t take himself seriously and injects his reviews with a lot of humor.
“I’ve tried to appeal to fans who, on the one hand, like to explore the ideas of Trek but, on the other, are willing to question its philosophy and ideas, or at the very least are open to discussing them,” Sonnenberg said. “And also, being able to laugh at it sometimes: that we can be serious one minute and silly the next.”
Pictured: Kirk punching a woman he just kissed. Not pictured: a particularly complicated philosophy of bettering ourselves and the rest of humanity
One example of how Sonnenberg will poke fun at Trek’s philosophy is their insistence on a perfect, moneyless future – while they’re asking you to hand them money hand over fist, as seen in stuff like this 1987 promo video to advertisers before TNG went on the air.
While most of his reviews are Star Trek, he’s also branched out into Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Red Dwarf, Stargate, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and other properties. One of the web’s more prolific reviewers, Sonnenberg does a new review about every three days. He takes requests (for a small donation).
By the numbers
Having been at it for so long, Sonnenberg has quite a library: more than 300 Trek reviews (as of June 11, 2014),or 41 percent of the franchise.
He’s developed an extensive system for evaluating each episode (or movie), scoring them from 1 to 10, with each grade relative to its own series – so when he looks at an episode of Enterprise, he’s not comparing it to “City on the Edge of Forever.” The score he gives out most frequently is 7.
(Insert joke about “score” and “Seven”)
Committing to such a 1-10 ranking system means that, when he’s done, the average score would be 5.5 – which is actually pretty close to what’s he’s got right now: 5.6.
The more of a series he’s reviewed, the closer he is to hitting that 5.5 – which is his average for Voyager, the show he’s reviewed the most and, bizarrely, seems to like the most even though he always talks about how many things he dislikes about it.
He only gives out one score of “Zero” for each series, representing the (ahem)
So far, these have been “Threshold” (VOY), “A Night in Sickbay” (ENT), “Code of Honor” (TNG), and “Profit and Lace” (DS9). He reviews one of these “worst of the worst” as his annual Christmas tradition.
God bless us. Everyone.
Learning the Tropes
Sonnenberg has also developed a series of recognitions for common themes in Trek so extensive that he has his own TV tropes page. These include:
- Janeway Pi – when a ship is autodestructed (because Janeway’s command code is Pi-1-1-0)
- Burn, Baby, Burn – when a shuttle is destroyed (so every week)
- Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh? – when something from Earth’s history is referred to as “ancient,” like “The Ancient West” instead of “The Old West” in “A Fistful of Datas”
- Like Unto An Amoeba – when the crew encounters godlike aliens
- Lazarus of the Week – when someone comes back from the dead; Tom Paris has received the only “Jesus of the Week” for bringing himself back from death
The one award he gives out for every episode is the self-explanatory Annoying Character of the Week. The exception is “Voyager,” where Annoying Character becomes the Stupid Neelix Moment. (Any VOY episode without Neelix gets an automatic +1.)
Watch your future’s end … or a new beginning?
With the revitalization of the brand under the Abrams reboot, Sonnenberg feels that Trek can enjoy both increased popularity in the broader sphere and increased dedication among its core fans – bringing back those who may have “lapsed,” even if they’re divided in their opinion.
“Indeed, it gives us the possibility perhaps of the best of both worlds (pun very much intended), that an abbreviated series with high production values a la Game of Thrones could happen – the money to give it something closer to the level of effects of the films but with the chance for greater depth and more opportunities for ideas the films can’t afford to cover by their nature as films,” Sonnenberg said. “The chance to be a more sophisticated series, both in its look and in its substance, that’s a definite possibility now.”
And if that happens, then maybe we’ll start referring to The Original Series as The Ancient Series.
And then stab people while quoting the US Constitution
How far back does your connection with Star Trek go?
Discuss: What are some of the best examples of Trek nostalgia you know? Tell us and share links in the comments below.