I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve spent years unsuccessfully trying to introduce my 12-year-old son to the vast Star Trek universe.
First, I offered a couple of the original episodes. Way too slow. Then, I served up the Kelvin timeline with the 2009 J.J. Abrams’ movie. It didn’t stick. My boy didn’t want to go further “Into Darkness.”
“Discovery” and “Picard,” the two new Star Trek series on Paramount+ weren’t at all designed for him simply because of all those damn swear words. I didn’t even make the attempt.
I’m a life-long Trekkie, and I’ve been unable to pass the torch.
Family-Friendly Star Trek
Then, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” came out, and I watched the first couple of episodes. I was in shock. Could it be? Could this new series really be okay for kids to watch? Was this the moment I’d been waiting for all of my adult life?
I sat down with my wife and son on a Sunday night after dinner and nervously played the premiere for them. They were both skeptical.
(My wife was never a big Star Trek fan.)
The episode ended, and I stared at both of them. They each displayed a Vulcan look of mild satisfaction. They agreed to watch another episode. My hopes were bolstered.
The New Adventures of Ben Kenobi
But the next time we came together to watch a show, I really wanted to see the new “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series on Disney+. So we watched that two-part premiere. I certainly enjoyed this new Star Wars entry, but it was arguably a bit sluggish out of the gate with a slow build. (I did love that reveal shot of the light saber on Obi-Wan’s waist at the end of episode 2.)
I performed the same ‘Lester-insta-poll,’ and received a similar response. Good, though not crazy good.
Padawan or Cadet?
The third family screening would tell all as our son had been given the power to choose what to watch next. (We rotate that honor between the three of us.)
“Strange New Worlds” or “Obi-Wan-Kenobi?”
I could barely look at him.
I’d been waiting my whole life to again experience “Star Trek” through the eyes of a child. I still remember as a kid being blown away by the storytelling of the original series. That’s what always differentiated “Star Trek” from other sci-fi. It was so character-driven. Serious… and fun. And yes, occasionally even funny.
And then I watched as other sci-fi franchises muscled their way to the top of the public’s preference. Marvel and Star Wars. Of course.
I must admit that Marvel has really earned it. Movie after movie. They’ve barely stumbled. And then the expansion on Disney+. It’s impressive. Most impressive.
Yes, I think more impressive than Star Wars, simply because the entire body of work from that universe is uneven. Still, that galaxy far, far away is far from losing its grip on this planet.
And I know that has a lot to do with Darth Vader.
The Enduring Power of Vader
I remember seeing “The Return of the Jedi” at the Ziegfeld theater in New York City back in 1983. The giant theater was packed with kids munching on popcorn. And then there was the big moment towards the end of the movie when Emperor Palpatine was zapping Luke with dark Force lightning. Then, the camera shot cut to Darth Vader watching Luke’s apparent end.
Suddenly I sensed a huge wave of emotion flow throughout the young audience. Then the sound. It was a combination of hundreds of gasps and a few screams. Some kids just yelled.
The shot cut back to Luke writhing in pain. The audience’s roar of emotion increased.
And then back to Anakin staring at his son.
The entire theater exploded. The chorus of every kid there screaming at Vader to do the right thing.
Yes, Star Wars endures because we love to watch that struggle between the dark and the light. And who better represents that than our fallen friend Anakin?
The Federation Wins
Fast forward four decades, and Disney+ is now serving up a lot more Anakin/Vader.
But that’s only teased at the end of episode two of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
So when my boy has the foundational choice between watching the best of Starfleet or a fallen Jedi, he goes with… Star Trek!
I have to admit, it wasn’t really a fair fight because of the timing, but I still relished the victory.
For the past few weeks, my son has consistently asked for more “Strange New Worlds” episodes. I think I can safely say we are officially now a “Star Trek” family!
(My wife is enjoying the series with us as well.)
It all comes down to great storytelling and character development.
At the beginning of every “Strange New Worlds” episode, there’s that short sequence where the Enterprise takes a few colorful victory laps before the Star Trek logo settles.
Yep, I’d say they’ve earned it.
Never Dismiss the Power of the Force
We eventually got around to watching episode 3 of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” And I observed my son during the Darth Vader scenes. The James Earl Jones voice. The iconic breathing. The sheer power of the dark side.
My boy was mesmerized. He then started to mimic the breathing. And I saw the smile on his face.
Yep, even after 40 years, some things don’t change.
But a heathy dose of Vader in episode 3 doesn’t change the fact that “Star Trek” has finally beat out “Star Wars” in the Lester household.
I’ve been playing the long game, and it’s finally paid off. Thank you, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” You’ve got a lock on the Lester family.
The torch has finally been passed.