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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Ross
    August 22, 2014 @ 12:51 am

    But within the texts themselves, a cursory glance at Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and even Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise, reveals that none of them are anywhere remotely near as easy to riff on and condense down to soundbites as the Original Series is (I mean people try, especially people who make Internet memes, but that doesn't mean they're successful at it) . And that's because the Original Series is nothing but soundbites.

    I might suggest that this has something to do with the fact that, on balance, the 90s were not very fun. I mean, declaring them utterly joyless is just me being hyperbolic, but the more I've been looking at the evolution of popular media across the decade line there, the more it seems like the key transition from the long 80s to the long 90s was a movement from the general belief that we were going to destroy our civilization with apocalyptic war and yet we could all still have a good time about it to the general belief that the world was going to keep on existing so we'd better stop goofing off and start acting like this was SRS BSNS.

    (It's very strange; over on my own blog, I've inexplicably decided to cast the contrast between the first season of TNG with the only season of one of its less successful contemporaries as an epic struggle for the soul of cult science fiction in the '90s, and I keep finding TNG to come off as pretentious and mirthless, even though my own childhood memories of it are dominated by a sense of wonder and fascination)


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    August 22, 2014 @ 7:42 am

    Yeah, no, the 1990s were definitely no fun. I concur wholeheartedly with that. Hell, it's still no fun. But then see again my whole "we haven't actually left the 1990s" theory. I even have a date for the changeover: I'm fairly certain it happened in Fall, 1993 (though it took a while for certain things to catch up).

    Part of the reason you may be finding TNG to be troubling in 1987-8 is because it was an absolute shitshow behind the scenes at that point. I mean it was never smooth, but that was the worst year by far. There was some good stuff that season and I plan to redeem a good chunk of it, but the fact of the matter was Gene Roddenberry and Maurice Hurley were in no way capable of running a show like that at that time. It doesn't get its act straightened around until Michael Piller comes along.

    The wonder is there: I've seen the first two seasons quite recently (last year) and I was still in awe of parts of them. The simultaneously good and bad thing is that there's more to it than that.


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    August 22, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

    Actually, I take some of that back. Parts of the '90s were extremely fun. Namely, anything that had to do with Eurodance rave parties circa 1994-7, AKA the best club scene of all time.

    To be fair, that's a legacy of the Second Summer of Love in 1988-9, so that's still culturally descended from the Long 1980s. Even so, seeing Ibiza culture suddenly and inexplicably take over sporting events in the United States was awesome and probably makes up my fondest memories of the era.

    Probably worth an essay sometime someplace that isn't here.


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