We try to refrain from empty superlatives here at Criticwire, but it’s hard to think of a reason why Jordan Hoffman’s ranking of every single episode from every single ‘Star Trek’ show is not the most amazing list any one person has ever complied. That’s nearly 700 in total, including the original series, “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” “Enterprise,” even “Star Trek: The Animated Series.” (“You have an issue with that,” Hoffman suggests, “send a telegram.”) So we reached out to Hoffman to explain why he boldly went where no one — with good reason — has gone before.
Criticwire: First question: Are you insane?
Jordan Hoffman: I may in fact be suffering from the PSI 2000 Polywater Toxin Virus.
Criticwire: Where did the idea for the list come from?
JH: Playboy.com has
a relatively new entertainment editor, Marc Bernardin. He came to me
with this. He knows that I’m a huge Trek fan, that I lead panels at Star
Trek conventions and that I frequently write a column on StarTrek.com called “One Trek Mind.” Yes, Criticwire, I don’t just review movies, I have a secret life, and I am not ashamed.
JH: This is a complicated question, and needs something of a lengthy answer.
I decided, for kicks, to watch every single “Trek” episode in order.
Those hard case DVD complete seasons of the Original Series had just
come out. I had seen most of all of “Star Trek” already. Maybe missed a “Voyager” or “Enterprise” here and there. I kept brief notes (with some star
gradings) on my blog. I did this on off-hours, and it started before I
was a professional film critic. When I began I was working on my last
film project. My day job was as a licensed New York City tour guide.
When I was hired full time as the movies editor at the now-defunct UGO.com, I continued pecking along. I concluded in November of 2010. I remember a friend saying to me “I’ve never known you when you weren’t watching an episode of ‘Star Trek’ each night.”
I had some thoughts on each episode already in my files. What I did
next was maybe a weird way to go about it, but it worked for me. I went
and ranked each series individually. That’s 3 seasons of the Original
(that’s Kirk-Spock-Bones), 1.5
of the Animated (yes, there was a cartoon), 7 seasons of “Next
Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and then 4 seasons of “Enterprise.” Getting these rankings in shape took a long time. I didn’t do it all at
once. I would do, say, all seven seasons of “Deep Space Nine” one day,
then another the next. I had other assignments sprinkled throughout and
some lead time.
these individual lists I printed them out and created something of a
repeated six-way death match, to interlace them. Starting with the top
slot I looked at each #1 across the different categories and went with
my gut. “What is the best one in contention for this spot right here,
right now.” When I picked the winner I crossed it off then moved down
the list. I dunno, I felt this was the best way to go. This took maybe a
full day, uninterrupted. I wanted to make sure I got it right, so I hit
YouTube to watch clips a lot.
created certain rules about what to do with two-parters vs story arcs
that I’m sure will annoy some fans. I also kept the movies out of it.
blurbing took roughly four full business days. I sat at my kitchen
table and pounded with a fury. I had a handful of deadline reviews I had
to file in between, but maybe that helped me maintain my sanity.
Writing a list — and I’ve done lengthy lists before, I find them fun to
do now and then — is different than other types of writing assignments. A
review or an essay or even putting together a profile, there’s a lot of
pacing and crafting and creating. With this, there’s a clear roadmap.
It’s like swimming laps. It takes forever, but you can get in a groove
and go go go. Once you have the order, you just fill in blurbs that are
informative and, at least in my view, you add a little zing. In no way
do I think doing lists is art, but there’s no reason not to have fun
with it. Most people don’t read the blurbs, but the few that do should
be rewarded. And with Star Trek, you know there are some hardcore folks
that will read everything. If you make it to the mid-300s of this
behemoth, you’ll find that I slipped in some decent gags, if I may say
so myself. Some of ‘em you need to know Star Trek, but others are just
Criticwire: Were there episodes (or series) you hadn’t seen before? How many did
you rewatch? Did your views on any episodes (or series) change during
I’d seen them all before, at least once. I rewatched the top handful,
to confirm that they were indeed the best. (They are. I’m right.) For
many episodes I watched a YouTube clip as a refresher. For almost all I
poked on the Internet (either Memory-Alpha.org or
Wikipedia) to get the juices flowing. Definitely some opinions changed.
Many times I came across an episode from my original notes and
thought, man, I’m being harsh — this one is actually kinda great because
I can still remember it clearly. And the reverse. There were a few
“nah, this one kinda stunk, I was nuts.”
Criticwire: How long have you been a Star Trek fan? And after something like this, is there anything left to do but retire?
been a fan since I was 9 years old, when I saw “Star Trek III: The
Search For Spock” with my grandfather. I didn’t understand it and
remember asking him to explain what the hell was going on. I can only
imagine what he, an immigrant who escaped the Pogroms and came through
Ellis Island at the age of twelve without a nickel in his pocket,
thought about Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner fighting over the
Genesis Device. I’ve written about my early love of “Star Trek” quite a
bit. It came on at midnight in the New York area, which meant a rough
call at 12:30 am.
If it was a great episode I stayed with it. If it was a lame one I’d
switch over to David Letterman. (The old David Letterman.) All of this
with the volume quite low because my parents thought I was asleep. I was
with “Next Generation” from the first episode.
to do next? Well, I don’t know when I’m signing up for my next major
list. They are exhausting. As far as “Star Trek,” I may seem like an
aficionado in the “straight world,” but when I work the conventions I
rank on the high side of intermediate. There are people who know every
episode by their title. (I can only do this with the Original Series — a
mere 79 shows.) Star Trek is great. The movies are in disarray right
now, but movies are supposed to be a bonus for Trek fans. Eventually it
will get back on TV, and then I will need to revisit this listicle!
Criticwire: Seriously, are you feeling all right?