My position as a Star Trek fan, and as reviewer here at Star Trek Fan Companion, is that it's nonsense to take any part of the franchise less seriously than any other part. Traditionally this has not been the case. Partisans of the original series have long maintained that it can't be topped. During its peak, The Next Generation was untouchable. Deep Space Nine fans believe it's unquestionably the greatest. Voyager and Enterprise tend to suffer from perennially-denied franchise fatigue. The fact is, anyone loves Star Trek because they acknowledge it's generally quality programming. That doesn't change because the cast or the series does. There are five series, six if you included the animated one, which Star Trek Fan Companion does.
Those original series partisans are aging. Next year it'll be fifty years since the first episode broadcast. The series doesn't age well across the board. Newer fans will find that harder and harder to overlook. Early Next Generation is the same, and we're approaching thirty years for its first episode. Time marches on. But Star Trek remains worth watching, in part because there have been so many episodes. It's become a rich tapestry, perhaps easier to appreciate now that there isn't an overwhelming number of new episodes airing each year.
Patterns in storytelling were a thing that wearied fans during Voyager and Enterprise. Yet they become an evocative strength, once you realize that they allow fans to truly compare and contrast the different approaches that have been taken over the years, no matter how similar. Even the flow of competing spaceship-based programming has ebbed. The uniqueness of the Star Trek formula begins to recede the more you're able to concentrate on the characters that inhabit it.
So I approach my reviews in an effort to guide fans into this strange new world. That's what the idea of the criteria is all about. I always start with how relevant the given episode is to the series itself. Then, is it important or fruitfully reflect other material from the greater franchise? And is it somehow essential, to either the series or franchise, or perhaps even both? Finally, does it feature a given character that helps guide the fan into the experience?
I assume if you want to watch Star Trek at all, you've already decided it's probably worth your time. Too often, Star Trek fans have taken an adversarial approach, assuming an episode is terrible until proven otherwise. Or is just plain terrible. It's not even from their favorite series! I have my favorite series, too, but I don't let that get in the way of my reviews. What would be the point?
I could use other criteria. I could be more in-depth. But that's why I include synopsis links. If you want to know the story beats, you can find that elsewhere. If you simply want to know about a given episode, how its significance can be explained, Star Trek Fan Companion is your ideal destination.