I wish STAR TREK could've been much more gritty and realistic, instead of always being so stylized, but ... it also puts you in the frame of mind, too, where you understand that this is not meant to represent reality.
Well, actually, by the standards of 1960s television, TOS was
realistic. That was the whole point. As Roddenberry makes clear in his series pitch and writers' bible, his goal was to get away from the fanciful, broad, kid-oriented approach to science fiction from things like Lost in Space
and do an SF show that was just as serious, smart, and naturalistic as the acclaimed adult dramas of the day like Gunsmoke, Naked City
, and Wagon Train
. He was one of the first SFTV producers to consult with scientists, engineers, and think tanks to come up with plausible ideas about how to portray the future; as far as I know, the only previous show that used scientific consultants at all was Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
, which had the famous science writer/historian Willy Ley as its technical advisor.
So it's not at all true that ST wasn't meant to be realistic. It was meant to be the most realistic SFTV show ever made up to that point, and largely succeeded -- though that's historically been a very low bar to clear. It's just that the goalposts for "gritty realism" have moved between the '60s and today. What looked true-to-life and naturalistic to '60s audiences looks stagey and stylized by modern standards.
Christopher is right. I think there's a revisionist streak which can't quite
get over the stylistic aspects of TOS, but it's certainly worth remembering that in it's time TOS was regarded as very forward thinking, a realistic approach to a potential future in space, 'true sci-fiction television' as compared against the hokey B-Movie stuff that people were used to watching. There was a time when TOS's gadgets genuinely did
look futuristic, when its adherence to an internal continuity (as opposed to the mostly anthology-type shows which had preceeded it) impressed people with how richly it was drawn, on how much it was based on postulated fact rather than seeming fanciful as did many other sci-fi programmes of the time, like Lost In Space.
We take a lot of what TOS did for granted now. But in context of its time, it was clearly a cut above the rest in terms of seeming genuinely real