Recently my friend Orangerful and I decided to separately watch and blog about Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereafter referred to as TNG). The show was a big part of her childhood, but since I’m a few years older, I had grown up with the original series (TOS), longing for its return. That happened in 1987 with the announcement of TNG.
I’ll admit I was skeptical. I loved the original so much that I really didn’t think a new Trek could capture the things that made me love TOS, such as the wonderful characters, the social commentary, and just the fun of the show. But back in 1987 I eagerly awaited the first episode. I remember thinking it was a good start and held much possibility. I was neither overjoyed nor disappointed.
I watched the show pretty religiously for its first two years. 1987-88 was the final year I taught in Meridian, MS before going to live in Memphis for a year. It’s entirely possible that I missed an episode or two due to the move, so we’ll see what I remember from this project. For some reason (possibly moving back to Mississippi to a new job), I didn’t keep up with the show as much as I had. I watched (and enjoyed) it when I could, but it’s safe to say that during Seasons 3-7 I missed more shows than I saw. So I’m very glad Orangerful suggested this project.
I should say that the big impetus for my buying the series on Blu-ray was a pretty major sale of the entire series on Amazon UK. The price has since jumped up to close to $100 and the U.S. set is currently $123. I got the UK set (which is region-free) for about $70 including overseas shipping. I just couldn’t turn that down.
So I am watching the episodes in high definition on Blu-ray, which includes a “making of” segment that goes into detail about the restoration (and in some cases reconstruction) of the series as it was converted into HD. Orangerful is watching the show streaming, which is probably in HD. I’ll just say that the Blu-rays look outstanding, even if the show was not shot in widescreen. Not a problem.
So, let’s get started with the episodes. You can read Orangerful’s thoughts here. Some of our thoughts may overlap, but it might be interesting to see how we reacted differently to each episode. (I won’t got into plot details, but will give the Wikipedia summaries.)
S1:E1/E2 “Encounter at Farpoint”
The new starship Enterprise begins her maiden voyage by uncovering the mysteries of an advanced space station. The crew’s mission is threatened by an omnipotent being named Q, who puts them on trial for the crimes of all humanity.
This is far more than a “getting to know you” episode, but there’s unmistakably some of that going on. I remember immediately liking the uniforms (except for Troi’s, which I thought awful in any century). Of course Riker would eventually grow a beard and Worf would eventually lose the melon head in favor of something more realistic (for a Klingon). One of the things that Orangerful and I both appreciated is how the producers of the show didn’t try to make a one-to-one correspondence with TOS characters. Picard and Riker both contain elements of Kirk, but you can tell Picard probably isn’t going to bed nearly as many women as Kirk, and Riker seems a bit younger than Kirk was, still having a lot to learn. Data is obviously a substitute for Spock, but more humorous at times, certainly more playful and willing to learn and participate in many of the human shenanigans he sees from his fellow crew members. It seemed in this first episode that we will at least have a greater depth in characters if not the possibility of a greater depth of character itself.
Q and his challenge to Picard is a great way to open the series. For one thing, it’s clearly a battle Picard cannot easily win. We don’t want too easy a victory in the premiere episode, after all. Second, it provides an opportunity to see what the show and its characters are all about without giving us their resumes. As Orangerful points out, the “crimes against humanity” theme gives us a chance to see what changes (or lack of them) have taken place in the Federation and the universe in the 77 years between TOS and TNG. Plus it’s a good story. We’ve seen elements of this plot in TOS episodes, but those episodes occurred when the TOS characters had already been established. Here, there’s an unmistakable freshness that grabs our attention and asks two questions: who are these people and how are they going to get out of this mess. And as for any holdouts, how can you not love seeing Dr. McCoy in a brief but wonderful scene?
S1:E3 “The Naked Now”
The crew of the Enterprise find the crew of a scientific vessel dead. They soon fall prey to a mysterious, communicable contaminant causing the crew to experience symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication, threatening the lives of all aboard the ship.
Maybe the show was trying to pull in resistant fans of TOS by basically bringing the original episode “The Naked Time” to TNG, but it doesn’t work. The situations and jokes get old quickly and the solution is so obvious from the get-go that no one’s surprised at the conclusion. After a solid start with “Encounter at Farpoint,” things are getting shaky early.
S1:E4 “Code of Honor”
Lt. Yar is abducted by the leader of a people who abide by a strict code of honor, which requires her participation in a fight to the death.
If things were shaky with “The Naked Now,” they took a nosedive with “Code of Honor,” which is not only an incredibly racist and sexist episode, it’s a very pedestrian story. The only good thing about this episode is that we get to see a bit more of Troi’s abilities and learn a bit more about Tasha Yar’s background.
Next time, I’ll try to catch up with Orangerful, who’s at least one episode ahead of me!
Photos: Orangerful, Mission Log Podcast, Dark Matter Zine, Memory Alpha