Though it had a rock solid foundation, with classic Trek’s TV series remaining perennially popular and the Trek movies – with the Spock Trilogy, starting with Star Trek II: The […]
Though it had a rock solid foundation, with classic Trek’s TV series remaining perennially popular and the Trek movies – with the Spock Trilogy, starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 – taking the saga to some very exciting places in the 80s (only falling flat at the end of the decade with the disastrous, Shatner-directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), I’ve found that Star Trek: The Next Generation still took quite a bit of time to find its feet.
The Next Generation was a really big deal when it launched in 1987; it was the first time we’d had new Star Trek on our screens since the late 60s (not counting the animated series of course, which I don’t recall ever seeing on TV in the UK). It’s easy to forget that now, with the large number of Star Trek shows in existence, with shows like Picard and Discovery keeping the brand going. Quite often the victim of being shifted around the BBC 2 schedule and seemingly shown erratically throughout its seven year run, I didn’t consistently get the chance to see TNG when it first aired; consequently, there’s an awful lot of the show that I’m unfamiliar with.
Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been catching up with the saga the right way – in order from Season One. It’s been interesting, to say the least. One thing’s clear from the start: there’s a lot of very interesting characters and an admirable level of diversity in personalities among the crew of the ‘new’ Enterprise – and I’m glad that a clear effort to make the crew very distinct from the original series characters is made. Characters such as Counselor Troi seem a little redundant at first – and Wesley Crusher is way more annoying than I remember him, though that’s the fault of the writers, rather than Wil Wheaton. I really warmed to Geordi La Forge pretty much instantly, though it took me some time to really enjoy watching Data (and Riker always seemed a little too horny for my liking during the first season). Worf makes for an unusually stoic presence on the bridge and beyond, with Michael Dorn being excellent as the Klingon officer (it must be said, the inclusion of Worf on the Enterprise really did raise eyebrows back in the day!). It almost goes without saying that Patrick Stewart absolutely nails Jean-Luc Picard, the inexplicably Gallic-named Englishman, from the moment he appears – he’s an appropriately commanding presence and elevates nearly every scene he’s in, regardless of how good or bad the writing is.
The very beige design of the Enterprise interior, with its almost recliner-style stations at the front of the bridge, was another aspect that struck me as a little odd upon rewatching, but it’s a home and workplace for thousands of families in this era; it does make sense that it’d be less utilitarian and more soft in terms of its design.
The episodes themselves are a real mixed bag in the first season; there’s only a few that I’d name as essential viewing and even then, they’re definitely not up to par with episodes in later seasons, when a more consistent level of quality was reached. John de Lancie’s excellent Q makes a great nemesis in the pilot – and, of course, this isn’t the last we see of him, even in Season One – and there’s an inexplicably gory, compelling episode near the end of the season (Conspiracy) which seems to set up a grand plot for further seasons (but which, oddly, is never revisited). Security officer Tasha Yar is killed in a terribly offhand, embarrassingly bad manner during the season and the eulogies delivered by other characters don’t seem to fit with what we saw of her – and her interactions with them – in some cases, which is a bit jarring.
There’s some frankly cringeworthy episodes, such as The Naked Now – in which the crew all get super horny – and the appallingly racist Code of Honor. Possibly worse than either of those (somehow!) is the episode in which young Wesley Crusher is sentenced to death for crushing (yep) some flowers.
Despite the variable quality, there’s enough decent material here to keep your interest – and it definitely helps to know that the seasons that followed really did improve upon these episodes – though the season that immediately followed the first most definitely had its issues (with Dr Crusher being replaced by the hugely unlikeable Dr Pulaski for one thing). That’s a story for another time though.
So Season One of TNG then: I found it a bit heavy-going at times, but the cast do settle into their roles quite quickly and despite some missteps, on balance it just about makes it as a worthwhile watch, particularly to lay the groundwork for later seasons.
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