I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation over the weekend. By the time the show premiered in 1987, I had already been anticipating it for at least 10 years, ever since the rumors of a Star Trek II TV series (which eventually became Star Trek: the Motion Picture started. It didn’t grab me right off the bat. Far from it. I kept waiting for that one episode I would recognize from the first time I saw it my all-time favorite. I would wait until the third season until there was even a candidate. As a matter of opinion, ST:TNG didn’t “grow balls” until season four when Captain Piracrd was transformed into Locutus of the Borg.

Those first three seasons still had an effect on me. I was out of college by the time the show began. Little did I know, my future wife was in high at the time watching them, too. I’ve seen most of them several times, but I doubt I’ve watched them at all since the mid-90s. I don’t think Tracy has, either. I know for a fact neither of us has watched them since we’ve been married, and that’s been over 17 years. So now we’re committed to watching them then some 30 years after they first aired (which strikes me as odd because the show had been off the air “only” some 20 years when ST;TNG debuted.) Those first 20 seemed a lot longer to me at the time than the last 30 seems to me now.

One thing I was aware of at the time is the number of fans who complained that ST:TNG was “ripping off” TOS. Some stories bore certain similarities, to be sure, but I didn’t consider them to be rip-offs even then. I do remember that, for most episodes, I could pick an original series episode to be “paired with.” I’ll try to make note of those as I go along.

I initially wasn’t going to start a thread for this project but I changed my mind. I’m not going to do plot synopses, however. I expect anyone following this discussion will either a) watch along with me, or b) be familiar enough with the episodes to follow along on his own. Besides, synopses are readily available online. I will be watching the episodes in broadcast (rather than production) order. I’ll start tomorrow.

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As is common with television shows transitioning from a first to a second season, there were several notable changes from the first. Among them…

Returning Characters:

Riker: Now sports a beard. (Jonathan Frakes grew on between seasons, the producers liked it and decided to keep it.)

Geordi: Promoted to chief engineer; new gold uniform.

Dr. Crusher: Reassigned to Starfleet Medical.

Worf: New gold uniform as head of security.

Wesley Crusher: New acting ensign uniform.

Tasha: Dead.

New Characters:

Dr. Pulaski: TOS veteran Diana Muldar replaces Dr. Crusher as chief medical officer. I didn’t know it until we watched the first episode together last night, but Tracy has a strong dislike for this character. At the time, I was pleased with the change. I liked Gates Mcfadden, but I didn’t Have strong feeling about her leaving. For me, her character moving on to further her career was a realistic touch. Crusher’s possible romantic feelings for the captain weren’t fully explored, but her “mother-henning” of Wesley was becoming tiresome. And her departure gave Wesley at least the opportunity to grow. Plus I was pleased to welcome a Star Trek alumnus to the cast. I can kind of see Tracy’s point, though, especially in this first episode and especially as she relates to Data.

Miles O’Brien: Returning from a couple of episodes in season one (including “Encounter at Far Point”) is Colm Meany as the as-yet-unnamed transporter chief. He would go on, of course, to co-star in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Guinan: Perhaps the most important new character is Whoopi Goldberg as the hostess of the “Ten Forward” lounge (a new set for the second season).

Now let’s take a look at the first episode of the second season.

THE CHILD: Deana Troi becomes impregnated by an alien lifeform which gestates to term in about two days. when the child is born, it grows at a rapid rate. This episode is an example of how the Writer’s Guild strike affected the series. The script was adapted from an already-written episode of the planned TV spin-off series Star Trek II (or Star Trek: Phase II), except the mother would have been Ilia. One thing I didn’t pay particular notice to when watching this episode for the first time but am aware of now is how all the male members of the bridge crew (plus Dr. Pulaski) discuss Deana’s options for aborting the fetus or letting it come to term without even consulting her.

Plus ca change, eh?

PAIR WITH: Avengers #200

I never liked Dr.Pulaski, either.

Me either.

The Baron said:

I never liked Dr.Pulaski, either.

I used to, but in “Where Silence Has Lease” she referred to Data as “it”… in his presence.

WHERE SILENCE HAS LEASE: In a section of space in which the rules of physics don’t seem to apply, a powerful being subjects the Enterprise and her crew to s series of experiments, like rats in a lab. When Data reports readings that make no sense, Pulaski bluntly asks, “Does it know what it’s doing?” I remembered her calling him Dah-ta at first rather than Data, but I had forgotten this. I’m thinking a softening of attitude toward Data is part of her character arc.

PAIR WITH: “The Immunity Syndrome” (because they’re both “bottle” episodes with another starship involved).

ELEMENTARY, DEAR DATA: In a follow-up to “onley Among Us,” data explores in interest in Sherlock Holmes. Under direction from Geordi, the holodeck computer creates a truly dangerous Moriarty, one worthy of Data’s abilities. The ending is rather weak due to last minute rewriting in order to be Moriarty back at some future date (“Ship in a Bottle”). Otherwise, a decent epiusode featuring the holodeck when it was shiny and new.

PAIR WITH: I’m tempted to say “Mad About You” because Anne Ramsey (who plays Jamie’s sister, Lisa Stemple) appears, but really this episode would pair well with an TOS episode in which Kirk and crew visit a society based on Old Earth (“A Piece of the Action,” “Patterns of Force,” “Bread and circuses,” etc.)

THE OUTRAGEOUS OKONA: It seems the showrunners were trying to introduce a “Harry Mudd” type, but the character was never brought back. Joe Piscopo appears as a holodeck comedian as Data explores human humor.

PAIR WITH: “I, Mudd.”

LOUD AS A WHISPER: A deaf mediator has to handle negotiations on his own when the trio of telepaths who act as his “chorus” are killed.

PAIR WITH: “Is there in Truth No Beauty?” I’ve been waiting for a good Dr. Pulaski episode to pair Diana Muldar’s two TOS episodes with. This isn’t necessarily it (although it is, perhaps, the best Pulaski episode so far), but the urge to pair the episodes featuring disabled diplomats was to strong to resist.

THE SCHIZOID MAN: A cybernetic expert (who insistes Data call him “grandpa” on the basis that he knew Data’s creator, Noonian Soong) puts his own consciousness in Data’s body. The Vulcan Doctor seen in this episode is played by Suzie Plakson, who would go on to play Ambassador K’Ehlar in later episodes. (She, too, had a recurring role in Mad About You.)

PAIR WITH: It is so tempting to pair this with "Return to Tomorrow" (Diana Muldar’s other TOS episode), but I think "Requiem for Methuselah" is a better fit. (Actually, either one would do.) Just for fun: pair it with “The Schizoid Man” episode of The Prisoner.

UNNATURAL SELECTION: A group of genetically enhanced children release an “aging virus” on all who come in contact with them. Dr. Pulaski is infected, but the effects are reversed by the transporter’s “buffer” and a sample of her original DNA. This is the first episode in which the transporter chief gets a name (O’Brien). Ironically, it is the first one in which Colm Meany has appeared in which his name if left off the end credits.

PAIR WITH: “The Deadly Years” (obviously).

A MATTER OF HONOR: Riker’s loyalty is put to the test as he serves aboard a Klingon ship as part of an officer exchange program. The “B” plot sees a Benzite ensign (as seen on “Coming of Age”) trying to fit in with the Enterprise.

PAIR WITH: “Day of the Dove.” “Day of the Dove” is a third season TOS episode, not the last, but it should have been. It’s forward-looking and presages the Klingon/Federation alliance in the 24th century. It would have been a much better episode to go out on than “Turnabout Intruder.”

THE MEASURE OF A MAN: Data’s rights as a sentient being are called into question as Starfleet rules he is “property” and demands he be transferred for experimentation, with no guarantee whatsoever that the process will be reversible. The judge is the case is the same prosecutor who court-martialed Picard after the loss of the Stargazer. (I am very much looking forward to reading The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard when I finish re-watching these episodes.) After Riker, acting as prosecutor, flips Data’s “off switch,” it takes Guinan (during a recess) to point out to Picard that Starfleet’s attitude toward Data is tantamount to slavery. This is a very good episode. I don’t know why it doesn’t stand out in my recollection as that “immediate favorite” I had been looking for.

PAIR WITH: “Court Martial.” (That’s a “gimmee.”)

This one was another favorite of mine.
Jeff of Earth-J said:

A MATTER OF HONOR: Riker’s loyalty is put to the test as he serves aboard a Klingon ship as part of an officer exchange program. The “B” plot sees a Benzite ensign (as seen on “Coming of Age”) trying to fit in with the Enterprise.

PAIR WITH: “Day of the Dove.” “Day of the Dove” is a third season TOS episode, not the last, but it should have been. It’s forward-looking and presages the Klingon/Federation alliance in the 24th century. It would have been a much better episode to go out on than “Turnabout Intruder.”

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