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.
I am a big fan of The Next Generation. I was in middle school when it came out, and it really hit me in the sweet spot. I have to admit, most of my friends were fans of the show, and I became a fan mostly to fit in with them. But in the process, it really rubbed off and became a pretty key part of me.
Most of the time when we watch an entire series, we don’t watch more than one episode (at most) per night because I don’t like to “burn through them,” but with seven seasons ahead (and possibly two other series), that not really an issue. While all of our regular shows are on mid-season hiatus, we’ve been watching two episodes of ST:TNG per night. That pace will undoubtedly slow down when our regular shows return.
ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT: On the way to pick up personnel and solve the mystery of Farpoint Station, the Enterprise encounters a nigh-omnipotent being who puts humanity on trial. Obviously the producers wanted a captain who was clearly different from Captain Kirk. I applauded that decision and I like Picard immediately. However, when he surrendered his ship virtually right out of space dock, it took three season for him to recover in my eyes. Riker was much like Kirk, but I thought his relationship with Troi was closer to that of Decker and Ilia from the TMP and the never-realized Star Trek II television show.
The look of the show is very 1960s, but the special effects are far superior. I love TOS on DVD with enhanced special effects. There are some TNG episodes with enhance SFX as well, but I don’t think the show needs them.
PAIR WITH: “The Tholian Web” or “The Squire of Gothos”
THE NAKED NOW: Obviously patterned on TOS episode “The Naked Time,” this was a good way for the writers to show what makes each of the new crew members tick. In this episode we meet the first of a series of chief engineers who would rotate throughout season one. This is also the first of the “Wesley saves the ship” episodes.
PAIR WITH: “The Naked Time” (Duh.)
CODE OF HONOR: A diplomatic mission goes awry when the alien leader takes a shine to Tasha Yar. It seems to me that the Enterprise crew always bends over backwards to accommodate alien cultures, but they rarely receive the same consideration. Diplomacy is a two-way street (or should be). Yar ends up fighting a “dual to the death” with the leader’s head wife.
PAIR WITH: “Elaan of Troilus” or “Amok Time”
They modified Deanna Troi's look after the first episode with a better outfit but a worse hairdo. I think that they were trying to make her more serious after blubbering throughout the pilot. Thankfully they toned down her empathic powers so she didn't experience the emotions, only recognized them.
Riker, to me, never really was that interesting. He wasn't even in Next Gen's "Big 3" in terms of storylines. That went to Picard, Data and Worf eventually.
They introduced Picard's attraction to Beverly Crusher then dropped it (and her) next season.
THE LAST OUTPOST: The first Ferengi episode. I think the producers were trying for the new Klingons, but the Ferengi came off more comical. I have no idea why the Ferengi appeared so HUGE on the Enterprise viewscreen. It took a while before their appearance was revealed to build suspense.
PAIR WITH: “The Corbomite Maneuver”
WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE: A smarmy engineer comes about with a bogus formula to boost the ship’s engines, but the real genius is his assistant, and alien who will come to be known as the Traveler. Something goes wrong and the Enterprise is at first shunted out of the galaxy, then out of our reality. The Traveler sees great potential in Wesley, and will go on to appear in two or three more episodes. This is another “Wesley saves the ship” episode.
PAIR WITH: “Where No Man Has Gone Before” or “The Ultimate Computer”
I assumed that was the Ferengis' own doing, making them look big as an attempt at intimidation.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
I have no idea why the Ferengi appeared so HUGE on the Enterprise viewscreen. It took a while before their appearance was revealed to build suspense.
PAIR WITH: “The Corbomite Maneuver”
The initial body language of the Ferengi ensured that they would never be taken seriously!
When the Ferengis debuted two things occurred to me:
1) Their interest in monetary wealth counter-pointed the established STOS bit about money no longer being used
2) Their greed mirrored the then-current "greed is good" mindset
I have been offline for almost a week and find myself with some catching up to do. It strikes me that, if ST:TNG had been cancelled after a mere three seasons (as TOS series was), it would have been little more than a curiosity, such as TAS. I doubt it would have developed anything like a cult following due to the first three seasons alone. Having said that, I find myself enjoying these episodes more now than I did when they were first aired. That's partially due to me anticipating an episode I was immediately enthusiastic about. Now that I know that’s two seasons off, I can sit back and enjoy these episodes for what they are.
Something else strikes me about the episode titles. I didn’t find most of them particularly compelling the first time around. For TOS, describe any episode and I can immediately tell you the title (which I’m sure many of us can); alternately, give me any title and I can describe the episode (ditto). Initially, I didn’t find many of TNG episode titles to be particularly memorable (I often invented “better” ones of my own), but I find myself more familiar with them now.
I love TOS episodes with enhanced special effects. I think there are some TNG episodes like that as well, but I find I’m not really interested in seeing them.
Now to blow through the episodes I’ve seen in the past week.
LONELY AMONG US: A better (more evocative) title for this episode would have been “Parliament” (or “Journey to Parliament”). I was never a big fan of Wil Wheaton until he played a fictional version of himself on The Big Bang Theory. This episode features the third chief engineer we’ve seen so far. Funny that such an integral role wasn’t solidified until season two.
PAIR WITH: “Journey to Babel”
JUSTICE: A landing party beams to a planet to judge its suitability for shore leave. Wesley ends up breaking some arbitrary law and is sentenced to death. This is a very “Roddenberry” episode, featuring scantily clad women (and men) and lots of sex. A better (if derivative) title for this episode would have been “Shore Leave.”
PAIR WITH: “Shore Leave”