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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HEART OF GLORY: The first episode to focus on the Klingons. Although this aired long before Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, when a whole load of Klingons died in that movie, not one of them gave the ritual shout established in this episode. Details of Worf’s background are revealed.

PAIR WITH: “Errand of Mercy”

ARESENAL OF FREEDOM: A civilization which traded on war was wiped out by its own weapons, which continue on automatic to threaten the ship. This is the closest thing to a “Geordi episode” episode one has. Given the latest in the string of rotating chief engineers, it no wonder we didn’t see this one (and his bad attitude) back again.

PAIR WITH: “Doomsday Machine”

SYMBIOSIS: A planet of drug dealers exploits a planet of addicts. One scene plays exactly like a heavy-handed anti-drug PSA. Picard’s hands are largely tied because of his interpretation of the Prime directive.

PAIR WITH: “A Taste of Armageddon”

Yeah, there were continuity goofs between ST:TNG and the movies.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

HEART OF GLORY: The first episode to focus on the Klingons. Although this aired long before Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, when a whole load of Klingons died in that movie, not one of them gave the ritual shout established in this episode. Details of Worf’s background are revealed.

PAIR WITH: “Errand of Mercy”

SKIN OF EVIL: Tasha Yar is killed. This episode is not a fan favorite, but it is a favorite of mine, and I’ll tell you why. Too often on TOS is a “redshirt” killed with no real emotional impact. Yar wasn’t a favorite character of mine and I wasn’t particularly sad to see her go, but I did get to know her over the course of the first season, and for that reason I was moved. Her shirt may not have been red, but by extension, her death gives meaning to the deaths of the redshirts of TOS.

PAIR WITH: Any episode in which a redshirt dies in the first five minutes.

Skin of Evil was the first Next Generation episode that had an impact on me. Up to that point it seemed as if the series was simply treading water, relying on us die hard fans to stick with them irregardless.

The writer credit on the episode was to Josef Stefano, producer/writer for The Outer Limits, the story felt like he may have re-worked an old Outer Limits plot.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

SKIN OF EVIL: Tasha Yar is killed. This episode is not a fan favorite, but it is a favorite of mine, and I’ll tell you why. Too often on TOS is a “redshirt” killed with no real emotional impact. Yar wasn’t a favorite character of mine and I wasn’t particularly sad to see her go, but I did get to know her over the course of the first season, and for that reason I was moved. Her shirt may not have been red, but by extension, her death gives meaning to the deaths of the redshirts of TOS.

PAIR WITH: Any episode in which a redshirt dies in the first five minutes.

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS: Michelle Phillips guest-stars as Picard’s old flame. (I think of this episode as “California Dreamin’.”)

PAIR WITH: Casablanca

CONSPIRACY: This episode revisits the behind-the-scenes going on hinted at in “Coming of Age”. A race of neural parasites, like the ones in Star Trek II: The wrath of Khan, but sentient, have infiltrated Star Fleet. They are defeated when Riker and Picard destroy the queen, but a “come ‘n’ get it” message is sent to their home system. The plot thread is never followed up on, perhaps because of the 1988 writer’s strike.

PAIR WITH: “The Man Trap” (a.k.a. “The Unreal McCoy”)… because in both episodes the Enterprise crew finds that “new life” they’ve been seeking… and kills it.

For me, "Conspiracy" is when ST:TNG first began to show its potential.   I think the parasites in this lost their jobs to the Borg.

Probably. The Ferengi certainly did.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE: A cryogenic sleeper ship from the late 20th century is discovered just as the Romulans have crossed the Neutral Zone for the first time in 70 years. Both the Federation and the Romulan Empire have lost colonies along the Neutral Zone. The culprits were intended to be the Borg, but the writer’s strike put off their official introduction until well into the second season.

PAIR WITH: “Balance of Terror” (A plot) or “Space Seed” (B plot).

Another old favorite of mine.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Probably. The Ferengi certainly did.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE: A cryogenic sleeper ship from the late 20th century is discovered just as the Romulans have crossed the Neutral Zone for the first time in 70 years. Both the Federation and the Romulan Empire have lost colonies along the Neutral Zone. The culprits were intended to be the Borg, but the writer’s strike put off their official introduction until well into the second season.

PAIR WITH: “Balance of Terror” (A plot) or “Space Seed” (B plot).

FIRST SEASON REVIEW: 26 episodes (counting “Encounter at Farpoint” as two). Now that’s a season… not like these anemic “seasons” of half that (or fewer) with a “mid-season hiatus” in the middle like they have today. I spent the whole time in 1987-88 waiting in vain for what I would immediately know was a favorite. That wouldn’t come until mid-way through the third season, but season one did have a number of highlights. Almost every main character had an episode distinctly “his” or “hers.” For example…

Picard: “The Battle”

Data: “Datalore”

Worf: “Heart of Glory”

Tasha: “Skin of Evil”

Wesley: “Where No One Has Gone Before” (actually, Wesley had a lot of them, but this one more so than others)

Troi: “Haven” (well, more of a Luxwana Troi episode than Deanna)

Riker and Beverly and Geordi didn’t really have one (unless you count the “Minuet” one for Riker). Geordi comes into his own next season, but Dr. Crusher not until season three (for reasons I will discuss tomorrow if you don’t know already). Those episodes I mentioned above weren’t even the best, necessarily; they just set up elements for sequels to come. We’ve also already seen the first of several appearances of Picard’s “Dixon Hill” character, and of course the first two “Q” episodes.

It only gets better from here.

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