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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THE EMMISARY: 2nd poker game, 2nd appearance of “Ensign Lisa Stemple,” 2nd appearance of Worf’s “calisthenics” program. This episode introduces K’Ehleyr. The next time we see her, she will bring her and Worf’s son, Alexander, conceived this episode.

PAIR WITH: “Friday’s Child” (the 2nd Klingon episode). NOTE: I used to think Friday’s child was “full of woe,” but that Wednesday’s child. Friday’s child is “loving and giving.”

Hence the name of Wednesday Addams.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

PAIR WITH: “Friday’s Child” (the 2nd Klingon episode). NOTE: I used to think Friday’s child was “full of woe,” but that Wednesday’s child. Friday’s child is “loving and giving.”

"Hence the name of Wednesday Addams."

Exactly.

PEAK PERFORMANCE: The A and B plots intertwine as the Starfleet strategist who comes aboard to conduct war games is also a master of the game stratagema. Pulaski has been softening all season, perhaps nowhere more evident than in this episode. Riker takes command of an inferior starship to use against the Enterprise when the Ferengi stumble upon the scene. Thought: Why not tell the Ferengi the truth?

I enjoyed the strategema sub-plot more than I did the war games sub-plot. When I wsas in high school, I played chess against my friend Jon and we were pretty evenly matched. I never had any formal training, but after college, my mentor taught me to play by points. Shortly after our fifth high school reunion (which I did not attend), I played a few games with Jon. He had an extrememly unorthodox way of playing. He would often sacrifice a rook (for example) in order to capture a bishop or a knight. That’s all well and good, but I needed those bishops and knights and wasn’t expecting him to capture them with a rook knowing he would lose that piece.

Finally, I asked him why he made moves like that. He said he finds the game too confusing with so many pieces on the board and engages in ritual sacrifice in order to clear the board so he would have fewer pieces to concentrate on! Theoretically, playing by points should have given me the advantage, but it really threw my game off. I know exactly how the Zakdorn strategist Kolrami felt when playing strategema against Data.

SHADES OF GRAY: Season two goes out on a low note with a clip show due (indirectly) with the writers' strike.

PAIR WITH: “A Private Little War”

EVOLUTION: Dr. Crusher returns to the Enterprise just in time for one of wesley’s experiments to cause the computer to malfunction.

I said I wasn’t sad to see Dr. Crusher leave at the end of season one. Nor was I sad to see Dr. Pulaski leave at the end of season two. Frankly, the show had not yet clicked with me, and I wasn’t personally vested in any of the characters. My sister’s favorite character, at the time, I remember, was Data. My brother, the one who had gotten me interested in Star Trek in the first place, didn’t even watch the show. I asked him why not, and he replied, “I don’t need to. I’ve seen the original.”

I didn’t understand that then, but I totally get it now.

PAIR WITH: the one in which the ship’s computer refers to Captain Kirk as “dear.”

Jeff of Earth-J said:

PAIR WITH: the one in which the ship’s computer refers to Captain Kirk as “dear.”

"Tomorrow is Yesterday", first aired on 26 January 1967.

When Next Generation started I was far from convinced. To me, Data was Spock, Riker was Kirk-light and Picard was Jacques Cousteau. Some of the derivative episodes didn't help. The Ferengi went against the original series standard of wealth losing significance. When I married in 1989 I began to appreciate it more because my wife really liked it.

"'Tomorrow is Yesterday', first aired on 26 January 1967."

Ah! Thanks.

THE ENSIGNS OF COMMAND: A lost colony needs to be evacuated when an alien race decides to exercise its treaty rights. Complicating the matter is the planet’s “hyperonic radiation,” to which the 15,000 colonists have adapted but wreaks havoc with the ship’s transporters. This episode is a little too contrived for my liking. It smacks of “writer’s fiat” (the transporters won’t work) and two-dimensional stock characters (the stubborn colony leader who is willing to sacrifice his people rather than compromise). Besides, the math for the evacuation doesn’t work. Given the number of shuttles available, working “24/7” (relatively speaking), the Enterprise should have been able to evacuate the colonists well within the time frame indicated. Furthermore, if the colonists could “adapt” to the radiation, I find it hard to believe a landing party or shuttlecraft pilots couldn’t protect themselves with radiation suits. I did like the colonist who developed romantic feelings toward Data, and the way Picard negotiated his way to an agreement by his interpretation of the treaty. The episode spotlighted Data and was good enough once they got to that point, but they had to jump through too many hoops to get there.

PAIR WITH: “This Side of Paradise” (I think I’ve used that one already, but the lost colony aspect and the similarity of “hyperonic radiation” and “Berthold rays” is too obvious to pass up.)

THE SURVIVORS: An alien life form falls in love with a human being.

PAIR WITH: “Metamorphosis”

WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS?: A Prime Directive episode in which the race under observation discovers their observers. It was Tracy who recognized guest star Kathryn Leigh Scott (of Dark Shadows fame)… by the sound of her voice. (She more often recognizes actors on TV by theirs voices than by their looks.) Even after I agreed that was definitely Kathryn Leigh Scott, I still didn’t recognize her by her face. Also, there is a father and daughter central to the plot. The father is the same actor who played Laura Palmer’s father on Twin Peaks.

PAIR WITH: “A Private Little War.” I know I recently paired “A Private Little War” with “Shades of Gray,” but that was a comparison of Kirk and Riker’s respective illnesses (in case you were wondering). It really pairs better with “Who Watches the Watchers?” (albeit no Klingons).

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