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.
THE BATTLE: The Ferengi present Picard with a gift: the Stargazer, the actual Constellation class starship (NCC-2893) which was his first command. The Stargazer is mentioned from time-to-time in TNG (and there have been some novels as well), but as far as I know, little if nothing has been revealed about the nine-year gap between the so-called “Battle of Maxia” and Picard taking command of the Enterprise. I am hoping The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard will shed some light on these years, but I'm saving it until I've re-watched all the episodes. This episode introduces “The Picard Maneuver” (which would come to refer to the way Patrick Stewart would adjust his costume).
I find it difficult to believe that people no longer suffer from headaches in the 24th century. When the Ferengi appear on the main screen they are no longer quite so HUGE. (Maybe it was set on “zoom” in “The Last Outpost.”) Now that Wesley has been promoted to acting ensign, he no longer wears those dopey sweaters. A better title might have been “Beware of Ferengi Bearing Gifts.”
PAIR WITH: Although Captain Kirk’s first command was never mentioned in canon, he was revealed to have served aboard the Farragut in “Obsession.”
HAVEN: The first appearance of Luxwana Troi.
PAIR WITH: I’m tempted to pair this one with “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (this being a Majel Barrett episode), but there’s a better match for that one later. The look of the thingy containing the jewels bears a superficial resemblance to Ambassador Kollos’ container in “Is There in truth No Beauty?” but I’m going to go with “The Empath.”
THE BIG GOODBYE: This episode furthers the attraction between Picard and Crusher. Their non-romance reminds me a bit of Captain Kirk and Janice Rand. In reality, Grace Lee Whitney was written out of the show because of theit mutual attraction, but The Autobiography of James T. Kirk links her transfer to the guilt Kirk feels for his “evil duplicate” having tried to rape her in “The Enemy within.”
PAIR WITH: The “obvious” choice would be “A Piece of the Action,” but I like “The Cage” and I’ll tell you why. In the end, the Talosians fear that Earthlings “would learn [their] power of illusion,” but how can a race “learn” telepathy? I think the Talosians were low-level telepaths, but their main power is holodeck technology (the machines left behind by their ancestors they had forgotten how to repair). When Pike was in his cage, he was really in a Talosian version of a holodeck.
DATALORE: That planet set looks right out of Lost in Space. This episode introduces Data’s “off switch” as well as his “brother” Lore. This is an important “Data” episode and lays the groundwork for later ones. Another “Wesley saves the ship” episode.
PAIR WITH: This is the one I’d pair with “What Are Little Girls Made of?”
Whoops. I just realized I skipped…
HIDE & Q: Q grants Commander Riker ultimate power. Another very “Roddenberry” episode. The second to feature Q, the only time we see him in his true form. Wesley is (temporarily) aged 10 years. (He doesn’t look anything like he does on the Big Bang Theory.) Speaking of “enhanced special effects” (as I was in an earlier post), I would like to see Wil Wheaton as he looks today digitally inserted into that scene. (Similarly, I thought James Doohan should have been digitally inserted into “The Deadly Years.”)
PAIR WITH: Tough one. Picard alone on the bridge is reminiscent of “The Mark of Gideon”; the landing party’s experience on the planet is reminiscent of “The Savage Curtain”; Q’s departure is reminiscent of “Charlie X.” Ultimately, Riker’s experience is most similar to Gary Mitchell’s, so my choice is “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Not so tough after all.
ANGEL ONE: A Federation ship (non-Star Fleet) crash-landed seven years ago on a planet run by women.
PAIR WITH: Any “Prime Directive” episode, really, but I’m going to go with “Spock Brain.” (“You are not Morg… you are not Imorg.”)
ST:TNG really didn't hit its stride until the third season, and also when it was less Roddenberry-influenced.
11001001: An alien race called the Binars is called upon to fix the problems with the holodeck which cropped up in “The Big Goodbye.” The Binars are organic, but are so closely linked with their planetary computer that they think and communicate in binary code. If it were up to me, I’d shorten the title to “111001” (my wedding anniversary). This episode introduces Riker’s holographic fantasy woman Minuet (which will become a plot point in an episode seasons to come). I think of this episode as “Blondes and Jazz Don’t Mix.” Riker plays the trombone (as did I, once upon a time). This episode introduces the game “Parisi Squares” but doesn’t show how it’s played. (It’s no Kosho.)
PAIR WITH: Because of the auto-destruct sequence, I pair this episode with “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield.”
"Destruct Sequence 1, Code 1, 1A."
"Destruct Sequence 2, Code 1, 1A, 2B."
"Destruct Sequence 3, Code 1B, 2B, 3."
"Destruct sequence completed and engaged. Awaiting final code for one-minute countdown."
"Code Zero Zero Zero Destruct Zero."
TOO SHORT A SEASON: Aged Admiral Mark Jameson overdoses on an alien de-aging drug.
PAIR WITH: “The Deadly Years” (TOS) or “The Counter-Clock Incident” (TAS)
WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS: An alien race kidnaps the children of the Enterprise.
PAIR WITH: “And the Children Shall Lead”
HOME SOIL: A Federation terraforming operation endangers the native, silicon-based lifeform.
PAIR WITH: “Devil in the Dark”
COMING OF AGE: While Wesley sweats his Starfleet Academy entrance exams (he fails), the Enterprise crew falls under investigation.
PAIR WITH: “Court Martial” (because it’s really Captain Picard who is under investigation… to determine his suitability to become commandant of Starfleet Acadamy… which he turns down.)