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The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old February 13 2011, 12:47 AM   #1
Warped9
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Revisiting ST-TNG...

Around here I'm generally known as a TOS only fan to the point I think it's widely believed that for me Star Trek begins and ends with the original series.

There is some truth to that in that TOS is the only series I like as a whole, warts and all. That said there is Star Trek that I have liked beyond the original series---for my tastes there just wasn't enough of it.

And so recently I've just picked the first two season sets of TNG and intend to revisit this show that I haven't really watched in a very long time, easily at least seventeen years.

Back in 1986 when I first heard rumors and read the first snippets (in Starlog magazine as well as the entertainment section of the daily paper) regarding what would become The Next Generation I was intensely curious as well as anxious. How could Star Trek be done without the established original crew? Are they gonna ruin it or, heaven forbid, could it actually be better?

When I first saw the pilot "Encounter At Farpoint" I certainly wasn't impressed. I thought it very awkwardly executed, the acting all over the map and I hated the new look Enterprise. I was assured they'd blown it... Yet periodically I'd catch an occasional episode and once in awhile I'd note some measure of improvement. Essentially despite so many things that didn't seem to work I was seeing something of appeal in the new show.

At the time I was highly critical of this new interpretation of Star Trek, but some years later in retrospect, although I still think it was inexcusably mishandled and unpolished in the early stages, I reasoned that the gamble was a smart and laudable one. It really was the only way to inject new vigor into the franchise without recasting the original crew with new actors, something that at the time I highly doubt anyone would have accepted with any measure of ease.

Now I've been, and remain, highly critical of much of what has followed in Trek's name since, but in retrospect I feel less animosity than I once did for those early years of this then new Star Trek. And so within the next day or so I'll begin revisiting those episodes (mercifully without tiresome commercial breaks) and sharing my impressions.

I'd like to note that in 1987 while I was somewhat trying to ignore the new series I also happened to read some of the new novels based on the show. Oddly at the time I found myself thinking that the show would be better if it were more like the novels. Of course part of that was due to me reading the characters' lines and seeing it unfold in my imagination as opposed to watching the actors struggle with their delivery.
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Old February 13 2011, 01:12 AM   #2
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

To this day I absolutely love seasons one and two. It's the following seasons and the spin-offs that I've lost interest in.
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Old February 13 2011, 01:59 AM   #3
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

For me it was during Season 4 that I begin to drift away. During Season 5 I was gone.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. It could prove an interesting experience revisiting these episodes in light of knowing what would come later.
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Old February 13 2011, 02:30 AM   #4
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

It should be an interesting ride - Trek series often are. I was a TOS fan from the original NBC run and was skeptical about TNG at first too. However, it was still STAR TREK in some form, and only cost me *time* to watch it each week.

I found much that I liked and much that I didn't in those early seasons, but felt the show really hit its stride in seasons 3, 4, and 5. After that it was hit or miss again, but at least the characters had gelled by then and we knew what to expect, so even if the stories were weak, there was at least a familiarity with these people.

We're currently somewhere in the middle of Season 4 of TNG as we play them back. This is probably the third full time through the DVD sets. We've also done DEEP SPACE NINE twice through on DVD (once on original run), and VOYAGER once through on DVD (once on original run).

Both DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER were revelations as we watched them. Without commercials and in more rapid succession, the series both flowed better, and since we were concentrating on just one series at a time, there was less of the duality we experienced when the shows were on concurrently. I think two "Treks" a week was a bit much, and with breaks for reruns, it altered the flow.

With a break of three or four weeks on say DEEP SPACE NINE while VOYAGER was running new episodes, you kind of lost your place on what was going on with the Dominion War while you were concentrating on the holographic doctor and spatial anomalies in the Delta Quadrant.

Now, with DVDs, we can schedule them at our own pace - sometimes a couple a day, usually one, and they all flow better.

So, enjoy the experience of immersing yourself into the Next Generation. Stick with it when it seems hopeless - it gets better, sometimes very quickly.

Harry
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Old February 13 2011, 02:31 AM   #5
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

As far as TNG goes, I still find that Seasons 1 - 3 and the first half of Season 4 are the best for me, even early Season 1. It just comes together better for me: Ron Jones' impressive scores, the sense of adventure, the stylized original uniforms, the plotting, etc.

There are some good episodes in the later seasons of TNG, but not nearly as many as the first 3.

As for the spin-offs, I still love Voyager and Enterprise, and DS9's not bad (especially the first 3 seasons, again), but DS9 is my least favorite.
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Old February 13 2011, 07:45 AM   #6
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

"Encounter At Farpoint" **

Candidly this pilot episode is fairly representative of the first season as I remember it. It varies from moderately competent to clumsy throughout.

I rather liked the initial introduction of Picard touring his new command. I'm also reminded of preferring the set lighting of the Enterprise interiors to that of later seasons. I also like the new uniforms although they needed to be made of better fabric. The design strikes me as a reasonable evolution of the TOS and TMP uniforms.

Indeed the entire look of the show evokes for me a sense of the Trek universe evolved from TMP and much in the vein of what had been initially planned for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II series. There's the obvious notion repeated that this take on humanity is supposed to be more evolved than even what we saw in TOS. And then there's the unmistakable familiarity of the Riker/Troi relationship harkening back to what had been intended for Decker and Ilia a decade earlier. One idea that's inferred, but then abandoned later in the series is that this Enterprise has families aboard because it was expected to be on a 10-20 year voyage. I think this was an interesting concept that supported the notion of having families aboard, but abandoning the idea left no decent rationalization for the families any more.

I'm still not crazy about the design of the 1701D although I've gotten used to it. Some shots of it are rather nice and show it off reasonably well while other angles make it look ungainly.

The show overall certainly looks somewhat more polished than what had come before, but that's a given being produced twenty years later.

On the whole I liked Stewart's portrayal of Picard. Mind you this isn't the Picard we will get to know later. This Picard is a little more hard edged and I liked it. Unfortunately I don't think the story and how Picard was written showed him in the best light, particularly in terms of introducing the character. There were times he seems out of his depth in comparison to what we remember of Kirk and how he dealt with similar situations.

The performance of the rest of the cast varied from okay to cringe inducing. Each of the cast had moments of clumsy dialogue where often a facial expression would have sufficed better. I think Patrick Stewart did better than the rest in general, but even he had some awkward moments.

The worst of the cast were Denise Crosby and Marina Sirtis. They struck me as too earnest and trying too hard which also is partly the fault of the director. They really needed to scale back many of their reactions. Tasha Yar as portrayed simply wasn't convincing as a Security Chief with the appropriate temperament, training and experience. She came off as little better than a recruit who was out of her depth. And I found Deanna Troi's presence simply embarrassing to watch.

As a pilot episode it does introduce many of the series new ideas. And indeed I think they tried introducing too much in the beginning. And I think a large part of the flaw is due to this being two separate stories being clumsily meshed into one larger story. I think they would have done better keeping to the initial approach of having a one hour episode as the pilot and that story would have focused on the Farpoint mystery angel. The Q judging humanity story could easily have been an entirely separate episode and I think each would have been better for it although I found that story too contrived.

Either story, while not wholly new in idea, would have worked on its own, but preferably with a proper rewrite to iron out the clumsy moments. And the characters' dialogue needed serious rewriting.

Essentially the whole episode comes across as too earnest, trying too hard and not knowing when to tone it down. This certainly includes the music which at times I found jarring and rather cheesy.

As a pilot episode this is an okay start...certainly in light of not knowing then that it would be quite some time until the series gets its stride.
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Old February 13 2011, 11:00 AM   #7
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

Even though I like the series quite a bit, and really enjoy the characters, it's always a slog to get through the first two seasons. The second season is a bit of an improvement, but things don't start getting good with any consistency until the third season.

Was the idea of the ship on a 10-20 year long-term mission ever portrayed on screen, or is that just an idea that was in the writer's bible but never quite made it (besides the families already mentioned)?
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Old February 13 2011, 03:54 PM   #8
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
As a pilot episode it does introduce many of the series new ideas. And indeed I think they tried introducing too much in the beginning. And I think a large part of the flaw is due to this being two separate stories being clumsily meshed into one larger story. I think they would have done better keeping to the initial approach of having a one hour episode as the pilot and that story would have focused on the Farpoint mystery angel. The Q judging humanity story could easily have been an entirely separate episode and I think each would have been better for it although I found that story too contrived.

Either story, while not wholly new in idea, would have worked on its own, but preferably with a proper rewrite to iron out the clumsy moments. And the characters' dialogue needed serious rewriting.
IIRC, the Q angle was shoehorned in at quite a late stage when a decision was made to make the pilot a double-length/"feature" rather than a regular episode long. I also think that the stories could have been done better separately. The Farpoint mission would have been a good opener, and a (differently done) Q episode could have followed up in the second episode, instead of the derivative Naked Now.
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Old February 13 2011, 04:13 PM   #9
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

^^ That is affirmed in the special features of the 1st season set. GR and company had planned on a one hour pilot and TPTB later insisted on a two hour pilot. Eventually GR gave in and gave them what they wanted.

I have no real criticism of John Q. DeLancie's performance, but the story itself doesn't really work for me. IT certainly echoes TOS' "The Squire Of Gothos," but in that story Trelane had some sort of motivation: he was a spoiled brat who had done his historical studies poorly. Q is evidently mischievous, but we never get a handle on his motivations. If the Q exist on an entirely different plane then how can they even be bothered with what humanity is doing. And if they think humans are a grievously savage race then why aren't they also bothering the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians and so many others? The whole thing is so obviously shoehorned in where it doesn't belong.

Harvey wrote: View Post
Was the idea of the ship on a 10-20 year long-term mission ever portrayed on screen, or is that just an idea that was in the writer's bible but never quite made it (besides the families already mentioned)?
I recall reading about this a number of times before the series debuted and the idea is given weight by a couple of references Picard makes to "a long voyage ahead of us" during the episode.

What ultimately hurts the episode is lack of polish, or more specifically lack of subtlety. I'm quite sure if this had been done a season or two later it would have come off much better. It must be said, though, that this episode was practically devoid of technobabble which I found very refreshing.

I do have a question if anyone knows: are the episodes on the discs in broadcast order, production order or what?
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Old February 13 2011, 08:06 PM   #10
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
I do have a question if anyone knows: are the episodes on the discs in broadcast order, production order or what?
Broadcast order.

The production order numbers are listed on screen next to the ep title (in case you're curious; plus it lets you see which were produced out of broadcast sequence) but the episodes are listed in broadcast order.

The reasons for Q not bugging the Klinks, Rommies, etc were implied in a later ep (maybe the Riker one later in S1; I can't remember) when Q hints that there's something special about humanity and their strong sense of curiosity compared to the other races in particular. It's not made explicit as being a reason for not testing the other races, but it sort of works as an "in-universe" reason.
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Old February 13 2011, 08:08 PM   #11
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
I do have a question if anyone knows: are the episodes on the discs in broadcast order, production order or what?
I'm 99% certain it's broadcast order.

(Best example for proving this is that Skin of Evil, where Yar dies, was filmed BEFORE Symbiosis, where Yar is still alive. In fact, her last scene filmed in Symbiosis, in the background you can see her waving goodbye to the audience)
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Old February 13 2011, 08:11 PM   #12
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

I should mention I plan to watch these in production order to have a better sense of progression. Although, perhaps I should reverse the order of watching "Skin Of Evil" and "Symbiosis" to maintain a better sense of continuity.

"The Naked Now" **

This episode starts out well enough, but then it quickly slides downhill.

For me the tipping point is when Tasha begins to act wonky and then all the cast start playing their infected selves over-the-top. Again no nuance, no subtlety. Of course, it doesn't help that this is essentially a remake of TOS' "The Naked Time," an episode of far superior quality in terms of execution. I can't imagine how anyone thought this new version was worth doing when they couldn't bring anything fresh to the story.

Another thing I'm noting that I neglected to mention previously. Although f/x standards had certainly improved since the '60s. I actually find many of the space sequences looking almost cartoony. Colours are too intense for one thing. And this is even knowing that we're seeing model work and no cgi whatsoever. I must say I don't mind the stretching warp effect, though. I also don't care for the excessive blue and red glow about the ship's warp nacelles. The ship's tractor beam also looked silly.

Oh, and if the TMP Enterprise is criticized for seeming too sterile grey then an equally valid case can be made that the 1701D's interior often comes across as too beige.
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Old February 14 2011, 01:53 AM   #13
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

"Code Of Honor" *

Ouch! Okay the opening shot of the ship approaching the planet was kinda nice as was subsequent orbital shots. But this episode was just plain comical, or would have been if not so cringe inducing.

I couldn't help but see a TOS era story buried in here...only I also couldn't help but think TOS would have done it better. It really was embarrassing to see Picard having to suck up to this society, but then it really wasn't different in principle from Kirk having to do the same in "Friday's Child." But "Friday's Child" was fun and done with some measure of deftness. This was just painful.

Part of the problem stems from me being unable to accept Denise Crosby in her role. She doesn't look the part and she (at this point) just can't play the part. Everything about this was just plain brutal... Okay, you can't help but smirk when Lutan yells, "No vaccine!" Anyway, I thought the opening scene of Yar dumping the guy on the floor was over-the-top and just plain showing off to no point.

Now if TOS had been just a little bit more daring with its secondary characters I could easily have seen Uhura in Yar's situation and then Kirk playing for time to get her back. And it could have been cool seeing Uhura kicking some alien chick's ass.

Another problem as I see it was the depiction of the Ligonian society. By all outward appearances this is a primitive society and yet they have transporter technology as well as energy fields and inferred limited space flight. The Prime Directive is invoked so that Picard can't interfere in their society. BUT this isn't a society of backwards that has no knowledge of other worlds and other life forms and they just committed an unfriendly act by kidnapping a Federation citizen and Starfleet officer. The only real reason Picard doesn't just snatch Yar back (which he should quite easily be able to do) is because the Ligonians has some rare drug the Federation needs. This scenario might have been more convincing if it had been executed more deftly with some polish. As is it's just embarrassing to watch. All I can say is that the Ligonians are lucky they didn't try this with the Klingons since they're not hampered by a non-interference directive.

It's rather disheartening at this point that the series pilot was mediocre and then so far has slipped downward from there. Fortunately I know that in fits-and-starts it will slowly get better.
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Old February 14 2011, 06:46 AM   #14
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

"Haven" ***

Deanna Troi meets the man she's supposed to marry while the Enterprise has to deal with a plague ship.

I have mixed feelings about this episode, but ultimately I have to say it's okay. For one thing we begin to see some long overdue nuance in the performances with none of the cast being embarrassing to watch. That said Majel Barrett as Llwaxana Troi was a mixture of annoying and amusing in equal measure. Indeed I found the humour in this feeling more natural and not so forced as if trying too hard to be funny---I found myself smirking in the right places. I will say that it struck me as unseemly to see Riker sulking so obviously for something (or someone) he initially walked away from. And although this is nitpicking I found Tasha's hairstyle at the prenuptial dinner to be rather silly looking and so obviously '80s.

This wasn't a bad story and another bonus of no technobabble. What got me is that while I still don't like the Deanna Troi character and much of this episode involved her I still found it tolerable.

The space shots look better as if they're getting a better handle on how to do them, but once again the visible tractor beam looks ridiculously cartoony.

Overall this episode is a distinct step up in execution over everything that's preceded it.
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Old February 14 2011, 06:57 AM   #15
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Re: Revisiting ST-TNG...

One thing about "Code of Honor" really bothered me: Picard ordered a spread of photon torpedoes to be detonated 1,000 meters above the planet's surface. At that altitude, the torpedoes would've nuked the planet. That struck me as one of TNG Year 1's "Space: 1999" moments, if you know what I mean.
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