Is it just me, or do half of the TNG main characters lack any definite personality traits?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by eschaton, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As an opening statement, let me say that I literally grew up on TNG. I'm just old enough (40) to have watched some TOS/TAS in my childhood before TNG premiered, but I absolutely remember the excitement of watching Encounter at Farpoint at an eight-year old, and stayed with the series all the way to the end. DS9 eventually surpassed it as my favorite, but it still holds a warm place in my heart as a series overall.

    Nonetheless, a few years back I rewatched all of the show, and one thing really stood out to me - that the majority of the characters - even ones I loved as a child - didn't really have any definable personalities. I would say Picard, Data, and Worf absolutely do, but the rest...I'm just at a loss.

    I mean, partially due to the touch of Michael Piller, we do get lots of little character quirks which are referred to over time. Things like Riker playing the trombone, Troi loving chocolate, Worf and prune juice, etc. But those little character moments aren't the same thing as characterization.

    Going through the non Picard/Data/Worf characters:

    Riker: Starts out a horndog that will screw anything. Ends up getting somewhat "domesticated" over the course of the show, which is something of an arc. But we never really get much insight into who he is as a person.

    Geordi: Basically his only definable trait beyond his blindness and his work is that he's horrible with women.

    Beverly: Has no personality, or at least no consistent one. She's only really defined by her work and her relationships with her son and Jean Luc.

    Troi: Similar to Beverly, there's not really much you can point to with her that is consistent in her character. Her role on the ship and her "superpowers" are somewhat less mutable I suppose, but that's not the same thing as a character.

    Note in all cases, I think the actors did a fine job with the portrayals - which resulted in a lot more being there than was on the page. It's just the characters as written don't really come across as consistent people most of the time.

    I'd actually argue that - although they have their detractors - Wesley and Pulaski were more interesting as characters than the four above, because they displayed more consistency of character (along with some major flaws). Ro Laran and Barclay also were much more compelling/well developed characters in some ways despite only being in eight and five episodes respectively.
     
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  2. NewHeavensNewEarth

    NewHeavensNewEarth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Meh, I can think of a lot more details for each of those folks, but sure, everyone could always use more character development in any show. I'd say they all matured as characters (and actors playing those characters), but some had more development than others, without a doubt. I think you'll find a fair amount of disagreement over your top 3 (Picard, Data and Worf), but everyone's list will be different based on their own tastes.
     
  3. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Those are all "nice guys." Sexist, I know, but yeah, pretty bland humans. I've thought that before. Unpopular opinion: VOY has more interesting recurring characters across the board. Chakotay is basically "nice guy," and I do find him dull.
     
  4. Geetha Stachowiak

    Geetha Stachowiak Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Totally. I think the best characters were on Voyager (and some on DS9). Suder and the doctor took the cake. Kess was brilliantly funny in 'Warlord.' Anyone remember the warlord who wanted to force everyone to grow plants? But the doctor made some of the best eps. Who can forget the singing hologram?? OMG he was so f* hilarious in that one.
     
  5. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    They may have less hamfisted attempts to make a character by just forcing traits, sure, but I'd say they do have personality, for the most part, a lot of which developed organically & the funny part about it is that a lot of it isn't so "nice"

    Riker is a straight up dick. A huge percentage of everybody he ever deals with gets treated like crap by him. There's this weird charade going on with him, where he's heralded as fun & friendly & a playboy, but that shit ain't the Riker we see generally. The charade falls apart the later you get, & by the end, Riker has unfolded fairly interestingly, even if in a way that was contrary to his inception

    Troi didn't have much going on until the later seasons too, which saw her become a lot looser, but to be honest, her main trait is that for a Betazoid, she's pretty stuffy. Frankly, as much as Lwaxana can be annoying, when you think about it, she's a Betazoid. She's supposed to be like that, exuberant, eccentric, free spirited, full of life. It's Deanna that's the odd one.... & that, for good or ill, is her personality

    Beverly is unarguably pretty dull, however, but what personality she does have is pretty pushy & even judgmental... if that helps at all lol

    Geordi's got a little geekiness going on, but yeah, mostly he's a dud too. He does have some every man quality going on though. He's basically there to just be an ordinary human that's a foil for our android man

    But in the end, that's only a few of the cast, & as you pointed out, there's plenty of folks filling out the cast who are pretty interesting
     
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  6. Geetha Stachowiak

    Geetha Stachowiak Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    That sounds about right. Nice analysis.
     
  7. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Even at their dullest, the TNG characters had more to them than the likes of Chakotay, Kim or Mayweather combined.

    There are times when a writer will work something into a character that would be a great trait to incorporate and explore further, but seems to be forgotten about afterwards--such as in "The High Ground" where Beverly is shown to be fiery and stubborn, who even Picard and Riker wouldn't want to be on the bad side of.
     
  8. eschaton

    eschaton Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Troi definitely contrasts with her mother. However, we don't really meet that many Betazoids across Trek outside of the Troi family. I mean, there's Lon Suder - who is a psychopath, and a handful of characters who we meet in one-off episodes. None of the latter group seemed eccentric in the same way that Lwaxana was, though many of them appeared to suffer from mental instability in one way or another.
     
  9. HaventGotALife

    HaventGotALife Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    No, I love Next Generation, but these are poorly-drawn characters. It was Picard and Data that grew the most.

    Picard is an idealist in the beginning of the show. He is intelligent, forceful, and with hope. When he is assimilated, the delved into his dream among the stars, and his pain at being an instrument of death, unable to fight them. It calls into question his role in Starfleet. We, again, see him fight the Cardassians, but ultimately, he sees five lights. We see him die from an artificial heart, and we see the development from unafraid and arrogant, to learned and measured. Ultimately, he may peace with both.

    Worf, being a blank slate is given much to do with his dishonor. Data continues to climb the rungs to human being.

    But outside of those three characters, the TNG bridge crew does their jobs, and that's it. It could've been written by 12-year-olds, in terms of characterization. The movies, panned by everyone, had more to say about Picard and Data.

    You're right. They lost a lot development between seasons 2 and 3. Riker's father, Lwaxana, Crusher as a foil to Picard, etc.

    Barclay, Pulaski, O'Brien, and half the guest stars were more developed. When they went deeper into characters--The Bonding, The Icarus Factor, Hero Worship, Brothers--they managed to confuse, and tick the audience.

    The seventh season was a poor attempt to give them those character moments. But, the fact is, this was not a character-driven show.
     
  10. Gingerbread Demon

    Gingerbread Demon Time is a monster Premium Member

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    A block of wood is more fascinating then Chakotay and has more personality
     
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  11. Vger23

    Vger23 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It really depends on the type of wood and size of the block...
     
  12. Gingerbread Demon

    Gingerbread Demon Time is a monster Premium Member

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    This is true. Pine has a nice smell when varnished. I had a small block of that a while back tried to carve a wooden car. Nice wood and it has personality.
     
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  13. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Same here. TNG shows an idea of humanity perfected (e.g. Vulcans on Valium(tm)), but DS9 and TOS (dated or otherwise) still show the internal battle of human nature better and the battle is more engaging if there's enough vision and intrigue...

    Worf and Data. Picard is too much a Marty Stu/Mary Sue/Unconvicing-Do-All, it's Patrick Stewart's acting that elevates the character into something other than a carved wooden game piece.

    Yeah, "11001001" does much for Riker's character (even if it's hinting at some really icky stuff for the Federation Janitor to deal with afterward.) It's almost sad that the Troi chocolate scene in "The Game" tells more of her personality than "Encounter at Farpoint" (one of very few episodes where Troi gets to do stuff that only Troi has the ability to do.) And Michael Dorn pretty much gave set the stage for Klingon lore the way Patrick Stewart had, though a lot of scripts don't do Worf any justice. But Worf was so militaristic and adhering to his ways, he was more a being of his work than a personality of fun. Which I think they did try for Riker (being the 24th century equivalent of Kirk) but then started changing gears the moment the beard grew in.

    But character moments vs characterization, I recall reading Gene wanted the 24th century to be more evolved than the 23rd where Kirk was saying every week how we're barbarians but can choose not to kill today and all that. The 24th century alleges humans no longer have all these emotional conditions, or they'd barely show even under the most stressful situations. It's an interesting idea and attempt and it has the de facto benefit of largely getting around the issue where contemporary slang leaks into the scripts. (Even "The Way to Eden" managed to get around not having space hippies saying "groovy", much to its credit and much to the dismay of Marcia and Greg Brady who had to say the same word all the time... but I digress.)


    Sweeeeeet... :devil:

    Pretty much, though he was still screwing any tail even in season 5 so it's not much of an arc. Troi said he was seasoned at the tail end of season 3. Not sure that's a great role model given all the STDs out there, especially that "superbug STDs" (or "drug resistant strains" for those who are older than age six) are more prevalent than ever some three decades later... let's see another STD tackle that issue and I'd pony up a subscription after the free week if they actually did it right, which I doubt because I'm a cynic so there :razz:.)

    Riker definitely hated Data, even into season 6 there are a couple scenes where he's annoyed by the droid. I always got the impression Riker was more a people person, and as long as it wasn't Ro. :D Which is sad as I thought they made a great married couple .

    I'll admit that I was able to relate to Geordi regarding his technical skills and inability to socially interact. (Maybe Riker's a witch and sapped Geordi of that ability! Oh wait, this is Star Trek. Not Buffy.) Then again, Even I've gotten more tail, there's a tale...

    And, or course, how he managed to be besties with Data and even in getting along with Barclay after getting over initial hurdles.

    Which is why Pulaski was a genuine breath of fresh air and nowhere near the McCoy clone that the EMH was, but nobody griped about him. McFadden handles the medibabble and maybe she could do the crotchety doctor trope, I've not seen her range and I'm not going to speculate. The character of Crusher had less personality than the mushy sponge in the sink.

    Agreed. As I wrote above, she was great in "Encounter at Farpoint", but to use her abilities every week or so with big mystery aliens just would just get worn out too quickly, I can already imagine the audience going "Oh, another week, she's going to figure out the alien before the humans do" -- instead of "Yet again, she's saying the obvious, Captain!". So she's put to the side and too often given feeble dialogue. Season 3 improves her as she becomes the communications expert, telling Picard and the audience - for example - to describe a mug of tea (which is actually a cool scene). But as with many 24th century humans, she's just another "Spock on Sedatrives(tm)".

    No argument here. :) The acting is largely excellent, with few exceptions (a handful of scenes in 7 years, par for the course for any actor), especially with all the treknobabble the series coined. :D But Gene wanted humans to be more 'evolved' (proto-Vulcan) for his sequel show. Given how bad season 1 could be, it's the actors that manage to give enough oomph that kept enough viewers (still high off the 80s movies) to have kept TNG going for another year, and it is a known fact season 2 is when the show really begins to find itself and in a way that stayed true to Gene's vision for the 24th century.

    100% agreed. Wesley was badly written in season 1, made worse by his scenes or episodes making him look smart by making all the adults to be stupid. Season 2 fixes Wesley beautifully and takes the reins on the awkward teenager trope as well as writers putting in better crafted dialogue. Barclay opened up a lot more for the show (and VOY, amazingly) than what's just at face value. Ro started off great, especially with Guinan but season 5's penchant for contriving scripts to go with a narrative and to the point even characters would be taken out of character - just once it would have been nice for Ro to be proven correct. Or twice if she had been even once, I don't recall too many episodes of that era (seasons 1-4 tend to be more memorable and lasting and more for good ways than otherwise).

    And Pulaski always ruled.

    So did Shelby so let's ditch her because season 4 needs to be bland. Then came Ro and was quick to go. Ro was the final attempt to give the 24th final frontier a character for internal dramatic conflict, though it's not impossible to have a crew of people who get along and have only external sources of dramatic conflict.
     
  14. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    I disagree.

    I think if you’re looking through a lens of other network TV where characters are defined by a handful of central quirks and flaws it would appear that way, because Roddenberry prevented them from having that kind of flaw.

    Characters have personality, just other than Data no distinct personality gimmicks.

    They should have had the ability to give characters conflict, but also the limitation prevented them from leaning on personality gimmicks to create that conflict. Instead of “Let’s build our story around, oh, let’s say, Riker’s central flaw creating friction with Crusher’s”, they had to be a little more creative.

    I think on balance the show benefited from that because it avoided the repetitive drag sitcoms and procedurals often fall into when each character’s “Main flaw” has already been fully explored.
     
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  15. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    Of course ideally you could have both character flaws AND creative, three dimensional writing. But in the world of 80s television, screenwriters had a habit of only ever approaching characters in terms of their one big quirk or one big flaw and thus reducing them to that flaw, and I think TNG benefitted from them not having that option except with Data.
     
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  16. JesterFace

    JesterFace Commodore Commodore

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    All the crew members must have their own personalities, they just don't come across in any episode. :)

    My skills in math suck but....
    45 minutes in 176 episodes is about 7920 minutes.
    7920 minutes is 132 hours.
    132 hours is 5,5 days.
    Am I getting this right?

    That's less than a week to get to know these people, some of their personal traits didn't end up on camera. :)
     
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  17. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. Other than Data and maybe Worf the TNG characters don't have "Definite personality traits".

    Neither to real people, real people have many complexly related personality traits that express themselves differently per situation. When TV shows drive character development through their one 'Definite personality trait' they reduce their complexity to something one dimensional.

    I would argue, that's what happened to Neelix. He joined Voyager as a multidimensional, interesting character, then 90% of episodes only showed his one big trait.
     
  18. Prax

    Prax Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think TNG actually benefitted...ironically... from how the characters were established and the roddenberry guidelines set in place in season 1 and 2. They are all very professional, competent, etc, and this carries over into when the show starts to improve, and gives TNG a sense of sophistication that the other series don't. have. Some of what made the show awkward in the 1st season, carried over into the later seasons and elevated it when combined with better writing, and more personal stories.

    I think the characters get a lot of development throughout the series. Maybe not so much Geordi, or Crusher, but definitely Picard, Riker, Data, Worf, Troi, Wesley, et al.

    To the people saying "mostly just Data," maybe you're confusing character growth for development. Data's purpose as a character is to grow, as is Wesley's, but that isn't every character's purpose in an ensemble cast.
     
  19. ThankQ

    ThankQ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Clearly, Q had the best character arc of the series.
     
  20. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Riker, Crusher, Troi, and LaForge are all pretty bland people IMHO. Genial, competent, decent. Bland. This leaves Picard, Data (whom I can't stand, but certainly has a personality) and Worf, having more memorable personalities.
    4/7 dull on the plynch dullometer.

    Next series, who was bland in that regard? I'd say only Dax. YMMV.
    1/7 on the dullometer.
    1/8 if you count Quark as a main character. One of the reasons DS9 is so highly regarded, I daresay.

    Next series, who's bland? (Just genial, competent, decent?) Chakotay and Kim is all I got. Paris is often genial, but has a feistiness and that bad boy thing.
    So 2/7? Can't recall how many main characters there were.

    ENT? Oof, whole damn crew, hence my and many others stopping watching it early on. Ok, not t'Pol or Reed. That leaves Archer (SUPER dull dude), Trip, Hoshi (though I like her), and that guy who, when he gets a line, we yell LINE! like Master Thespian. Hmm - Doctor Phlox is genial . . . but really quirky so I exempt him from the dull. That leaves . . .
    4/7 on the dullometer.

    DSC, who's dull? Burnham kills me with her one-note emotion, but it's SURE not geniality, so she's not. Definitely has some traits. Hey, they're doing pretty good as I mentally survey them. Wow. Culber is kinda bland: nice guy/love interest of the once-cranky guy (wish he hadn't softened). So . . . yeah, i'd rate DSC a 1 out of . . . ? on the dullometer.

    [TOS I went into, above, but only 3 or 4 main and NONE of them merely genial.]

    So . . . winner of Percentage of Main Cast Lacking Definite Personality Traits: TIE between TNG and ENT.

    I await your disagreement.
     
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