Opinion circa 1987: TNG is NOT Star Trek

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Thomas Elliot, Mar 3, 2020.

  1. Thomas Elliot

    Thomas Elliot Commander Red Shirt

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    There's a lot of criticism of ST shows after VOY claiming they're NOT Star Trek. TNG is like the gold standard when comparing subsequent shows. And yet, I've heard that TNG wasn't well liked for it's first two seasons and that it probably only survived to a third season because of its syndicated status.

    I grew up on TNG and it ended up being some cherished television memories. But when I first saw "Encounter at Farpoint" as a small kid I wasn't too impressed. Keep in mind I had only seen a handful of episodes of the original series but it was already "classic" in my mind. Star Trek was supposed to have a dashing, heroic captain, the second in command Spock guy, who was solemn and strange-looking with pointy ears, and Sulu.
    This new Star Trek had some old bald guy as the captain! What's wrong with them? He's not going to be able to fight one-on-one with Klingons and alien monsters. Forget about any babes falling for him.
    This was pretty much the gist of my 7/8 year old impression of the show. Although it looked newer than the original Star Trek I had seen, it had a depressing look to it as well. I don't if it was the lighting or what, but I didn't like it too much.
    Overtime the bridge seemed to get brighter, Picard seemed to be more heroic, the uniforms got cooler...everything pretty much just got better.

    Fast forward, and I think it's one of the greatest SF shows ever, and it's MY Star Trek. But I've been rewatching the early episodes from Season 1 and 2 and I don't know if it's the knowledge of the rocky start the show had, the online criticisms of the first two seasons, but it FEELS like a show that's going to be cancelled. I like the characters and premise. And despite great production design everything feels kind of cheap. It almost looks cheesy. And the pace is incredibly slow. I don't mind it too much as I have plenty of time to watch it and take in the atmosphere and scenery of the show, but it's a little unsettling. It very much has the feel of those various syndicated sitcoms that never made it past a first or second season.

    Riker is a pretty likable character character as the show progresses. Early episodes just feel weird to watch him. Maybe it's a case of all the actors getting more comfortable with their character and the dialogue getting better

    There's definitely gems. Datalore is still great, and gave us one of the best Star Trek villains. I have yet to see the racist episode but I'm sure it'll only add to the feeling that this is NOT Star Trek and a poor successor to Kirk's crew.

    I can only imagine the disconnect between watching the excellent Shatner movies and than seeing this.

    With that said...looking at it purely as a science fiction show, it's incredibly interesting. "Time Squared" feels cheesy, pacing is very slow, and everything just looks and feels depressing. But it's just an intriguing story and I love the mystery of it.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Every new incarnation of Star Trek since 1973 has been dismissed by a segment of fandom as "NOT Star Trek." It's always the same rhetoric every time -- "It's not exactly like what came before, therefore it's wrong." But TNG in particular had a major uphill battle for acceptance, since it was the first time anyone had tried doing Trek that wasn't about Kirk, Spock, etc., that was in a different century with different characters. It was always popular with general audiences, but hardcore TOS purists resisted it for years, and a number of the TOS actors were hostile to it as well, since they were afraid the new cast would replace them in the movies.


    The thing you have to keep in mind about early TNG is that, for all its weaknesses in writing and production values, most of '80s SFTV was much, much worse. This was the decade of Knight Rider, Automan, Voyagers!, and Manimal. There were a few worthwhile SF shows in that decade -- the original V miniseries (though not its dumber sequels), the Twilight Zone revival, The Ray Bradbury Theater on cable, the heartfelt Starman in '86, and Max Headroom the same year TNG premiered. But most SFTV at the time was dumb and cheesy. So when TNG came along, it seemed brilliant in comparison -- smart, well-written, well-produced, with a top-notch cast. But it paved the way for a major improvement in SFTV over the years ahead -- its own writing improved massively by season 3, and the rest of SFTV started to improve alongside it, with shows like Quantum Leap and Alien Nation and Babylon 5 coming along, and so those first two seasons of TNG that looked so good at the time ended up seeming much weaker in retrospect.
     
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  3. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I don't think the first two seasons were that bad (some bad episodes) though the show got better later.

    It was definitely a different show than the original and it definitely had some awkward elements, I think the biggest flaws or awkward elements were that that too many of the characterizations were overdone (Troi, Data and Wesley all often coming off as pretty annoying, which was toned down a lot in season 2 and then further in 3) and the writers often seemed uncomfortable trying to deal with Roddenberry's idealized characters and lack of internal conflict demands. But from the beginning Picard was a strong character and from early on Data and Worf were promising ones and there was already good interactions and chemistry.

    Also I don't think it seemed like it would be cancelled but there was a sense that it didn't matter if the viewers didn't like it, it intentionally tried to be very different from the original show even if that made it less popular, by season 2 it was still fresh and ambitious and also confidence that they had a success and could continue to have it.
     
  4. Ar-Pharazon

    Ar-Pharazon Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    TNG seasons 1 and 2 felt the most like TOS though. I can't quantify that statement, it just did, but it's a pretty widely held opinion.

    I only grew up in the 70's with TOS reruns, so a new Star Trek at that point was pretty cool.
     
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  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    You can't assume that. The thing to understand is that the reason for doing a new show in a franchise is to attract a new audience. Appealing only to the existing audience is redundant; they're already on board, so nothing is gained. A new incarnation, a new format, a new cast and premise, that's something you do to broaden the appeal of the franchise, to draw in people who weren't already in the tent. So making it different is a way to make it more popular, if you do it right.

    And it succeeded. As big a hit as TOS was in syndication, it was always seen as a cult show, and mass-media SF in general was regarded as a pop-culture ghetto. But TNG gained more mainstream acceptance and became a cultural phenomenon. It helped make Star Trek and SFTV more reputable.


    Oh, definitely, since season 1 initially had a lot of the same creators as TOS -- Roddenberry, Fontana, Gerrold, Justman. Most of them didn't last long, since they were driven out by the excesses and abuses of Roddenberry's lawyer and handlers and the ugly behind-the-scenes politics, but season 1 did have much more of a TOS-like feel compared to what came later.
     
  6. Mutai Sho-Rin

    Mutai Sho-Rin Crusty Old Bastard Moderator

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    I rejected TNG for the first season and a half because I thought "The Next Generation" name was hopelessly derivative. A good friend coerced me into "just one episode" saying I would really like Patrick Stewart. I yielded and that first ep turned out to be "Measure of a Man". The needle went into the vein and I was hooked. That's how I ended up here today.

    Oh, and I also really like ENT, DSC and Picard without hesitation. Canon is fantasy.
     
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  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Lots of good shows have bad titles. Heck, Star Trek is a weird and clumsy title that I've never liked. Who actually uses the word "trek" except when talking about South African history or mountain bikes? I wish the real thing had been called Galaxy Quest and the parody of it had been called Star Trek, instead of the other way around. Galaxy Quest is a much more elegant title.
     
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  8. Winterwind

    Winterwind Commodore Commodore

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    That's an episode that will get you. We watched it two nights ago and it was the first time for my wife. It evoked an emotional response. She alternated between anger and tearing up and ended with a big smile and sigh of relief.

    I hadn't seen it myself for a few years and I'd forgotten how powerful it was.
     
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  9. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Tomorrow Never Knows Premium Member

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    I never thought of it as not Star Trek back in '87, just not very good Star Trek. It had potential though.
     
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  10. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Exactly. God that first ep is crap. Just so MUCH shoved in.

    The characters
    "Meeting a God"
    The Battle Bridge

    slowwwww down guys!! Its like letting a teenager drive a car with a clutch for the first time.

    But at the time the general sentiment was "It'll get better"
     
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  11. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    I don't care much, like any rational being, for season 1 TNG, but i think I may be one of the few people that liked Farpoint. It's fast paced, bold, and it gets started on showing you how things have become a little different, but not all that much, from the star trek you know before. We all crowded around the TV to watch it the day it aired and it was exciting. The ball dropped rapidly after that and I lost interest, but I like the first ep.
     
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  12. Thomas Elliot

    Thomas Elliot Commander Red Shirt

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    That’s true about the quality of SFX in relation to other shows from that decade.
    Had I been more involved with TOS I think I would have been even more upset with how TNG started. I considered TOS to be more akin to a western or action show. Obviously I never watched enough TOS to validate that opinion but what I did see often had Kirk kicking butt. First season Picard wasn’t doing that.
    In hindsight I appreciate the more thoughtful, quiet aspects of the show.
     
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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That was supposed to be Riker's job. The basic template of TNG was reworked from the Phase II revival that evolved into TMP, with Kirk having matured into a seasoned mentor role and Will Decker taking over as the action lead who punched the baddies and kissed the space babes. Basically Roddenberry just changed Kirk's name to Picard, Decker to Riker, Ilia to Troi, and Xon to Data (combined with Questor from The Questor Tapes). Plus he rehashed a half-dozen godlike TOS aliens for Q and borrowed from his Genesis II/Planet Earth backstory for "the Post-Atomic Horror." It was quite the exercise in recycling.
     
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  14. Noname Given

    Noname Given Admiral Admiral

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    Is that why everyone I know (myself included) said: "Gee, who wanted a sequel to "The Squire of Gothos"? ;)
     
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  15. Vger23

    Vger23 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I have always loved "Encounter at Farpoint." It always seemed like a classic Star Trek story to me.

    :shrug:
     
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  16. Thomas Elliot

    Thomas Elliot Commander Red Shirt

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    That makes sense. But to my 7 year old self I didn't even notice that. Just "The captain's and old man? And he doesn't do anything cool?? Dumb!"

    I love reading the backstory of how Phase II eventually became TMP and TNG.

    Maybe that would be a reason why people may have not considered it "Star Trek" when it was first introduced. The mentor role maybe robbed some of the swashbuckler-like aspect from the Captain. Star Trek, according to this hypothetical 1987 fan, is about about adventure as much as it is about exploration of SF concepts and ideas. Why the need for the mentor role, and just put Riker as the new captain? The mentor role was only envisioned originally as a way to get Shatner in the show while having someone more plausibly get the babes and knock-out lizard men. If Shatner's not in it, why not reprise the role of the Indy-like Kirk?
     
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  17. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Meeting A God" is definitely classic for a begininng Trek Series.
    Where No Man Has Gone Before
    Emmisary (DS9)
    Encounter at Farpoint
    Caretaker (sorta)
     
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  18. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    MY complaint since E1S1 of TNG right up until today has been "Our heroes are either getting their ass kicked or their ship sucks"

    Kirk is an action hero and a master battle tactician AND 1701 is top of the line. Whereas:

    1701-D surrendered in their first episode!!
    Voyager is an escort craft
    Lets not even talk about NX-01....Jesus
    Discovery is a bloody science vessel

    We had to wait until ST VI to see movie Kirk with a fully staffed, fully functional vessel against a ship it could hold its own with

    Not until Sisko and Defiant did we get a semblance of what TOS felt like.

    ALLLLL that said, i enjoyed the hell out post TOS Trek for the most part. My 'complaint' would always sit in the back of my mind.
     
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  19. Thomas Elliot

    Thomas Elliot Commander Red Shirt

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    :lol:
    Another reasons why I was disappointed in Picard when I first saw him.

    This is great, and I can definitely see how TNG could be viewed as "NOT Star Trek."
    And yes, Sisko was definitely more in line with the Kirk model while being his own character. In fact, I loved how not only was Sisko antagonistic towards Picard and nothing like him, but that he was a fan of Captain Kirk. It made sense considering Sisko's character.
    I think DS9 was a great series, but in some ways I kind of wish that there had been just a bit of a break after TNG, no TNG movies or spin-offs, and then have a new Star Trek series featuring a new Enterprise, captained by Benjamin Sisko. It would have felt more like a passing of the torch and less like a spin-off.
     
  20. Vger23

    Vger23 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The surrender in Encounter at Farpoint never bothered me. I always viewed it as a sign of how the Enterprise-D would be a very different ship because it now had a full compliment of families aboard. Picard' surrender was, at least by my interpretation, a sacrifice to ensure the safety of the civilian compliment.

    It's actually a shame that this theme of families on the ship didn't play out heavier as the series advanced.


    Now, to the Captains....it's an old discussion...but here's my take (agreeing with you on a strong liking for Kirk and Sisko):

    1. Kirk


    2. Sisko

    3. Pike



    4. Picard
    5. Prime Georgiou





    6. Archer



    7. Janeway