Why did TNG have plots with B-stories?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Masao, Mar 18, 2016.

  1. Masao

    Masao Commodore Commodore

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    In the TOS Forum, I asked a question about whether some boring TOS episodes might have benefited from B-stories. However, plots with B-stories are hated by most TOS fans and were one of the reasons some of us couldn't get into liking TNG for several years. So, TNG fans, I have some questions.

    1. Why did TNG (and later shows) have so many plots with B-stories? Was it because of the era of TV? Was it because of problems with writers strikes? Was it something demanded by the big cast without a TOS-like "Kirk-Spock-McCoy" group?
    2. What do TNG fans think about B-stories? Were you initially annoyed by them but eventually got used to them? Or have you always hated them, like most TOS fans do? Are they good because they increase the use of second-level crew members? Or would TNG have been better if they never used B-stories?
    3. Do you think TOS would have benefitted from B-stories?
    4. Do you like "self-sealing stem bolts"? This was mentioned in the the discussion in the TOS forum.
     
  2. Sybok Was Wrong

    Sybok Was Wrong Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the b stories existed to accommodate the cast and justify their hefty paychecks.

    I think it came also from a committee of television writers maximizing viewer interest vs Science Fiction wtiters- who would have focused on one idea.

    Sometimes those b stories worked well - I liked "Unification" for that. on the flip side there was Data doing stand up in "Outrageous Okona"....
     
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  3. Hippocrates Noah

    Hippocrates Noah Commander Red Shirt

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    I think they're fine as long as the B story is good. If it isn't it's not a fault of the plot device itself, it's just bad writing. Sometimes I like the B story more than the A story. As Sybok Was Wrong said (I cracked up at that username and avatar for a good 3 minutes) it maximizes viewer interest. If somebody doesn't like one of the plots there's a chance they might enjoy the other. In a TOS epsiode if you don't like the main plot then you just don't like the episode at all. I don't know if it would benefit from having B stories though, I like TOS the way it is so I personally wouldn't go messing with it even hypothetically.

    And yes I do like self-sealing stem bolts, as I assume that's a reference to the B-story in the DS9 episode Progress. A good example of a B-story that I found more entertaining than the A story.
     
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  4. Seven of Five

    Seven of Five Make it so! Premium Member

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    B plots are good for accommodating other character, which is useful with an ensemble. It all depends on the execution though.

    One of my favourite episodes with different plots was The Enemy, which had a B and C storyline. I think the key there was that all of the different strands were connected for a greater whole.

    There are some bad ones though, and there are some where the B story is more interesting than the A.
     
  5. Nyotarules

    Nyotarules Vice Admiral Moderator

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    With a large ensemble casts the B stories work. I like B stories, some of them were better than the main plot. TOS worked for the era it was in.
     
  6. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I thought using B-stories made a lot of sense and usually worked well given that TNG was much more of an ensemble show and the main plots generally weren't about physical danger-jeopardy so switching between them wasn't jarring (as they probably would be if in the original).
     
  7. RAMA

    RAMA Admiral Admiral

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    The main reason for B-stories is this: because the characters had less intra-crew conflict, they needed a way to develop characters and still have a sci-fi element. The A/B story is the result. I believe Michael Piller insisted on this in story pitches from inside the writing team and from submissions.
     
  8. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    While all of your responses are correct, I also noticed that the better-written episodes had a thematic connection between and A- and B-plots, e.g. Family.
    The more mundane episodes had less of a connection (Outrageous Okona).
     
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  9. In_Correct

    In_Correct Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I can think of three very good B stories that are better than the main plot. There is

    We'll Always have Paris. The main story is Picard and Janice but I was more interested in the time distortions. And the two plots worked perfectly be cause her husband is the cause of the time distortions.

    The Neutral Zone. If you are tired of Picard thinking he's perfect, there is the wonderful B Plot where the Romulans are reintroduced, asking for a temporary truce be cause both the Federation and the Romulans have had unknown Borg assimilations. Even these two plots tie in to get her, when Ralph Often House calls the bluff of the Romulans saying "They have no idea! They think YOU know, but they are too arrogant to ask." (some thing that could have been said by Deanna lol.)

    The Ensigns Of Command:
    I can't tell which plot is supposed to be the B Plot. It is actually the same issue, but one plot is on the planet attempting to evacuate, and the other plot is on The Enterprise attempting to stall. Several episodes are like this. Allegiance, The High Ground, Final Mission, Do these episodes have B Plots?

    Data's Day. A character development episode for Data, and we get to see regular (and background) activity on The Enterprise. But the B Plot has the most suspense: The Romulan Spy. Data only crosses over into the B Plot when he is interrogated by the Romulan. She tries to trick him but he easily foils her. She covers her tracks by clarifying her intentions.

    Aquiel:
    Episode where the B Plot is a murder investigation. It is much more interesting compared to Geordi going through personal log entries.
     
  10. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    Depends on the episode. When B plots are used right they pace and add variety to an episode. In some cases they are used as lazy filler, and focus mostly on contriving conflict around a character's central gimmick.

    The kind of storytelling I hate the most in scifi is the kind where they decide on a character and a stripped down element of that character to write a story about, then design a conflict around poking that element with a stick so it explodes into a big dramatic fight, until the character has to grow that element to solve the conflict. Better in scifi is when they come up with a good idea for a story and let the characters react to it and let conflict develop and express itself naturally. Way too often when they did B plots in TNG and even more often in Voyager, they did it the bad way.
     
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  11. RAMA

    RAMA Admiral Admiral

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    There are a few episodes where the B plot is more interesting.
     
  12. maneth

    maneth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    B, C and occasionally D plots (as happened with a few Babylon 5 episodes) are necessary for ensemble casts to give each character enough screen time. TOS was basically about Kirk, Spock (and occasionally McCoy) and could get away with linear storytelling.
     
  13. Masao

    Masao Commodore Commodore

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    Thanks for all your responses, TNG fans. More questions!
    1. What did Gene Roddenberry think about B-stories? Was it his idea to include them from the very start? If not, how did he deal with it?
    2. What are the best episodes without B-stories? (I don't think "Best of Both Worlds" had a B-story.)
    3. Are there any episodes without B-stories that should have had them?
    4. When you watch an episode, do you ever skip the B-story and watch only the A-story (and vice versa)?
    5. Is there some website that has a list of episodes and a brief description of their A- and B-stories? For example: "A story: The Borg attack the Earth; B story, Data catches a cold."
     
  14. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The a
    The Best of Both Worlds definitely had B and C stories. There was the Riker promotion angle, the Shelby/Riker conflict, and even a small Picard uncertainty story. Part II kept the conflicts of the first part and beefed up the Picard story by adding Beverly, Data and Deanna. Those episodes are prime examples where the sub stories help move the main story along.
     
  15. Masao

    Masao Commodore Commodore

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    I don't think those are B-stories because what happens is closely related to the main plot. If I remember correctly, a ship that Riker could have captained was destroyed by the "Swedes," and Shelby did, of course, compete with Riker to command the ship's actions. These stories wouldn't have fit with any other episode.
     
  16. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ This.
     
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  17. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    I hadn't thought about it before, but the point that a large ensemble cast is well served by having some of them in a B-story is valid. But I still hate B-stories. My opinion of shows with B stories has always been "If you can't write one whole story that takes up a measly 44 minutes, then you shouldn't be a TV writer."
     
  18. USS Triumphant

    USS Triumphant Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think almost *all* shows have B,C,D, etc plots - it's just that the better ones usually manage to run them so that we're seeing parts of those and the main plot all at the same time, rather than us being able to say, "okay, the scene changed, and this scene is clearly part of the B plot". ;)
     
  19. Richard Baker

    Richard Baker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I like the B stories simply because events to not happen in isolation. Seldom in life do you get the chance to focus on and resolve just one situation, there are usually several other ones which need to be dealt with also.
     
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  20. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    B stories show the kind of stuff that fanfics are made of - personal interactions, motivations for later episode A plot decisions, and the characters as people, not just crew members.

    Plus, when there's travel time to be filled in, nobody wants to watch 15 minutes of viewscreen warp when they can have a character falling in love or fighting with family instead.