Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, February 8, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode One, "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part II)

ST: TNG, Season One, Episode Two, "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part II)
Air Order: 1
Stardate: 41135.7
Original Air Date: September 26, 1987

(Majel Barrett computer voice) "Last time on Warp Speed to Nonsense:"

We got a new captain and new ship, set about a hundred years or so beyond TOS, and they're heading to Farpoint Station to not only check it out and pick up some more main crew members, but to also figure out what the "mystery" behind the station is. Along the way, our new captain, Picard, is sort of taken hostage with the second officer Data (an android, though not of Andrea proportions); Deanna Troi, the ship's counselor; and Tasha Yar, the chief of security. They're put on trial by some doucheweasel who says his name is Q (race by the same name), and who just happens to be omnipotent. Q says they must be convicted and punished for crimes by the human race, which is violent and savage. To put Q off and save them, Picard tells Q to watch them at Farpoint and see if he still thinks they're violent and savage. Q agrees. The ship reaches Farpoint Station, and already the first officer Will Riker and head doctor Beverly Crusher have noticed that Farpoint Station seems to be haunted by a benevolent spirit or something.
The ship does some fancy stuff, and just to connect this new Star Trek with the old, there's a brief scene at the end of the first part where De Kelley walks through the new ship in very-old-man make-up.
For the full review, click here.


Picard and crew are in good spirits as they wish the USS Hood, Riker's previous ship, a good journey. the Hood leaves orbit, and Dick of the Year nominee Q shows up again, this time as a floating head in space. (Star Trek is so fond of floating people and body parts in space. Nothing says "Look! Magic!" quite like someone featured on the wrong side of the viewscreen.)

Hey, I learned a new word! "Dilatory" means "slow to act" and is probably
connected to the slang term "dilly-dally." Thank you, "Douche Presents a Word
of the Day"!

After he disappears, Riker complains about being watched every moment by Q. Clearly, Riker has never worked retail. Picard feels like Q will at least learn who humans truly are.

Picard's Log 41135.8: "So we have 24 hours, and 11 have passed without anything shitty happening."

Wait, what? The entirety of the first half of this episode took place within the same hour (41135.7), which is nuts when you think about it, but I guess there was some overlap of how things were laid out: Picard decides to separate the saucer section from the drive section, several crew members are put on trial. We know that little to no time passes while they are in the courtroom, because Colm Meany (still lacking a name) seems to have not noticed that they were gone. Time ran differently where they were. Okay. Riker gives a log entry with the same exact date and time about his experiences at Farpoint Station. He then boards the ship, rejoins the two pieces, and Data escorts the 137-year-old Admiral McCoy back to the Hood.
So how can Picard give a log entry 11 hours later when the time entry is only one hour later? I thought maybe the "new and improved" stardates ran things differently, with the number behind the decimal not indicating the passing of hours like in TOS. But I fed both dates through the stardate generator and it only came up with the difference of an hour. Maybe it's just wibbly-wobbly.


Picard and Riker are in the captain's ready room, discussing Farpoint. Riker is frustrated because he can quite coincide the weird magic of the place with what he knows. He thinks they traded surplus geothermal energy for the supplies needed to build the station to the Federation's needs. He can't shake the feeling that there's something off about the place, but Picard thinks it's innocent. They plan to beam down together to meet with Zorn the Mystical Cult Leader.

On their way to the transporter room, Picard tells Riker that he's asked the ship's counselor to join them on this mission, and when Deanna Troi shows up, she speaks to Riker using telepathy and calls him Imzadi. They exchange a stilted, formal spoken greeting, and Picard asks if they've met before.
"Um, yeah," replies Riker.
It's more awkward than a British sitcom.

They beam down, and we briefly see that the town next to the station is kind of crummy.
Groppler Zorn is polite, but bluntly demands to know if Picard brought a Betazoid along to read his thoughts. Troi tells him that she cannot read his thoughts, as she is only half-Betazoid, and can only sense his emotions. She adds that her father "was a Starfleet officer," which I guess sets up that Betazoids do not join Starfleet? Okay.
Picard tells Zorn that starfleet is interested not only in Farpoint Station, but that they'd like to see if Zorn's people, the Bandi, want to build them stations on other planets.
"Noooooo," says Zorn. He's kind of a dick about it, too. When Riker offers to trade them something in exchange for their architects and engineers working for Starfleet, Zorn gets kind of nasty, and says they could always work with the Ferengi instead of the Federation.
Troi gasps like Zorn kicked her under the desk. She says that she isn't sensing anything from Zorn or his people, but that she's getting pain, loneliness, and despair from some entity close-by.

Picard asks Zorn if he knows what she might be referring to, and Zorn gets irrationally angry, yelling that he doesn't know, and that this is all very unproductive. Picard and Co. decide to leave. Zorn yells back that the Ferengi would think this place was awesome.
"You can't come to my birthday party!" he calls after them.
Dude, what an asshole. This guy is like Bem, where they've set him up at the beginning as such a complete wank, that even when he gets his comeuppance and turn-around moment at the end (which is kind of inevitable), you don't actually feel for him. You're just kind of glad to see him gone.

"Wow. Fuck you," replies Picard. He suggests that the Ferengi eat their enemies, and the trio leaves.

Back on the ship, Riker is trying to find Lt Commander Data, and enlists the help of some nameless ensign. (We briefly see the Vulcan science officer again.) The smiley ensign tells Riker that he must be new to Galaxy-class ships. Bitch, why are you so high and mighty? This is a new ship, and a relatively new class of ship, which means pretty much everyone you encounter is going to "be new to Galaxy-class ships."
Anyway, she takes Riker over to a panel, which lights up a diagram of the ship, and addresses it like Scotty tried to address an ancient Apple desktop. Then she asks the computer where Data is located. It gives his location as being in a specific holodeck location.(And given that they have to have a number-and-letter system for numbering their holodecks, there are quite a few of them.) The computer then points him in the right direction. 
Yeah, yeah, I get it: using the term "Galaxy-class starship" and explaining how the system works is exposition for the audience.

But get this - when he thanks her and walks away, the ensign kind of mad-dogs him, then checks out his ass as he walks down the corridor away from her. WTH?

Riker enters the holodeck suite and finds himself in some kind of rain forest. There's a moment where he's standing on the path in the middle of the forest, and the door to the holodeck has yet to close. The green screen on the holodeck door, with the corridor behind it, is a little too sharply focused to make the special effect seamless, but it's a nice touch all the same.

Compare it with TOS' season two, episode one "Catspaw," where a similar attempt was made:

Remember when we last saw the holodeck? It was in TAS, and the Enterprise had trapped Uhura, Sulu and bones inside and nearly froze them to death as some kind of sadistic computer prank. I'm really glad they decided to keep the holodeck as a cool recreational activity. Some of my favorite episodes of this franchise take place in the holodecks. 
By this time, they've been around for at least a hundred years (maybe more), and this can't be the only place that Riker has encountered one, so why is he so surprised when he steps through the door, then again when the door closes and disappears behind him? I know this is all supposed to be expository, so the audience can learn with our characters about this new-ish world, but c'mon Star Trek. You can character-build better than that. Write your bible before your pilot and let your actors know when they should and should not be surprised ahead of time. I'm assuming here that they're assuming that this audience probably did not watch the animated series, and would be unfamiliar with the holodecks, but it doesn't make any sense that Riker should be as well.

So Riker steps his way across a stream and up an embankment, following the sound of someone whistling "Pop Goes the Weasel." He sees Data leaning against a tree, and when the android fails to get the tune just right, Riker cheerfully finishes the song for him.
Data reacts... with a bit too much emotion here. "Marvelous how humans do that."
It's a bit out of character for him, but it's less a weird slip-up, and more a question of the writers and actor simply feeling out the character, like when Spock smiles and sort of jokes with Kirk in the first episode. It seems out of place, but only because we've come to know this character so well over the years, and this is just a very early version.
Riker tells Data that the captain wants him for an away team to the surface, and Data responds a bit more in step with what we have come to expect of him:

They chat a bit about Data being an android, and how humans are sometimes bothered or prejudiced about the fact that he is a machine, and he volunteers the information that he'd rather be an imperfect human. Riker jokingly calls him Pinocchio.
The show decides to explain holodeck technology a bit better to the audience, again using Riker as the threshold. Data explains that much of the vegetation and rocks are real, and that it functions on a similar level as the transporters. He says they are close to the back wall of the holodeck suite, and to demonstrate, he throws a rock, which then hits something invisible and solid, and the picture behind them pixelates.

Wesley Crusher runs into the simulation, calling to Riker how awesome the holodeck is, but he slips on a rock and falls into the stream. Data rushes down and grabs Wes out of the water and holds him overhead with one hand. I know that's supposed to be a friendly smile from Data, but damn. No thank you.

In the next scene, Wes goes down to sick bay to hassle his mother while she works. He really wants to see the bridge, but Picard has a standing order about kids on his bridge.
"He's kind of a pain, right?" he asks.
Wait, where did that come from?
"No, your dad liked him," she replies, seriously trying to get some work done.
He wears her down, and she ends up telling him she'll see what she can do.

Down on the surface, we see that our away team consists of Riker, Data, Troi, Yar, and Geordi. They decide to split into two groups, and Troi suggests that she and Riker explore some subterranean tunnels. He rejects this, and assigns her to do it with Yar and Geordi. Riker and Data will check things out, top-side. Troi looks mildly annoyed that Riker brushed her off, but it's not a weird "hoping to get him alone to make out" thing. She seems more irritated that he dismissed her out of hand.
The thing is, pairing Troi, Geordi and Yar was actually a pretty idea. if you need to suss out if something weird is going down in some tunnels, you send in the chief of security, the guy whose "eyesight" can tell you the chemical composition of whatever you're looking at, and the counselor who can sense emotions. They're only down there for a few minutes before they call Riker to report that the walls are weird. Riker asks about Troi, who says she's got herself shielded, because what she felt in Zorn's office was creepy and overwhelming. He asks her to go ahead and feel it all, and she starts sobbing

Riker and Data beam down to them, and Riker apologizes to Troi and tells her to close her mind again.

Picard is on the bridge when the lift opens and Dr Crusher gets out.
"The fuck?" he asks when he sees Wes standing behind her.
She tries to get around his rule by playing semantics, saying that her kid came upstairs with her on the lift, and that he's still... in the lift. Then she points out that they've met, but that he hasn't seen Wes since Picard brought home her husband's body. The captain awkwardly offers to let Wes onto the bridge and sit in his chair. But then he's shown up when Picard tries to tell him what everything does, and Wesley begins talking over him.

Picard gets pissed, and the perimeter alarm goes off. Wes and his mother make a quick exit. A ship is actually pulling up to orbit the planet, and no ships were scheduled to be there at that time. Nobody knows what it is, and it isn't answering hails, so Picard orders Riker and Co. to beam back and he calls Zorn.
"Who is this new ship in orbit?"
"Dunno," says Zorn. "Nobody else is scheduled to be here."
"Bitch, did I ask who was scheduled to be here? Is it the Ferengi?"
"Actually... we haven't talked to them," admits Zorn.
The weird new ship scans the E.

Down in the tunnels, Riker is concerned that Troi has not closed herself off from the entity that she was sensing, but now she tells him that she's closer to an answer. The entity doesn't want them contacting the E.

Worf tries to scan the other ship, but the sensors just bounce back. Then the ship starts firing at the surface, only it's very specifically not hitting the station, only the old Bandi city. The empty, empty Bandi city. It appears, with this city, we've had a visit from our old friend Budget. "Yeah, there's no money to hire extras to run from those explosions. Just say a lot of people died in the attack."

The away team rushes through the tunnels, making their way to the surface. The tunnel walls become stone again near the entrance to the Bandi city. They're rocked by the explosions above. Riker tells the others to beam back up to the ship, that he and Data are going to check things out. Troi objects on the grounds that they could get hurt, but he barks at her to follow orders. She acquiesces, and apparently, the stone tunnels are not blocking their way back to the Enterprise, because Yar, Troi and Geordi are able to beam back to the ship.
Groppler Zorn is desperately calling the E, begging for their help.
Riker and Data reach the surface and call Picard. Riker says that the city is being hit hard and that a lot of casualties are likely. This might seem more probable if there were actually any people in the city.
"I think we should illegally kidnap Zorn," says Picard.
Riker responds, "Sounds like a plan."
Picard turns to Troi and asks her for moral guidance. "Well," she reasons, "technically, the Bandi aren't allies, and they don't really fall under the Prime Directive."
Picard nods and tells Yar to lock phasers on the alien ship. Not fire, just lock onto it.
Guess who shows up?

"Why are you getting on my case now?" demands Picard. "Locking phasers on a potential enemy is a standard safety precaution."
"You don't know what that is," argues Q. "Also, you're worrying about firing on this ship and not about the people on the surface who are hurt and dying."
Picard calls Crusher in sick bay. "Are you ready?" he asks.
"Totes," says Crusher. "My team is ready to beam down to provide aid."
Picard has this convo with Crusher while he stares down Q. It's like when your cat looks you in the eye while taking a shit on your favorite Persian rug.

Picard gives the order to move the E between the city and the alien ship, but the controls refuse to work.

Downstairs, Riker and Data find Zorn sobbing in his destroyed office. He claims he has no idea who is doing this to his people, and Riker shrugs and says, "Cool. We'll just go, then."
He stops them with a frantic, "Maybe I can explain some stuff."
Geez, the more contact we have with this guy, the more convinced I am that he has a secret stash of Kool-Aid in a wide variety of flavors.
But before he can "explain," he's mysteriously beamed away.
"Um, he's gone," Riker tells Picard.
"Ha! You don't even know who took him!" crows Q.
Troi says that she now senses a lot of "satisfaction" from another entity, one that's closer by than the entity on the planet.
Q makes fun of them some more, and Riker and Data beam aboard, entering the bridge. Q thinks Riker should lead an away team to the other ship.
"That's nuts," says Picard. "We don't know what the hell we'll find over there."
"No, I wanna go," argues Riker.

Q vanishes, and Picard leaves the bridge to go to sick bay to talk to Dr Crusher.
"Y'all, I'm sorry for yelling at your kid, and for not coming to sick bay to welcome you to the ship. Also, your kid knows his shit."
"Cool," says Crusher. "We're good."
"Okay, awesome. So, um, if you want to transfer off of this boat, I'm okay with it," he tells her.
"You want me to transfer?" she asks, surprised.
"Well, no, but I don't want to continually remind you of when we last met. Cuz, you know, I brought your husband's body home."

"Who says I was assigned here?" she demands. "I asked for this post, you asshole."
Great, Picard. Apologize, then piss her off.
"Oh. Okay. Great. Then, um, welcome aboard, and ... yeah." He leaves awkwardly.

Riker beams over to the mysterious alien ship with Troi, Yar and Data. Surprise, the corridors of this ship are the same kind as the ones in the underground tunnels on the planet's surface. Troi says the entity she senses is hella pissed. Yar asks if it's pissed at them, and she replies that it's directed at the Bandi people. They continue down the corridor until they come across Zorn, suspended in some kind of energy. He's screaming at the entity to stop torturing him. He's also screaming that he doesn't know what the alien wants. Troi says that isn't true, and he totes knows what it wants. They shoot phasers at the energy that's holding Zorn, and he falls to the floor.

Picard can't raise Riker. They can see the alien ship doing something weird, and he wants to beam them back, but now he can't raise the transporter chief, either.
Q reappears on the bridge in a Starfleet uniform. "Ha! You're so screwed!"
"You need to let me help my people," Picard pleads. "Come on. I'll do whatever you say."
"Okay, cool," says Q.
The away team, with Groppler Zorn, reappears on the bridge.
"Yay, you'll do whatever I say!" smiles Q.
"He's full of shit," says Troi. "He didn't beam us back. That ship is alive. It beamed us back, and you don't owe him anything."
Q continues to taunt them, but Picard and Riker decide that interrogating Zorn is the best course of action.
"The tunnels under your city are the same as on that ship," says Riker. "Care to explain?"
"Yeah, and why was whatever it was torturing you?" asks Picard. "Is it revenge for torture you committed against another creature?"
Cult leader Zorn chooses to preface his answer with this:

Raise your hand if you believe him. What, no one? I'm shocked.
"It was injured, and we helped it!"
Yeah, you look super-trustworthy, dude. Do you also have 8.2 million dollars to wire me from a Nigerian prince? Of course I'll send you my bank information!
Picard seems satisfied that he got any kind of answer out of Zorn, then tells Tasha Yar to rig up an energy beam.
As they watch the viewscreen, the other ship flips over and transforms into something akin to a space jellyfish.

"Hey, that's it!" says Troi. "It wasn't one creature I was sensing - it was two!"
"So that's it," says Picard. "You guys captured another one of these things, and you've been torturing it. Good job, dipshit."
"Wait!" says Zorn. "It'll kill my people!'
"Yeah, okay," replies Picard. "We'll send a message down to the surface for everyone to vacate the station."
"No way," Q eggs him on. "You should let them die."
Picard ignores him. "They're a mated pair," he guesses.
There's this weird moment where Troi is shown with the space jelly behind her on the viewscreen, looking surprised, then there's a shot of Riker that's similar.
Yes, Star Trek, we get it. Riker and Troi were once a mated pair.

"Aw, that was too easy," complains Q.
Picard tells Yar to aim the energy beam at the station and let the creature under it take as much as it wants. Clearly, he intends to nurse the creature back to health.

Yes, Q. You are the humblest of peen-holes.
"Your station is about to disappear," Picard tells Zorn.
That little weasel whines that they never meant to hurt it, that they offered it energy, which their planet has plenty of.
But Picard is fucking over Zorn. "You guys only gave it enough to keep it alive so it would give you what you wanted," he yells. "Fuck you. We don't need your stupid station, and you don't, either. Build things like real people do."
The station on the surface disappears, and a jellyfish-thing rises out of the earth.

The jellyfish floats up to the other, and they briefly touch tentacles before floating away. Troi reports that the jellyfish are hella happy.

As they leave, Picard turns to Q to demand that he leave.
"We passed your test. Get the fuck off my ship."
"Yeah, well, you guys are lame," replies Q. "And I'm only gonna go because I want to. But I'll totes be back."
He disappears.

Picard's Log 41174.2: "So I told the Bandi people how they should rebuild Farpoint Station, but I told them that this time, they actually have to build it, and not just kidnap some energy-matter converting alien creature to do the work for them."

The E is getting ready to leave orbit, and Riker tells Picard that he's wondering if all of their missions are going to go that way.
"Naw, I'm sure they'll be more interesting," quips Picard.
And they warp off into the distance.

So, not a terrible start. Not fantastic, but not terrible, either. Once again we find ourselves at the first episode of a longer-running series, and knowing what we know of the characters at a later time, we can see a bit of the progression that will occur. 
Not much will change with Riker or Yar, but Data will become much more subtle. I feel like Data started out very much in the same vein as Spock, emoting a bit too much for the guy we come to know a little further on. Right now he moves too smoothly, smiles a bit too much, but you can see the seeds of who will be soon enough. Brent Spiner will develop the almost-imperceptible android-stiffness that spells out the difference between Data and others. These are also things that earlier Star Trek androids lacked, but I chalk it up to Spiner being able to spend seasons working on Data, while the actors who portrayed Reyna and Andrea did not. Of course, we were told from the get-go that Data is an android, and we were supposed to be surprised when those other girls turned out to be machines. Data is allowed to act a little strangely in comparison with others.
Worf feels like a blank here. We don't really know anything about him, beyond the fact that he's a Klingon serving in Starfleet in some capacity. From his position on the bridge, we can gather that the Klingon Empire and the Federation have at least come to some uneasy truce, if not outright friendship. They appear to have set things aside based on The Motion Picture, but here we get some proof. It's really rather fabulous. TOS Klingons were most just adversaries in bad make-up. Film Klingons presented a mixed bag. TNG Klingons turn out to be cool people with a rich, varied history. I freaking love post-film Klingons.
Geordi LaForge is in the same boat. The VISOR has been explained, but not much else. He's mostly just a blind dude whose disability is a boon in certain situations. Fortunately, we're gonna get a lot more out of him than that, otherwise he would just be the guy whose wheelchair came in handy when he and two of his friends needed to cross some hot coals. "Let's just climb onto the disabled guy's chair and roll across."
Picard is also due for a bit of growth. This episode mostly marks out how he is different from Kirk. He's less likely to jump the gun on things, more likely to carefully consider his options. he's got a temper on him, no doubt, but they automatically set him up with some flaws when he admits to Riker that he isn't good with kids, and then he fumbles his meet-up with Dr Crusher.
Wesley Crusher was actually set up pretty well. What do we need to know about him? Dude is enthusiastic about space travel, this ship in particular, and wants real badly to be everybody's friend. He'll have some dick moments later on, but his basic demeanor here isn't going to change a whole lot. He's the kid brother who just really wants to join you and your friends in your game.
Dr Crusher is kind of also a blank slate. She's Right on Top of That, Rose when it comes to her job as chief medical officer, and she has a soft spot for her kid, but what do we mostly know about her?

Troi is on her way to becoming more subtle in her abilities as well. This episode, she often responds to her sensing emotion by having that emotion herself. While this doesn't disappear completely, it will be less obvious going-forward. Her relationships will prove to be rich and complex, which I like. One doesn't always consider how the counselor feels, but their lives are typically just as messed up as the rest of us. She'll also receive a number of make-overs, some of them terrible. In this episode, the producers correctly described her as looking like "an inter-galactic cheerleader."

While we covered the standard pants-based uniforms, let's take a quick look at a season one oddity, the skant. The skant was designed to be a play off of the original series mini-skirt tunics that all of the women wear, only in this case, it is available to men and women alike. Troi is wearing hers in this first episode, and we'll also see it on Yar (oddly enough). The thing is, the skant will disappear at the end of season one (along with that goofy piping that I hate), but only in the regular crew uniform rotations. The skant will return in future seasons... as the dress uniform for officers. It'll be paired with tights, and Riker and Picard will bitch mightily about them. It's good fun - join us!

Fun Facts:

- Lady Archon's first cat was Bratty's sister, a little black hauspanther named Imzadi. Sometimes being called Zim lead others to ask if the cat was named after the cartoon Invader Zim, but no. Lady Archon is far nerdier than that, and frankly, she totally ships the Riker-Troi ship. She also did not intend to end up with multiple cats named after Star Trek characters. (Though in her defense, it was Roomie that named Uhura and her brothers, Kirk and Spock.)

- Remember back to The Motion Picture when new characters Will Decker and Ilia were added to the crew, and their backstory was that they had had some kind of a love affair on her planet that ended abruptly? And that they hadn't encountered one another until they ended up serving on the same ship? Star Trek liked the idea of the human-Starfleet-officer-and-beautiful-alien-hook-up so much that they repeated it here with Will Riker (way to stretch yourselves, writers) and Deanna Troi.
- Patrick Stewart was approached for the part of Picard after he was overheard giving a university lecture on theater. Gene Rod disliked the idea of a bald captain, and Stewart was forced to audition in a hairpiece. (The hairpiece's name was George, and had to be flown into LA from his home in Great Britain.) After Stewart and others read for the part, Stewart was asked back in to re-read. He had already taken off the rug, so he read without it. Gene decided that he liked Patrick better without it.


This week's tea is one that I found on clearance and went, "What? Clearly, I need to buy this." It's Watermelon-Lime by Celestial Seasonings, and it's very obviously a summer tea, because who drinks watermelon anything in the winter? I was actually pretty hesitant to try it, as warm watermelon sounded like death warmed over. I thought it might make a delicious iced tea, and it does give instructions on how to brew it iced as well. But I drank it warm, and it turns out that a warm watermelon-lime tastes like raspberry. It was actually not bad. I'm looking forward to making it as an iced drink, but the warm version was surprisingly okay.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, there are some oddities early on, such as Wesley dripping holodeck water outside the holodeck, Data using contractions (which, y'know, actually makes sense compared to Data can't use contractions), and Data being from the Starfleet Class of '78.

    I think the holodeck was meant to be new at this time. TAS was considered non-canon until only fairly recently.