Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, December 12, 2016

ST:TNG Season One Review

I follow Wil Wheaton's Tumblr, and he'll sometimes answer Asks from others who follow him, then post them on his feed. One such person wrote in to tell him that they were big-time TNG fans, and that they had waffled for a long time about buying the large disc sets of each season. When they finally caved, they described "popping the disc into the disc tray and just feeling so much better." Wil's response? He read the comment too fast and thought the fan said that they'd pooped in the disc tray. He then decided that this was an appropriate response to season one.
Ooookay, then.

So it's 1987, and where are we? We're two shows and four films into the Star Trek franchise, with one aborted show that never took off. Gene Rod doesn't really want to do another show, but eventually agrees. He brings back a bunch of Trek veterans to work on his new show, but because they had to give the new show's budget to The Shat so he would keep appearing in films, they have pretty much no money.
Gene, fearing that this show will not live up to his vision for Star Trek, hires a lawyer, Leonard Maizlish to make sure his interests are protected. Maizlish hassles all of those Trek veterans, makes casting changes and re-writes scripts, completely illegal because he isn't part of any of the show business guilds. The lawyer basically drives all of the Trek veterans away by the end of season one, and Gene can't figure out where all of his friends went. No one told him they'd left because of Maizlish.
Star Trek is once again making an hour-long show for pennies. The creative crew are jumping ship. There's a new crew with a new captain, and the loyal TOS followers are not happy because Picard is not Kirk. A lot of the scripts are so-so, as are most scripts for first-season shows.
How the hell did TNG get another season?
Apparently, there was just enough awesome in the mix for some executive to say, "Fuck it, renew the thing."

"Encounter at Farpoint"

Rather than go episodic right out of the gate as TOS had, TNG set things up by having the new captain walk around the new ship, effectively introducing us to both. "This is not TOS. This is 100 years later, and this is how far the Federation has come. Aren't you glad that the walls are not made out of cardboard?"
(Fuck yeah, I am. I have nightmares about that TOS orange.)
"Look at our sexy new warp core. Isn't it fabulous?"
(Again, I'm super-biased here: I find Warp Core Blue to be very calming. It is also one of the colors of Jedi lightsabers.)
What's more, they bookended the show - whether they intended to end it from the outset with that same bookend or not, they set things up in a specific way: Picard and the E crew are put on trial for humanity's crimes against the universe by a douchebag new villain, Q. Even if you don't remember that going forward, technically all of the episodes of TNG are being submitted for approval by the Q Continuum, to later determine whether or not humanity should be destroyed. This is odd, given that the Q plot and the trial were only added to pad out the episode when it was decided to make the whole thing two hours long.

Awesome: Data escorting a very old Bones through the corridors of the new ship. The Q plot, where Picard defends humanity in a trial that will end in its destruction. Solid Star Trek philosophies and ideas there.

Less than awesome: the entire B-plot. It is discovered that the creepy governor of a creepy planet is getting all of the planet's energy from enslaving some jellyfish or something. The B-plot is forgettable.

What else was awesome, by season one standards?

Kind of Awesome

- Data's quote in "The Naked Now" about being "fully functional and programmed in multiple techniques."

- From the same episode: The USS Tsiolkovsky is a Federation ship built in the USSR. Everybody gets to play in space, y'all.
- Excellent use of the holodeck in "The Big Goodbye." The first time we see the holodeck is in TAS' "The Practical Joker," but we don't get to fully appreciate it's interactive capabilities until a short scene in "Encounter at Farpoint." Here, it's immersive, and the science behind it is interesting. Also, the fact that Beverly swallowed the chewing gum offered to her points out what sorts of things we take for granted - it clearly doesn't exist in her world, so she treats it like food, much to the confusion of the man who offered it.

- Data gets a backstory in "Datalore," and it's actually really interesting. It also sets up Lore and Dr Soong's stories for possible further exploration in the future.
- Also in "Datalore": people repeatedly tell Wes to shut up, and he finally tells them to fuck off, pointing out that they would have been taking him seriously if he was an adult.

-"11001001": Riker falls in love with Minuet, a hologram from the holodeck. Admit it. You'd hit that, too.

-Mordock's make-up and breathing contraption in "Coming of Age" were top-notch. The make-up department won an award for that episode, and I'm willing to bet that it was for Mordock.
- Wes' growth and character development in this episode were fantastic. He learns that his greatest fear is based on his father's death, and an excellent conversation occurs between Wes and Worf in the holodeck, where we get not only wisdom, but part of Worf's character development as well. Then bonus - we get some Picard backstory! Goldmine!

- "Symbiosis": In a move that sets him apart from Kirk, Picard uses the the Prime Directive not only to his own advantage and to the advantage of others, but to the full disadvantage to the Dick of the Week. This is my second-favorite "fuck off and die" moment, after the "competent teacher" insult that Minerva McGonagall lobs at Delores Umbridge in Harry Potter book 5.

- The casual conversation between Picard and Jenice Manheim in "We'll Always Have Paris" felt warm and genuine. I totally believe they had a good relationship at one point, and that the intervening years had smoothed over their estrangement. That conversation provided some good backstory to Picard and added to his character development. It kind of makes up for the fact that Dr Manheim kept asking Picard to take care of her if he died. However, nothing makes up for Jenice's weird-ass outfit.

- Worf (the Nurse Chapel of TNG) finally gets his own episode in "Heart of Glory," and we learn his backstory, how he came to be the only Klingon in Starfleet, and how he feels about his sideways heritage. As backstories go, this was a good one.
- Also in this episode, we learn how Geordi sees, and the bridge crew literally sees the world through his eyes. With a bit of special effects, we learn what it is to be Geordi La Forge.

- "Conspiracy": Remmick fucking died. It was a horrible, glorious thing. I happened to be blogging that scene at work during lunch, and my boss passed by and asked, "What the hell are you watching?!" Death of Remmick: it is beautiful.

- "Conspiracy": Tryla Scott is a badass who owns her success. 

-The fallout from waking up from cryogenic sleep is explored in a non-funny way in "The Neutral Zone," which I like. We see some of it in Futurama, but you're often so busy laughing at Bender's "shiny metal ass" jokes, that you don't realize that Fry had A Moment until later. I like when the backside of science makes it's way into the story.

- "Where No One Has Gone Before." An alien looking to travel the universe accidentally pushes the E into... someplace outside of the universe. Outside of Wesley's awful wardrobe, I didn't have a lot of bad things to say about this one. Not the best episode of Star Trek ever, but not terrible, either.

Interesting Concept, Shaky Execution

- "The Last Outpost." I like that the last of the Tkon Empire is the security system left on a remote planet. I'm into the whole "long-lost civilization" thing, but sadly, this time it was represented much like the old dude guarding the bridge in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The guardian in Outpost just asked a bunch of trivia.

- "Angel One." They try to point out in this episode that a matriarchy is just as bad as a patriarchy - that you're gonna have a bad time no matter which gender subjugates the other - but it gets a bit lost here, as they have Riker put on a skimpy outfit and do the woman in charge. I liked the counsel's costumes, though.

-"When the Bough Breaks." They tried to do an episode about holes in the ozone and the problems that that causes. It's lost in the kidnapping A-plot. Eh.

- "Home Soil." Is it life? Is it not? What constitutes life? Who cares? There's a murder plot afoot. The best part of this episode is where the terraformer explains the process. Everything else can be tossed.

- "We'll Always Have Paris." A kind-of interesting plot about time is severely overshadowed by a Picard romance.

I Forget What This Episode Was About

-"Lonely Among Us." Rats and fish attempt to eat one another on the way to a peace conference. The rats succeed. Also, Picard is possessed by some kind of sentient cloud? And it sucks him into space to become nothingness, or something?

-"Justice." A girl in no clothes and a bad wig is terrified when the E shows her "God." They try to execute Wesley Crusher for stepping on some plants.

-"The Battle." In our second Ferengi episode, Picard is forced to relive some skirmish in space. It's all happening in his mind, but also not?

-"Hide and Q." Q offers to give Riker his powers, and John De Lancie changes his clothes a dozen times over the course of five minutes. I mostly just remember this guy:

-"Haven." Deanna Troi is part of an arranged marriage, but the guy runs away to join a plague ship...? This episode is forgettable enough that I keep forgetting that one of my favorite characters, Lwaxanna Troi, makes her debut here.

-"Too Short a Season." A Starfleet admiral ages backward. I think there's a revenge plot?

-"When the Bough Breaks."  Some people kidnap some of the E's kids because they can't have their own. Wes is supposed to bring the kids around and embrace Stockholm Syndrome. As Wes episodes go, it's pretty weak.

-"The Arsenal of Freedom." Some of the senior officers get trapped on a planet where the security system is still in place. Given that Star Trek has done this concept three or four times, you would think I'd remember it. Nope.

Cancel This Show Yesterday

-"Code of Honor." They give Tasha Yar one moment to shine in her own episode, and it's a racist piece of shit. They try to "make up for it" near the end by proclaiming that it also isn't as sexist as you think it is, but it is. The whole thing sucks, start to finish. God awful.

-"The Last Outpost." Barf. Our first look at the Ferengi, and it's crap. They're supposed to be assholes, but currently have no reason to be. They mostly just talk a big game and make sexist remarks.

-"Symbiosis." The Just Say No convo between Wes and Yar is probably at the top of TNG's Worst Moments Ever list. It's pretty heavy-handed and feels like padding.

-"Skin of Evil." Tasha Yar dies for no reason in an episode about a fucking oil slick. The parts that don't feature Yar dying are boring as hell.

Arc Canceled One Episode In
This feels like the only time I've had this problem, where an episode should have been expanded and was just dropped at the end like they lost interest. It wasn't a feeling of "that was interesting and I wish they had expanded on it." It was more like"we're gonna keep going with this idea - nope, never mind." Worst of all, these episodes aired back-to-back at the end of the season. Two cock-teases in a row.

-"Conspiracy." Cries of  "the aliens are coming!" are met with shrugs by the end of this episode. Are they coming or not? Nope.

-"The Neutral Zone." Outposts are missing, the Romulans return, there is an imminent threat... aaannnnd, who cares? It's the last episode of the season, so you expect a cliff-hanger, but no. They finally come back to the idea, but it's half-way through the second season when you've forgotten about this episode.

Now, I love me a good unapologetic dick as a villain, but there has to be a reason.
I also want to slap smug people, and generally, these people are smug as shit.

Q will later become funny and sarcastic
and a bit pitiable, but now, he's just a douchebag.

Lutan: he really, really wants to watch Yar and Yareena wrestle in Jell-o.

All three of the Ferengi from "The Last Outpost" were giant assholes.

Kosinski acted like he was the shit, knowing that The Traveler
was doing all the work. By the end of "Where No Man Has Gone Before,"
he's a whiny little boy, unsure of himself or anything else.

Bok might get a pass because you feel bad for him, knowing that
his revenge plot is based on grief. But even his crew thinks he's a dick.

Fucking Lore. Fucking, fucking Lore.

Radue wants to put you in charge of telling a bunch of kids that
they love it here. Kidnapping is great! We love you!

Armus is an oil slick who kills people for fun. -____-

Remmick spends all episode in "Coming of Age" treating
people like shit, then asks to transfer to the E. When we see him
again, dude is housing a giant bug in his gut.

Pretty sure the direction given with this pair was "Just be a douche."

Season One Counts:

Red deaths: 5
Gold deaths: 4
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 1
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 5
Sassy Geordi moments: 6
Sassy Wes Moments: 2
Sassy Worf Moment: 4
Sassy Riker Moments: 4
Sassy Yar Moments: 1
Sassy Picard Moments: 5
Sassy NPC Moments: 4
Sassy Data Moments: 2
Sassy Crusher Moments: 1
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 16
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 19
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 5
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 3

So this count isn't totally complete, as I only started doing it ten episodes in, but some patterns are emerging:
-Wes actually gives the crew way less reason to bitch at him than he has reason to bitch at them.
- This crew is sarcastic as hell: I counted nearly thirty sassy moments between the holodeck NPCs and the main characters.
- If you're not aware that Data is an android, and Deanna Troi is an empath, then I don't know what show you're watching.
- The gold death count seems about right, but the red count is so high because so many of the people involved in the alien bug takeover plot were command.

So what's the bottom line?
Is Wil Wheaton's poop analogy correct?
I counted 12 episodes on the "Kind of Awesome" list, and 17 episodes combined in the other, less-awesome categories. That's too many episodes, but there are overlaps, places where the same episode ended up in both lists... a mixed bag on multiple episodes. Even in the episodes that mostly went right, there were still some places were complaints were valid. Maybe a scene or two turned out well in an otherwise iffy episode, such as "We'll Always Have Paris" or "Home Soil." While the "Awesome" category contains the most entries, it's cherry-picking parts from each episode, rather than praising the entire thing. 
The next largest category? The "I forgot what this was about" list. With 8 entries, that's almost half of the "not so awesome" list. Eight out of 26... almost a third. That's really lousy.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that most first seasons of any show are kind of crappy, especially when compared with later seasons. There's a new cast to establish chemistry with, a new writing team to coordinate together, and money that must be spent on new costumes and sets. Later seasons are able to build off of earlier character development, costumes and sets. And the first season of TNG saw all of their veteran writers and crew leaving, thanks to Leonard Maizlish.
But sometimes the cards are stacked against you, and you're still offered a second season, in spite of everything. There was enough of an audience, and enough episodes in that "awesome" list to warrant giving this new Star Trek another season.

Guess we'll keep on Treking, friends.


  1. I'm not surprised that TNG got a second season. I remember the late-80s/early-90s era of first-run syndication. There were all kinds of cheap, mediocre TV shows being produced and aired on weekend afternoons, including a fair amount of sci-fi, and lots of them got more than one season. (Anyone remember Super Force? Superboy? War of the Worlds?) I think first-run syndication just had lower expectations.

    1. Plus there's this: http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/images/b/bb/TNG_syndication_ratings_ad.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130403192500&path-prefix=en

  2. Okay, Minuet was one of the first----preceded by only Lycia Neff perhaps?----babes we've seen. But *MANY* future mega-hotties blew Minuet out of the water:

    Estee Chandler
    Michelle Phillips
    Madchen Amick
    Teri Hatcher
    Eileen Seeley
    Lisa Wilcox
    Beth Toussaint
    Jennifer Hetrick
    Michelle Forbes
    Ashley Judd (Goddess)
    Shannon Fill
    Famke Janssen (Goddess)
    Olivia d'Abo (Goddess)

    So hopefully after those seven years had passed, Riker had reassessed his tastes and fetishes. ...(Though, hell YEAH I'd hit that!!)

  3. Oh, wait: Minuet came before Sonia Gomez! Anyway....

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