Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint   Rewatch 
April 7, 2020 8:32 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Captain Jean-Luc Picard takes command of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D on her first mission. Consequently—as so often happens with Starfleet captains—he meets a god. (Series premiere)

This being a rewatch, spoilers are always possible in these threads.

This episode is double-length, and counted as both episodes 1 and 2 of the first season.

Background information details in these posts come from the obsessively authoritative Trek fan wiki Memory Alpha except where otherwise indicated. Needless to say, for this episode, the MA background info is way more voluminous than even my editorial selections below. (Rest assured that most TNG FF posts won't be this huge.)

- The Next Generation was the first successful live-action television series spun off from what has since become known as The Original Series. (See also the MA list of undeveloped Star Trek projects.) Paramount decided to make the second Star Trek TV series a reality due to the box-office success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The first US VHS tape release of the movie contained a small promo clip for The Next Generation, briefly introducing the new Enterprise and characters.

- TNG was first mentioned by Paramount Television president Mel Harris at press conference on 10 October 1986.

- The first footage to be shot was the scene where, at a holographic parkland and stream, Riker first meets Data and Wesley Crusher. The scene was filmed on 29 May 1987, at Fern Dell Drive, Griffith Park. Extremely nervous and insecure about filming TNG because he had had very little camera time, Patrick Stewart was glad that he didn't work the first day, when this footage was shot.

- This was the first Star Trek "pilot" which was presold as a series. Although Paramount was contractually obligated to deliver a full first season's worth of new Star Trek episodes to television networks, the production crew and main cast members were under the impression, since the first season technically wasn't guaranteed, that this episode might be the only one the studio would produce.

- Although D. C. Fontana was hired to write the episode while the deadline for initiating preproduction on it was approaching, she almost immediately ran into trouble because no-one seemed absolutely sure what she should do; as of December 1986, Paramount was yet to decide whether the episode should be two hours, ninety minutes, or an hour in length. Later, Fontana said, "the script was taken out of my hands and it was totally rewritten by Gene [Roddenberry]."

- The original casting call for the role of Picard sent out to agents asked for the following: "CAPT. Julien Picard – A Caucasian man in his 50s who is very youthful and in prime physical condition. Born in Paris, his Gallic accent appears when deep emotions are triggered. He is definitely a 'romantic' and believes strongly in concepts like honor and duty. Capt. Picard commands the Enterprise. He should have a mid-Atlantic accent, and a wonderfully rich speaking voice." TNG supervising producer Robert Justman said that Picard was named after oceanographer Jacques Piccard.

- Actors considered for the role of Picard included Louis Gossett Jr. [Wikipedia], Yaphet Kotto, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams [Wikipedia], Avery Brooks, and Keir Dullea [Wikipedia].

- Justman's recollection of Patrick Stewart meeting Gene Roddenberry: "After he drove away, Gene closed the door and turned to me, and I will quote him exactly. He said, 'I won't have him.'" Roddenberry himself noted, "My first reaction was, 'Jesus Christ, Bob, I don't want a bald man.'"

- The character of Data was inspired by two previous sources. First was a movie created for television by Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon during the 1970s, entitled The Questor Tapes. It featured Robert Foxworth as the title character (as well as including Majel Barrett and Walter Koenig), and was intended as the pilot for a series which would have detailed the adventures of an android with a childlike personality. The second source was the aborted 1978 series Star Trek: Phase II, as Data's desire to understand Humans and their emotions corresponded to that of the Vulcan character Xon.

- During the early production stages of TNG, Riker's name was spelled "Ryker". His description in the original casting call was as follows: "NUMBER ONE (AKA WILLIAM RYKER) – A 30-35 year old Caucasian born in Alaska. He is a pleasant looking man with sex appeal, of medium height, very agile and strong, a natural psychologist. Number One, as he is usually called, is second in command of the Enterprise and has a very strong, solid relationship with the Captain." Actors considered for the role included Ben Murphy, Jeffrey Combs, Vaughn Armstrong, and William O. Campbell, who was actually cast in the role briefly before being replaced by Jonathan Frakes.

- One source of inspiration when fleshing out the character of Riker was James T. Kirk. According to the writer's guide for the second season, "Like the legendary 23rd century Kirk (when in his early thirties), our Number One is very strong and agile and has a tendency toward 'derring-do'. Also like Captain Kirk, Riker has a healthy sex drive." Riker was also given the same middle initial T. as Kirk, although his middle name was not actually decided until "Second Chances" in the sixth season. According to TNG supervising producer Jeri Taylor, a variety of names including "Tecumseh" was considered before the writing staff settled on "Thomas" as the "simplest" choice.

- Part of the premise Gene Roddenberry wrote for TNG was that it was set at a time when Klingons had set aside their differences with the Federation, and had become their allies. Robert Justman proposed a "Klingon Marine" serve on the Enterprise as a symbol of this. TNG story editor David Gerrold recollected, "When Dorothy wrote 'Encounter at Farpoint', and we had the ship split into two parts, one of the women crew members was left in charge. Next thing, when we get the script back, here's this Klingon head of security, named Worf [....] So, that's where Worf comes from. After months of Gene saying no, suddenly it gets written in." According to Justman, Michael Dorn's stage training, as well his lack of a "street accent", were some of the factors which led to Dorn securing the role.

- The character of Tasha Yar was indirectly inspired by Jenette Goldstein's space marine character Vasquez from the motion picture Aliens. Roddenberry and Justman watched Aliens during the early stages of preparation for the series, and Roddenberry expressed his wish to create a character named "Macha" based on Vasquez. Recalled Gerrold, "After Aliens, Gene would say about Jenette Goldstein, 'That woman created a whole new style of feminine beauty. We should have something like that in Star Trek.'" Marina Sirtis originally auditioned for the role of Yar.

- The original concept for the character of Deanna Troi was partly inspired by Ilia, a likewise empathic character created for the abandoned series Star Trek: Phase II before ultimately appearing in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Similarly, Troi's relationship with Riker has its conceptual roots in Ilia's relationship with Willard Decker from TMP. Originally, Deanna Troi was meant to be a very cerebral character. Gerrold once recalled, "Bob Justman and I spoke about a person aboard ship who serves the function of an emotional healer. Not a chaplain, because we have moved beyond mere ritual, but someone who serves as a 'master.' His/her job is to support those aboard the ship in the job of being the best they can be. That would eventually become Deanna Troi." Stated Sirtis, "Gene [Roddenberry] had the idea of this character because he felt that in the 24th century mental health should be as important as physical health." Sirtis also remarked, "Troi was not supposed to be the chick on the show. Gene [Roddenberry] said she was intended to be the brain on the show." Denise Crosby added, "The original description of Troi was this cool, Icelandic blonde."

- The creation of the La Forge character began when Gene Roddenberry proposed having a disabled crewmember aboard the Enterprise. Gerrold subsequently wrote a memo which listed various disabilities, from which Roddenberry selected blindness. Gerrold ultimately disapproved of how little of La Forge's face was usually visible due to wearing a VISOR. The character was named for the late quadriplegic Star Trek fan George La Forge. After having helped select blindness as the character's disability, it was Gerrold who suggested naming the character after George La Forge. "Gene thought that was a terrific idea," Gerrold noted. It was also Gerrold who thought up the idea that Geordi La Forge be a black man. "I suggested that we didn't have any black people on the ship in terms of our regular characters," Gerrold reflected, "and in keeping with the ethnic character of the show, and if neither the captain or the first officer were black, then it was perhaps Geordi who should be black." Reggie Jackson was at one time the favorite for the role.

- Initially, Beverly Crusher was to be the Enterprise's schoolteacher. However, that was soon to change, due to Gerrold. "One day during lunch," he remembered, "I kept talking about Beverly Crusher [....] and in the middle of this I said, 'We don't have a ship's doctor yet, why don't we have Beverly Crusher be the ship's doctor?' I wish I'd recorded the conversation, because everybody said, 'Nah, that doesn’t work,' and then they started discussing it. Eddie Milkis said, 'You know, that saves us a character. If Beverly Crusher is the ship's doctor, then we don't have to create a ship's doctor.' Then Bob Justman said, 'No, that makes it harder for the captain to have this relationship with Beverly Crusher that we want to have. On the other hand, the fact that it's harder to have this relationship puts more tension… You know, Gene, that's not a bad idea.' And then Gene started discussing it. By lunch, Beverly Crusher was the ship's doctor."

- The original casting call for the character of Dr. Crusher was as follows: "BEVERLY CRUSHER – Leslie's 35-year-old mother. She serves as the chief medical officer on the Enterprise. If it were not for her intelligence, personality, beauty, and the fact that she has a natural walk of a striptease queen, Capt. Picard might not have agreed to her request that Leslie observe bridge activities; therefore letting her daughter's intelligence carry events further."

- During the early development of the series, Justman convinced Roddenberry to change the character of Wesley Crusher into a female, with the name "Leslie Crusher". As Justman told him, "Geez, everybody has boy teenagers; let's do a girl. Let's explore the problems that female adolescents go through, you know, because that's never done." However, the character was later turned back into a boy, as in the original concept.

- The character of Q was thought up by Gene Roddenberry as a way to help fill out the events of "Encounter at Farpoint" from a one-hour to two-hour running time. The name "Q" was chosen by Roddenberry in honor of an English Star Trek fan named Janet Quarton. She was the first president of the U.K. Star Trek fan club, and Roddenberry and many others spent time at her home, in the Scottish highlands. Immediately after Roddenberry invented the character of Q, the other members of the TNG preproduction staff realized it was very reminiscent of the character Trelane from the TOS episode "The Squire of Gothos". "We're all looking at each other, saying, 'It's Trelane [from the original series] all over again,'" remembered Gerrold. "We all hated it and very gently suggested to Gene that it wasn't very good. Of course, this fell on deaf ears. He said, 'Trust me, the way I'll do it, the fans will love it.'"

- TNG executive producer Rick Berman has credited Roddenberry's lawyer Leonard Maizlish with suggesting actor John de Lancie for the part of Q, who went on to become one of the most popular recurrent characters on TNG, in no small measure due to the way de Lancie portrayed his character.

- Despite having proclaimed that he regarded TOS as the only true Star Trek in 1986, DeForest Kelley was eager to appear in this episode. Justman reflected, "[Gene Roddenberry] invited De to lunch and he says, 'How would you feel about it?', expecting De to say, 'No. NO' – and De said, 'I'd be honored.' And not only that, not only did he say 'I'd be honored,' but he refused to take any more than SAG scale [salary]. He could have held us up for a lot of money, and he didn't."

- This was the first of eleven TNG Season 1 episodes scored by composer Dennis McCarthy. With its ninety-minute running length, the pilot required a lot of music, and the results would be vital to much of the series' success. "The main request was to keep it lush and romantic and to try to sound like a hundred players rather than the 38 that we used," McCarthy recalled. "I scored it in a romantic vein, instead of playing up the science fiction, and I used synthesizers to make the orchestra sound larger than it was."

- This episode was initially aired during a period in the history of Star Trek's fan base when disagreement was rife as to how successful the new series would be. "I vividly recall the anticipation and discord leading up to the premiere of The Next Generation," noted Ain't It Cool News film and TV critic Glen C. Oliver. Star Trek novel and comic author Mark A. Altman explained, "If you look at 'Farpoint', there was a feeling of doom and gloom, everyone saying, 'Lightning can't strike twice [….] No one thought this series was going to work, including a lot of the fans."

- At the end of production on this episode, Roddenberry made an announcement which hinted at how extremely proud he was of the installment. "I remember when we finished the pilot of Next Generation," recalled TNG production designer Herman Zimmerman, "and Mr. Roddenberry said, 'People say you can't go home again, but we just proved that under the right conditions you can.'"

- The pilot episode first aired on 28 September 1987. "I remember watching the first episode at Paramount," offered Wesley Crusher actor Wil Wheaton, "and at the end of the opening credits, when the Enterprise sort of flies underneath the camera and you can see a little person walking in the conference room, I just got chills." The screening was followed by a party. However, extremely embarrassed about her performance in this episode, Marina Sirtis didn't attend the party. "I just grabbed my date and escaped!" she exclaimed. "We were in the middle of shooting [other episodes] and I was going to see everybody on Monday morning, but I just couldn't face them after the screening."

- TNG writer and executive producer Michael Piller stated, "I think the Q thing did come out of a time requirement, but there isn't any question in my mind that the best thing in the show is that Q story. If it had been only that other story, it would have been a disappointment. The other thing that comes out of 'Farpoint' is a vision of Roddenberry's where we have Picard arguing for the future of mankind, representing the advocate of humanity to this Q who puts humanity on trial. That's an extraordinary, philosophically ambitious idea, and it really helps to define why Star Trek is what it is. Without that, it would have been spaceships and monsters and special effects."

- Yar actress Denise Crosby was happy with this episode, stating, "I think they did a great job." An element of the outing she cited as "really interesting" was the presentation of the Q character. On the other hand, Frakes wasn't satisfied with this episode. He commented, "The first episode really felt like two stories forced together [...] I think the look of the pilot had the quality of the original. [...] I think we were all floundering around trying to find out who we were; when you look back at the pilot you can certainly sense that we had a sort of Data-like wonder in our eyes!"

- This episode is the first mention of the Ferengi Alliance on Star Trek. It is hinted at being a non-benevolent enemy of the Federation, and the Ferengi were intended to be the new villains for the TNG crew, because peace had been made with the Klingons. This idea was eventually abandoned, however, after the Ferengi made their first appearance and were not taken seriously by the actors and later writers.

- While the wording of Picard's initial captain's log could imply that Starfleet had selected Riker for the position of first officer, TNG: "The Pegasus" later clarified that Picard had personally chosen Riker for the position.

- Data uses a couple of verbal contractions in this episode ("We're right next to it," in reference to the holodeck wall, and, "I can't see as well as Geordi, sir…"), something which is established later in the series as being beyond his abilities.

- This is the only time in TNG and subsequent series that an additional captain's log entry is referred to as "supplementary", rather than the usual "supplemental".

- This episode marks the last time that Counselor Troi is seen in a regular Starfleet uniform until TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I" with the exception of TNG: "Future Imperfect", although in the latter case, Troi – as well as the entire events of that episode – turn out to be an illusion.


"Captain's log, Stardate 41153.7. Our destination is Planet Deneb IV, beyond which lies the great unexplored mass of the galaxy. My orders are to examine Farpoint, a starbase built there by the inhabitants of that world. Meanwhile I'm becoming better acquainted with my new command – this Galaxy-class USS Enterprise. I'm still somewhat in awe of its size and complexity. As for my crew, we are short in several key positions, most notably a first officer, but I'm informed that a highly experienced man, one Commander William Riker, will be waiting to join the ship at our Deneb IV destination."
- Picard


"But you can't deny, captain, that you are still a dangerous, savage child race."
"Most certainly, I deny it. I agree we still were, when Humans wore costumes like that four hundred years ago."
"At which time you slaughtered millions in silly arguments about how to divide the resources of your little world. And four hundred years before that, you were murdering each other in quarrels over tribal god images. Since then, there has been no indication that Humans will ever change."

- Q and Picard


"I grew up in a world that allowed things like this court! And it was people like these that saved me from it! This so-called court should get down on its knees to what Starfleet is! What it represents!"

- Yar


"Captain, the Ferengi would be very interested in a base like this!"
"Fine. Let's hope they find you as tasty as they did their past associates."

- Zorn and Picard


"I'm not a family man, Riker, and yet Starfleet has seen fit to give me a ship with children aboard."
"Yes, sir."
"And I'm… not comfortable with children. But since a captain is supposed to project an image of geniality, you're to see that's what I project."
"Yes, sir."

- Picard and Riker, discussing the former's discomfort with the ship's population of children


"What about my age?"
"Sorry, sir. If that subject troubles you…"
"Troubles me? What's so damned troubling about not having died?"

- McCoy and Data


"You treat her like a lady… and she'll always bring you home."

- McCoy, about the Enterprise


Poster's Log:
In the interest of page space and readers' patience, I will not rehash my previous remarks about what this series means to me. I do distinctly remember watching this when it aired—one of those once-in-a-lifetime television events, a phrase you sure don't hear anymore—and coming away from it thinking, "Well, it's definitely Star Trek, but it was a lot weirder than I expected! Maybe it'll turn out to be weird in a good way." Viewed from a 2020 POV, of course, it's dated and cheesy in many many ways. (BTW: if you have CBS All Access, I'm pretty sure it's streaming the remastered version of this show, which looks much nicer.) But right now, and despite season one of this show being famously rough, I'm really looking forward to this rewatch.

As a pilot, this episode strikes me on this rewatch as more solid w/r/t establishing the newly-revised Trek universe, and the goalposts of just how bold the stories here might get, than it is at establishing the characters. The performances by Spiner and Sirtis in particular are just not quite aligned with what the characters would become. Stewart and De Lancie are already locked-in, of course, and most of the others felt close enough for now.

I actually really like the fact that Picard and Riker start off with a distant, chilly, very military relationship here, and I'm looking forward to assessing how long it stays that way, how gradually (or not) that it shifts. I always felt like this show established (albeit not necessarily quickly or clearly) that the job of a starship's first officer is basically to do the real grinding work of command: where the captain is the decider, the XO is the doer, overseeing the entire crew and ensuring that the captain's decisions are carried out.

The Enterprise-D was my favorite Star Trek ship design until "Yesterday's Enterprise," when I saw the Ambassador-class and fell in love with it: it's like a perfectly balanced fusion of the Galaxy-, Excelsior-, and Constitution-class. The Galaxy might still be my second-favorite, though. Speaking of basking in Trek ship design: it's kind of shocking that they didn't have a drawn-out spacedock sequence in this episode, especially since they needed to fill some time. I guess the saucer sep sequence achieved the same purpose, but man does the -D look dorky in stardrive-only mode.

Poster's Log,  Supplementary  Supplemental:
Even though the Enterprise rewatch hasn't concluded yet, I figured now is a good time to launch the TNG rewatch anyway: season 1 of Picard just ended, and I'm sure I'm not the only one looking for more stuff to watch during the global coronavirus couch-a-thon. (Not to mention the whole "hope for humanity's future" thing of TNG… and by the way, did anybody else find the Q's-courtroom scenes a lot less implausible this time around? :/ )

I must remark that The Fifty-Year Mission is an almost un-put-downable read for anyone with enough interest in Trek to actually be reading this sentence—and that one of the main takeaways from it IMO (keeping in mind the possibility of selective editors) was what sort of guy Roddenberry was—a dude with some ahead-of-his-time social ideas, ample willingness to rehash his surprisingly small number of original/intriguing sci-fi story and character ideas, and a personal life so upsetting that it has its own dedicated Wikipedia page. I expect there'll be more to say about the role of Roddenberry (and his lawyer…) in the series as the rewatch proceeds.

If you were hoping this post would be longer, go read the overview/annotations/review by Bernd Schneider over at Ex Astris Scientia, whose obsessive fansite has appeared in previous Trek FF threads.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (55 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
and the fact that she has a natural walk of a striptease queen

GAG. I'll have more to say about the actual episode later, once I can rewatch it, but reading the show notes really puts into stark relief how the fact that this show turned into the absolutely great thing it was was most certainly not a given... I'm not sure I can rewatch some of these turkeys, but if you want to follow along with dumb jokes by a couple of guys to whom TNG was also formative, may I recommend the Greatest Generation and starting at the top?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:29 AM on April 7 [7 favorites]


I always thought this was a very odd choice of plot for a series premiere. To introduce you to the long-awaited reboot of our rollicking space adventures, we'll start out with... an existential trial to determine the worthiness of humanity? Feels more like season finale material to me. I know that was an old Trek trope already but so were a lot of other options.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:56 AM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Yes, but Q. Q!
posted by Chrysostom at 10:19 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis already covered the 'striptease queen' aspect, a phrase I truly hope to never type again, so I'll tackle:

(in re: Michael Dorn)
as well his lack of a "street accent"

Ohhhhh my God oh my god oh my god oh jesus.
posted by kalimac at 10:31 AM on April 7 [25 favorites]


And yet when you look at the actors they were trying to get for Picard- It's very weird because it's that sort of 60's "color-blindness" that touts itself as soooo progressive, and for it's time was, but has absolutely no issue with policing people accents and not realizing how racist that is. Same thing with the way the women were described- three women as part of the main cast (all white tho) was pretty progressive and yet... "striptease queen" ICK. The real tension in the first three years of trek is the sort of 60's ethos as it turns eventually into the 90's and how it just isn't good enough anymore.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:01 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


TNG was flawed from the beginning. Q is a sort of Great Gazoo. If you start a series with the premise "anything that happens can be the whim of an all-powerful being" there's no discipline to the plotlines, you can do anything – it's like "it was all just a dream!"

That isn't to say that there were no great episodes, but Q was a chronic weakness in that series. One of the great things about DS9 was that there was only one Q episode and it didn't matter.

There's no chance Q will come back to ST:Discovery or Picard or any of the other new spinoffs. Thank goodness.
posted by zadcat at 4:58 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


There was a lot to this episode that felt weird, but somehow the thing that bothered me the most was how they color coded the space jellyfish couple as pink and blue at the end.
posted by Garm at 5:01 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


OMG, I have to stop reading, and I had thought I had previously read MA for this episode. Reggie Jackson? Wow!
posted by mwhybark at 5:05 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


There's no chance Q will come back to ST:Discovery or Picard or any of the other new spinoffs. Thank goodness.

Agreed, but this is just to say that Q is actually good on Voyager.
posted by asperity at 6:32 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Theres a lot more reaction closeups of shit-eating grins than I remembered or expected. Picard being kind of a dick though, I did.
posted by rodlymight at 6:59 PM on April 7


Lol, O’BRIEN! Totes forgot.
posted by mwhybark at 7:32 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


and the prefiguration of the Jem Hadar! Wow.
posted by mwhybark at 7:36 PM on April 7


This is the episode that features the guy wearing a minidress. And then that never happens again.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:39 PM on April 7 [8 favorites]


Lol, O’BRIEN! Totes forgot.

Right? Although according to IMDB he won’t get a name until season 2. Colm Meaney is credited here as Battle Bridge Conn.
posted by rodlymight at 7:55 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Dialog reference to the Ferengi! Grapler dude looks like Smokey from Big Lebowski, or Steven McDonald from Redd Kross and other projects.
posted by mwhybark at 8:08 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


the Ferengi were intended to be the new villains for the TNG crew, because peace had been made with the Klingons. This idea was eventually abandoned, however, after the Ferengi made their first appearance and were not taken seriously by the actors and later writers.

Yeah, the Ferengi were just awful at first, a disaster until, a few seasons down the line, someone hit on the idea of putting one in a Hawaiian shirt. And suddenly they just clicked.
posted by Naberius at 8:58 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


the guy wearing a minidress.

I think you mean- the Skant.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:08 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


SPACE JELLYFISH? wtf, apparently I blocked a lot of this due to trauma

Still, I would say I found this less terrible than I recalled it. I am certainly giving it a pass.

CoB cannily left the next episode - enshrined as some heavy-duty yick - to me.
posted by mwhybark at 9:10 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


Before I get into the pilot, a confession: TNG is the only Star Trek series that I haven't seen all the episodes of, yet. There are a few reasons for this:

- When the series started, I had graduated from college, didn't know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and took whatever jobs I could get, so I was pretty poor--I didn't own my own TV and ended up working second-shift jobs a lot, so I caught the episodes of the first few seasons when and where I could. Of course, at the time, access to the episodes outside of whenever the syndicating stations decided to show them was limited to videotapes, either from whomever decided to tape them or the few video stores that decided to carry them. So, my watching them was pretty spotty for a long time.

- I wasn't encouraged to try to keep up by how badly the first season sucked, frankly. I'll talk more about this as we go along in S1; The Fifty-Year Mission and other books, websites, and interviews have made clear why this was the case, of course.

- Thanks to TNG being the first Trek series to be covered on the internet as it happened (first on Usenet newsgroups and then the web; a significant portion of early web servers were named after TNG characters and things), I picked up a lot about the series just by reading about it, including which episodes were skippable (i.e. the magic candle sex ghost one). I eventually did watch the major ones, although I still haven't seen "Chain of Command" because I was spoiled about the four lights.

So, I think that there will be a number of episodes where it's my first watch, and I'm looking forward to all of them, really, the good, the bad, and the ugly (I'm looking at you, "Conspiracy"). This one was decent enough, given some pretty glaring flaws and shortcomings:

- Roddenberry's creepiness has already been commented on; I still am simultaneously bemused, irritated, and just kind of baffled that, given that Star Trek: The Motion Picture not only disappointed but kind of got Roddenberry edged out of the movie franchise, he would then repeat the set-up of the movie--older captain in some conflict with young, handsome XO, who in turn had an unresolved relationship with a beautiful alien bridge crewmember with unique qualities--rather prominently in the new series. Will Riker is even basically a brunette version of Will Decker, down to the blue eyes and cleft chin. That he eventually became a decent character in his own right, thanks to Jonathan Frakes (who of course also became a good director) is more a testament to the actor than to the initial set-up.

- The pilot seems stitched together from bits and pieces from TOS: the resemblance of Q to Trelane has already been noted, plus Q's energy sphere chasing after the ship is reminiscent of the Fesarius chasing after the original 1701 in "The Corbomite Maneuver", the first regular episode of TOS filmed and the intended introduction of the series, before the studio decided to lead with the salt vampire one. And the big secret of Farpoint, which is not really an Encyclopedia Brown-level stumper, is reminiscent of every TOS episode where you think that the planet-o-the-week is really about X when it's really about Y.

- While I appreciate the concept behind Q in the abstract--that he's trying to help humanity in its development by challenging it--boy, is he grating. It says something that, with all of Q's appearances in the franchise, my favorite appearances of John de Lancie's were in Breaking Bad.

But there were still quite enjoyable moments. I think that Stewart and Burton nailed their characters from the beginning. Wesley has yet to become the Mary Sue (and, yes, I know how badly that term is overused, but I don't think that it was at all a coincidence that Eugene Wesley Roddenberry insisted on his being a boy) that would lead to his being a fan non-favorite. Although this would be the last time that someone could throw a rock at the edge of the holodeck and not only have it stop in thin air but also pixelate the display, it was a neat effect, as was the saucer separation (something that had been floated at least as far back as the original Constitution-class blueprints in beta canon). The skant is funny. And I got misty-eyed at seeing the Admiral. 137! DeForest Kelley would be "only" 100 this year.

A few other things: wow, what this show would have been like if Picard had been played by Avery Brooks. Kind of funny to have them make a big fuss over whatever they desired "magically" appearing on Farpoint, when we know that they have replicators (although not shown in this episode). And there are little bits that I noticed throughout; I didn't make a note of all of them, but one that I remember is that of Data sort of flexing his fingers when he's at his station near the beginning. (Also, to bring it back to PIC, Data whistling "Pop goes the Weasel" gets mentioned in "Nepenthe".)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:51 PM on April 7 [3 favorites]


lol, woah, HJ. My crew mostly noped out after the first few episodes but had rallied by the end of s02. I was in a colorfully-inhabited college house and FOR SURE the first few episodes of the first season were not-enough-room on the couch events. Somewhere I have a little marginal doodle of Stewart-as-Picard from a class where I captioned it foolishly after Whitman O Captain My Captain with really knowing what I meant.

I did a full rewatch many years ago and felt s01 and s02 were if anything deeply overrated and that it was amazing they got past them, and then a more recent rewatch in which I skipped s01 and s02 and discovered to my amazement that possibly I had not done a complete rewatch after all when I noticed the very high number of absolutely TERRIBLE episodes in s07.

I have always been bemused by the supposed TOS trufan vs TNG early adopter split that was featured in early 90s fan discourse. About half of my roomies in 1987-1988 were kids that loved Trek, but also monster movies, punk rock, Space: 1999, drugs, porn, and skateboarding. So while Trek was valued by them and of interest, it was much less important to them than it was to me, and they found the retread stuff that is so transparent in these early TNG episodes not horrifying, but lame and hilarious. They didn’t care that Picard wasn’t Kirk, and they thought the DeForrest Kelley appearance in Farpoint was absurd and pandering (which is a fair point).

TNG’s early run was NOT PROMISING. But I sure kept watching.
posted by mwhybark at 12:00 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


This was somehow not as bad as I remembered, which isn't to say it was good. I actually enjoyed the slow pacing and long uninterrupted shots of ship operations accompanied by sweeping music. And the entire episode is much better if you go in fully embracing the camp, e.g. John de Lancie's scenery-flossing. Random observations follow.

Re Picard signaling surrender to the Q: in case you're wondering how often Starfleet captains signal their surrender, it doesn't happen very often in the franchise.

One of the coolest things about the Enterprise to me, which was rarely explored in the show, were the families and civilians on board. You see a lot more of them running around in this episode than in most! I wish we'd gotten a "Lower Decks" from the civilian point of view during TNG's run.

Groppler Zorn is such a delightfully bonkers Trek name. I like to believe it was left over from notes in TOS, written on a napkin and stuffed into a file, never used, only to be resurrected in this episode. As best as I can tell, no Trek Metal band has taken the name as their own. More's the pity.

Is it me or are there more Venetian blinds on the Enterprise in this episode than we tend to see later? Yikes.

Saucer separation is to TNG as "bio-neural gel packs" are to VOY. Neat idea in theory, very rarely explored, rarely interesting when the concept is explored onscreen.

Whenever they have Worf literally say, OUT LOUD, "I am a Klingon" it makes me collapse into giggles.
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:04 AM on April 8 [5 favorites]


MA suggests that we see the skant about five times throughout the show, but yeah, it's never very consistent or prominent, which is a damn shame if you ask me.

wow, what this show would have been like if Picard had been played by Avery Brooks.

I KNOW. The mind boggles.

Kind of funny to have them make a big fuss over whatever they desired "magically" appearing on Farpoint, when we know that they have replicators (although not shown in this episode).

Yeah, the only thing about the Super Mysterious Farpoint Station that seemed at all clearly established was the Zorn character's duplicitousness. Everything else was sort of fuzzy and handwavey, but OTOH, clarifying it would have (A) wasted time on the weaker of these two kludged-together stories and (B) probably hurt the admittedly kind of creepy alien-interior set sequences.

I still haven't seen "Chain of Command" because I was spoiled about the four lights.

Meh, that's a minor spoiler. That two-parter is so good mainly for other reasons—watching guest actors spar deliciously with our leads, IMO, first among them. Also, there's some really good Cardassian stuff in there. I predict that you'll be moved to watch it as a palliative before you are able to finish season 1, if you are able.

Groppler Zorn is such a delightfully bonkers Trek name. [...] As best as I can tell, no Trek Metal band has taken the name as their own. More's the pity.

CHALLENGE ACCEP— oh wait, Covid. nevermind -_-

Whenever they have Worf literally say, OUT LOUD, "I am a Klingon" it makes me collapse into giggles.

I think my favorite one is in First Contact when he says it without preamble to Alfre Woodard, as if he expects her to calm down and be like, "Oh, right."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:24 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


I tried to watch TNG probably seven or eight years ago, but after a dozen episodes was put off by the way that Tasha Yar was either a) mentioned having come from a planet with rape gangs or b) she was put in a sexual situation without her consent every single episode - without actually putting much thought as to how those two things might connect.

Being told that she was killed off at the end of the first season didn't make things better.

I did like this as a pilot, though! It's a weird, kind of plodding cerebral thing, but as Star Trek premieres go, it's not too bad. It's more watchable than a lot of the rest of the first season.

Avery Brooks would have meant a lot less Q, at least. I find it interesting that with all the talk on 'street accents' and some of the episodes coming up very shortly, they looked like they were seriously considering a black starship captain.

Anyway, I'll probably catch up with the rewatch in season two.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:05 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Whenever they have Worf literally say, OUT LOUD, "I am a Klingon" it makes me collapse into giggles.

Michael Dorn is *so* good as comic relief.
posted by rocketman at 9:36 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


And yet as we all know, Worf is not a merry man!
posted by sugar and confetti at 10:03 AM on April 8 [8 favorites]


Trying to remember myself and what I loved about this show, even Season 1, I think what I mostly know is that the pickings were so, so slim on TV and in movies for anything like sci-fi. We are so spoiled now, with so many great shows, but 1987 was a much more barren place. Lots of sitcoms, not much of anything with real imagination.

I broke out in goosebumps the first time I heard the theme music and I was hooked after that. I did my best never to miss an episode and made many of my college friends because we all ended up in the TV lounge watching it together.

I had never been a TOS fan. But I loved Picard. Was meh on Riker. Not sure about Data. Immediately developed a crush on Worf.

In a world where Silver Spoons and The Tortellis were on the air, you don't turn up your nose at a few cheesy special effects. It felt like it was made for me.
posted by emjaybee at 2:33 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


In fairness, The Tortellis was only on the air for four months.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:36 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


It felt longer
posted by emjaybee at 5:04 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


He is a pleasant looking man with sex appeal

The mismatch between what the writers want us to think about Riker and what we actually think about Riker is one of my favorite things about TNG.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:02 PM on April 8 [12 favorites]


the pickings were so, so slim on TV and in movies for anything like sci-fi. We are so spoiled now, with so many great shows, but 1987 was a much more barren place.

I don't think this can be overstated. Growing up in the 80's in lower middle-class suburbia, I was gonna watch 20 hours of tv a week, just no matter what. That meant a whole lot of incredibly formulaic, repetitive and self-derivative primetime shows, and a even more barren wasteland of inexplicably syndicated trash (Too Close for Comfort, why were you constantly on the air?). So when TNG hit the airwaves, it honestly did not have to be hardly any good at all to capture my attention.
posted by skewed at 6:21 PM on April 8 [11 favorites]


what we actually think about Riker is one of my favorite things about TNG.

Yeah I don't think he's a sex bomb until the beard gets grown. But when it does... mmmmmm neanderthal like. In the meantime I'll be over here crushing on Geordi and Troi. Tng BTW was literally how I figured out I was Bi when I was like 6 or so, so I apologize in advance for any thirsty comments I make in these threads. Oh formative youth!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:34 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


The conceit that Data wasn't capable of using English contractions is arguably the most ridiculous thing in the entire show, and yes I've seen all of it.
posted by thedward at 9:28 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


The conceit that Data wasn't capable of using English contractions is arguably the most ridiculous thing in the entire show, and yes I've seen all of it.
posted by thedward


As a biggish ST fan and a person who has to write immersive fictional shit for a living, I think about this kind of thing a lot. You're right, Data's contraction block makes no sense if you attract all of your attention towards it; but you're not really supposed to. It's shorthand, it's a thing you can put into the scripts to help Spiner otherize Data. And on its own, it's no big deal, but over the years I've really been struck by how much Star Trek relies on this exact mechanism. Darmok makes no fucking sense at all if you fully accept it at face value (how would that species conn a ship in that language?) but it's great shorthand to get the point across. Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies, but many of the nuts and bolts that propel its plot are ridculous unless you just accept them as shorthand (entering a 5-digit code lets you take remote command of a starship?). I dunno. In the end, I think it kind of rules how this kind of nit-picking leads to bigger views of how fiction, or at least a certain subset of it, operates.
posted by COBRA! at 9:51 PM on April 8 [6 favorites]


The conceit that Data wasn't capable of using English contractions is arguably the most ridiculous thing in the entire show

I'd seen a few episodes during the first run and decided to see if it was a show I'd want to catch up on so picked a random episode and there was a scene where Picard and Riker discussed the emergency of the week flying through some ultra asteroid belt about how the computer did not have fast enough reaction time. And it was just so wrong in all contexts, just made me grrarr crazy, that I could not continue.

I love SF and the crazier the ideas the better but it just seemed that it was "Lost"-like where the writers could throw out any random thought. From reading the comments here it seems like that was largely the case and just enough clicked with the fanbase. Or perhaps it's more that folks loved (and loved to hate) the characters.
posted by sammyo at 7:39 AM on April 10


Hey, thought, I know there are lists of best episodes (probably not without controversy ;-) but how about a notation on the posts that that the episode is well thought of. That might increase the mifi rewatchers who are not likely to run every single episode.
posted by sammyo at 7:48 AM on April 10


I love SF and the crazier the ideas the better but it just seemed that it was "Lost"-like where the writers could throw out any random thought.

...

I know there are lists of best episodes (probably not without controversy ;-) but how about a notation on the posts that that the episode is well thought of.

Honestly, without the benefit of fuzzy nostalgia and accumulated affection, I doubt there are more than maybe 5 episodes that a fist-time viewer spoiled by the last 20 years of prestige TV would fine genuinely enjoyable. But I can memail you when we get to the first actually good episode (season 2's "Measure of a Man") if you like. :)
posted by skewed at 8:59 AM on April 10


The Naked Now is up. For some reason the episode-to-episode nav UI isn’t appearing, prolly hafta ask cortex for help.
posted by mwhybark at 9:51 AM on April 10


Oh and FWIW sometime along in here I do intend to do a Duffer’s Guide for TNG. As noted upthread my most recent rewatch started on s02. Measure of a Man is indeed good, and in general I agree with skewed that s01&s02 are weak. Certainly part of my interest in revisiting these episodes is that we are much better equipped to situate them in context, very especially including production context within the history of Trek as a franchise.
posted by mwhybark at 9:55 AM on April 10


My favorite part of this episode is that Riker's briefing on Q is just a disjointed montage of a guy wearing a variety of costumes. We can see him watching the screen as it jump cuts around after each sentence Q utters. There are scenes where it cuts away to the bridge, and we can hear the video playing in a nearby room. The montage isn't a shortcut for the audience's sake, someone on the Enterprise crew assembled it. As an official briefing.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:19 PM on April 10 [7 favorites]


The montage isn't a shortcut for the audience's sake, someone on the Enterprise crew assembled it. As an official briefing.

Actually IIRC, I read somewhere that it's both, due to some stations showing the pilot in two parts. Which was why Riker came into the episode so late: to allow for an in-story reason for the recap. (Weirdly reminiscent of "The Menagerie" in that respect.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:31 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


TNG was also made with second-run syndication in mind, even more so than usual for the era. The thing that put TNG over the edge to getting produced was that even if the show flopped they could put it in a syndication package with TOS and still get residuals.
posted by ckape at 2:32 PM on April 11


I really enjoyed the TOS & DS9 Fanfare rewatch experiences. I tried to follow the Voyager threads, in what would have been mostly a first watch, as I never made it past the first season on broadcast, but I just couldn't get engaged with the series or the threads and gave up when it started to feel like too much of a chore. (And man did those Voyager threads mess with my Recent Activity screen -- there were so many multi-paragraph comments that were too long to fit completely in RA, but then when I'd click into the actual thread it would turn out that it was just the last sentence or two that was chopped off. So irksome.) I didn't make it very far into Enterprise on broadcast, so, I took a pass on that rewatch too. And I haven't been willing to pony up any money to CBS All Access to watch Discovery or Picard, though I will hopefully get around to Picard this month while the free promo code is working.

But I loved TNG back in the day. I had gotten super into ST:TOS in high school, and it was so exciting being part of the fandom when there was suddenly a new show. I used to go to Creation conventions in NYC, back when they were still affordable.

It's a strange feeling watching this now. I tried to rewatch it on my own at some point after the TOS rewatch, and I bounced out at a certain point from a misogyny moment in S2 or 3 that was too much ugh -- I knew there'd be a Fanfare rewatch eventually, so I figured why put myself through the bad episodes more times than necessary? In watching it today, the sexism stuff is just as glaring, but, in some ways it's the utopian idealism of an enlightened humanity that is more jarring to me, living in this bizarro 2020 that we're in. And everyone looks so damn young.

Also, I happened to watch "Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary" on Prime last night, which was perfection, so all I could think of during the sequence of Riker docking the saucer section was Tommy launching the Protector with everyone cringing as he scrapes along the dock, so, that was fun.
posted by oh yeah! at 3:15 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


oh yeah!, I made the VOY Duffer’s Guide with the generic YOU in mind. Have at it. There are real, actual gems of Trek amidst the offal.

I hearn tell this is true for ENT but haven’t developed the gumption as yet. The damn theme song is a definite factor. I mean, just have somebody like a one off outfit led by David Yow and recorded by Albini do the violence to that song that it deserves and let the fanbase flip a switch between schmalz and carnage and I would be able to run ‘em, but oh, it’s so ghastly.
posted by mwhybark at 4:10 PM on April 11


Whenever the Enterprise credits start rolling, just mute the playback and blast the Perfect Strangers theme.
posted by ckape at 7:06 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


I remember, when I first watched TNG as a child and then teenager, I was embarrassed by Q. He was so over the top! His powers were downright silly and completely out of touch with the hard sci-fi feel of the rest of the show! And... and and! He was silly!

Now, as an adult, when I go back and watch TNG, I love Q. I get him, in my wizened years. I get his fascination with Picard.* I love that he has no motivation in most episodes other than just amuse himself. I love the resigned and annoyed way Picard says, "Q." I love that he's silly because he's an immortal god and, geez, you get bored if you don't let yourself get silly now and then.

just kiss already, you two
posted by meese at 8:53 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


Well, that was a fairly decent hour long episode.

Others have mentioned the sexism - even at the time I thought that was also reflected in the way Tasha Yar was portrayed, as if they couldn't understand or write a women who was strong and not in a nurturing role.

Also, the utopian characters exemplify what I really found a major flaw in NextTrek: a perfect society lead to bland characters.

I mean in Old Trek, the main characters had inner conflicts that made them interesting, because it could add a nuance of fighting themselves. Kirk wanted to be a family man, Spock wanted to be a pure scientist, McCoy just reached to be a country doctor, and so on. Even if being an Enterprise officer was their main desire, it meant all the main characters had given something up to be there. Which made for interesting storytelling.

Enterprise for the longest time lacked this. Humanity was perfected, abd the characters had violas else they would rather be. It made them bland.
posted by happyroach at 10:27 AM on April 12


There's no chance Q will come back to ST:Discovery or Picard or any of the other new spinoffs.

At least Picard would be able to say "Oh, fuck me" when he showed up!
posted by tzikeh at 5:40 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Of course then Q might say "If you'd like mon admiral" which I think is a little too much even for CBS all access.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:31 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


This entry also needs a Fashion it So link.

I suppose it has to be tough trying to decide what poor, rabid vagabonds would consider fashion in 2150 or whenever this is supposed to take place, but it kind of looks like they could have all waltzed in from Diagon Alley.
posted by emjaybee at 12:28 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I watched this when it first came out, and it’s weirdly inert.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:03 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


"CAPT. Julien Picard – A Caucasian man in his 50s who is very youthful and in prime physical condition. Born in Paris, his Gallic accent appears when deep emotions are triggered. He is definitely a 'romantic' and believes strongly in concepts like honor and duty. Capt. Picard commands the Enterprise. He should have a mid-Atlantic accent, and a wonderfully rich speaking voice." TNG supervising producer Robert Justman said that Picard was named after oceanographer Jacques Piccard.

- Actors considered for the role of Picard included Louis Gossett Jr. [Wikipedia], Yaphet Kotto, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams [Wikipedia], Avery Brooks, and Keir Dullea [Wikipedia].


Notwithstanding that series bibles — especially in the last century — were often pretty gross on their sketches of characters (“natural walk of a striptease queen”), I find it great that the least interesting actor on that list is the most Caucasian.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:41 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


Stewart is an icon but I can't stop thinking about Yaphet Kotto's Picard. He could have been fantastic.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:02 PM on May 8 [3 favorites]


SAUCER SEP. I'm amazed at how utterly meaningless the whole saucer separation thing was. It was like watching a long deluxe Voltron transformation sequence to do something that had the narrative weight of a trip to the gas station. It is a weird patch on the problem that they want the TNG!Enterprise to have dangerous naval adventures like the TOS!Enterprise, yet they have already decided the TNG!Enterprise is more like a liner than a frigate.

Aside from that, I just got done watching all of Enterprise, so TNG seems like a beautiful show with great actors playing interesting and likeable characters!!! Visually, every single thing looks one hundred times better. Even the Enterprise-D which I don't like very much (the Hood looked better next to it). Fuck yeah color, fuck yeah those padded-looking hallways; fuck yeah swivel-out helm consoles, fuck yeah the lady explaining to Riker how to use the omnipresent hallway GPS like he's a fucking idiot, fuck yeah the uniforms that aren't fugly blue jumpsuits.

It'll be nice to watch a Star Trek that doesn't feel like it was made for the people who watched Starship Troopers and loved it at face value unironically.

People are saying it's a rough start, but already I feel like the foundation here, the characters and their relations, is so much better than Enterprise. E.g., Picard's primary trait isn't: "Huge chip on his shoulder about Betazoids, constantly treats Troi like shit, and she's written to just accept it, because as it turns out, barf, he's kinda right, Betazoids are kinda bad, and oh, later on he is possessed by Betazoid Jesus, and he's instrumental turning Betazoid society towards being good real Betazoids, not like before, and Troi is just sort of passively there to witness it, also she gets space Betazoid AIDS" ashsafhkfsjhkafshhkl.

Though from what I have heard, the TNG writers didn't quite understand that problem they had on their hands with Data's personhood and desire to be human.

Troi is a lot more science-officery and less Space Mom than I remember her being. I actually kind of loved her and Riker's psychic past love intro. I usually like the old flame thing, though not so much with JL and Bev.

Personal Log: I watched TOS as a kid. I didn't watch much TNG, in high school, because it seemed kinda silly. I didn't watch a huge amount of actual TV come to think of it, because (class privilege alert) computers and video games and VHS tapes existed and they were all pretty good. There was decent TV on at the time too; Wiseguy, Cheers, Moonlighting, Miami Vice, nascent Simpsons; even in the sci-fi column there was MST3K, and like, the Real Ghostbusters Cartoon. And there were books, boardgames, and rpgs ofc. Still, I caught some TNG at random back then and over the years, and I've hated Wesley forever; I haven't felt like I missed the essence of the show. So I kinda know what I'm in for here.
posted by fleacircus at 7:34 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]


If you're starting to plow through with us for the first time more or less, that's great fleacircus, a perspective from a fresh viewer will be fun to have. I've seen all but the worst episodes at least 2-3 times during my formative years, so sometimes it's hard to even see the weirdness of it, as well as the coolness of it.
posted by skewed at 9:09 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Rachel Watches Star Trek part 1 part 2
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 PM on May 26


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