Although we are done with STNG and docking near Bajor in the coming days, that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and catch up on the episodes you missed. Retro TV Review starts here with Encounter at Farpoint! You can find the rest here!
Star Trek the Next Generation debuted on September 28 1987. This series was the first new live action Star Trek tv series in nearly 20 years. This new review series will focus on each episode of the now classic sci fi series going through the entire 7 season series. Please note, I will mostly be using the new remastered editions of the series for these reviews so some of the screenshots look a LOT better than they would have otherwise. Also, for the Star Trek purists out there, I am only considering what has been onscreen as canonical so I will not be counting the thousands of books, comics or other media as part of my reviews. If I mention any of them, it is just as a reference and not considered part of the screen canon. Okay, geek firmly in place, so now, the series premiere: Encounter at Farpoint.
Encounter at Farpoint Stardate 41153.7
The crew of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D captained by Capt. Jean-Luc Picard is called upon to solve ‘the mystery of Farpoint Station’. During the mission they encounter the omnipotent being known as ‘Q’.
‘Q’ (played by the incomparable John DeLancie) holds the crew, and all of humanity, on trial for the ‘Crimes of Humanity’ and this trial will determine if Humanity has any right to continue exploration of the cosmos.
This is the seminal episode of this new series, so everything is new. First, lets talk about the theme song and intro.
The theme was written by Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith and is ultimately the combination of the original series theme and the movie theme from Star Trek the Motion Picture. One thing that really makes the intro stand out, however, is the slightly altered opening speech.
here is the original:
and here is the Next Gen:
Hear the differences?
The slight change in both ‘continuing mission‘ from the original ‘5 year mission’ and the change from ‘where no man has gone before‘ to ‘where no one has gone before‘ speaks volumes in how this series would progress. The continuing mission implies that there will be a Star Trek for an unlimited amount of time and, so far, that has been mostly true. The cooler bit is the ‘no one has gone before‘, gone is the gender specific ‘ no man‘ and in its place is the gender neutral ‘no one‘ giving permission for ANYONE to voyage forward. This, my friend, is truly, The Next Generation.
In this pilot we meet all of the principal characters starting with the Captain himself, Picard (played by Sir Patrick Stewart). The thing I love about the pilot to nearly every Star Trek tv series is that it takes time to introduce everyone in the ensemble cast and each person gets their moment(s).
From the get go, you immediately respect Picards authority, mostly due to the acting ability of Patrick Stewart himself. He is a stern individual but everyone on the bridge jumps to his orders without question, giving you the impression that these characters have a past. Picard (and from what I understand Stewart as well) appears to have difficulty connecting with his crew on a personal level. At times it is almost painful to watch him try to be personable. In time he really lightens up but this first episode he is a tight ass for sure.
In addition to Picard and ‘Q’ , we are also initially introduced to Data (the cybernetic man played by Brent Spiner), Worf (the first Klingon in Starfleet played by Michael Dorn), Deanna Troi (an Empath played by Marina Sirtis ) and Tasha Yar (the security chief played by Denise Crosby). These characters are each given full personalities from the start and give you a reason to want to know more about them.
Data is a cybernetic man, not a robot mind you. He is a being trying to be more human but has only a technical knowledge of how humans are. Although superior in many ways, he longs to be human. This journey will be explored in its entirely throughout the series.
Worf is not only the first Klingon in Starfleet but was also raised by humans. He struggles with his Klingon heritage and also wants to be a proper member of the crew. No matter what, he is loyal through and through.
Troi is an empathic Betazoid woman and serves as the ship’s counselor. She can sense emotions and, in the beginning, seems to be an odd choice for the show. Her character is probably one of the least developed of the ensemble but really finds her footing over time.
Tasha Yar is the ship’s Security Chief. She is tough and hear headed. You don’t learn much about her in this ep other than she had a rough life growing up. She ultimately has the shortest stint of all of the bridge crew aboard the Enterprise as the series progresses.
A third of the way through the episode when you meet the First Officer, Commander William Riker (played by a pre-bearded Jonathan Frakes). He is a brash young commander and his past has been one of questioning Authority. Initially Picard isnt keen on the latter part of his personality but respects him and his position. Also, he and Troi have a bit of a history together, this gets played out over the course of the series and later movies.
Halfway through the episode we are introduced to Doctor Beverly Crusher (the ships Doctor played by Gates McFadden, Lt Geordi LaForge (the Helmsman played by LeVar Burton) and Doctor Crusher’s Son Westley (played by Wil Wheaton).
Doctor Crusher and Westley both have a past with the Captain, giving them some good depth as characters.
LaForge doesn’t get a ton of characterization in this one but it does establish his required use of a Visor. He is a competent Helmsman but it is unclear exactly what his duties are at this point. He will eventually become the Chief of Engineering, But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Westley is introduced soundly as the ‘know it all’ kid a role his character struggles to break free of and, in some ways, manages to much later. Picard isn’t very fond of him as Picard isn’t fond of ‘children’.
Finally, the ship itself. The Enterprise NCC-1701-D is a Galaxy Class starship that is also the flagship of the Federation. It is a ship filled with families and charged with exploration duty as its main character. Practically a city in space this ship is worlds beyond what we saw in the Original Series. Once cool touch is that the ship can separate the saucer section from the drive section. This will be used a few more times as the shows budget permits. Ironically this episode shows the first time this technology is used and in the first movie, Generations, it is used a final time before its ultimate destruction.
The technology itself is quite new as well, from new phasers to a simpler badge style communication device that replaced the handheld versions of the original run. Although Tech is a key factor, I never once felt it outweighed the story or the characters.
Oh I forgot, one vital important part, the actual story. You see, the breakdown is where I would usually tell you the plot of the episode so that, in case you havent already seen it, you would have all the context to understand what I am blathering on about. This episode was so full of cool new stuff, I completely forgot to do that. Anyhow, I’ll just boil it down for you, the mystery of Farpoint Station? It’s a spaceborne alien that the locals tricked into becoming their base. It’s mate shows up and boy is it pissed. It’s all good though, Picard and crew have this covered. They solve the mystery, reunite the aliens and tell Q off all in a nice two hour premiere. Neat huh?
Is this a ‘good’ episode?
Yes. It is dated but it has aged very well. The great thing about this series is how it is filmed. Instead of a typical ‘tv’ style, each episode was done on film and blocked like a series of movies. Although done on a budget much of its time, the team behind it really made it look great. I will note however, the season 1 and 2 uniforms are not the best and I was happy when they were ultimately updated in later seasons.
Again, I really love how each character gets their time in the sun, even in minor bits. They are all intriguing characters and viewers immediately have an opportunity to be attached to them all in varying degrees.
For a Pilot, this is as good as it gets. An intriguing cast of characters, a solid base and a very well built universe. It doesn’t feel like it is a ship in a bottle but a ship in a vast ocean that is waiting to be explored.
I vividly remember when this show premiered. My Father and I had already watched everything Trek available and a new series was exciting. I remember laying in the floor of our Trailer home eagerly awaiting the broadcast. We ended up watching every episode that aired and it was amazing. Although I was already a fan of the original series and the movies, this series cemented my fandom of Star Trek in every way possible.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
There is a little dialogue between Riker a ‘Q’ that implies that sets up a thread that will be explored later.
In addition to the bridge crew you also get the first appearance of future Chief O’Brien played by Colm Meaney. O’Brien would later be transferred to Space Station Deep Space 9 (on the series under the same name) under the command of Benjamin Sisko.
The late DeForest Kelley reprises his role as Leonard McCoy in this episode as a beautiful send off for the series and the crew. This is the coolest touch in this episode as it give this and the Original Series a more solid connection between them.
This episode is contains the first mention of the Ferengi Race. No details, just a mention.
This is well before we get the proper Bearded Riker. You’ll understand later.
The Original Promo:
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review. I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!
Up Next: The Naked Now.
For more in this series check out Retro TV Review.
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Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
Late To The Game 2/23/2019
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