Jean-Luc Picard -
Will Riker -
Beverley Crusher -
Deanna Troi -
Geordi LaForge -
Tasha Yar -
Wesley Crusher -
OTHER STAR TREK SHOWS
Deep Space Nine
OTHER TREKS THROUGH SPACE
The new Battlestar Galactica
It is always harsh to judge someone on their first attempt at anything. The first season of STAR TREK Ė THE NEXT GENERATION is all about the stumbling steps of a new series trying to get itself underway. There are plenty of mis-steps and failures, but there is also lots of good things going on and so whilst it will become eclipsed by later seasons, this first outing shouldnít be ignored. The best episodes stand up with a lot of later ones and the others can be quietly excused and rarely revisited.
Itís hard looking back from this distance, to remember what our first responses were to the series we now know so well, so these reviews will contain as much of that as we can remember as well as the hindsight we now have.Top
Encounter at Farpoint - Parts 1 & 2
Captain Jean-Luc Picard joins his new command, the Galaxy Class flagship of Starfleet the NCC1701-D, known as Enterprise. Their first mission is to go to the mysterious new earth station on the planet of Farpoint and find out about the people that made it seemingly without the technological expertise. En route, the ship encounters an entity known as Q who appears to be all-powerful. He condemns humanity to death for its crimes, but Picard manages to persuade him to use their current mission as a test of how far humanity has progressed. He must now solve the mystery of the farpoint station or all mankind will pay the price.
Itís the first episode of the new STAR TREK series and weíve been waiting for so long that weíll forgive almost anything, even the presence of a klingon on the bridge. There are a whole load of new faces to come to terms with. Patrick Stewart is, at least, imposing enough as the captain should be. Jonathan Frakes is the fresh-faced first officer William Riker,destined for all the heroics and action stuff. Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) is the token disabled person, although heís not even really blind. Spockís logical role is taken by Data (Brent Spiner) an android and thereís even a precocious child for the younger demographic.
But what of the plot, dialogue and such. The crew we know we will come to terms with or not, but will the show fly. Well, itís a bit too early to tell from this one show. Because of the introductions of each character, the show is stilted and bitty. Once we get on with it, that ought to settle down.
The Q half of the saga is a bit Ďbeen there, done thatí familiar and the mystery of the farpoint station is so obvious that you are left wondering how long these cream of Starfleet types should take to solve it after youíve worked it out already.
The special effects are pretty good and letís face it, itís just too damned good to have STAR TREK to start complaining.Top
The Naked Now
The Enterprise goes to the aid of the Tsiolkovsky research vessel, but finds everybody dead either by suicide or killed by each other. The crew start acting illogically soon enough and discover that itís a virus, but can the antidote be found before the crew manage to wipe out the ship?
The first proper episode is a bit soon to be referencing the original STAR TREK, but thatís what this episode does straight away. The plot of The Naked Time is taken wholesale and reused. If this is the way forwards, then we might as well stop now.
This episode would also have been better used later in the series. We have barely come to recognise the characters, so the sight of them abandoning their self-control has much less resonance than might have been achieved once we got to know them a bit better. That said, there is some fun to be had with the reactions (Data getting intimate with another crew member) and the production values remain high.
A bit more originality please.Top
Code of Honor
In search of a vaccine for a plague, the Enterprise visits a planet with a very strict, but odd, moral code. Security office Tasha Yar is abducted, but this is OK because itís within the rules of the code. In order to get her back and the vaccine, Tasha will have to fight the leaderís wife in a duel to the death.
Oh dear, oh dear. This is a simplistic tale that is neither convincing, interesting or exciting. It contains a duel to the death that is possibly the least interesting fight ever seen in science fiction. OK, so itís a celebration of the ethos that we must embrace the different in other cultures, but not if they happen to be this dull.Top
The Last Outpost
The mysterious Ferengi (apparently everyone is mysterious. You would hardly think that the first five year mission actually discovered anything) have stolen a power unit and the Enterprise gives chase, but is immobilised. It becomes clear that the Ferengi have also been immobilised and the source of the power is on a nearby planet. Both crews beam down to discover the last outpost of the Tkon Empire and have to face a test of character to survive.
Ancient civilisations are a staple of STAR TREK and it seems that the new series is to be no different. The plot isnít exactly difficult to follow and comes to a very abrupt end as though they just ran out of time, but it at least has more life and energy than Code of Honor. The Ferengi are an interesting, savage race and the last member of the Tkon Empire is a sad figure (except when his fighting moves are speeded up and render him ridiculous).Top
Where No-one Has Gone Before
A starfleet engineer and a strange alien known only as the Traveller, come aboard the ship to improve the engine efficiency. Whilst the engineers complain that the equations donít make sense, the ship gets shifted halfway across the quadrant and then into nowhere when the Traveller falls ill. In order to get them back again, the Traveller announces that he will need the help of Wesley Crusher, the Doctorís young son, whom he reveals to be something special.
Now this is more intriguing. The plot comes from mankindís flaws and internal strife. The engineer is using the alien to further his own career and when it goes wrong, he falls apart. All members of the crew are assailed by their own inner demons, including Picard, and the final resolution will rely upon everyone thinking good thoughts.
Itís preposterous and Counsellor Troi spouting forth on the crewís goodwill is just plain embarrassing. Still, it has more good moments than bad and is a step in the right direction.Top
Lonely Among Us
Two warring species (one cat, one reptile) are being transported by the Enterprise when things start to behave strangely. Data takes on the persona of Sherlock Holmes in order to sort out this mystery, but then the Captain is turned into pure energy and the race is on to find a way to get him back before any pattern that can be used by the transporter dissipates.
This is a Tholian Web rip-off episode. The Captain is energy and has to be retrieved by the transporter, but how and when? The two alien races are not well-realised either, the make-up being well below par and quite clearly bulky, immobile masks.Top
While taking some time off on a planet where the people are kind and generous and wear very little, Wesley causes a small accident whilst playing. Unfortunately, he does this in a zone randomly selected for punishment, which means any crime, no matter how small, is punishable by death. The orbiting alien probe of immense power and the prime directive makes it difficult for Picard to find a way to save the boyís life.
This is a nonsense episode. OK, itís talking about important things like absolutes in law and punishment and sentences fitting crimes and the like, but the plot is so silly that it matches the costumes that the planetís inhabitants sport. At no time can you take any of it seriously and Wesley Crusher is such an irritating character that you wouldnít mind them killing him off anyway.Top
A Ferengi elder presents Picard with a present, the hulk of his first ship, the Stargazer. However, there is more to this than meets the eyes and soon enough the captainís mind is being affected by a strange device that is telling him he is still fighting a battle in which the Ferengiís son died. The Stargazer has been armed and the crew of the Enterprise have to come up with a response to a classic battle manoeuvre that has never failed or be destroyed.
Now this is much more like it. This is story with human interest and a bigger canvas as well. We learn a bit about Picardís history, we get to see Patrick Stewart do some real acting as he fights the alien influence on his mind, there is real tension and threat and it all comes together nicely.
This is the first completely satisfying episode of the new series, although there is some debate over the validity of both the Picard Manouevre and its solution.Top
Hide and Q
Q, the all-powerful entity from Encounter at Farpoint is back. He takes the bridge crew to an alien planet and makes them fight against impossible enemies, all in a test to see whether Riker is worthy of being given the power of the Q.
There is both good and bad in this episode. Q is a great character here, much more fun than in our first meeting with him. Much of the threat has gone from him and his bitchiness with Picard is really excellent. The game that he sets up on the planet is bizarre, but we can go with it as itís not meant to make any sense. Where it all goes wrong is where Riker is given the power of the Q, grants everybodyís wishes and then finds that he really just wants to be what he was.Top
Deanna's mother, Lwaxana, comes aboard with Wyatt Miller, Deanna's fiance. They were promised to each other as children and now the time has come to seal the union. Neither is overjoyed by the prospect, but both are willing to accede to the wishes of their parents. Then a Tarellian plague ship shows up crewed by a woman whom Wyatt has dreamed of all her life.
Unconvincing is the only word to use for this particular episode. Lwaxana Troi is a fantastic character, a full-blown betazoid, which means she can read minds, something she uses to embarrass almost everyone around her to the utmost, most especially her daughter and the captain. There's lots of fun in that, not least because we can all identify with embarrassing parents and the captain's pomposity can use a little puncturing from time to time.
The rest of the plot, though, is simply a hook to get her aboard. Riker's reaction to the situation is telling, but nothing else really engages. A meaningful examination of forced marriages this is not.Top
The Big Goodbye
With some time on his hands, Picard enters into the Holodeck, a place where all kinds of places, real or imagined, can be simulated. He is there to take part in a simulation of a Dixon Hill private eye story from the 1950s. An alien probe pops up and damages the ship, flipping off the safety protocols of the programme so that people can really get hurt, or die, and making the holograms think for themselves.
This is the most fun episode yet. The juxtaposition of the Dixon Hill holodeck programme and what is happening in the Enterprise beyond is well done, whilst character interplay is what the episode is really all about. Doctor Crusherís reaction to Picardís invitation to join him only to find later that heís also invited several other officers is almost as good as her reaction to suspender belts. The show has nothing to say, other than muse on the meaning of what is real and what is illusion, but entertainment is its only aim and thatís what it provides.Top
The Enterprise travels back to the planet where Data was discovered and the crew find another android just like him, or more advanced in some ways. This brother, known as Lore, however, is a nasty piece of work who plans to use Data to further his own twisted ambitions.
Ah, sibling rivalry eh. Itís caused more trouble than almost anything else and space is no different. This episode explores Dataís history and, as he is becoming the most interesting character on board ship, this means that it is also one of the better ones. It all plays out in fairly conventional manner, but moves along at a good pace and never outstays its welcome.Top
A Federation vessel has crashed onto a planet known as Angel One and the Enterprise makes contact to try and get the crewmen back. The ruling matriarchy are only to glad to oblige as the men from the ship have started to upset the balance of their female-dominated society. The crewmembers, however, donít want to go, having found wives and lovers amongst the inhabitants.
Itís a prime directive episode. The men want to stay and the government want them gone. Does Picard have any right to take them from their new homes. Is their presence interfering with the natural development of the planet, or has the damage already been done. To be honest, the episode is so poor that you probably wonít even care. The acting is of a low standard and its almost as if everyone was aware that the dialogue and plot donít stand up so why should they try?
The only fun comes from Riker and Troiís reaction to the council leaderís attraction for the first officer.Top
The shipís computer is being refitted when an alarm goes off and the crew abandon ship. The vessel then takes off under the control of the Bynars, a race of computer-reliant people who communicate in binary. Picard and Riker are in the holodeck being entertained by an ehanced computer programme known as Minuet. They alone can solve the mysterious hijacking and save the Bynars.
Another good episode. This is the kind of thing that the new show should be doing. The plot is original and makes the most of several elements, including giving Riker a uniquely romantic encounter and the plot being resolved with reason and not violence.Top
Too Short A Season
An old admiral and his wife are being transported to a planet that has been at war for years. Both sides are willing to talk, but only to him, although neither side seems to like him very much. There is a secret here to be unravelled and is the Admiral really getting younger?
There are two stories here and the pattern is emerging for the structure of the show. There is the personal story, in this case of one side of a relationship getting younger and the other side getting older. Ageing and our acceptance of it is what is being explored here. The bigger picture is how this story affects the ship and its mission. The admiralís history is wrapped around a secret that has had many victims and that will see at least one more before it ends.
Itís a workmanlike episode rather than an inspired one, but the overall quality of the show has been on an upwards curve.Top
When The Bough Breaks
The Enterprise locates a supposedly mythical planet that is normally shielded from contact. The shield, though, has wiped out the populaceís ability to have children, so they steal some from the Enterprise and retreat back behind the shield. Whilst the crew of the ship search for some way to get through the shield, Wesley leads the resistance of the children.
Just when things were going so well. This is a stupid episode. The aliens are kind, thoughtful and intelligent humanoids who steal the children without ever thinking that the children would be upset or that the Federation would mind too much either. This is so patently absurd that the whole thing is rendered ridiculous even without the presence of so many children with limited acting abilities.
It undoes a lot of the good that has been built up recentlyTop
The Enterprise checks up on a mining station and beams aboard a twinkling silicon section for experimentation. This turns out to be a lifeform and it sets about threatening the ship. Picard is loathe to destroy the entity, but communication proves to be difficult. Then the truth about the creature's plight is discovered.
Life comes in all shapes and sizes and not all of them are bipeds with opposable thumbs. Their needs are different and Federation expansion might harm them without even knowing it. Fortunately, communication can resolve all ills. This is the core belief of Gene Roddenberry's creation and this is the perfect example of how it is used in STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION.Top
Coming Of Age
Wesley takes the entrance exam for the Academy and faces his greatest fear. Picard and the ship undergo an examination by an admiral and his zealous underling who seem to be looking for traitors.
Rather a frustrating episode this. The Wesley Crusher side of the plot is reasonably well done and actually manages to give the kid some depth for a change. What his real fear is and how it helps his mother make a decision is nicely played.
The other part of the episode hints at all kinds of darker things, but is left to dangle, even if there is no to be continued at the end of the episode.Top
Heart of Glory
Klingon survivors are saved by the Enterprise, but turn out to be rebels out to destroy the alliance between the Federation and the Empire. They attempt to take over the ship, forcing Worf to choose between his Klingon roots and his oath to Starfleet.
The idea of having a Klingon on board the Enterprise was a shock at first, but has quickly become accepted. This is the first story built around him and it is an interesting one, though low on the wow! factor. The show has certainly focussed on the characters rather than the effects to date and is all the better for it.Top
The Arsenal of Freedom
The away team on an alien planet discover an automated arms salesman who sets his latest weapon upon them to show them what it can do. In orbit, the Enterprise is also attacked. Each attack is repelled, but the weapons learn from their mistakes and the next ones are even more deadly. Soon, everyoneís lives are in danger.
Another silly episode that really doesnít work. The premise is sound enough, but the realisation is sadly lacking. The action sequences have no action in them and the threat just seems piddling. The final resolution, though logical, beggars belief.Top
When the Enterprise saves the four passengers of a freighter and its cargo, it gets sucked into a dispute over a powerful narcotic drug. One planetís inhabitants believe it to be the cure to their disease, but Dr Crusher discovers that the disease long since died out and the second planetís population have been living off the suffering of their neighbours for generations.
The drugs problem a la STAR TREK. Itís simplistic, yes, but it does have some power in it as well. The idea that a whole race could keep another subjugated through the use of drugs seems cold and inhuman, but look back at our own history and how nations have subjugate each other. Of course, one side of this TV version of events is clearly at fault, which makes Picardís decisions all the easier to make and accept, but there is just a hint of preaching that is thankfully kept at bay by the plot.Top
Skin of Evil
A crashed shuttlecraft is attacked by a strange oilslick creature, trapping a sick crewman and Counsellor Troi inside. The crew try to find a way to reach their people, but the creature, apparently made up of a whole raceís negative emotions, blocks their every move and acts out of sheer malevolence.
Now this is an interesting episode to be sure. One major character gets wiped out for no other reason than the creature wants to show that it can do it. There is no brave fight or noble end, just simple, brutal and useless death. There arenít a lot of sci-fi shows that are so sure of themselves that they would dare that.
The oilslick creature is also the centre of this show and the director knows it as he consistently has is repeating its limited moves so that what starts off as impressive becomes obviously limited.
The final epilogue is also a bit gag-inducing unless you really are a fan.Top
We'll Always Have Paris
A temporal rift threatens a whole section of space. The Enterprise investigates and discovers an experiment being run by the husband of an old flame of the Captain's. In order to seal the breach, Data must beam to the source of the experiment and, existing in three time streams simultaneously, pick the right moment to act. But which of him is in the right time?
Once again the signature pattern of global threat against personal story is used. The main story of the experiment and its threat is the more effective here, but the story of Jean-Luc's dalliance is intriguing set against what we know of him.
The Enterprise is called home to Earth where Picard finds all is not as it seems. Whilst officers seem to be acting strangely, Data detects a pattern in Starfleet orders that suggests a conspiracy on a massive scale. Small creatures entering the brain and controlling minds now control Starfleet and it is up to Picard and his crew to end this monstrous takeover.
Itís Invasion of the Bodysnatchers at Starfleet Headquarters. This is the culmination of the story that was started in Coming of Age. Itís not wholly successful. The scope of the plot is impressive and the destruction of the mother creature at its heart is quite messy and gruesome, but some of the effects creating its offspring are, frankly, laughable. This seems like it ought to have been the series finale, but thereís one last episode to go.Top
The Neutral Zone
The Enterprise is patrolling the long-dormant neutral zone at the edge of Romulan space when it encounters three humans locked in cryogenic sleep. They are revived and have to come to terms with their new lives. In the meantime, an old adversary comes back from their silence. The loss of outposts along the neutral zone wasnít down to Romulans, but that is a story for another time.
Hard to say what prompted anyone to make this story. True, the return of the Romulans is welcomed and the vague notions that something else is going on out there is hinted at, but the whole strand of the misplaced humans is just wasted space and time. The first series is over and it has done well enough to go on, but there is also plenty of room for improvement, as this episode shows.Top
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