Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A trek into the Treks: Star Trek: The Next Generation

 My previous post in this series, A trek into the Treks: Star Trek: Enterprise was a long time ago. I hadn't realized it had been that long and I thought I should write the next installment before I forget all about ever getting back to it.
 While I grew up watching Star Trek (TOS) and The Animated Series in syndication I really consider The Next Generation (TNG) to be my Star Trek. It was the first Star Trek I actually watched first run and there is something to be said for having to wait a week between episodes. Not already knowing what is going to happen before you watch it because no one (outside the crew) has seen it yet. At the time, it was so modern looking, so smooth and polished (Corinthian leather comes to mind) though let's not look back at it now, it seems even more dated than TOS does now.

I really like the cast of TNG. To this day Patrick Stewart is my favorite Star Trek actor. The mix of personalities was just right and diverse enough to keep things lively. I always felt that the TOS cast needed a little fleshing out, that there were too few reoccurring characters. It seemed like every time a new crew member was brought into the story they either died or were killed. TNG was better for this because the supporting cast succeeded in staying alive from show to show which let you get to know more of the crew than was possible in TOS. I always felt the original Enterprise only had about 30 crew and at the rate they died off keeping the ship full had to be difficult.

The first two seasons showed a lot of growth in both the writing and acting, by season 3 both disappeared into the background and I could really get into the episodes. When I re-watch the series now the first few episodes make me cringe. I wonder how the show ever got the time to become the excellent series it was.

I would find it very difficult to pick a favorite episode, There are so many I enjoy; Conspiracy (S1), Coming of Age (S1), Elementary, Dear Data (S2), The Measure of a Man (S2) Yesterday's Enterprise (S3), Brothers (S4), Final Mission (S4), Reunion (S4), Galaxy's Child (S4), The Inner Light (S5), Disaster (S5) and so on. The best I would be able to do is a favorite season and season 4 is certainly it. I was not in the "Hate Wesley Crusher" club and I was sorry to see him leave during this season. I actually thought quite a bit of his character and how Wil Wheaton played it. Think about it for a minute, How else would a child raised in and around Starfleet and its officers actually be? This is a child raised to believe that everyone is important and equal, that all life matters, that science and engineering are the most interesting fields of study. You would end up with Wesley Crusher. The character I had problems with was Tasha Yar. You wouldn't think that someone with so volatile a personality would make it out of Starfleet Academy let alone be assigned to the flagship of the fleet.

There is so little Sci-Fi on television let alone good Sci-Fi that when a show like TNG can run seven seasons it means something. Every now and then you see a new Sci-Fi show premier usually they don't make a second season, if they get to finish the first. TOS ran three seasons, Enterprise ran four, TNG, voyager, and DS9 all ran seven. That's a lot of good Sci-fi for one franchise. Compare that to Almost Human which didn't make a second season or Caprica which not only didn't make a second season but the second half of the first season was broadcast all on the same day. Battlestar Galactica (1978) only got one season and even Firefly only managed one season. As you can see there isn't great longevity for Sci-Fi on television. TNG managed to stay on the air, get better with every season and open the door for two additional long running Sci-Fi series.

Most of the series is available on Blu-Ray now and you can stream all of it on Netflix. Many a night of insomnia was turned into entertainment by Star Trek: The Next Generation and I have re-watched the series completely a number of times now. There are good, meaningful stories along the way usually without getting too preachy about it. Spend some time exploring the universe with Enterprise D soon.

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