Viewing posts tagged TNG Season 1

Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reading Guide

Longtime Vaka Rangi readers may remember that I have a small tradition of making episode guide/reading list posts whenever I finish covering Big Eras of the project. The hypothetical situation is that someone who is new to the show and yet for some reason *doesn't* want to marathon binge-watch it as is the standard way of consuming TV these days could theoretically be interested in my recommendations for the best stories so as to emphasize the cream of the crop while avoiding filler and missteps. Each entry has a link to my essay on the story for those who might want to revisit them.

I first did something like this when, following a joke Kevin Burns made to me about Futurama, I was challenged to find "20 Good Episodes" of the Original Star Trek. TOS fans will likely be annoyed as there's probably more episodes from that show one could recommend (and I *still* would have chosen different episodes after publishing Vaka Rangi Volume 1), but I wanted to limit myself to 20 following the conceit of the game so I was far harsher in my choices than I might otherwise have been. I didn't do ...

“Even when all the worlds have frozen or exploded”: The Neutral Zone

Let's address the obvious things first. Yes, “The Neutral Zone” rehashes key elements from both “Space Seed” and “Balance of Terror”. Yes, the Romulans as depicted in this episode bear no relation whatsoever to the way they were portrayed in the Original Series, in essence throwing all the interesting commentary and contrast they bring with them out an airlock. Yes, those bases were indeed meant to be destroyed as part of a story arc to introduce the Borg that gets promptly forgotten about as soon as this episode airs. And yes, the motivations of the main cast are seriously wonky and out of character such that characterization of people like Picard and Riker waffles back and forth bafflingly from scene to scene. This is all self-evident and indisputable. There, is, however, a pretty simple explanation for all of it that can't just be laid at the creative team.

If you guessed it's the Writer's Guild strike, well, good for you! You're getting good at this. I'm afraid you don't win anything ...

“Trust no one. Question Everything.”: Conspiracy

Rightly regarded as a high-water mark for the first season, “Conspiracy” is praised and fondly remembered by a certain kind of Star Trek fan for its unexpected gore-filled climax straight out of a splatterhouse horror flick or one of the Alien movies, and by less frightening Star Trek fans for its shocking perversion of the heretofore untouchable Starfleet Command. Of course it's not really. It was, as is so often the case with this sort of thing, just aliens after all. And yet even so, “Conspiracy” does push the envelope noticeably for Star Trek: The Next Generation, even if its overall impact is arguably more muted than it perhaps could have been.

The idea of something rotten afoot in the hallowed halls of the supposedly incorruptible Starfleet Command should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following this season with any degree of care or nuance. The seed was planted arguably as early as as “Too Short a Season”, where Admiral Mark Jameson's flawless execution of Starfleet's hero archetype plunged an entire planet into a four decade long world war. Then we had this episode's direct ...

“A Night on Pegos Minor”: We'll Always Have Paris

Most people tend to remember “We'll Always Have Paris” as the episode where Michelle Phillips guest starred in an odd bit of celebrity casting (this being the second documented connection to the Phillips family and The Mamas and the Papas in Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season). I remember it as the first episode where Tasha Yar wasn't on the Enterprise.

There is, of course, a bit more to it than either of those interpretations might lead you to believe. Not much, I'll grant, but some. “We'll Always Have Paris” is essentially Star Trek: The Next Generation doing Casablanca, with Captain Picard as Humphrey Bogart, Michelle Phillips as Ingrid Bergman and a great big fuck-off mad science experiment with time distortion in place of World War II and Nazis. This is all, of course, fairly standard operating procedure for the show at this point: The Manheim Effect, which causes one specific point in time to repeat itself, is rather transparently supposed to be a metaphor for Jenice meeting Captain Picard again and ...

Temporal Incursion


Click the Temporal Observatory to begin.

“Share and Enjoy”: The Arsenal of Freedom

“The Arsenal of Freedom” is without question near the top of my list of highlights for Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season and I'll never understand why nobody seems to talk about it. This isn't just good with qualifiers, which is how you can describe a decent segment of this year if you were inclined to be uncharitable, it's genuinely *great*. It's a flagrantly experimental story that's one of the first clear departures from the Original Series template Star Trek: The Next Generation is saddled with and is, in retrospect, probably the definitive example of the kind of risks the series only took in its inaugural year. Everything about this episode is demonstrative of a show that's creatively energized, bold, confident and self-assured.

Funny thing then that “The Arsenal of Freedom” was also the subject of one of the biggest, ugliest creative disputes of its early years. The debate in question apparently stemmed from the scene where Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher fall into the underground control room. In the original script, Picard was to have been injured and Beverly would have to tend ...

“But I still hear the call of the blood”: Heart of Glory

Like most of the first season, “Heart of Glory” is a moment notably effaced in the standard historical record. It is, quite obviously, designed to be the first big Worf and Klingons episode. According to fans, the first big Worf and Klingons episode is “A Matter of Honor” from next year, which is curious, considering that episode is far more about Commander Riker. It's especially frustrating for me in this regard, because not only is “Heart of Glory” itself very good, it's also the episode I always saw as ushering in the part of the first season that (with one notable exception) starts to get really consistently confident and adventurous.

This is not a story about Klingons, at least not entirely and not to the extent any of the Ron Moore penned stuff will be. Nor is it some angst-ridden character story about Worf where he's forced to decide where his loyalties lie. There is never any doubt Worf will remain loyal to the Enterprise: In fact, the entire episode hinges on setting up a double feint where Captain Picard, Commander Riker and Tasha Yar (and, metatextually, us) all ...

“We'll be grandmas by then...”: Coming of Age

Despite its reputation and admittedly rocky week-to-week quality, there's a remarkable thematic cohesion to Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season, perhaps even more so than in later years. Reoccurring motifs are emphasized and re-examined with dutiful regularity, episodes are clearly designed to build off of one another and there are quite a few attempts at introducing both long and short term story arcs. Granted they're not always successful, but the intent is there and should be acknowledged.

“Coming of Age” is a solid example of this, and also serves as a functional microcosm of the show as it exists at this point in time. Most notably, the story arc it tries to put into place actually sticks here, unlike in “Angel One” where it gets forgotten, reintroduced at the last second in the season finale, and then hastily abandoned again. Obviously, we know the big Conspiracy with Starfleet Command that has Admiral Quinn and Dexter Remmick all paranoid is going to pay off at the end of the year in an episode I'm ...

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