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Star Trek: The Next Generation? More Like Bar Dreck: The Sext Configuration! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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October 10th, 2015


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04:05 pm - Star Trek: The Next Generation? More Like Bar Dreck: The Sext Configuration!
For many people, Star Trek: The Next Generation is the definitive Trek, and now I see why: after a rough start, this show got really fucking good! I had an advantage in that I watched an abridged version, allowing me to skip most of the first couple seasons and concentrate on the higher-quality episodes. Like Star Trek: The Original Series, this show follows the Enterprise on its mission to explore space and learn more about the universe and the life within it, but it's a whole new crew! A new generation, if you will. The next one.

I am not really sure how anyone could choose Kirk over Picard in any sort of competition because Picard is simply an amazing human being. He prizes integrity and truth above all else, with loyalty a close second (personal loyalty and honor come before loyalty to the Federation, whose authority he is willing to question if he believes that they are wrong). Patrick Stewart imbues him with natural gravitas, and he is at his best when portraying a broken man, which he gets the opportunity to do multiple times. Riker, his Number One, is eminently likable, even if he's a bit caddish at times; if Picard is the dad, then Riker is the cool big brother. Jonathan Frakes occasionally gets to show his chops when Riker gets meatier stories about his conflicted loyalties, struggling with his personal ambition and his duty to the Enterprise. Data, predictably, was one of my very favorite characters because he's an android who wants to be human! Brent Spiner is fucking fantastic, and the show takes full advantage of his skills by allowing him to play multiple characters and show different sides of Data. Worf, surprisingly, was also one of my very favorite characters because he's a Klingon who has grown up in a human world, and thus he experiences a huge cultural conflict, wanting to stay true to his Klingon roots despite preferring some of the beliefs he's learned from humans. Worf episodes were usually strong because of his ongoing story, and Michael Dorn took what could have been a simple RAWR WARRIOR character and made him someone far more complex. Dr. Crusher is always the smartest human in the room (also the hottest), and I loved how her scientific mind constantly worked to solve problems. Gates McFadden sold her as a strong, independent, intelligent woman with a sharp sense of humor. LaForge also worked problems with science, and I loved his friendship with Data. LeVar Burton rarely got to do more than be amiable and knowledgeable, but he did that well! Troi, uh, sensed really obvious emotions with her mind. Marina Sirtis, uh, did the best with what she had.

The core main cast acquitted themselves well, but the show also had great recurring characters, like John DeLancie's Q, space trickster, and Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan, space bartender. Special credit to Whoopi Goldberg for turning a cryptic advice-giving cipher of a character into one of the most memorable figures in the show, thanks to her warm presence and sense of infinite knowledge, like she was a retired Doctor. And of course familiar faces continually turned up in guest roles (Ashley Judd??).

Over the course of seven seasons, TNG told a lot of different kinds of stories, and I enjoyed most of them. Holodeck episodes were usually a good time, especially when Data played Sherlock Holmes. I loved how both the holodeck and the transporter were basically story phlebotinum, able to malfunction in new and interesting ways when it would make for a cool story. The show dipped into the time travel well quite a bit too, usually to good effect. New alien races provided a source of material as well, and aliens were generally denoted by looking completely human except for, like, a fucked-up brow ridge. Since that's how evolution works! My three favorite episodes were "The Measure of a Man," "Remember Me," and "Darmok," each notable in its own way, but I loved a lot of episodes and admired the storytelling. The show often faltered with two-parters, either setting up more than it could pay off, or stretching a one-episode plot to two, but I still mostly enjoyed those as well (I finally know why it matters that THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS). And endings, boy, does this show know how fuck up endings. Even though it's more serial than the original series, and the various ongoing plotlines and callbacks were awesome, it is at its heart an episodic show, meaning things have to return to the status quo at the end, so there's usually a rushed resolution, and then some meaningful exchange as characters look out into the stars and the episode abruptly ends. Thankfully, the series finale is easily one of the best ever, beautifully tying the series together and giving the characters a proper sendoff.

I am going to miss my spaceship babies, but I skipped half the episodes, so they will always be there, waiting for me! I've gone where no one has gone before (except, uh, most of everyone), and I'm already itching to go back.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Silversun Pickups - Ragamuffin

(12 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:imwalde
Date:October 11th, 2015 01:45 am (UTC)
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Now that you like the show and have seen how good it can be, I think you'll probably be able to stomach some of the flops for episodes from the early seasons. If I catch one of those, it's like, awwwww, baby show, you are trying hard, but not succeeding, but keep trying! It's like seeing season 1 of Buffy again. You can get sort of nostalgic over the show's growing pains. (Although early TNG has quantitatively more flops than early Buffy ever did. There's only one I Robot, You Jane, but TNG has several of equivalent facepalmingness.) Still, affection for the show overall will make them go down easier.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:October 11th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I figure I'll be able to enjoy the early episodes more now, or any of the lesser episodes in the later seasons. There are a handful that sounded interesting and/or important that weren't on my list because they weren't standouts.
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From:marzipan_pig
Date:October 12th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
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How did "Darmok" hold up under whatever references you must have heard to it over time? It is prob the ep I refer to most in a casual sense to convey how if someone knows you well, you can allude to some past story and they know all of what you mean.

Troi/Data: there is a scene in a later ep where he refers to his understanding of her telling him 'It Never Happened' but other than that I don't think any direct references.

What did you think of Majel Barett's Lwaxana Troi?

I had some other qs but I need to go back and re read your post to formulate them.

Have you seen fashionitso.tumblr.com? It is amazing and funny even if you don't care ALL that much about clothes.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:October 12th, 2015 06:57 pm (UTC)
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I actually hadn't heard any "Darmok" references until this year, and the episode definitely holds up. It's brilliant. Monica Byrne pointed out on Twitter how they're basically speaking in GIFs, and yep. Shared culture, shared history, communication by association.

I was not a Lwaxana fan. I only had a couple of her episodes on my list, but I mostly found her very annoying, even though she had her more human, sympathetic moments.

I have seen some of the fashion posts! Wesley's sweaters in particular are a hoot.
[User Picture]
From:marzipan_pig
Date:October 12th, 2015 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Ah ha ha speaking in gifs yes.

I messed up the tumblr link: its sttngfashion.tumblr.com

I never remembered my other q - something about Picard but I can't remember what I was going to ask.

For me Lwaxana fleshes Troi out in a 'daughter of a difficult mother' way that I can relate to. She does kind of turn every episode she's in in a way that is a bit annoying ;)

Oh! I guess I wanted to ask what you thought of Picard's romances. There was the kissing-in-the-Jeffries-tube astrometrics lady, the lady who is a present for someone else and can be whoever a guy wants her to be, Vash, and then -I- think Q has a crush on him but that's probably unrequited. Also Bev but I feel like they only really reference that once or twice.

I think that's it. He doesn't really have a lot of gfs and they all end a little weird/bumpy.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:October 12th, 2015 07:23 pm (UTC)
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PICARD/CRUSHER FOREVERRRRRRRR. I loved "Attached" a lot.

Vash was fun, though. And Q is totally crushing on him.
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From:moireach
Date:October 13th, 2015 02:44 am (UTC)
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Aw, yay, I cut my fandom teeth on TNG and it was a huuuuge part of my adolescence so it's awesome to see someone getting into it and read the details of your impressions like this. Really pleased you liked it, I feel so protective of it and worry it doesn't stand up after all this time. And aww, yay for liking Remember Me and Darmok and especially Attached!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:October 13th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
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"Attached" was SO CUTE AND ADORABLE. And while some of the weaker episodes probably don't hold up, the good stuff is still quality after all these years. Those performances, for instances, haven't gotten any less strong.
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From:the_narration
Date:October 13th, 2015 04:27 am (UTC)
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Troi, uh, sensed really obvious emotions with her mind. Marina Sirtis, uh, did the best with what she had.
Yeah, Troi was really badly written. She's not even good at counseling! That's why the only times that Sirtis really gets to cut loose is when Troi is possessed, or in "Face of the Enemy" (where she was so awesome that some people complained that Troi being that competent was breaking their suspension of disbelief).


People have said that the aliens in "Darmok" communicate entire in TVTropes-speak. "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra" basically translates to "The Obi-Wan and Bald Badass have to Enemy Mine." :-)

I was five when TNG first started airing, so my memories of those terrible early seasons were pretty fuzzy until a few years ago when I started watching reviews of the old episodes on SFDebris and the series popped up on Netflix. So while I was remembering all these amazing episodes like "Best of Both Worlds", "Tapestry", "Chain of Command" and "Darmok", I had totally forgotten that awful episodes like "Code of Honor" and "Angel One" existed. Those early seasons did have one thing going for them, however: amazing music. In those first three seasons or so, up through "Best of Both Worlds", Ron Jones used to compose an original score for each episode. Then Rick Berman fired him and they went with generic music for the rest of the series.

If you're going to go back to watch some of the episodes that you skipped, I can recommend a few. I've always had a fondness for "Conspiracy", although that might be because it was the first time five-year-old me saw a dude's head explode. "Pen Pals" is about the only episode that makes any real attempt to discuss the TNG reinterpretation of the Prime Directive (which pretty much amounts to "commit genocide-by-inaction and congratulate yourself for it"). Oh shit, did you not watch "Ensigns of Command"? That's a great Data episode, and also features one of the greatest moments of Picard being snarky in the whole series. "Legacy" is one of the few times you'll see a reference to Tasha Yar having existed, since Data meets her sister. "Devil's Due" and "Fistful of Datas" are fun ones. "The Mind's Eye" has some creepy foreshadowing for the "Redemption" two-parter. "Silicon Avatar" follows up on the Crystalline Entity from "Datalore".


So, is DS9 next?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:October 13th, 2015 04:40 am (UTC)
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"Face of the Enemy" (where she was so awesome that some people complained that Troi being that competent was breaking their suspension of disbelief)
She was so great in that episode!! But, like, exactly, why the hell is she so terrible all other times basically.

Thanks for the other episode suggestions!! Those do sound worth checking out.

DS9 is next, once I put together an abridged list. Right now I'm taking a break and watching Steven Universe, and I may watch something else short before going back into space.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:October 13th, 2015 06:40 am (UTC)
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But, like, exactly, why the hell is she so terrible all other times basically.
Terrible writing is a big part of it. Lots of the Trek writers didn't know what to do with her besides make her a victim, a love interest or have her state the obvious. (Because if she ever sensed an emotion that wasn't obvious, it would give away the plot twist. That's something that you need to think about before adding an empathic character to your series.) Ditto with her cred as a psychologist: if she was any good at her job, there wouldn't be much of a story.


With DS9 it will probably be easier to make a list of episodes that you shouldn't watch. Even the writers freely admitted that they usually produced at least one truly awful episode per season. :-)
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From:homegoddess
Date:October 13th, 2015 03:08 pm (UTC)
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I haven't watched TNG since its original airing way back when. My friends and I were Original Series fans and TNG's debut was eagerly anticipated. We got together to watch. Good times. Glad you enjoyed it.

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