Here was a show that seemed to do everything wrong at the start, but somehow pulled it together after a couple of rough seasons and went on to tell some great stories. The Inner Light is some of the best sci-fi ever filmed, as far as I’m concerned. The Survivors was also really goodSir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay, with a non-functioning weapon, was an act of unmitigated gall. I admire gall.. Tapestry was pretty good, too. There were a lot of other gems in the 7-season run, and the finale was a fun bit of fan-service that brought us all full circle.
The first season was so appalling I’m still amazed the show managed to survive. In going back over the episode lists for this series I realized that nearly all of my most hated TNG moments came from that first batch of episodes. Even back then, when I was a dumb teenager with no capacity for analysis and no taste, I still recognized these episodes as rubbish. I can only assume the show survived entirely on the pent-up demand for prime time sci-fi and the gee-wizz factor of the special effects, because the show had nothing else going for it.
The term Flanderization is used to describe the process where seemingly minor character quirks are intensified until they consume the character. TNG sort of underwent a broad reverse-Flanderization. The characters began as simplistic and broad. Data misunderstood everything in the most stupidly literal way possible. Picard was a stiff diplomat. Worf was all growls. Troi was a touchy-feely ninny with nothing useful to say. But as the show grew these traits gave way to solid characterization and nuance. As shockingly dumb as the first season plots were, the shows are even more insufferable to watch now that we’ve seen these same characters mature into something interesting.
It’s probably my favorite Trek-thing. I could gush about it, but that doesn’t make for interesting discussion. So instead here’s some stuff that bugs me:
- I know Troi gets a lot of hate, but I actually like her character concept. And once in a while the writers would give her something interesting to do. But too often they just used her to tell us the obvious and to be the victim of the terrifying mental shenanigans of the aliens-of-the-week. She was a good idea with a bad execution. However, everything bad about Troi goes double for…
- …Wesley Crusher. As a teenager I really wanted a teenage character on the Enterprise. He was supposed to be our self-insertion character. Our window into this world. Our champion. Instead he was a joke and a plot device. He wasn’t my representative in the show, he was the representation of how the writers viewed teens: Annoying, whiny, entitled, foolish, but also super-smart because children are the future, or something. If those same writers made Wesley today, they would make a shallow meme-spewing tween that’s constantly taking duck-faced selfies and too busy poking his/her Social Media Tricorder to interact with adults.
Every time Wesley did something dumb or annoying, I felt like I was being judged. I hated Wesley the way Batman would hate this, or the LEGO Movie Batman. He wasn’t just a bad character, he was a mockery of me and everything I aspired to.
The fact that Wil Wheaton has come back and become the icon my teenage self wanted is kind of cool. There’s a certain karmic justice to the fact that Wheaton is celebrated and Rick Berman is vilifiedI don’t know if it was Berman’s fault, but it’s nice to have someone to blame..
The way he was written off the show was a perfect distillation of everything the writers had done wrong: Sloppy, lazy, and annoying.
- I think killing off Tasha Yar was a good move. She and Worf both served the same purpose, story-wise: To be suspicious of aliens and to get in fights. And given the choice between the two, of course we’d rather watch a hulking Klingon fight than another human. On the other hand, I thought her death episode was kind of dumb. Then again…
- …this was grealy undercut by the period where the writers used Worf as a punching bag to establish the villain of the week. Aliens show up, kick Worf’s ass, then the episode begins. It was supposed to show us how dangerous they were, but in the end it just made Worf look like a pushover.
- Data was an interesting character, until they turned his ongoing character arc into a plot-activated device. The emotion chip was a dumb shortcut that failed to say anything interesting about emotions or androids. And don’t get me started on his evil twin. If you’re going to rip off a lame overused trope of yesteryear, you should at least have the decency to do it well.
- I liked Barclay. I have no idea how a man of his limited skill and social grace landed a position on the Enterprise, but I always liked it when he showed up.
- The Holodeck is a terrible thing. It’s a giant plot hole, a massive liability, it usually makes no sense and flagrantly violates its own ill-conceived rules, and even when its used properly the special effects of the day weren’t really up to the job. And now its an indelible part of Trek lore. Or was, until JJ Abrams maybe-erased it. I dunno. All I know is that in the late 80’s, whenever anyone mentioned the holodeck I rolled my eyes because it meant this week’s episode was going to be a stupid waste of time.
The Next Generation wasn’t all good. It’s possible it wasn’t even mostly good. but when it was good, it was really good.
Also, if you’re into the social media thing then I highly recommend these two parody Twitter accounts. The first is Riker Googling:
replicator accident treatment chocolate hand
— Riker Googling (@RikerGoogling) November 30, 2014
And the second is the episode descriptions for “Season 8” of TNG:
Riker cautiously dates a sexy, sentient bomb. Picard drinks water wrong, awkwardly coughs for ten minutes in front of an angry Romulan.
— TNG Season 8 (@TNG_S8) February 24, 2014
Picard's production of MacBeth becomes far too real. Having torn apart the warp core, Geordi now thinks the weird noise is coming from Data.
— TNG Season 8 (@TNG_S8) June 19, 2014
 Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay, with a non-functioning weapon, was an act of unmitigated gall. I admire gall.
 I don’t know if it was Berman’s fault, but it’s nice to have someone to blame.
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