I come from a “Star Trek family”, and Star Trek: The Next Generation is a beloved old friend – I have fond memories of the series first being shown and thinking it was brilliant. I got bored with Voyager and DS9, and the movies don’t do much for me, but I still consider myself a Trekkie (and I’ve got the tattoo to prove it). Not that long after I got a TiVo box, I realised that the TNG reruns on Syfy were about to tick over and go from the beginning again so I set it up to record. I hadn’t watched the series in order or with any commitment for over a decade, so I thought a rewatch was in order.
It’s taken a loooooong time, but I’m well into the final season now and I’m feeling sad that it will soon come to an end. Some of the episodes I’d only seen a couple of times, others I’d seen so often I could sing along, so to speak, but the whole exercise has been immensely rewarding. I’ve had several realisations, which I’d be delighted to share with you here, illustrated with apposite Next Gen gifs. Resistance is futile.
(Once I finish this rewatch, I shall try and assemble a list of my favourite episodes.)
TNG is older now than the Original Series was when TNG started
Shit, I’m old.
The first and second seasons are somewhat terrible
Up until this rewatch, I’d been semi-consciously avoiding the reruns of the early seasons, because I’ve seen them a gazillion times and I remembered them as not as good as the later ones. Watching them now, some for the first time in 10 years, was rather excruciating. Gene Roddenberry strictly enforced his principle of there being no conflict in the crew, and if his heavy handed allegories seemed creaky in the late 80s, now they just felt embarrassing. I saw quickly why Denise Crosby left. I’m not sure if TV has yet mastered (mistressed?) the art of portraying strong beautiful women, but I’m sure a Yar written now would be a much more interesting prospect. There’s a racist and sexist nadir in “Code of Honor”, and several episodes deserve a dishonourable mention, like “Angel One” and anything featuring a deus ex Wesley Crusher. And how shit was Worf’s makeup in the early days? I’ll go easier on the second season, as they had a writer’s strike to contend with. But it still frequently sucked.
Ai ya, they are SMUG!
Occasionally my esteemed other half accompanies me on this nostalgic trip to the future, and when watching one of the earlier episodes, he pointed how smug everyone was. That was it. I couldn’t unsee it. Even now, when the smug excesses of the first season are long behind me, it’s still there. A patina of self-righteousness coats everything, and I’ve just had to learn to live with it: after all, we’d all probably be a bit smug if we lived in a space-faring Utopia, right?
When it’s good, it’s the best telly ever
Some of the best episodes of TNG are the more philosophical ones, light on conflict and technobabble, and big on concepts. Only Star Trek could make an episode based on the philosophy of language (“Darmok”) and only TNG could make it watchable. Other good episodes are based on exploring how crew members resolve personal issues in a world with no conflict – basically, they just behave in the way we imagine healthy, well-adjusted adults do, and it’s great, emotionally involving telly. The villains usually feel like credible threats, if we ignore the Ferengi, and the humour usually works. All in all, the universe the Enterprise-D was exploring was consistent, realistic and interesting. I’ve criticized the first seasons but they anchor the rest of the series deeply in how Gene Roddenberry wanted it to be, with his successors free to develop, expand and modernise, resulting in a nigh on perfect balance. This led me to also realise…
Why I didn’t like Deep Space Nine or Voyager (as much)
It bothered me a bit when I lost interest in Star Trek, but now I’ve realised it’s because they just aren’t Star Trekkish enough for me, and the only reason I watched DS9 as long as I did was because I’m totally gay for Jadzia Dax.
…is a pompous oil slick, but I still would.