In the 24th century, more than 70 years after the time of
Captain James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard takes command of the
brand-new Galaxy-class starship Enterprise. But he
isn't in for an easy ride. Picard and his crew must face enemies
old and new, including Romulans, renegade Klingons, Ferengi,
and a god-like entity called Q...
It's hard to believe that almost 15 years have passed since
The Next Generation premiered on American television.
I still get a thrill of nostalgia whenever I recall my excitement
at watching the pilot episode, Encounter at Farpoint,
for the first time.
back at these early episodes, you see a lot of elements that
were later modified or ditched altogether. Commander Riker's
(Jonathan Frakes) reluctance to allow Captain Picard (Patrick
Stewart) to beam down into potentially dangerous situations
was discarded before the year was out. Despite being an extremely
sensible code of practice (and a reversal of the usual situation
in "Classic" Trek, in which the most of the senior
officers would invariably beam down!) it makes for better
drama if the star of the show is placed in the thick of the
there was no main engineer character in TNG, the assumption
being that, by the 24th century, people would be more concerned
with the maintenance of the mental and emotional wellbeing
of the crew than with the mechanical nuts and bolts of the
ship - a very '80s attitude. Hence the introduction of Counselor
Troi (Marina Sirtis). However, the number of episodes that
required a spokesperson for the Engineering department made
it clear that there was still a place in Star Trek
for a Scotty substitute, and so the second season saw the
promotion of Lieutenant La Forge (Levar Burton) to Chief Engineer.
the special effects were the most impressive on any TV show
at that time, and certainly more up-to-date than those on
the 1960s series, some of the visuals - including various
space shots and several of the alien planet sets - look rather
cheap 'n' cheerful compared with later seasons.
may also notice that Patrick Stewart initially uses (at the
production team's request) American pronunciations of words
such as "command", "class", "status" and "record". As the
season unfolds, however, we hear the actor gradually introducing
his own British pronunciations of such words.
first season contains more than its fair share of distinctly
average episodes, including Justice (nice costumes,
shame about the plot), Angel One, When the Bough Breaks
(too many cutesy children), Home Soil and The Arsenal
Last Outpost starts well, but degenerates into the over-familiar
"powerful alien tests humanity" scenario. Also, the first
appearance of the Ferengi in this instalment fails to live
up to the formidable reputation that had been so carefully
developed for them over preceding episodes. Lonely Among
Us contains many memorable moments, such as when Data
(Brent Spiner) impersonates Sherlock Holmes for the first
time, but is blighted by the Enterprise crew being
even more self-righteous than usual. Hide and Q has
many amusing and effective scenes, but is a rather unfocused
and plotless affair. Coming of Age is a real mixed
bag, featuring a tense investigation of the crew on the one
hand, but a rather stupid Starfleet Academy entrance exam
on the other - it seems as though only one entrant makes it
into the Academy each year!
strongest episodes include Where No One Has Gone Before,
The Battle, 11001001 and Heart of Glory. Encounter
at Farpoint might not be the best pilot in television
history, but it beats the limp opener to Star Trek: Voyager
hands down. The Naked Now, a sequel to the "Classic"
Trek episode The Naked Time, is little more
than a remake, but it is an exceptionally amusing and dramatic
one. The Big Goodbye set the precedent for the all
too numerous "holodeck goes wrong" stories that have followed
it, but it remains a very enjoyable change-of-pace show. Datalore
and Conspiracy are both like B-movies of the most enjoyable
kind, the latter featuring something of a throwback to the
"shoot first, ask questions later" attitude of Captain Kirk.
Notably Conspiracy, which pays off on a plotline introduced
in Coming of Age, concludes with a stunning cliffhanger,
one that has never been resolved (on TV at least). Symbiosis
is an effective discourse on drug dependency, marred only
by a truly vomit-inducing scene in which Lieutenant Yar (Denise
Crosby) attempts to explain the problem of narcotics addiction
to the innocent Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton). The Neutral
Zone marks the impressive return of the Romulans as a
force to be reckoned with, and also foreshadows the second
season's introduction of the Borg.
real stinkers of this season are the dreadfully dull Code
of Honor and Haven, both of which recycle story
elements from the "Classic" Trek episode Amok Time,
and Skin of Evil - ooh, a talking oil slick... I'm
its flaws, and in spite of the fact that the actors and producers
are evidently going through a learning curve, there's a palpable
spirit of adventure to this season. This is partly due to
the "superhero-style" spandex uniforms that the crew wears,
but has a lot more to do with the quality of the incidental
music, which is far more distinctive than the bland lift music
that we got in later years.
majority of the first season episodes are scored by one of
two composers: Dennis McCarthy and Ron Jones. McCarthy establishes
some memorable themes in the pilot episode, and reprises and
develops them throughout the season. Jones, who would go on
to score the superb Best of Both Worlds provides extremely
exciting music for The Naked Now, Where No One Has Gone
Before, 11001001 and others. His Naked Now music,
in particular, recaptures the dramatic qualities of the better
instalments of "Classic" Trek.
sound and picture quality of these episodes are an improvement
on the previous VHS releases, although the fact that these
shows were not originally produced with Dolby Surround in
mind means that the dialogue tracks and mundane sounds (such
as footsteps, etc) often seem a little hollow played on a
Surroundsound system. It must also be said that a few instances
of dropout persist from the master tapes, as well as occasional
white flashes that appear on screen. Such glitches are only
visible for a frame or two, but if the BBC's Restoration Team
can clean up 35-year-old monochrome recordings of Doctor
Who, then I'm sure that Paramount could have made a slightly
better job of restoring tapes that are only 15 years old.
extra features on the last of seven discs in this box set
comprise just over an hour of documentary footage collated
from various interviews with the cast and crew between 1987
and the present day, in which the personnel recall working
on the first season. This material isn't especially riveting,
but does have its moments, including a demonstration of the
numerous elements that make up the transporter beam effect,
and an amusing montage of Troi "sensing" things!
shouldn't whinge too much. Taking a leaf out of the book of
20th Century Fox Home Video (with its box sets of The X-Files,
Buffy and Angel), Paramount has provided DVD-compatible
Trek fans with excellent value for money.
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