Thursday, November 10, 2016

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episodes 1 & 2 (Encounter at Farpoint)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

As a kid, I remember watching the original Star Trek series whenever I could. I had missed the original run, which ended in June of 1969. (I was born almost seven years later.) I was in elementary school when it was announced that a new series, based on Star Trek, would premiere. Here, we have the pilot episode, which is listed here as the first two episodes. You have to be careful because there are a few different varieties. This is the one released as an individual tape. From what I hear, there’s one that’s part of a set; that version has additional footage. (I have no idea what’s included with the first-season DVD set.)

The premise is simple. A new Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, has been commissioned. Captain Jean-Luc Picard is in command. His first priority is going to Farpoint Station to pick up several members of his crew, including First Officer William Riker and Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher. Picard is also to discuss using the technology and architects that built Farpoint to build other stations.

On the way there, they meet Q, an omnipotent being that wants to put humanity on trial. Q abducts Picard, Chief of Security Tasha Yar, Counselor Deanna Troi, Chief Science Officer Data and another crewmember and puts them in a court to stand trial. With a gun at his head, Picard pleads guilty, but asks for a chance to use the Farpoint mission to redeem humanity. Q agrees

Meanwhile, at Farpoint, Commander Riker and Dr. Crusher start noticing strange things. Riker wants an apple and one magically appears before him. Dr. Crusher is looking at fabric and it strangely acquires the pattern that she wants. It takes some investigation, but Picard figures out what’s going on. That, coupled with a few other things, is enough to satisfy Q that humanity has progressed and is worthy of venturing out into space. (If things hadn’t worked out, this would have been a very short-lived series.)

Now, pilot episodes have it hard. Most series take a while to establish themselves. The Next Generation is no exception. These two episodes are dedicated mostly to showing off the new ship and establishing the characters. Having the original series saves the writers from having to explain certain things.

However, fans of the original series might be surprised to see Worf, a Klingon who would go on to be chief of security. (In the original series, Klingons and the Federation had been adversaries.) There’s also an 80-year difference between the two series. (The original series took place in the 23rd century while The Next Generation took place in the 24th.)

Those that haven’t seen the original series might miss out on a few things, but I don’t think that it will detract from the series or these episodes too much. Very little of the original series is mentioned. There is a guest appearance by DeForest Kelly as an aged Admiral who has many traits similar to Dr. McCoy of the original series. (The writers deliberately didn’t mention him by name in the script to keep it a secret.)

The acting isn’t as good as later episodes; the actors haven’t quite gotten the feel for the characters. For that matter, neither have the writers. Troi and Data seem a little more emotional here. Riker doesn’t quite seem as serious, but that might have to do with the lack of a beard. What really stands out is the graphics. It looks like most of the graphics budget went into the saucer separation/reattachment sequences. Other things may look cheap. (The transporter effect is different in this episode than in later episodes.

There seems to be a great deal of debate as to the overall quality of this episode. I, personally, have a high tolerance for pilot episodes. This is helped by the fact that a lot of aspects are developed pretty well, either because they carry over from the original series or because the writers and creators had the time to do so. (It’s really the next several episodes that I have problems with, but I’ll save that for another review.)

I’d give this tape four stars. It’s an interesting start to a great series. I’d encourage people to watch these episodes to get used to the series. (If you are looking to rent the entire series, though, I’d recommend getting the first disc of the season one set; the next two episodes aren’t worth the money to rent individually.) 

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