Welcome to a special edition of Underrated Trek, where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I loveâ€¦which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. In keeping with my unintentional theme this week of pilots for TV shows, I decided it was time to look a look at the very first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
This episode premiered September 28, 1987 and kicked off a while new era of Star Trek! Most people have mixed feelings about this one, but is it good….or kind of lame?
En route to Farpoint station on Deneb IV the newly commissioned Enterprise-D is stopped by a being called Q. Q puts the crew on trial accusing them of being a barbarous species. Picard convinces Q to let them complete their Farpoint mission and judge them on that.
At Farpoint, Riker realizes something odd is going on while waiting for the Enterprise to arrive. After joining the ship he gets briefed on their experience with Q as the rest of the crew finally join the ship.
After an alien vessel appears and starts bombing the city that exists on Deneb IV, the crew discover that the alien vessel and the city bear a striking resemblance. Turns out another alien was captured and is bEing used by the inhabitants of the city. Picard allows the two aliens to reunite, which impresses Q enough that he promises to leave them alone for now.
Of course John DeLancie makes the first of many appearances as Q. And why not? He’s the best thing in the episode. Also, Zorn is played by Michael Bell, an amazing voice actor. I still remember watching this episode in 1987 and thinking “Hey, that’s Duke on G.I.JOE!!!” Course he has done much much more than just that. Seriously check out his IMDB page it’s amazing!
Of course this episode does have one amazing guest star that everyone remembers. And of course it’s the scene where DeForest Kelly cameos as McCoy. It isn’t a very long scene, but is very well written and Kelly’s charm just oozes through the make-up. It was a nice touch which connected the two series very nicely. Absolutely beautiful moment which makes this episode a little more special.
So what’s to like in this one? I think the introductions to the crew were done pretty well. Though it still took me a bit to figure just who everyone was. But the first scene with Picard walking around the ship is nice, and when we first meet Riker, Crusher, and LaForge worked. Wesley isn’t obnoxious, yet. Though the scene with him on the bridge is kind of boring. Data wasn’t to bad but still clearly needed work, Brent Spiner obviously didn’t realize what the character was all about just yet. He does a lot of non-android stuff here.
I mentioned this with Zorn but it’s funny the things I still remember thinking when I first saw this episode over 25 years ago. My brother and I excited that it was on. The theme music was disappointing (we’d heard it before, but we were surprised to hear the “Where no man” narration), the transporter effect was kind of weak, that pan of the Bridge when Riker first steps onto it was nice. My favorite memory is the fact that my mother, a died hard of the classic series, wanted nothing to do with this show. Though she did watch and loved the McCoy scene. It may not have been that good, but this show’s premiere was a huge deal and a very memorable event in my house that has stayed with me til this day.
The holodeck scene is pretty good. Riker and Data meeting and the explanation of how the holodeck works all makes for a good scene. Until Wesley has to ruin it. And why does Data rush to save Wesley when he trips into the water, it’s not like any harm will come to him. Oh yeah, first episode. Right. The saucer separation scene is really pretty cool. It was a good idea and presented very well here. To bad they only did two more times in the whole series! But that whole scene has a movie feel to it and it is a highlight. I also kind of liked the way Picard handled Riker when they first met, it may be the only time Picard is kind of interesting in the episode.
Q. He just makes the episode, no wonder he stuck around. The whole story with him is the interesting story of the episode. The trial scene is kind of corny but at least it livens the show up. It also sets up a great premise, but what actually happens doesn’t quite live up to that premise. At all.
Ok, where do I begin? A lot of people hated that Picard surrenders the ship in the first fifteen minutes. Obviously they were trying to show how different he was from Kirk. But, yeah that could have been handled better. Picard seemed like such a wimp that first season I flat out hated him. He’s either arrogant or boring that year, and that’s about it. He got better later on.
Stupid things that thankfully didn’t last. Like the idiotic mini skirt uniforms. Or the crew stopping and bowing to Picard as he walks by. Troi feeling everything soooo deeply (and being telepathic). Or D.C.Fontana writing. Yeah she’s a great writer but just didn’t seem to get that this wasn’t the 60’s Trek anymore. Everyone has picked on how Troi acts in this episode, and yeah I get it. She is really annoying feeling things so deeply. So glad they wised up with her character. But, what is up with Tasha and the way she tends to overreact to things? It was annoying too!
Slow pacing after we get to Farpoint. When I watched this again I was into the first half, but got bored by the time it got to the second half. It just plods along and is it me, or is the answer to what the problem is obvious waayy before the crew figures it out (as Q states)? And the solution is kind of, lame. The planet’s inhabitants are enslaving an alien and making it do things for them? How did that happen? Oh sure Zorn says they healed it when it was hurt, but……And the other alien just HAPPENS to arrive at this time? The story makes no sense when you think about it. I get the feeling they were more excited about showing these cool special effects. I mean the end of the episode is not a space battle or fight,Â the whole last ten minutes is the crew watching the viewscreen! Yawn. DS9 did their premiere much better.
And, to be frank, this episode is just bad compared to the rest of the series. It’s quite amazing when you compare this to, say, Season three when the show finally started to stop being a bad TOS clone. There isn’t one character who doesn’t change for the better between this episode and “All Good Things…”. Riker is way to flippant, Worf is stupid, Crusher less shrill, and I already mentioned the rest. The only that really remained constant is LaForge, sure he was promoted but his character pretty much stayed the same.
â€œFast Forwardâ€ Moment:
Normally I discuss a boring moment in the episode but since the majority of the episode is dull let’s move on.
Final Thoughts-When I watched this in 1987 for the first time, I thought it was pretty good. Looking back it’s just an underwhelming, “safe” episode which is really kind of boring. I guess we were just so happy to have Star Trek on TV we didn’t care it wasn’t much good.Â If we have learned anything this week it’s that no matter how good your pilot may be, the series which comes after had better be a whole lot better.
I think for my next Trek article, I will go back to Voyager. Hm, a less than excellent episode of Voyager. There are so few….. 😉