Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Discuss: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Karen: What do you think of the second series, Star Trek: The Next Generation? You can discuss it on its own terms, and also how it compares to the original Star Trek.


Edo Bosnar said...

I like TNG. I remember how excited I was when it was announced, since by that point I had watched the original series many, many times over, and with the movies only coming out in roughly two-year intervals, I was quite ready for some new Trek content (as I said in previous comments, I never read any of the novelizations or even comic book adaptations).

On its own terms, it was a rather solid SF series, with generally well-written stories and interesting characters, and it definitely got better as the seasons progressed (while I'm not as harshly critical as many about the first season, I'll readily acknowledge that it was rather uneven, and overall kind of disappointing).

Sometimes I find it a bit onerous to compare it to the original series, but I still prefer the latter. While TNG obviously had better special effects and set designs, and the acting was also generally better, the universe it presented seemed less exciting and a less dangerous than the one we saw in the original series: Kirk and the gang all too often faced beings and forces much more powerful than they were, and often beyond their comprehension, and they had to pretty much rely on their wits or just plain guts to deal with whatever situation they get caught up in. In TNG, with the exception of their dealings with Q (and later, the Borg), the Enterprise and Star Fleet in general always seemed to have the upper hand, or were at least roughly equal to whatever alien race they encountered.

david_b said...

I remember being at Basic Training at Fort Knox, and seeing first pics of Next Gen. I collected the magazine's first half dozen issues, but never any NG comics or anything (didn't see the point..).

The only NG boxset I have is from the first year. It has it's own wonky charm and style to it, which lagged abit in it's second year. I will say that the second year's 'Measure of a Man' is probably one of the BEST standout morality plays Trek has EVER, EVER done, excellently conceived and wonderfully executed.

Like most will agree, the third/fourth seasons are the favorites, nothing beats 'Best of Both Worlds' as the pinnacle of Next Gen, when it finally came of it's own merit, no longer held next to it's predecessor for comparison. If anyone's been watching youtube lately, I just love this gag reel from Year Two...:

Michael Dorn's HILARIOUS.

By the last couple of seasons, I was having my fill of 'Troi's Mom' episodes, although I enjoyed 'All Good Things' as an ending.

And yeah, I collected the Playmates figures fairly regularly when they first came out, but after a few years they really saturated themselves on the shelves, nearly crushing the appeal for any of the later franchise shows like DS9 and Voyager. I didn't go so far as to grab the NG Bridge (since the articulation didn't allow them to sit decent anyways..), but I LOVE the NG (and TOS) Shuttles on my shelves.

A few years back, I was able to grab the rare alien Galoob figures which had those amazing head sculpts. The Galoob Shuttle is SO worth getting, just to display.

William said...

I watched the first episode of STNG in the rec-room of the Coast Guard cutter I was serving on at the time. About 10 members of the crew gathered to watch it, and the thing I remember most was we all cracked up because Captain Picard and Riker (Number One) reminded us of our own ships captain and first officer. Our Captain was an older bald man, and our first officer was a young, good looking guy we all called Diamond Dave. (Not to his face). In fact he bore a striking resemblance to Jonathan Frakes. Other than that, I remember not being that impressed by the first few episodes that I was able to watch.

However, a few years later, after I was out of the Coast Guard and married, my wife and I started watching the show. By then it was also in syndication, and I was able to catch up on all the episodes I'd missed. It became one of my (our) favorite shows, and I still love it to this day. Definitely my favorite incarnation of Star Trek. Oh, and my wife still has a crush on Patrick Stewart.

dbutler16 said...

It took me a while to really get into this show (I liked it when it originally came out, but didn't love it like the original series), probably because it wasn't the original Star Trek. However, I've been recording and watching a bunch of episodes on BBC America recently, and I have to say, it's really an excellent show. It's a bit more cerebral and perhaps less action packed than the original series, and the original series is still my favorite Star Trek series, but TNG is a very close second. A different type of show, but excellent in its own way.

Doc Savage said...

I like Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner but the show is way too touchy-feely Trek with that awful empath telling the audience what the acting should convey about emotions and situations. I thought the uniforms looked
like little kid footie pajamas. Too many episodes about spaceships and robots having human rights. And the premise of Klingon-Federation cooperation never worked
for me.

david_b said...

I love the behind-the-scenes stories with Spiner, Dorn and Frakes.. Apparently by the 4th/5th year, they were getting pretty ruthless with new directors on the set, when... 'they smelled fear'.

Just a great cast. I got to see Frakes back in '92 in Mpls. He was the fan fav for many years, basically 'inviting himself' to big gigs, just to watch the crowds go bonkers.

Yeah, it got to be quite a milked, bloated franchise in it's heyday, especially the cruiseship cons and ALL the merchandising, but these guys seemed to revel in the fame and really worked the crowd with their stage humor and charm.

If any of you've seen 'Trekkies' and it's sequel, you'll know what I mean. Despite the typical weird fans, it did succeed in putting overall Trekdom (and fan appreciation) at a much higher level of sophistication and reflection.

Despite it's excesses, hugely successful franchises have a habit of doing that.

(And excessive fodder for 'Big Bang Theory'.., if that qualifies for of any measure).

On another note of interest, it's facinating reading about the studio finances after the first 5-6years. Apparently the Paramount strongly weighed ending the show earlier, since the cost of production was cutting into profits the show was already reaping in syndication; the basic stance was, 'Why spend more money for new seasons when we have enought for killer syndication packages anyways..?'

Hence DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise, which would make their own deals. Unfortunately you don't seem them being shown on syfy or BBC channels, do we..?

Hmmm, shame the original series never had that problem.

Edo Bosnar said...

I have to add that I think Patrick Stewart was a brilliant casting choice: he really owned that role as much as Shatner did Kirk, and as a result he really gave TNG it's own unique stamp which set it apart from the original series.

Bruce said...

Not really a fan. The show lacked the interpersonal conflict that makes most "team" stories interesting. The characters were too perfect - they never got mad at each other and argued the way Kirk, Spock and McCoy did, or the way everyone did on Deep Space Nine. Nearly every plot involved solving some external problem, rather than an internal, personal conflict.

I know a lot of people like TNG, but it just doesn't interest me.

Edo Bosnar said...

Bruce, that's an interesting interpretation of the original series, and Trek in general. To me, it seemed like "solving some external problem" drove almost every plot in the original series (and, by extension, all of the later Trek series), while the sometimes less-than-harmonious relations among the crew (basically, the bickering between Spock and McCoy) were more of a leit-motif.

William Preston said...

Given what's been said in comparing TNG to TOS, I think it's interesting to view the show when wedged between both TOS and DS9, both of which, I think, better shows. Part of it was the characters. The bond between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy shaped TOS, and they banged heads without ever truly reaching consensus. Often they just did a) what the captain ordered or b) whatever the shifting sands of the moment dictated. TNG relied on Picard listening really carefully to everyone, like some kind of corporate VP. And, if I understand the show's original thinking, he was supposed to stay back and be non-active, not leaving the ship, while Ryker (a decent comic actor but a dreadful serious actor) would be the active center of attention; that premise didn't really stick. But why were those people together? They all had a kind of bland "this is my job" view of things, and they'd formed an informal family (in ways that were isolating and sad, as made clear in some episodes). You never thought Kirk, Spock, and McCoy didn't interact with anyone else, but you often thought the bridge crew only knew the bridge crew. DS9 forced together people who didn't belong together, people with utterly different agendas and cultures, and Sisko had to act captainly in order to rein them in. (Once Worf came on, it added to this, as sometimes Sisko would listen to him but then get fed up with the Klingon stuff and just tell him what to do.) Once that show got its sea-legs, you saw stories rise organically from within the interactions as well as from without, something TNG never did smoothly.

I "watched" the first ep of TNG on a fuzzy TV screen in married student housing in Syracuse, the first year of my wife's graduate degree. I was tremendously disappointed that I could see it well enough to really enjoy; only once we moved, the next summer, was I able to finally see the show, as it came in more clearly in the new house. It was the creepy ep with the giant face onscreen threatening everybody. We had it on during our moving-in party.

The show was increaingly disappointing; once it figured itself out, it immediately set out to become tremendously boring.

Karen said...

I agree with much of what William P. and Bruce said. Original Trek and DS9 are my favorite Trek shows. While I do like Next Gen to some degree, and I think Patrick Stewart as Picard may be the best thing about the show, overall I feel the lack of conflict and blandness (by design) of the crew makes it less interesting. If I recall, Roddenberry actually wanted this crew to all "get along" as a contrast to the McCoy-Spock feud of the past, perhaps not realizing how that added flavor to the show.

Also, on a purely aesthetic note, the Enterprise-D always looked terrible to me -like a flattened duck or something. Not cool at all.

david_b said...

Good point on the Enterprise-D..

It took me a while to accept it, then in each successive movie the new ship got worse and worse looking.

'First Contact' was a great piece of film, the later ones are fairly crappy.

And on the visual side, Spiner's makeup in the movies always looked terrible. You never had that 'oily look' in the television show; obviously the big screen is far less charitable for skin, but using different lens and lighting (and better makeup..) would have helped greatly.

J.A. Morris said...

I like TNG, but for some reason, it seems more dated than TOS(can't explain that).

But I didn't initially like the show, took me until sometime in season 2 to start watching it regularly. When I went back & watched re-runs, I think it was the music. The background music during season 1 is different (IMHO, more obnoxious) than in later seasons

Anonymous said...

I remember thinking I was going to hate TNG (before the premiere), but it ended up winning me over. For me, TOS and TNG are apples and oranges...trying to compare them straight up is hard, because they're actually quite different. I do like TNG, although they had their share of episodes that I didn't like, but no show is perfect.

Mike W.

Anonymous said...

It seemed to me that the producers had read David Gerrold's books about the original series and thought "OK, we'll fix everything this time so it'll be perfect," and in doing so extracted everything that made the original show so interesting in the first place (odd that Gerrold didn't notice, as he was in fact a consultant on the first season).

The characters were certainly bland; it was, as noted, too laying-my-emotions-on-the-table-tell-me-how-you-feel...but for all that I watched it because goshdarn it if the plots were so well done that you just had to watch it to see how they'd get out of the situation they'd gotten themselves into this week.

And Karen is right, the Enterprise looked terrible, and as one of the major characters (as much as in TOS), it was a major disappointment and distraction.

B Smith

Garett said...

I miss the beaming effect from the original series! Also the punchups, and as mentioned, the Kirk/Bones/Spock interactions.

That being said, I did watch many of TNG in reruns during the '90s, when they aired daily. It was nice to have any Star Trek universe on the go again, and there was a comfortable feeling to the show and characters. First Contact was excellent! Added some darkness to the show, along with humour/adventure.

I prefer TOS--unexpected, colorful, robust!

Anonymous said...

TOS is my personal favourite. It had a raw appeal despite the low budget special effects and Shatner's overacting. TNG had the built-in advantages of a bigger budget for makeup and FX and ultimately a longer run (and of course building on the foundation set by TOS), but to be honest I always preferred the Spock/Kirk/McCoy dynamic over the ho-hum TNG characters. Data always reminded me of a Spock robot (OK, technically android) trying to get emotions.

I agree with Mike W. insofar as comparing TOS to TNG is like comparing apples to oranges. Both are delicious, but you might like one more than the other. Seriously, though, how can you compare the gung ho, womanizing macho Kirk with the staid, scolarly diplomatic Picard? Take your pick.

Even though they gave Picard some more challenges later on like having him integrated into the Borg collective or being tortured by the Cardassians, I always felt TNG was a more sanitized version of Trek. Yeah, Matt Celis, I also agree TNG was too touchy feely, especially with the character of Deanna Troi. Ship's counsellor? Is this the Love Boat? A critic many years ago said that the new Enterprise was like 'a space cruise ship with all the modern luxury comforts of the future'. I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the point.

I think the respective eras in which both shows aired also played a part in how they were done - TOS came in the late 60s when the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh in people's memories and the Cold War was in full swing. The Federation was analogous to the USA and the Klingons were the Soviets. During TOS's run, both countries were in a race to land men on the moon, culminating in 1969 (TOS's final season)with the successful Apollo 11 mission. This mirrors the original Enterprise's bold exploration into other worlds and alien encounters.

In contrast, TNG debuted in 1987 during Reagan's presidency; this was the 'excess' 80s where 'greed is good' according to Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street, debuting in that same year. TNG crew weren't explorers, they were more like stuffy well fed diplomats sent out by the Federation to have tea with the Klingons!

- Mike 'sociology professor and comics lover' from Trinidad & Tobago.

J.A. Morris said...

I've always liked this fan-written song about TNG, worth a listen for every Trek fan:

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I couldn’t wait for the premiere episode. At the time I was working nights at a delivery company. I got my first VCR just to record Next Generation. The RCA VCR was one of the first of it’s kind to have touch controls. Much like the flat panel displays on Next Gen! I embraced it more because I liked Patrick Stewart way more than Shatner. At first I mistook Patrick Stewart for Barry Morse, the co-star of year one of Space: 1999. There was a small passing resemblance.

But I digress, I didn’t care for Gene’s no conflict among the characters. However I did faithfully watch them all. Even though I would record them with commercials, I still bought the VHS pre-recorded tapes without the pesky commercials. I must have seen them all about five times each. Some episodes more than others.

Deep Space Nine also was my ultimate favorite of all Treks. But it was Next Gen that paved the way for all the other shows afterward. I was hoping Denise Crosby had stayed and could have enjoyed some great story arcs. When she left all the good stories that would have been Denise Crosby’s, went to Michael Dorn, the actor that played Worf. As much as I liked the Klingons, I would have liked to have seen more of Denise and her character Tasha Yar.

Contrary to a lot of fan opinions, I did like the Wesley Crusher character. Like Data and Worf, he played the role of an outsider to an unknown adult world. One of the very first episodes with The Traveler was based on an original series novel by Diane Duane. I read the book long ago, but forgot how the novel was adapted for the Next Generation time line.

mr. oyola said...

As I said in the post about TOS, TNG seems oddly dated to me nowadays in a way that TOS doesn't, despite tje latter being older.

Rip Jagger said...

I was a big fan when it first appeared on TV. The updating seemed sensible and I liked the slightly more complicated crew mix. The notion to keep a captain on board while the first officer did the planetary stuff fell to the wayside when Patrick Stewart captured everyone's attention. I think his run as an older captain was fascinating.

The show though hasn't aged as well as I thought it would. Some of those early episodes look darn near as creaky as do some of the original series from decades before. The shopping mall look of the federation locations appear tired to my modern eye. The character interplay though is still pretty interesting.

I'm a big fan of Enterprise. That slicker production makes most of its predecessors seem a tad quaint.

Rip Off

Comicsfan said...

... the Enterprise-D always looked terrible to me -like a flattened duck or something. Not cool at all.

OMG, Karen. I wish they'd had you on staff before the thing was built. :)

Mumbles said...

Oh, I was such a purist at first--angry that anyone had PRESUMED to "remake" my beloved Star Trek. It took me a couple of years before I would watch it. I was hooked pretty quickly. Upon rewatching, I realize it's a bit hokey, a little sappy, but overall it's still a fun watch. Like others, I recognize that the first season was maybe silly, but that's the case with many shows--takes a while to find their stride.

If I have a preference, I guess I'd have to go with the original series just on sentimental value, but the two are so different I don't think comparison is really possible. They each have their own appeal.


Dougie said...

I agree with Matt Celis. I didn't care much for any of the TNG characters- Data least of all. It was all rather bland and polite. However, I watched almost all of it when it was first shown on BBC2 in the vert early 90s.
I prefer the first season to later ones in that it feels closer to TOS (albeit an 80s take).
I just remembered I liked grumpy Dr. Pulaski!

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