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TNG Season 1: Encounter at Farpoint Ep. 1 January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Star Trek The Next Generation.
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 Deanna on the Jellyfish Reunion:  “A feeling of great joy…”

Me:  “Oi”

So, here I am, watching the TNG pilot again for the first time in years — perhaps since this episode originally aired in 1987.  I remember hating this episode quite distinctly from that first viewing and as I watch it again now, some twenty years later, many of the same things that bugged me then are bugging me again.

First, Deanna Troy is sappy and annoying.  Her first quote of the series sets the tone for her character for the next seven years:  “Captain…I’m sensing a powerful mind!”  Help me, Jesus…

The writers start out by pandering to the Star Trek faithful with several allusions to the old series and it’s lore.  Q’s barrier net that envelopes the ship is reminiscent of the Tholian Web.  The ship’s capability to separate it’s saucer from drive sections was never shown in the original Star Trek, but the “foamer” set will recall this was detailed in the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Data as a replacement for Spock’s character seemed awkward at first.  While Spock was half-Vulcan, half-Human and exerted considerable effort to suppress his human side, Data is human only in form and programming and exerts considerable effort (by programming, too?) to be as human as possible.  This character trait is presented to us with a “I am superior to humans, in many ways…but I would gladly give it up to be human.”  While Data grew on me as the series progressed, I still have to say that his character seemed like a bit of a cheap attempt to give us Spock without Nimoy.

Tasha Yar starts off on a ridiculous note by talking back to Q in direct defiance to Piccard’s orders to shut up.  Then she proceeds to attack the courtroom guard.  All this makes Piccard look weak — like he doesn’t have control over his own security officer.  This sets the stage for Piccard, who starts the series with a reputation as a hard (though not so effective) and distant commander.  He specifically doesn’t feel comfortable around children, which sets up his relationship with Wesley Crusher (supergenius).

What I do like about this episode is the way they set up the relationship between Dr. Crusher and Piccard.  What is implied but left incomplete is the depth and meaningfulness of their past.  It’s clear that Piccard was friends with Crusher’s dead husband, and Piccard seems to feel considerable guilt about his death.  It seems possible that Piccard and Crusher were romantically involved in the past (infidelity?).  Further along these speculative lines, was Piccard directly responsible in some way for daddy-Crusher’s death, and while murder motivated by romantic jealousy for Dr. Crusher’s affections seems beyond the pale, some less dramatic scenario seems possible.  Again, this is all implied but not spoken.

At the climax of the episode, Piccard et al. figure out that Farpoint Station is actually a creature trapped by the local Bandi people who use its powers to create a city habitat.  On one hand, I give the writers props for developing a plausible explanation for these creatures.  As Riker says, it makes sense that somewhere in the universe creatures would exist that are capable of converting matter into energy and back into matter.  This explains how the trapped, stranded creature on the planet surface was able to transform itself into Farpoint station.  But the sappy ending where both creatures take on their more natural forms as interstellar jellyfish leaves something to be desired.  This impression is solidified by Deanna’s reaction to the reunited jellyfish as, “A feeling of great joy…” CHEESY!  I really detest her character.

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Comments»

1. TNG Season 1: The Naked Now Ep. 2 « Sci-Fi TV Geek - January 19, 2008

[…] Piccard and Crusher flirt their way through the development of a vaccine for the disease, further suggesting a shared romantic past.  Lt. Yar is severely sexually repressed.  Threatened by the prospect of human intimacy, she […]

2. csciabar - August 20, 2009

Data’s desire to be human comes from his experiences with them, I believe. Not programing.

3. Deanna Troi - March 11, 2010

I have always loved Deanna’s character “Have you ever been with a counselor before?” “Most people find a counselor intimidating at first…It’s okay if you feel that way towards me.” I think it’s completely logical that there would be a counselor aboard any long-term voyage. I do agree that was a bit cheesy (that line) but the whole first season of nearly any show struggles as the actors get to know their character. Her character is much better later.


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