Friday, April 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 1 (1987-1988) ***½

TV-PG, 25 45-min. episodes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Directors: Corey Allen, Paul Lynch, Russ Mayberry, Richard A. Colla, Rob Bowman, Cliff Bole, James L. Conway, Richard Compton, Joseph L. Scanlan, Michael Ray Rhodes, Kim Manners, Michael Vegar, Les Landau, Whin Phelps, Robert Becker

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana, John D.F. Black, Katharyn Powers, Michael Baron, Herbert Wright, Richard Krzemien, Diane Duane, Michael Reaves, Michael Halperin, Worely Thorne, Larry Forrester, Maurice Hurley, Tracy Tormé, Lan O’Kun, Robert Lewin, Patrick Barry, Michael Michaelian, Hannah Louise Shearer, Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs, Ralph Sanchez, Sandy Fries, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Joseph Stephano, Deborah Dean Davis, Deborah McIntyre, Mona Clee

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton

Guest starring: John de Lancie, Michael Bell, DeForest Kelley, Colm Meaney, Brooke Bundy, Jesse Lawrence Ferguson, Karole Selmon, James Louis Watkins, Armin Shimerman, Jake Dengle, Tracey Walter, Mike Gomez, Stanley Kamel, Eric Menyuk, John Durbin, Brenda Bakke, Jay Louden, Josh Clark, Frank Corsentino, Douglas Warhit, Majel Barrett, Robert Knepper, Nan Martin, Robert Ellenstein, Carel Struycken, Anna Katarina, Lawrence Tierney, Harvey Jason, William Boyett, David Selburg, Karen Montgomery, Sam Hennings, Patricia McPherson, Leonard John Crofoot, Carolyn McCormick, Gene Dynarski, Katy Boyer, Alexandra Johnson, Clayton Rohner, Marsha Hunt, Michael Pataki, Jerry Hardin, Brenda Strong, Jandi Swanson, Walter Gotell, Elizabeth Lindsey, Gerard Prendergast, Mario Roccuzzo, Ward Costello, Robert Schenkkan, John Putch, Robert Ito, Stephen Gregory, Vaughn Armstrong, Charles H. Hyman, David Froman, Vincent Schiavelli, Marco Rodríguez, Vyto Ruginis, Julia Nickson, Judson Scott, Merritt Butrick, Richard Lineback, Kimberly Farr, Ron Gans, Michelle Phillips, Rod Loomis, Henry Darrow, Ray Reinhardt, Jonathan Farwell, Michael Berryman, Marc Alaimo, Anthony James, Leon Rippy, Gracie Harrison, Peter Mark Richman

I was told after I reviewed all three seasons of the original “Star Trek” television series, that I would enjoy “Star Trek: The Next Generation” even more. Although, I was a huge fan of “Star Trek” as a kid, I never watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when it was on TV. It was a matter of bad timing. It started airing at that period in my late high school life when extra curricular activities began to take precedence over television. It was also on one of those new channels that seemed to be forbidden on my father’s television. Then, I went on to college and pretty much stopped watching television all together. So, I was very excited to start watching this “new” ‘Star Trek” series 25 years after the fact thanks to Netflix.

My first impression is that for the most part my friend was right. I don’t really like it more after only the first season, but there are certainly some aspects that make it more enjoyable. Mostly, this one just hasn’t dated as much as the original series. The improved production values really free the viewer up to enjoy the stories and science fiction more than on the original series. There is so much suspension of disbelieve involved in appreciating the original series that it can be a bit of a strain on those enjoyment receptors, I suppose.

What the sophomore series lacks are the strong characterizations of the original. This is something I hope improves over the course of the series. Of course, there is a much larger cast of primary characters this time around. While some of the supporting characters of the original series, like Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov, grew into larger roles; the core characters of that series were really only Kirk, Spock and Bones. Here there’s Picard, Data, Geordi, Riker, Worf, Troi, Dr. Crusher, Wesley, and Tasha Yar. That’s a great deal of character development to handle and it obviously takes a few character cutbacks and more than a season to do it.

The first season is filled with a great deal of establishing elements throughout the entire season. You can see the writers trying to establish interest in the many different crew members. Rarely has the structure of a series been as easy to dissect as this one’s. That’s also because it follows such an iconic series. During the middle episodes of the season a few aspects seem to be on autopilot and some of the energy of the series is lost. However, the writers do a fairly good job establishing this entire series as part of the same mythology of the original and yet still its own individual entity.

It was a very important choice to make Picard such a different captain than Kirk; yet it also involved a huge risk in terms of the structure of the series. How do you rest the weight of carrying the series on a more controlled and less active captain, especially when the dramatic nature of the first series’ captain was one of the main reasons for its success. Of course, Picard will become more active throughout the run of the series than he is in the first season, but the writers use this opportunity to make Picard the one who establishes all the new rules of this slightly further advanced Starfleet from the original crew’s.

I was very satisfied with this first season of “The Next Generation” and I cannot wait to see more of this new Enterprise’s adventures.

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