I've started watching the first season of TNG. While it's not fantastic stuff, it's still fun. I enjoyed the episode where Picard gets trapped in the Holodeck(?) as Dixon Hill. Data is great in the episode too.
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you."
If you're already liking it this much, then I'm very excited for you. It only gets better!
You said it hits it stride in Season 3, right?
Pretty much everyone agrees that, by the end of Season Three, the show had hit its prime, but you'll find a lot of disagreement about the seasons and episodes prior to that.
I wrote some in-depth reviews on the first three seasons elsewhere a long time ago. I'll repost them:
(note: Big spoiler at the end of the review for Season One)
Season One: Uncertain Steps Towards a Legendary Run
"A blind man teaching an android how to paint? That's got to be worth a couple of pages in somebody's book."
-- Commander Riker to LaForge and Data, "1001001"
If you're already familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you may be surprised to see how short the first season falls from what you've come to expect. While most of the hit television series of today start strong and struggle to maintain their momentum across seasons, TNG undergoes a slow and often awkward maturation process in which it takes many seasons for the show to reach its apex. The production values are uneven, the characterization and writing often feel forced and unnatural, and even aspects of the general premise seem shaky at times. However, if you're new to the series or are able to divorce yourself from any preconceived expectations of what a TNG episode should look like, then Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 has a lot to offer.
I would be hesitant to judge this season by its first episodes. In fact, I consider the first three ("Encounter at Farpoint," "The Naked Now," and "Code of Honor") to be utterly unwatchable. However, by the middle of the season, the show begins to hit a stride. The writers and actors begin to understand the characters better, production elements become stronger, we start to get into some pretty interesting science fiction premises, and, believe it or not, even Wesley becomes somewhat likable. TNG begins to achieve what it originally promised -- a continuation of the legacy established by Shatner, Nimoy, and the gang twenty years earlier. Some of the stronger episodes from this latter half of the season include "1001001," "Too Short A Season," "Home Soil," "Coming of Age," "Symbiosis," "We'll Always Have Paris," and "The Neutral Zone."
However (and best yet), there are several glimpses of something better in this season. Several times, the show steps dangerously close to becoming something greater than its predecessor. IN "1001001," for example, we're afforded an opportunity to see the crew on leave, and characterization begins to come through in a rich, genuine, and loving way that surpasses anything I've ever felt for the crew of the Original Series. Better yet, small hints of inter-episode continuity surface from time to time, whether it be repeated references to the holodeck upgrade (before, during, and after its occurance), Romulan hostility near the neutral zone, or (most predominantly featured by the season's ending) hints of a conspiracy within Starfleet. Several of these continuity references appear out of order within the season (perhaps due to rushed production schedules), and I do take issue with the fact that there was no attempt to restructure the order of episodes to account for this on the DVDs, but I still respect such an ambitious attempt to show that individual episodes and adventures no longer occur within a vacuum. They are all intertwined in one planned continuity.
Regarding the technical details of the DVDs, while the audio tracks have been upgraded (Dolby Digital 5.1, I believe) to deliver some superior sound quality, little or nothing has been done to improve the picture. The earliest episodes, in particular, suffer from very inconsistent quality. Ghost matting is often present around ships and effects, there's some graininess, and most episodes throughout the season look very dark. None of this has been corrected. A remastered Blu-Ray version of the Original Series has recently been made available and, in the wake of the upcoming Star Trek movie, I would expect to see a similar treatment given to Next Gen. If you have or are planning on getting a Blu-Ray player, this may not be the time to buy the TNG Seasons. And, of course, if you're happy with Standard DVD, you might wait to see if the price on these seasons drops to rock bottom once the remastered Blu-Ray editions are made available.
In closing, while this is certainly not TNG at its finest, it absolutely brings its own strengths to the table. It also features a few important moments in TNG continuity, from the first two appearances of Q ("Encounter at Farpoint," "Hide and Q"), to the first appearance of Lore ("Datalore") and Luwaxana Troi ("Haven"), the death of Tasha Yar ("Skin of Evil"), and finally the first contact with the Romulans in decades ("The Neutral Zone"). For these reasons, TNG Season One is worth a viewing so long as you're willing to adjust your expectations. The only question is whether you're ready to start the adventure now or wait for the Blu-Ray remastered edition.
Season Two: A Masterpiece of a Season (with plenty of room left for growth!)
"Captain Picard, I cannot allow you to leave. Before we can go forward, the cycle must end."
-- Picard, while shooting and killing his future self, "Time Squared"
The first minute of the first episode of this season lays it all out for you. We get far more advanced model and computer animation (ship exteriors), a first glimpse at the shuttle bay and a shuttle craft, a better lit and color adjusted bridge, and some sophisticated camera work, all set to a brilliant new score (not to be confused with the title theme). All in all, it seems clear that the producers have taken fan input into account and have done everything possible to deliver a superior product for season two.
As the episode and season continue, we discover a slew of new surprises. For one thing, the boundaries of the ship truly expand with not only the addition of the shuttlebay, but also the introduction of Ten Forward, the social center of the ship in which we get to see more of our favorite characters off duty. Guinan, ably played by Whoopie Goldberg, manages to pull the best from each character when the main action of the plot doesn't allow them to reveal their inner selves otherwise. Furthermore, Season Two makes far better use of the holodeck, establishing its parameters and functions more clearly, but also presenting some of the best holodeck-oriented concepts, moments, and full-blown episodes of the series.
Another nice surprise is the tweaks (both subtle and not so subtle) made to the cast. Worf and Troi both receive necessary make-overs. Wes ditches the rainbow racing stripe across the chest and matures into a relatively likeable and rarely annoying young cadet. Geordi finally earns legitimate placement amongst the main cast by becoming Chief Engineer. Picard drops much of the grouchy facade he bore in season one, establishing genuine rapport with much of the cast (especially Ryker). Finally, Dr. Pulaski replaces Dr. Crusher as the ship's doctor. While, in many ways, Pulaski is a clear and tired rip-off of Dr. McCoy from the original series, she challenges and pulls much from the crew whereas Dr. Crusher felt relatively isolated and uninteresting amongst the cast in season one (this changes when she returns in season three).
Beyond these changes, both subtle and blatant, occurring in the background of each episode, what strikes me the most about season two is the writing. Nearly every episode in this season brings out all the grand science fiction adventure of the original series while applying the statesman-like discourse on ethics to each adventure that later becomes Next Gen's hallmark.
Some highlights from this season include:
"A Matter of Honor," in which Ryker serves on a Klingon vessel, introduces us to Klingon culture, and confronts the double-edged sword of culture shock while providing a fantastically entertaining storyline in the process.
"The Measure of a Man," in which Data's sentience is determined in a riveting courtroom trial with Picard as the defendant and Ryker as the prosecutor.
"Contagion," in which the Enterprise discovers highly imaginative and eerily advanced technology from a long-dead civilization and must decide how to keep it from the Romulans.
"The Royal," a highly whimsical yet disturbing episode in which Ryker, Data, and Worf are trapped in an early twentieth century casino which serves as reparation for a man who has been dead for hundreds of years.
"Time Squared," TNG's first great time loop story in which the crew discovers and must deal with the existential problems of an unconscious Picard from six hours in the future who fled the Enterprise shortly before it was destroyed.
"Q Who": the return of Q, the continuation of his assessment of the human race, and the terrifying first appearance of the Borg.
"Manhunt": Luwaxana Troi at her comic best as she tries to snare Picard as a husband.
Honestly, though, the only disappointing episode of this season is "Shades of Gray," the final episode which was strung together on the threshold of a writer's strike. It's a clip show before TNG had enough worthwhile clips to warrant such an undertaking.
All in all, TNG season two is a fantastic experience and a personal favorite season of mine. It's still a long way from achieving all the greatness that can be found in later seasons, but there's so much here to love. It's absolutely worth the time and money to discover this season and then revisit it, again and again.
Season Three: The First "Polished" Season, Though the Luster is Uneven.
"There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders." -- Jean Luc Picard to Admiral Haftel, "The Offspring"
Of all the Next Generation seasons, Three may be the most difficult one to define. It's easy to point out the fact that it's a far more polished season than its predecessors, featuring immensely superior production values in terms of lighting, color balance, and costumes that lend a more dignified look to the show. Beyond that though, things get muddled.
Season Three undergoes a massive change of identity, most likely due in part to the arrival of new head writer Michael Pillar and a change of executive producers as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry let go of the reigns due to his declining health. The new guard behind Next Gen seemed very concerned with making Trek more respectable and less fantastic. So, while the production values were enhanced to bring about this affect, the direction of the series seemed to follow, largely de-emphasizing the prominence of science fiction in most episodes (with several notable exceptions) and honing in, instead, on political, ethical, and personal drama.
This works amazingly well in several groundbreaking episodes including "The Survivors," "Who Watches the Watchers?" "The Enemy," "The Defector," "Booby Trap," "The Offspring," and "Sins of the Father". The Offspring, in particular, is one of the most powerful dramatic episodes in the entire Star Trek franchise, while "Sins of the Father" lays the basis for Worf's personal struggles throughout his tenure on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
There are also several episodes that play up a more character-rich and light-hearted side of Trek, including Luwaxana Troi's abduction by ogling Ferengi in "Menege a Troi," Q's amusing tenure as an ordinary human in "Deja Q," and Picard's less than laid back vacation in "Captain's Holiday."
Unfortunately, this season also contains many relatively dull and dreary episodes that necessarily result from this first attempt to lend more dignity and restraint to a formerly far-out science fiction series. It's difficult to decide how to fill 45 minutes of episode run time when the phasers aren't firing and there's no hostile force threatening the ship. As a result, while I'd be hesitant to call any episode in this season bad, there are many that I simply consider skippable. Each has a strong concept at its center, but most simply run too long and fail to provide enough dramatic action.
However, just as Next Gen is beginning to feel almost uncomfortably restrained in this season, the writers deliver two of the series' best remembered fantastic science fiction premises: "Yesterday's Enterprise," and "The Best of Both Worlds P.1". Both are, perhaps, so utterly successful because they blend the fantastic with rich, realistic human drama and polished, respectable production values. Even if the rest of the season were a total wash, these two episodes would warrant the purchase of this volume by themselves, clearly benefiting from all that the new creative team brought to this season.
Finally, by the end, Season 3 achieves a new apex of excellence for Star Trek, delivering balanced episodes with compelling human drama at their core while framed by solid, enjoyable science fiction premises operating in the background. The strongest of these are "Hollow Pursuits," which introduces us to the unforgettable Reginald Barkley, and "Sarek," in which Mark Lenard reprises his role from the original series. Then, of course, the series concludes with the already mentioned "Best of Both Worlds p.1" which, though primarily centered on an action-intensive plot, does incorporate significant emotional drama for the characters and viewers alike.
So, while Season Three brings production values, realism, and political and personal drama to the next level, the end result is uneven. There are many dull moments in this season, yet one can't deny the quantity of exceptional episodes that are spaced out between them. You're not going to love every episode that Next Generation Season Three has to offer, but the highlights of this season are amongst Trek's finest.
Last Edit: Nov 10, 2014 16:58:51 GMT -5 by shaxper
Post by thwhtguardian on Nov 10, 2014 19:48:49 GMT -5
A friend and I were talking about this over dinner and I thought I'd share it here: obviously they aren't going to be able to get the cast of the films to do a TV series, but what if they featured the crew of a different starship in the next movie working alongside the crew of the Enterprise and then used those actors in the TV show? The tv show would then be clearly marked as belonging to the new continuity of the film series and you wouldn't need standins for Kirk and company.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
Personally, I think three seasons of the original series, one season of the animated, and seven seasons of Next Gen and DS9 are all the Trek I'll ever need. If they bring Trek back to TV, it will inevitably have a very different vibe behind it. I'm happy with what we've been given.