Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ST:TNG Turns 20

Wow, it's hard to believe but Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted twenty years ago this month. Where does the time go?

I remember very vividly when this show debuted in September of 1987. I was still back in college in Rochester, right in the middle of my final quarter of my senior year. I was living in an apartment on campus with three other guys - they were all "geeks" like me. We all played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons together every Saturday - just like we had for the past four years. Trek debuted in syndication on a Saturday night, so my roommates had arranged a gathering in the apartment family room with a bunch of other folks from our gaming group to watch the first episode, the two-hour "Encounter At Farpoint". We all thought the first misson seemed a bit lackluster, but the introduction of the new crew, the cameo by DeForrest Kelly, and the introduction of the entity known only as Q made us very interested in seeing more. I am sure the guys continued to discuss the show well into the night while waiting for Dr. Who to come on at 11pm; after the debut show ended I myself got changed to go out to a local club for drinks and dancing (my usual Friday and Saturday night routine in those later years of college).

I thought the show worked on a lot of levels for an 80's viewing audience. Here was a thinking show, a show about diplomacy and tolerance. The Captain Picard wasn't a fighter/lover, as Captain Kirk had been; Picard was much more a problem solver. And he didn't lead every away mission (that job went to Riker, who was more of a Kirk-like lover/fighter). Oh, and this new captain didn't cover up his baldness with a hairpiece. The crew had alien races in it - a Betazoid (Deanna Troi) and a Klingon (Worf) - as well as an android (Data). There were families on the ship, even an annoying know-it-all brainiac son (Wesley) of the ship's female doctor (Beverly Crusher). It definitely had a lot of potential - and that potential would get realized as the show developed and found its actors loosened up a bit and found their groove.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am a fan of the Next Generation. Over the seven years of its first-run, I would watch it pretty faithfully. In fact, of all the Trek franchises it is probably my favorite. I was born a bit late to get a lot out of the first-run of the original Trek series in the 60's, but I recall as a kid watching a lot of the reruns in the 70's. It was pretty much a staple of Saturday afternoon television where I grew up. Later, ST:TNG would spin-off other shows like Deep Space Nine and then Voyager. My wife and I would watch these on occasion - she was a big Voyager fan while I'd more put DSN in my second-place spot. We never did get much into Enterprise though.

ST:TNG also helped revive the lagging sci-fi genre on television which had sort of faded out after the 60's and mid-70's. If it wasn't for this show, we'd not likely have a Sci-Fi Channel today. I think the revival of the Trek franchise on televison opened the door for other successfully syndicated sci-fi and fantasy shows of the 90's and today.

So, take a moment to drop into Ten-Forward, have Guinan serve you a Romulan Ale and drink a toast to the Next Generation.


Jim McClain said...

I would comment on this post, but I didn't realign the phase inducer in time, causing a cascade failure of the field harmonics. Maybe if I reinitialize the annial confinement beam?

Original Series! Original Series! Original Series!

Martin said...

Jim, we all have our favorites. Live long and prosper.

Jim McClain said...

I was only teasing. I liked Next Gen well enough to run a diceless RPG campaign based on it. Instead of miniatures, we used repainted action figures on a huge table, along with the plastic phaser and tricorder toys with sounds. For sound effects I used a boombox and remote with a CD of Next Gen sound effects to simulate sounds like the doorbell ringing, red alert, stuff like that. We even used the alternate theme music on the CD as our theme music. I had the guy who played the captain read our version of "Space...the final frontier" before it was played each time. Wow, I sense a new blog post coming! Good times.