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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC Comics, 1988) (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Encounter at Farpoint.

When Malibu comics launched their Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic in 1993, the first season of the show had concluded. Due to licensing issues, Marvel Comics published the first Star Trek: Voyager tie-in comic in late 1996, after the show’s second season had concluded. The notoriously dodgy Gold Key Star Trek comics did run alongside the classic television show, but at least waited until 1967 to begin getting the details horribly wrong.

So publishing a tie-in to Star Trek: The Next Generation in early 1988 was an ambitious move by DC comics. By that point, the show’s first season was an ambitious prospect. The six issue miniseries was launched as part of a big publicity push at the start of The Next Generation, with editor Robert Greenberger explaining in the afterword to the first issue that Paramount had approached them “sometime early this year” to write the series.

This means that the comic was being written before Encounter at Farpoint was even finished. In the letters section in the second issue, Greenberger concedes, “As I write this, it’s mid-September and Star Trek: The Next Generation has yet to debut anywhere in America.” It’s no wonder that Michael Carlin’s series wound up so inconsistent and so decidedly strange. While it’s an interesting demonstration of just how firmly Paramount were pushing their new show, it’s hardly a triumph of tie-ins.

These are the voyages...

These are the voyages…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Elementary, Dear Data (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season (and a tiny bit of the second), episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

If you needed more evidence of the improvement of Star Trek: The Next Generation between the first and second seasons of the show, Elementary, Dear Data certainly provides it. Like Where Silence Has Lease directly before it, Elementary, Dear Data works so well because it takes a couple of ideas hinted at and teased in the first season and then develops them just a little bit further.

There’s a sense that the universe of The Next Generation is slowly expanding. While the first season treated our main characters as masters of all they surveyed, Elementary, Dear Data hints that the universe still has more to teach them and that they have a lot to learn.

Unfortunately, the trend would not continue into the next episode, but Elementary, Dear Data proves that the writing team (and the cast) are learning to play to the show’s strengths and that the pieces are all positioned to allow for a solidly entertaining hour of television.

Things take a turn for the better...

Things take a turn for the better…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Skin of Evil (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Skin of Evil is a mess of an episode. It’s a whole bunch of concepts thrown together, and executed in the most ridiculous and banal manner possible. There’s a lot of the disparate elements of Skin of Evil that could easily work if handled properly. Most notably, the idea of a character dying in the line of duty rather than as a hero is a fascinating one, and the eponymous monster could be an interesting twist on the “god-like beings” we seem to stumble across once every couple of weeks in the Star Trek universe. However, Skin of Evil winds up feeling the one thing it should be impossible for an episode like this to be. Despite all the different stuff happening involving all the different characters: it’s boring.

A slick operator...

A slick operator…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Heart of Glory (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

I think Heart of Glory is, ironically, one of the first times that Star Trek: The Next Generation is consciously trying to force its way out of the shadows of its illustrious predecessor. Episodes like The Naked Now and Justice felt like hold-overs from the classic sixties Star Trek, with little acknowledgement that the world (both inside and outside the show) had dramatically changed in the two decades since Star Trek appeared. I used the adjective “ironically”, because Heart of Glory actually sees the return of one of the most classic Star Trek aliens, and one of the most recognisable pop culture extraterrestrials.

The series bible famously stated the show had no real interest in going back to the Klingons, but Heart of Glory suggests that following up with the funky foreheaded aliens might have been the smartest thing that the first season did.

I am Klingon, hear me roar!

I am Klingon, hear me roar!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Coming of Age (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Coming of Age is interesting, if only because it is one of those rare instances where an episode’s B-story is far more compelling and interesting than the primary drama unfolding. Coming of Age is apparently about Wesley’s entrance examination to Starfleet Academy, which seems to have quite high standards for an organisation that let Riker and Yar into its ranks, but that teenage academic story feels a little trite and cliché.

Far more interesting, however, is the strange investigation conducted into the crew of the Enterprise at the behest of Admiral Gregory Quinn, who makes a dramatic impression by suggesting to Picard, “I have reason to believe there may be something very wrong on this ship.”

Evidently he has been watching the first season as well.

Picard off-guard...

Picard off-guard…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – 11001001 (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Maybe it’s just because I’m delirious coming out of Angel One, an episode that managed to make Datalore look almost reasonable by comparison, but I quite like 11001001. Part of that comes down to the fact that it’s one of the few episodes in this troubled first season that manages to take the restrictions imposed on the show by Roddenberry and make them work. It helps that the aliens of the week – the Bynars – are among the more interesting creatures to appear on the show so far. And it finally makes for a nice Riker episode, finding a way to team up Riker and Picard, a duo that haven’t spent enough time together at this point in the series.

Base, the final frontier...

Base, the final frontier…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Datalore (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

If you absolutely, positively, positronically have to do an evil twin story, then I guess that Data is the best character to use. Datalore is hardly the finest or strongest episode of the first season. It’s riddled with plot holes, it feels overly contrived, it punishes the viewer for actually paying attention to the set-ups and plot devices, and it is awkwardly paced and sluggishly delivered. That said, it does offer some real stakes and an opportunity for Brent Spiner to ham it up a notch. So, while we’re not in “classic” (or even “good”) territory here, it’s certainly more watchable than a lot of the episodes around it.

That is not saying much.

The threat is crystal clear...

The threat is crystal clear…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Hide & Q (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

I have a confession to make. I quite like the first half of Hide & Q. Don’t get me wrong, the ending of the episode ruins any goodwill that sequence built up, and the opening section of the story isn’t exactly amazing – it’s just crafted more competently than any episode since Where No One Has Gone Before. I think part of the reason I enjoyed that first half of Hide & Q so much more than most of the recent episodes is because it accomplishes something that Star Trek: The Next Generation has been trying to do since The Naked Now, and with much more success. It manages to channel the original Star Trek.

Okay, the first half wouldn’t make an exceptional episode of the original Star Trek. It wouldn’t even make a great episode of the original Star Trek. It would, however, make a somewhat passable episode of the original Star Trek. Which is, sadly, more than enough to put it quite ahead of most of the other episodes in this first season so far.

Caught in the net…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Lonely Among Us (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

Lonely Among Us actually embodies quite a few of the problems with these early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. While it’s hardly the worst episode of a season, it is certainly not among the stronger episodes. It’s a story that doesn’t really have a centrally defined conflict, and plays into the worst of the smug “humans are special” subtext that pervades episodes like The Last Outpost. At one point, possessed!Picard observes, “The search for knowledge is always our primary mission.” Based on episodes like this and The Last Outpost, it seems more likely the ship’s primary mission is lording it over alien cultures they deem inferior.

However, more than that, Lonely Among Us simply lacks a compelling narrative drive to make it entirely worthwhile. The ideas here aren’t half-bad, but the execution is downright dull.

Has Picard’s judgement been clouded?

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Naked Now (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season, episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

I stand by my original observation that it was a smart idea to set Star Trek: The Next Generation a century after Star Trek. After all, Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek was over two decades old by the time that Encounter at Farpoint aired. Twenty years is a long time in entertainment – it can feel like a century. The world had changed since Star Trek appeared, and setting the story in a brand new world with strong (yet not strangling) ties to the beloved original series allowed the best of both worlds.

However, the problem with the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is that it doesn’t quite realise this yet. It’s busy trying to do “Star Trek”, even though times have changed. The Naked Now, the second episode of the series, is the perfect embodiment of this problem. Star Trek: The Next Generation should have been establishing its own identity, rather than trying to simply emulate its predecessor.

Flying off into the sunset…

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