An interdimensional being of almost god like powers, alien jellyfish disguised as cities and spaceships and one heck of a grumpy captain. Star Trek Next Generation first episode on paper had the ingredients to be one heck of a fail. Yet it surprisingly strung all these things together into a nice introductory tale in its first episode(s) Encounter at Farpoint”.
Where No Pinkie has Gone Before
I never could get into Star Trek the original series but when I first saw Next Generation , I was sold on it quite fast. Jean-Luc Picard and his brave crew appealed to me , their adventures to boldly go where no man has gone before became something I’d try to catch whenever it was possible. Unfortunately they aired around dinner time here first. Back in a period while we still ate in the dining room. When that room died we moved into the living but by then this ship never left port anymore. So I never watched the series completely. I caught glimpses of it so now I decided to watch everything from start to finish, an epic journey of which you can be my crew. This being our maiden voyage.
Why did it have to be Inter-Dimension Beings
We see Jean-Luc Piccard heading to the bridge of his new command, this new U.S.S. Enterprise. Still working with a semi-skeleton crew he has to pick up some members on a space station called Farpoint. Well I say space station.. it is still build on a planet.. so I am not sure how that works.. perhaps it could lift off. On their way there a mysterious space curtain appears which is the work of the inter-dimensional being “Q”. Instead of giving Picard some cool gadgets he scolds the captain for humanities warmongering ways by shifting from a seafaring captain into a WWII captain. Leaving Picard scratching his head.. which is easy given how bald he is!
Q then switches to one of the UGLIEST costumes I have ever seen. Which resembles like a contemporary material version of the chainmail knight. I mean that outfit is FUGLY as Meg. Picard is much less sympathetic or curious than his predecessor and simply on the account of finding the all powerful creature judgmental and obnoxious he gives the being a strong talkng to showing how different of a captain he is, revealing some quite apparent character flaws. In his rant he inspires Q to hold a trial for them, accusing them of being barbarians who should not progress this far into space.
Q leaves the ship to prepare for this trial, which makes little sense because so far he seemed all powerful. He can freeze crew members in an instant, he can teleport without being detected, has knowledge of everything, so what does he has to set up? Is he just playing with his food? It doesn’t make sense to me. Enterprise than tries to escape the curtain of doom he conjured and get chased by a big fireball thing that is his ship.. or it’s the curtain.. I am not sure what is going on again, and that is the great weakness of this first episode(s) it’s TOO weird. Almost spun out of control, like a Star Trek based fever dream.
A Test of Worth
Enterprise can’t outrun the fireball thingy so Picard dumps his secondary crew.. which Worf is still a part off by taking off the saucer part of the Enterprise and shoving it off.. while going Maximum warp speed… given that the non saucer thing has the actual warp engines that does not seem like a good idea but darn it I am a blogger Jim, not an engineer.
Jean-Luc and his main team return to the creature and surrender and are put on trial. Which takes past in the manifested past without temporal displacement. The past just became real. The trial is super unfair because Q wants them to plead guilty so he can punish them. Which again feels inconsistent because..he is so powerful and all knowing that that it al feels moot. Somehow the crew manages to trick him into giving them a trial to test their worth, which is when the tone shifts from terrible to amazing.
When the ship reaches Farpoint, suddenly things begin to click as the crew begins to investigate the planet led by the Bahdi (I think that’s their species name) Zorn. In the first part we see the famous Number One , William Riker discover some oddities already. These include Dr Beverly Crusher and himself gaining acces to any items they desire as well as Geordie La Forge ..their visor-man with the power of analytic sight noticing some oddities.
Now with Picard here these things begin to click for Riker. Who got a very rude introduction to the captain as the latter can’t handle stress very well. Throughout the episode the show really points out the flaws in Jean Luke even letting him be candid about it to his number one.. setting up room for the main character to grow, which in hindsight is amazing, as a first encounter you might think poorly of this new captain. His first exchange with Riker is great though and really paints a road for both characters to grow upon.
What follows is a great investigation into the events at farpoint. It is so destined that everyone of the main crew is completely established as a character and everyone feels useful as we learn to know them trough their abilities. Geordi La Forge ‘s visor and his abilities play a keyrole into unraveling this mystery while the Betazoïde Deanna Troi employs her empathy powers to discover a mysterious source of deep emotions. Actual Android, unlike in Dragon Ball Z, Data’s logical mind provides some comic relief but also some much needed explanation here and there and a logical angle for their problems.
William T Riker shares much more similarities with James T Kirk than Picard does and functions as the eager ambitions crewman who wants to do his ship right. Everyone of the main cast is needed. With the exception of lieutenant Yar. The security officer. Given that I do not know her.. I do not think that bodes well for her in the long run. She is given a lot of backstory already though, spouting out where she grew up, telling us her back story, again a bad omen for her.. I’ll give her seven more episodes if I had to guess. It almost feels like a very good game of D&D where Q is the Dungeon Master.
To Boldy Go
In the end the group combines all their abilities to discover that Farpoint is based on some spaceship-esque life form that is actually like a weid Jellyfish creature.. able to create matter from geothermal and probably other forms of energy. Zorn captured one.. and when it Mate comes for vengeance everyone’s findings start to make sense. These creatures being somewhat similar to Q it even makes sense he understood what tthey are very well. Yet the conclusion also feels really zaney! Out there and can easily be dismissed as Star Trek Next Generation , ‘jumping the shark’ in their very first episode. In a way it does exactly that, yet in in a way this is very much in line with the spirit of Star Trek.
Much more than Kirk’s original exploits , Next Generation would be the blueprint other Star Trek series would be build on. So much can be seen in this first episode.. the bigger stakes, the moral dualism it is all in here. Picard has to figure out which side he is on, there is no clear cut answer. He could trust the Prime Directive.. but with Q overlooking his every action, that might also not be the right answer. While the scale is too large and non Trekkies are tossed in the deep end, this show certainly does go where it hasn’t gone before. It shows exactly how it will differ from it’s predecessor. This is not as much about taking down a Gorn with a rock.. this show is about acting when you have absolutely no idea what is going on. Unfamiliar with what you face.
We get that sense of ‘What the Frick is going on’ that annoyance of being left in the dark. Yet we see those exact moments reflected in the captain. We are MEANT to feel like this, we are meant to be confused, unable to comprehend as in these new territories in space things will be bigger and stranger. There are plenty of things I dislike about this episode from a narrative point of view but if we look at what the episode did it checks off all the boxes needed for a first episode off. We get a good feeling for the show, the character introductions are very well done, in just 90 minutes I know everyone’s abilities, quirks and flaws and care for them, it shows how it will be different and what it will add and it’s tone well made clear. It even sets up roads for several key character to progress on.
The show also doesn’t pander to nostalgia too much. We see Bones (Dr Leonard McCoy) now as an admiral visiting the new Enterprise while they are in Orbit of the planet that houses the space station, but never does it get shouty about being Star Trek. This series would be it’s own thing in the same universe and trough Q we get the exposition we need to understand the world of Star Trek. By telling our past.. and taking it a few hundreds year beyond we see exactly how far this is into the future. Several hints are given to us to cobble it all together. Most Star Trek shows after this would take a route very similar to this series tonal wise.. but the choices they made for their first episodes were much safer. Yet I can not help to feel this episode was made with the actual mindset of Star Trek in mind.. to boldy go. It comes with some problems.. but at least I can have respect for them for trying.
All in all we get a very conflicting first episode. Compared to episodes I’ve seen in this series before this one isn’t all that great. I prefer a more tangible threat. We can not begin to imagine the consequences of failing Q because he could do anything. space-stations being actual alien jellyfish defiantly would be jumping the shark in any other show..though time traveling to save whales to communicate with a spaceship in the present time.. was kinda weird before. This isn’t a great first episode to win new souls.. yet it’s a great episode considering what first episodes need to do. It knocks it out of the park even. It feels as if an Android or Vulcan wrote this story as all components are there. There is plenty to condemn this episode on.. but to point that out given it’s boons would be….. Illogical.