Sunday, May 3, 2009

st:tng redux: encounter at farpoint

It's been ages since I sat down and watched a whole episode of TNG. When I was a kid, it aired on the night my parents had their darts tournament at the officers' club, and since we were living somewhere with only three channels, there wasn't any alternative. I remember not liking it at first; it was so different from the Original Series, which was very dear to my heart, and I had the unyeilding outlook of an eight year old. But by the time it got to the second season and I'd been watching it for a year, I loved it. The last episode aired during my birthday party in 1994-- the first one that was allowed to be co-ed-- and I actually stopped the festivities for two hours so I could watch it. That's how geek I am. And most of my friends were equally geek enough to appreciate how much I needed to see that last ep as it aired.
But I haven't watched it seriously much since then. It's on at night on several different channels, and at least two have mini-marathons during the day, so if I'm channel surfing and I see an episode I like, I'll stop and watch it, but that makes for some very scattered viewing. H, however, likes to refresh his mind on things before their movies come out, and so we found ourselves watching the beginning of a(n old) new era in TV SciFi, twenty-odd years after the fact.

This isn't my favorite episode. Never was. It effectively sets up the show, but half the characters weren't defined yet, they were in those rediculous spandex suits that looked terribly uncomfortable, and the effects looked like most of the money went into the sets, the story is irritating, Q is an obnoxious way to start off a show, and I knew that there were much better episodes later on. But when the monologue starts, and the world's most famous split infinitive is first uttered in Patrick Stewart's perfect voice-over voice, I can forgive all that. It's old enough that the things that botered me as a kid are sort of nostalgic now, and I can watch it the way I watch old home videos of my parents or read the first novels of favorite writers: it's not quite there yet, but it's interesting to see how it started, how things came together, a
nd I know it all turned out well in the end.

I think Stewart knew exactly who Picard was before he started on day one of that show; he was exactly what he needed to be-- entirely different from Kirk, principled, thoughtful, grumpy, and with a whole load of old history that they hadn't filled in yet, but he managed to convey without any lines to convey them with. I'd say the same for Riker, though they hadn't decided that he was a ladies-man yet, and Crusher was about as pointy and pointed as she ever was. I always forget that she and Picard stared out at odds, but I can see that they didn't want to be, and that makes the friendship more meaningful later. And check out her poofy hair in this picture! Westley was still sweet and awkward, and this was long before he became such a fan problem. Whill Wheaton looks pretty much the same now, but with a beard and a grownup life. Jordi hardly got a word in edgewise, but I think Levar Burton managed to have the most natural-sounding lines of the whole show-- he was the one most comfortable with himself and his storylines (that hadn't happened yet). And, oh, the banana clip. Worf... was almost entirely unformed, but they got the balance of wanting to fight everything and trying to be perfectly Star Fleet in the broadest sorts of strokes, and he didn't really get to shine until Yar was gone, anway. Speaking of, Yar was overacting and annoying, just how I remembered her, but I give them points for having a moderately pretty blonde female as the security captain, and she got her history-establishing line just right. Data wasn't quite as cold and dispassionate as he later could be, nor was he as earnest and confused about humanity, though he did have the little quirk of wanting to understand it all. And who doesn't love that scene of hopping down the rocks to save Westley? Troi was... silly. I never quite got her accent, and she looked fiercely uncomfortable in her clothes (though I can't blame her, what with being the only one in a miniskirt), but she was never at her best in other people's stories. And started with a sort of... handicap, being the one who is all emotionally 'sensing' everything all the time while everyone else gest to have more defined and concret roles. Ah well.

Hey, remember how the saucer section can separate and how it doesn't really do anything for the plot? Yeah, that's awesome. And make sure you remember that it's awesome when they do it alot in this first season, okay?

And I think the prettiest scene in the whole episode is the one where they show the two space-jellyfish space-swimming away tentacle-in-tentacle. Followed by the loving pan of the huge bridge when Riker first gets there.

I hope we get more of this: I miss the cleaness of TNG, even though I's still irritated at the lack of relationship-consummation; maybe it's just that so many people live so long these days that ten or twelve or fifteen years isn't that big a deal to wait for a well-deserved wedding?

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