Thursday, December 9, 2010

Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation

I'm watching all of Star Trek: The Next Generation over again. From start to end. God rest my soul.
  • Encounter at Farpoint: Man, it's tough watching a show get off the ground. There's so much about this episode that's clunky and awkward that comes off so much better later. Q is over-theatric and isn't in his smooth, omnipotent zone that makes him one of my favorite parts of the later show; Data talks less like Data and more like that robot from KOTOR; the moralism at the end is heavy-handed even by Star Trek standards.

    The thrust of the episode is that, in a new area of space, Q (an apparently omnipotent, all-powerful being) is going to put Mankind on trial, in the form of putting Captain Picard and the crew online. He is basically asking, "Given the incredible pain and destruction that 'savage' humans cause, wouldn't it be better if they didn't exist?" In order to prove mankind's worthiness, Picard has to unravel the mystery of Farpoint station, and ignore the urge to leap to violence in favor of understanding and caring.

    Q, and the basic moral question he poses, is effective even in this early, still-shaky episode. The plot device of how mankind proves its innocence is kind of hokey, but Q's role in it becomes ambiguous -- is he really out to destroy mankind, or is he giving them the opportunity to prove themselves? It's a great way to set out a mystery that Q continues to pose as he returns later in the series.

  • The Naked Now: Yeah, it's basically fan-service, which is pretty incredible considering as it's the second bloody episode. Plot: everyone gets drunk (I'm not kidding). Data has sex with Lieutenant Yar (my least favorite, and thusly edited out, character), Dr. Crusher tries to seduce Picard -- in fact, the image of sexuality in this episode is really, really disturbing. Lieutenant Yar's chat-up line is basically, "I used to be raped a lot as a child, please treat me gently!" whereas Dr. Crusher tries desperately to think clearly but can't because she's drunk and her lady-parts are lonely.

    Also, the fanbase alienating Wesley Crusher is, as always, on screen too much.

  • Code of Honor: I made it past the slight sexism and general sex-weirdness of the last episode, but the racism in this episode is really, really difficult to get past. Plot: a less-advanced-than-Starfleet race who happen to all be black (Picard comments on how they're "reminiscent of an ancient Earth situation), who are very violent but governed by an obtuse and apparently arbitrary set of honor-based rituals, claim Yar as their property, because in their society women own the land but men own the women. At one point, the chief of the aliens basically says, "We protect ourselves in a cloak of honor," when talking about manipulating the seemingly stupid women.

    At the end, women get the better of men, but still, the portrayal of an aggressive, honor-based tribal feudal system populated by black people who are directly compared to ancient earth cultures...