So, over Winter Break I finished quite a few Sci-Fi shows (series). One of them was Star Trek: The Next Generation. This one was my first Star Trek series that I watched and finished during its syndicated run. I had seen episodes of the original Star Trek series (and really liked one in particular which I’ll talk more about when I watch the original series), but STNG was the first series that I was able to sit down and watch on a weekly basis.
Old School and New School
The show starts off quite a bit rougher than I remember. I knew that Worf’s character underwent alterations as the show went on, but I hadn’t remembered how extensive those were in terms of both characterization as well as costuming. It was almost jarring to watch the first season (and most of the 2nd) until the third and fourth seasons, where the show began to resemble what my (nostalgic) mind remembered. I have to be honest, I really liked the “New School” (later seasons) quite a bit better than I did the “Old School” episodes (the earlier ones). I found the stories to be more nuanced and sophisticated. Many of my most favorite episodes, appeared in the later half of the shows run. My favorite episode would probably be “Cause and Effect” (in Season 5) which is a “Looping” sci-fi story done right. This would be followed closely behind by “Remember Me” in Season 4 which is a mystery in which Dr. Crusher must find out what happened to an old friend.
Science Fiction vs Social Stories
To me, STNG is at its best (I feel) when it deals with Science Fiction first and deals with Social Issues second. While I have enjoyed some of the social issues that the show presents, such as the episode where women are dominant in the culture and men are striving for a more tolerant society, I feel that the stories that deal explicitly with some science concept–even if it is based on “technobabble”–are the much stronger stories because they are what George Scithers from the book On Writing Science Fiction says is the purpose of science fiction: real people dealing with real problems involving science. This is what truly sticks out in my head and something that I try to remember when writing my stories. It is, in fact, one of the reasons I couldn’t get into the new Battlestar Galactica (I’ll talk about this in another blog post) fully and dropped out midway through the first season. When BSG focuses on its science fictional plots, it was one of the best series out there, but too often, the stories (I feel) were weighed down with lengthly polemics on religion, politics, and the soul. These are questions better left to the “subplot” of science fiction stories, but BSG often made them the primary plot which took so much of the fun out of it for me. Luckily, STNG was before the current “GrimDark” nonsense that currently pervades media (such as Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and others of similar ilk). It kept the social commentary (mostly) to the subplots and allowed the main plots to focus more on how the crew of the Enterprise solved the problems that they were thrown into which revealed their characters’ drives and made the show such a well received entry in the Star Trek universe.
Overall Rating: A (I really should say A- due to the uneven nature of the plotting/characterization of the early seasons, but the nostalgia factor is high on this one, so I give it a slight bump up to the low A’s for being a Sci-Fi show that understood science and character first, social commentary second.