I recently re-watched the first season of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ (ST:TNG) on ‘Netflix’. Why? Because when I first starting watching ST:TNG it was when the show was already in its third season and so, even way back then, I had to catch up on the first two seasons, and I wasn’t all that impressed with what I saw back then.
It seemed okay, but whatever. The later seasons were much better and that is where I had come in. My memory of the first season, caught here and there at conventions and fan club meetings, is pretty vague yet I recall it being kinda dull and all up not very interesting from a dramatic
point of view.
Watching the entire first season recently on ‘Netflix’ made me realise that my vague memory of it rang true; it was most definitely dull and not very interesting.
It was overtly ‘serious’ and way to plot-driven. Everyone was scowling and the few miserable attempts at humour were predictable and panful.
Patrick Stewart as Picard was from the beginning brilliant, a truly gifted and experienced actor. Brent Spiner as Data was pretty cool too. And actually LeVar Burton as Geordie was, despite the visor over his eyes, a strong presence. Everyone else did their best with the clunky, uninspired and cliched dialogue. Michael Dorn as Worf was certainly a work in progress while Jonathan Frakes probably was the weakest link in the acting chain.
The show was a weird hybrid; on the one hand it bravely and successfully established itself as visually different from the Original Series. It was in every way a whole new ‘Star Trek’ with very much its own identity. On the other hand this was profoundly undermined by having several key creatives from the Original Series on staff and they created stories that harked back to the feel and atmosphere of the Original.
The result? A dramatic mess. Apparently Gene Roddenberry wanted ST:TNG to be progressive and forward looking and to tackle all those themes and concepts that he couldn’t explore in the Original Series, yet the writers coughed up bland, outdated, sometimes even sexist scripts that were retro to begin with, and even cringeworthy at their worst.
Since he was the Executive Producer I find it odd that such scripts got by him. I have read though that he was never reluctant to ‘spice up’ scripts here and there with a bit of T&A, so maybe Roddenberry wasn’t so forward looking as he is often made out to be
Having said all that, I can see that the writers and producers were doing their best under extraordinary circumstances. Not only were they trying to reestablish ‘Star Trek’ for television (probably the toughest act to follow of all time), they were also having to endure the endless, almost nightmarish behind-the-scenes dramas that beset and crippled the show’s development.
And what of Tasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby? She started out in the pilot episode as a strong, if way over the top, female character but with each episode she became more and more relegated to the background. All the main characters had at least one episode that focussed on them in some way, yet Tasha seemed to have been left out of the mix.
It did seem odd to me why Worf wasn’t made the Security Officer in the first place, after all that would be the natural choice, yet he stood around and growled and whatnot until Tasha was bumped off in ‘Skin Of Evil’, after which he took on the role that was clearly best suited to his character. But that may just be hindsight.
There was no shortage of effort and ideas within the first season, but the lingering presence of the Original Series mindset, plus the sledge-hammer style of Producers like Maurice Hurley, had to be properly flushed out before the show could finally begin to find its true voice