I’ve been rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation lately. Well, I use the term “lately” loosely; it’s been a little while. However, I stopped at an interesting point: the middle of The Best of Both Worlds.
I haven’t really watched the show other than occasionally catching some in syndication since back when I was watching episodes we recorded on VHS. But I got the whole series on DVD, and realized I owed it to my old memories of the show to watch it.
Rewatching the first few seasons, I am realizing how iconic they were in many ways, how they shape the idea of what the show was. They were good enough for the show to continue, after all. However, I remember more of the later seasons, so I’m excited to move on and rewatch some of those episodes. But for now, a few thoughts on rewatching the first few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation!
Iconic But Not Great
So I said that these seasons shape what the show was, and that’s true. However, they’re not remembered fondly – especially the first season. My approach to watching was actually to look at the notes on the episodes on Wikipedia – they link nicely from episode to episode, and have notes for many about whether the episode was well received, or not. For a few, there were good notes about the episode being considered pretty bad… I gave a number of episodes a miss.
For some of it, they were still getting the characters settled out, into their roles, into their positions on the ship. It was a while before they got Worf into the security chief position, or Geordi in as chief engineer. There was also the year with Doctor Polaski instead of Doctor Crusher.
There’s also the Ferengi, whom they seem to try to introduce as the larger villain alien race. However, they really don’t serve that purpose well, since their motives are pretty well understood; you know what the Ferengi are about. Instead, the Romulans eventually take on the role of the villains; there’s a cold war going on with them, and the neutral zone, and you really don’t know what they’re going to do whenever they show up. You add cloaking devices and things and that is only amplified!
The addition of Worf does a really great job of showing the changes in the Klingons, meanwhile. At least, I assume so; I haven’t watched much of the original series. But there are some good episodes where there’s major culture shock between the Federation and the Klingons, and those were pretty good.
They improved some of the look and aesthetics as they moved on as well. Early on, the miniskirts were still a thing, and other sorts of things that changed some as the seasons went on. However, there were some things that are just so ripe for parody…
The best of which is probably the Sparks McGee adventures. Based on the ridiculous rainbow-on-gray outfit worn by Wesley Crusher, these are a set of photoshopped images that take these scenes to their inevitable, ridiculous conclusion.
Check these all out on Tumblr! http://sparksmcgeeadventures.tumblr.com/
The Best of Both Worlds Part 1
So generally considered the best two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s The Best of Both Worlds, the episodes in which the Borg mark their fatal return, and assimilate Captain Picard. I remember this episode as my first cliffhanger: watching it live, and then having to wait all summer to see what happened.
But going back and re-watching it, I can see it was really well done. There’s a lot of interpersonal drama in the episode, with Commander Shelby coming onboard in particular. There’s a Captain position available, and they want it to be Riker. But Riker doesn’t want to go – he feels some strange pull to stay on the Enterprise.
Is it to be the Captain??? Is Picard gone for good???
They set you up to be thinking about these sorts of questions. They had not presented a way to undo what they had done – indeed, the characters go over ideas and don’t have one. Their best bet is to blow up Picard. On a wild chance, they pull off the impossible in the next part.
It was kind of deliberate that I stopped there. I wanted to experience that cliffhanger again, to wait on watching the next part. The Best of Both Worlds Part 2 overshadows Part 1 so much, that it’s good to let the latter stand on its own. So I wanted to get my thoughts down before moving on and watching more.
It’s not a lot, but I’ve been having fun. It’s still a good show, for sure, and I’m excited to watch more. There’s definitely some blog material; I’m thinking a Time Travel post on Cause and Effect and a Science Fiction and Religion post on Who Watches the Watchers at the least. But for now… what are your thoughts? What do you remember best of this show – and have you watched it much in the intervening 20 years? Let us know in the comments below!