5.31.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 26: The Next Generation (Seasons 1 and 2)

The first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation are remarkably different from the rest of the series. I always assumed this was due to the cast and crew figuring out what worked and what didn't before settling into the visual and tonal consistency of the later seasons. And while that certainly accounts for some of the differences, there is, as always, more to the story.


Before we get to it, let's reintroduce the major players:

Gene Roddenberry: Creator of Star Trek. Removed from the driver's seat of the movies and still bitter about it at the onset of TNG, he went nowhere without his attorney Leonard Maizlish.

Susan Sackett: Longtime personal assistant / girlfriend of Roddenberry's and production associate on TNG. Excommunicated (her characterization) from all things Trek after Roddenberry's death.

David Gerrold: Longtime Trek enthusiast and personal friend of the Roddenberrys, sci-fi author, and unrecognized-by-law co-author of the TNG Bible.

DC Fontana: While not a co-creator of the show, as Gerrold was, a writer with a similar longstanding relationship with Trek and with Roddenberry.

and Rick Berman: The"studio guy," and future overseer of the Trekverse. According to David Gerrold, "Rick was installed on the show by the studio as a way to keep a control on the show, to keep the budgets in line, make sure the scripts were done. Rick was there to manage the details and ensure that production moved along."

It's tempting to imagine Rick Berman as one of the ambassadors from any number of TOS episodes, i.e. the petty-authority who's there just to get in the Captain's way, remind him of regulations, and be a general pest. But Berman claims to have always gotten along with Gene (and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) just fine, and I've seen/ read little to disprove that.

From Gerrold's view, though, "Gene didn't like Berman at all. (Rick) was busy playing studio politics, and he and (Maizlish) would work together to get rid of everybody who was a threat to their power. And nobody knew from one day to the next who Gene was friends with, because Gene didn't even remember who he was friends with from one day to the next. (But) Berman knew how to play studio politics and Maizlish didn't."

Berman, to Gerrold's obvious consternation, didn't involve himself in the wars brewing between Maizlish and everyone else.

Understandable.
That point about Gene not knowing who he was friends with from one day to the next cannot be understated. By the mid-80s, Roddenberry's mental faculties were beginning to fail him, and he relied more and more on his friends and family to keep him focused, a situation Maizlish by all accounts manipulated to his own personal (and short-lived) advantage.

"At his best," Gerrold continues, "Gene could sit down with a bottle of Scotch and a ream of paper. And 8 hours later he'd get up and he'd have a finished script and a half-empty bottle of scotch. (...) He could inspire people to be better than they believed they were capable of. That was his greatest virtue. He was a man who could sell ice to penguins."

One comes across these sort of anecdotes a lot when reading up on Roddenberry and all this stuff (notably not Harlan Ellison:) he was possessed with an abundance of Irish charm, and writing/ revision-wise, when he was on, he was on. But as time and the ravages of his various appetites took their toll, he increasingly lost the ability to focus. He never finished any of his various projects, and his work began to get a little... wonky. When asked which parts exactly of the TNG bible Gene wrote, Gerrold said: "Gene wrote one 16-page draft of the bible, and less than a dozen memos, several of which were embarrassing for their sexual content."


This comment about the sexual content is interesting. As recounted in Susan Sackett's Inside Star Trek and Walter Koenig's Warped Factors, Gene's never-finished manuscript for The God Thing had several brazen scenes that seemed out of place, even for such a scattered and unfinished piece of work. Koenig was asked by Gene to help finish the script in the late 1970s and did so, adding 83 pages to Gene's initial 69, but that "in his (pages) there were several out-of-left-field scenes in which female sirens tantalized Captain Kirk while they engaged in a weightless free-for-all, rolling in oil, their bodies glistening in what began as a sensual gymnastic event for Kirk and turned into a deadly contest for his life. "

A guy who won the original script on eBay confirms both the content and confusion of this. "(Page 59) They were nude of course except for their paragame sandals, and young women that way had a disconcerting way of looking quite different. It disconcerted Kirk that the thought made his own genitals tighten against the metallic mesh which protected male vulnerability during the game." Is it just me, or do those sentences look a bit jumbled?


Sexed-up hi-jinks were part and parcel of TOS, of course, and do not alone paint a picture of a troubled mind. (Nor should the above screencaps, from the S1 episode "Justice," be taken as garden variety examples; they are the exception rather than the rule for two seasons of rather sexless content, actually.) But taken alongside so many other anecdotes about Gene's lack of focus in these years, it's clear Gene was nowhere near his best in the pivotal first few years of TNG's creation. (Indeed, the revisions he made at the time to his will were thrown out when records of his psychological state and daily-toxicology-reports were reviewed; this had the unfortunate result of disenfranchising Roddenberry's daughters from his first marriage from participating in the considerable windfall of profits they otherwise would have shared from TNG.) What little writing he was able to complete seemed preoccupied with things the show could in no way film for a mainstream audience, added to which, he rejected most things the writers brought to him.

The God Thing was eventually "finished" by Michael Jan Friedman and is available now for purchase, but by all accounts, it's not the same story Koenig worked on.
Back to Gerrold:

"Gene was having very small strokes in meetings, and he wasn't nearly as active as we hoped he would be. We all stayed there as long as we did because of Gene. If it were any other show, we would say, "Fuck you," and walk off." (...) I was supposed to be a producer, but they kept whittling my duties. And my title. And my pay. And I finally got the very clear message that Gene's lawyer didn't like me. And that whatever Gene promised me, the lawyer was going to take away. And the lawyer was afraid that Gene was going lose control of the show. So what he did was significantly undermine everybody that might be a threat to Gene. He appointed himself chief of staff, and the result was that we had a lawyer running the show, a lawyer who had no knowledge of how to do television, no knowledge of what Star Trek was supposed to be about. And he was rewriting scripts."

This last bit, a violation of rules and etiquette the Writer's Guild takes very seriously, led to the plug being pulled on Roddenberry's (and Maizlish's) day-to-day involvement with the show. Later, when Gerrold sued to receive his due credit for co-creating TNG, "the Executive Director of the WGAW had a private meeting with (Gene) in which he explained several very good reasons why Gene should encourage a settlement. Not the least of these reasons was that Gene's own reputation would be sullied if the testimony continued. There were over twenty witnesses prepared to testify against Gene and his lawyer's behavior. (Maizlish) had turned it into a grudge match. He was fired and banned from the Paramount lot. (...) He thought he was protecting Gene, but he was hurting (and exploiting) him. I was the second or third person to leave, but there were 30 other people who followed me out the door in that first season alone."

Among these was DC Fontana, a serious blow, as outside of Gerrold, it's no exaggeration to say no one else involved in the franchise understood Trek as comprehensively as she did. (EDIT: I can't believe I neglected to mention Bob Justman, here, but ditto for him, times a thousand.)

Sackett discusses this co-creator controversy in her book and gives Roddenberry's side of things:

"Gene had charged David with the awesome task of finalizing the series bible, utilizing Gene's notes. To David, this was akin to co-creating the series itself, and indeed it was a monumental work when completed. To Gene, however, this was nothing short of Lucifer asking God for co-credit in creating the universe - it just wasn't going to happen. The studio eventually settled with him, but it would be years before there was renewed civility between them."

The terms of Gerrold's agreement with Paramount were that Roddenberry would continue to receive sole credit and that Gerrold could not disclose any details of the settlement. In the wake of all the above, Maizlish, Roddenberry, Gerrold, Sackett, Fontana and many others were gone, and the studio gave sole control of the successful-in-spite-of-itself franchise to Berman. Berman consolidated the creative team  (Michael Piller, Ronald D. Moore, Ira S. Behr, and Brannon Braga) that would take Trek forward, but that is a tale for next time.


SEASONS ONE AND TWO

Despite the considerable chaos and confusion of all the above, seasons one and two of TNG are not without their charms. Although the characters take some time to find their sea legs ...

Especially Troi, who seems either in or near-to tears in just about every scene she's in until the third season.

... the core concepts are introduced and explored fairly well. As a bigger fan of the later seasons and the Berman era in general, I've tended to overlook the positives of seasons 1 and 2, so this rewatch was rather enlightening to me. I won't pretend they aren't a mess in many ways, but they're definitely an interesting mess. Not quite bullseyes, but the dartboard itself is more expansive than most television shows, then or after.

Marina Sirtis responds to seeing herself in comic book form.
The character of Wesley Crusher might suffer the most from the writing-room wars of the first two seasons, something he spends considerable time on in his Just a Geek and Memories of the Future vol. 1 books.
If the show had been cancelled before season 3, there'd still be plenty to talk about. Nevertheless, I only did a top 3 for seasons 1 and 2 and combined them into the top 6 below. Please feel free to take me to task in the comments. (Plot summaries provided by our friends at Memory-Alpha.)

6.
Season 1, Episode 24

Captain Picard encounters a woman from his past after her scientist husband's experiments begin to unravel the fabric of time.

Although the holodeck and the crew's extracurricular activities were hardly under-explored throughout Season One, here we get a pretty good representation of both, as well as a pretty solid and well-developed story.

I like in particular how matter-of-factly the cross-dimensional Datas deal with their predicament at story's end.

5.
Season 1, Episode 6

When an experimental engine modification throws the Enterprise to the edge of the known universe, the crew must rely on a mysterious alien to guide the ship home. 

Written by Diane Duane (who wrote a few memorable Pocket Books adventures of Spock and the gang) and Michael Reaves (who wrote the pretty-damn-good episode of New Voyages/ Phase 2, "World Enough and Time") and directed by TV vet Rob Bowman, this is a fairly standard Trekverse tale: engines run amok, thrown several thousand light years off course, how do we get home, yadda yadda. But that's not to say it's not fun to watch, and as a showcase for what kind of fx TNG was capable of, it's definitely a standout.


(If you're at all interested in Trek-geek continuity errors, the relevant section of the M-A is kinda fun. I wondered about some of the speed/ light-year numbers given in this episode even at the time of its original airing.)

4.
Season 2, Episode 16

Q throws the Enterprise into uncharted space where it encounters and is engaged by a vessel of a previously unknown species: the Borg. When the vessel instantly and effortlessly overwhelms the Enterprise, Picard realizes that the Federation may not be as ready for the future as he thought.

Here we have the first mention of The Borg, and their introduction is admirably mysterious. At the time I was rather annoyed at the lack of info, but over time I came to appreciate it. Their subsequent presence in the series is strengthened by their first appearing like this.


 
Though why anyone in the Q Continuum would be in any way intimidated by Guinan is never explained. Obviously there's more to her species than we ever learn, but unless she's omnipotent, there's no way Q would act the way he does here. Sure, Q exhibits many petty quirks and inconsistencies, but... come on.

3.
Season 1, Episode 1

Captain Jean-Luc Picard leads the crew of the USS Enterprise-D on its maiden voyage, to examine a new planetary station for trade with the Federation. On the way, they encounter Q, an omnipotent extra-dimensional being, who challenges humanity as a barbaric, inferior species. Picard and his new crew must hold off Q's challenge and solve the puzzle of Farpoint station on Deneb IV, a base that is far more than it seems to be.

I must have watched this one a hundred times when it first came out. The novelty of a new Trek show was pretty spectacular back in 1987. (Flash forward to 2013: There are a half-dozen fan-fic shows alone, never mind the 600+ hours of Trek-tv one can watch pretty much for free, on any number of platforms. Back then, when we wore buckles on our shoes and churned our own butter, Trek was a lot harder to come by.) The bits about World War 3 were likewise very intriguing to a young me.


I somehow had convinced myself in the years since then, though, that this wasn't all that good or that the characters didn't seem like themselves, or something. But not only are the characters pretty well established and (mostly) like how they'd come to be known in subsequent seasons, the story itself isn't all that bad.

 
 
It's weird to see Worf and Geordi in different roles, particularly Geordi. I think they were going for a "HEY! THE BLIND MAN IS FLYING THE SHIP!" sort of vibe with him at first, but he definitely works better in Engineering.
I was also impressed with the very ending. Although Troi/Riker's telepathic link is never mentioned anywhere else but in this episode, the concept of "Imzadi," i.e. Betazoid for beloved/ soul-mate, is resurrected in Nemesis, and given a nice bit of visual design at episode's end.

The aliens are reunited - one of those cosmic orgasms/ unities Roddenberry liked so much - but not before this nice bit of framing:

So, here at the very beginning of TNG, we have it established pretty clearly that Troi and Riker belong together, and at the very end (i.e. Nemesis) we see their marriage and the cast's "farewell party." Not a bad bit of book-ending. (This does not excuse the many other problems of Nemesis, but don't you worry, we'll get to those.)

2.
Season 2, Episode 12

The Enterprise investigates the wreckage of a 21st century Earth spaceship orbiting a distant planet and the appearance of a casino with inhabitants based on a rather poorly written paperback novel. 

This episode has always stuck with me over the years. On account of some of its imagery, to be sure, namely these two:

 

Apparently the original script by Tracy Tormé (son of Mel) was altered so much that he used his pseudonym Keith Mills; you can read more about this at the M-A should you so desire. I think the idea of being trapped in a poorly-written, boilerplate, forever-running alien videogame is a great one. (Ironically, it was rewritten because Maurice Hurley - who Berman says is the guy who created the Borg; one for Trek trivia night - thought it too closely resembled TOS "Piece of the Action;" I'd have guessed "Spectre of the Gun.") Its execution is a bit lacking, and compared to s3-and-beyond episodes, I might even consider it a failure. But against the backdrop of the second season (arguably the series' weakest, thanks in no small part to the Writers Stike that happened that year, or to the presence of Dr. Pulaski) it works well enough.


And finally:
1.
Season 2, Episode 11

The Enterprise and a Romulan warbird are attacked by the same computer virus that has already destroyed one Federation starship of the same class as the Enterprise

That's not the handiest plot summary, actually, as the real meat of this episode is the concept of the Iconians, an ancient, long-gone race whose lingering technology/ gateway provides the mystery of the story. The pics below bring The Guardian of Forever to mind, but one that doesn't talk and is surrounded by even more mysterious machinery and unknown alien symbolism.

 

On one hand, it's yet another "Some mysterious computer virus infects the Enteprise stories," but as such stories go, it's one of the better ones, and the fx are outstanding.


I must have bitched about the Romulan ship re-design in my life more than I've bitched about just about any other topic. I say this with considerable awareness of how trivial such a complaint is, but great Scott, Marty.

 
Picard doesn't like it, either.
I can't bring myself to care too passionately about the space-pretzel look these days, but it was nice to see the old design so lovingly recreated for Byrne's Trek stories. One weird thing about the Romulans is every time they re-appear, they always seem to throw out everything we've learned about the species / concept and start from scratch. It gets a little annoying.

Incidentally, this bit with Geordi's wild ride in the turbolift inspired this fun video mash-up. (EDIT: Huh, apparently that's just the clip; I swear at one point that link opened to an extended "remix" of Geordi flying around with lots of techno. My bookmark was either incorrect, or it changed. Ah well. Y'all know how Google works, if you want to hunt for it.)
NEXT:
The Best of Season 3

17 comments:

  1. Nice to see some love for "The Royale" here. I always dug that episode.

    In general, I really like the first two seasons. Technically, I prefer the latter years of the show, but not because I think they're THAT much better than the first two.

    Heck, I even like Dr. Pulaski. I always felt like they should have brought her back for a few episodes later on in the series, just to give her character some sense of closure.

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    1. I'm not a Pulaski fan, but you're 100% right on that one. Her absence in all subsequent Trek is noticeable. Not even a single mention that I can think of.

      And yeah the first two seasons are still better than most tv out there, especially at the time. They're good stuff, warts and all.

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    2. Pulaski bugged me for her obstinate refusal to fully embrace Data as a sentient being. I mean, Starfleet saw fit to give him a commission, yet Pulaski treated him as equipment. Take the exchange between her and Data over how to pronounce his name. She blows her mispronunciation off as irrelevant (in a universe where aliens start wars over mispronunciations, to boot), then accuses Data of getting his nose out of joint about it. Not only did that seem like a non sequitur (Data simply said "one is my name, the other is not"), but it hammered home the weird and awkward way Pulaski was shoehorned into the series. So we had Bones in TOS spewing rather bigoted diatribes at Spock, pointing up the way an older generation treated different and mixed races, and apparently that was Pulaski's role in NextGen. Except it just doesn't work, in my opinion. It just never feels right. Riker, as XO, should have been clamping down on Pulaski's behavior, having a come-to-Jesus meeting, yet she seems able to treat Data as second class with impunity. If anything, the age NextGen was made in had swung too far the other way, to sometimes ridiculous displays of political correctness, for Pulaski's casual prejudice to convincingly fly.

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    3. I agree completely. For that reason alone, she never endeared herself to me, nor convinced me she belonged there. By all accounts, she was on the show as a favor, while Gates McFadden was giving birth/ on maternity leave, and the truly shitty thing is, she treats this favor with such transparent contempt that it makes you wonder who was doing the favor to whom. At any rate, the attempt to make her the bigoted, arrogant one failed for many reasons: the one you describe more than others, I think, but also because at the time Roddenberry / Maizlish were throwing such obstacles in the writers' ways about how these characters would not have hang-ups common to 20th century drama in this century. Personal conflict, jealousy, etc. And yet, here's Pulaski? And no one says anything? It seemed like season two just has this visiting-aristocratic-relative who no one can please and no one tells to shut the frak up.

      Still, a one-line whatever-happened-to or guest-cameo, where she's eaten by Targs, later in the series, would have been nice, if only to give her appearance some closure.

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  2. Would it be overstating things to suggest that Star Trek remaining (more or less) vital for what is rapidly approaching fifty years is due as much as anything else to the contentious dance between Roddenberry and the people financing Trek?

    It might be...but it feels right, to me. Practically from day one, Roddenberry had a clear vision for the show he wanted to make, and the studio/network had a similarly clear (but opposing) view for the show they wanted him to make. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Star Trek as we know it was the result.

    It happened with the original pilot; it happened with the original series; it happened with the movies; it happened with the sequel series. I'm sure it would have continued to happen with the spinoff series if Roddenberry had lived, but by the time he died, his spectre loomed so large that even today the people who are shepherding the franchise are forced to contend with it.

    It's an odd, sorta-sad sorta-inspiring story. But even with all the bumps in the road, plenty of people are still talking about Gene Roddenberry well into the 21st century. Not too many tv producers you can say that about.

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    1. Good points, all. I'd say that friction DEFINITELY has something to do with it.

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  3. One more comment and then I'll stop bombing your comments section...

    I think the issue of sex in Star Trek (and televised sci-fi in general) is an incredibly compelling one. Mostly because there really isn't much of it. Part of this, I assume, is because filmed sci-fi has more often than not been considered to be a playground for children. Nothing wrong with that, I guess; I grew up on sci-fi, and if everyone in "Star Wars" had had their tits out and Princess Leia and Han Solo were screwing each others' brains out, that might not have happened.

    That said, doesn't it seem like the time has come for one of the cable networks to really take a stab at doing a sci-fi show that can and does explore some of those issues in at least a semi-honest nature? The idea that people stop being interesting and compelling the second their clothes come off is a ludicrous one; plenty of cable shows (from "Deadwood" to "The Sopranos" to "Game of Thrones") have figured that out, and while their efforts in those directions have seemed exploitative at times, they've also often had something to actually say on the subject.

    My point being this: whereas when one reads that stuff about Roddenberry's tendency to want to sex up "The God-Thing" it seems a bit icky and borderline pathetic, the fact is that he was trying to (pardon these unfortunate puns) explore some areas that sci-fi television STILL hasn't really been able to penetrate. There are elements of it here and there (especially in something like "Battlestar Galactica"), but even then the steps are tentative.

    Given the fact that people who love sci-fi are, allegedly, very forward-thinking and progressive, you'd think this wouldn't be that big a deal. (And God knows, if the stories I've heard about what goes on behind closed -- and semi-closed -- doors at Dragon*Con are to be believed, these are a free-thinking folk.) But there is a persistent streak of deep conservativism that runs throughout sci-fi fandom in general, and Trekkiedom specifically.

    It's all very fascinating.

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    1. My buddy Jeff and I were just discussing the orgy-hijinks of old sci-fi cons, that's funny!

      When someone finally does a serious adult-themes sci-fi show (in an intelligent manner, of course, not like those 90s Outer Limits episodes with Alyssa Milano, etc.) it will indeed be a big event and much money will be made. It's rather surprising no one has, actually. (Looking at you, HBO...)

      Sex in Trek is a topic I should devote more time and thought to. I will definitely be dealing with the sex(ism) of TOS when I get there. (Mainly as covering fire for the hundreds of suggestive screencaps I've been accumulating... I MEAN, because it's a cultural artifact. Of course.)

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  4. You forgot to mention that Contagion was written and scripted by none other than tragically deceased comics legend Steve Gerber, best known for the Defenders, Man-Thing, Metal Men, the soulful Omega the Unknown, and for creating Howard the Duck. (I tell people who haven't read it that whatever you think Howard the Duck is like...it's not like that.)

    I did a double-take when I saw his name in the credits.

    Fascinating history of the early seasons. I always heard Roddenberry's overzealous lawyer Leonard Maizlish was responsible, in the interest of respecting Gene's franchises, for Star Trek's rather zealously exclusive "canon" rules, in particular, that the animated series didn't "count." Fans of the animated series have always felt slighted by this act of chauvanism toward a "mere cartoon." Whoever is in charge of Trek day to day (CBS?) has since gone back on that (the animated series IS Trek canon now, and in particular, the new IDW Trek comics "count"), but it's interesting to note how such a zealously enforced rule, created by an attorney of dubious power on Trek, should have been so ironclad for such a long time.

    It's interesting to note that the Ferengi were going to be TNG's main baddies, what the Klingons were to the original series. If anything is a clear-cut casualty of the writing room power plays, it would be this. Reading original pitches for the Ferengi, I got the feeling there were mutually incompatible ideas for what the Ferengi would be like (one scary idea they went with said the Ferengi could explode people's brains, like in Scanners), so the final creation pulled in many different contradictory directions. They had to be "comedy" bad guys...but also feral and scary. The end result were bad guys that weren't either.

    It's interesting you should mention Maurice Hurley as the creator of the Borg. I've heard stories he brought a lot of unwelcome machismo to the TNG writer's room, and called David Gerrold a "fag lover" at one point. Supposedly, Gates McFadden left because of his eventually overwhelmingly uncomfortable sexual advances.

    I have to say, I'd rank The Royale as one of the worst TNG episodes ever, and it's probably not Sliders creator Tracey Tormei's fault considering the disastrous rewrites. Cliches of unknowable aliens, stock characters, and even the dumb attempt to be cute at the end with Fermat's last theorem. Almost as if in a sign God Himself hates this episode, Fermat's last theorem was actually solved in 1994.

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    1. As a huge Steve Gerber fan, I can't BELIEVE I overlooked that. Thank you for bringing it up!! I have all the Howard the Ducks, Foolkillers, Omega the Unknowns, Void Indigo, and more.

      I used to have a Trek-trivia book that was filled with great stories from the TNG cast, anecdotes, etc. and within there I remember reading Maurice Hurley had an alienating effect on the cast. Alas, I can't find that book now. I was just thinking of it the other day, as there was something in there about "Encounter at Farpoint" that I couldn't find at Memory-Alpha and elsewhere. This (and the above Gerber credit) is why I love having a comments section; there'll always be stuff I miss that people can bring to the table.

      As for "The Royale," there's a lot wrong with it, to be sure. The pacing isn't so hot, the Captain-checks-in-on-away-mission-and-is-very-concerned mood is handled wrong, and many more things. The stock characters aspect doesn't bother me, as I think they're being somewhat cheeky about the bad-paperback-novel aspects, nor Fermat's last theorem. (Tho that is funny, what you say - maybe you're right! If so, God gave Spock a bit more time to be right about the last digit of Pi (i.e. "Wolf in the Fold") before that one got solved.) This is one of those examples of something that I enjoy in spite of itself, probably. This one always just stuck with me.

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    2. Another thing that I think was the greatest strength of Trek's early seasons: the musical score by Ron Jones. In the early seasons, the score was a character in and of itself. My favorite was the creepy, off-putting music used to announce the death of Tasha Yar, and how the music was never "right" for the rest of the episode.

      The music in Trek was never...bad exactly...after that, but it became audio wallpaper.

      It's sometimes hard to think of nice things to say about the early two seasons, but the music was definitely better.

      One detail Gerrold added to the Star Trek writers' bible I am still in disbelief about: Cetacean Ops. The Next Gen Enterprise has tanks for whales and dolphins, and they're actually a part of the crew, used in navigation. They never showed it but it was mentioned in dialogue several times, and you can find it on the Next Generation guide. I'm glad this didn't become a major part of the show, as it would have dated Next Gen even more. The crazy love of dolphins and whales hit such a high point in the 1980s.

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    3. Julian, I like what you're bringing to the table here. When I came across that Cetacean Ops detail in your blog, I had to do a double take. Glad you brought it up in the comments here - again, something I meant to put into the blog, proper.

      I'll have to keep an ear out/ do some hunting for where it appears in dialogue and in what episodes. It's the sort of thing I'd expect to find in the Gold Key Treks or something off the wall like that, not the canon proper.

      Star Trek: Cetacean Ops! An animated series on some weirder alternate Earth...

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    4. Thanks. Every time you think you know everything about TNG, something comes up.

      Amazingly, Rick Sternbach actually did some concept art for Cetacean Ops back in 2005.

      Where Do I Find the Dolphins?

      Yeah, it really buries the needle on the Whatthefuckulator. Apparently it was mentioned in The Perfect Mate during a tour of the Enterprise.

      The Next Generation Technical Manual seems to be the one place it's mentioned. I always liked that work, since the TV people read it so you could rely on it being "real." For instance, I always thought as a kid it'd be cool to see a feature mentioned in the book on screen: the saucer section could, in an emergency, land on a planet's surface. Little did I know Generations would end with that very scene!

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  5. There was one story I always heard (Gene Roddenberry himself!) wrote, called Ferengi Gold, that would have been a two-parter.

    The story was something like, some Ferengi find a planet where they're worshiped as gods, so they can ruthlessly exploit the natives. This was back when we were supposed to take the Ferengi seriously as Next Gen's biggest enemies.

    I must say, it sure sounds like a Gene story, hitting all his favorite later-era notes: a religion turns out to be a false sham, and condemning modern-day crass greed.

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  6. Although I never liked the Ferengi, if that Ferengi Gold story had been their initial appearance, maybe I'd have appreciated them more.

    Gene really did like returning to the same themes again and again. The modern-day greed thing is all the more interesting as by all accounts once TNG got rolling, he started living the life of the Hollywood producer. (Probably on the advice of his lawyer.) As a result, gone were the everyday clothes and in came the designer threads, out went the old car and in came the 300L Mercedes, etc. Ah well. I begrudge no one their success, or even inconsistencies, but it's just such a Hollywood thing, being lectured on evil-greed by people who have diamond-encrusted waterskis, etc.

    Thanks for the link. I actually kind of like the idea in theory, but seeing it onscreen might be problematic... sort of like the aquatic Xindi in Enterprise. And as you say, it'd have dated the show, absolutely. Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield argued about guitar solos in later-era Metallica albums in that documentary from a few years back (Some Kind of Monster) with Hetfield saying "Maybe we've outgrown guitar solos" and Hammett, quite rightly, countering with "All that would do is date our sound to this very specific era, where no-guitar-solos is a fad/ trend."

    Not a perfect one-to-one comparison, but it made me think of it.

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    1. I just watched "The Battle" recently, and I rather liked it, despite the Wesley nonsense. (People think Wesley was a bigger irritant than he really was, but this was one of the very few episodes he actually DID save the ship despite nobody listening to him.)

      It did everything right the early Ferengi episodes did wrong. The villain was very cunning, with individual goals not always aligned with that of his species. If the Ferengi continued being the way they were presented here instead of the nonthreatening Smurf cartoons they were before and after, they would have probably ended up being what the Cardassians ultimately became.

      I kind of like the idea that, because the Ferengi live in unexplored space and have "silk road" paths to unknown parts of the universe, they often come back with very scary bits of alien technology like the Thought Maker.

      I loved "Some Kind of Monster." It was like Spinal Tap, only for real: crazy therapists, crying Dave Mustaine, explosive temper tantrums that provoke laughter. I've always been of the opinion Metallica were great musicians doomed by becoming fat and happy sell-outs due to their success, and by God! That documentary confirmed everything.

      To my mind, the Xindi season was when things started to get good on Enterprise, long before Coto and Alan Brennert's Season 4. It was the first to do modern Sopranos style season-long arc storytelling (DS9 gets credit for this, but it was almost entirely episodic). The stakes were high, and got higher, as in the "earth destroyed" alternate future showed. The show had a guiding quest and direction. Archer got a concrete identity from that arc, as a compromised captain forced to make hard decisions.

      If someone ever does another Trek show, it'll look like the Xindi arc.

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  7. Nice surprise to see that link in there! They definitely went to town on the length of the scene, poor LeVar...

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