First aired: 26th September 1987
Patrick Stewart – Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes – Commander Will Riker
Brent Spiner – Lieutenant Commander Data
Michael Dorn – Lieutenant Worf
Denise Crosbie – Lieutenant Tasha Yar
Levar Burton – Lieutenant Geordi LaForge
Gates McFadden – Doctor Beverley Crusher
Marina Sirtis – Counsellor Deanna Troi
Michael Bell – Groppler Zorn
Will Wheaton – Wesley Crusher
John deLancie – Q
Spin Off Specifics:
Where did is spin-off from? Star Trek
When did it spin-off from? This season started 19 years after the original series ended.
What is different? It’s premise remains the same, the adventures of the Enterprise, but it’s 100 years later and as such a new crew, new technologies and new uniforms.
Was it necessary? Not as such, but recent movies had really envigorated peoples love of the franchise, inspiring this return to Trek on TV.
How did it compare? Very different in both tone and quality, subjected to endless debates and comparisons.
Synopsis: Stardate 41153.7, the Earth year 2266 far into deep space. Captain Jean-Luc Picard has taken command of the USS Enterprise (registration NCC-1701D), the flagship of Starfleet, the military and exploration arm of the United Federation of Planets. The ship is on course for Deneb IV at the edge of Federation space. Capt. Picard is impressed with this Galaxy Class ship. On the bridge he discusses the Enterprise’s mission with two of his senior officers, ship’s counsellor Dianna Troi (a humanoid alien called a Betazoid) and operations officer Lt. Cmdr Data (an android) and as that happens a sphere of energy surrounds the ship and a human looking man appears on the bridge dressed in renassaince era naval attire and demands that the ship return to Earth and stay there. To make the point on how seriously he should be taken, he freezes a helmsman, Torres who raised his sidearm (a phaser) towards this creature, now identifying itself as Q. Torres’ frozen body needs to be taken to sick pay so he will survive.
Q now transforms into a 20th century soldier in dress uniform, replete with anti communist quotes and cigarette. When Picard challenges the archaic ideals of man and the progress made since then, Q moves his appearance into the mid-21st century with drugged addicted soldiers from a post apocalyptic past for Picard’s era (and 40 or so years in our future) that hints of a darker 21st century. Security chief Tasha Yar (a human, but not born on Eatrth) and other bridge officer Worf (a Klingon) request permission to remove Q from the bridge, Picard advises caution. Picard berates Q for his actions, calling him out on judging humanity, this inspires Q who leaves, but promises another encounter soon. He take a second, then Picard gives his crew their orders, head off at top speed, then seperate the ship, putting civilians, family members and non-essential crew in the saucer and then head back to the sphere in the star-drive section and face Q. Everyone works towards this, but Data warns how inadvisable this course of action is.
The Enterprise goes into warp, followed by the sphere. The ship seperates and the saucer section gets away, the rest heads back at high speed, then stops. Picard issues orders again, send the message we surrender.
A flash of light and Yar, Picard, Data and Troi are in a mid 21st century court, ripped from the dystopia left after the nuclear devastation of world war III. In the courtroom on a flying throne is this courtroom’s judge, prosectuor and jury, Q. The Enterprise and it’s crew are on charge for the collective actions of humanity. (We’ll just ignore the fact that only Troi is half human, Data is an android so only 2 of them are actually human and only one is actually from Earth) but this is apprently a fair trial.
Tasha has an outburst, estolling Starfleet and the Federation’s virtues, that she is from a world that isn’t so enlightened and she owes her current life to Starfleet. Q freezes her, but there is no sickbay to help out in this case, Q is argued into healing her by Picard. He again requests that this be a fair trial, using Data as a court recorder to read back Q and Picard’s own words in their own voices to make his point.
Picard refuses to plead guilty, but with guns pointed at his crew’s heads he relents, but conditionally. He concedes that humanity has a history full of the cruelty and violence that Q accuses them of, but that was then. Judge humanity by what it is now, by his crew and their mission. Q agrees and allows the ship and it’s crew to go on with it’s current mission, to Deneb IV and it’s new starbase Farpoint. He gives a warning full foreboding and in another flash of light, the crew are back on the bridge and enroute to Farpoint.
Okay, speaking of Farpoint, we go to Deneb IV and Commander William T Riker is meeting with Farpoint’s administrator Gropplar Zorn. He is after some information on the base, it’s construction and history, but is diverted off topic by Zorn, who appears to be trying to keep Riker away from something. Before he leaves, he notices a bowl of apples on Zorn’s desk that didn’t seem to be there before, he mentioned apples as he went in and on his way out, see apples. He leaves, then Zorn seems to berate the room, even to the point of threatening it.
Later at a market, Riker bumps into Dr. Beverly Crusher and her teenage son Wesley. Both of them are being assigned to the crew of the Enterprise and are there waiting for the ship to arrive.Beverley is trying to buy fabric and laments that there isn’t a goldleaf pattern on it, she looks away and when she looks back, there is a goldleaf pattern on one of the fabrics she was looking at. She buys a bolt of the fabric and orders it sent to her ship, then she points out that ‘Jean-Luc’ would want this looked into. Riker enquires and she tells him that her late husband and Picard were good friends and when her husband Jack died years earlier it was Picard who brought his body home. The Crushers leave and Riker is joined by Lt. Geordi LaForge (another soon to be crewmate) who informs him that the Enterprise is in orbit, but withou the saucer and Capt,. Picard has sent for him.
On the Enterprise, Picard directs Riker to a screen and he looks at the ship’s record and learns all about the Q situation, when he is done, Picard orders him to manually redock with the saucer when it arrives. All up until this point, Picard has been dismissive and cold, but this changes once the job is done. Picard welcomes Riker warmly, but questions some of his past actions. His particular bone of contention is that he has acted in defiance of his captain’s orders in regards to the captain’s safety. Riker refuses to apologise for trying to save his captain’s life. These convictions impress Picard who accepts Riker as his first officer, but also asks that he help Picard appear more genial with the civilian parts of the ship’s compliment, especially children.
In sickbay, Dr. Crusher is giving Geordi LaForge a physical, paying particular attention to the visor he wears, which since he was born blind acts as his sight. It causes chronic pain, but none of the methods to ease that pain will work with the current level of medical technology.
Riker goes looking for Data who is escourting Admiral Leonard McCoy around his tour of the Enterprise and back to his shuttle. We see that this is the same Leonard McCoy who was ship’s Doctor on the original Enterprise as well as the Enterprise A starting 100 years earlier. Q pops by to see Picard, telling him that he only has 24 hours left to solve the mystery of Farpoint station.
Little has happened 11 hours later. Picard and Riker discuss how things with the Bandi people who live on Deneb IV don’t add up. Picard decides he wants to meet with Zorn himself. He’s heading down and brings Riker and Troi. We now learn that Troi and Riker were in a relationship and it ended rather abruptly and there’s still feelings, seemingly on both sides. Zorn doesn’t like Troi’s presence, distrusting telephaths, but Troi is only half Betazoid and is only empathic. She actually uses this empathy, feeling great pain and sadness. Zorn gets desperate and threatens to withdraw use of Farpoint station and deal with the Ferengei instead. Picard points out that the Ferengei have the reputation of eating business associates that don’t prove profitable.
After returning to the ship, Riker finds Data in the holodeck, which uses light projection and forcefields to simulate any environment imagineable, currently it is a forest with a stream running through it. The pair talk and we learn that Data, despite being stronger and smarter than most humanoids desires to be human. Wesley walks into the holodeck and falls into the water, only to be pulled out and held aloft one handed by Data.
Sickbay and Welsey speaks to his mother, expressing a desire to see the bridge as well as his dislike of Capt. Picard. Beverley points out that Picard is not a family man and that Wesley’s father liked him a great deal.
On the surface, Riker, Yar, Data, LaForge and Troi are investigating the lower levels of Farpoint. They talk about splitting up, Troi wants to go with Riker, but he dismisses the idea quickly and sends Yar and LaForge with her, she isn’t pleased.
Yar, LaForge and Troi examine the tunnels, it starts to look very different fdrom the Starbase above and also the Bandi city nearby, both of which use very standard materials, unlike what Geordi is seeing in the tunnels. In fact, he has never seen anything like this building material, nor even heard of anything like this. Troi has a reaction to emotion again, causing her so much pain that Riker and Data are teleported to her side. Riker is incensed, no one has any idea what is going on and that is about to stop.
Back on the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher reports to the bridge, with Welsey hiding in the lift. Picard allows Wesley to come onto the bridge and sit in the captain’s chair, where Welsey points out how much he knows about the ship’s systems and how they work. Picard gets annoyed and shoos him off, just as a ship comes into orbit. The saucer like ship starts firing on Deneb IV, but not on Farpoint, on the Bandi city nearby. On the surface, Riker orders Troi, LaForge and Yar to return to the ship, over Troi’s objection.
On the ship, Picard orders sheilds raised and weapons to be locked on the alien ship, mostly as a precaution. Q pops in to comment, but this is mostly ignored. When he comments on the crew’s lack of compassion, Picard points out that Dr. Crusher is already preparing a medical away mission to provide humanitarian aid, he didn’t need to order this, as it is a standing order in these kinds of circumstances. On the surface, Riker and Data head to Zorn’s office. Zorn has more answers than he has given, but when confronted he is teleported away.
Q prevents the crew from moving the Enterprise between the alien ship and Deneb IV, Q wants Riker to go over to the new vessel, RIker is keen on the idea himself, Picard agrees reluctantly and gathers an away team whilst Picard pops down to sickbay to try and mend fences with Dr. Crusher. It’s an awkward affair, but both profess to wanting to be friends.
On the alien ship, Troi, Yar, Riker and Data appear and note that the interior of the alien ship looks a lot like the underground tunnels under Farpoint. Troi sense anger, intense rage. As they walk through more corridors, they find a chamber and inside find Zorn, suspended in an energy field, screaming in pain. Using their phasers Riker and Data fire at the field and free Zorn, as soon as at that happens the interior of the ship starts to change. They try to beam off, but it seems that Q is preventing it, using their lives to leverage Picard into accepting the guilty plea. But it turns out that the alien ship beamed them out just before it started to change. Troi recognises that it is a single living thing, the ship becomes some kind of giant glowing space jellyfish. Picard works out that Farpoint station might also be the same sort of thing, living of Deneb IV’s massive geothermal energy surplus. He orders an energy beam to be directed at Farpoint and that all of the personnel be evacuated from it. The beam is absorbed and then slowly Farpoint also becomes a giant glowing space jellyfish. The two beings leave together, joyous and grateful.
The mystery solved, Picard turns his attention to Q. Q departs, but points out that he didn’t agree to never return. Their first mission over, the crew of the Enterprise flies off, towards the future. Or in the Captain’s own words.
“Let’s see what’s out there.”
Notes: This is a hard program to be objective about. When videocassettes of this program was available, I rented this from a videoshop that came around the streets where I lived as a child. I watched this more than once and it was my first exposure to Trek and as a result, I will always have fond memories of this program and it’s first episode. It’s also worth considering that before Trek was this sprawling franchise, this was the first time it had been done without the original ship, or the original crew. Everyone expected this to fail, most of the hardcore fans wanted it to fail and the show’s lead Patrick Stewart didn’t unpack for the first season expecting it to fail, forcing him to go home. But it didn’t and so here we are.
More so than action, than comedy and drama, science fiction is a product of it’s time and place. What this means is that despite being set 346 years in the future it is a very dated television program. The only developed characters are the male ones, with the only characterisation of the 3, yes that’s all 3 female characters are either charicatures of professional women doing a male dominated job or defined by their relationships to the male characters. Gender equality still being sought in the 24th century apparently. Not that there’s an abundance of charactersation on the male side either. But we’re not tuning in for that are we? We are looking for sci-fi action and …….. there’s not much of that either. There’s a lot of talking, there’s a lot of pondering the nature of man and all that stuff, but it is a very slow motion show.
The cast work pretty well, even from the start with Sir Patrick Stewart owning the role of Jean Luc Picard from the very beginning, all verbose and shakespearian. He stands as a contrast to the younger, more idealised American Kirk. (Weird that we have an Englishman playing a frenchman contrasted with a Canadian playing an American) Because we still need a Kirk we have Johnathan Frakes as Riker, as actors go, Frakes is an excellent director. Marina Sirtis tries about six different accents as the ship’s therapist (seriously, that’s a bridge position?) and Brent Spiner trying desperately not to overact as an emotionless android. The rest of the crew don’t really get much to work with and without John DeLancie stealing every scene he is, this would be a much dryer show. And this episode was that, dry. There’s little action and somewhat less humour. Whilst the original series dealt with serious themes, there was still a bit of tongue securely planted in the cheek. None of that is present here and whilst there is plenty of potential here, almost none of it is realised in this first 88 minutes of screentime.
I have great fondness for the series, but I realise that most of that comes from watching it on BBC2 later on. Episodes like Measure of a Man, The Inner Light, Best of Both Worlds and Chain of Command were excellent episodes of television, but really most of the good that they were built on came later. Honestly it may end up being the weakest of the pilots.
But there are moments, Spiner’s Data marvelling at the human capacity to whistle. Stewart owning the screen when facing down DeLancie’s Q and even playing the straight man being the most commanding presense on screen and the Enterprise itself looks fantastic. It isn’t perfect, but there are glimmers of something better lurking under the surface.
Does it work? Yes, the show’s mission statement: To seek out strange new worlds and new civilisations, to bodly go where no one has gone before. That can work so very easily whenever you make the show.
Does much need fixing? Oh god, so much needs fixing it’s not even funny.
Does it stand up? Not as well as it should have, it’s as dated as it’s predecessor, despite being made over two decades later.
Do I want to watch the next one? Next one? No, but I would maybe do a best of episode or two.
Did I enjoy it? I did, my fondness for it, does make this imperfect gem re-watchable.
Overall: 2 out of 5.I wanted to like this so much more than I did. There are just better episodes to enjoy out there.