On Thursday, 29 November 2012, I met former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. and members of the Boston Sci-Fi Meetup for dinner, drinks, and conversation at Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park. We then went to the screening of Season 2 episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation that have been remastered in preparation for the Blu-Ray release. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the special features, and the look back at one of the best space opera TV shows as it reached its prime 25 years ago.
“Q Who?” introduced the Borg, who would become one of the franchise’s greatest villains. John de Lancie’s nearly omnipotent mischief maker played off nicely against Patrick Stewart’s Capt. Jean Luc Picard and the rest of the command crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-D. The remastered special effects were clean, although the colors and lighting seemed a bit too dark at times. The audio was excellent, with the starship sounds more pronounced during the opening credits and space battles.
“A Measure of a Man” included 13 minutes of restored scenes from Melinda Snodgrass’ thoughtful script. Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr. William T. Riker, Stewart, and Brent Spiner as Lt.Cmdr. Data all got to shine in their roles exploring android Data’s legal rights as a sentient being in the United Federation of Planets. The episode included references to the original 1960s TV series (TOS) and held up remarkably well. I’m glad that Snodgrass’ character moments were added back in.
Both episodes showed the crew of the Enterprise growing more comfortable with one another as the storylines improved. While I disagree with the producers and many fans who wanted darker, more conflict-driven episodes in defiance of Gene Roddenberry’s wishes, I think Next Gen‘s (TNG) middle seasons did a great job of balancing character, episodic plots, and Roddenberry’s hopeful vision of the future.
The interviews with cast members, bloopers, and glimpses at the restoration process for Seasons 1 through 3 of TNG added much insight. It was nice to see the actors still joking around, learn about why Gates MacFadden was really fired (for protesting sexist scripts), and whet our appetite for remastered versions of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Sins of the Father,” “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.”
Star Trek, including The Next Generation, helped set the template for many other genre television in the decades that have followed. Like Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and Babylon 5 had an initially successful military space opera — TOS, the 1970s show, the 1980s movie, and the 1990s TV series, respectively. The best of these showed teams of co-workers become friends as they saved humanity and the galaxy time after time.
Each was followed by a ship-based TV revival (TNG, Ron Moore’s BSG, and Stargate SG1), a darker and more intricate stationary show (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Caprica, and Stargate: Atlantis) and a weaker return to a ship-based action series (Voyager/Enterprise, Razor/Blood & Chrome, Stargate: Universe, and Crusade, respectively). All had episodes featuring time travel or flashbacks, shared hallucinations, foes turned friends, and many other speculative fiction tropes codified by Trek.
Even space operas that didn’t have spinoffs owe a heavy debt to Roddenberry and crew, such as Andromeda, Farscape, and Firefly/Serenity. I’ve been a fan of all of these shows, but the familial relationships of TNG and Roddenberry’s heroic idealism still resonate with me more than many of that show’s peers, spinoffs, and successors.
Now that more information is becoming available for the sequel to J.J. Abrams’ reboot, I’m still cautiously optimistic. I’d prefer a less villain-driven plot, which looks to use Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan Noonien Singh or Gary Mitchell as an analogue for Osama Bin Laden. Star Trek‘s final frontier still beckons. Live long and prosper!