Encounter at Farpoint (ST:TNG Rewatch)

Rewatching ST:TNG after almost 20 years.

The series pilot Encounter at Farpoint reads as obviously padded. Yes, the ship was new to us and we wanted a good look at it inside and out, but the slow pan across the engineering set was a waste of time, since no plot events happen there. And while I liked the idea of having gruff Picard give Riker a complex task to follow before even acknowledging his existence, the saucer separation bit established a whole evacuation protocol that the writers largely ignored.  Two things that made the saucer separation bit bearable for me were appreciating how well the writers of The Best of Both Worlds used the separation conceit, and thinking of how masterfully the “leaving drydock” sequence of Galaxy Quest parodied it.

I was amused to catch, in a blast of orders, Picard saying “Using print-out only, notify all decks to prepare for maximum acceleration.”  Then we have Worf walk through engineering, and we see him talking to a nameless character, and then return to the bridge. Only then does the Enterprise dart away from Q’s energy barrier.  And it’s after all this that Picard gives the order to separate the saucer, so there’s more scenes of families making their way through the ship. Just imagine if they kept up that protocol for every episode.

In a similar way, the “first officer has to protect the captain” protocol does justify getting Riker doing stuff early in each episode so that the wise captain can show up and solve things at the end. But just like the whole printout and saucer separation nonsense, dealing with all those protocols in every episode would really drag things down.

I remember, when seeing the cheesy sets for the Farpoint Station and the Bandi city, getting a familiar feeling of, “Oh, these planet sets are just like TOS,” but Data’s holodeck nature program looked so much more realistic, it showed me what they could do if they really tired.

I can see how Tasha Yar was delivering lines that by the end of the season would come more commonly from Worf, diminishing the point of her character.

I enjoyed seeing the awkwardness at the beginning of Dr. Crusher’s friendship with Picard, and I can see why TNG really started to gel for me after Gates McFadden returned.

I remember being very interested in the Riker / Data relationship. Their meeting on the holodeck was a sign the series would take on more of an ensemble tone, very different from classic Trek. And the scene with “The Admiral” was just right.

I was expecting another return to the courtroom setting — the story resolved very quickly. DeLancie ended up having a lot more fun with Q as Q got more omnipotent, so this first encounter with Q was jarring.

I am glad that Troi would soon start to demonstrate some professional distance while reporting the emotions she experiences while on the job. Again, yes, I get that this new half-human character would be seeking out and exploring emotions, but it is her job. It was a little painful to watch the scenes where we watch Troi experience emotions, then listen as she struggles to put those emotions into words, and then watch again as the other characters struggle to construct a plan based on those words.

So, in the “trained Starfleet officers demonstrating momentary but colossally public and completely gratuitous lapses of judgement so the audience understands their inner struggles” category, we have

  • Yar losing her cool insisting that the court should “get down on its knees to what Starfleet represents”
  • Worf instinctively pulling a phaser on a view screen image,
  • Picard totally clueless about the tension between Riker and Troi when he’s standing between them in the turbolift,
  • Troi opposing an order from Riker out of concern that Riker might be hurt
  • Dr Crusher sniping at Picard as the turbolift doors close on her and Wesley after Picard throws them out.