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'Encounter At Farpoint' is the double-length pilot episode of The Next
Generation and introduces us to the characters, the ship and... the
writers, who at this point were the weakest link.
The two main plots are engaging enough. Going on commentary from Roddenberry, the Q entity was written in later at Paramount's behest but, to me, is the most amusing part of this outing. Q almost represents the studio's viewpoint - in the show, the whole human race is on trial, in reality, the entire TNG concept was on trial. His presence is a definite highlight and he would go on to be one of the most memorable characters of any Star Trek incarnation. Q's presence interweaves comfortably with 'the trial' itself which is the unravelling an enigma: how did an obviously technologically deficient race build a frontier outpost of high-technology to service the Federation, and can the mystery be solved without resorting to violent methods thereby proving Q correct in his definition of the human race as barbaric and child-like?
From a technical standpoint this episode is respectable. For particular commendation I would single out Industrial Light and Magic's excellent special effects work. The models of the Enterprise-D and the alien spacecraft(s) set a high watermark which remains, for me, an engrossing aspect of the show to this day. We now take complex and expensive shots like these for granted in television shows, but until TNG it wasn't all that common.
As for the performances, the cast are still tentative within their new roles, finding their comfort zones and strengths. Some of the dialogue allows them chances to connect with their characters and therefore with the audience, other sections would be better delivered tongue-in-cheek rather than with deadly earnestness, or omitted entirely. My own assumption is that at this point Roddenberry was working towards the strengths of the old cast, whom he was familiar with, expecting them to be partial clones of Kirk and crew instead of relying on his new actors to take Star Trek in interesting new directions. When he stepped down as Executive Producer and handed more responsibility to Braga (who, sadly, would go on to lose his deft touch while in control of Voyager) many of the problems were ironed out.
'Encounter At Farpoint: Parts I and II' represent some of the best moments of the first season but not necessarily the entire Next Generation run or the four films that would follow. It is abundantly obvious that the premise has great promise, but it would not be until late into the second season that consistency would improve and truly great stories would be added to the Star Trek canon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:02 - "Encounter At Farpoint Part II" (Stardate: 41153.7) - this is part 2 of the 2 part pilot episode that launched the successful Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and 4 succeeding feature films (to date). It introduces us to the crew of the Enterprise-D (just recently built) commanded Captain Picard (played by the great Patrick Stewart), Commander Riker, Data (probably this generation's Spock), Counselor Troi, Geordi La Forge (before he became Chief Engineer), Lt. Worf (before he became head of security), and Dr. Beverly Crusher, as well as major characters for a few seasons only (Tasha Yar, Wesley Crusher), as they team up on their first mission to Farpoint Station to figure out its mysteries in a "civilized" way as the omnipotent Q (playfully acted by John de Lancie) tests them). Though not the best episode in the series, as the characters still have to find their places, the potential is nonetheless there and if you continue to watch well into the 3rd season and beyond, you'll see what I mean!
Star Trek: The Next Generation's pilot episode is a mixed bag. On the
one hand, there's a decent cast and everything LOOKS better than the
original series -- the spacecrafts, F/X, costumes and sets -- but, on
the other, half of the story is goofy and awkwardly implemented into
the main story.
The "goofy" part is the character of Q, an omniscient being, who suddenly appears on the Bridge of the Enterprise and then instantaneously transports most of the Bridge crew to some absurd trial with a bunch of barbarians as the audience. This part of the story was written by Gene Roddenberry and he was pressured to add it to D.C. Fontana's script to make "Encounter at Farpoint" a double episode.
The problem with the Q subplot is that it's premature. The purpose of a pilot episode is to establish the characters and the basic tone of the series. Fontana's story about the cast grouping together and their experiences at the Farpoint station accomplish this, but Roddenberry's Q story seems tacked-on, outlandish and premature.
Sure, the character of Q was based on Trelane from the original series episode "The Squire of Gothos," but (1.) that episode wasn't introduced until the second half of the first season when the serious tone of the series was well established, and (2.) Trelane was presented in a believable way despite his goofy antics. It's called good writing.
In "Encounter at Farpoint," by contrast, it's not 8 minutes into the story -- the very first episode of the series -- and this goofball character suddenly appears on the Bridge and proceeds to instantaneously kidnap the Bridge crew and take them to some bizarre trial in the midst of a bunch of uncouth barbarians. This entire sequence takes place in the first half hour and it just mars the seriousness and credible-ness of the rest of the episode.
Thankfully, everything else is like the original series, just better, at least as far as appearances go. The writing wouldn't catch up till the third and fourth seasons, although there are some gems here & there in the first two.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Encounter at Farpoint" (Episode 1, Season 1, Air Date 09/28/87,
Star-date 41153.7) restarted Roddenberry's Star Trek years after 'Star
Trek: The Original Series', beginning a new search across the universe
much in the tradition of the original. It set a thoughtful,
imaginative, and visionary tone for the entire 7 season series.
The most interesting feature of this two-part episode consists of little gems below the surface of the show, not the overall plot. But I thought some character actions contradicted its main questions and tests (more on this below): Is humanity civilized? Are we 'savage lifeforms' or a 'dangerous child race'? Can we ever advance to the point where we are not dominated by war, drugs, and immorality? Patrick Stewart plays Captain Picard and enters the series in a dramatic emergency. A God-like alien called Q confronts Picard and his crew with the record of 'savage' wars in our past. Q puts Picard and humanity on trial to decide whether we should be allowed to exist or be exterminated. And then the rest of the episode puts Picard to the test against the mystery of a new Farpoint station and an interesting space-dwelling organism.
However, my question as I re-watched this episode was whether the show violates its own test of humanity. Picard challenges Q to test him and his crew as an example of humanity's current state of sophistication. Picard seems apt to pass the test of civilization's moral worth; he intelligently investigates Farpoint to solve the mystery, he is not prone to cause destruction with evil intentions, and his crew responds automatically to emergencies and the needs of the injured.
But does his crew (both human and Klingon) sometime act like irresponsible imbeciles? The answer is a huge yes. Possibly it is done consciously and by intention. Several crew members act without thinking: Tasha wants to fight Q (which would be lethal since he is an almost all powerful being) and Worf thinks about blasting an image of Q on the front viewer of the ship. Obviously humans (and Klingons) need additional growth to shed their war-like tendencies.
In addition, the crew is typically compelled to act like dare devils; Picard ignores probabilities at times and pushes the ship to speeds well past safety limits. He even tries a new maneuver to separate the ship's saucer section when he never ever tested the procedure at such high speeds. My question was: How will this crew survive Q's test at this rate? And will it instead prove that our emotional prejudices against reason and probabilities will be our demise?
Here are some highlights I enjoyed:
(1) Data announces his desire to be more human-like. This makes me ask: Should Data learn to whistle and become more human, or should he ignore silly human qualities and take pride in his own characteristics? Since he strives to be more human than he is, he sets out on a goal to participate in the Form of Humanity (as Plato might say) as closely as he can; he is like one of Plato's imperfect instances or shadows of a Form, always trying to attain a more perfect human Form or identity (Plato's 'Republic' or 'Phaedo').
(2) Data points out that humans tend to be prejudiced against machines, which makes Riker wonder whether Data thinks he is superior than humans. Data says he is in many ways (in a matter of fact way). Of course, Riker probably knows that by simply pointing to a prejudice, Data doesn't imply any thoughts of superiority.
Cool technology: (3) Introduction of the Holodeck. (4) The ship computer can locate any crew member anywhere (a little frightening for privacy). (5) The ship has a low gravity gym. (6) Dr. Crusher uses a paperless and thin, hand held, computerized screen to do her work.
(7) Admiral McCoy inspects the ship and converses with Data, who he compares to a Vulcan and calls 'boy' a lot for some reason.
(8) Wesley Crusher gets to visit the bridge and show off his knowledge of ship equipment. Picard feels uncomfortable around kids, but even he can't avoid sharing in the wonder of a child examining the bridge for the first time.
(9) The alien space-dwelling organisms in the episode are able to transfer energy into matter at will (in a more advanced way than ship transporters). They can safely live in space, reminiscent of the space child born at the end of Kubrick's '2001 - A Space Odyssey'.
(10) Q says he might be back and he will be. Q was never my favorite invention in the series, but a few interesting ideas become possible through such a powerful being.
Gene Roddenberry reimagined the show with a larger crew and cast than the original series; the captain is older, many children live on ship with their parents, the ship lighting looks more like a Kubrick film (compare it to '2001: A Space Odyssey' or even 'The Shining'), a mysterious android joins the crew, and many characters have special abilities.
But as Stephen Hawking points out, Star Trek doesn't generally imagine humans as much more biologically or personally advanced than us (see Ch. 6 on Star Trek in Hawking's 'The Universe in a Nutshell'), except for those few special cases listed below.
LeVar Burton as Geordi has enhanced vision, Marina Sirtis as Deanna has extra sensory powers for the emotions of other lifeforms (through her half-Betazoid/half-human empathy), Brent Spiner as Data has immense physical strength and far superior mental processing, and later we find that Wil Wheaton (as Wesley Crusher) has potential to become a time traveler and the 'Mozart' of understanding technology.
I think the episode highlights the struggle to overcome our flaws, and perhaps it highlights just how much SF depends on hubris and a lucky turn of events to save us! Can humanity dare to hope for such luck too?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Encounter at Farpoint had the chore of setting up the characters and
settings of the first Trek series since the original. It also
introduces Q, who is surrounded by an interesting but thin premise
about proving if mankind has changed much throughout history.
I decided recently to go back and watch The Next Generation from the start. Since I have a new baby and a lot of time spent watching or holding her, I had the time. I sometimes cringe at the first season, as some of the costumes were horrible, the acting and characterizations were a little off and the special effects weren't as sharp as they could have been. That said, I was surprised how much this episode and many of the first season offerings did hold up.
Encounter at Farpoint is an entertaining start for Trek but it wasn't completely successful. Q was a great character, it was fun seeing McCoy and a lot of the other characters were well introduced. Troi was horrible and I am glad they eventually got rid of her over emotional empathy. Worf was just a token Klingon who thankfully, became one of the most complex characters through Deep Space Nine. And Yar was one of the most unfocused characters ever created for Trek, this side of Harry Kim from Voyager. The story, while classic Trek, took a backseat to the look and new characters.
This is a good start to the series. Several stinkers were to follow and the uneven second season helped The Next Generation finds its wings though it's run.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:01 - "Encounter At Farpoint Part I" (Stardate: 41153.7) - this is the beginning part of the 2 part pilot episode that will launch the successful Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and 4 succeeding feature films (to date). It introduces us to the crew of the Enterprise-D commanded under Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by the great Patrick Stewart) as a captain so far removed from the likes of Captain Kirk, we get to see another type of captain in action. We are also delighted to see John de Lancie as one of Star Trek's best villains - Q in his first of many appearances ("temper temper, mon capitan"!). And lookout for a guest star appearance by a "Southern Doctor"!
** out of ****
Star Trek: TNG was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. Space adventures always appealed to me, but it was the cast and the concepts the show explored that often won me over. After having seen the pilot episode, a two-parter entitled Encounter at Farpoint, I see many of the qualities I enjoyed about the series, but this is a fairly subpar episode that's only occasionally compelling.
Set some 80 years after the original Star Trek (thus placing it, if I'm not mistaken, in the 24th century), the new crew of the starship Enterprise is headed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). The crew's assignment: to investigate Farpoint station, but before they can reach their destination they're intercepted by a god-like entity who calls "himself" Q (John De Lancey). Q has deemed the human race savage beasts and puts the Enterprise crew on trial. Their test is Farpoint and if they fail to uncover the dark secret of the station, then well...they'll assumingly receive a dreadful fate.
The first part of Encounter at Farpoint is pretty good, the characters are nicely introduced and mostly well-played by the cast. Patrick Stewart immediately stands out as the stern but well-meaning Picard. Brent Spiner is fantastic as Data, and Jonathan Frakes makes a likeable first officer as Commander Riker. Noticeably different from the original Star Trek is a larger female cast. Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, and Denise Crosby are all fairly attractive (Sirtis would later be a full-blown hottie by season two, and McFadden is actually the best-looking of all the Star Trek ladies right now, talk about aging gracefully; sorry, Jeri Ryan and Jolene Blalock just don't do it for me).
Unfortunately, the plot, while initially intriguing, ultimately doesn't really go anywhere and there's the certain feeling that fitting the whole story into two parts is really stretching it out. A lot of the material, obviously played for introductory purposes, could still have been cut out. In fact, all the stuff focusing on the mystery behind Farpoint barely adds up to a half-hour, excluding the really lengthy climax, which is just plain boring. When the secret of Farpoint is revealed (which you'll probably figure out before the cast does), all the conjecture and facts are messily spouted in one of those silly coversations where each character continues the sentence after the previous speaker has finished.
But Encounter at Farpoint works adequately enough as an intro to one of the best sci-fi television series, right up there with Stargate: SG-1 and the first two seasons of Sliders. Watch for Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Q's bailiff.
I am giving this a 10, not for this episode in itself, but for what the
series eventually became.
In fact, many mistakes were made in this episode. Paramount had insisted to Gene that this be a two-hour pilot. Initially, it was to be just about the "Starbase" built on "Farpoint" and the deception of the alien race who built it. But the added hour caused Gene to add the "B" Story (Or, "A" Story, I've never figured out which story was the main story here) about the being named "Q" putting Picard on Trial for the "Crimes of Humanity".
This was not needed, the original "alien" story could have been expanded to be made interesting. But despite this, this episode provided the formula for rest of the series, each episode having an "A" and B" storyline- Compressed into a 45-minute format, this works. But as a 2- Hour pilot, it was hard to watch.
It was as if all of the new gadgets of Trek had to be all exploited in this pilot. We know from the books written about Trek and The Making of it, that even the original Enterprise had a Holodeck and the Saucer Section could separate from the Drive Section. Had The Original Series gone on to more seasons, we would have seen these things- They just never came up in the 80 episodes of TOS (Including the great Original Pilot with Jeffrey Hunter).
I just thought it was rather dumb to separate the Saucer Section immediately - In all of the rest of the series, this had happened only three additional times: In "Arsenal of Freedom" where Geordi fights the Leggs-Container-in-space, when Riker fought the Borg, and then the Drive Section blew up in "Generations". However: We had to get Riker over to Farpoint while the Q thing was happening, and this was the only way to do it.
My first impressions of Data, Worf, Troi, Tasha, and especially Dr. Crusher were particularly bad. And to have BONES show up for a Cameo, was almost senseless. But I did enjoy seeing DeForest talking to Data and looking at his Ears. I just thought these new crew characters were weak.
Not to mention, we had Data, Worf, Geordi, and Riker all as the Primary Bridge Crew. Too Many Bodies, too many Lieutenants- too many things to keep track of and to go wrong.
But the BEAUTY of this pilot, everything looked very good. The Special Effects were Feature Film Quality, and I thought, "If they can do this on practically a weekly basis, I'll keep watching".
Watching the extra features on the 2003 DVD set, Gene himself knew of these shortcomings, and they were addressed immediately. Geordi slowly graduated to Engineering, Worf logically took over Security.
I Could never finger down why I never liked Dr Crusher and Tasha Yar. Neither of them acted like what they were representing. I could tell they were great actresses, but often I would go "What...?" - Tasha just wasn't Tough enough it seemed. And Crusher never really made us believe she was a Doctor - Not until she came back in the 3rd Season after Dr. Polaski's female version of Bones left. And when Tasha came back for "Yesterday's Enterprise" she was much more believable in the role.
Changes in Writing Staff and Production Crew had to be established before any of these changes could occur, it is not that the original Writers, some of them David Gerrold and DC Fontana from TOS - These are fantastic writers - But something different had to be done, and it was not until they hired Ronald D Moore and the Beimler-Manning production team, things started clicking.
But in this pilot, things drift too much. Troi is wearing what looks like a modified TOS Miniskirt, but they immediately stuck a bun on her head and gave her the suit her shapely figure was poured into for season 1. As a matter of fact, we saw many of these Miniskirted Crewmen - Some Men! Wandering Around the ship! I noticed that they were given regular crew uniforms almost immediately.
I am giving all the reasons why I should hate this, but I could tell even when I watched this for the first time, this could be great. And it did become great. And "Q" just had to come back, he was a great pivoting point from which to kick the stories into a whole new direction.
This Pilot actually became the Blueprint from which Paramount made three other shows: Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise- But Enterprise drifted away from Canon- FAR from Canon. It was a look back when in fact most of the Trek Fans wanted more of the Future Following the ends of DS9 and Voyager. But we had Three SHows which lasted the full seven years, and they all came from this original Pilot, which was the basis on which everything looked: If you watch Deep Space Nine and Voyager, regardless of what you think of those shows - You can tell you are in the same Universe as The Next Generation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Encounter at Farpoint was the opening episode for what would be the
epic second Enterprise series with Captain Picard and crew encountering
dangerous lifeforms and perilous situations which will demand heroism,
courage, intellect, and fortitude.
In the first episode, Picard and crew meet Q, a conniving powerful "lifeform" (the term lifeform seems too slight to use for a collective of being with such power) that can intrude upon anyone or thing, on any ship and usurp a type of authority because humans, in this particular case, are considered an inferior, savage race not worthy to exist because of history.
First Q challenges Picard, Data, Deana Troi, and Lt Tasha Yar in a court circa 2085, full of medieval types who congregate for their trial and possible execution. Picard stands firm on the progress humankind has made, that the savagery they were once known for has ceased to exist, with peace and co-existence the goals for exploring the universe, Farpoint Station the first mission for the brand new Enterprise. Q and Picard wager whether or not humans are indeed savage and the Farpoint mission will be the "case at trial".
It seems that Farpoint Station is not what it seems and that the planet with the Bandi race, who have an abundance of geothermal energy to spare, could be keeping a huge secret that will inevitably lead to Picard and crew having to deal with a large "vessel" which appears, strangely enough not hostile towards them, but the Bandi people.
All the show pilot elements are in place. Picard and his "#1" commanding officer, Riker, meet for the first time. We see that Riker and Troi, a "betazoid" (a telepath who can sense emotions, partly human), were once an item. Yar is opinionated and wears her emotions on her sleeve when it comes to engaging a threat, with Picard having to bring her down to size. Data, an android made by a brilliant scientist, desires to be human, whistling "life is but a dream" meets Riker in a "holographic program"(transporter beams can not only disassemble and reassemble our molecules so we can move from one place to another they can recreate worlds and events inside a defined program set to whatever the person chooses). Worf, a Klingon serving as a Federation officer, represents his race with certain principles he holds with authority, like honor and duty, shown unamused by Picard's decision to leave him on the saucer section of the Enterprise when he and certain members of the crew aboard the battle bridge, preparing to battle the Q forcefield. Picard makes Riker aware that he is uncomfortable around children. The ship's Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Crusher married a man who was Picard's best friend (widowed with a child, Wes, played by Wil Wheaton)and he addresses this as a concern she may wish to avoid through a transfer. And, this episode even includes DeForest Kelley as "Admiral" at the grand old age of 137, being taken, by Data of all people (who reminds Bones of Spock, in an inspired moment that nearly had me in tears), to another ship called the Hood. The central plot really isn't all that extraordinary, regarding Farpoint station, but this episode allows us to get a first glimpse of the crew and Q who would become a vital, recurring character. Oh, almost forgot, Geordi, blind Chief of Engineering, wears a type of device which allows him to see a great deal but causes a lot of pain. Each and every character, unlike the previous Classic Trek, would be given chances to evolve and shine. This is just the beginning of a wonderful run for a show that appeared at first to be three seasons at best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the pilots of most beloved shows tend to look silly or awkward
when viewed in retrospect, and this is no exception. As the actors grow
into their roles, the characters develop, and viewers become accustomed
to the finished product. This pilot had to convince a lot of fans of
TOS that it was going to be worth their time, as well as win over new
viewers, and I think it accomplished that, rough edges and all.
I missed the first three episodes when they originally aired, and only recently watched this one for the first time. I did notice that the Farpoint plot itself was very similar to "Doctor Who - The Creature from the Pit".
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