For a huge sci-fi nerd I’ve had little exposure to Star Trek. I saw the first J.J. Abrams movie (it was okay) and The Wrath of Kahn (which was great), but I’ve never really been into the whole thing. A lot of this probably due to being a rabid Star Wars fan boy when I was younger (R.I.P. Expanded Universe). I didn’t necessarily dislike the franchise, I just focused elsewhere. In an attempt to rectify this, I’m watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, using this as a template, instead of watching all 100+ episodes. I doubt I’ll do a write up for every single episode I watch, but if there is some interest from the commentariat, I’ll do write ups on episodes that catch my fancy. Without any further ado…
Encounter At Far Point Parts I & II
Dashing Captain Picard takes his fancy new USS Enterprise to Deneb IV to negotiate with the Bandi race on behalf of the Federation and also pick up his second in command, Commander William Riker. However, a dickish and omnipotent alien named Q waylays Picard, tasking him with proving that humans are no longer a savage race. Specifically, he wants Picard to solve the mystery of what is up with Deneb IV’s Farpoint Station…
According to the internet, the episode was expanded to a 92 minute episode at the insistence of the network. Boy does it show. The episode as a whole feels bloated, and the Q plot doesn’t mesh with the Deneb IV shenanigans at all. However, it isn’t all bad.
In the positives column, the acting as a whole is pretty good. However, I have to single out the performances of Patrick Stewart (as Picard, of course) and John de Lancie (as Q) for specific praise. The scenes with Q and Picard are easily the best parts of this episode.
The chemistry between the characters works because the actors approach the roles so differently. Patrick Stewart, who I already have a high opinion of, can somehow make anything appear dignified.
He brings all of his Shakesperian gravitas to Picard, playing him as someone absolutely convinced of his (and the Federation’s) enlightened moral authority. Q, meanwhile, is a superpowerful asshole who is weirdly likable in Al Swearengen kinda way, even with the silly costumes he phases in and out of.
At one point, Q puts the crew/humanity on trial in a post-WWIII court, which means he dresses as a Renaissance cardinal and rides an throne perched on a crane (for some reason), leading to a great little exchange:
Picard: “We humans know our past, even when we’re ashamed of it. I recognize this court system as the one that agreed with that line from Shakespeare: ‘Kill all the lawyers.'”
Q: “Which was done.”
Picard: “Leading to the rule, ‘Guilty until proven innocent.'”
Q: “Of course. Bringing the innocent to trial would be unfair.”
Stuff like that is when the episode gets good. Unfortunately, more time seems to be spent on the Deneb IV plot, where it turns out that the Bandi captured a shapeshifting energy jellyfish and used it to power their planet and build stuff. It’s not the worst sci-fi trope ever (the new Doom game did the same thing, but with the entirety of Hell, which is way more rad), but it’s nothing special either.
I don’t know what I would’ve thought about the pilot if I saw it back when it first aired on September 28th, 1987 (I was a couple of months old at the time, so my TV reviewing skills were limited). It’s a bit of a mess, and it has it’s flaws, but there are some parts that have a bit of the spark that makes me love sci fi. I’ve been told the show gets better, and I’m willing to keep watching.
- It’s a pretty damn ’80s bit of TV. The special effects are alright (though the miniature stand ins for the city are pretty obvious), but it has some incredibly poofy hair on the part of Deanna Troi:
- Also this guy:
- On the more negative side, the court scene has a lot of little person extras as essentially props, apparently they’re supposed to mutated from the nuclear warfare? Either way, it seems kinda insensitive.
- I’m already starting to get why people didn’t like Wesley.
- Another good Picard line: “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”
- I enjoyed the little torch-passing cameo from Dr. McCoy.
- Seriously, Patrick Stewart is the best:
See you next time, probably!