• Charlie King

Star Trek: The Next Generation review

This month marks the one year anniversary of lockdown and it was around this time that I looked at the collection of episodes for Star Trek: The Original Series and The Next Generation and thought if ever there was a time to plow through so many episodes now is the time. I may move onto Deep Space Nine and Voyager but for now, my 'Trek' ends with these two.

Like before, reviewing this now seems irrelevant and hard to do without context. If TNG had been a failure because it couldn't live up to TOS, maybe it would have been easier for an outsider to review. TNG however is right there in the fandom too with the ultimate question of who is the better captain: Picard or Kirk. For the record, I would say Picard.

Kirk is very much the maverick captain who falls in love just like that and makes friends easily. Picard seems more uptight in the beginning, following the rules more but even he knows when he has to break them. Episodes where Picard does show a deep connection with someone, it comes as a surprise whereas Kirk could fall in love with anything at any time. Picard's voice is stronger, more like a captain, and he avoids developing a very recognisable, infamous speech pattern. As Number One behind the captain, Riker is very believable that he could one day be a captain and does well when he has to stand in while in TOS, if Kirk was off the bridge, it seemed like anyone could be captain.

I said the main problem with TOS is that the characters, and now famous enemies, other than Kirk, Spock and Bones get barely any screen time in comparison to become icons of the show (although they still did). TNG gives everybody their fare share of screen time and storylines, along with character development. By the end, you can put any two members in a conversation with each other and there will be good chemistry there.

I'm sure I have heard that a lot of people weren't fans of Wesley Crusher and in the beginning , I'd agreed. It seemed in 8 of the first 10 episodes, the young boy who nobody trusts always found the solution to fix the ship/problem. If that had kept up, I probably would have despised him but he backs off a bit and gets his own stories too.

Going in, the character I knew most about was Data, the android who tries to become more and more human in the way that he speaks and acts. At first, I was worried he would just be a less entertaining clone of Spock, who got the deadpan lines right when expressing his confusion at human nature. Thankfully, Data does make this role his own and brings a lot of the comic relief to the show.

By virtue of there being more series, continuing stories or stories directly related to an episode from a few seasons back really helps to create the lore of Star Trek, to make the villains more memorable by returning every now and again. The one that sticks out is Q who appears just the right amount of times in the show to not be considered an annoying recurring character. We understand a lot more about the warring factions inside and outside of the Federation too. Deanna Troi's mother is another memorable character, particularly for the reaction she draws from Picard.

Despite the crew all getting good time on screen and showing chemistry, no-one quite matches the chemistry of Kirk, Spock and Bones. This makes sense though. Kirk, Spock and Bones easily had the most screen time and the most adventures together that the show was always about them. What does help in TNG is that any crew member can bounce a line off Data or even Worf and get a completely deadpan response for a quick laugh.

While not every episode is a hit, I feel the writing and storylines are much better than TOS, almost more grown-up. A big part of this is down to the fact that a lot of the episodes simply focus on the everyday plights of the crew, of being humanoid so it feels like storylines can have a deeper personal connection and mean a bit more to the viewer. There are some episodes that are almost fully based on the trials and tribulations of a crew member in their general life rather than a specific threat.

The downside of this however is that there aren't too many instances of the crew beaming down to lots of planets (other than buildings within planets which could be any location) and exploring, being stuck with a strange life form. Most encounters with other lifeforms peaceful or otherwise usually just occur on the ship. The show is more focused on presenting and developing these characters rather than one-off enemies on alien worlds that are dealt with in a single episode.

Simply put, TNG is better because it feels like there is development series after series and that the stories are painting a big picture. For example, Data learning to become human or Worf trying to become accustomed to human traditions while keeping Klingon interests alive. These episodes aren't just a case of 'who's the bad alien this week?" like TOS tended to be. There's human emotion, human drama, comedy, action and tense negotiations (as well as fights) throughout and this variety keeps the show fresh and puts it a step above TOS.

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