Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

STAR TREK: The Next Generation TV (1987-1994) * * *

Eighteen years after the original STAR TREK TV sci-fi show ended, creator Gene Roddenberry resurrected the concept with a different cast of characters. It takes place in the 24th century, about 80 years after the original. The series premiered on September 28, 1987 to 27 million viewers with the 2 hour pilot "Encounter at Fairpoint". 178 episodes were produced, and the series ended May 23, 1994 with "All Good Things..."

Comparing STAR TREK TNG with the original, the "Enterprise" space ship (NCC 1701-D) is almost twice as big as Captain Kirk's, special effects are superior, and the scripts are equally well-written and teach a lesson. It has a slick and sleek look and style derived from the STAR TREK movies. Crew complement is over 400, compared to 141 in the original. The mission is the same: seek out new planets and civilizations, plus police the galaxy. There are additions such as the "Holodeck" for realistic recreational fantasies, and "Ten Forward", a bar that serves "synthehol". But unlike the original, there are too many characters and most are not charming, with the exceptions of Data, Worf, O'Brien, and eventually Riker. Most of the stories are quite good and inventive, with more detail than the original. There is a focus on the relationships between the crew members and TNG is less episodic and more serialized. Runtime for the original series is 51 minutes per episode, runtime for TNG episodes is 46 minutes.

(opening monologue) Picard: "Space... The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It's continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before."

Jean-Luc Picard: The pompous Captain played by Patrick Stewart is presented as the greatest creature in the galaxy. He talks like Hamlet in outer space and says "Make it so", "As you wish", and "Tea, Earl Grey, hot" too often. Like Kirk, he is married to his ship and attentive to his crew. But whereas Kirk is a cultural icon, Picard is just some guy who is really nice. Picard is intelligent, cool, moralistic, diplomatic, serious, too old, and not sexy. He adheres to the "Prime Directive" more than Kirk, but has broken it many times. Dr. Crusher is his main love interest.

Picard: I will just have to trust that you will not let Admiral Pressman put the Enterprise in unnecessary risk and if I find that that trust has been misplaced, I will have to re-evaluate the command structure of this ship. Dismissed.

William Riker: The first officer played by Jonathan Frakes is a suave and somewhat flippant all-American from Alaska. Picard calls him "Number One" although he really is number two. Riker is bold, ambitious, and somewhat arrogant, but experience teaches him to be patient and more reserved. He is sexy and often flirts with alien females. Starting in season 2 he grows a beard. "Riker's job is to provide Captain Picard with the most efficiently-run ship and the best prepared crew he can," Frakes explains. "As a result, he maintains a more military bearing than the other characters, despite the fact that salutes and other military protocol no longer exist in the 24th century." William Riker and Deanna Troi are based on Decker and Ilia from STAR TREK: The Motion Picture.

Riker: You were right, someone blew out the hatch. They were all sucked out into space.
Data: Correction, Sir. That's "Blown out".
Riker: Thank you, Data.
Data: A common mistake, Sir.

Data: The Second Officer and Operations Officer is an android, a logical and objective sophisticated robot who tries to understand his confusing human colleagues because he wishes to become more human. Data was created by Noonien Soong and has a positronic brain, but no emotions. He adds comic relief and is reminiscent of Spock. Data has super-strength and an incredible memory. He's virtually an encyclopedia, but only in terms of information, not behavior. Data is innocent, but he does have a sense of curiosity and wonder that allows him to evolve. He is played by Brent Spiner.

Data: From any particular point of view, sir ?
Picard: On the perspective Lt. Yar using them in combat with Lutan's wife.
Data: Most interesting. Could this be Human Joke Number 663?
Geordi: Negative, Data. That's a captain's order.

Geordi La Forge: The Tactical and Conn Officer for the Enterprise is blind, but can "see" with a special visor apparatus that was derived from a cheap plastic hair barrette. He's a nerd and impressed Picard by staying up all night to fix a shuttle craft with a minor problem. La Forge's irreverence has been tempered with his responsibilities, but his sense of humor remains strong. His faith in technology and his ability to master it, normally an inspiration to those around him, was shaken slightly with the 2370 discovery that warp drive can harm the fabric of some spatial areas. In his personal life, La Forge is insecure regarding dating and female relationships, although this has lessened with time. LaForge is played by Levar Burton.

(talking about Data training his cat)
Data: Unfortunately, I have been less than successful.
Geordi Laforge: I've got an idea. How about a phaser? A low-stun setting at just the right moment might do the trick.
Data: Geordi, I cannot stun my cat.
Geordi Laforge: I was kidding, Data.

Worf: The Tactical and Conn Officer in season 1, and Chief of Security and Tactical Officer for seasons 2 to 7 is a Klingon who was raised by humans, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, on the planet Gault. His name is "Worf, son of Mogh". Like all Klingons he is obsessed with honor and is courageous and proud. Despite his conflicts over being a Klingon among human and other Federation cultures, he remains loyal to the Federation and its ideals. And he has the respect of the Klingon people due to his defeat of the late Chancellor Gowron in a bat'leth fight. Worf has Klingon and human love interests, marries Jadzia Dax and in 1995 joined the cast of STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine. Worf is played by Michael Dorn.

Data: If the warp drive fails to activate, the results could be... unfortunate.
Worf: Very unfortunate. We will be dead.

Beverly Crusher: The Chief Medical Officer for seasons 1 and 3 to 7 is played by Gates McFadden. She is intelligent, passionate, caring, sensitive, conscientious, ethical, considerate, with a strong will and sense of justice. She is missing from season 2 because of a stage work commitment, and the Star Trek explanation is Crusher was head of Starfleet Medical from 2365 to 2366. Dr. Crusher was married to Jack Crusher who died in an accident on the Stargazer when her son Wesley was 5 years old.

Picard: What is wrong with me ?
Crusher: I wish the hell I knew, Captain. But something unusual has definitely been happening to you.
Picard: Why do doctors always say the obvious as if it's a revelation?
Crusher: Why do captains always act like they are immortal ?

Deanna Troi: The Ship's Counselor is half-Betazoid and half-human. She has some telepathic powers, primarily the ability to sense emotions. Technically she is an extra-sensory empath with clairsentience. Mainly she helps crew members in emotional distress and gives Picard information about the true emotions of others. In "The Loss" (episode 84) her emotions range from anger to fear to helplessness when deprived of her empathic ability by nonsentient two-dimensional lifeforms, becoming the so-called "patient from hell." Dessert is her favorite part of a meal, and one of her favorites is chocolate. Riker is her main love interest, but there are others including Worf. Troi is played by Marina Sirtis as a cheerful, confident, over-emotional busybody who is incapable of minding her own business.

Troi: I sense that you're angry with someone.
Worf: I do not know what you are talking about.
Troi: You're angry with K'Ehleyr because she died and she left you with a son that you didn't know you had.

Wesley Crusher: The teenage son of Dr. Crusher is Conn Officer, an "acting ensign", in seasons 1 to 4. He was given the position by the child-hating Picard because of Wesley's great intelligence. But there is rarely any evidence that he is anything special, he's just a normal teenager. Wesley admitted being afraid of lightning storms and Bulgallian rats, but his greatest fear is whether he would be able to choose among lives in a no-win situation, a choice that led to his father's death. He is a geek with some appeal to young viewers, but is generally disliked by most Star Trek fans. Will Wheaton plays the character.

Wesley Crusher: He wants the impossible.
Geordi Laforge: That's the short definition of "Captain".

Tasha Yar: The Chief of Security and Tactical Officer in Season 1 is human. She is of Ukranian descent, born on Turkana IV, and is killed by Armus on Vagra II in the episode "Skin of Evil". Tasha is played by Denise Crosby as sympathetic, proficient, competent, cool, but somewhat emotional at times. Trained in martial arts and athletics, her favorite pastimes are aikido and Parrises squares, and she participated in ship-board competitions. Having grown up hardened to sentimentality, Tasha usually finds it difficult to express her femininity.

Yar: It is so frustrating to be controlled like this.
Picard: Lieutenant. Tasha, it's all right.
Yar: What in the hell am I doing, crying?
Picard: Don't worry, there's a new ship's standing order on the bridge. When one is in the penalty box, tears are permitted.

Dr. Katherine Pulaski: The Chief Medical Officer for Season 2 is played by Diana Muldaur, who appears in 2 episodes of the original series. Although a regular character, she is always listed in the credits as "Special Guest Star". Pulaski was originally on the USS Repulse. She is fairly traditional, distrusts transporters and androids, and is outgoing, stubborn, brusque, high-spirited, courageous, with a cool bedside manner. Pulaski had been married and divorced three times by the time she joined the Enterpirse crew in 2365.

(Dr. Pulaski complains to Deanna about not getting along with Captain Picard)
Pulaski: He has such a consuming dedication to his ship, he doesn't seem to be able to step back to see the human side of the equation.
(Deanna smiles)
Pulaski: What's the matter?
Troi: Kate--I don't think he'd be where he is if he couldn't see the human side of the equation. Perhaps the two of you aren't all that different.

Miles O'Brien: The Transporter Chief who also does Helm and Tactical work for Seasons 1 to 6 is a non-commissioned officer. He was born in Ireland, is pragmatic, and has a wife and children. O'Brien is often made to suffer on the show, because the producers felt the audience would easily empathize with him. He moved to another TV show, STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine. O'Brien is played by Colm Meaney, who was born in Dublin, Ireland. While filming the episode "The Wounded", there is a scene of O'Brien serving Keiko steak and potatoes for dinner. The potatoes had to get from the spoon to the plate easily, while he continued with the dialogue, moved around, etc. After many takes, it worked, except one small piece of potato bounced off the plate and onto the table. So, Meaney improvised, and quickly popped it in his mouth.
Director: "Cut!"
Meaney: "What was wrong with that?"
Director: "Well, you popped that potato in your mouth."
Meaney: "Yeah, so?"
Director: "Well, you can't do that--see, this is a self-cleaning ship."
Meaney: "I got to it first."

Miles O'Brien: Those are Klingon pain sticks. I once saw one of them used against a two ton Rectyne Monopod. Poor creature jumped five meters at the slightest touch; finally died from excessive cephalic pressures.
Wesley Crusher: You mean...?
Miles O'Brien: That's right. The animal's head exploded like...
Doctor Pulaski: I think that's enough, Chief O'Brien.

Keiko O'Brien: The Botanist in Seasons 4 and 5 is Japanese, married Miles O'Brien, and eventually moved to STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine with him. Her daughters are Molly and Kirayoshi. Keiko is intelligent and committed to her family and career. In 2375, upon the end of the Dominion War in STAR TREK: DS9, Keiko, Molly and Yoshi move to Earth when Miles takes a job as instructor at Starfleet Academy. Keiko is played by Rosalind Chao.

Keiko O'Brien: (during a crisis) I'm going into labor.
Lieutenant Worf: You cannot. This is not a good time, Keiko.
Keiko O'Brien: It's not open for debate. Like it or not, this baby is coming.

Guinan: The Bartender in Season 2 to 6 is a mysterious wise El-Aurian ("Listener") and often gives advice to Picard and other crew members. Guinan is between 500 and 700 years old, has been married 23 times, and borne many children. Apparently she has hidden powers she chooses not to display. She has spoken of "serious trouble" that she escaped thanks to the trust of Picard. In return, he once said, "Guinan is very selective about whom she calls a friend." Guinan is played by Whoppi Goldberg, who asked the producers of TNG for a part in the show because of her fondness for the Uhura character in the original franchise.

Wesley: I'm never gonna feel this way about anyone else.
Guinan: You're right.
Wesley: I didn't expect you to say that.
Guinan: There'll be others. But every time you feel love, it'll be different. Every time it's different.
Wesley: Knowing that doesn't make it any easier.
Guinan: It's not supposed to.

Lwaxana Troi: The Ambassador from Betazed and voice of the computer for seasons 1 to 7 is the mother of Deanna Troi. Her complete title is "Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed". This mostly unappealing character is played by Majel Barrett, wife of Gene Roddenberry, and Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series. She is larger than life, exuberant, loud, flashy, flaky, eccentric, arrogant, and has telepathic abilities.

(after Picard rescues Lwaxana from Daimon Tog)
Lwaxana: Thank you, Jean-Luc. You were most convincing. (purring) You certainly convinced me.
Picard: Mrs. Troi, I'm truly grateful that you risked your life for my people. I'll have you home within hours.
Lwaxana: (provocative tone) Really, that isn't necessary, Captain. I'd love to hear more of that poetry...
Picard: (disentangles himself from Lwaxana) Perhaps another time.
(offers her the captain's chair and walks up to Wesley Crusher)
Picard: Mister Crusher, set course for Betazed. (low voice) Warp Nine.
(Wesley grins and sets the coordinates)

Reg Barclay: The Diagnostic Technician and Systems Engineer in seasons 3 to 7 is a nervous human played by Dwight Schultz. He lacks confidence, has a transporter phobia, is a social misfit, but is a very human and sympathetic character. Barclay has a tendency to spend more time inside the holodeck than in real social situations. He has a crush on Deanna Troi and an inferiority complex about Will Riker.

(after Barclay has managed to raise the shield strength by 300%)
Riker: Mr. Barclay! Everyone's still trying to figure out how you did it.
Barclay: Well, it...it just occurred to me that I could set up a frequency harmonic between the deflector and the shield grid, using the warp field generator as a power flow anti-attenuator, and that, of course, naturally created an amplification of the inherent energy output.
Riker: (clueless) U-huh, I see that...

Q: The immortal creature played by John de Lancy comes aboard the Enterprise now and then to test humanity with silly and often deadly dangerous games. In a way he is like Data, trying to understand the complexity of humanity. He is omnipotent, petulant, mischievous, annoying, mercurial, supremely arrogant, boastful, and unappealing. Q belongs to the Q Continuum, and is a popular recurring character because of his comedic and dramatic chemistry with Picard. He is derived from the "Trelene" character in the original series' episode "The Squire of Gothos". In the TNG eipisode "Deja Q", they had problems filming John DeLancie's nude scene. The director had him in a jockstrap, but couldn't film around the indentations it made in his skin because of the camera's perspective. Finally, he told everyone who was offended by nudity to leave the set, dropped the jock strap, and got the scene in one take. The scene was filmed at 7 am, and the mariachi band scene at midnight.

Q: Temper, temper, Captain.
Picard: Get off my ship.
Q: I do so only because it suits me. But I cannot promise not to appear again.
Q: Humans. I'd have thought by now you would have scampered back to your own little star system.

Q: Jean-Luc, it's wonderful to see you again. How about a big hug?
(puts his feet up on Picard's desk)
Q: Well don't just stand there. Say something.
Picard: Get out of my chair.

There are many other characters, and guest appearances by: DeForrest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Mark Lenard, Stephen Hawking, Ray Walston, Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, Tim Russ, Famke Janssen, Kirsten Dunst, Teri Hatcher, Ashley Judd, David Warner, Ronny Cox, Terry O'Quinn, Paul Winfield, John Tesh, Joe Piscopo, William O. Campbell, Bob Gunton, Carel Struycken, James Cromwell, Walter Gotell, Ben Vereen, Madge Sinclair, Tony Todd, Tom Jackson, Tony Jay, Norman Lloyd, Corbin Bersen, Jean Simmons, Stephen Root, and Mick Fleetwood.

There were 24 directors, most notably Cliff Bole, Les Landau, Winrich Kolbe, Rob Bowman, and Robert Scheerer. Gene Roddenberry gets a writing credit for 176 episodes, but there were 45 writers, notably Ronald D. Moore (27) and Brannon Braga (20). There were 26 producers, most notably Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson. Music is credited to Dennis McCarthy (88 episodes), Ron Jones (42) and Jay Chattaway (42).

The show was shot on 35 mm film with Panavision cameras using Dolby Surround audio, and each epiode cost about $1,500,000 to produce (twice the projected budget). It has lavish production values, has made over $500,000,000 in syndication and merchandising, and is on the list of shows endorsed by the "Viewers for Quality Television". It is just as popular as the original in syndication, but can never surpass it because it merely follows its tradition. However, it is one of the few successful revivals on TV and one of the best TV series produced in the 1980's and 1990's.

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