Review By Liam O Brien, 4.5 out of 5 “Make it so”
With the airwaves seemingly clogged with endless science fiction dross nowadays (Andromeda I mean you) and the new Star Trek show Enterprise underperforming, perhaps its time to reaquante ourselves with an old friend. Star Trek has been around for a long time now, with the countless films and tv shows filling up its vaults, its hard to remember that this didn’t used to be the massive franchise it is now, but a smaller series that filled the evenings of many with science fiction that had the power to excite and enthrall- when Star Trek stories could still be original.
Star Trek: The Next Generation first appeared in 1987, and since then it’s seven seasons and four subsequent films have advanced the characters and kept up the quality. But few will remember the first season or even the poorer second, but they should, because even if the pace changed from season three onwards, the first season was Star Trek at its best- stripped down, simple and well written.
The pilot episode, Encounter At Farpoint does not need a lengthy and pointless spacedock launch, the USS Enterprise-D is in space and that’s what matters. Where is she? Going where no-one has gone before, not fighting wars (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) or attempting to get home (Star Trek: Voyager). This simplistic approach serves TNG well, as the episodes roll by, a new discovery, a new mystery.
The reason this show is so good comes down to solid characters with plenty of room for development, the lack of reliance of SFX (the visuals are pretty poor, the shots of the Enterprise are used over and over and over again each show) very good scripting, and new, fresh ideas that eclipse Kirk and co. The obvious masterstroke is the Holodeck, a device that over seven seasons gave us a chance to see our heroes in settings they would have otherwise never got too.
The characters are all interesting and complex. Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard frankly kicks Kirks doddery old ass, with a gravity and conviction that only a Shakespearean actor could add to the mix. Jonathan Frake’s Commander Riker is instantly likeable, and of course, Brent Spiners Data is simply the best science fiction character ever. The rest of the crew are instantly memorable, and its worth noting that this season is the only one with the legendary Tasha Yar on board as security chief.
The episodes, while some are duds, are on the whole excellent fare, ranging from the brilliant (Skin Of Evil, The Last Outpost, Lonely Among Us, Heart Of Glory) to the piss poor (Haven, The Big Goodbye).
The packaging and the extras are excellent. The featurettes with cast and crew and the Star Trek computer style menu are definite plusses. Overall a very nice set, if a little pricey, but well worth it.
ANY GOOD?: Ok so later seasons did more and went into even deeper territory, but this season was the set up for seven years and four films of Trekking bliss. The characters, the story’s and the superior scripting make this season well worth your cash. Its also worth noting that this season does not end with a cliffhanger ending, so this is a nicely contained 25 odd episodes. As Data would say- fascinating.
FOUR AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE