Shaftoe’s Guide to Star Trek The Next Generation: Season 1
A friend asked me for my opinions on Star Trek, so naturally I’ve taken to the blog. Because why shouldn’t the world be subjected to my rapid fire reviews of an entire season of a TV show from the late 1980s.
Episodes 1&2: Encounter At Farpoint
Meet the Enterprise-D gang at a time when none of the actors knew what they were doing, and the production team had to pull an old Star Trek Phase 2 script out of cold storage. Q’s court of the post-atomic horror is the best-worst part about the entire episode. *gong gong*
Shaftoe Score: 2 battle-bridges out of 5 Chief O’Briens.
Episode 3: The Naked Now
Remember that episode of TOS where Sulu gets shirtless and we all got the vapours? It’s that episode but with a better budget and 100% more teenagers commandeering the engine room.
Pro: Data and Yar get weird.
Con: Crusher tries to get weird with Picard.
Shaftoe Score: 1 sad Geordi out of 5 first acts of Star Trek porn parodies.
Episode 4: Code of Honor
Racist and sexist: a two-fer. I’m not joking. This episode is a trip to darkest space Africa; it should serve as nothing more than a historical artifact that proves just how white and out of touch Gene’s writing room was in the late 80s.
Shaftoe Score: YOU SHALL HAVE NO VACCINE.
Episode 5: The Last Outpost
The introduction to the Ferengi, and yes, they are supposed to be menacing. There was a time when the TNG writers’ room thought that these hyper-capitalist critiques on Gordon Gekko would be the new big bad. It’s also the first time that TNG sticks the landing on a morality play.
Shaftoe Score: 3.5 licks of a comm badge out of 5 alien snaggle-teeth
Episode 6: Where No One Has Gone Before
There’s some space, and some space madness. An alien tells us that Wesley Crusher is special, thus giving purpose to a largely tedious character. Probably another Star Trek Phase 2 script since groovy good vibes save the day.
Shaftoe Score: 1 tea with Picard’s maman out of 5 cargo bay ballet recitals.
Episode 7: The Lonely Among Us
Holy shit this episode does not hold up in terms of its visuals. I mean, it’s bad. Real bad. The kind of bad you show your children to make them realize how good they’ve got it. It’s also the first time there’s a meaningful A-plot and B-plot in an episode of TNG. It also manages to make the unknowns of space a little more creative than enslaved space jellyfish.
Shaftoe Score: 4 singing Patrick Stewarts out of 5 Sherlock Holmes fanboy moments.
Episode 8: Justice
Clears throat, “SEX PLANET!” THIS IS THE ONE WITH THE SEX PLANET!
What a shame the sex planet is run by a bunch of religious weirdos, who turn their utopia into a Fruitopia. Hedonism takes a back seat to ersatz jurisprudence by the end of the second act. Ultimately, a weak equivocation on the nature of god.
Shaftoe Score: 2 horny Rikers out of 5 horny Worfs.
Episode 9: The Battle
Oh crap, the Ferengi are back again, and now they are recycling sets from the Star Trek movies. There’s about 10 minutes of backstory on Picard’s previous command that gets stretched into a 45 minute story.
Shaftoe Score: 2 fire holograms out of 5 glowing mystery orbs.
Episode 10: Hide and Q
And now Q’s back. Were the writers running out of ideas? Twenty years since TOS went off the air and TNG was recycling characters like late-series Stargate SG-1. Q’s attempts at recruiting Riker into the Q Continuum lead to a first-year philosophy paper on the corrupting nature of absolute power.
Shaftoe Score: 1 Worf growl out of 5 badly dubbed Wesley lines.
Episode 11: Haven
70% an exhausting backstory on Riker and Troi’s on-again-off-again relationship. Spoilers: Riker is a possessive douche. Majel Barrett is a delight, and the only reason to watch this episode.
Shaftoe Score: 2 pouting Rikers out of 5 holy rings of Betazed.
Episode 12: The Big Goodbye
Now look here, see, we’re going to use the holodeck to play out a holo-novel in 1930s America, see. And we’re going to start a long running tradition of holodeck fuck-ups catalyzing stories, see.
It’s noir-ish, I guess. Brave spacemen are almost outsmarted by a character in a novel.
Shaftoe Score: 2 dead one-off characters out of 5 dropped period appropriate dialects.
Episode 13: Datalore
This is the mystery episode that The Big Goodbye wishes it could be. Data’s backstory and his dysfunctional family’s relationship with a space monster is infinitely more interesting than anything seen in any of the other characters to date.
Shaftoe score: 4 math problems out of 5 Brent Spiners.
Episode 14: Angel One
Men ruin everything: the episode. Riker bangs the president of space Themyscira and somehow doesn’t end up on Starfleet’s list of sex pests. I have no idea if Trek’s attempt at feminism ad absurdum / reverse gender oppression works for a modern audience – I suspect not (see: Riker banging planetary leaders on a diplomatic mission).
Shaftoe score: 1.5 man-earings out of 5 notallmens
Episode 15: 11001001
Enshrining a recurring theme within TNG, Riker lets his wiener do the driving and the Enterprise gets stolen. And yet, there are some layers to the writing and a bit of classic Trek charm at hand. Just focus on the story, not the acting.
Shaftoe score: 3.5 high pitched chitters out of 5 jazz bars.
Episode 16: Too Short a Season
Alas, the season keeps going. By this point it’s obvious that Gene’s rule about “no conflict among the series regulars” was creating some serious challenges for storytelling. Thus, the introduction of another TNG stand-by, the corrupt Starfleet Admiral.
Space magic, the herald of Benjamin Button, and some middling whinging about the Prime Directive formed a Voltron without its legs.
Shaftoe Score: 2.5 Captain Pike wheelchairs out of 5 off-screen tension builds.
Episode 17: When the Bough Breaks
Jonathan Frakes shows his super creepy, “I’m really excited” smile in a Wesley-heavy episode about aliens who steal the children that live on the Enterprise. Largely forgettable.
Shaftoe Score: 1 calculus-related temper tantrum out of 5 child actors you will never see again.
Episode 18: Home Soil
Humans are the evil aliens. WHAT A TWIST! Still, it was one of the few times that TNG leaned into being something that might resemble a horror story.
Shaftoe Score: 3.5 ugly bags of mostly water out of 5 laser drills.
Episode 19: Coming of Age
Half a Wesley episode and half a Picard episode. The story is a layup for a longer arc of storytelling that all but died on the vine. Only worth watching as a down payment for a future episode.
Shaftoe Score: 2 teenage actors of 5 fish face monsters.
Episode 20: Heart of Glory
Oh thank fuck for some Klingons. Maybe they’ll spice things up with a Bird of Prey and a bit of the old pew-pew. Maybe? Please.
Three years before the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, this episode attempted to give a little insight into the culture of the Federation’s former Cold War rival. Unfortunately, the episode orbits around a single philosophical question: do you remember the Klingons?
Shaftoe Score: 2.5 disruptor boots out of 5 eyeball howls.
Episode 21: The Arsenal of Freedom
Picard takes the A-plot, and Geordi has the B-plot. There’s no shortage of action, and some mild attempt at commentary on arms dealers. The action is better than the commentary.
Shaftoe Score: 3.5 bleep blorp drones out of 5 smug engineers.
Episode 22: Symbiosis
Drugs are bad, m’kay.
So there’s a planet of drug addicts and a planet of drug dealers. The drug addicts want their drugs and the drug dealers want to fuuuuuuck on a pile of drug addict money.
Shaftoe score: 0 Nancy Reagans out of 5 winners don’t do drugs.
Episode 23: Skin of Evil
Yar gets killed off and Troi spends the episode talking about feelings. Somehow it still manages to be better than Symbiosis.
Shaftoe Score: 1 prop that is legally distinct from Darth Vader out of 5 Alberta oil sands.
Episode 24: We’ll Always Have Paris
The guy who played Sigmund Freud in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure guest stars in a time travel episode that is…fine. It’s fine. There’s a time hole and data fixes the time hole, and there’s a lot of talking about made up science things and it’s fine.
Shaftoe Score: 2.5 Picard ex-girlfriends out of 5 coma grunts.
Episode 25: Conspiracy
Flashback to episode 19, and all is not well in Starfleet. This episode is dripping with potential for some longer-form storytelling. Instead, it wraps with a monster of the week and a dinner scene that will haunt my nightmares forever.
Shaftoe Score: 3.5 neck bulges out of 5 neck tails.
Episode 26: The Neutral Zone
I think there was a writer’s strike happening while this episode was in production because it stinks out loud. The Enterprise finds some assholes from the 20th century in cryogenic suspension. The businessman is angry about his portfolio and the good ol’ boy from the South wants to have a party with Data. Also, there are Romulans, but nothing really happens there.
Shaftoe Score: 1.5 boob tubes out of 5 space Romans.