Star Trek – The Next Generation (Seasons 1 & 2) Netflix Streaming
Complete Series DVD
Season One DVD | Season Two DVD
Created by Gene Roddenberry
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Whoopi Goldberg, John de Lancie
Originally Broadcast: September 28, 1987
One of the greatest things about Netflix’s streaming service is the immediate accessibility to television series, both old and current, without being interfered with by lame advertisements interrupting your viewing experience. On top of that, there’s also the bonus of watching entire seasons in bulk, demolishing the week-to-week wait. But when we were discussing Star Trek on a recent episode of the Social Blend podcast, I couldn’t help but hop down Nostalgia Avenue for this week’s Netflix Review as well.
Though it would have been desirable to have a review encompassing the series as a whole, trying to squeeze seven whole seasons into one week is an impossible task, so for this week, I decided to jump at the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a curious retrospective experience, and one I recommend taking a shot at.
Tons of you already know the premise. Star Trek, in most (not all) of its incarnations, follows the crew of the Federation starship Enterprise, as it journeys through the cosmos undertaking its mission of exploring the universe. Fundamentally, The Next Generation premise is a carbon copy of the original series, set in the following century (the twenty-fourth), moving the Star Trek mythos forward and, as it was in 1987, opening the franchise to a new audience.
The primary two seasons of The Next Generation focus on the new Enterprise, taking on the same mission of its previous namesake(s). Led by the deified Patrick Stewart playing the role of Captain Picard, along with his first officer Commander Riker, portrayed by Jonathan Frakes, the Enterprise shifts into its exploratory role as it transitions the series into coming up with its own mythos.
I recall viewing Season One way back in the day, and was excited at the premiere episode when it was first broadcast on Aussie TV. It’s interesting in retrospect that during the era when Doctor Who was canceled, that the other side of the pond picked up on the slack of the Sci-Fi zone and revived Star Trek. For some, and perhaps me included, The Next Generation wasn’t just an exciting opportunity for new Science Fiction, but was filling a void left by many of the other series that had been dropped by their producers.
In this day and age, conversely, my reaction to Season One is completely different. While the episodes and stories are still enjoyable, it blew me away at how totally sucky they were. Obviously restricted by budgetary restraints, there are some very conspicuous flubs that occur, and other indicators that show up during viewing that highlight the restrictions cast and crew were under. The only location shooting is done during Episode 8: Justice – all other scenes mostly encompassing “the Away teams” are shot in studios. Boom mics show up at least once in nearly every second episode, and some of the special effects (for its time) are a little dodgy too.
Possibly this is more a criticism of my own age. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned more about the ins-and-outs of film-making experiences, becoming almost obsessed at some stages of following the behind-the-scenes tales of the making of some of my favorite shows and movies. Viewing the first season of TNG now makes me feel like learning all of that stuff was a major disadvantage: noticing these minor issues affected my view of the first season entirely. It was never a problem when I was a kid.
However, noticing these elements is not necessarily a criticism of the series. I’ve long been a defender of Classic Doctor Who, for example, where cast and crew did anything they could to tell the story, even if it meant making a costume out of green-painted bubble wrap. They refused to compromise the substance of the story, and attempted to do their best with what resources they had to deliver the original vision of the storytellers.
The equivalent could be said of Season One for Star Trek: TNG. Clearly, the cast and crew had a high level of dedication to what they had envisioned, and were doing anything to make sure the stories got told.
And their labors paid off. Because Season Two is far superior to Season One, clearly an indication when looking back in hindsight, that their accomplishments bore fruit and were placed in a more fruitful budgetary situation to tell the stories with enhanced resources.
Despite my nitpickings of Season One, however, there are numerous stand out episodes. The opening feature (marked as Episodes one and two), Encounter At Farpoint, lovingly introduces the maddening character of Q (John de Lancie). The Naked Now is a nice retelling and tribute of a classic Original Series story. Skin Of Evil and Conspiracy also stand out as solid episodes, with some excellent writing, creepy monster elements, and memorable performances by the cast.
Alternatively, there are a few stinkers as well. Code Of Honor enables racial stereotypes as much as Angel One embraces the waning sexist sentiments of the time; both episodes standing out as signs of the age in which they were filmed – which is sadly not that long ago when you think about it, and makes me ponder how much further we have to go with regards to racial and sexual stereotypes.
Season Two, on the other hand, is highly enjoyable viewing, with only one episode that stood out to me as absurdity on a pandering level. The season finale, Shades Of Gray, is a pompous flashback montage and collage episode, which would have been a better fit for Happy Days or The Brady Bunch. It’s almost embarrassing to view, with a particularly overacted performance by Marina Sirtis as Troi.
Outside of that one clunker though, the remaining 21 chapters are stellar, with the best episode (for me anyway) being Q Who. This particular installment not only sees the return of de Lancie’s Q, but also features as the debut of the Borg. Surprisingly, for some reason, I had never seen this episode before. I am unsure why – perhaps it was rarely shown on Australian TV; but it was unquestionably a highlight for me to see the first appearance of the Borg. Q’s interactions with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) are also amusing.
Further standout episodes of Season Two include A Matter Of Honor, where Riker is assigned to a Klingon ship; The Royale, which is a very Twilight Zone-esque episode for Star Trek; and Peak Performance, which ought to have been the season finale.
Another installment worth mentioning is feasibly the most critically acclaimed of the series’ early seasons: The Measure of a Man. This episode zones in on the machine vs. man persona of Data, played by Brent Spiner. While Data was a much-loved character from the start, it was this episode that consolidated him as a significant part of the Star Trek universe, underscoring the very values upon which Gene Roddenberry had built the franchise into.
It would be negligent of me to not mention the performances of Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher, Michael Dorn as Worf, and LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge in this review. All three became permanent fixtures in the Star Trek universe; and it is unmistakable as to why when viewing their performances in the first two seasons.
All seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation are available on Netflix Streaming. It is definitely worth a wander down memory lane by jumping into these episodes, especially when reviewing the evolution of the show, and how far the cast and crew came along the way. Add it to your queue, and check out a few episodes every now and then.