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Do Over: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Posted June 18, 2012 by Rú Hickson in Ramp Specials
Picard... yeah.

“Tea. Early Grey. Hot.” Captain Picard’s brew of choice and your beverage for the next five or so minutes.

Who doesn’t love Star Trek? About the time your eyes hit the roof of their lids there, you’d have been recalling the camp, deranged nature of one of the most unique, compelling and silly franchises in televised history. None among you have never said “set phasers to…”, nor impersonated William… Shatner’s… DRAMATIC… STACCATO AC…-ting. You read that in his voice too, didn’t you? Every single one of you knows the intro spiel in full. “Space… the final frontier.” Don’t pretend you don’t. Stop looking at us like that.

Original series follow-up, Star Trek: The Next Generation, was based in the mid 24th century, and followed the hapless mishap misadventures of the officers and crew of the USS Enterprise as they travelled throughout the galaxy. Jean-Luc Picard groggily commanded the unintentionally farcical Enterprise D across our TV screens for seven entertainingly ramshackle years, with an overarching story that eventually came full circle. The series began and ended with the omnipotent Q Continuum prosecuting Captain Picard (representing Earth) for all the crimes of humanity, which from the outside could seem a bit harsh. It introduced us to some new antagonists like the vampiric Borg and the sneaky, money-driven Ferengi. After a promisingly ambitious and startling pilot for the show, the second episode featured Bing Crosby’s granddaughter boning an android. Go figure.

For much of the series Picard could be found sitting on his chair at the heart of the bridge of the USS Enterprise, presumably doing very little most of the time. Yes, he’s the man to go to for negotiating trade summits and ending civil wars by quoting Shakespeare, but for the oodles of hours of plain old physics-stomping getting from A-to-B, he essentially had the role of a back seat driver. When not getting assimilated by the Borg (not advisable for a man with an artificial heart) he was getting possessed by an alien, or trapped in the holodeck or turbolift (sometimes with expendable crew members), or chatting up an immortal Whoopi Goldberg (who is also the ship’s entire bar staff), or being Walter Mitty, or being a private detective, or getting kidnapped, or getting killed. A lot.

There’s really an internet-sized amount of trouble when the Captain is involved, and an even more plentiful list of women he’s had sex with. Apparently being the captain of a Federation vessel is good for your mojo. Picard’s personal highlights were when he was being tortured by a sadistic Cardassian in what was freakishly similar to an episode of I’m A Celebrity…, and when he was trapped (surprise!) on a planet with a man who spoke only in metaphors – the frustration from that particular incident could have driven the Dalai Lama into a murderous rage. Honestly, it was like trying to understand a gargling, stoned Yoda.

“At shadow, when coma, Brokeback Mountain starring Genghis Khan.”

Picard’s right-hand man was Commander William T. Riker, a handsome, daring, charming and multiple alleged-but-acquitted rapist. The man was only ever used for the purposes of womanizing; so much so that in the one episode where he was cut off from any kind female contact, temporarily assigned to a male-only Klingon vessel, he became as aggressive and unhelpful as a caffeinated pubescent, the testosterone flying out of his knuckles so rapidly even the Klingons were scared.

In his normal environment, he would stare across the bridge at Counselor Troi with a shit-eating grin on his face and a look that so blatantly said: “See that? If there’s no female guest star this week, I’m totally tapping that. Yeah. Intercourse is what I mean”. It may as well have been scrawled across his beard in deer’s blood. God knows what he saw in her, bar the oft asymmetrically displayed cleavage. Troi: the woman whose character sheet was lovingly and deftly written, then entirely crossed out and burned to a cinder, replaced with the word EMPATHY vomited on a coaster with a combination of lipstick and Crayola. As you may have guessed, Riker had sex with Troi and many other women.

Lieutenant Commander Data was an android and the ship’s pilot. That’s more or less like getting in a car, wrapping a dozen elastic bands around a Robosapien and a game of Mousetrap, and letting it take the wheel for a couple of hours. Data spends the entire seven series’ either bitching about the fact that he wasn’t human, pretending to be Sherlock Holmes, experimenting on his pet cat, watching kettles boil for entertainment, or getting dancing lessons from medical professionals, in case the superhuman strength he possessed could accidentally injure any potential dancing partners. For all the good that did, he frequently used his strength for the purposes of crippling other members of the crew, which arguably would include potential dancing partners. Despite being a legged computer, Data also had sex with many kinky women.

So thank God for Worf. If The Next Generation was It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Worf would be Charlie. There aren’t enough pages in the world to accurately write out how much I love the character of luckless Lieutenant Worf. The Klingon is the most shot down, beaten up, bullied, unfortunate and unlucky man ever to have graced our TV screens. Not an episode went by where he didn’t get his ass handed to him by a new alien threat that mysteriously beamed aboard the Enterprise’s bridge, or more often a shipmate whose mind wasn’t their own and whose body was given enough strength to pummel the poor chief of security (unlucky!). Even Troi regularly shoots opens cans of GBH on Worf, but this somehow makes us all feel a little closer to our big Klingon buddy. Worf gets abducted, electrocuted, abandoned, and infected with every virus imaginable, all with alarming frequency. Once, some aliens even cut off his arms while he was sleeping. Not once was this justified in the show. Throughout seven series, he took more hits than Muhammad Ali, which probably better explains the ridges on his head than his species phenotype.

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Worf was once crushed by falling, unsecured cargo that shattered every bone in his body and crushed most of his organs, but he wasn’t liable to put in an employee claim form because (unlucky!) it’s the future and no one needs money in the Federation. On life support, Worf was given the sum total of bugger-all help from his friends, repeatedly told he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life and that he should just die in peace with dignity (pff!). When he was eventually fixed, it was all laughed off with nary an apology in sight. Worf wasn’t laughing. Over the years, he was told by every other character that he was wrong in Every. Single. Episode. It’s for this reason that Worf is the most likeable character in the show – he may have a gruff, manly exterior, but we all know at heart he’s just a big loser like you and me. Worf never, ever, ever had sex with any women.

The Enterprise’s chief engineer is Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge, a young man from an undefined (or unnamed, or possibly non-existent or now blown-up) country in Africa. Perhaps Africa is now just a country itself. Perhaps it doesn’t actually exist any more. We never find out. Anyway, Geordi’s from there. He’s blind, which, considering his role is the most technically demanding and requires the most attention to detail of all the Enterprise crew, is about on a par with the Robosapien-Mousetrap comparison from earlier. As someone whose eyesight isn’t quite falcon-esque either, I can admire the creators of The Next Generation for promoting the usefulness of a character who would otherwise likely be considered disabled. But, if his visor really allowed him to see better than the other crew members, why not just give one of these magical sight-enhancing optical sensors to everyone on board? Why risk letting a gas leak go unnoticed by Johnny Midshipman, when a simple standard issue 24th century set of Google specs could avoid a potential catastrophe? Geordi was the member of the crew the nerds could best relate to: reliable, smart, overcoming adversity to land his dream job, and completely distant from any kind of relationship with a woman (or man), bar Data who, as has been established, spent the majority of his off-screen downtime seducing any bi-curious women who were boldly boning where no woman had boned before. In his spare time, Geordi liked to read manuals and do voiceovers as Kwame from Captain Planet.

Don't look at his face! It's too smug!

Then we’re left with the Crushers. Wesley, who probably still retains the title of ‘Most Annoying Young Adult Character in TV History’, and ship’s doctor Beverly, his mother. With Troi being about as fascinating as a ¾” washer, the duty of being a strong, interesting female character was given to Dr. Beverly Crusher M.D. Medicine Woman, which is unfortunate considering that Gates McFadden looks like a cross between Rebekah Brooks and Shirley Temple Bar. The interminably smug Wesley was the recipient of much praise for being a child prodigy, regardless of once managing to incur the death penalty for breaking a window. Dr. Crusher’s favourite pastimes included getting kidnapped with Captain Picard and trying to bone Captain Picard.

It escapes me how these individuals listed above managed to put on their trousers one leg at a time in the morning, let alone survive in an uncharted vacuum for seven years, somehow managing to convince a cabal of god-like creatures that they weren’t entirely a waste of time and space. Yet amid all the gaping, gaping personal flaws, terminally poor decision-making and polarity-inverting, one can’t help but be entertained by the incompetent, and frequently maddening, cast of characters. Star Trek: The Next Generation was as paramount to early-evening TV as Buffy or The Simpsons, slotting into the part of your brain that never forgets stuff like how to walk home drunk, or what a Loop The Loop tastes like. The crew of the USS Enterprise successfully managed to circle Uranus and clean up the Klingons without leaving as much as a skidmark.

P.S.: For anyone wondering about the absence of Ireland’s sole space-based ambassador Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney), what do you want me to say? He boned someone and left the show. If you want to read more about his exploits, you’d best wait for a do over of Deep Space 9.

About the Author

Rú Hickson

Despite initial wealth, Ru bankrupted himself by acquiring every existing second-hand copy of Duke Nukem Forever and placing it in a pile he uses for the express purposes of urinating onto and crying over in an unhealthy, but surprisingly therapeutic, downward spiral.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura C

    Ahh Ru. Talk Star Trek to us all of the time.

  • http://www.redlemonade.blogspot.com/ Kitty Catastrophe

    This was just TREMENDOUS.

  • Silas Meek

    *pushes up glasses* Data wasn’t the pilot, he was the chief operations officer, thus you have suffered a catastrophic nerd fail.

  • Colm

    God, I loved Q. I don’t understand why the Catholic Church can stand to have such a bad image when they could just make John de Lancie Pope and win PR forever.

    I’m also pleased to learn that the Enterprise had a COO, and am now wondering where their Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary were hiding all that time.

  • Sinéad

    I loved all of this, but I loved the caption on the picture of Wesley Crusher the most. Smuggy smug smug.

    • Kevin Lehane

      He gets such a bad rap, but they mellowed him out a lot after season one. He had some great episodes, and proved himself a worthy character.

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    I wish Patrick Stewart was my dad.

    • Jennyfoxe

       I wish Q was my Dad that’d be a whole lot more fun.

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSMO-mHfXRk My favourite ever scene from Family Guy. Ever. Ever ever ever. Apart from maybe that time travel one where Stewie and Brian end up inside barber poles. “This is life now for some reason!”

  • Kevin Lehane

    ST: TNG was staggeringly good at times. There are at least fifty episodes of that show which are flawless. Adore it. When it was firing on all cylinders it was years ahead of its time. Christ, just watched Clues and The Drumhead episodes the other day. Both fantastic in different ways.

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