(Not a review, not a plot summary, contains spoilers)
There’s nothing like settling in with a freshly microwaved Lonely-Man Dinner (I love the little empty compartment in the tray for collecting your tears) and watching some Star Trek: the Next Generation. And where better to start than Encounter at Farpoint. I never really liked the pilot episode of my favorite show, but I’m going to write about it anyway. My dick is too chafed to masturbate anymore, so what else am I going to do?
Encounter at Farpoint begins with Picard doing something not at all contrived for the benefit of the viewer: taking a self-guided tour of his new ship while his previously recorded log neatly sets up the premise for the episode (solve the mystery of Farpoint) and for the entire series (explore the uncharted mass of the Galaxy). He arrives at the bridge, and the first character-to-character dialog of the series takes place. It’s an exchange between Picard and Data, who would become my two favorite characters on the show.
And it’s terrible. This scene perfectly encapsulates what re-watching Encounter at Farpoint is like after having seen the entire series – a painfully awkward and clunky mess being played out by imposters that barely resemble the great characters they would eventually become.
During the exchange, Picard asks: “Data, how can you be programmed with a virtual encyclopedia of human knowledge without knowing a simple word like ‘snoop’?” Yes, thank you Captain, that is a very good question indeed, but it’s a question that should have been asked (and satisfactorily answered) in the writers’ room, not by the lead character on the show. This bit of dialogue illustrates a glaring flaw in Data’s character setup. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having an android on the ship who struggles to fulfill the premise of his design: to emulate humanity. And this character premise pays off throughout the series many times over as we watch Data struggle and grow. And it makes sense that he would often stumble and fail in his attempt to emulate humans. But god fucking damn it, Data is programmed with the sum of human knowledge and “snoop” is a third-grade vocabulary word. God-fucking damn it. He would know what “snoop” means! I can see how he might not fully understand the motivation behind a human behavior like snooping, but that’s different than not knowing the definition of the word. It boggles my mind that the writers could fail to understand this distinction again and again while writing Data’s character. And it’s amazing to me that Picard would explicitly verbalize this flaw in how Data is written, during the very first moments of the series no less, while the people that wrote Picard’s dialogue apparently don’t seem to get it. How the fuck did that happen? Did Patrick Stewart just spontaneously blurt this question out in a moment of pure incredulity during filming and no one noticed?
Okay, deep breath… and just like that, my irritation with this flawed and recurring trend in Data’s character development evaporates. I just can’t stay mad at TNG.
So then inter-dimensional asshole Q appears out of nowhere and challenges Picard to prove that humanity is more than just a bunch of savages. I’ve read that the pilot was originally going to be one (or maybe one-and-a-half) hours long, and the whole Q portion was added to extend the run time to a full two hours. Well, this tacked on material made it feel more like eight hours. After seeing the finished product, I’m picturing the thought process behind the addition of the Q stuff going something like this: “We’ve got to add enough filler to make this thing two hours? Shit. Okay, what do we have so far… a story where the heroes show us what humanity will become in the future, through their actions, while dealing with a crisis. Well, action and narrative are okay I guess, but here’s an exciting idea… what if, in addition to showing the nature of humanity, we had the Captain and Q talk about the nature of humanity, and just keep talking, like on and on and on, just talking and talking and then verbalizing and then describing, like with words and stuff, what humanity is all about, and Q will be all like ‘humanity is bad,’ and then Picard will be all like ‘no, humanity is good,’ just over and over again. People will enjoy that right?” In many future episodes, I loved hearing Picard express his ideas about humanity and all manner of other substantial topics, thanks to thoughtful writing and the always compelling Patrick Stewart. But not even the excellent performances by Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie could save the Picard vs. Q scenes in the pilot.
Before leaving the topic of the Q scenes though, I do have to admit I like those weird little machine-guns wielded by the soldiers in the super-scary-dystopian courtroom. There’s just something really cool and menacing about the blue muzzle flash and sound effect when they fire.
As for the rest of the pilot, there are a few noteworthy moments throughout. For example, when Riker manually performs the saucer-section hookup (for no good reason other than endangering everyone on the ship), it’s fun to watch everyone on the bridge compete over which one of them can achieve the most ridiculously exaggerated display of Riker-worship. Okay already, we get it, he’s the new Kirk, the Big Stud on the show and everyone wants to be him or be fucked by him. Who am I kidding, they all want to be fucked by him. To really hammer the point home, they have Riker thrust the warp-drive section deep into the docking port of the saucer section, gently massaging the Enterprise’s g-spot and causing a ship-wide simultaneous orgasm.
These are actual screen shots of the looks of silent awe displayed by the crew right after the saucer-section hookup, as their Riker-worship boners reach maximum zenith (the text bubbles might be my own addition):
New topic: Picard is a dick in this episode. Later in the series, we would all come to know and love Jean-Luc Picard as the Gandalf of the Star Trek universe. The crew (fellowship) loves him and when he’s around, the shit’s all going to work out in the end. In the pilot though, Picard is just an ass. For example, consider the scene where Picard and Riker have their first private talk of the series, right after the saucer-section hookup. Until this point, we haven’t really seen what Picard is like as a person during a routine day-to-day kind of situation, because he’s been busy dealing with the rather non-routine Q situation. So here is our first glimpse of the real person behind the projected image of his command persona. A show only gets to give each character one such first impression, and what do the writers choose to reveal at this moment so crucial to the world and characters they are building for us? That Picard doesn’t like children, and he wants Riker to make sure no one onboard notices what a dick he is. Seriously? Because he wasn’t unlikable enough already? What the fuck were they thinking?
Next up: the Dr. McCoy and Data scene. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I actually like this scene. Sure, it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, and kind of seems like someone just wanted to shoe-horn in some kind of tie-in with TOS. But despite that, and in complete contrast to the rest of the pilot, this scene feels natural, genuine and has a touch of real human warmth to it.
And then we get to witness the birth of two noteworthy recurring “Worfisms” that pop up again and again throughout the series:
1) Most of what Worf says and does is pretty dumb, forcing the rest of the crew to constantly compensate for his ineptitude or explain to him why he’s wrong.
2) Worf, the great and honorable warrior, is routinely defeated or confounded by weaklings and ordinary object like doors and view screens.
Both of these Worfisms are simultaneously introduced to us as follows: an image of Q suddenly appears on the main bridge view screen, prompting Worf to leap into heroic action, with all the agility of a pregnant manatee, and aim his phaser at the display. With restrained irritation, Picard asks him if he intends to destroy the view screen. Good lord, even my cat eventually figured out that all the stuff he loves to paw at on the TV screen isn’t actually in the room with him.
And so a perfect TNG drinking game is born. This same pattern of Worf’s ineptitude occurs again and again throughout the series. The same type of thing happens with Data a lot too, who often fails to understand even the most basic human behaviors. And yet he’s third in command of the flagship of the Federation? Say what? I know they’re trying to make things interesting by bringing together contrasting characters from a variety of origins. But let’s face it, it makes no sense that Worf or Data would have been promoted to the positions they hold in Starfleet. After the view screen incident, Worf says “I will learn to do better, Sir.” Really? Isn’t that what Starfleet Academy is for?
Shortly thereafter, the pilot episode continues to club the audience over the head with Riker’s dick, as we see his reunion with Troi. It’s excellent how Picard completely fails to notice the two of them silently locking gazes for a really uncomfortable amount of time while they admire each other’s awesome 80’s hair and mentally fuck each other.
For the rest of the episode, Troi is repeatedly so overwhelmed by Riker-lust that she can barely perform her duties during emergency situations, questioning orders that might take her from his side for even a moment, or put him in the slightest danger. Near the end, when Picard is explaining that the Farpoint station and the alien vessel are actually partners, the mere mention of the word “mate” causes Troi to longingly gaze at Commander Tromboner while super-romantic harp music floats through the air.
But apparently, the writers still aren’t quite sure they’ve established the crucial fact that this new version of Trek does indeed still have a Kirk-like stud, and not just a bald, tea-drinking humbug on the command team, because they then subject us to the sight of a crewwoman helping Riker use the ships computer and then checking out his ass as he walks away:
And as if that’s weren’t enough, even Q gets a bit of a Riker-boner (when our heroes are solving the mystery of Farpoint at the end), which really says something, because Q is basically a God. And let’s not overlook how Wesley seems to become increasingly aware of his own vagina every time Riker even looks in his direction, and Data is awed simply by hearing the sound of our great commander whistle. Meanwhile, Picard has a scene with Dr. Crusher where he tries to apologize to her for being a jerk, and only manages to make her feel extremely uncomfortable. So to summarize what we’ve learned about our command team so far:
- Makes everyone feel uncomfortable or intimidated.
- Doesn’t like children.
- Scowls constantly.
- Needlessly risks the life of everyone on board by ordering Riker to perform a manual saucer section hookup, for absolutely no reason at all.
- Deals with hostile entities by trying to bore them to death.
- Orders his first officer to try to make people like him.
- Everyone immediately likes him.
- All guys (and androids) want to be him.
- All women want to fuck him.
- Children idolize him.
- Almost immediately after boarding the Enterprise for the first time, he basically has sex with it.
- Exotic alien hotties across the galaxy harbor undying empathic super-romantic-futuristic space-lust for him because he passed through on shore leave that one time a few years ago.
- The 24th century version of God thinks he’s pretty cool.
Picard = dick.
Riker = Phat-dick.
Personally, I of course relate much more to Riker. Sure, I’ve accomplished nothing with my life and women don’t seem to notice that I exist, but other than that, my life is just like his (minus all the adventure, exploration, and everything else that’s good about his life of course). By the way, did I mention that if you send in 100 Lonely-Man frozen dinner proofs-of-purchase, they ship you a copy of Suicide for Dummies and a used revolver? Just a few more to go and I’m there!
Moving on, I can’t talk about Encounter at Farpoint without at least mentioning the infamous “deep lonely pain” stuff:
And then there’s the equally painful moment when the writers and costume designers hit upon the perfect recipe for making the audience hate a character. They dress Wesley up in the top half of a swamp-monster costume, let him onto the bridge at his Mommy’s insistence, and then after Picard graciously lets him ACTUALLY SIT IN THE CAPTAINS CHAIR, the little douche rudely interrupts the Captain and starts playing with the controls. It’s as if the writers were sensing some buildup of excess hate in the world, and feared that if they couldn’t introduce some kind of perfectly hateable target for everyone to channel their rage into, civilization itself might break down. Through no fault of his own, Wil Weaton suffered the full force of humanities collective hatred, and in doing so helped prevent total anarchy on Earth.
Well, that’s all I have to say about Encounter at Farpoint. It’s got enough amusingly bad moments to make it watchable, but is otherwise pretty awful. It’s amazing that such a great show started like this.