What I Learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s continuing mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no teenage girl in the 90’s-until whenever JJ Abram’s reboot came out had gone before.
I grew up loving Star Trek. Thanks to my father raising me on science fiction, video games and collectibles (he worked trade shows selling hockey cards), my space in the geek universe was firmly cemented from the moment I was born. I had no choice, really, especially considering he bought “me” an NES when I was two-years-old for Christmas. Yes, I know I was an advanced infant, but really: who was he fooling? Along with Sesame Street, I would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation with my father. My parents used to tell me “do your Worf face” and I would scrunch up my forehead ET-style and they would laugh. If that isn’t being raised as a geek, I don’t know what else could be.
1. Can’t find friends or romantic partners in space? Replicate them!
One of my favourite episodes (Hollow Pursuits, Season 03, Episode 21) is where the crew discovered that Lt. Barclay (affectionately known as “Broccoli”) had created a parallel universe in the Holodeck in which they were all characters: Diana was madly in love with Barclay and Riker was shorter than him, which seemed to be what offended Riker the most. Picard, Data and Geordi were the Three Musketeers and Barclay spoke as if he was straight out of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle narrative. When Geordi accidentally interrupts Barclay in the midst of a fencing match with Picard, Barclay is totally ashamed and the rest of the crew reacts accordingly when confronted with this knowledge (ewww, creepy, etc).
I totally understood him as an awkward child and then adolescent. Sometimes because you don’t know how to socialize with people who are more socially apt then you, you end up internalizing your life in somewhat of a fantasy world. I didn’t have many friends, so in my mind Link was my bestie and Peach was my school rival. Eventually this lead to me watching copious amounts of shōjo. And yes, I was that weird, creepy girl drawing pictures of Data instead of listening in math class. Represent.
But ole’ Broccoli isn’t the first person to create a fantasy world and spend just a little bit too much time in it. Riker fell in love with a hologram named Minuet during a takeover of the Enterprise (11001001, Season 1, Episode 15) and was devastated when his beardless self learned that she was programmed by the enemy aliens to keep Riker busy. He is even more devastated when, at the end of the episode, he comes back to the program to find that she has been replaced by a similar Minuet… but not quite his own. Dude, man: how have you come this far? You fell in love with a Hologram in literally under 24-hours, you moron.
2. Riker would make a terrible captain (and an even worse father).
In season 6 of TNG there was a disaster of an episode which involves Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko coming back from an away mission only to find out that they have materialized on the Enterprise as children (Rascals, Season 6, Episode 7). This episode is one of those “oi vey” episodes that you can’t help but love… to hate. Now, I love me some ridiculous TNG episodes (the one where Geordi turns into an alien creature that the crew can only see with ultraviolet light: Identity Crisis, Season 4, Epsiode 18) but this one was so bad. So, so bad.
Within moments of the crew returning and Picard handing over the ship to Riker for an undisclosed period of time while he ponders his future as the Captain of the Enterprise as a child, it takes only minutes for Riker to lose the ship to a crew of Ferengi who had commandeered two Klingon warbirds. Literally, less than ten minutes and he lost the bridge. Are you kidding me?! Ferengi can be annoying, but it is not like they are the Borg! What happened here?!
I mean, seriously, how did Riker work his way up to First Officer in Starfleet? Don’t you have to run basic war scenarios like this in the Academy before you can pass? And six seasons in, Riker himself can’t even handle some bloody Ferengi while Picard contemplates a second childhood for a hot second?!
The most hilarious part of the episode is where mini-Picard throws a tantrum to see his “dad” and the Ferengi guard takes him to see… yep, you guessed it, Riker. The interaction between them is so unintentionally awkward and filled with second-hand embarrassment. There is lots of hugging and at one point mini-Picard accidentally calls Riker “number one”. The two of them glance up to the confused Ferengi guard, and a smiling child-sized Picard exlaims, “Number one… he’s my number one dad!” Cue cheesy smiles and awkward faux-father-faux-son hug.
I actually never really liked Riker. In fact, Riker, Wesley and Troi are my least favourite characters in the series. Riker is such a douche and never gets anything right, is always screwing up when Picard gives him the bridge and is such a jerk to half of the crew. I don’t know why so many people love him. Because, seriously, he is the most inept first officer of all time (and trust me, that is compared to Chakotay from Voyager, which is saying a lot).
3. Nobody Loves Worf
I’ve never understood what Worf’s point was on the Enterprise. I mean, yes, he was the acting security chief but… why? Despite being incredibly competent and qualified for the position everyone constantly ignored him. I recently watched a YouTube Video put together by a fan about how Worf gets denied again and again and again on the Enterprise. The sheer amount of times that Picard, Riker or the rest of the crew have denied Worf’s advice is literally too many times for me to count. The worst part about it is that if they had just listened to Worf, they probably would have avoided failing horribly/getting captured/killing another redshirt/losing a crew member to some sort of space anomaly/etc.
Klingons are probably the most competent species in the Star Trek Universe when it comes to battle tactics. Sure, Worf was raised by human foster parents, but he still participated in the First Rite of Ascension at 15 (reference: The Icarus Factor, Season 2, Episode 14) and honoured that date every year since. He was never prompted to perform the hegh’bat (Klingon ritualistic, honourable suicide) outside of the one time when he became paralyzed (Ethics, Season 5, Episode 16) and, in a subtle way, was probably one of the smarter characters on the show.
The fact that the crew often listened to Wesley “I Am Still Here To Compete With Doogie Howser” Crusher more than Worf is almost mind boggling. That brings me to my next point…
4. If you’re an exceptionally smart youth on the Enterprise-D, you will inspire all the vitriol and rage of an entire fandom!
Before I get into this, I want to make it very clear that I do not like Wil Wheaton. He’s an asshole and has, on many occasions in the past, treated his Star Trek fans like utter crap and talked shit about the cast and crew in interviews. Somehow, thanks to mild internet fame in the blogosphere and a spot on the Guild, he has blossomed into a geek media darling and it is apparently all the rage to love him these days. I think he 100% deserves all of my personal loathing, but what he didn’t deserve was the fandom’s vitriol when he was on TNG.
Wesley was a smart kid, your a-typical 1980’s too-smart-for-his-own-good boy genius. He was constantly annoying the crew on one hand while saving their lives on the other. At one point, Picard is forced to hand over control of the ship to “Acting Captain Wesley Crusher” so that Wesley can buy time for his mother, Dr. Crusher, to create an antidote to a weird intoxicating virus that the crew is suffering from (The Naked Now, Season 1, Episode 3). Sure, he makes things worse at one point but seriously… Acting Captain Wesley Crusher. Acting. Captain. Wesley. Crusher. Say that again three times, now say it slower. It will never feel right, will it?
Wil Wheaton has bitched about the hate mail and crappy treatment he has received from Star Trek fans since he was written off the show. He claimed once at San Diego Comic Con that they probably just hated him because they were jealous (sure, buddy) of a young, smart kid who was successful. My personal opinion is that Wesley Crusher annoyed the crap out of people because he was clearly there as a token “boy wonder” character. In the 80’s way too many series and movies had that overachieving adolescent character (Doogie Howser, Steve Urkel from Family Matters, Richie Alder from Whiz Kids, Chris Knight from Real Genius, etc) and I think the mostly-male fanbase (at the time) felt like the show was patronizing them? Or something? Really, I don’t know.
Wesley Crusher certainly wasn’t my favourite character, but I didn’t hate him with the fire and rage of one-thousand white hot suns like other Trekkies did. Back then, Wil was just a kid. Sure, maybe he was an annoying kid, but he was literally just a child. The wrath of the Neck Beards (note: obviously not all Trekkies are neck beards, but I think it is a good title for those who cared enough to send Wil hate mail) went beyond frightening at some points. And this is coming from someone who has, in jest, titled herself “Wil Wheaton’s #1 Hater”. Dudes, it wasn’t his fault that his character was annoying. He was just doing his job. I hate the guy, too, but I have better things to do with my life than tell some asshole who doesn’t know me that I wish he’d quit acting forever.
5. Everybody loves Picard (even omnipotent beings)!
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise: man of the world, man of the universe and man of
my everybody’s heart. There are regular debates between Trekkies online (and offline too, let’s be real) over which Starship captain is the best captain. It’s pretty obvious that Sisko and Janeway are nowhere near the top of the list, so the contenders are normally Picard and Kirk.
Well, my response to that? Q, bitches! I throw “Q” out there to prove my point the same way extremist Christians throw “the Bible” or “God” out there to prove their’s. The only difference is that mine actually exists in the Star Trek universe! Bam! Oh, just teasing y’all, don’t get your panties in a knot.
Asides from Q appearing on both Deep Space Nine and Voyager a few times, Q had a clear preference toward Picard, letting him defend humanity twice (Encounter, Season 1, Episode 1 & All The Good Things, Season 7, Episode 25). In All The Good Things, once Picard had solved the temporal paradox and essentially saved all of humanity from destruction, Q told Picard that he would always be watching, perhaps dropping in from time to time.
Picard is a real man. He’s courteous, drinks his tea hot, plays the goddamn penny whistle, never lets his crew take his place in rough situations, will stick his neck out for any crew members, loves passionately (I’m looking at you, Beverly), has lived through an entire lifetime in a two-minute timespan (The Inner Light, Season 5, Episode 25), puts up with Wesley Crusher, sings songs during interrogation (Chain of Command Part II, Season 6, Episode 11), and has played multiple historical and fictional characters aboard the Holodeck with gusto!
All in all, Picard > all other Star Trek captains. And sorry, Captain Archer, for not mentioning you once. I like to pretend that Enterprise doesn’t exist (though my love of Scott Bakula makes this difficult).