Dreaming for a Holodeck. Thoughts on Star Trek: The Next Generation

Our EnterpriseStar Trek: The Next Generation has become comfort food for my soul.

While I always enjoyed the original cast, and even dig the new film series by J.J. Abrams, there was something about the Enterprise D that called to me. I wanted to join that crew. Visit Ten Forward, go on that holodeck. It was the Enterprise I dreamed of.

The show was originally on when I was a kid in high school and I used to collect the episodes on old VHS tapes, stocking them on my bookshelf, as if they were precious treasures; not realizing then that in a few years, videotapes would be nothing more than junk, a lost piece of technology.

Of course, now that is all twenty years ago. The show is off the air for the most part and the cast has moved on as best as they can. Even the universe The Next Generation seemed to fit so snuggly at the top of (being the show that all of the later shows owed some of their success and beginning to) has moved on.

And yet, for me, while the rest of the world is chasing after Captain Kirk again, I am rewatching the show on Netflix. It is more than a homecoming in a way, it is a return to a different time, a different way to look at life. A different me, one that was much younger and dreamed of owning his own holodeck and wanted nothing more than to be assigned to an away mission… no matter how dangerous.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to see Patrick Stewart (The Next Generation’s own Captain Jean Luc Picard) perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I had been a fan of his Shakespeare work for many years; actually he is Claudius in what I think of as one of the greatest Hamlet performances, acting opposite Derek Jacobi as the moody prince. But to see him on stage and over two nights performing two different works (Anthony and Cleopatra and The Tempest)… wow.

The funny thing is that going to the shows you could always pick out the Star Trek fans.

There were even some that wore the t-shirts proudly (even one I saw that was a uniform), not even bothering to hide them under a shirt and tie or under a blazer. I couldn’t help but wonder if they would be experiencing the plays the same way I did, getting lost in the wonderful characters and dialogue of the bard; or would they spend the entire time waiting and hoping that Stewart makes a reference, ever so slight, to that universe of the future.

The show and the age now gone… or should I say beamed away.

The Great CrewWhile I loved the TV show I didn’t feel the same way about the films. The first they did as a crew, Generations, felt very bleak, not having the fun that many of the older crew’s films had. Everything felt like a burden, with each decision having a heavy price.

And while I think First Contact to be a first-rate action science-fiction, the rest gradually got worse and worse. Until my crew (for that is how I feel about TNG as compared to the other shows) ended with a whimper in the film Nemesis… only a glimmer of the star that they were once.

How did such a great show, so incredibly well-written, fall so far? Where was Ronald D. Moore and the rest of the old writing staff? Weren’t they consulted? Even shown the script?

And then the cast- Is this the end they wanted for their adventures? Their time on the Starship Enterprise? As character after character says their own lackluster final goodbye. Even bumping off Data feels like an obvious ripoff of the end of The Wrath of Khan. The show had surpassed the original, but was ending as trite facsimile of it.

As a fan, the overarching problem of the movies (all of them in a way) is that they tried to change the hallmark of the series into something different. That was the big downfall of it, turning our intelligent and introspective heroes into nothing more than common action-adventure seekers. Solving problems with fisticuffs where before all they needed were their minds.

With the creation of J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek series—that creates a new alternative reality for Roddenberry’s creation—we fans are faced with an even bleaker perspective than their first movie. The Next Generation show might never have happened now (might never happen might be more accurate).

In the last movie (Into Darkness), the technology in some ways even seems to surpass what we saw in The Next Generation! (Transporters that can transport anywhere and over vast distances? A ship that can go into an atmosphere and under water? Remember when that was a big deal on the boring Star Trek: Voyager?) Making us even wonder if a character like Data would now be that big a deal.

For all we know, with the destructions over the two films (and there is a lot of destruction in these films), Abrams might have wasted away the ancestors for some of our beloved characters. Making an end to the previous show feel that much hollower.

Yes, Star Trek is a fantasy, but when even the fantasy wipes away with the possibility of it, it is even more an illusion. Turning the glass we look through into that world that much foggier, that much hazier to our imagination… that much less possible.

One of the things that seem to impact me more in this later watching is Lt. Worf and his son, Alexander. Where before (as the teenager) I just dug the Klingon for his more adventurous tales, now I am more intrigued by the decisions he makes as a parent. Taking part in holodeck programs with his son- where his son has decided that his dad has to be the sheriff, the child happy to be little more than a deputy…. A deputy that has to be saved by his dad.

Knowing Deep Space Nine (the show after The Next Generation), and Worf’s time there, his relationship with his son fell apart, and is only briefly mentioned in really one episode. Sadly, showing that the growth he had as a parent dwindled in the years since leaving the Enterprise. A sad falling out for us fans, even though it didn’t really make a dent for the character.

It’s sad the show runners of DS9 didn’t consider that relationship more seriously as they added him to their cast. Of course, Worf was added for his star power and to draw viewers to the war that was going on in the show (DS9 was always more of a soap opera), but a part of his character was lost with that choice.

A few days ago my own son could not get to sleep. He was excited by the approaching weekend and he was five, usually enough of an answer for most stuff that goes on.

I was alone that evening with my wife out, so my son and I went downstairs. I told him we were going to watch Star Trek. For that is what daddy does when he sleeps, I explained. He tiredly seemed to like that idea, and then cuddled against my arm, his droopy eyes blinking slowly as he watched the Enterprise NCC-1701-D sweep across the screen for another adventure in hopefully our future…

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, CoverIf you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my published books? I’ve had three novels published in the last few years, the new A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or Doors and Megan as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!

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9 responses

    • I did like First Contact though…But I agree All Good Things was a great send-off. Did you see the finale of Enterprise where they referenced All Good Things? The episode even stared Deana and Riker (with Data’s voice at one post). That episode was a clear indication of how much everything had fallen apart. I do like the new films, but like I said, it is not really the same. Fun… but different.

      • Yes, I did like First Contact, but I think that movie worked so well because of the supporting cast of Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell and Alice Krige.
        The Abrams movies are great, but I don’t know how they fit within the canon since they exist on an alternate timeline, much like the alternate 1985 in Back to the Future.

  1. Could never get into The Next Generation – too cerebral. Give me Spock’s rare and precious smile and Kirk’s libido.

  2. That’s probably my biggest gripe about taking the franchise back to the Kirk-era (and Enterprise before that): as entertaining as the new films have been, we can’t really explore new concepts without being incongruous with the posted-dated series. Give us something post-Voyager with the air of The Next Generation (and maybe a little of the spunk of the Abrams films), and we’ll have a true successor to Star Trek.

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