Star Trek #1604: The Next Generation

CAPTAIN'S LOG: Picard receives a distress call from Dr. Crusher.

Riker's back with the promise of a TNG reunion.

WHY WE DON'T: Incorrect nostalgia implants.

REVIEW: I first want to talk about Picard's relationship to nostalgia. I made no secret of my feelings about Season 2 and how a focus on nostalgia hampered my enjoyment of it. Season 3 also has moments like that, but it also may be on track to do nostalgia WELL, by making it an overt theme through the whole Frontier Day element, celebrating 250 years since the Enterprise NX-01 was launched, and therefore a big anniversary for Starfleet. That gives the show some license, but it doesn't always wax nostalgic about the RIGHT things. Season 2 already a massive problem referencing Star Trek IV, and here Season 3 starts with a "In the 25th Century" caption just like StarTrek II's. Then uses the boatswain whistle scene from that movie, repeats II's coming out of spacedock moment, and introduces an antagonistic son for Picard. The Titan's refit being "skinned" like a TOS-era ship is silly, and even some of the musical cues are from the original cast movies, which all leads me to conclude the makers of this show are fans of the WRONG FRANCHISE. It's dreadfully annoying when TNG has a long rich history of its own. Picard does much better when it uses the First Contact score (and finally, it jettisons its old, boring opening titles) and riffs on the alternate future of All Good Things. Of course, getting the band back together again was an element of The Motion Picture, and hijacking a ship was core to Star Trek III (though not at all like this), but there are plot elements that can recur (for example, there's a terrorist attack using an incredible weapon, just like in a couple of the Kelvin-timeline movies, or Captain Shaw being a bit like some of the worst captains in the movies). Picard's speech about wanting to live in the present and having a new adventure, even as Laris tells him it's okay to be defined by your past is just very odd considering what the production is doing with the show. It remains to be seen just how self-aware they are.

Now that that's out of the way, it's pretty fun to catch up with some of the TNG crew. Beverly cut off ties with everyone 20 years ago, possibly in part to hide a pregnancy and is now flying around the galaxy in a ramshackle ship with her son, under attack by agents unknown, forcing her to break her long silence and call for help. Strong mystery here. We hear that Geordi works at the Starfleet Museum and don't see him yet, but his daughter "Crash" La Forge helms Riker's old command, the Titan-A (which suggests he lost the first one, because I don't think a refit gets you a new letter). And Riker is along on the adventure, though I'm not keen on his family troubles - Deanna and Kestra deserve better than to be put on the back bench. There's another TNG cast member lurking in the background, but I only caught the clues on the second watch.

Even as Picard dips into the past, it also has trouble with its more RECENT past. All but two characters have been jettisoned from the show at this point: Raffi and Seven. And they're apparently no longer a couple, though that story could be manufactured for Raffi's undercover work. If it's true, it's just another example of the series dropping its own storylines to move on to the next thing. Seven was always cool, so no surprise she's here, though for someone who JUST joined Starfleet proper, having her be the XO of the Titan perhaps raises an eyebrow. Of course, she'll almost immediately ruin her career by helping Picard. As for Raffi, she's probably never been cooler. This is not a character I liked, but her subplot, tracking down a stolen WMD as she navigates an undercover persona, her addiction, and a less-than-helpful handler, is one I was always keen to see more of with every episode. Here, she's too late to stop the terrorists from using the weapon, to calamitous effect. But as long as she's using La Sirena, why not keep Rios around as his batch of holograms? Laris does appear as well, but sadly, she's not along on the voyage. One can't help but think her steadfast support of Picard's mission is a tragic one. Will he come back from his "last adventure"?

And then there's Captain Shaw, who I first took to be a hybrid of the over-cautious Captain Esteban and Excelsior's Captain Styles (both from ST III). He's much more interesting than that. First of all, he's very rude, and he resents the fake inspection of his ship by what he feels are irresponsible space cowboys. He likes order, and the fact that he purged all of Riker's jazz from the data banks tells us loads about both men's styles. But it's more than that. His denial of Seven's chosen name while she's on duty, and jab at Picard for having been Locutus, make him one of those officers who never could trust a former Borg. So he refuses their whims (or ruse) and backs Seven into a corner. She brings the ship to Beverly's coordinates and the risk of losing her career. And though they take a shuttle from there, the appearance of a toothy ship and Beverly's ship being in dire straights isn't going to keep the Titan out of the action for long.

LESSON: The captains and ships we get to watch are Starfleet's exceptions.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Despite some misgivings, you can't help but feel excited at the prospects laid out here.


Surefoot said…
It's ironic that Picard, who in the TV show sneered at the cowboy diplomacy of Kirk and Spock's era, ended up growing old and doing the same, earning the ire of the likes of Shaw.