TNG at 20: Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Spock Gone?

24-Sep-07 4:30 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 3 comments.

It was the best of generations, it was the worst of generations. Finally, after so many years, Star Trek was returning to our homes. The excitement was tangible: the teaser clips showed this wonderful (albeit strange-looking) new Enterprise, one that made Kirk's Enterprise seem like the family runabout. But never mind all that — it was Star Trek!

However, not all was breathless anticipation. All our favorite characters were gone. (Or so we thought!) How could it be Star Trek without Spock? And what on Earth(!) was this rumor that a Klingon was part of the crew!

Nevertheless, when the big night finally arrived, wild horses couldn't have dragged me away from the TV! In the opening sequence, I mourned the loss of the haunting theme from the original series and groaned at the politically correct change to, "Where no one has gone before…" And as the episode progressed, my fears deepened as it turned into the type of episode I always liked least — some omnipotent being ("Q") was playing havoc with the laws of time and space. I wanted science fiction, not fantasy!

But there were highlights, too. It almost brought tears to my eyes when Admiral McCoy came aboard, providing a physical, connecting link to the past. (Little did we know that Spock and Scotty would also reappear.) The new Enterprise was a work of art, much more streamlined than the old model (so very important in the vacuum of space…), though it still suffered from the same inexplicable ability to provide seatbelts for the bridge crew! The computer still had the same wonderful "voice", another link with the past. The computer consoles were beautiful, as was Counselor Cleavage, err, Troi.

Eventually the episode ended, and for all my misgivings about the changes (Data was no Spock!), I knew I would be back next week. Well, mostly. I'm ashamed to admit I missed some of the early episodes, but a strange thing happened as the series progressed. I found I was growing to like the new characters in their own right, and I was enjoying their interactions and personalities. And an even stranger thing happened. My wife, a profoundly non-SF person, was also enjoying the series. (It didn't hurt getting to watch Will Riker each week!) They had managed to make the show appeal to more than just the Trekkies out there.

The rest (of the future of the future) is history. The Next Generation (and the other Star Trek spin-offs) were not the prime-time success in Australia that they were in the USA, leading to unusual broadcast schedules. I was often forced to watch or record episodes at midnight (or later!) — but watch them all I did. I grew to love the show, and like many people I believe it was the best of all the Star Treks. Certainly I grew to feel that the crew members were part of a family, one I was almost a part of myself. I laughed with them, worried for them, and yes, even cried with them. Picard was an outstanding captain — far better than Kirk, IMHO. Worf taught us all about "honor". And Data was a wonderful character for the scriptwriters to "play" with.

But he never did supplant Spock as one of my favorite non-humans of all time.

Peter Watson is old enough to remember watching the original Star Trek at home in Australia in glorious black-and-white. As a software engineer he gets to hang out with other people who know something about Star Trek. Visit his Web site at http://www.peter-watson.net/


Also in the TNG at 20 series:

3 Responses to “TNG at 20: Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Spock Gone?”

  1. Lela adds:

    Star Trek: The Next Generation is my nostalgic favorite of the franchise, but until the Showbits host asked me to contribute a 20th anniversary reflection, I had not given much thought as to why.

    I am old enough to have watched the original Star Trek in real time. As with so much in life, then it was exciting and revolutionary, but in hindsight, it can seem flat if not put in its historical context. And that is why TNG is special for me. Everything was more rounded and fleshed out — characters, set, storylines, etc. It was and is easy to caricature the original series and its crew. Not so much with the others, but there was never, at least for me, as big a leap in substance from one to the next. I enjoyed the original crew. I cared about The Next Generation crew. It was clear the original set was done on a low budget, creative though it was, and that it was — yes — a set; but TNG I was willing to believe took place on an actual space ship. The Star Trek actors were clearly acting. The Next Generation actors were people. Watching Star Trek was observing a television show. Sometimes watching TNG allowed me to become totally involved, as one does with a good book or movie. And — okay, I'll admit it — it didn't hurt that Captain Picard had that dreamy accent!

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  2. peterw adds:

    Lela's description of what made TNG so special certainly struck a chord with me. I almost felt like I could have written the same words myself.

    Well, except for the bit about describing Picard's (admittedly wonderful) accent as "dreamy"! :-)

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  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    Similarly, StarTrek.com compiled other readers' memories of The Next Generation, in response to an editorial the site ran at the beginning of the two-decade anniversary celebrations early in 2007.

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