I’ve been watching and reading along with this GREAT column about Star Trek; The Next Generation, my favorite tv show. I stumbled upon Tor.com, and a Star Trek TNG Rewatch series by Keith Decandido. Apparently he’s very active in the Trek World – as an author, blogger, etc… Frankly I had never heard of the guy. I never read Star Trek comic books, never read the novels. And, in fact, I don’t much watch any of the other shows besides TNG. I’ve seen them, sure. And who DOESN’T do a Shatner impression? But that said, The Original Series (called TOS in Trek circles) wasn’t on long, and despite some truly fantastic sci-fi ideas (like the Generation Ship in For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky), the poor quality and lack of overarching stories never drew me in.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old (age reveal for those of you who can do math), I sat down with my family and saw the pilot episode of TNG (which was bad, but I was a kid and didn’t know any different) and never stopped watching. Sir Patrick Stewart would go on to inspire me in many ways. I’d go so far as to say THIS is the kind of show that made me want to be in television. It was far enough removed from the real world that I couldn’t necessarily draw any direct parallels with my own life which, at that time, was a fairly closed-in environment in Anchorage, Alaska. But the general morality those people lived by and the positive vision of where humanity would be in the future was very appealing, as I was not super impressed with the way people treated me or one another in school.
So I watched every episode. Every week. Maybe with my step father. Maybe my Mother. Maybe alone. It didn’t matter as long as I got my fix. And it made me feel smart. I remember watching a 2-parter called Chain of Command, wherein Sir Patrick Stewart’s character, Captain Picard, gets captured and tortured in a similar way to a book we were reading in english class: Am obscure little sci-fi book called 1984. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Without anyone knowing, I was getting a supplemental education straight out of pop culture. I was literally growing up with this show.
When I stumbled upon the Rewatch about a month ago, I started rewatching it myself. I’ve watched each episode and then read this guy’s breakdown. The great thing is that there are 7 SEASONS(!!) so its taking a long time. It’s more or less nothing new to me – Though I kept my interest in the show close to the vest as a youth, I’ve seen the entire series probably a couple times over already and basically know everything, save for some interesting behind-the-scenes tid-bits. For example, I didn’t know there was a writer’s strike at the end of Season 1. I’d always assumed they simply didn’t know if the show would be picked-up, and so weren’t TRYING to lay groundwork for future seasons. That is completely wrong. Turns out, they were, in fact, putting story lines together and just had to wing it with incomplete scripts, making the end of the season rife with loose ends.
Anyway, I’m about half way through and I’ve started thinking about which characters I relate to the most. There’s Captain Picard, the leader. Commander Riker, the capable sidekick. Lt. Commander Data, whose desire to be human teaches us what it means to BE human. Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge, the Reading Rainbow. Lt. Worf, consumed with honor and duty. And of course, the WOMEN, who have grown on me over the years. Dr. Crusher, Picard’s near equal. Counselor Troi, the local shrink. And Enseign Ro, the rebel. I’m including her instead of Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher mostly because (sorry Will Wheaton) she doesn’t make me want to throw something at my computer.
To me, it’s obviously Captain Picard who I’d wish to emulate the most. As a youth, he was athletic, studious, and a total ladies man. And at the same time, he was brash, took risks, and ultimately assembled all the pieces of his experience to become a great man. Captain Picard is basically a total badass. He has this way of being patient and picking his spots when it comes to solving mysteries, seeking out new life, negotiating treaties between blood enemies, etc… that lets him take in all the information and see the big picture, often with this sense of poetry and humanity that ultimately defines him. I think he’s just great. But that’s more of a “wish I was like that” than “that’s just like me!”.
I’m not an android, nor am I an engineer, a warrior, or a woman. I’m adept at setting up backup. I grew up in Alaska… raised by a single parent. Can you see where this is going? If you watch, it’s gotta be fairly obvious that I’m talking about Commander Riker. As long as I can remember, I haven’t much cared about Riker one way or the other. I do thoroughly enjoy the way his stiff arms stick uncomfortably out to the sides and his head-cock, persistent and everlasting, makes him totally fun to impersonate. Not quite as fun as using a bad British accent (ps: why do the 24th Century French have no more French accents?) to tell people what to do, though I don’t recommend whipping out your Capt Picard impression out when you get pulled over. By the 3rd Season, he’s grown to be a little less ambitious than he once was. When he found his groove as 1st Officer, it seems like he fell into a little bit of what I call a “comfort trap”. He’s happy, he knows what he wants (even though that changed since before he come on beard the Enterprise D), he’s got a great woman in Troi (who will apparently soon be going through some ridiculous sexual peak as a half-human Betazoid), he plays music on the side, and generally keeps the ship running. Even as I write this stuff down, I feel like I’m describing myself. The only thing is I can’t grow a beard.