Weekly Trek – November 21-27, 2016

As this 50th anniversary year winds down, I am spending these last several posts talking about the way the various Star Trek series, both on television and in the movies, ended. 

When Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) premiered in the Fall of 1987, there was a certain amount of skepticism among fans that this new show would measure up to the legacy of the original Star Trek television series.  Yes, Gene Roddenberry was back in charge, but suddenly there was a bald British guy pretending to be a Frenchman (without the accent, fortunately) commanding the ship, the bridge looked like a living room, and they had a Klingon and, even worse, kids on board.  The show’s first two seasons did little to ease these concerns.

But by Season Three, TNG really hit its stride.  Whether or not Gene Roddenberry’s failing health and reduced involvement with the show had anything to do with this is up for debate.  Regardless, the show’s quality improved, and over the ensuing seasons TNG reached a level of popularity TOS never achieved during its original airing. 

Season Seven was to be TNG’s last, but the show was going out on its own terms and at the height of its popularity.  The finale in the Spring of 1994 was not to be the end of the adventures for Captain Picard and his crew, though, since they were moving straight from the series to the movies.  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released three years earlier in 1991, had marked the end of the films with the TOS cast, and now Paramount wanted to hand things off to the TNG crew. 

Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga were tasked with writing both the TNG finale and the subsequent film, and I imagine the pressure was immense.  For the finale, they had to provide a satisfying ending to a massively popular television series while still leaving everything in place for a feature film with those exact same characters.  According to Moore and Braga, they had to write both at the same time and occasionally ended up confusing the two stories in their minds.

Despite those challenges, the resulting episode, “All Good Things…” is fantastic.  In it, Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, finds himself moving back and forth through time from his present (Stardate 47988) to first day on the USS Enterprise-D seven years earlier to a period 25 years in the future.  In each of these time periods, he is faced with the mystery of a spatial anomaly that threatens to destroy everything. 

The scenes in the past do an excellent job of bringing the series full circle, and it’s fun to see Tasha Yar and Miles O’Brien back on the bridge.  As for seeing the first and second season uniforms again…well…it makes you appreciate the newer uniforms that much more.  And the future scenes, other than some dodgy old age makeup on Jonathan Frakes’ William Riker, are nicely done, and it’s enjoyable to see what happened to the members of the command crew.  Data’s future is probably the most fun, but it’s great to see where Dr. Crusher has ended up as well.

I’ve tried to avoid too many spoilers in these posts, but I need to get into that territory here.  If you really don’t want to know anymore, skip this paragraph and don’t read the guest star credits of the episode.  Everyone ok?  Good.  As I implied a moment ago, the opening credits unfortunately give a big spoiler about the source of the mystery by revealing that Q, played by John de Lancie, is in the episode.  I assume Screen Actors Guild rules were involved in this.  In any case, seeing his name pretty much lets you know that the godlike Q is behind all of this somehow.  More than that, though, Q’s appearance helps bookend TNG, since he was in the pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” as well.  His actions then have quite a bit of relevance to the events of “All Good Things…”  And de Lancie is in wonderful form, seeming to relish every bit of dialogue given to his character.  Q later shows up on several episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, but if this had been his final appearance, it would have been a great one to go out on.

While “All Good Things…” does give every member of the main TNG cast their moments, it really is Picard’s episode.  Patrick Stewart is in practically every scene in all three timelines, and he’s particularly good as the older Picard trying desperately to convince his comrades that he isn’t a crazy old man.  The best scene of the episode for me, though, is its last when (and here’s another spoiler) Picard joins the rest of his crew for a poker game.  The universe isn’t at stake.  There’s no great drama and no sad goodbyes.  It’s really just Picard realizing how much these people mean to him as the Enterprise-D sails on to its next adventure. 

The title of the finale may have invoke the phrase “All good things must come to an end,” but Star Trek was far from done.  We would next see the TNG cast in movie theaters along with a few members of the TOS crew in Star Trek Generations that November.  Meanwhile Star Trek continued on television with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which had premiered in January 1993.  DS9 was soon joined by Star Trek: Voyager, which premiered in January 1995 as part of the launch of the United Paramount Network. 

With all of that happening, the mid 1990s were a great time to be a Trekkie.

- Alan Decker

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