Thursday, March 23, 2017

Episode Review - Encounter at Farpoint (Next Generation, Season 1, Pilot)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Episode Overview – Captain Jean-Luc Picard takes command of the Federation flagship, the USS Enterprise and goes to Farpoint Station to pick up his first officer, William T. Riker, and the rest of his crew as they are about to embark on their exploration mission. Before arriving, the Enterprise encounters the mysterious omnipotent entity known as Q, who puts Picard and his crew on trial for the crimes of humanity.

Episode Score – 8/10. As far as history goes, this was the first Trek episode in almost twenty years. It was great, but because of that there are some weak points to it. Most of the weaknesses in this episode has to do with the notion of everything about the show (the acting, the pacing, they story) as trying to find itself. We can overlook much of that as we were just happy to see new Trek again.

The new crew

Relevance – 3 points. Hey, it’s the pilot episode! Of course it will be relevant. It introduces all major characters, including Q, who will be popping in and out on the Enterprise for the next seven years. We see the first appearance of Colm Meaney as Miles O’Brien. We have the first mention of the Ferengi as a potential enemy. If nothing else, a relevance point would be scored for the pilot and the series finale being the perfect bookends to the entire series.

Continuity – 3 points. Universe, character, and story continuity is all maintained in this episode. Another advantage for being the pilot is that a lot of what is shown is establishing the continuity.

Our introduction to the Chief

Character Development – 3 points. This is a gimme for almost any pilot episode as it introduces us to the new characters, most with a clean slate to work on. We see the diplomatic explorer Jean-Luc Picard who exudes confidence from the opening line. Riker is the up and coming first officer with a stellar record also has a past with the empathic ship’s counsellor, Deanna Troi. Troi shows she is not only in tune with her own emotions but with the emotions of everyone around her. We are introduced to Data, the android who would be human, Beverly Crusher, the devoted chief medical officer, and her genius son Wesley. Geordi gets a minimal treatment as we see more of the abilities of his Visor than much of a glimpse into who he is. Worf is almost an afterthought, but his character will get a fair bit of development in the upcoming seasons, but even in a two hour pilot there is only so much room for the nine main characters.


Social Commentary – 3 points. A new twist on the classic judging-a-book-by-its-cover motif with the secret of Farpoint Station. There is also the idea of being put on trial for the crimes of people who you share a bond with (in this case, the entire human race).

Mystery solved

Cool Factor – 3 points. OK, so there is so much coolness shown in this episode. We have coolness in the technology with the holodeck and the first saucer separation of the Enterprise. We have cool character moments as Q is established as a great nemesis to the crew. Cool factor for having the first physically disabled bridge officer with the blind helmsman, Geordi LaForge. The true nature of the Farpoint station was cool. For me, the coolest part of the entire episode occurs at the halfway point as DeForest Kelley makes his final television appearance as “the Admiral” Leonard McCoy. What a perfect scene, and it serves as an essential bridge between the two generations of the crew. It established a great tradition of having a character from a previous incarnation appear in the pilot of the new series.

Two generations brought together.

Rank – Admiral (23 points). There is no denying that if you are going to watch TNG, you are going to have to watch the pilot. Good news is that it is a strong episode that introduces us to some of the greatest characters in the television history. 

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