Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 965

Here’s some very early season one episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation. These ones are easy to identify – Riker has no beard and Tasha Yar is still on the crew.

In Code of Honor, there’s another diplomacy mission, this time with the people of Ligon.

They have a vaccine against a deadly disease that somehow the federation doesn’t have. And when they visit the Enterprise, their leader Lutan is impressed with Tasha Yar as head of security. So much so that he kidnaps her when they leave.

Beverley talks to Picard about Wesley. Patrick Stewart’s reaction when she mentions him is lovely, he’s almost embarrassed, as the last time he met Wesley he banned him from the bridge.

Picard goes down to the planet to ask for the return of Tasha, but Lutan announces that he intends to take Tasha as his wife. His current wife Yareena (Karole Selmon) naturally takes against that, and demands a fight to the death.

This whole episode is designed to explain the Prime Directive. At one point Picard starts lecturing Geordi and Data about the history and importance of the Prime Directive, then stops himself, “I’m sorry, this is becoming a speech.” Deanna says “You’re the Captain, you’re entitled.” and he replies “I’m not entitled to ramble on about something everyone knows.” A nice piece of lampshading, drawing attention to the expositional dialogue, but making it a joke.

It’s also painfully obvious how much this episode is a thin rewrite of the original series episode Amok Time in which it’s Spock who has to fight to the death to satisfy an ancient and stupid code of ‘honor’. The first season of TNG was littered with recycled ideas and some literal rehashes.

But Picard has a plan, and Tasha only has to win the combat, played with a spiky glove on a neon lit platform.

Satisfyingly, it ends with Lutan losing his position of power, but at least he’s got his honour.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 10th October 1990 – 18:00

The next episode here is Where No One Has Gone Before. A starfleet engineer, Kosinski (Stanley Kamel) has come aboard to make modifications to the warp engines, but Riker and chief engineer Argyle think his modifications are gibberish, and they have no effect in simulations.

Kosinski has an alien as his assistant. He talks to Wesley about the experiments, and seems to know more about the modifications than Kosinski seems to. In fact, Kosinski just seems to be spouting technobabble (according to Riker and Arglye) not that the viewer can tell the difference. But he’s a perfect representation of the kind of technologist who doesn’t really know much, but bluffs and bullshits to maintain the illusion of superiority, and everyone is too polite to call him. I’ve worked with people like that in the past.

They run the experiment, which hurls the Enterprise at massive speed out of their galaxy further than any ship has travelled. Wesley notices Kosinski’s assistant phasing in and out as the ship travels, as if the effect is something to do with him.

There’s an attempt to repeat the experiment, which only puts the ship even further out, somewhere that barely looks like space.

The crew start experiencing hallucinations. Tasha has a vision of being back on her colony, being chased by a rape gang. When I first watched this show, I thought ‘rape gang’ was a ludicrous, hyperbolic SF idea of the kind that the sexist writers of the 1950s would come up with. I was very naive in those days.

Wesley tries to tell Riker about the assistant, but Riker just does a ‘Shut Up, Wesley’. At least he sort of apologises later, when the truth about Kosinski and his assistant is revealed.

The assistant says he is a traveller, and has been using Kosinski as a cover so he can travel and experience our universe. He tells Picard that Wesley has some kind of gift, and should be encouraged to study science and engineering.

The traveller manages to return the ship to its home galaxy, but in doing so he phases out of our universe. And the episode ends with Picard making Wesley an acting ensign.

It’s really strange to see how my reaction to this episode has changed. In the 90s, I think I found Wesley a bit irritating, although I don’t think I hated him as much as some people. But now, I find myself quite moved when Picard makes Wesley an acting ensign, and generally rooting for him throughout the episode. I think this is a combination of a few things. I’m a lot older now, but I’m also a father with a son and daughters of my own, so any stories with even proxy father/son relationships strike more of a chord with me. But another thing is how Wil Wheaton has become something of a hero of nerd culture through his activities since TNG, and there was something very satisfying to see Wesley Crusher effectively winning at the internet. So retrospectively, I think this softens my view of the character.

Also, I can now appreciate the fact that the programme did take the trouble to pay off the traveller’s predictions about Wesley when it was time for him to leave the show.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 17th October 1990 – 18:00

The next episode is Lonely Among Us, and there’s more diplomacy for the crew. Two delegations from possible new members of the federation are being transported to the planet Parliament. They don’t like each other. But it’s always nice to see the crew in dress uniforms.

Meanwhile, a spatial anomaly appears, and Worf gets zapped by some energy, and starts behaving oddly.

Soon after, the zappy energy moves into Dr Crusher.

Then it leaves her and enters the computer. After a while, it enters Engineer Singh, but he gets killed by it.

Data starts cosplaying as Sherlock Holmes after a passing remark by Picard.

Then Picard gets zapped. Luckily, he doesn’t die. He orders the ship back to the energy cloud. There, he explains that the energy is a living entity that is trying to return to the cloud, and he intends to beam himself and the energy being into the cloud. Which he does, after zapping the whole bridge crew to stop them preventing him leaving.

But they manage to recover him in the end, of course.

I should give a quick mention of a very early appearance by Colm Meaney, credited here simply as ‘First Security Guard’. It’s not even his first appearance, as he appeared as bridge crew in the pilot, Encounter at Farpoint. But I like Colm Meaney, so I mention it anyway.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 24th October 1990 – 18:00

After this, recording continues for a bit. There’s a trailer for 40 Minutes. Then, the opening minutes of DEF II, with the start of Dance Energy Update when the recording stops.

One comment

  1. Quite a mixture of good and bad in this trio. ‘Code of Honor’ tends to get pinned for being racist, which I didn’t appreciate as a kid; but even if you didn’t write it off on that score, it’s clumsy and ultimately a bit boring.

    ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’ is as good as it gets for the first season, with a strong guest star, some way-out SFX – as you say, it’s nice to see the Enterprise in a *really* remote place that doesn’t even look like space – and the series’ first great two-hander scene, between Patrick Stewart and Eric Menyuk as the Traveller (if memory serves, he auditioned for the part of Data, and the production team were so impressed with him that they cast him for this episode). It’s quite a profound moment when the Traveller opines on music and science being facets of the same thing. It was for me, anyway.

    Like you, I feel rather glad that Wil Wheaton made it work after leaving the show. The character was exceptionally annoying in this first series in particular, but that’s hardly Wheaton’s fault. Frankly, casting could have come up with a lot, lot worse than Wheaton to play Wesley. Even in these early episodes, he’s always competent (in spite of the really ripe lines he gets at times), and towards the end of his run there are some really excellent performances, as in ‘Remember Me’ (another Traveller episode), where his concern for his missing mother is as genuine as you could hope for. My only quibble is that he overplays on occasion in the first season. But it doesn’t occur in every episode, just in some, which makes me wonder if it’s an error of technique at all – in other words, perhaps he’s just paying too close attention to notes from the director or whoever through inexperience.

    ‘Lonely Among Us’, on the other hand, feels like a noble failure – very ponderous and with not enough in the way of intrigue to sustain the story. But as you say, it’s nice to see Colm Meaney doing his thing so early in the series. I’d love to read his autobiography.

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