To Boldly Go: Trollheart's Star Trek Thread

Probably one of the very first science fiction shows I ever watched on TV, Star Trek has remained as relevant and popular as ever, over half a decade since the USS Enterprise struggled across an unrealistic starfield and characters we would come to know and love almost as family beamed into our living rooms through the medium of television. It’s always been my favourite TV science fiction show (or was, till Babylon 5 came along, but that’s another story, and perhaps a subject for another thread in time) so I’d like now to extend a cordial invitation to all, fans and the curious alike, to come with me and

This will include ALL incarnations of the franchise - yes, including the Animated Series! - up to and including both Picard and, if I can get access to them, the very latest, Lower Decks and Prodigy, as well as any others that may crop up in the future. I’ll also be looking at every Star Trek movie made, including those from the “reboot” universe. I will also, over the course of time, read some of the novels and perhaps review them, may look into the various games - basically, anything and everything to do with Star Trek is likely to be here. I’m also considering featuring any tributes, fan shows, projects and even something like The Orville, which, let’s face it, is basically an homage to TNG.

And while someone somewhere else described this as “a series of essays” - something I agree with, admit to and make no apologies for - there should be no sense among readers that they can’t contribute. This is not a closed thread in which I jealously post and guard against infiltrators, far from it: I welcome all comment, debate, argument, suggestions, criticisms and offers of large sums of money for my services. Anyone and everyone can take part, but at the same time nobody is expecting you to. If your bag is just to read and enjoy, then that’s fine too. I’m happy to write till my hands fall off and then source replacement ones. I’ve plenty in this head that needs to get out on the written page, or post, and while I don’t require input from anyone, I always welcome it.

So, whether you’re a reader or a potential contributor, welcome and I hope you find something here to entertain and interest you.

Now, about those docking bay doors? Mister Scott? Now would be a good time…


“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldy go where no man has gone before!”

With these words, not just a television series but a true phenomenon began. The Star Trek franchise is now worth billions of dollars worldwide, and has spawned six sequels and to date fourteen Hollywood movies, as well as countless other tie-ins and spinoffs. The first real television franchise, Star Trek is shown somewhere in the world almost every minute, and there can be few people who have not seen at least one of its incarnations. Even for those who have never experienced it, the words “Kirk”, “Spock” and “Enterprise” all have meaning, and all relate to the programme that redefined television drama, and almost single-handedly gave birth to the era of television science-fiction.

(Gene Roddenberry: the man who started it all)

Before Star Trek, TV was simple: the good guys chased the bad guys, caught them and said something pithy while smiling into the camera. That’s overgeneralising of course, but essentially that was the tried and trusted formula for TV, and it worked whether you had a cop show, a cowboy show, a comedy show or any other sort of show. It was a template, and with a very few exceptions writers wrote within that framework. Then came Star Trek. Rather than just be a chasing-aliens-and-space battles (which was surely not only envisioned but expected by executives when it was pitched to them), this series would take on the issues of the day, make political and social comment and attract far more than the expected geeky teenager audience, with its adherents eventually being academics, teachers, scientists and even astronauts.

Star Trek has become so deeply ingrained in the consciousness of the world that it is now not at all unusual for people to have their first kiss to it, conceive their first child to it, even name the child after a character in it. Weddings can now be full Starfleet affairs, and where this sort of thing would be, and was, looked on as at best weird and at worst sad, these days it is almost acceptable. The poor maligned Trekkies and Trekkers may not quite outnumber the “norms”, but we’re getting there. Star Trek conventions are big business, the actors all get great jobs with voiceovers and sponsorship, and many have received honorary doctorates when, really, they wouldn’t know one end of a microscope from another. But it’s not for what they know that these people have been honoured, it’s for what they were a part of, how Star Trek changed the lives of more people than anyone will ever know. Many Apollo astronauts have cited the programme as a reason they wanted to go into space, while cults and even religions have grown up around the franchise.

I personally would consider myself a semi-hardcore Trekker. I’ve only been to one convention (and that wasn’t anything like I expected) and I don’t own a uniform (at least, not a Star Trek one! ) but I have watched all series and can tell you most of what happens in every episode. I can argue the merits and failings of the Borg, Quark’s bar, Data’s approach to Shakespeare, or any other aspect you wish. I don’t go giving people the Vulcan salute (but I can do it: just) but I do often recall episodes or events in the series that I can use to parallel my own life. I’m certainly not a casual fan, but neither have I built Starfleet Academy in my back garden.

So here I’d like to take the month to look deeply into this amazing creation of one man and try to give you a flavour of what it’s all about. I’ll be looking at episodes from all the main series as well as some of the movies, with articles on various aspects of the show and features on characters. If you haven’t seen the show before this could be a great introduction for you, and don’t be afraid to shout if you have questions.

But mostly I hope just to have fun here, exploring what it is that makes this originally only three-season, seventy-nine episode series such an enduring phenomenon, and why even now, nearly fifty years after its creation, it still has the power to enthrall, thrill and engage us. I should point out that spoilers will abound, so if you’re getting into the series for the first time, be warned as there are major plot revelations all through these articles. There’s no point in my spoilering them, as it would just be impossible, so think carefully before you proceed. I don’t want to be held responsible for anyone’s disappointment later on.

Do be aware I am not covering Enterprise, later Star Trek: Enterprise, for a range of reasons. Mostly because I didn’t watch it all — about half a season I think — and what I did see gave me no hope it would get any better. I was bored by it, and while I can wax critical about Voyager, and it had some awful episodes, I can’t ever really say it bored me on the same consistent level that Enterprise did. I didn’t engage with any of the characters, least of all the captain, and I couldn’t pick out one — unlike the Doctor in Voyager — who could have saved the series for me.

So, to all intents and purposes, although I of course know of it and wouldn’t attempt to deny its existence, Enterprise is not a stop on our, um, trek. If you are a big fan and would like to write about it, drop me a line and I’ll see what we can arrange. Otherwise, don’t expect to see it covered here. It may be mentioned the odd time, but that will be about it. I apologise if you think it was a great series, but if so, then write about it for me here and try to show me how wrong I am. If not, then please just accept it will not be part of these proceedings.

So come with me now, as we beam aboard and begin our journey. As Willie Wonka once famously said, so little to do, so much time. Or something.

But for now, there could be nowhere better or more appropriate to begin than with the very first ever episode.

Ahead, warp factor five. Steady as she goes!


The Star Trek that hit television screens in February 1965 was not the first episode of the series made, that one actually not being aired till twenty years later, because at the time the network believed it was too beyond the limited attention span of the then-television audience to grasp and understand, or, as they put it succinctly, “too cerebral”. The original pilot was rejected and Gene Roddenberry had to go back and rethink, coming up with what would be the “proper” pilot to launch the series that would eventually become a worldwide phenomenon and lead to a global super-franchise the likes of which the world had literally never seen before. Star Trek was probably the first true “brand”, spawning everything from movies to lunchboxes and stickers to novels.

But as every true Trekker knows, “The Cage” is where it’s at. It’s the original, double-length pilot episode and it is so far removed from what the series would later become, and yet retains some elements of the future programme, that it really does deserve to be reviewed first. For those who are unaware, this original pilot featured: no Kirk (gasp!) no Scotty (double gasp!) no McCoy (triple gasp!) and no Spock (all gasped out now!) — well, it did actually feature Spock, but a far different one to the classic character who would emerge as one of the series’s, and science-fiction’s as a whole, most enduring, respected and recognised characters.

Original Pilot: “The Cage”

The USS Enterprise investigates an old radio signal which seems to indicate that a ship, the SS Columbia went down in the Talos system. Or rather, it doesn’t. Its captain, Christopher Pike, seems unconvinced that there could still be survivors down there after eighteen years, and is more concerned with completing his own mission. He tells Science Officer Spock to ignore it and continue on. The Captain is brooding about a recent mission in which some of his crew were killed, others injured, and they are now en route to the Vega colony to seek medical aid for those hurt. He is beginning to doubt his ability to command, and the burden of decision is weighing heavily on his shoulders. He is considering resigning his commission.

However just as he is discussing his options with the ship’s doctor, Spock advises him that they have intercepted a follow-up message which confirms there are survivors on Talos IV, and he is now duty-bound to investigate. They set course for the planet. Once there, they do indeed come across a bunch of survivors, who just happen to have in their number a nubile sexy female, Vina, who leads Pike off on his own, whereupon it becomes clear that everything is an illusion as she and the “survivors” disappear, the rock face opens and from a door set into it emerge three alien beings with bulbous heads. One shoots Pike with a ray of some sort, and before his crew can get to him he is pulled inside the structure. The door remains stubbornly resistant to the phaser blasts the crew direct at it. Spock calls in to advise the ship that they have lost the captain.

Inside, Pike awakes to find he is inside some underground structure and trapped in (say it with me) a cage. He charges the transparent window but it rebuffs him as if it were made of the strongest steel. The three aliens who captured him now appear and communicate with each other telepathically, as they discuss him, and talk about beginning “the experiment” soon. Back on the ship, and against Spock’s better judgement, the female Number One agrees to try blasting the rockface with the ship’s phasers. In a move that would become typical of later episodes, and series, the aliens manipulate Pike’s mind to create a scene out of his memory — the one about which he was agonising on the ship, in which some crew were killed — and provide a female for him to rescue, pitting him against an implacable enemy. Whatever else he is, Pike is not an idiot and realises it’s a construct taken from his mind, but the human survival imperative is so strong that he finds himself fighting, both to protect the girl (who was missing from his original mission) and himself. After all, he doesn’t know how real this could get, or how far his captors are willing to go.

When the simulation ends though, with Pike victorious, the woman is suddenly in the cage with him. She eyes the Talosians a moment before they depart, and then she tries to seduce Pike, saying she can be anyone or anything he wants, but he rebuffs her advances, trying instead to gain some information about his captors. The first obligation of a prisoner is to seduce the woman he’s imprisoned with … oh, sorry. Was reading from the wrong book there. How did Captain Kirk’s Guide to Alien Babes get here? Sorry. I meant of course the obligation is to escape, and this is what he is trying to do.

Oddly enough, Number One and Spock have, instead of using the ship’s phasers from space, transported down a large heavy weapon which they have set up outside the door through which Pike was abducted. Naturally, they have as little success here as they had with their hand weapons. Vina explains that the Talosians used to live on the surface of the planet but that war drove them underground and the surface is only now becoming habitable. They search the galaxy for specimens and lure them here, probe their minds and seem to be interested in procreation (ain’t we all?) but suddenly she starts screaming and vanishes. Pike discovers that strong emotion can overpower or block out the Talosians’ control of him, as they tell him that the girl who shared his cage is real, the only survivor of the ship whose distress call they picked up. Again the Talosians create a scene from Pike’s mind, this time an idyllic fantasy of his dream of retiring, then they change the scenario and she’s an Orion slave girl.

Meanwhile, the landing party from the Enterprise finds that only the two women — a yeoman and Number One — are allowed transport down, and these two find themselves in the cage with Pike. The Talosians now tell him he has a choice of three women to breed with, including the original one. Pike fills his mind with dark images but still can’t break out of the cage. On the Enterprise Spock prepares to leave but finds that all power appears to have failed, and they are going nowhere. When Pike manages to get the drop on one of the Talosians he is told that they will destroy the Enterprise if he does not let him go, but he gambles that “you’re too intelligent to kill for no reason”, and indeed the scientific nature of the beings is proven to triumph, as they allow, under duress, Pike to see that the “hand-lasers” not working was just an illusion: a hole has been blasted in the wall after all. They head out.

Once on the surface of the planet they are told that the Talosians wish them to begin reclaiming the planet, Pike fathering a race who will exist to serve the aliens and make the planet a home for them again. The captain bargains with their captor: send his two crewmembers back to the ship, and assure its safety, and he will remain behind with Vina. But Number One has other ideas, and sets her phaser to overload, willing to kill them all rather than be part of bringing up a race of slave humans. When the Talosians assimilate the records of the Enterprise and learn of humanity’s hatred for captivity they decide that they are unsuitable for their purposes, and allow the humans to leave.

Vina, however, is condemned to remain on the planet; her beauty is an illusion. The Talosians reconstructed her from the crash, but had no model to go from and so she is, shall we say, less than pretty? If she leaves, the illusion will be broken. The Talosians allow her to regain her beauty through the illusion, and also give her an illusory Pike to spend her days with. The crew leave the planet and head off into space. And back to the dole. :grinning:


Doctor: “You’re tired.”
Pike: “You bet I’m tired! I’m tired of being responsible for 203 lives, tired of deciding which mission is too risky and which isn’t, and who goes on a landing party, and who lives and who dies.”

Pike: “Now you’re beginning to sound more like a doctor, bartender.”
Doctor: “We both get the same sort of customers, the living and the dying.”

Pike: “She does a good enough job, it’s just that I can’t get used to a woman on the bridge. Oh, sorry Lieutenant!” (Looking at his Number One, who arches her eyebrow coldly). “You’re different, of course!”

Survivor: “This is Vina. Her parents are dead. She was born almost as we crashed.”
(That must have been a tough childbirth!)

Alien I: “It appears, Magistrate, that the specimen’s intelligence is shockingly limited”
Magistrate: “This is no surprise, as its vessel was baited here so easily with a simple simulated message. As you can read in its thoughts, it is only now beginning to realise that the survivors’ encampment was a simple illusion that we placed in their minds.”

Vina: “When dreams become more important than reality, you give up travelling, building, creating, you even forget how to operate the machines left behind by your ancestors.”

Vina: “He doesn’t need you. He’s already chosen me.”
Yeoman: “Chosen her? For what? I don’t understand!”
Vina: “Now there’s a fine choice for intelligent offspring!”
Yeoman: “Offspring? As in children?”
Number One: “Offspring, as in, he’s Adam? Is that it?”
Vina: “You’re no better choice. They’d have more luck crossing him with a computer!”

Yeoman: “Sir? I was just wondering, just curious: who would have been Eve?”


Well, obviously. This episode doesn’t really tie in with the rest of the Star Trek canon, though it would be revisited in the first season for an episode that would tie up the loose ends and bring Pike back, albeit much older and played by another actor. But there are so many changes here that occurred between this episode and the next, the true pilot for the series, that it’s almost self-defeating to list them. Among the important ones though are:

Pike was replaced of course by Kirk.

Spock was played and written in a far less excitable manner (yeah, seriously: you want to see Spock as you’ve never seen him before? Check this episode out!) and made much cooler and logical. He was also made Kirk’s second in command.

None of the crew apart from Spock (and to some degree Number One, though in a different role) survive the pilot and are completely rewritten and recast for the next episode. I don’t mean they die: nobody does, but they are considered surplus to requirements and all kicked off the show. How they must feel like the guy who left the Beatles, or the guy who refused to sign The Rolling Stones!

The red alert sound was fixed; here it sounds like a mouse laughing.

The crew complement began at 203 but eventually settled at around 450.

The word “phaser” has yet to be coined: here, the weapons are “hand lasers”.

The main propulsion is called “hyperdrive”, with the factor called “time warp” (don’t! Just don’t, okay?) and the backup system, rather than being impulse power as it would soon come to be known as, is simply referred to as “rockets”.

Some things never change

There are those facets of the show however which were carried forward. Though Roddenberry would struggle for several episodes — almost right through the first season, in fact — to decide what to call headquarters (from “Space Command” to “Star Control” and so on, till he eventually settled on “Starfleet Command”) he had the idea of “M” class planets here, a planet with a breathable atmosphere, though that may have come from astrophysics, I don’t know. But it is a designation that was carried not only through Star Trek, but the rest of the franchise over the decades.

Interestingly, the word “Engage!” is used for the first time here, and would not be uttered again for another thirty years. When Kirk ordered a course, he just said “Ahead, Warp Factor 5” or whatever. It wasn’t until Picard arrived in Star Trek: The Next Generation that he began using the phrase to execute the command. I wonder why they initially dropped it, when it later became so popular? Perhaps Roddenberry was anxious to sever as many ties with the original, rejected pilot as possible.

Even in this first episode, they used the term “landing party” to refer to a group of the crew who would transport down to a planet and explore.

Personal notes

I feel (though of course I don’t know) that this show may have been the first to begin, what is the word ? Can’t remember, but basically the story is already well established as the episode opens, with some of the action which may impact on this episode already having taken place. For the American TV audiences of the late 1960s this must indeed have been “cerebral”, confusing even: did we miss an episode? What’s this thing he’s talking about, where people died? He’s going to retire? The show has only begun! And so on.

It’s a bold move - some shows, even now, have done this but usually end up throwing a “48 Hours (or fill in time period as appropriate) earlier” thing which then goes on to explain what happened previously. This show does not. You’re not given any clue as to what Pike is agonising about (there’s a teaser when the Talosians use his memory to recreate part of the mission, but other than that, nothing) and you quickly must get used to the idea that this may be a show where you have to (gasp!) think for yourself, that everything will not be spoon-fed to you and that possibly everything may not be tied up in a neat bow at the end.

Welcome to the dawn of true drama television.

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Yes, the Trek universe was chock-full of them. You couldn’t move without bumping into an Andorian or annoying a Klingon, and that spot of light on the wall could be a malevolent intelligence from a far distant galaxy. Here, there’s a mixture of decent and quite crappy aliens.

Talosians: The aliens who lured the Enterprise here, and who capture and experiment on Pike, are good for the time. They’re much taller than humans, have large heads somewhat akin to lightbulbs and their gigantic brains are laced with a tracery of veins which can be seen from the outside. They also communicate telepathically, something which I think was a first for science-fiction, at least on TV, and they have such low regard for Pike that they view him as something less than a lab rat. They’re cleverly made up too, that their flowing robes cover their feet and so when they move they seem almost to glide.

(um, never named I think?): The enemy Pike faces in the dreamworld, however, is pathetic, nothing more than a tall man with a beard and some blacked-out teeth. Oooh! Scary!

Reasons not to be cheerful!

So why did the pilot fail? What was it that led to the network rejecting it, and what was it in the second one that caught their interest? You’d have to say that a lot of it lies in the characterisation, or I should say, lack of it. The main thing here is that you can’t really care about anyone, from the captain down to the annoying Happy Days-like navigator. Nobody interacts with anyone. Nobody seems to be related or have anything to do with anyone. Number One is cold, almost mannish, obviously fiercely defending what we can assume to be the first, perhaps only, position of a female second-in-command on a starship, if what Pike says is true. The Doctor seems more interested in getting the captain drunk, and even Spock is hard to care about, though you can see his leadership qualities beginning to surface even this early.

And what of Pike? He plays the role so straight-laced, so lantern-jawed and with a constant scowl of derision on his face that you sort of hope he gets killed. There’s nothing attractive about him: oh, as a man I guess he’s handsome and strong, but there’s no … charisma about him. It’s hard to believe that this is a man whom others would follow into battle, and his self-doubt about his own position does nothing to endear him to us, unlike Benjamin Sisko in the pilot of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 decades later. He never smiles, he never relaxes, he never seems to be “off”. His commands are given with an almost scathing authority, like a sergeant major, whereas when Kirk, later, commands, it always seems like his crew are happy to oblige. It’s their job, their duty, yes, but they always seem like it’s no trouble and there’s no resentment there. Pike, to me, does not carry the mantle of authority on his shoulders in the same easy, affable way that Shatner as Kirk would later. Even when Vina vanishes, screaming of being punished, his eyes betray barely a flicker of emotion. He doesn’t shout “Leave her alone! Take me!” as we know Jim Kirk would in his place. To be honest, the only time we see him show any genuine emotion is when the Talosians punish him, making him feel like he is on fire.

But it’s not just the cast, though they really are not up to this task at all. The story, too, is a little hard to follow, or would have been, for audiences spoonfed on the likes of I Love Lucy, Dragnet and The High Chaperral, series that really required little or no thought, and in which everything that needed to be explained was explained. If Little Joe went off the Ponderosa to track down Indians, you knew what he was doing. If Lucy got in an argument with a traffic cop, it was simple and straightforward. But here, not only does Roddenberry begin in the middle, as it were — the Enterprise is supposedly heading home after a disastrous mission — he spends no time introducing the characters, even naming many of them, and expects us to know who they are. Who is the guy in the Happy Days hair? Who is the doctor? Nobody knows. Or, indeed, cares.

Then he brings in the idea of telepathy and humans being used as experimental animals. It would have been a hard concept for the American television audiences of the sixties to grasp, and though he tries to explain it through Pike, Jeffrey Hunter just does not possess the screen magnetism to make people listen to him. Though he’s the central character, most of the time he seems to be almost muttering to himself, and his facial expressions don’t help; this is not the face of a man you really want to listen to, much less trust. He’s also way too All-American-Blue-Eyed-Boy. When the girl offers to “become anything, be anyone” he wants, he stands there, jaw jutting out so far you could build a pier on it, eyes steely and straight, rejecting the idea out of hand. He doesn’t even consider it. What man would not, if even for a moment, waver in the face of such fantasy? But Pike is untouchable, unreachable, cold and hard and unflinching, and he is not as other men. Now, put Kirk in that situation…

Look at Spock too. When he realises there is no way to get down to the planet, does he put that superior Vulcan mind into overdrive? No. He decides to bail on the captain and first officer, and tries to run. He rationalises it as “the safety of this ship is paramount”, but isn’t this a case of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”? Yeah, but Spock, the Spock we came to know, would never abandon his captain, at least, not without a plan to return and save him. Again, Spock gives no indication that he has any friendship with Pike, that he cares about him any more than any other member of the crew. And if these people don’t care for each other, how can we be expected to care for them? This is something Roddenberry addresses quickly in the “re-pilot”: from the off, we see not crewmembers but friends, not subordinates but comrades. Kirk genuinely cares for his crew, and they respect and admire him. Pike? He can just fuck off: nobody cares, including me.


Even after the failure of the first pilot, fame could have been Jeffrey Hunter’s for the taking. I personally think his wooden acting in this pilot should have precluded him from any future episodes, but it turns out that he was required to reprise the role should the network pick up the series. As they rejected it though, he was not expected to take the role in the second, more successful pilot which led to the series being taken up. Although Roddenberry was said to have no animosity towards Hunter, the wife of the man who could have been Kirk seems to have been the main obstacle standing in his way, declaring haughtily “Jeffrey Hunter is a film actor: he does not do television!” Stupid bint by that single statement deprived her husband of what could have been, in effect, immortality. Who does not, after all, recognise the name James Kirk?

But Hunter stuck to his guns and, even though he went against his wife’s wishes a year later and wrote a pilot for another thriller series which the network passed on, he ended up with parts in mostly foreign B-movies, (though he did play the ultimate role, that of Jesus in King of Kings, in which he was, I have to admit, quite excellent - but then, how can you fuck up playing Jesus Christ really?) and he died in 1969, just as the series he had initially helped to get off the ground, if stumblingly, was beginning to find its space legs. It’s ironic that, had he sat for the second pilot, it too may have been rejected and Star Trek never been, as I really feel that much of the antipathy directed towards the pilot was down to his mechanical, deadpan acting, something that belonged more in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers morning television serials of the thirties, as well as perhaps western series and some detective ones. Emotion was what eventually brought Star Trek to life and allowed it to stand out from its peers, and become the colossus it did. Jeffrey Hunter was not to be part of that, and though we can feel sorry for him for having missed what was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity, I personally can’t say I’m sorry, as I felt he brought nothing to the role.

In what could have been a blunder of monumental proportions, the network advised Roddenberry to “get rid of the guy with the ears”, little realising that it would be Spock who would come to crystallise the idea of Star Trek and represent the series, as Nimoy grew into his rewritten role and became not only the new captain’s indispensable right-hand man, but also his fast friend. Star Trek without Spock would have been good, but with the Vulcan it was great and destined to become a true classic.


One of the core differences between Star Trek and other series at the time was Roddenberry’s intent of delivering important social and political messages through the medium of his show. Although his view of the future turned out to be a little too Utopian, too rose-tinged for reality — as later partially addressed by its successor series, The Next Generation and more widely by its descendant, Deep Space 9 — he did channel some important messages, such as the need to resist tyrants, the importance of keeping one’s integrity and a basic compassion for all life, no matter its race or colour.

Which makes it all the stranger that here, it is the reliance on strong, brutal, primitive emotions that proves to be the one weapon the Talosians cannot control. When Pike fills his mind with images of hate, murder, anger, he can block the telepathic influence of his captors. This leads, to me anyway, to an uncomfortable conclusion: that the more primitive emotions are what make man unique and help him survive, and there’s no doubting that: timid cavemen did not last long. But in this enlightened future (I believe no time is specified, but we know from later episodes that the series takes place in the 22nd century) you would expect such imperatives to be less, not more important. As a matter of fact, Roddenberry and his writers would address this, or I should say redress it, in season three’s Day of the Dove, where a malevolent alien intelligence, intent on pitting the humans against their enemies and each other, finds itself defeated by … laughter.

That’s more like it.


What makes a good series? Decent writing, good plots, good dialogue, yes all of these. But if you don’t have characters people can engage with then you may as well call it a day, as the original pilot for TOS found out. Here I’ll be dipping into the series (all of them) and sketching a brief outline of characters, some major, some minor, but all integral to the success of each show and the franchise as a whole.

Name: Worf, son of Mogh

Race: Klingon

Born: Quo’nos

Assignment: NCC-1701D as Security and Tactical Chief, then Deep Space 9 as Chief of Operations and later Executive Officer of the Defiant.

Marital status: Widowed

Family: Mogh (Father, deceased), Sergey Rozhenko (Foster father), Helena Rozhenko (Foster mother), Kurn (brother), K’Ehleyr (Mate, deceased), Alexander (son), Jadzia Dax (Wife, deceased)

Important episodes: (TNG) Heart of Glory, The Emissary, Birthright, Sins of the Father, Redemption, Reunion, Rightful Heir (DS9) The Way of the Warrior, The Sword of Kahless, Sons of Mogh, Broken Link, Apocalypse Rising, Favor the Bold, Sacrifice of Angels, Looking for Par’Mach In All the Wrong Places, You Are Cordially Invited…, Change of Heart, Tears of the Prophets, Shadows and Symbols, Tacking Into the Wind

After his parents were killed in the Romulan attack on the Khitomer outpost, Worf was taken in by a human Starfleet officer and his wife, who treated him as their own child and brought him up on their home planet. As they were human, Worf learned a lot about the race and when it came time to choose his career decided to enlist in Starfleet, as a way of repaying the agency by which his life had been saved. In this, he was making history, as no Klingon had ever, or has ever since, served in Starfleet. This would however put him on something of a collision course with his own people, for although Sarek opposed Spock’s joining Starfleet, and made no bones about letting his son know of his displeasure, Worf’s father was dead and his foster father supported his decision. However, to the rest of his kind he was the closest thing to a traitor, or at least not fit to be among them, serving with the race against whom the Klingons had struggled for over seventy years.

Worf begins his tour of duty on Captain Picard’s USS Enterprise, where he is the tactical officer, but on the death of Lieutenant Tasha Yar in “Skin of Evil” he is promoted to Security Chief, a post he holds until he is transferred to Deep Space 9, initially temporarily but the posting turns out to be permanent. Worf has romantic liaisons on the Enterprise, firstly with his mate, K’Ehleyr, with whom he had fathered their son, Alexander, and later with Deanna Troi after K’Ehleyr’s death. When he is injured and paralysed, he asks Deanna to look after his son, intending to take his own life. After he survives an experimental procedure that completely restores his health (yawn!) he becomes romantically involved with Deanna, realising he has feelings for her. He requests Riker’s permission to court her, believing that anything else would be dishonourable to him, his friend and Deanna. He ends this relationship when he is reassigned.

Worf often finds it hard to fit in, being dour and unsmiling as a Klingon and finding human humour, like Data, hard to comprehend and thus to join in with. He is befriended by Guinan, the ship’s bartender, who introduces him to prune juice, a beverage he consumes for the rest of his life, and tries to make him laugh. She’s very annoying. On Deep Space 9 he meets Jadzia Dax, who quickly becomes his next conquest (“She is glorious!”) and in fact puts her before his duty later, when her life is in danger and to save her he must abandon his mission. Defending his father’s honour when Mogh is accused of being a traitor, Worf accepts “discommodation” to preserve the empire. This means that he is shunned by every Klingon; even his own brother must turn his back on him. Some time later he is able to redress the situation and is accepted back into the fold. He eventually leaves Starfleet, taking up his new position as Federation ambassador to Quo’nos.

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Being a science-fiction and space exploration series, Star Trek is of course home to many varied and interesting alien races, all of whom have to come from somewhere, so in this section I’ll be giving you the ten-dollar tour of some of the worlds in the Trekverse.

Name: Ferenginar

Alignment: Neutral

Home to: Ferengi race

Capital City: Ferenginar

Orbital Star: Ventarus Idrilon, M-class

If there is one place in the world where it rains more than in Ireland, it’s the Ferengi homeworld. Torrential rains teem down both night and day, necessitating the building of domes to prevent its inhabitants drowning. The constant lash and patter of rain is a sound so endemic to Ferenginar that those who live there probably don’t even hear it, fading into the background, and when they leave their home planet it must come as something of a shock to see worlds that are dry. The damp, dreary, dismal atmosphere on the planet is pretty much well suited to a people whose lives are ruled by figures, profit and loss, calculations and money matters. The Ferengi are a sort of cross between a race of accountants and entrepreneurs, and the miserable weather on Ferenginar is most likely part of the reason many of them leave to seek opportunities beyond their home planet.

The biggest and most imposing and well-known landmark on Ferenginar is The Tower of Commerce. It stands high above any other buildings in the centre of the Sacred Marketplace, and is where all official business is conducted, and also where the ruler of the planet, the Grand Nagus, dispenses financial advice and makes the laws that govern the planet. It is home too to the offices of the Ferengi Commerce Authority, the FCA, who must approve or ban any business venture undertaken by a Ferengi, with the requisite cut for them of course. The Tower has also been used as a place of execution, with offenders taken to the roof and thrown off.

Other landmarks include The Nagal Residence, the palatial home of the Grand Nagus, Mount Tubatuba, a volcano and the Vorp Memorial, a monument to Vorp, one of the planet’s greatest and most tragic innovators. Other than that most of the planet is unremarkable, consisting of mostly swamps, rotting vegetation and rivers of muck. Nice place!

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Even the best show ever written is bound to have one or two bad episodes, and with hundreds of episodes between all the series, Star Trek has certainly seen some total turkeys over its run. Here I’ll be presenting a few; I had intended originally to make a toplist, but sure I can’t tell if “Spirit Folk” is worse than “The Omega Glory”, or if “Fascination” trumps “Masks” in absurdity and bad writing, so I’ll just list them in no order. I will however rate them, the usual one to five, with in this instance five being the worst possible and one being mildly bad. To illustrate this, I’ll be using icons of one of the most disliked Star Trek characters ever.

Title: “Starship Mine”

Series: TNG

Season: Six

Writer(s): Morgan Grendel

Main character(s): Picard

Plot: Picard has to go all Die Hard to save his ship from terrorists. No, really.

There’s nothing terribly wrong about this episode, compared to many of the others that will populate this section, but at its heart this is Die Hard in space. Well, spacedock. While the rest of the crew are attending a lavish reception (sound familiar?) Picard returns to his ship, which is being decontaminated, and finds that a group of terrorists are using the opportunity to harvest the chemical from the ship’s engines to make into bombs and sell to the highest bidder.

Lord preserve us! It’s an all-action episode to be sure, but really, it’s far below what TNG was capable of and with a few tweaks it could have been on Criminal Minds, NCIS or any other action cop show. It does give Picard a central role, which he did not always have, and a chance to action-hero it up, but the rest of the crew being held hostage while he does his thing is just way too close to every Bruce Willis movie you’ve ever seen to be forgiven.

It’s odd, too, because the episode was written by Morgan Grendel, who penned the superlative “The Inner Light” for the previous season. Maybe working on Nash Bridges, 21 Jump Street and Law and Order affected him more than he would like to admit!

The episode is marked by the first ever appearance of Tim Russ as one of the terrorists, who would go on to become Tuvok later in VOY. But nobody cares about that.


Title: “Explorers”

Series: DS9

Season: Three

Writer(s): Rene Echevarria and Hilary J. Bader

Main character(s): Sisko and Jake

Plot: Sisko decides to see if the ancient Bajorans were able to harness the energy of solar wind power to YAWWWNNNN (sorry, sorry) um, sail across the stars.

Yeah, the above says it all really. Wanting to bond with his son, believing they aren’t spending enough time together Sisko works on an exact duplicate of the solar ship the ancient Bajorans apparently used to sail between planets. He wants to see if it’s possible, and Jake, having a brain and something of a life, is reluctant to accompany him. It’s very much a character-driven episode, but whereas these can be really well written and deep, this is, well, not. It’s like that one where Wesley has to spend hours inside a shuttlecraft with Picard, and they get to know each other better. Really, who gives a shit? We want conflict, space battle, aliens, political upheaval, not two boring bastards having a family moment as they drift across space.

Nothing happens in the episode. Literally. Nothing. Whereas they could have been attacked, or discovered a new moon, or contacted some alien lifeform who became interested in their ship (Fuck it, I don’t know: they could! Something could have happened) none of the above happens and the most interesting and exciting part of the episode is when they start to slightly drift off course and Jake has to man the sails. Jesus Christ on toast! Is this The Onedin Line in space or what? Bo-ring. I mean, come on, let’s be honest: who gives a rat’s ass what the ancient Bajorans did? The current ones are boring enough.

Written by (well the teleplay anyway) Rene Echevarria, who also penned the drivel that is “I, Borg” for TNG, demystifying and emasculating the most badass aliens ever to threaten a Federation starship. He did however create the series The 4400, though on the other side of the coin he was also showrunner on Spielberg’s borefest Terra Nova.


Title: “Turnabout Intruder”

Series: TOS

Season: Three

Writer(s): Gene Roddenberry and Arthur H. Singer

Main character(s): Kirk

Plot: After she uses an alien machine to bodyswap with Kirk, Dr. Janice Lester attempts to take over the Enterprise and have Kirk committed or killed.

Could there be a more misogynistic episode of any series? It gets something of a pass, being the final episode of the series but still. The idea of this woman taking over Kirk’s body and then “betraying herself” by her “emotional and irrational” behaviour — typical woman! — is both ludicrous and offensive. What Roddenberry was saying, basically, here, or at least the message that came across from it was that women are highly-strung, emotional creatures not fit for command. Now that may have flown and been acceptable in the sixties, but really, could you be more insulting to fifty percent of the world’s population? No wonder early Trek had few female viewers! Mind you, Roddenberry’s chauvinistic view of women has already been well explored, not least in the attire of the female crew and the lack of any women in positions of command, but even for him this is a new low, and a terrible way to sign off.

It does afford Kirk the chance to indulge himself, playing essentially two people, as he had in “Mirror, Mirror” and “The Enemy Within”. and though he hams it up he’s not bad. Lester, played by Sandra Smith, is actually the better actor here, keeping calm (though of course she is meant to be Kirk) until she is transferred back (with very little scientific explanation) at the end, whereupon she goes totally mad. Her insane decree that Kirk, Spock and Scotty are to be executed — yes, you read that right: executed — is the final straw that tips the balance, but it’s ridiculous that the crew go along with such a wild and un-Kirklike order. Very little to save this episode, and as I said, it’s an awful end to a superb series.


Title: “Skin of Evil”

Series: TNG

Season: One

Writer(s): Hannah Louise Shearer and Joseph L. Scanlan

Main character(s): Troi, Picard

Plot: After crashlanding on a remote asteroid, Troi is trapped in the wreckage of a shuttlecraft, but when the Enterprise crew come to rescue her they are stopped by an alien being. Why? Why not…

Oh there are some awful episodes in season one, and I could have chosen any of half a dozen or more, some of which will feature here in due course. But this one takes the proto-biscuit for just being a case of “why the fuck?” There’s no explanation given for where Armus, the alien who looks like a cross between liquid Terminator II and a jawa, came from, why it behaves as it does, or even how the crew, who appear trapped by it, escape in the end. Okay, okay! There’s a vague reference to his being the run-off from all the other little aliens who didn’t like being evil, who then buggered off and left him there, but still, it’s weak. Sirtis puts in a decent performance in her limited role, but the bulk of the episode goes to Picard really, as he tries to reason with, and then sneers at Armus. Riker’s drowning-in-a-pool-of-oil is a well done scene but ultimately pointless, as indeed is the whole episode.

Of course, if this episode is remarkable or memorable for anything, it is the sudden, unexpected and pointless death of security chief Tasha Yar, a shamelessly lazy device to have the actress released from her contract at her request. I didn’t particularly like Yar, but we had grown accustomed to her, and for her to die in this grossly “Redshirt” manner was a bit of a kick in the teeth to we fans, I feel. There is at least the touching eulogy and funeral ceremony at the end, which does its best to save the episode but it is well beyond salvation from the moment we meet Armus, and the fact that Picard literally just shrugs his shoulders and says “Fuck you” to the alien and leaves, when the whole idea has been built up that he can not leave, is being restrained here, just makes me roll my eyes. Awful, awful episode.


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I think Kirk was put in that situation quite a lot.

It’s a big galaxy out there, and as Ford Prefect once remarked, there’s all sorts of people out there, trying to rip you off, kill you … always helps to know where your towel is. Or, if you’re not familiar with The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then it’s at least desirable to know as much as possible about the beings you share the galaxy with. Of course, in the twenty-third century each race has its own agenda and most if not all have their own military, so everyone is at one time or another spying on everyone else, and though there’s generally usually a state of peace or at least uneasy truce between the races, disputes can boil over into conflict and lead to war, so intelligence about the aliens who may be your friends or allies today but may be your enemies tomorrow is crucial.

In this section I’ll be looking at a specific race, telling you all I know or can find out about them, how they fit into the universe and any other stuff about them that may seem interesting or good to know. I’ll be referring, obviously, to when and how they fit into the series, and how if at all they developed from their original form, as many of the races here did. Please note that these are my own written articles from my own head, based on what I know about the series and the various races, and although I have referred to Wiki and other sources for confirmation or clarification of certain issues, this is not a copied Wiki article or anything close to it. It is also nothing like a comprehensive essay on any race, but just something to give those of you who may not know these aliens a basic grounding in who they are, where they fit into the plots, and how they relate to the other aliens. There is surely much left out, though hopefully nothing here is incorrect, and if you want to read further there are tons of articles all over the interweb, many of which are well worth reading. However do be careful if you’re doing this, as many of these articles and sites quote events in the series that you may not be aware of, and could very well contain spoilers for you. As could these, to a smaller degree.

The one I’ll kick off with is one that most if not everybody will be familiar with, the oldest aliens in Star Trek and the traditional nemeses of Captain Kirk and his crew.


Class: Humanoid, warlike

Home planet: Qu’onos

Feature in: TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY

Klingons of note: Kah’less the Unforgettable, Molor, Kang, Gorkon, Gowron, Worf, Bel’enna Torres, Kurn, Martok, K’mpec

Values: Honour, courage, respect, honesty, fighting prowess

Originally seen as the bad guys of the original Star Trek series, Klingons were one-dimensional villains for Kirk and the Enterprise to fight against and triumph over. Warlike, always seeking strength through conquest, and jeering at the Federation’s noble aims of peace through democracy and diplomacy, Klingons were I guess essentially the Russians to the Federation’s basic Americans, the Commies of the cosmos. Very limited, their appearance originally was not like the guy shown above. They were merely humans with darker skin and their faces shaped into a somewhat devilish look, giving them the aspect of satyrs or demons. They had little in the way of philosophy — I guess “survival of the strongest” or “To the victor the spoils” would be some of the mantras they lived by — and were, originally, looked on very unsympathetically by the writers. They were warriors, but they were always warriors. They had no time for talking, peace treaties or conferences, and they preferred, when possible, to shoot first. Ask questions later? That would be a novel concept for a Klingon, indeed! Perhaps they might ask, “Why did you wait so long to shoot?” but that would be about it.

With the emergence of TNG, and a whole different attitude towards the USSR and racism in general, with the Cold War over and Gorbachev making massive strides to bring the Soviet people into the twentieth century (steps that would be reversed thirty years later as Putin dragged his country back into the days of the hardline communist regimes), the Klingons were given more of a backstory and seen with if not a more sympathetic eye, at least a less biased one. This was necessary because, apart from anything else, there was now one serving aboard Picard’s Enterprise, and the story of how that happened would take pages in itself. But a quick recap of how relationships between the Klingon Empire and the Federation thawed:

As the onset of the twenty-fourth century loomed, a ecological and industrial disaster hit the Klingon Empire when one of the moons orbiting their home planet Qo’nos (pronounced “cone-nose” but I’ve heard it referred to as “Chronos”; may just be pronunciation issues) exploded. Praxis was the base for all the fuel the Klingons mined for use in their ships and their industry. Foreseeing the very real prospect of their extinction, the Klingon High Command opened talks with the Federation, with a view towards healing the divisions between the two races and finally bringing to an end the almost-state-of-war that had existed for over seventy years. When the crew of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701C, gave their lives defending a Klingon outpost from marauding Romulans, the pact was sealed and the Klingons could see that their new ally was indeed honourable. Honour is a value Klingons cherish and prize above all else, including their lives, and there was and is no higher honour to them than for an enemy to die defending them. Soon afterwards the Klingons, though never admitted to nor asking for membership of the Federation, were allies of the humans.

Klingons are a warrior race. They prize such qualities as courage, valour, honesty, strength, cunning and of course as I said above honour. To a degree, they could be likened to the ancient Greek warriors, the Spartans, in that every single thing they do is geared towards combat, conquest and war. Being allies of the Federation meant that could no longer make war on them of course, but there were plenty of other aliens in the galaxy they could challenge and take on. As with the Spartans, from a young age every boy is trained in the noble arts of combat, learning to use the weapons endemic to the Empire, including the curved double-handled four-bladed sword known as the bat’leth, but also to master the art of hand-to-hand combat, learning all there is to know about martial arts, breathing techniques, yoga and meditation. The dynasty of each Klingon family proceeds from the father, and is referred to as a House. Presidency of the House is passed from father to eldest son, and thence to either his son or the next eldest if he should be killed. Women are not valued as warriors, owners of property or soldiers in the Empire, though that is not to say they are second-class citizens. Indeed, many a Klingon wife can lay low with a few sharp blows of her tongue a warrior who counts many kills among his tally, and whom others rightly fear!

The Empire has of course an Emperor, but the title is largely representational, with the true power lying in the men who make up the High Council. It is they who set policy, direct the military, govern spending and dispense justice. Klingons speak their own language, a harsh, guttural tongue, and will speak humanoid only if necessary. They may be allies of the Federation but they do not fully trust them, and see them as weak and ineffectual as they try to persuade with words where Klingons would rule by the fist. Klingons are proud of their lineage and always make sure anyone knows whose son they are. Although they have their legends, they proudly boast (whether true or not I don’t know) that they slew their gods, and they worship instead great heroes and warriors, the greatest among them being Kahless (kay-less), the very first Emperor, who, Moses-like, laid down their rules of conduct and honour.

Klingons are a fiercely proud people and for them cowardice is the one stain they cannot stand. They would far prefer to die in battle than run and live to fight another day, and the worst fear of any Klingon warrior is that he will die in bed, of old age, and not be admitted into the halls of heroes like the ancient Vikings upon whom so much of their culture appears to be based. This leads to one of their favourite battlecries: “Today is a good day to die!” They are fearless, often reckless though, thinking with the sword rather than the brain, more worried about appearing weak and craven for retreating than about taking on superior numbers. They live for the fight, and chafe in this new peacetime into which circumstance has forced them, so spend their off-hours drinking, singing battle songs and fighting.

Only one of their number has ever served on a Starfleet vessel, and Worf, son of Mogh, who has some human heritage in him, later left the Enterprise to take up station at Deep Space 9, where he became tactical chief of operations. Worf has a son, Alexander, who is not interested in the ways of his father and does not want to be a warrior. He is a constant source of worry to his proud father, Alexander’s mother having been killed by a traitor to the Empire, who was himself shortly thereafter despatched to the netherworld by Worf.

As this is not behaviour countenanced by Starfleet Worf was reprimanded for it, but as a Klingon he had to satisfy his honour, and his people approved. As in all things with Klingons, honour is the driving force behind them, and if one of their number is seen to be acting without it, they can expect to be shunned.

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And very boring.

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You challenge my honour?! Defend yourself, you p’tach!

Then today is a good day to unleash my Tribbles!

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Arrgghh! You have defeated me with tiny furry, cuddly… urgh… things! I must accept discommodation and exile in shame. :frowning_face:


Interestingly, perhaps inevitably, all Star Trek series begin with a two-hour (sometimes broken into two parts) premiere episode, and so it is with the first to pick up the baton after Kirk and Co had warped off into hypergalactic retirement, Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is often tricky, as if you make it too boring (as in “The Cage”) you can damage your prospects of being picked up by the network. But while “Encounter at Farpoint” is far from the best TNG episode, even in season one, there was never a danger of it not being picked up, as it was to be the triumphant return of the franchise after over twenty-five years in the wilderness, and the audience was certainly there for it. More, there were two distinct audience demographics: those who had grown up on the original and were either salivating at the prospect of its return (or waiting to tear it apart with savage commentary and criticism; didn’t matter, they still had to watch it first) and those who either had never seen it and were interested, or else were just science-fiction fans. There wasn’t much of sci-fi on the TV at that time, and so anything even vaguely space related was welcome. Plus TNG was coming in on the cusp of a new sci-fi revival, with films like Star Wars, Alien, ET and Blade Runner, to say nothing of four Trek movies whetting the appetites of sci-fi enthusiasts young and old. It was, in short, a great time for the Return of the King.

But any show that has reached such iconic, almost legendary status is going to be hard to replicate, and the inevitable comparisons would be made, so how to make this not simply a continuation of the original series, but a quantum leap forward? Well, plenty of ways. First of all, while maintaining the accepted family atmosphere aboard ship, the “power trio” idea had to be dispensed with. The original Star Trek had mostly focussed on Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with occasional contributions from the likes of Scotty, Uhura or Sulu, and later Chekov, but I don’t think there’s one episode in the entire three-season run that did not feature all three of the main characters. This put the others at a disadvantage, relegating them to the position almost of bit players, guest stars even. An episode would survive the absence of Sulu or Scotty, and much of the time Uhura was just a glorified telephone operator, but the three main men always had to be in the camera’s crosshairs.

TNG sought to do away with that to an extent. While it’s true that the captain was, and always would be, the centre of any action, this new series “farmed out” or even shared out the adventure. It would not be unheard of for Doctor Crusher, Geordi or Worf to have their own episode, and even the “kid” on board, Wesley, would feature prominently in later ones. Relationships would be explored and developed, and to a much greater degree than had been in the original series, where little more than a hint that Nurse Chapel was in love with Spock was allowed, or references were made to Kirk’s many ex-girlfriends and conquests. Here, everyone was related in one way or another. Geordi and Data would become fast friends. Riker and Troi had past history they were still trying to get past, and even the captain had a romantic interest in the doctor, although it would be some time indeed before he would admit it, more before he would act on it.

The crew was larger, the ship more powerful and majestic, and the storylines would of course be more far-reaching, deep and intelligent, and there would be, by and large, little of the easy humour for which Star Trek had become known. Picard was a hard man, an authoritarian who seldom smiled, disliked and distrusted children, and seemed to have few hobbies other than reading. He was a solitary man, alone among over a thousand souls, with responsibility for their safety, and though his crew were loyal to him and would follow him into Hell, at first he does come across rather a little like Christopher Pike on his one and only voyage aboard the USS Enterprise.

“Encounter at Farpoint”

On the way to Deneb IV, the new USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is heading towards its first mission. A starbase has been built there, called Farpoint Station, and the Federation wish to know how it was built so quickly and if more can be built. Picard is yet awaiting the arrival of his ship’s doctor and first officer, who are to meet them at the station. En route though they are suddenly accosted by a malevolent intelligence which manifests upon the ship’s bridge, calling itself “The Q”. It accuses the human race of being a “dangerous, savage child race” and directs Picard and his crew to return to their home planet. Picard of course refuses, loudly proclaiming the advances humanity has made, and the creature, seemingly intrigued by the captain’s ideas of testing them, retires, promising to return.

The Q has however blocked the path of the Enterprise with a weblike net, which Picard now attempts to break away from. He prepares the ship for “saucer separation”, a procedure which will detach the main bridge in the flat, disc-like section of the top of the ship from the main body. As they accelerate away from the net it follows them, and they find it impossible to outrun. Picard orders the saucer separation, and despite his chagrin, Worf is ordered to take command of the saucer section, into which all the women and children have been herded. The remainder of the ship, now known as “the battle bridge” turns to take on the “hostile” as it gains on them. It is however a futile action, and Picard reluctantly orders their surrender.

Once he does, they all find themselves in a courtroom, where the judge is none other than the intelligence known as The Q. Troi confirms that, though the scene they are in is out of the late twenty-first century, and cannot be real, must be an illusion, it is real. The Q again accuses the crew of being savage and dangerous, and tricks them into admitting their guilt under duress. Outmanoeuvred, Picard puts forward a challenge: let the Q test him and his crew, let them represent what mankind has become, and let him see if they have in fact evolved beyond what the powerful alien accuses them of. The Q is satisfied, even happy with the outcome, and tells Picard that solving the mystery of Farpoint Station will serve as his litmus test. The court dissolves, and Picard and his crew are back aboard their vessel.

Meanwhile, at Farpoint Station, Commander William Riker awaits the arrival of the Enterprise and visits the man in command of the station, an alien named Zorn. He expresses amazement that the station could have been built so quickly, and so perfectly suited to the needs of the Federation. Zorn is evasive, refusing to answer questions, but when Riker has left he seems annoyed and berates something above him, almost as if he is talking to the ceiling. He talks of “arousing their suspicion”, and it’s clear that something here does not meet the eye. Riker meets up with the ship’s doctor, Beverley Crusher, who is also awaiting the arrival of the ship. He tells her and her son, Wesley, that he has noticed odd things about this station. Just now, he had wanted an apple and though there was none in the bowl proffered him by Zorn, a moment later there was another bowl which he could swear had not been there, and yes, it had apples in it. Similarly, Crusher looks at some cloth and notes it would be nice if there were a gold pattern on it, and suddenly there is. She of course thinks he’s seeing conspiracies where none exist, and looking for ways to impress his new captain, but he is sure it’s more than just an overactive imagination.

Riker is somewhat surprised to learn that Crusher is on first-name terms with the new captain, but Wesley advises him that it was Picard who brought the body of his father home, when he fell in an away mission, some years ago. Geordi LaForge, navigator aboard the ship and also awaiting its arrival so that he can take his position, reports to Riker that the ship has reached orbit but is missing the saucer section. Picard has ordered Riker to beam aboard immediately, as he does. Almost right away he is shown footage of what has transpired with The Q, and then Picard receives news that the saucer section is ready to reunite with the main ship. Seeing this as an early test of his first officer’s competence and his ability to work under pressure, the captain orders Riker to conduct the reintegration of the ship, manually, a task he carries out perfectly. Picard grudgingly congratulates him on his prowess, though calls it “a fairly routine manoeuvre.” He does however take issue with his new second-in-command’s determination to second-guess the captain when he deems he is putting himself in unnecessary danger.

Here though the mask slips a little and Picard allows himself a moment of weakness, as he admits he is not good with children, and asks, well orders I suppose, Riker to help him in that area. LaForge shows Crusher his visor, a computer implant that allows him to see, even though he is blind. Usage of the implant does cause him pain, but he suffers it in order to be able to see, even if he does not see the same way we do: his visor detects electromagnetic waves, colour spectrums etc. Riker is looking for Data, but Worf tells him that the android is on “special assignment”, ferrying a special guest, an admiral, to the Enterprise by shuttlecraft. This turns out to be McCoy, in what’s a pretty shamefully self-indulgent cameo that lasts about a minute. As they prepare to leave Farpoint, The Q appears again on the viewscreen, advising them that if they do not solve the problem in twenty-four hours they risk summary judgement against them.

Riker is reintroduced to Deanna Troi, the Ship’s Counsellor, but Picard is unaware they are ex-lovers. Troi is half Betazoid and therefore telepathic, and she and Riker share an uncomfortable, though private moment when she speaks to his mind only. They keep their relationship from the captain, admitting only that they know each other. All three beam down to the station and meet with Zorn, who is less than happy at Deanna’s presence, she being a telepath. He is also annoyed at Picard’s attempts to get him to agree to build other starbases for them, or to trade for the materials and knowledge that allowed them to build Farpoint. He makes it clear he is interested in entertaining neither suggestion, and just wants to sell the rights to use this station alone. While there, Troi experiences powerful emotions — negative, painful ones, ones of loss and despair, but she can’t say from where these feelings are emanating. As the exchanges get more heated, and all their questions continue to be evaded, the trio leave a fuming Zorn, unsure of what is going on.

Riker gets his first taste of the brand new Holodeck, a holographic projection room on the ship which can be programmed for any environment, scene or fantasy. He is looking for Data and finds him here, as well as Wesley Crusher. Data shows how superhumanly strong he is when he lifts Wesley with one hand when the kid falls into a holographically-created, but very real and very wet, stream. Riker also finds out, to his amusement, that the one thing Data wishes is to be human. He has not the software to accomplish this, but is trying to add to his programme by trying things like whistling, and hopes that by better studying humans and coming to understand them, he may one day emulate them. In the tunnel below Farpoint Station, Geordi is unable to identify the material the walls are constructed from, and Deanna receives even harsher images and emotions, making her sink to her knees in despair.

A strange alien vessel arrives and begins to attack the planet, firing unknown weapons down at the city below. It does however appear to be avoiding hitting the station itself. It refuses to respond to hails, and Zorn professes to know nothing about it, though Picard is loath to believe him. He knows, all right: it’s in his voice. He’s hiding something, and the arrival of the alien vessel has thrown him into almost a panic. Picard orders Riker, still on the planet, to bring him to the Enterprise where they will get what information he has out of him. However, before they can do so someone else teleports him away. Troi begins to sense a new emotion: satisfaction, but it is not from the same source. The Q reappears, gloating over Picard’s inability to solve the conundrum, goading him that he has not the brains to figure it out. Q, tiring of their efforts and looking to be amused, gives them a clue: beam over to the alien vessel, he advises them, and though Picard is against it Riker volunteers to go, which impresses the seemingly-omnipotent alien.

Picard goes to Crusher, to apologise for his stiff and overly formal welcome to her: she is an old friend, or at least the wife of an old friend, and he should have been more forthcoming. He tells her that serving aboard the Enterprise may be hard for her, being constantly reminded of her husband through him, and suggests a transfer, which he will approve, but she turns him down, saying she is where she needs and wants to be. In fact, she tells him, she requested the post. On the alien vessel, Troi Data and Riker find Zorn held captive and in pain, while the empath feels anger, revenge, satisfaction from a much closer source than before.

As they rescue Zorn, Q reappears on the bridge, sneering at Picard’s efforts to unravel the mystery, but when the away team returns, sent back by the alien vessel, he begins to see it. The vessel is not a ship but a living being, and it is trying to help — rescue — one of its own kind which has been trapped on the planet surface below. Creatures who can convert energy into matter, the second alien was pressed into service by Zorn and his people, forced to assume the shape of Farpoint Station, and allowed only enough energy to survive but not to break free. Picard has the Enterprise beam energy down to it, allowing it to break free and join its mate. Farpoint Station is no more, the duplicity has been uncovered, Q is disappointed that the humans solved the puzzle and vanishes in a huff. Picard leans forward and declares “Let’s see what’s out there!”


Troi: “Captain! I’m sensing a powerful mind. Massively powerful!”

(Picard surely wants to blush, and say “Well, I wouldn’t say massive, but if you insist…”! :wink: )

Data: “It registers as solid, Captain.”
Troi: “Or an incredibly powerful forcefield! Captain, if we collide with it at this speed—”
Picard: “Shut off that damn noise!”

(Picard is referring to the red alert warning, but you can just hear Deanna grumping “I’m only saying. No need to be rude!” :rofl:

Picard: “Let’s see what this “Galaxy”-class starship can do!”

Picard: “Commander, signal the following in all languages and on all frequencies: we surrender.”

(And a generation of Trekkers put their heads in their hands and groan “Kirk would never have surrendered!” Welcome to the new generation…)

Zorn (to the air apparently): “You have been told not to do that! Why can’t you understand? It will arouse their suspicion, and if that happens, we will have to punish you! We will, I promise you!”

Picard: “I’m not a family man, Riker, and yet Starfleet has given me a ship with children aboard. I’m not comfortable with children. But since a captain needs an image of geniality, you’re to see that’s what I project.”

McCoy: “I see no points on your ears, boy, but you sure sound like a Vulcan!”
Data: “No, Sir. I am an android.”
McCoy: “Hmph! Almost as bad!”

Picard: “Counsellor, may I introduce our new First Officer, Commander William Riker. Commander, this is our Ship’s Counsellor, Deanna Troi.”
Troi: “A pleasure, Commander.”
Riker: “Likewise, Counsellor.”
Picard: “Have you two met before?”
Riker: “Yes sir, we have.”
Picard: “Excellent. I consider it important for my key officers to know each other’s abilities.”
Troi: “We do sir, we do.”

(How little he knows of their shared history, and the unheard telepathic message Troi sends to her “Imzadi”!)

Zorn: “Captain! The Ferengi would be very interested in a base such as this!”
Picard: “Fine. Let’s hope they find you as tasty as they did their past associates!”

Riker: “But you’re …”
Data: “A machine, Sir, yes. Does that trouble you?”
Riker: “Honestly, yes.”
Data: “Understood, Sir. Prejudice is very human.”
Riker: “Now that does trouble me. Do you consider yourself superior to humans?”
Data: “I am superior, Sir, in many ways. But I would give it all up, to be human.”
Riker: “Nice to meet you, Pinocchio.”

Picard: “Some problem, Commander?”
Riker: “Just wondering if all our missions will go this way, Sir?”
Picard: “Oh no, Number One. I’m sure most of them will be much more interesting. Let’s see what’s out there.”


There’s a very distinct similarity here in what Q is doing to what Squire Trelayne made Kirk undergo in “The Squire of Gothos.” He, too, was a judge and accused Kirk, whom he then hunted.

There are also slightly less similar, but still alike, parallels to be drawn with “Devil n the Dark”, in which the killer of miners on a planet is found to be a creature that can burrow through solid rock, and which is killing in revenge for the destruction of its eggs, cracked when the miners broke into a shaft which was in fact the creature’s nursery.

It wasn’t meant to be this way!

Sometimes ideas were barely pencilled in and fleshed out later, so that things changed over the course of the series, many of them taking on totally different aspects and meanings than they were originally intended to have.

Q, presented here as a dark, evil, all-powerful enemy, would soon become the butt of jokes, a nuisance, an annoyance and at one point, an unwilling member of the crew. He would become a source of comic relief, but one thing that would always be true was that, like Mister Burns in any episode of The Simpsons, you could be guaranteed a good story if he were in it.

Data, the android officer, quickly loses his stilted syntax, where he prefaces each statement with a qualifier, such as “Inqury: blah blah” or “Supposition: blah bah.” This would probably have got old very quickly, and was in fact dispensed with by the end of this episode.

The Ferengi are here mentioned only, and painted as a deeply unlikeable race who seem quite savage. When we actually meet them, in “The Last Outpost”, for the first time, and later, in “The Battle”, this image will be kept up to an extent. But fairly quickly it becomes obvious that the Ferengi, small with huge ears and an abiding passion for wealth and its creation, and retention, are more comic relief than anything. In fact, of all the many characters and races throughout all series and incarnations of the programme, none would come to be more loved and give us more amusement than the Ferengi, especially when we get to Deep Space 9 and meet Quark. But that’s for another time. For now, all I can say is that whatever they were meant to start out as, the Ferengi became something totally different, a real and true example perhaps of a character or type taking over its own destiny, and writing itself as it wanted to be written.

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There were of course many changes from the original series, the first and most evident in the opening titles. Whereas Kirk spoke of a “five year mission” — no doubt in the hopes that the series would get five seasons, no such luck! — Picard talks of an “ongoing mission”. Ironic really, as TNG ended up running for seven full seasons, so he could theoretically have said “her seven year mission”. Also, the ship is not anthropomorphised, neither in the credits nor in the show. It is always “it” or “the ship”, never “she”, that I can remember. Speaking of gender neutrality, the original voiceover had declared that the mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”, but now it was “to boldly go where no-one has gone before”, so they kept the tagline but updated it for the more PC 1980s.

The ship has gone from being a “Constitution”-class vessel with about 400 crew to having a complement of over a thousand and being upgraded to “Galaxy”-class. It’s still powered, however, by the humble dilithium crystals that provided engine power to NCC-1701, and indeed, speaking of that, it retains the construction number but with an extra letter, so that it is now NCC-1701D. Some things are not open to that much change.

Whereas the original Enterprise was essentially a warship, an exploratory but primarily military vessel, with only the crew aboard essential to its operation, the new incarnation is more of a floating city, or at least floating apartment block, with families living there, shops and schools and recreational facilities all provided. Plus of course the Holodeck, of which more later. The primary goal of NCC-1701D is not combat, but exploration, and though it’s armed as well as any warship in the fleet — and is in fact the flagship — Picard tries to rely more on diplomacy than brute strength in any negotiation. Of course, if that fails then the ship is more than able to hold its own.

Expanding on the multi-cultural idea central to the franchise, NCC-1701D has as part of its crew not only an android and a telepath, but one of the traditional enemies of the Federation, a Klingon, though we will find later on that the age-old “cold war” that had been raging between the two races over the run of TOS has come to an end, and they are now uneasy allies.

Oh, those uniforms! Seems for the Counsellor at any rate, the idea that drove the Original Series was still in vogue, and Deanna wears a quite short minidress, which quickly disappeared to be replaced by, um, a tight catsuit affair? Eventually her clothing would become more flattering and respectable, and her hair, down here but which will be for much of the first season stuck up in a very unbecoming bun, would soon flow loosely about her shoulders, allowing her to reveal the sexy woman who hid behind the cold mask of the half-Betazoid Counsellor.

The captain, too, is far from the genial, easy manner of James Kirk. Here, he’s a tough authoritarian, a disciplinarian, a stickler for the rules. Slow to smile or see a joke, keeping himself aloof and unapproachable, he’s almost a throwback in personality to Captain Pike. The difference here, and it’s an important one, is that he is surrounded by interesting, likeable characters who, while they will certainly include the captain in their circle if and when he requires or demands it, are perfectly capable of socialising with each other and building their own strong bonds and relationships among one another. So although the captain might seem to be cold and unforgiving, his crew are quite the opposite, and though he will be the central figure in the series, there will be episodes which will take place around or even without him, and they will generally not suffer from his not being the figure in the frame.

This is also the first time Star Trek will feature actors other than American ones (Sulu and Chekov excepted): the man in charge is English, something of a cosmic shift for US science-fiction, and portrayed as being of French descent, another first.

Holodeck Stories

The Holodeck is indeed an amazing technological marvel. Using the latest advances in dimensional hologrammatical creation, anything that can be imagined can be programmed into the ship’s computer and realised as a holodeck simulation. This will lead to many stories being set on, or around, the Holodeck and here I’ll be talking about how this innovation is used, whether its use helps or hinders the story, and whether, as the series gathered pace, the writers tended to rely a little too much on it for their storylines.

We’re introduced to the Holodeck here, and it’s totally incredible. Virtual reality to the nth degree; a real forest is created within the environs of the ship, so real that when Wesley falls into a stream he emerges from the holodeck soaking wet. Data explains it thusly: some matter within the holodeck itself has been reconfigured to make things like trees, rocks, and presumably, streams to be used in the simulation. I don’t quite understand this, or whether it was an idea they stuck to, as when someone shuts the holodeck simulation off, we’re left staring at basically a gridlike pattern in the room, the bare building blocks of the holodeck. So where, then, has the material that was supposed to be being converted gone? If there is nothing in the room, and if everything has been fabricated from a virtual reality programme, then why, when you leave the holodeck wet are you still dripping water onto the deck, outside the simulation? Is it because the programme is still running? But if you were to meet a hologrammatically-created character in there, one who existed nowhere else but in the simulation, and he or she or it tried to cross the threshold of the holodeck, it would vanish. We will see it happen: nothing truly “exists” beyond the confines of the simulated world. So by that logic, the water Wesley fell into should not either, and he should emerge dry.

Someone with deeper knowledge of the workings of the holodeck might be able to answer that. For me, it’s a bit of a conundrum that, certainly within the strictures of the series, is never adequately addressed or explained. Similarly, if the wall is actually there physically, but “disguised as forest”, as Data points out when he throws a rock seemingly into the trees and it bounces off the bulkhead, how have they been able to walk “through” that bulkhead just a moment before? Holodeck mechanics will always confuse me. I mean, no matter how realistic the simulation is, how can you walk, drive or ride a road for an hour that is in reality situated in a space which would take you at best ten minutes to traverse? I don’t think it’s ever adequately explained though, so I certainly won’t attempt to.

A real, live boy!

Data’s continual pursuit of humanity is a recurring theme throughout the entire series. In this section I’ll be cataloguing his efforts — successful and less so — to become as human as he can make himself, from physical changes to, more usually, the way he relates to the others in the crew, and they to him.

Even here, he has already dropped the qualifier before each sentence, as I already mentioned, and by the end he is frowning that he seems to be commenting on everything. Riker tells him to keep it up; it’s a very human thing to do. Riker has already called him “friend”, which must please the android. Or would, if he knew what pleasure was and could recognise it. He reveals here that his rank of Lieutenant Commander is not honorary, as Riker had assumed: he went through the entire Starfleet Academy course and earned his uniform, just as any other living entity has to.


Somewhat like the original pilot “The Cage”, the pilot for TNG begins with certain things already in motion. The new Enterprise is on her maiden voyage, to be sure, but certain relationships have already been established, or hinted at. This serves to give these characters history almost immediately and make us care about them, unlike the hamfisted way the TOS pilot went about it. Here I’ll be cataloguing the relationships that spring up, fall apart, bind together and in some cases threaten to tear the crew apart.

Riker and Troi

We are given an insight into their history together when Troi communicates telepathically with Riker, intimating that they have had a previous sexual or romantic relationship. She calls him, in his head, imzadi, which we later learn is the Betazoid word for “beloved”. She talks about not having wanted to say goodbye, and asks if he remembers their last liaison. They say nothing of this to the captain, who might see this as a conflict of interest, romance in the workplace and all that. Riker must however be somehow unaware of Deanna’s posting to the Enterprise, as he acts shocked and embarrassed and uncomfortable when he is “introduced” to her by the captain.

Their relationship threatens to resurface and overpower their duty when Troi shouts after Riker, worrying he may be hurt by staying on the planet while ordering her to return to the ship. He retorts coldly “You have your orders”, but some part of him must be gratified to see she still cares for him. As does he for her; when she is experiencing such strong emotions below the city that they threaten to overwhelm her, he flies to her side and apologises for ordering her to open her mind, even though he knows that it was necessary, even vital. But prior to that, afraid of being alone with her, and how it might compromise their mission, he refutes her suggestion as they are splitting up that she should go with him, and instead goes with Data.

Picard and Crusher

This is a much more low-key relationship throughout the series, but it’s clear that Picard, while the best friend of her late husband, has feelings for Beverly, feelings he would never have acted upon or even admitted to while Jack Crusher was alive, and, feeling responsible for his death, will now never reveal, for fear of dishonouring his friend’s memory. He believes the posting must be difficult for Crusher, and offers to approve a transfer request, until she tells him she actually requested the posting to his new command. Knowing that she therefore has — or says she has — no problem being so close to him, he relaxes but there will always be that undercurrent of repressed sexual tension that could explode at any moment.

Days with Data

Just for the craic, I’ll be recording here some of the crazy things Data says, as he struggles to emulate and understand human behaviour. Sometimes they are quite remarkably funny, though here the only one that springs to mind is when he asks Picard to explain what the word “sneak” means, and after the captain has given him some synonyms, he takes over with more, saying “Ah yes! To slink, go stealthily, slither, glide, gumshoe.” It’s not really funny, not this time, but it does serve to illustrate how literal he can take the world sometimes, and he will, trust me, come up with some howlers.

Okay ,I am a Trek fan.
And did watch the Orvillle which may or may not have finished.

And Babylon 5 had one of the most emotional final episodes in history.
Will keep returning to the thread.

Oh Christ the end of Babylon 5 still makes me bawl like a baby. The music, the slow-motion explosion, the realisation it was all over. I sort of found myself thinking “How ungrateful! What about retiring the station and making it a tourist attraction or a restaurant?” It was like watching a grand old, well-loved ship be scuppered forever.

Welcome to the thread: there is a shi - uh, a ton of stuff planned and if you’re a Trek fan you should find a lot to interest you here.

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Oh yeah…I was fighting back the tears on Babylon 5…thinking this shouldn’t be happening.
Then I discovered I wasn’t the only one!

I feel a lot of the credit/blame for that has to go to Franke. If it wasn’t for his heart-wrenching, emotional score accompanying it I don’t think it would have affected me as much. I mean, I didn’t cry in Star Trek III when the Enterprise went down. I didn’t cry when it crashed in Generations. I didn’t cry at the end of any of the three main series. In fact, I don’t think I’ve cried at any science fiction episode, except maybe Clara’s death in Doctor Who. “Sleeping in Light” was just the perfect storm for the emotions. By the way, if you’re a fan - and obviously you are - then stay tuned…

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I like Dr. Who too