Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Star Trek:The Next Generation-Encounter At Farpoint

                      En route to investigate Farpoint Station,a star base built for Federation use by the Bandi of Deneb IV,Captain Jean-Luc Picard becomes better acquainted with the state of the art Galaxy Class U.S.S. Enterprise he is now commanding. His ships counselor Deanna Troi senses an unusually powerful mind. Suddenly a mysterious man addressing himself only as Q materializes on the bridge of the ship. Changing in wardrobe from an ancient ship captain,to a Korean War era GI and a drug controlled 21'st century shock troop he accuses humanity of being a dangerously savage child race who must return to Earth. Picard convinces him that he is a self righteous life form only looking to prosecute and judge lower life forms. This inspires Q to put the crew on trail,in a post apocolyptic 21'st century Earth Kangaroo court,for the crimes of humanity after Picard separates the saucer from the rest of the Enterprise to avoid a confrontation with the Q entity.

                 After taunting the crew by freezing two of it's personnel including security chief Tasha Yar,for standing up for humanity Picard insists Q tests humanity as to it's virtues. He insists the Farpoint mission will be an excellent test. And he sends them on their way. When the Enterprise arrives to pick up,among other new crew members,it's first officer William Riker at Farpoint it is only the star drive section that arrives. After being briefed on their encounter with Q,Commander Riker successfully re-connects the saucer and reveals his past romance with Counselor Troi.  Riker has been curious,after his encounter with the ellusive Bandi leader Grappler Zorn,how Farpoint could have so many contradictions-such as in his own description near magical attempts to please visitors. When it's also clear the only technological advantage the planet has is a mass of geothermal energy. 

           Upon Riker organizing an away team,Troi senses great emotional sadness in the Grappler's office and later in the mysterious caverns beneath the city. Amid Q's continual harassment,the Enterprise notices a large flying saucer approaching Deneb IV. Interestingly enough,it fires weapons on the Bandi city but carefully avoids Farpoint. With Q encouraging weapons fire,Picard decides to send an away team to the ship. There they find identical corridors to that below Farpoint. Troi senses first anger here,than satisfaction at the destruction of the Bandi city. Upon capturing Zorn,he reveals to Picard a space fearing entity of this sort arrived on their world and was injured. They provided it with enough energy to keep alive,but only so they could use it to curry favor with the Federation by using it's shape shifting ability to create a suitable star base. The Enterprise releases the entity after evacuating Farpoint,where it meets what turns out to be it's mate in orbit.Having passed Q's test and the Bandi agreeing to rebuilt Farpoint,Picard and his new crew head into space to "see what's out there".

             It was an enormous gamble for Gene Roddenberry to re-imagine Star Trek,a century in the cannons future and with an entirely new crew,in 1987 having failed to do so already with the original cast for the aborted Star Trek Phase II series in the late 70's. And in syndication no less. This pilot succeeded on all levels. It had to tell little introduction stories for each member of the crew: Picard,Riker,the android Data,the Klingon Worf,Geordi,Counselor Troi,Tasha Yar,Dr.Crusher and her son Wesley and their new adversary: the aggressively arrogant and omnipotent Q. John DaLancie brings this character to life almost fully formed,if far more adversarial than was later portrayed. As for the rest of the cast,there would be a lot of room to crew. Data is far more mechanical in personality and a stronger "babbler" than later. Captain Picard lacks much of the strong personality he'd develop later and is more a straight laced authority figure. And Deanna Troi's emphatic reactions are far more pronounced.  It's Johnathan Frakes as Commander Riker who is the most fully formed of the new characters. Overall a wonderful and visually stunning introduction,with it's far higher budget FX,  to a new series that would expand Star Trek's audience from a cult following to a viewership large enough to change everyone's perception of the show.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Star Trek-Where No Man Has Gone Before

                          On a mission to discover what happened to the late 21'st century space vessel S.S. Valient Captain James Kirk,commander of the Enterprise and his crew,including a newly arrived psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner,attempt to leave the galaxy in search of the lost spaceship. After transporting aboard a flight recorder,Mr. Spock recovers information from it indicating the Captain of the vessel ordered it's destruction a midst extreme chaos on board. The Enterprise then encounters an energy barrier at the galaxies end of extremely high energy. Not only does it drain the ship of energy,but also knocks out both Dr. Dehner and navigator Gary Mitchell,an old friend of the Captains who suddenly has developed oddly glowing eyes. Spock recovers yet more information that before he destroyed the ship,he was searching frantically for information in their records of extra sensory perception. 

                               While in sickbay,Mitchell is exhibiting similar symptoms. Dr. Dehner observes he is able to read and retain information faster than the average human being. He also observes decay in a thruster pack before the ships helmsman Lee Kelso could. Mr. Scott observes at a conference later that parts of the computer had earlier began activating themselves. During this conference Dr.Dehner shows an unusual obsession on Mitchell's case and willingness to pursue it. Spock advises Kirk to set a course to the nearby Dilithium cracking station on Delta Vega to restore ships power. This will also give him the opportunity to deal with his other problem: Gary Mitchell,growing more and more dangerous and megalomaniacal  as his powers grow,will have to be destroyed to save the ship,it's crew and possibly the rest of humanity. 

                               On the planet,an attempt to imprison Mitchell fails as he kills Kelso and,as it turns out,Dr.Dehner eventually exhibits the same powers as himself. When Kirk returns to the surface to fight his friend with a phaser rifle,he confronts Dr.Dehner. He pleads with her as a psychiatrist to understand Mitchell's abuse of power. She observes this in his needlessly cruel behavior to Captain Kirk,his friend,during the ensuing confrontation. She herself battles Mitchell,weakening him enough so the captain can throw him into a grave that Mitchell intended for him and use the phaser to bury him alive with a rock slide from a nearby cliff. The energy Dehner uses weakens her physically and she dies shortly after. The Enterprise leaves Delta Vega with power fully restored,but with Kirk facing the loss of two of his comrades,one of whom was an old friend.

                                As the then unprecedented second pilot for Star Trek,Gene Roddenberry had the opportunity in this story to refine his idea for the series. The major addition was William Shatner as James R.Kirk,an interesting continuity issue of name cleared up later. While still closely linked to the cerebral nature of his original concept,this story is more character driven and in his own words "at least ended in a bare knuckle fist fight". Gary Lockwood's is amazing in his portrayal of Gary Mitchell,a somewhat above average human being suddenly granted extraordinary abilities-yet is not able to acquire the emotional compassion or wisdom to use them wisely. Mitchell's already advanced mind was indicated if the viewer pauses the episode and watches his profile on the bridge of the Enterprise as Mr.Spock is. 

                                In perhaps a compromise for Gene not getting the female first officer he'd originally hoped for,the strong female presence comes from Sally Kellerman's Dr.Dehner,a professional women who only becomes emotionally obsessed with Mitchell's power when she herself has begun to become effected by it herself. Characters that would become central to the show later are present,such as James Doohen's Scotty and George Takei's Sulu. Both are in much smaller roles and in very different positions on the ship than they would be later: neither are bridge personnel in this story.  The costumes,the sets and even the model of the Enterprise itself are still very similar to The Cage. However this second pilot had a very human quality that caught the interest of the NBC network executives and they decided to buy the Star Trek series this time around.