Leia flying thru space happened in 2017's top-grossing movie...in the world. Franchise killer? No.
|Posted: 17 April 2018 at 2:39pm | IP Logged | 4
Shhhh...give it time. Give it time. The body is still twitching, and the money is still flowing. For now. The money is just masking the symptoms, and it won’t last. But, that’s a discussion for another time (and another forum), and I’m not even sure I want to bother, at this point. We’ll see. Oh, yes...we’ll see.
Anyway, I got a chance to listen to MISSION LOG’s TNG wrap-up episodes, which helped me to reflect on my own rewatch. I also listened to their interview with the lovely and talented Gates McFadden, who provided some interesting insights into the show and her time on it, particularly in terms of the show (and the staff’s) treatment of women.
Not that I didn’t enjoy the show prior to this rewatch, but I do have a new appreciation for it, and what it did for TV genre storytelling in its day. Consider: STAR TREK (TOS) was a show that made history. It broke new ground in terms of what was possible for filmic science-fiction, and it defied all odds to become a massive success after it was already dead and gone, with the sort of rabid, cult fanbase that had never really existed before. It was and is one of the cornerstones of modern nerd culture.
To try and recapture that lightning in a bottle was a tricky proposition, to say the least. TNG could easily have gone the way of say, LOVE BOAT: THE NEXT WAVE. It didn’t. The first season was largely terrible, yet it didn’t. The ideas and the characters were there, even if the learning curve was very, very rocky.
There’s a great irony (and sadness) in that Gene Roddenberry’s baby had perhaps outgrown him, and that TNG only truly became a good show as he became less and less involved. Or maybe the show and it’s producers/audience just weren’t mature enough to keep up with his utopian/Humanist ideals. I suppose that all depends on one’s point of view. But, TNG did become a good show—even a legitimately great show, at times.
The original STAR TREK is my favorite TV show of all time, without question. It has a magic to it, a timelessness. I find both the fictional universe and the real-world stories behind its production endlessly, well, fascinating. TNG is very much not TOS. It sorta-kinda tried to be, at first. An updated and “perfected” version of Roddenberry’s silly and campy rough draft from the chaotic 60s, as some would say. But, sometimes even a property’s creator can overthink things, and so the initial version of TNG didn’t really work. Yet, it quickly began to evolve, to become something else. Against the odds, it found its own identity and its own voice. And, in its own way, it became STAR TREK. A different kind of STAR TREK, to be sure, but one committed to the same core concept of the original series: using people of the future to explore the modern-day human condition.
Certainly, there are people who will fight tooth and nail to defend one iteration of the franchise over another. For a great many fans, TNG is “their” STAR TREK, and, to quote Wayne Campbell, is in many ways superior, but will never be as recognized as the original. The former is debatable, but the latter has certainly proven true. All of the grave-robbing attempts at rebooting the franchise post-NEMESIS and post-ENTERPRISE have been rooted in the characters, concepts, and time-period of TOS. I highly doubt we’ll see any sort of reboot/remake of TNG anytime soon, if ever.
While TNG proved successful and popular enough to spawn off a number of movies (something the later shows did not), it has sort of become the middle child of the franchise: It lacks the pop-culture cache, marketability, and recognizability of TOS, but it is generally more fondly remembered and referenced than the other spin-off shows.
I found myself surprised by a good number of episodes during my rewatch. Some were far better and deeper than I remembered, some worse. Perhaps most surprising of all is how much the character of Deanna Troi finally clicked with me. For the first time, I really saw the interesting nuances and humanity of that character, as well as what Marina Sirtis brought to the table as an actress. Which is why it’s deeply regretful that Troi was to go-to character for mind-rapes/invasions, and served largely as sex-appeal and as a dated sign of the 1980s: a therapist hanging out on the Bridge of an ostensibly-military ship.
With that in mind, all things are a product of their time, and TNG is no different. Spandex jumpsuits, big hair, use of synth music, a therapist on the Bridge, less gunboat/cowboy diplomacy, then-cutting-edge video/CG effects, and the cozy look of the Enterprise-D, to name but a few. On the flipside, I’ve often remarked at just how much modern genre TV fails to appeal to me, compared to the overall quality of TNG’s writing. The themes, characters, and ideas of TNG still resonate, 30 years later.
We now live in a world of sociopolitical extremes and rehashes of old properties, and I personally have no use whatsoever for STAR TREK DISCOVERY, its social-justice messages, or it’s plundering/vandalism of STAR TREK lore. TNG very consciously tried to (initially) stay away from TOS concepts/characters and build its own identity. The format itself was basically the same as TOS, but the detailing and execution was completely its own thing. More importantly, TNG (usually) did what the best of STAR TREK does: present social issues via metaphor, show both sides of the argument, and (usually) leave the audience to draw its own conclusions. TREK can certainly be preachy, to be sure, but that’s not really its primary function. It’s about generating conversation and understanding. Far too many modern shows (STD among them) are about preaching, not inviting conversation regarding difficult social issues.
TNG also served as a transitional series. It bridged the gap between the stand-alone, episodic adventures of TOS (which followed suit with TV storytelling of past decades) and the serialized, growth-and-change/continuity-heavy narratives of the later series. As such, TNG’s characters perhaps were not afforded the sort of complex, long-term exploration that they deserved. However, leaving the characters essentially intact from beginning to end made them perhaps a bit more iconic and larger-than-life than they might have been. After all, if Worf had been permanently crippled in “Ethics”, or had committed ritual suicide as a result of his injury, then the character would have been sacrificed on the altar of “realism” rather than being ready to go for next week’s thought-provoking adventure.
All in all, I’ve had a great time revisiting this show. There are highs and lows throughout the entire run, but I still find it far more entertaining and thought-provoking than most modern genre fare. TNG is the last TREK to involve Roddenberry, and it could be argued that the later shows are all missing that sense of positivity that he brought to the table. Far too many modern genre properties are far too eager to be negative and/or to drag its characters through the mud, and TNG’s eternal optimism is very much in the STAR TREK spirit, although it is tempered by the more complex storytelling of its era.
At this point, I’d make lists of favorite episodes/characters/moments, but I’ve already sorta done that throughout this thread. Suffice it to say that, just as I felt going in, that seasons 3-5 are the best, and that Picard and Data are the most well-developed and interesting characters.
I’m tempted to revisit DS9 next (and started recording episodes as they’ve aired on Heroes & Icons channel), but A) I need a break! B) John and Ken of MISSION LOG have only just started covering DS9, and it will take them nearly four years to rewatch the entire series. I’d rather not confine myself to watching one episode per week just to keep pace with them, but I also enjoy their show so much that I really don’t want to move ahead without them! We’ll see how it goes. Maybe down the road, I’ll start a DS9 thread. I’d very much like to, since the first few seasons are extremely spotty in my memory, and this would almost be like watching them for the first time.