I’ve just started a long haul project to make a video game. It’s going to be an outer space adventure with some classic science fiction themes and character driven dynamics. So as I settle down on the couch to draw out all the characters and scenarios, what better way to fill the silence than watching Star Trek: TNG from the very beginning? Plenty of better ways, but I’m doing this.
Star Trek is great for drawing because you don’t have to look up that often. Everything is described to you as it happens, and it’s all nonsense. Last night the ship passed through an energy cloud, and a ghost from the energy cloud downloaded itself into the computer. Then it jumped from the computer into the minds of various crewmen until it possessed the captain. Then the captain blasted the rest of the crew with lightning and teleported himself back into the cloud. Then the crew teleported the captain back without the ghost inside him, and he was like “I’m glad that’s over.”
Given these episodes are now 25 years old I thought they’d be totally unwatchable, but the silliness only adds to their charm. I much prefer watching this kind of escapism to a glum Batman questioning his financial solvency. So I’m going to keep watching until I finish these drawings or die of ink poisoning. With that in mind, here’s my initial thoughts ..
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard – Patrick Stewart is the finest actor in Star Trek history. No matter how crazy the situation, he finds a way to sell it. Possesed by a space ghost? Negotiating with lizard men? Battling the influence of an alien “super-intoxicant”? With impossible gravitas, Patrick Stewart makes it real.
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Ryker – This character was always a little cardboard for me, standard straight white male hero type. I’d be more into Ryker being played by someone more atypical. But good news, I can see in the promo photos that Jonathan Frakes will steadily gain weight throughout the series, so I’m excited to see the role being tackled by a much fatter man.
Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverley Crusher – With her frank, professional attitude and glamorous red hair, Dr Crusher is my favorite Star Trek doctor. Mostly she waves this little smartphone around people and looks concerned. Did you know Gates McFadden created the choreography for Labrynth?
Brent Spiner as Lt Commander Data – From day one, Brent Spiner skillfully conveys the wonder and mystery of an android learning to be human. When I was a teeanger I really identified with Data, feeling totally out of step with everyone else. Seeing my own mannerisms reflected by a robot was a humbling for me, and watching him develop made me feel proud and hopeful. But here’s the weird thing, every officer who meets him is surprised he’s an android. That is crazy. Not only is he the only android in Starfleet, he has risen to the rank of Lt Commander. Surely that would have been on Federation TV or something.
Denise Crosby as Lt Tasha Yar – With her drive, intelligence and progressive hairdo, it’s easy to see why Tasha Yar was my favorite character back in the day. Her back story is surpisingly dark for Star Trek. She used to be homeless on the shittiest planet ever, and while the details are kept vague, she throws around the term “rape gangs” a lot. She says “rape gangs” once or twice per episode, and never elaborates. When she says it to another officer, they always look sort of awkward and are like “uh .. yeah. That’s terrible.” What the fuck is a rape gang?
Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi – Forget 80s style. Forget sci-fi style. Forget even camp value. Counselor Deanna Troi is a straight up fashion disaster. I can’t even consider the opinion of someone making these choices on a federation starship.
Levar Burton and Michael Dorn as Jr Lts Geordi LaForge and Worf, Son of Mogh – I totally forgot these guys are only Jr Lts when the show starts. So far they’ve just been fixing bulkheads and getting possessed by things.
Wil Wheaton as Random Teen Wesley Crusher - Seeing these early episodes I now understand why fans hate Wesley Crusher. It is really off putting how he easily outsmarts the entire crew, and minces around the bridge in a series of giant sweaters. He was one of my favorites as a kid because of an episode where he falls in love with a shapeshifting alien. Wesley swore he’d love that alien no matter what form it took. I was hoping the alien might turn into a guy and challenge Wesley to go for it, which is as close to a gay role model as I could find. These days everything has changed and you can apparently have gay sex in video games, so fuck Wesley Crusher and all his sweaters.
All in all, Star Trek TNG is a solid viewing choice for the discerning viewer who also has to create a large assortment of digital assets. Who knows what wonders await me on my own continuing mission? According to Netflix, the next episode will feature Wesley Crusher being condemned to die on a planet where people have sex all day. I honestly didn’t make that up, because I can’t imagine anything more thrilling.