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Star Trek TNG - Season 1 - Episode 01

Star Trek TNG - 1x01 - Encounter At Farpoint, Part I

Originally Aired: 1987-9-28

Synopsis:
The new U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew set out "to boldly go where no one has gone before." [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 5.26

Rate episode?

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# Votes: 54 14 11 17 16 44 49 74 47 18 19

Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Introduces numerous characters and plot threads that continue throughout Star Trek going forward.

Problems
- Picard orders yellow alert twice in this episode.

Factoids
- According to Data, in the year 2036 the "New United Nations" declared that no Earth citizen could be made to answer for the crimes of his race or forebearers.
- In the year 2079 all "United Earth Nonsense" was abolished, according to Q. Presumably during the third world war.
- The drug dispensers that the World War III soldiers wore as part of their uniforms are labeled "Army R2D3PO-D," a reference to R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars.
- The nickname "Number One" Picard uses to refer to Riker is a reference to Captain Pike referring to his first officer by the same nickname from TOS: The Cage.
- McCoy is established to be 137 years old in this episode.
- This episode (both parts) was nominated for the 1988 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Remarkable Scenes
- The first sight of the Enterprise-D.
- Data listing the synonyms for snooping.
- Data reciting dialog in Picard's and Q's voices.
- Picard: "I'm not a family man, Riker, and yet Starfleet has given me a ship with children aboard. And I don't feel comfortable with children. But since a captain needs an image of geniality, you're to see that's what I project."
- Geordi regarding his visor: "It's a remarkable piece of bio-electronic engineering by which I quote 'see' much of the EM spectrum ranging from simple heat and infrared through radio waves, etc, etc and forgive me if I've sat and listened to this a thousand times before."
- McCoy's visit to the Enterprise-D and his interaction with Data.

My Review
Set in the 24th century, almost a century after TOS, Star Trek: The Next Generation looks quite different and more modern than TOS. This much-needed update to the aesthetics not only looks fantastic, it was also transitioned to remarkably smoothly. The transition from TOS, to the films, to TNG was a slow, step-by-step evolution of the 23rd century TOS aesthetic into the new 24th century aesthetic. While the new TNG look is certainly quite different, you can trace its visual design lineage back to TOS in a number ways. In this way, TNG is not a reboot, but a respectful continuation of a now epic story; a sentiment that couldn't have been expressed better than to have an aged McCoy pass the torch to a member of the new Enterprise's crew. Quite a touching moment.

In addition to new aesthetics, this new century comes with a changed Starfleet. Gone are the days when the flagship was commanded by the brash, impulsive, even reckless at times Captain Kirk. The Federation has matured now. Exploration of space has become more rigorous and routine. Captain Picard reflects this new culture with his stern, rigid personality. Life aboard the Enterprise-D is a buttoned-down affair and even children like Wesley Crusher can't help but subdue their otherwise unbridled whimsy to stand in respectful awe of the professionalism and grandeur of the operation. Perhaps the most remarkable sign of societal progress as compared to TOS is that there's even a Klingon officer serving in Starfleet now, something that would be hard to imagine during Kirk's era.

But what fun would it be to watch the glorious Galaxy-class flagship sail through the ocean of space exploring the universe in the orderly, leisurely fashion that Captain Picard would have us do? That's where Q comes in. This delightful antagonist—as he is not quite a villain—is the avatar of everything Picard is not. Q injects chaos into Picard's perfect order and ugly nuances into Picard's rosy assessment of the progressive society that the Federation has built. Certainly Q is serving as mostly a troll under the bridge, and we can't quite know what motivates his trolling, but his arguments about humanity are not without their merits. And watching the fantastic actors Patrick Stewart (Picard) and John de Lancie (Q) duel each other in a battle of words is a great deal of fun.

Unfortunately the "god-like alien toys with the heroes" plot device has become quite the cliche on Star Trek by now, as TOS did this to death. However, Encounter at Farpoint still manages to be one of the best invocations of this cliche so far and Picard's steadfast resistance to Q's low opinion of humanity is certainly in the spirit of Star Trek.

Another wrinkle in the story is how the new fictional history of Earth interacts with established canon from TOS. We learn here that sometime after the eugenics war in the 1990s established on TOS, there was in fact another war referred to as the third world war which took place decades later. This would seem to contradict Spock's line in TOS: Space Seed that the 1990s eugenics war was Earth's "last world war." An unfortunately sloppy error in what is an otherwise reasonably strong, if somewhat slow-paced start to this new series.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-05-22 at 4:23am:
    Some overall comments about a couple of things I noticed while watching TNG (and continued on to the next Star Trek series):
    1) The inconsistent use of the communicators. Sometimes they touch the combadge to begin a conversation, sometimes they touch the combadge to end a conversation, and other times the communicators are never touched.
    2) The "don't give a straight answer" syndrome. Picard will ask a direct question and the most common response will be, "I think you better get down here and see for yourself." This syndrome isn't limited to the TNG, I've seen it in the other Star Trek series and even other TV shows.

    At the beginning, Picard calls Deneb IV a planet at the edge of "the great unexplored mass of the galaxy." The station there is named Farpoint Station. In other words, it's located out in the middle of nowhere. Yet the Enterprise picks up several of its officers there AND the USS Hood brings an aging Admiral McCoy to visit the Enterprise. So it's common practice for Starfleet to send officers all the way to "the boonies" just to visit another ship? It's not like the Enterprise picked up its officers at a midpoint somewhere. Farpoint Station isn't on the way to anywhere!
  • From Bernard on 2007-09-16 at 3:28pm:
    May I say firstly that this site is excellent, your thorough attention to all star trek series' shows how much time you have put into this, kudos!

    I remember the first time I watched Encounter at Farpoint, I was 7 or 8 years old and I was fresh from seeing Star Trek III for the first time. I had seen little bits of the original series on re-runs so only had a general feel for that series not an in depth knowledge. But I was excited about this new series

    I was engrossed in The Next Generation from the first five minutes of Encounter at Farpoint, the excitement and newness seems so tangible in my memory even now. Of course I have watched it again many times as a kid, adolescent and now adult and I realise that it isn't the greatest episode of star trek ever made but it will always be special remembered through the eyes of a child

    As a side note, John de Lancie is remarkable as Q and I'm glad he became a recurring character throughout TNG, DS9 and Voyager

  • From Michael B on 2009-12-20 at 9:12am:
    As you say, the acting by Patrick Stewart and John de Lancie is indeed very good, and I also thought both Beverly and Will Wheaton to be believable, but the rest of the cast come off as amateurs. Eric Bana, in an interview about the latest Star Trek film, talked about how good the acting was in that film, and that they accomplished it by not letting the weight of their responsibility of upholding the canon rest on their shoulders. He said that when an actor does that, they freeze up. There are many "reaction shots" in this episode, and most of the actors look like a deer caught in headlights when asked for a reaction. I think is is mostly the job of the director to give the actors room to be comfortable, and I think it is one of the flaws of a television show such as this that the actors have no time to bond with a director, and develop a relationship of trust, since the director changes every episode. The acting certainly gets better as the series progresses, but I wonder if it would have gotten better faster, if they were given good, consistent, direction.
  • From CAlexander on 2011-03-26 at 1:06pm:
    I'm finding it difficult to review the first half separately from the second half, but I do have an issue for the problems section.
    - The timing of Q chasing the Enterprise is odd. The Enterprise flees, and Q almost immediately follows. Several seconds later they announce that he is gaining on them, and he continues gaining for quite a long while. It is hard to believe he hasn't already caught them by now. Then they fire photon torpedoes, and it seems Q is way behind them. Eventually they separate the ship and turn to face Q, and the Enterprise waits for some time before Q arrives. Where has he been? Did he hit a stop light?
  • From Amiable-Akuma on 2017-06-01 at 8:03am:
    It's not hard to convince me to give this 2-parter a 10 out of 10 review due to it being "the first", something that led to a major resurgence of sci-fi of it's ilk, nostalgia, and more.

    I love how flamboyant to the point of being near-insane that Q, Picard, and even Tasha Yar are with their line delivery sometimes. Yar's moment of "This so-called court should get down on its KNEES...!" is super memorable. It all adds up to strong random entertainment value and campy fun.

    I agree that the saucer separation/reconnect stuff is more boring but I wouldn't cut it either. That stuff looks great on blu-ray to the point it reminds how cool a well-done live-action "multi-section mecha-robot in space" series might one day work.

    All the shots introducing the bridge, engine-room, and aspects of ship overall are uniquely interesting as is our basic introductions to these characters period.

    -at first I didn't understand Picard's complaint about a ship full of children, I thought he meant figuratively, that his adult crew are still "children" in his mind due to being untested on a new voyage/etc. That that is what he wanted Riker's help with, lol. Now I kinda dig it though, that they wrote that in, 'cause I get sick of kids too in real life, hah.

    -check out how well-built Worf is during the "blast a hole through the viewscreen" scene, the whole cast seems in great shape in this particular ep.

    -I love how Q's visage says "You are dilatory", just a cool, intriguing moment/diction

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