Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The Next Generation
Pretty much every time I bring up Star Trek The Next Generation I'm saying something bad about it (unless you catch me on those rare occasions when I'm referring to the super-binge-marathon where I watched all seven seasons, back in 2006 or thereabouts, and came to really appreciate and admire the whole project). Just a couple weeks ago (in a post that didn't get that much attention) I wrote that TNG "was a big bucket of liquid nerd cheese that got poured over Star Trek, rendering it unpalatable to nearly everyone on earth except super-geek-nerds."
But then I finished the sentence by observing that "J. J. Abrams somehow sucked all that nerd-cheese out of Trek and returned it to its true form." I think I'd have to change "true form" to "preferred form" or "optimal form," which, of course, involves some serious compromises, but the compromises are sensible. Star Trek is many things (it's much more malleable and chameleonlike than Tolkien or Star Wars; you'd have to look at the DC-comics universe to find a comparable degree of elasticity and adaptability to the mores of the time), and, now that the J. J. Abrams movie has triumphed, I'm finding that I can go back and watch TNG and really enjoy it, because the pressure is off; I know Star Trek is in good hands and what I consider to be its essential ideas (including the crucial requirement of mass appeal) are on the front burner, so I can now be a Trek connoisseur and really enjoy TNG, which is way at the other end of the Trek spectrum.
In other words, back when TNG (and its spin-offs and movies) were all Trek was, I was just so irritated at being forced in that specific direction (and so worried that the whole franchise was going to fade into oblivion) that I resented what they were doing and constantly pined (no pun intended) for a return to what I considered to be the "essence" of the show. But now, everything I wished for has come true beyond my wildest dreams (at least as far as Star Trek is concerned) and I can finally groove on the total, complete, intellectual, hard-sci-fi immersion in the "deep end of the pool" that is The Next Generation. It's really great stuff (as I have acknowledged before) and, now that it doesn't have to carry the full burden of the Trek legend into the future, I can totally enjoy it.