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.

8 comments:

HandsomeStan said...

This is still making me laugh two years later.

I could never fully embrace TNG, though I think the Borg is one of my more favorite Trek thingies.

Jordan said...

You gag on the liquid nerd cheese, just like me. It's the hard-sci-fi payoff: if you just dive into it cold, it's absolutely ridiculous...a bald guy...purple and pink carpeting...poker games...he's learning to play the recorder...but, looked at the way I'm describing, it's very rewarding.

HandsomeStan said...

I'm nowhere near as immersed in Trek as I am Tolkien, SW, and Harry Potter.

My resume is pretty much:

- most of TOS, though not committed to memory
- movies II, IV, VI and JJ
- Galaxy Quest (which I consider a loving tribute to the whole phenomenon)

Beyond that, I wanted to get into the Enterprise series, mainly because I heard it made the first cautious forays into pre-Kirk turf (which JJ, of course, completely went scorched-earth with).

But I do appreciate the cogent, enthusiastic point of view. Makes me want to actually flip to it when Spike TV or whoever is doing a marathon.

You've "made it so."

Jordan said...

You get my point, right? Now that the fate of Trek isn't resting on Patrick Stewart's shoulders any more, it's like it's a whole different viewing experience.

Jordan said...

Who moved this? Weird...

Octopunk said...

(I will jump in here but I'm busy at work. Here's a preview of my comment:

You're all wrong about everything.)

Jordan said...

There's one, single remaining complaint about The Next Generation that I will never, ever get past, no matter how much I change my mind about anything else:

Picard's "engage" hand gesture. It's the most effete, prissy, mannered, actorly, clumsy bit of body English I've ever seen. It makes him look like a guy with a blanket over his knees at a rest home, playing chess. (It's particularly laughable when they try to feature it in the movie trailers. "Engage..!" Ugh.

Later, Octo will chime in and we'll find out why this is actually the coolest, most badass, fiercest bit of physical acting since John McClane pulled the gun from his shoulder blade and shot Hans Gruber and the "Huey Lewis" guy with the handcart.

fixer said...

jordan, you sophmoric blowhard, you epitomize solecism. shut your hole.