Friday, November 08, 2013

#627. Seven lost elements of Star Trek: The Next Generation if you only know it from the films

So, I'm a big Star Trek fan.  What I'm about to write would be completely impossible for me, since I know pretty much the whole franchise like the back of my hand [insert Scotty punchline from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and bonus points if you know what it is], including the four Next Generation films [more bonus points if you can name them] as well as all seven seasons of the show.

Still, it astonishes me to think that it remains a very real possibility that a large chunk of the show's legacy would be lost on someone who only knows it from the films.  Granted, the show itself remains the most-watched of all the Star Trek series, but it's easier to catch up new fans with the movies than to sit through 170+ episodes.

If you're one of those newer fans, here's what you're missing:

  1. Q!  Serious Next Generation fans would be so upset with you!  Q is practically a member of the main cast, not because he made so many appearances (eight in all, actually) but because of the large impact he made with an instantly iconic personality (which is all the funnier to think about because originally the part wasn't even in the pilot, where he debuted along with almost everyone else).  For years fans clamored for him to be featured in a movie, but it never happened.  Can you even imagine what that would have been like?  No doubt vastly differently from every other one Paramount has yet released, for starters.  But seriously!  Can the fans imagine Next Generation without Q?  It's inconceivable!
  2. Tasha Yar.  A series regular in the first season, Yar was killed off before the end of that freshmen year at the behest of actress Denise Crosby, who thought she was being vastly underutilized.  In later years she realized her huge blunder (the show grew immensely in popularity two seasons later), and returned a number of times in various Substitute Yar roles, but she's the first of the series regulars who aren't represented in the films.  
  3. Wesley Crusher.  He's there if you don't blink in Nemesis, but otherwise the boy wonder is also a stark absence from the films even though, like Q, it would be hard to imagine the series without him (even if you hated the character).  Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the Q movie could have also been a Wesley Crusher movie.  You may recall that Wes's whole arc in the series revolved around a strange alien known as the Traveler whose vast abilities were only hinted at, a note Wes left on, actually, having attained the same powers.  Pit that against Q.  What do you get?
  4. Dr. Pulaski.  This one is the third of the series regulars who didn't appear in the films.  The character was actually a replacement for Wesley's mother in the second season, after Dr. Crusher's actress likewise wondered in the first season what happened to the role she thought she'd accepted (although Beverly would indeed return and in fact appear in all of the films).  Fans weren't too keen on Pulaski, sure, mostly because she was the rare negative voice around Data, and she could be misconstrued as a female "Bones" McCoy.  I always wondered why she was never brought up again after the second season, much less in the films.  
  5. Lore.  Speaking of Data, even though we saw another lost "brother" of his in the films, we never saw his "evil twin," who was such an integral part of the android's character arc in the series that the emotion chip that alters his role so much in the films actually came from Lore.  And yet no Lore in the movies.
  6. O'Brien.  This one actually baffles me the most.  Miles O'Brien was portrayed by Colm Meaney, who arguably is the most successful film actor to ever appear in Star Trek.  And yet for some reason he never appeared in a Star Trek film.  Who doesn't love O'Brien?  You could argue that his character definitely moved on when he transitioned to Deep Space Nine, moreso than Worf, who still managed to appear in every film, but still, huge opportunity lost.  Perhaps it would have been too distracting?  You certainly wouldn't want to waste Meaney in a cameo or bit role.  And anything else might have been too substantial and distracting from the core cast, many of whom constantly struggled for noteworthy material as it was in the films.  But still!
  7. Alexander.  Worf's son would probably have been completely out of place in the films, but he was still a substantial legacy of the series.  He popped up in Deep Space Nine, too, but the little warrior could have demonstrated a different character arc in fate had played out differently.  But again, not without altering the nature of the films.  Some would argue that as being a good thing, but then, we would never have gotten Abrams Trek.  And I love me Abrams Trek.
Anything else you care to bring up?


L.G. Keltner said...

Yay, I know the Scotty punchline you're talking about! I've watched all seven seasons of the show, plus I've seen all the films, so I'm fairly well versed when it comes to TNG. And Q is one of my favorite characters in Trek, so it seems downright wrong that some people don't know who he is.

Pat Dilloway said...

Hmm, let's get to work on a movie script called "Q Ex Machina" where Q and Wesley battle for control of the universe, co-starring Colm Meaney and Diana Muldaur (if she's still alive)! I think Paramount execs would die from laughing too hard. It was weird that Q made 8 appearances on TNG and a bunch on Voyager but only 1 on DS9; I guess the DS9 writers thought he didn't fit with the show. I didn't really mind Wesley that much but then I was a few years younger than he was supposed to be when TNG aired and the point of kid sidekicks is to have a character younger characters can relate to.

Other than George Clooney, Robin Williams, and Julianne Moore, how many former TV actors have actually found success in the movies? These days it's usually the other way around where actors like Charlie Sheen and Robin Williams who can't pay their bills anymore with movie roles move to the small screen.

Stephanie said...

Oh, where to start! Q is a wonderful character and concept; some very interesting theological issues raised through those episodes. Even more than Lore, I think Data's daughter Lal is something movie-only watchers would miss. That episode remains one of my favorites. Definitely a two-hanky moment.

My daughter decided her life goal was to create a Data. She settled on that when we first started watching TNG many years ago. She's now nearly college age and this is still her goal: she is shopping around all the best AI programs in the country. Hopefully she won't create a Lore!

Maurice Mitchell said...

You know when you break it down there are a bunch of really important characters that are missing. We may never see them now. Except for Q.


Great list! TNG is my favourite.
Every Sat I get caught on BBC America watching it with my son.
I say get caught because I have yard work and stuff to do...and my wife is kind enough to let me know this.

The Armchair Squid said...

I'm with Stephanie on Lal. That might be my favorite episode of the whole shebang.

Tony Laplume said...

L.G., I'm just glad none of them have chimed in!

Pat, love that title! DS9 quit doing so many TNG tie-ins after a bunch in the early episodes that might've made it hard to distinguish between the two series. So in its second season three old Klingons from the original series showed up...Muldaur is still alive...Denzel Washington is another example, surprisingly enough. Jennifer Aniston is the only Friends vet who made it, even though they all tried. My boy Colin Farrell had his breakthrough role in the British series Ballykissangel, which is also where I first noticed him. Will Smith is another! Jason Segel is a more recent example. Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Steve Carell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt...just a ton of them, really. It may actually be easier to name stars who weren't discovered on TV. Zooey Deschanel is my favorite recent movie-to-TV transfer. But I'll have a lot more to say about her next month...

Stephanie, that's awesome. I hope she succeeds!

Maurice, there's always hope if Michael Dorn gets his wish for a new series that also leads to new movies in the old timeline!

David, your wife is so helpful!

Squid, Lal was indeed pretty special. I sometimes underestimate that episode myself.


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