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October 12, 2006

Filed under: movies»television»star_trek

Television Week, Part 4: Generation Shift

I was a dyed-in-the-wool trekkie when I was a little kid. I had seen the original episodes a few times--I remember watching them with my father, but I guess when I was six or so, The Next Generation began airing, and I was hooked big time. So it's funny, when recorded episodes started showing up in my TiVo and I began rewatching the show after a 10 or 12 year gap, the things that I've noticed about it. Be warned, some of this is pretty geeky stuff.

  • TNG was pretty diverse for its time. Not just in the bridge crew, which was where all the diversity on the original series pooled, but in the extras. There are a lot of different faces in the background.
  • ...that said, it had a lot of room for improvement. The chain of command is mostly White men, and women are often relegated to stereotypical roles (the doctor, the psychiatrist, the wife) with the exception of Tasha Yar, who was quickly killed off. The Klingons are a barely-disguised parody of African-American savage stereotypes. I've noticed very few Indian, non-Japanese East Asian, or African characters. Also: no gay people.
  • What's with the regionalism? Okay, I understand that Earth still apparently plays a role in the Federation, but this series supposedly takes place 300 years from present day. Why does Colm Meaney still have a recognizable Irish accent? There are supposedly lots of human colonies and starbases scattered around--why haven't they gotten their own accents and dialects? It's just kind of weird.
  • Man, this show was cheesy. Given the chance between a dark but thought provoking ending that exposes more of the characters, or a feel-good platitude, TNG went for the platitudes just about every time. There are some of these that I can't even watch, they're so over-the-top.
  • The military heirarchy sometimes seems like an odd choice. TNG operates on a lot of Culture-lite conceits: no money, lots of automation, people do whatever it is that they want to do. In the middle of this is Starfleet's rank system. I understand that they need a way of resolving situations and giving orders, but the connotations kind of work against the Enterprise's supposedly peaceful mission.
  • While we're at it, what does the crew actually do? You know, for such a smart and advanced set of people, they have problems delegating. Every time there's an away team, out goes Will Riker and Data, or a set of other high-ranking, hard-to-replace characters to investigate the possibly hostile situation. The regular crew doesn't seem to do anything particularly useful, apart from taking phazer blasts for the bridge crew. Starfleet officers are the absolute managers from hell.
  • That's a nice computer. Shame if anything happened to it. So the computer going horribly awry is a common theme on the show. Apparently it's very fast, but not actually very intelligent, although it spawns AI at least three or four times. For all the good the Enterprise computer does, you still have to wonder sometimes if the crew wouldn't be better off with a cheap webserver and a TI-82. And what's with the crazy multi-colored interface? I guess you can't touch-type in the future. I wouldn't want to be a writer there.

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