Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One (Paramount)
In 1987 Patrick Stewart took the helm of the Federation flagship, the Starship Enterprise, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and led his multi-racial crew where no one had gone before.
It was a choppy beginning to what became a seven-season voyage, with the writers still trying to chart their own course and find the characters. The feature-length pilot, “Encounter at Far Point,” leans heavily on the god-prankster Q (John de Lancie) and a moralizing tone that was awkward even at the time, and so many subsequent episodes feel like rehashes of the original “Star Trek. And in terms of the crew, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) comes off as a new-age psychic spouting the obvious, First Officer Ryker (Jonathan) looks rather like a smug, grown-up frat boy (the beard came later), Data (Brent Spiner) is clearly the Spock substitute, and what’s with Worf’s (Michael Dorn) hair? Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) is no Bones McCoy but a veteran Starfleet officer and single mother with a bright son (Wil Wheaton) who makes the Captain uncomfortable. Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), the insecure security officer, didn’t even survive the debut season, killed off when the producers couldn’t figure out where to take the character. (To give the show all due credit, Crosby returned to much better effect in later episodes.)
But the season has its moments, especially in the later episodes of the season. “We’ll Always Have Paris” (where Picard runs into old love Michelle Phillips while trying to repair a rip in the fabric of the Universe), “Conspiracy” (a paranoid “body-snatchers” thriller that was unwisely wrapped up in a single episode but remains a rollercoaster trip), and the season finale “The Neutral Zone” (the Romulans return!). We were introduced to Lore, Data’s evil robot twin (not the most original of ideas) in “Datalore,” but also Picard’s film noir holodeck fantasy escape in “The Big Goodbye,” the first of many creative uses of the holodeck. Even Q got easier to take with time. The show finally got its space legs somewhere in the second season and hit warp speed in the third.