Warp Factor Trek

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Although I was born a couple of weeks after the premiere of the original series of Star Trek, I was alive to witness the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation (or “TNG”, for short) in 1987. With it, I had a series I could invest myself in from its beginning in September 1987 until the series finale in May 1994. As opposed to the original series, which I had followed piecemeal in reruns throughout the 1970s and ’80s, TNG was the first Star Trek series I could claim as “my” series from the ground up, and not because I never missed an episode in its entire seven seasons, beginning with the very first night the show aired.

I can still remember that night all too well, having to choose between staying home with my dad and watching the premiere with him, and going to a college swap and dancing with the girl whom I had a crush on, all four years of college. I chose both options.

I loved the show’s groundbreaking series premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint”. The reasons? For me, it was because the pilot episode proved Star Trek could continue without having to continually rely on the original cast, and that the franchise would indeed continue to grow into the future, regardless of success or failure.

Judging by “Encounter at Farpoint”, the new show was much more visually spectacular than the original series, of course. Granted, a couple of the visual effects in the pilot looked a bit rough and unfinished, particularly when the Q net was approaching the Enterprise at high warp. Of course, we have to remember that that was done back in 1987, and the remastered (and recomposited) effects look much better now, but that was the extent of the effects at that time. As for the Enterprise’s saucer separation, that was and still is my go-to shot of the series because it had never been done before, and the use of the TNG theme sounded the best in that sequence. In fact, I can’t think of anything in the entire pilot that didn’t work except for the new crew getting familiar with one another on their first mission and their first episode.

The USS Enterprise-D detaches its saucer section in the pilot episode of TNG, “Encounter at Farpoint” (CBS-Paramount)

By 1991, I had collected scripts for various TNG episodes (as well as some TOS scripts). That same year, during my graduate studies at Mississippi College, I read, in an issue of Starlog magazine, a TNG-related article that would prove highly inspiring to me. It was about an up-and-coming writer named Lawrence Conley, who had submitted a series of speculative script treatments to TNG. He hoped to break free from his regular day job into the world of professional script writing. Conley shared how he had submitted a couple of scripts and was invited to pitch several ideas for Executive Producers Michael Piller and Rick Berman. One of the ideas Conley pitched had become the basis for the fifth season episode “Silicon Avatar”, in which he received story credit. Conley was optimistic that this would begin his writing career. His personal experience on Star Trek, and the article about it, ended up influencing me as I undertook the task of writing a TNG spec script of my own (called “Checkmate”), though it was ultimately never produced.

I continued to faithfully follow TNG through the end of its fifth season, into its sixth and seventh, before concluding its run at the end of its seventh. And I could mention many of the best episodes from the series. From the Peabody Award-winning episode “The Big Goodbye” to the many Klingon-centered episodes, including “Heart of Glory”, “The Emissary”, “Sins of the Father”, and “Reunion”; from the strong morality tales such as “The Measure of a Man”, “The Offspring”, “The Drumhead”, and “The Inner Light” to the game-changing epics such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, “The Best of Both Worlds”, and the spectacular series finale “All Good Things”; as well as the return of Spock in “Unification, Parts 1 and 2” and Scotty in “Relics”. TNG had it all, and more.

But for me, TNG holds more personal memories of my life in my twenties. It reminds me of the friendships I had made during those years. It reminds me of somber memories of potential friendships gone sour at the time when the Klingons faced civil war in “Redemption, Parts 1 and 2”. It reminds me of buried love soon lost at the time of “Second Chances”. And it reminds me of new friendships with co-workers who equally followed TNG from start to finish. Through it all, the show’s cast and characters were like trusted companions, an extended family who reminded me that, no matter what happened in my life, I would be okay.

Of all the various Star Trek series that have been produced in the past fifty-five years, Star Trek: The Next Generation is the one series that continues to resonate in my life. And it makes me long for one more day with my dad or one more dance with my old college crush. The many memories of my life associated with TNG, too many to list them all here, whether good or bad or bittersweet, will go with me until the end of my life.

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