A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Michael Robbins has been the author and a contributor to six books. BUTTERFLY & SERPENT, the first book in a series, was published in 2012. Mike takes pride in being part of the American labor force for over 40 years. In his prose he strives for unity, not division; humor over prejudice; and heart over heartlessness. His art page can be found at Deviantart.com
I’m a little disappointed here. I was led to believe there was some pornography involved, and I’ll be damned if I can find ANY pornographic material AT ALL!!!
Truth be told, I had two reasons to read Mr. Johnson’s excellent book. One, he’s a fellow author and I’m going to support him. Two, I was told by some jackass in Florida, the guv or some flake, that I wasn’t allowed to. So I said, pfff, that so? Try an’ stop me, Desantutts.
I think the reason AllBoysAren’tBlue is on conservatives’ hit list is that it’s truthful. That’s probably the same reason HuckleberryFinn, TheGrapesofWrath, TheDiaryofAnneFrank and so many more have been banned and are being banned this very second. A good book is truthful and shines an unpleasant light on the reality of our society. Though to be honest, AllBoysAren’tBlue is not unpleasant reading at all. Far from it.
This is a memoir for young adults; it’s probably too mature for preschoolers, but that’s not the point here. It’s about a young black man growing up, finding his queerness but frequently having to suppress himself. The author is not alone. The prevalent theme in his story is family. Back in the 1970’s my brothers used to say if someone messed with someone in our family, we could get about a hundred people together to settle this. We had a lot of more of us then; I don’t know if that’s true now.
George Johnson has always had the support of his family; brothers, cousins, parents. And especially his Nanny, his grandma, that older person every family relies on; the one who takes you to flea markets, teaches you stuff, encourages you in everything you do, and is always proud of you, no matter what. That’s what family is for, to tease you, rough-house, to fight with and to fight for you
There are a couple of cuss words, not to excess. I can get more profanity from a StarTrek movie. A couple of chapters made me uncomfortable, maybe because these were private things you don’t ordinarily share with the world. You’ll find out, if you have the courage to read it. My discomfort is not the point. What matters is representation, and I believe George Johnson has done a hellava job.
I’d written this a long time ago, obviously judging by the subject matter. I would’ve hoped we’d moved beyond genocide by now; clearly that’s not the case. I’d actually posted a video on YouTube back in 2012, and somehow, ten years later, some moderator decided to delete that video for ‘violent content’. I appealed that decision; however five minutes later they got back to me upholding their decision.
I’m very pissed off by this. None of the images chosen involved beatings, lynchings, rape or any else that might provoke violence. The images of people starving were meant to provoke a response; disgust, disbelief, awareness of what kind of crap is going on in this world. This piece is not meant to advocate violence; it’s a protest against state-sponsored violence.
Well, at the risk of being crude, fuck it. I’m putting it here. Render your own judgement.
loll upon the tongue
join the dreaded list
ethiopia, bangladesh, somalia et al
the poor are always with us
the poor always die continuous
racial cleansing aside
how can it be
that there are so many ways to rephrase s singular sin
say it as it is
the armenians in 1915, a million and a half gone
the holocaust of the 1940s, six million to the ovens
I’ve gotta admit, I didn’t catch every episode of season 2 during its original broadcast. I’d pretty much kept up with every episode of the first season at least once, such was my loyalty to Star Trek. My viewing history for the sophomore season was much more spotty. I’d watch two or three stories in a row, skip one or two. For instance, the first story I sat down for was “Where Silence Has Lease”, a significantly darker, unnerving outing than virtually anything in the previous season. I missed both the season opener, “The Child”, and its closer, “Shades of Grey”. The last story I saw would be “Peak Performance”, the penultimate episode.
I can’t explain; it’s been 35 years. Perhaps I’d lost some interest after the disappointment of season 1. My Saturdays in 1988-89 were tied up in get-togethers with my writing friends, who were giving me much needed instruction. More to the point, I was beginning to put in the research necessary to make my scribblings worthwhile; to be honest, at this point, it stank. I had less time to binge TV. At age 24 I hadn’t really lived at this point. Hell, I’d never fallen in love, yet.
Changes were afoot at TNG. Because of an ongoing Writer’s Strike in 1988, the season was delayed; the first episode wouldn’t be syndicated until November 21st of that year. I had no idea what tensions were going on behind the scenes. The cast had settled comfortably into their roles; the writing had improved considerably. We were still saddled with stories that were not up to snuff (“The Royale”, “Up the Long Ladder”); some that just left us scratching our heads (“Where Silence Has Lease”, “Time Squared”); and at least one that was pulled out of their fannies (“Shades of Grey”). Also, the music scores still tended toward the bombastic.
Looking back a little older, a little more jaded, I can declare that at this point TNG was still guided by a 1960’s naivete of Gene Roddenberry. To wit, humanity had matured into an enlightened species. By definition the governing body of the franchise, The Federation, would also be guided by enlightened principles. Of course, even in The Original Series (TOS) there were hints that Paradise had its worms. They had their share of crazy starship captains and a bureaucracy unwilling to face up to unsavory situations that needed to be addressed.
Elements we’ve come to be familiar with in later years made their first appearances, often in the opening scenes of an episode. Worf’s calisthenics program debuted this year (“Where Silence Has Lease”) as does the officers’ nightly poker game (“The Measure of a Man”). And the Ferengi, that most deadly threat to the Federation in season 1, had been relegated to one appearance this season, and then only in the last 15 minutes of “Peak Performance”, the second to last episode of the season.
As an established series, TNG began to attract a lot of celebrity guest stars, and a few future stars. Joe Piscapo appeared as the Comic in “The Outrageous Okona”; Entertainment Tonight cohost John Tesh was disguised as one of the Klingons inflicting pain sticks on Worf in “The Icarus Factor”, while drummer Mick Fleetwood was even more recognizable as a fish-faced alien in “Manhunt”. One of Teri Hatcher’s early roles was as a transporter chief in “The Outrageous Okona”
There was also The BEARD. Despite what Q would say a year from now, I thought it suited Riker. It made him more distinguished yet somehow still likeable. I was comfortable with it from the start. It can’t help enhancing his irrepressible grin. After a full season of rotating engineers, Picard promoted inhouse from the available personnel, making Geordi LaForge the Chief Engineer for the rest of the series.
Ten Forward appeared in the opener, but that wasn’t the most interesting development. That fell to the casting of the bartender Guinan, a long time Trek fan known as Whoopi Goldberg. This wasn’t a role she needed to take. By 1988 Whoopi already had seven films under her belt, including her breakout role in The Color Purple (1985), which earned her anOscar nomination for Best Actress. This was something she wanted, that she was inspired to by original Trek actress Nichelle Nichols. Though her cameos were small, she acted as that impish elf dispensing wise sayings that the crew needed at any given time.
Unfortunately the worst change was in the medical field. It seems certain people on the production staff didn’t like how Gates McFadden’s character, Dr. Crusher, was being developed. Worse, they managed to convince Gene Roddenberry of that. All I knew was that Dr. Crusher was gone, and you don’t realize how much you appreciate someone until they’re gone. Crusher was traded in for Dr. Kate Pulaski, a Dr. McCoy retread who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—get Data’s name right. In fact, she seemed to have a problem appreciating that Data was a valuable crewman and an individual who required no justification. The fact that she was played by TOS veteran Diana Muldaur (“Return to Tomorrow”, “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”) didn’t help anyone warm up to her.
Curiously, the one thing Muldaur and Whoopi shared in common was that they were not listed in the main cast, not even as guest stars, but solely designated with a ‘Special Guest Appearance’ after the opening teaser.
This season’s scripts were very Data-centric, with five focused exclusively on our favorite android (“Elementary, Dear Data”, “The Outrageous Okona”, “The Schizoid Man”, “The Measure of a Man” and “Pen Pals”). He grew in his study of humanity and endured the slights of Dr. Pulaski with dignity. He retained his childlike nature while mentoring under Picard. Often he has the central role to play in the resolution of a conflict. Data (Brent Spiner) attended the birth of Troi’s son Ian (“The Child”), explored the nature of humor (“Okona”), assisted Picard in deciphering the Iconian language (“Contagion”); gambled the away team out of the casino and out of a badly written novel (“The Royale”); and experienced doubt in his abilities for the first time (“Peak Performance”).
If any crewman comes close to the number of episodes in focus, it’s William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Beard aside, here is a man who welcomes a challenge, whether it’s volunteering for an officer exchange program with the Klingons (“A Matter of Honor”) or bringing a broken-down wreck up to spec to challenge the Enterprise-D in a war game (“Peak Performance”). He faced every obstacle with zeal, ingenuity, and a great big grin. Not all challenges are so easy. Regulations compelled him to participate in a hearing that might cost Data his life (“The Measure of a Man”). For the second time Riker is offered his own command, and the man offering it is his estranged father, which in typical male fashion must be settled in a martial arts contest (“The Icarus Factor”). We also discover he’s a cook, albeit not very good one (though you could never tell Worf that). Could explain how he wolfs down gakk.
Patrick Stewart as Picard had pretty much become the captain we’d come to know and love for the rest of the series. He could be steady, firm, and hews closer to his principles, particularly the Prime Directive than James T. Kirk. We’re starting to get a little more background. For instance, in “Contagion” Picard indulges in his interest in stellar archaeology; while on a shuttle flight he divulges the incident from his misspent youth that forced him to have an artificial heart (“Samaritan Snare”).He even demonstrates a sardonic sense of humor (“The Outrageous Okona”).
Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) grew into adolescence without the support of his mother, under the collective mentoring of the TNG crew. He wasn’t quite the annoying know-it-all we came to despise the previous year. He deals with this separation, with the help of Guinan (“The Child”). He also suffers his first crush in “The Dauphin”, where we the viewer are treated to the first montage of a crew member seeking the advice of every member of the bridge crew, with often humorous results. After endangering the ship so much in season 1, in “Pen Pals” Wesley is given the responsibility of actually saving a planet.
His father-son relationship with Picard deepens as the captain loosens up on an extended shuttle ride, relating an episode of his reckless youth that led to his impalement on a Nausican knife, necessitating an artificial heart that needs replacing (“Samaritan Snare”). For the first time the senseless of death smacks Wes right to his face with the destruction of the starship Yamamoto (“Contagion”) and the deathly aged crew of the Lantree (“Unnatural Selection”).
Worf’s (Michael Dorn) appearance evolved into a fuller mane and the addition of his baldric sash. He’s still inflexible and unbending in his application of Klingon tradition. He’s now permanent security chief, and still king of the one-liners (to wit– “Comfortable chair”, from “The Emissary”). Or how about this exchange with Wesley in “The Dauphin” about Klingon mating rituals: “Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects. And claw at you.”
“What does the man do?” Wesley asks.
Worf replies: “He reads love poetry. (beat) He ducks a lot.”
This season we also get to further explore Klingon culture, as in the aforementioned “A Matter of Honor”. Worf tutors Commander Riker, who takes his lessons to heart, first by asserting his authority over a junior Klingon officer (by kicking his ass) and then assuming command of the ship to save the Enterprise. Riker’s plotline in “The Icarus Factor” was almost undermined by the subplot where Worf is out of sorts, almost out of joint, because it’s the anniversary of his rite of ascension. Fortunately Wesley finds out and the crew prepares a proper simulation on the holodeck…complete with pain sticks.
Two problems crop up for Worf in “The Emissary”. First, there is the main issue of a Klingon sleeper ship on an intercept course for several Federation colonies. A more personal problem is the emissary herself, K’Ehleyr, an old love of Worf’s who’s not ready to commit to marriage, especially once Worf jumps ahead and announces they’re one anyway. In later episodes, they will both have to deal with the consequences of their mating.
Finally, Troi got out of that frumpy jumpsuit she was confined in for the previous voyage. Her new jumpsuit was more flattering and form-fitting, one she’d wear for the next five seasons. Also out was the bun and in with a freer floating ‘do. The season’s opening story, “The Child”, was given to Troi, who runs with the material. This story, a script recycled from the abandoned Phase II series from the late 70’s, was adopted when the writers strike clawed into TNG’s production time. While Worf’s first thought is to terminate the child and Riker demands to know who was the father, Troi feels the first stirrings of life in her belly and announces, “I’m keeping this child.” And the lioness has spoken.
Again, I won’t be going over every episode…well, any more than I already have. This is a personal rather than a critical remembrance. These will just be highlights.
The first episode I screened for season 2 was in fact the second episode, “Where Silence Has Lease”, and …ohh-kaaay. That was disturbing. It could have passed as an original series Outer Limits story. The ship faces an amorphous alien antagonist running bizarre, unethical experiments without the slightest concern for his lab subjects—us. The next couple of weeks slipped in the opposite direction. First, in “Elementary, Dear Data”, Dr. Pulaski challenges Data to solve a real mystery in the Sherlock Holmes style. Geordi’s poor choice of words gives him a worthy opponent all right, a holographic version of Professor Moriarty, with all the 23rd century knowledge of the Enterprise. “The Outrageous Okona” was a bit of a comedy of errors; part Han Solo, part Capulets vs. Montagues.
“Unnatural Selection” tread similar ground to the original series episode “The Deadly Years”, though the repercussions for the ‘children’ of the Darwin lab will be more consequential and uncertain. “Loud As a Whisper” dealt sensitively with disability, even having insight enough to cast a deaf man, Howie Seago, in the guest starring role of ambassador Riva. “Time Squared” has no monsters, no alien antagonists: in the words of David Tennant’s Doctor, it’s pretty much wibbly wobbly timey-wimey.
“Contagion” was probably the most honest Trek story as far as our dependence on computers goes; and how screwed we’ll be if they fall apart. One hidden gem, for myself, was that the co-author (with Beth Woods) was none other than Steve Gerber. That name probably means nothing to many of you younglings, but I knew him from my comic books, the creator of Man-Thing and Howard the Duck. One a horror series, the other a satire of the 70’s. Here he’s at his most inventive, introducing the Iconians, ‘demons of air and light’. It’s both a race to beat the Romulans, and personal for Picard after the Yamamoto explodes in front of his eyes, taking another old friend. It’s also an excuse for him to take a more active role in the story, to exercise captain’s prerogative and lead the away mission himself, as only he has the archaeological knowledge to pursue this mission.
Now, “The Royale”. My family has loved this episode since we first watched it on a standalone VHS. My wife waits through the entire first season just for this repeat. Putting that aside…it’s best not to question it too much, just enjoy the funny bits. The crew beam aboard a fragment of a 21st century Earth craft. Beaming down to the planet, Riker, Data and Worf find themselves in a recreation of a second-rate novel, as well as a dead astronaut. Picard decides that the answers to the puzzle lie in the novel itself, which he sits down to read. It begins: “It was a dark and stormy night. (Sigh) Not a promising beginning.”
Troi volunteers, “It may get better.” (It doesn’t.)
In fairness to my beloved, this episode’s effects don’t hold up well. It’s no secret that the away team is standing on a dark soundstage with a blurry F/X ‘cloud’ fuzzing above them. This story was also dated only a couple years later when the unsolvable mathematical equation by Fermat mentioned in this story, was in fact deciphered by Princeton professor Andrew Wiles in 1993.
In “Pen Pals” , Data befriends a young alien girl on a planet on the verge of destruction. In so doing he not only becomes a ‘pen pal’ but a surrogate brother. Data also demonstrates a depth and caring I don’t think he recognized in himself. “Manhunt” is basically Lwaxana Troi on steroids. “Up the Long Ladder” couldn’t decide what story it wanted to be. Somehow the writers tried to wedge two stories into one script. We have a humorous story with space Irish on one colony, and on another colony is a sterile, scientifically advanced society. By sterile I mean ‘sterile’; every one in the second colony is (surprise!) a clone. What we have is a mess, touching on issues like resettlement, privacy, ethics. So Picard’s brilliant solution: let’s mash ‘em both together and hope it all works out.
“Shades of Grey”, the season’s closer, was Classic Trek’s first and only clip show. If it’s not the worst, at least it is the laziest written script in TNG’s history. We’re now left with two.
“The Measure of a Man” is our first certifiable classic of the TNG era. Data is confronted by the fact that as an android, in the eyes of Starfleet he has no rights. He doesn’t even have the right to resign his commission to prevent his dismantling so that cyberneticist Bruce Maddox can study him. Picard is having none of that and demands a hearing from Captain Phillipa Louvois, the same person who conducted his court-martial nine years before for losing the Stargazer.
Picard was almost beaten by his first officer’s presentation. Riker is morally beaten because he did his job too well, a job forced on him by regulations. It’s only through Guinan’s sly insights that Picard sees the real danger, which apparently came to pass in season 1 of ST: Picard. On the stand, Maddox’s lofty ideas are exposed as fantasy, implying the creation of a race of androids without agency, a prelude to slavery. Then Picard renders a classic speech in his closing argument. In part:
“Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits, waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make it a good one.” At the beginning of her ruling Louvois refers to Data as ‘it’. Halfway through it she’s calling Data ‘he’. Though its early on in the series, Data had already demonstrated he was more than the sum of his parts. He also has the grace to invite a despondent Riker to the victory celebration.
Finally…until the story we’re about to cover, TNG did not have an enemy. As a force to be reckoned with, the Ferengi were a miserable failure. The Klingons and Romulans were formidable opponents, but the former were our allies in the 24th century. As for the latter, well, they’re just as deceitful and haughty as ever, but they’re still old school—or should I say ‘old series’. In “Q Who”, that rascally omnipotent entity Q committed the most evil act in all his appearances. He introduces us to the Borg.
The Borg were everything Gene Roddenberry would NOT identify as human. They are not evil; that would imply intention to inflict harm. They’re as incapable of feeling as a virus. Cybernetic monsters were not new to science fiction series. Prior to this, Doctor Who got 20 years of mileage out of the Cybermen, not to mention the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica. This was different. This was a dark page in the bright future Gene had painted for the previous 20 years.
Q (John De Lancie) had returned to the Enterprise-D, having been expelled from the Continuum, doubtless for his failure to intimidate humanity. After Picard insists humanity was ready for ANY challenge it might face ‘out there’, Q had a fit. With a snap of his fingers Q tosses the Enterprise thousands of light years into the heart of the Delta Quadrant. The first hints of Guinan’s past are given; she knows of the Borg, because they destroyed her people a hundred years ago. Very soon all of Picard’s ingenuity and diplomacy were rendered useless.
All the while Q pops in and out of the action, defining the Borg bit by bit, taking a sadistic delight in Picard’s growing discomfort. “You can’t outrun them, you can’t destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains…They regenerate and keep coming…Eventually you will weaken…Your reserves will be gone…They are relentless.”
It is to his credit this one time that Picard asks this small minded omnipotent bastard to save his ship. This Q does. No apologies, no regrets for the lives lost, or for the fact that this one act has overturned the natural order by introducing a Force (there’s no other word for them) we were absolutely not prepared to face.
I have gone on without saying a lot about this episode, I know. I don’t need to explain the details for hardcore Trekkers. For those of you new to Star Trek, well, hopefully I haven’t dropped too many spoilers.
This would be the last season of any Star Trek series where Gene Roddenberry would be in the producer’s chair. Change has always been an essential part of Trek, but a lot of us didn’t feel TNG was essential viewing at the time. What we saw in the coming season was more than change, it was like a soft reboot. That will be another blog.
I’ve been carrying this around since the late 80s. This was dedicated to the home I grew up in, at least the first home I had a great fondness for. With the excess time off I’ve had due to medical issues I came back to it, with a couple additions. I don’t know if they help or if its crap. I’m just going to throw it out there and let you decide.
Hello old friend, has it been so long
Since I went far away
Those days are still strong
I left very young, yes it’s been a few years
But for the days long past
I can’t shed any tears
Hey old friend, did the grass stain our pants?
It never spawned any weeds
Or a ‘puppy-doo’ dance
[Neighbors’ ladder sliding along side-boards
While my brothers laughed from the second floor window
And the neighbor raised a fist
GI Joes were not for adulation
But burying in the nearest storm drain]
We’d curl up at dawn on that vent in the floor
The grill marked me up
While the others got warm
[Shattered glass backed into unseen
‘cause I didn’t want to wear a shirt
Comic books in sickbed, Man of Steel with a golden key
Curled up on the couch
All four eyes glued to Spider-Man]
We always ran up the stairs, almost beat them to death
British comedy takes some getting used to. It’s more outrageous, wacky, and not as straight jacketed by puritanical impulses as American media, then or now. The secret lies in the fact that in the 1960’s, the people making these programs didn’t take themselves too seriously. Try getting Franklin Graham to guffaw along with Benny Hill, Monty Python or Red Dwarf. Hah. Good Luck.
John Lennon’s first book, In His Own Write, was published in March 1964, during the filming of the Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, which also began in March; both shortly before I was born, I might add. 1964 would be the group’s busiest year, and John was still very much invested in their success. And it was grueling, with their world tours to America, Australasia, and Europe, three albums to records along with various singles, television appearances and radio shows, endless interviews in every stop on the road, with only two roadies to assist. Not to mention their legendary first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in February and two Christmas Shows bookending the year.
By a strange coincidence a young performer named Dudley Moore was looking to begin his own solo project, but unsure of going it alone, he enlisted a fellow colleague, Peter Cook, his partner in the stage comedy revue Beyond the Fringe (1960+). And thus began the comedy sketch program Not Only…But Also. For three series transmitted in 1965, 1966 and 1970 we were treated to their warped sketches and musical performances, which was very common in shows of that period.
John was acquainted with both Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, as well as Norman Rossington, who appeared alongside him in A Hard Day’s Night. On November 4th Norman and series producer Joe McGrath visited John backstage at the Ritz Cinema in Luton and invited him to participate in the first edition of the new series. John agreed. The first part involved the filming of an outdoor surrealistic sequence on November 20th, to accompany the reading of his poem “Deaf Ted, Danoota, (and me). Shot at Wimbledon Common in Southwest London, this involved John, Dudley and Norman bicycling (over a fence at one point), swinging, dancing with balloons and strolling over the grounds.
Part two was taped the evening of November 29 before an audience at the BBC’s Television Centre in West London. Among the items read to the camera, from In His Own Write, was “About the Awful”, read by John himself. This was his own mangled autobiography, from the book’s back cover.
John’s prose is not for the linear-minded. His work tends towards the surreal, more like a stream of consciousness with a dash of the comedy troupe, the Goons, thrown in. It’s best experienced as it is here, as spoken performance, or as with his poem “Good Dog Nigel”, with Norman Rossington and a wriggling basset hound in John’s arms. “Unhappy Fred” is a two-hander shuffling back and forth between Dudley and Norman while John, Norman and Dudley do a back and forth to “All About Speeching”. John deadpans his way through “The Wrestling Dog” while Norman barks and ducks in and out. While Dudley mangles and shrieks through the closing number, the other players prance in front of his piano, ending with John flitting manically across the stage.
This first edition was broadcast on BBC2 on January 6, 1965. John enjoyed the experience so much he returned for the Christmas Special, broadcast on Boxing Day, December 26, 1966. John recorded his part on November 27, appearing briefly as Dan, a doorman in a 15-minute segment, a “Swinging London” parody masquerading as The Pipesucker Report, from Idaho. Cook plays an investigative reporter and towards the end of the sketch he approaches an exclusive club, the Ad Lav only to be stopped by Dan (John). He is only allowed access once he convinces Dan he is the Duke and Duchess of Windsor—and also offers John a small bribe. (The Ad Lav is a spoof of the Ad Lib Club, which was much visited by the Beatles.)
While these had little to do with music, they stand as John’s first public appearances outside of the Beatles. Dudley Moore and Peter Cook would enjoy many years, together and solo, as actors and comediennes, notably in the original version of Bedazzled (1967). Moore might best be remembered for his role as the titular alcoholic in Arthur (1981). Sadly all three of these greats are no longer with us, but their works will live on.
Available On: Much of this series is lost, due to the shortsightedness of the BBC. From 1970 to 1974 it became official policy mandating that recordings of programs deemed of less historical or commercial importance be wiped, a cost saving measure so that the master tapes could be reused. Priority was given to preexisting national or local news items; comedy was not considered of cultural value among the BBC higher ups. Peter Cook offered to buy the existing prints for Not Only…But Also from the BBC, but was turned down flat.
What we have, as with the slaughter of 1960’s Doctor Who, The Avengers and other programs, is items recovered from foreign networks and the remaining 16 mm film inserts. These bits were collected into six 100-hour episodes called The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also. These episodes were subsequently released onto a VHS of the same name. In 2003, a 90 minute Region 2 DVD compilation was released as The Best of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. In America this would see a DVD release as The Best of…What’s Left of…Not Only…But Also by BBC Worldwide in September 2008, featuring all six compilation episodes, with certain edits due to rights issues.
Star Trek: The Next Generation may have been the most anticipated new series in the fall of 1987. After four feature films, twenty years since the debut of the Original Series on NBC, a new generation of fearless explorers had arisen to follow the path laid down by James T. Kirk and his intrepid crew. And therein may lay the problem. We Trekkies expected magic, and were promptly let down; at least we thought so. Retrospect gives me a different viewpoint. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but at that point it wasn’t close to the quality it would achieve in later seasons.
TNG began airing in syndication on September 28, 1987. In a delicious twist of irony, locally it was broadcast twice a week on our town’s Fox station. One hundred years after events of the Original Series (OS), Jean Luc Picard assumes command of the Galaxy-class starship Enterprise–D. He and his intrepid crew—William T. Riker, Data, Worf, Tasha Yar, Geordi La Forge, Counsellor Deanna Troi, Dr. Beverly Crusher and her precocious son Wesley—set out on their ongoing mission to explore the uncharted regions of space.
The show was one of the most talked about subjects at my first science fiction convention, Norwescon 10, which was held at the Sheraton Inn in my hometown of Tacoma, Washington, on March 24 to 27, 1988. That convention blew me away, being a neophyte and all. I spent a lot of time immersed in panels, seated as far in the back as I could get. What I really wasn’t prepared for was the fire drill we had on Friday night. Everyone in the hotel, hundreds of us, had to hurry down 17 flights of stairs, and once we were all crowded outside, someone announced that it had been a false alarm, and we had to trudge back up 17 flights of stairs. To be that young again…
Trekkies had set up a ‘transporter’ on the second floor, and not too far away was a TARDIS. All day Sunday in NWC6, Room 407, there was a showing of the fan parody, “Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation”, “baldly going where no one has gone before” against the dreadful Ferrari. I’m still laughing about that today. TNG was the subject of a panel discussion in which one of the participants described Tasha Yar as a “bitch in britches.” One of the biggest selling buttons that year was “Kill Wesley Crusher.”
It wasn’t all negative. The Artist Guest of Honor was Rick Sternbach, an illustrator involved in TNG and later Star Trek series. Toastmaster for Norwescon 10 was Trek scriptwriter David Gerrold, the man who gave us the tribbles. At this point TNG hadn’t finished broadcasting its first season. The last episode before the convention, “Heart of Glory”, aired March 21. Tasha Yar would still be alive for a couple more episodes. Once the convention closed, six more episodes remained before the season concluded with “The Neutral Zone”, syndicated on May 16, 1988.
One problem with the series was expectations. All of us Trekkies had spent the last 17 years engrossed in reruns of the Original Series. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, Uhura and the Enterprise herself were our heroes, our models for what our species was capable of. Anyone stepping into those shoes had a lot of overarching expectations to overcome. Additionally, TNG never had a distinctive theme of its own. What we had is a combination of the beginning of Alexander Courage’s theme from OS, coupled with the main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith.
Another problem was the new alien threat—the Ferengi. Yeah, you can all pick yourselves off the floor and stop laughing now. They spent a few episodes hinting at the great and powerful menace facing the Federation, and when they finally did appear…they were trolls. Ironically, at the same time Sylvester McCoy stepped in as the new Doctor Who in merry ol’ England, and I thought exactly the same thing about him. In that instance McCoy grew on you, in time becoming one of the most intriguing, sinister Doctors of all. The Ferengi would never rise above the level of a joke. Lets not get into the merry-go-round of Chief Engineers that plagued this season. We had MacDougal, Argylle, the obstinate Logan (who was just a dick), and Leland T. Lynch.
One welcome change would be that all seven main cast members were given a spotlight—not always a good one, but they tried. No one was sidelined in favor of the principals, as in Kirk-Spock-McCoy over everyone else in OS. It is now time to consider those cast members.
Picard (Patrick Stewart) was presented as a French captain, a callback to the original series where everything is a Russian inwention to Chekov . That lasted a few episodes before they largely drop the gag and roll with the English actor who happens to have a French name. He was stiffly regimented, just as Q described him, in their early voyages. Episodes such as “Code of Honor”, “Too Short a Season” and “Symbiosis” defined Picard’s strict adherence to the Prime Directive, an OS rule which Kirk broke repeatedly. Picard is also saddled with a shipload of children, and honestly he’s not too fond of them. To his credit, he’s prepared to risk the ship for their safety, whether it’s just for one (Wesley, “Justice”) or many (“When The Bough Breaks”).
Riker spends most of the season as a James T. Kirk clone. That’s an unfortunate accusation dating to fans early impressions, soon dashed both by improved writing and the natural charisma of Jonathan Frakes. It wasn’t long before we were treated to something the fans refer to as “The Riker Maneuver”; y’know, those times he leans over chairs, one leg propped up on a console. Or all the times he swings one leg over a chair as he’s seating himself. There are rumors Frakes did this to relieve pressure on his back, due to injuries sustained from a former job as a furniture mover. I get that. My brother David frequently suffered back injuries, usually self-inflicted, from lifting doors. Frakes carries out the maneuver as early as the second episode, “The Naked Now”, when he’s leaning over Data while he’s operating the science station. And it’s not a bad thing. It adds a layer to his character; it suited his flamboyance and self -confidence.
Worf growls a lot and spends most of the season getting his ass kicked. On the other hand, he got all the best one-liners. Consider this exchange from “Justice”:
Worf: “For what we consider love, sir, I would need a Klingon woman.”
Riker: “What about plain old basic sex? You must have some need for that.”
“Of course, but with the females available to me, sir—Earth females—I must restrain myself too much. They are quite fragile, sir.”
“Worf, if I didn’t know better I’d say you were bragging.”
Then there’s this goodie from “11001001”: “If winning is not important, then, Commander–why keep score?” Finally, Worf’s impassioned speech about duty and honor in “Heart of Glory” may be one of the best of Season One.
The one duo that works right out of the gate is the pairing of Geordi and Data. Geordi could be considered an extension of the actor playing him, LeVar Burton. He was personable, outgoing, the guy who gets along with everyone. In tense situations Geordi was ready with a wry comment that was usually spot on. The fact that he had a VISOR never troubled me, despite the writers constantly bringing it up as some kind of multi-tasking super-duper power.
Data (Brent Spiner) remains the most appealing character. He was the polar opposite of OS’s Spock, though they both served the same function as mirrors on the human condition. Early on Data was characterized as a babbler who defines words and phrases to death, to the point where the captain, crew and even the ship’s computer cut him off. Whereas Spock kept his emotions on a tight grip and frequently expressed disdain at our emotionalism, Data was always reaching, often coming closer to humanity than most of the humans he interacted with. When Tasha, in her farewell log, said he sees things with the wonder of a child, she’s not wrong.
The tragedy of Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) is that we never got to know her. The one story where Tasha was the focus (“Code of Honor”) was diluted by Picard and Chief Lutan waltzing around the Prime Directive. We have hints of her home world, a place hip deep in anarchy, that were barely scratched at. And yet we can view the effects of growing up in that environment in her self-discipline and the rapier sharp temper, poised to lash out at any time.
And she suffers no fools, as when the aliens are locked in an electric duel (‘Symbiosis”), she casually phasers them with a quiet, “Gentlemen, behave.” When confronted by Ferengi or Qs, she gives no fucks. It would have been interesting to explore her early years, what clever ways she avoided the gangs, the skills she acquired for day-to-day survival. That was not to be.
Troi starts off in a skant miniskirt and boots for the pilot. Once we get to the first episode she’s confined for the rest of the season in a doughty jumpsuit; now if the intent was to deemphasize her sexuality, they went too far the other way. The Riker-Troi romance was kind of a carry-over from the planned-&-cancelled PhaseII series from the 1970s, where the romantic pair was Dekker and Ilia, brought to life in ST: TheMotionPicture.
The romance here is not only unsustainable, it’s unbelievable. This is especially true given the considered and intelligent portrayal of Benjamin Sisko and his son Jake on DS9. Anyone can see this as a sham perpetuated by TV writers, that a protagonist can’t be weighed down by a family or love interest. Horseshit. Career military men from the lowest ranks to the most decorated generals have been married, with children. People can make a commitment to family and the service. The two are not incompatible.
Miles O’Brien also makes his first appearance, on the battle bridge in the very first episode, although he wouldn’t be given a surname until the second season (“A Matter of Honor”), and his full name would not be given until season 4.
And then there’s Wesley Crusher, child genius. In early forays, from “The Naked Now” up through “Datalore”, Wesley was the one person who can rescue the ship—after he was the one who put it in danger in the first place. This was in line with Gene Roddenberry’s showcasing Wesley as an indispensable genius; it also portrayed the rest of the command crew as foolish. After “Where No One Has Gone Before”, it became Picard’s job to mentor Wesley, becoming a surrogate father of sorts.
The early stories were painful to watch, though the scriptwriting improved after the first block of episodes. I’m not going to nitpick over every single episode. I’d just like to cover some highlights. Let’s begin with the pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”. First, there was Q. At this point Q remained a mustache twirling villain with contempt for all lesser species. Q joins a long line of godlike entities that peppered OS like Apollo, the Metrons and Trelaine, possibly a Q himself. Unlike previous encounters with supposed ‘deities’, a larger spectra of existence was hinted at (“Hide and Q”), and would be explored in future episodes across three different Trek series.
I liked most of it, BUUUT…Picard surrendered. He actually did it twice. And god, they recycled that damn Motion Picture theme at every dramatic moment. I love that theme, but there’s a point where you have to scream “ENOUGH ALREADY!” To be fair, we met the crew; this was the first time we saw a saucer separation on a starship; and those space jellyfish were absolutely gorgeous. Who had an absolute legitimate grievance. Original Series actor Deforest Kelley’s cameo in “Farpoint” was a highlight. It was also the beginning of a Trek tradition where a character from the previous series acts as a bridge linking the two series.
“The Naked Now” was basically a retread of an OS episode. “Code of Honor” was possibly the most unintentionally racist episode of any Trek series; it has my vote for the worst episode on TNG’s entire 7-season run. The idea may have been to portray the Ligonians as Samurai warriors, but they came across as hide-bound, tradition bound jackasses. “Too Short a Season” presented our first modern, self-important, dickhead Starfleet Admiral. There would be more.
“Angel One” was a busy episode, what with the plague-of-the-week and a lost party in a matriarchal society. Unfortunately, the women of that society came across as obnoxious and closed-minded. Honestly, I found it hard to sympathize with any of the guest cast. At least “Home Soil” gave us the alien’s tagline: “Ugly bags of mostly water.” “Skin of Evil” was the kind of weird story one could expect from the pen of Outer Limits creator Joseph Stefano. Poor visual effects did this in, but the main issue was that it was a pointless episode designed to kill off a member of the main cast.
I’m not prepared to tag any of these early voyages as Classics, but there were a handful of Good ones. “Where No One Has Gone Before” showed us the seeds of greatness, positing new ideas with the Traveler and the possibilities of higher levels of consciousness. I’m sure we’ve all seen the meme-worthy scene where Picard is about to step out of the turbolift—and almost into warp space. Unfortunately, it also established Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Wesley Crusher as Will Robinson, the smartass kid who had all the answers.
“The Big Goodbye” set the standard for all holodeck adventures that go terribly wrong. It also introduced Picard’s unlikely fascination with 20th Century pulp hero Dixon Hill, an analogue to Data’s parroting of Sherlock Holmes (“Lonely Among Us”). Another holodeck adventure, “11001001” gave Riker a chance to shine while introducing Frakes’ real-life trombone playing skills. The duo of Picard and Riker was unbeatable. It also had the most honest answer as to why these aliens carried out their actions. When Picard asked why they didn’t ask for our help, the Bynars reply, “You might have said no”.
“Heart of Glory” gave us our First Klingon Episode, in which we learn more about the Klingon race than we had in the entire Original Series, and that’s including the first four movies! For the first time, though not the last, Worf emerged as a character of depth and honor. In “Conspiracy”, we had the grossest head splatter in Trek history.
THE MOST BADASS CHARACTER IN SEASON ONE
In fact, the most badass character in the first season of TNG was– Dr. Beverly Crusher, played by Gates Mcfadden. I didn’t like her in the first viewing; most frequently her catchphrase seemed to be, “I don’t know.” But truthfully, she was a lioness in defense of her son (“Justice”, “When the Bough Breaks”). In “Conspiracy”, the possessed Admiral Quinn kicks Riker’s ass, throws Geordi through the bulkhead doors, kicks Worf’s ass—and then Dr. Crusher walks in and phasers the SOB; no fear, no fucks given. In “The Arsenal of Freedom”, while in shock and bleeding, with an automated program loading ever-deadlier probes at both the away team and the Enterprise–D, she is the only one with enough clarity to see the solution: “Why don’t you just shut it off?”
Despite its early shortcomings, TNG was a success right out of the gate. There was little question it would be renewed for a second season. But changes were coming, and that will be the subject of a future blog.
I’m trying to understand something. I don’t know why we’re still talking about it. Seriously, what is everyone’s problem with Jews?
I’ve never been hurt by anyone of the Jewish faith. I’ve never been robbed, bamboozled or financially taken advantage of by said people. If its the tenets and/or rituals they practice, oooh boy have you looked at the Catholic Church lately? I have one rule regarding my level of hate, and that is, I reserve it for anyone who acts like an asshole.
Oh wait, I get it. It’s that business where Jesus was condemned by all the Jews in Jerusalem way back in the Stone Age, Roman Age whatever. One question…how do you know that’s what happened?
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke, were written second-hand, according to tradition, according to the testimony said to come from Peter and Paul. The only gospel written by an actual apostle was that of John the beloved–again, ACCORDING TO TRADITION. Which proves nothing, as these books were transcribed a hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection.
Putting that aside, I’m supposed to believe that every single Jew in the city rose up against Jesus, after all the miracles he bestowed, after raising both Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus from the dead? I say unto you, IDBY. It certainly wasn’t true of Joseph of Arimathea–you know, the guy who provided the tomb where Jesus lay until his resurrection?
Even IF that were so, which I doubt, so what? That was 2,000 years ago. The Jews of today weren’t alive then. Their ANCESTORS weren’t alive then. In the Mormon church we have an interesting set of guidelines, known as the Articles of Faith. You may be interested in Article no. 2, to wit, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Whoever killed Jesus, 81 generations ago, they ain’t alive anymore. You can’t hold their descendants responsible.
As for that BS that “eww, Jews own everything, they control everything”, I’m not even wasting time on that nonsense. Elon Musk was raised in an Evangelical family and now is agnostic. Rupert Murdoch professes to be Christian. The Koch brothers are Catholic. The actual number of billionaires following the Jewish faith is closer to 19.8%-30%.