Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Warning: shameless display of geeky fandom ahead

The week our parents were away, my sibs and I finally finished the last few DVDs from our Star Trek: The Next Generation box set. It took us well over a year, given the long hiatus we took while Hanks was in Beijing, and other scheduling conflicts (yes, we insist on watching it together— no man gets left behind), but at last our Trekker pilgrimage of 7 seasons is completed. And naturally, I feel a tribute is in order now (I’m guessing no one’s going to read the rest of this entry except my sibs :p).

Aside from being a medium for sibling bonding, TNG is near and dear to my heart because of one man: Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played with an endearing mix of gravitas and wry humor by the immensely talented Patrick Stewart (some of you may know him better as Professor X). Picard is my favorite Star Trek captain and character for the same reason Preston Burke is my favorite doctor from Grey’s Anatomy: he’s smart, articulate, funny at the right moments and in the right ways, and most importantly, he always makes ethical choices and decisions. Because Picard is the captain and central figure of TNG, his character sets the general tone and direction of the entire show. His crew follows his commands and acts according to his example: upright, discerning, honorable, passionate, caring, and humane.

That is not to say that TNG’s characters are all perfect. Indeed, their individual quirks and flaws make them even more relatable, regardless of species. They each represent the best and worst aspects of humans (even if they are Klingon or Betazoid). Even the android Data aspires towards attaining the more admirable qualities of humanity, learning from Picard’s wisdom, second officer Will Riker’s sense of duty and sense of fun, Counselor Deanna Troi’s sensitivity, Lieutenant Worf’s courage, Dr. Beverly Crusher’s grace, and chief engineer Geordi LaForge’s patience. The dynamic among TNG’s cast/crew is one of the best I’ve seen among many TV ensembles. The viewer gets a strong sense of family when watching the show, perhaps because of the great storylines that allow the characters to form strong relationships, or because the actors themselves get along well with each other (as they attest to in the behind-the-scenes interviews included as bonus material in the DVDs). Throughout the 7 seasons we’ve watched, the growth of each character is evident, as well as the developments in the different relationships among the senior officers.

And like fine wine, the series got better with time. As the characters matured, it allowed for more complex themes to be tackled in each episode, from war to genocide to religion to cultural relativism to questions of a deeply existentialist nature (another reason I love Picard so much: he’s an existentialist with Kantian leanings, as opposed to the more Aristotelian Captain Kirk of the Original Series, as Dr. Judith Barad and Ed Robertson pointed out in their pop philo book “The Ethics of Star Trek”). It’s easy to dismiss Star Trek as a lame sci-fi TV show for geeks, but those who bother to take it more seriously know that it deals with a lot of moral and ethical issues in their episodes, stories that rival the most dramatic medical cases from House or political conflicts in The West
Wing. It comes as no surprise to me that TNG was nominated for a writing Emmy for their 7th and last season. It’s actually more surprising to me (short of outright outrage) that it was their 1 and only Emmy nom for the entire run of the series.

The other Star Trek shows that came after TNG (Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise) are all entertaining in their own ways and stay true to the creativity and ideals of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. But they just don't come close to TNG, which has that extra-special something that makes it more interesting, more addictive, and generally more loveable. Maybe it’s the easy camaraderie among the senior officers, highlighted by their weekly poker games. Maybe it’s the memorable villains (the Borg make their first appearance in TNG, and of course, who can top the indomitable, incorrigible Q?), or maybe it’s the tension-fraught plots involving Cardassians and Romulans. Maybe it’s how Picard says “make it so” with Shakespearean solemnity. Whatever it is, to me, TNG is and always will be the brightest star in Roddenberry’s galaxy.


At Thursday, November 09, 2006, Anonymous jen ong said...

Hard core geekiness, my goodness. Hahaha :)

At Thursday, November 09, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Hey, you were given fair warning. :p

At Friday, November 10, 2006, Anonymous Magnolia said...

Hey i actually loved that series! :)
"to boldly go where no one has gone before!" ahahaha

At Friday, November 10, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

YES! Finally, someone who knows what I'm talking about! =D Live long and prosper, Mags! Hehe.

At Sunday, November 12, 2006, Blogger Peej Bernardo said...

Box set, ey?! While I am not much given over to watching DVD's, I might just go out and get myself one. One of the very few certifired trekkers I know.

Favorite episode?

Live long and prosper.

At Sunday, November 12, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

A friend got the boxed set for me at Metrowalk. Try your luck there. :)

Fave episode? Hmm, tough call. Easy answer would be "All Good Things..." (series finale), or "Best of Both Worlds I and II" (cliffhanger finale of the 3rd season and the first episode of the 4th season, where Picard became Locutus of the Borg). But I really, really enjoyed seeing Picard stuck in the body of a little boy in "Rascals" from season 6. =D


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