I can still remember the excitement when the commercials started; there was a new Star Trek coming soon. The channel was 26 (that’s UHF, folks), KMPH, in Fresno California. It was.. 86? 87? Probably the latter. This new Star Trek was set in the future of the future, with an all new crew and an all new ship on all new adventures. I couldn’t wait.
As we all know, that new show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, was a hit. It may not have been what everyone wanted, and it definitely caused rivalries between some TOS diehards and TNG diehards, but in the end, I think it shines as a fine example of SciFi tv. Created by Gene Roddenberry, The Next Generation had a different kind of captain in the form of Jean Luc Picard; a Frenchman, older, more seasoned than James T. Kirk, an intellectual (which Roddenberry had tried decades before, but now it worked).
Picard didn’t go down to the planet and fight the aliens, he didn’t shag the alien women (well, sometimes he did, but always with class), and he didn’t fire his phasers until he’d considered the consequences of his actions. For rash, impulsive actions, he had his first officer – William Riker. Riker was definitely a Kirk-esue type; strong, confident, impulsive, still learning and more than willing to throw down if you needed a butt kicking.
No Vulcan on this crew (Well, there were, just not on the bridge. Much.), instead, we get an android; Data. Built by the father of modern cybernetics and positronics, Data was the pinnacle of his work; an android with the capacity to learn and adapt, just not have any emotions. For our doctor, we had Beverley Crusher; the widow of Picard’s best friend, killed when the captain was unable to save him. There’s a spark between Crusher and Picard, one that I would’ve liked to have seen develop more than the teasers we were dribbled throughout the years. I think they would’ve been good together, all things considered.
Next, our engineer is blind; Geordi LaForge, definitely a whizz when it comes to isolinear optical chips, hyzenberg compensators and ODN conduits. For security, we have Tasha Yar, who is just as young and impulsive (IMHO) as Riker. Quick to throw down with anyone messing with her people. Then, we have Worf, a Klingon. That’s right – a Klingon on the Enterprise. Kirk was rolling over in his.. wait – did he have a grave? Or was he just sort of sucked back up into the ribbon thing…? So confusing. Anyway, Worf – raised by human parents, all full of honor and whatnotall.
Oh, yeah – and then there’s Beverley’s son, Wesley. We all know about Wesley… (We love you (now) Wil…)
At the time, DC comics had the rights to the original Star Trek, and they scooped up the rights to this new, Next Generation thing as well. Initially, they did a 6-issue miniseries in ’88 to test the waters.
Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of these issues. I think it was the newness of it all. With the TOS crew, we knew who and what they were to a large extent, and so did the writers creating the comics at the time. With the Next Gen crew, we had some ideas, but nothing set in stone.
Now, that can be both liberating for the writer, and awkward for the reader at the same time. In the case of these first steps into the Next Gen world, I think it was more awkward than liberating. You had glimpses, though, of what was possible – everybody just needed to figure out who this new crew was.
In the first issue, they were explorers, the second, victims of an attack and by the third, Q was guesting for three issues.
While the writers were trying and the artwork was passable, again, I think it comes down to trying to figure it all out and just slightly missing the mark.
Luckily, the series did well enough to justify an ongoing series that I liked much, much better. More on that later…