Boldly Going: “Encounter at Farpoint”

When Star Trek returned to TV, Gene Roddenberry set the story nearly 100 years after the last episode of The Original Series. In 2364, a new generation of explorers set out in a new galaxy class starship named the Enterprise.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard assumes command with orders to investigate Farpoint station, a mysterious structure built by the Bandi. En route, they are detained by an omnipotent being who calls himself Q. Humanity has explored far enough and is put on trial to determine if it’s worthy of exploring further.

Captain Picard decides to separate the ship. The families are evacuated to the saucer section while the bridge crew relocates to the battle bridge and brings the stardrive back to face Q. Soon after the captain, Counselor Troi, Lts Yar and Data are whisked to a post-apocalyptic looking courtroom where Q is judge, jury, and executioner. Picard makes an agreement with Q that the result of their mission to Farpoint will determine the fate of the human race. The Enterprise is allowed to continue for now.

The Galaxy Class USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)

When they arrive at their destination, Picard’s first officer, Commander William Riker, reports for duty. He had been on the planet with Lieutenant Geordi La Forge and the ship’s chief medical officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher. They had already gotten a sense of Farpoint’s mystery. The Bandi refused to explain the power source or even how they built it. And then items that the crew desired appeared almost magically without any explanation.

Once Riker is aboard the Enterprise, Picard tasks him with a manual operation to rejoin the ship. The crew also bring him up to speed with the Q situation. Picard beams down to Farpoint himself after Q taunts him and updates the test’s timeframe to 24 hours.  He is convinced they will fail. On the surface, Picard tries to set up a formal trade agreement between the Bandi and the Federation. There has to be some technology they’d like in exchange for allowing Starfleet to study Farpoint station. But Zorn, the leader of the Bandi, refuses.

Captain Picard, Lt. Tasha Yar, Counselor Deanna Troi, and Q

Counselor Troi  accompanied the captain to Farpoint. She’s half human, half betazoid, meaning she’s an empath and can sense other people’s emotions. While at the station, she is overcome with intense pain. Zorn calls off the meeting and threatens to hand the secrets of Farpoint to the Ferengi. An unidentified ship arrives in orbit  and begins firing on the old Bandi settlement. Troi senses anger and satisfaction when Zorn is kidnapped. She also realizes the entire ship is one alien. Picard puts two and two together and deduces Farpoint is its mate. The Enterprise fires a burst of energy to free it.

Season 1 of Star Trek The Next Generation looks similar to The Original Series with some updates. Q putting humanity on trial is a plot element that could be found in TOS. Lieutenant Data is set up to be the Spock character as an outsider to observe humanity. But his desire to be human is unique. Now there are three female bridge officers, which is great, even if they seem a little underdeveloped. It is the pilot after all. Counselor Troi spends the episode in a miniskirt uniform but at least there’s a male background actor wearing the same uniform in red with ankle boots.

Season 1 cast promo, from left to right: Wesley Crusher, Lt. Tasha Yar, Lt. Geordi La Forge, Cmdr. William Riker, Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Lt Worf, Counselor Troi and Lt. Cmdr. Data

I grew up on TNG. Well partly – I’m younger than the show. Though my mother was a Trekkie so I bet I was watching some episodes of season 1 in the womb. The show became part of my bedtime routine. I would be in my pajamas for the opening credits and would dance to the theme song. Then mom would miss part of the episode putting me to bed. My earliest memory of watching the show didn’t come until season 7, when I was 5 years old. So I’m much more familiar with TNG than TOS.

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