Was pleased to run across the DVD set of the complete fifth season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" at the library. Snag-a-roo!
Spent the rest of the week remembering why I eventually abandoned the series with extreme ambivalence. Gad what a frustrating experience STTNG is. It's Star Trek, dammit. But it's boring and grindingly politically correct, dammit anyway.
The main culprit is mediocre writing (you can often reverse engineer the story conference for an episode* [see below]), but the blah writing is always exacerbated by clunky direction and pacing. As I had suspected when riding out another vast swath of commercials during the original broadcasts, each episode clocks in at 45 minutes, including the title and credit sequences. Taking 3 to 4 minutes off for that, we have only 40 minutes of show. Then, each and every cursed (pronounce that with a long "ed") episode has a good 5 to 10 minutes of bullshit character development - that serves nada towards said character development.
I don't know how many times a scene starts with someone cutting flowers in their quarters, playing the trombone/clarinet, reading a book, masturbating, etc., and we have to wade through their cute moment before something to do with the actual plot happens. Y'know, when Spock was playing his hippie dulcimer-harp in the rec room, it was interesting because we didn't think an emotionless person would like music. But when we see Riker tooting on a trombone, no one gives a flying warp speed fuck. It's not surprising or informative that he plays the trombone, it's dull.
Even the way trivial dialogue is delivered (meaning they're not on the bridge dealing with aliens with bad facial prosthesis) and edited fills me with entropy. It typically goes like this:
- One character speaks, then mugs for the camera
- Cut to the other character looking at them; pause; we see them absorb the other's dialogue, formulate their own
- They then speak their dialogue, mug
- Cut to other character looking at them; repeat
(This is what typically happens when you let actors direct, btw.)
Since the running time of most episodes is only 40 minutes, this crap pads each by about another 5 to 7 minutes, so we are officially down to about a basic half hour of action and plot spread over a life-wasting hour. It's kinda like that joke Woody Allen uses in Annie Hall to explain his view of life: two women are at a cheap resort in the Catskills having a meal when one says to the other, "the food here is terrible," to which the other adds, "I know, and such small portions."
*- "The Perfect Mate" - story conference idea: Q: what would be the perfect woman? A: someone who liked what I liked and thought I was totally cool. (Another possible sci: "You brought her, you fuck her.") ((Though, Famke Janssen in the role goes a long way towards achieving the perfect woman groove. Good Lord, that woman's a mondo-uber-hottie! (Alien estrus spots notwithstanding.) She joins my "Friends" inspired list of Celebrities My Spouse Would Let Me Do, alongside Kimberly Williams and Kate Hudson.))
- "I, Borg" - sci: what if a borg, used to a collective, was all alone?
- "Ensign Ro" - sci: if the Klingons represent(ed) the Russians, what kind of character would represent Arabs?
- "Darmok" - sci: y'know how we pitch stories, "it's kinda like "Altered States" meets "Lethal Weapon" (), what if a race really talked like that all the time?
- "The Game" - sci: you guys really need to quit playing "Doom" and work on those scripts.
And so on.
I have also complained in the past (if you're paying attention and bless you if you are) about the dearth of sex in most post-classic Star Treks. Well, in season five, Troi boffs the leader of the Eugenics society they save from a neutron. Riker boffs Troi, Ro, an androgynous character who supposedly doesn't even possess genitalia, and a few nameless wrinkly faced alien chicks. Picard most likely boffs the "Perfect Mate", the "Metamorph" empath babe who's literally born solely to please men. So, seems there is a lot of woogy woogy taking place, but everyone seems to regret it except Riker. I still prefer Capt. Kirk - and even Bones (and Spock if only he didn't go into heat just every seven years) - indulging in a little space nooky, then unashamedly showering off and moving on to blow more shit up.
Now, the Borg were a great creation, and Data was a wonderful character, but that's about where it begins and ends for STTNG. Oh, and what red-blooded guy didn't want to do Troi at one point or another?
One final thought ... the compression used on the DVDs had this odd artifact/effect where if any of the characters were sitting with their head very still, their features would float on their head, because the compression would keep the surrounding frame of the sides and back of their head still, but let all of their features move as a unit, particularly with Capt. Picard. It's totally freaky. I surprised they let this pricey collection out of the gate with such a blatant flaw.