Thursday, 26 January 2012

Where no, I don't know has gone before

As time went by it looked for me like Star Trek: The Next Generation was more a story of Worf and Data than any of the other characters. Geordi and Wesley started strong, but faded - and Geordi especially seems a massive missed opportunity in retrospect. Picard was a relative constant, and had to be as the nominal central figure, but Worf grew a lot and moved the whole revival on, and Data was a focal point for meditation.

If so, these two videos might have something big to say, for collecting up representative moments and driving the points home. They're both clearly distortions, given Worf was right to be worried in many cases, and Data had to be dumbed down to fit, but still.

Looking at it now, Picard seems to me a more military figure than Worf, and maybe even more militaristic, which is a theme I hardly picked up on back then. These scenes give a sense of how subtle a character Worf could be, and how much the character was about energies in dynamic check, as opposed to Data, who was about knowing every drop .

Spock got a line saying Picard was a bit Vulcan, and he is a kind of equilibrium for the series, a reference point for the initial trajectory and a centre of harmony. When he got knocked, it was arguably Worf's overall impact on the series through his character arc and potential that did it, and Data that looked all the more like a hope for the future.

And if that's true, there's a contrast with 2001 and maybe where we are now. For some reason I'm tieing it all in with a look at gaming the dark ages at Lard Island News, and also The Subversive Archeologist, another blog I recommend for a good deep think.

Update: There's a magical write-up for the dark age gaming at Roundwood's World.


The Happy Whisk said...

I never got into next gen., but I did enjoy your post. Always good to read your blog, and I will go check the others out.

Thanks and boogie boogie.

Old Guy said...

Data was certainly the focal point in a lot of episodes. As it turns out, those were usually my favorite ones. I'm not sure if that is just because I like the actor and or maybe because the writers had more to work with when writing about an android.

I was at a convention eons ago and one of the other cast members was talking about data. Apparently, the character of data was supposed to be more of a prop; a walking computer with no personality.

I can't remember which actor it was (possibly Jonathan Frakes), but he said that Brent Spiner went out of his way to turn data into a key character because Brent feared that a more generic android (what he was told to portray) would be easy to replace.

The Happy Whisk said...

But I LOVED and still LOVE, the original Star Trek.


Trey said...

@Whisk - TOS is the best.

I would agree. Particularly in the early episodes, Picard can be fairly militant. He gets plenty of crying in later, though.

Mik said...

Wow, the Worf clip makes me mad, he got no respect and was constantly dissed. He should've destroyed them all and taken over the Enterprise with a rogue band of pirates.

Kill the humans Worf, it's in your blood!

Ray Rousell said...

Loved the post, I watched all the episodes (I think) just didn't realise at the time how wooden the two characters were. Worf the misunderstood, just why didn't they listen to him, just once?? And Data the all knowing, didn't really understand a lot! Great clips made me chuckle when Kirk turned up! Nice one!!!

Jedediah said...

I've just r-watched my favourite episodes of STNG and indeed, many contain Data. He was just a great character to discuss the big ideas, like what it means to be alive and what it means to be human. Plus, Brent Spiner is such a brilliant actor.

You can easily get drunk when you play: one shot for each dumb thing Worf does or when Worf is dissed - but only in the early episodes. I always say that things started to get better once he got his metal sash and when he finally is allowed to grow his hair long, the character is finally awesome. I'm only half kidding, because those things do mark the development of a really vivid character instead of a dumb growling warrior.
And in DS9, he rocked.

SinSynn said...

How the heck did Worf get the job anyway?

Porky said...

@ The Happy Whisk - There's a fine compliment. Thank you.

@ Old Guy & Jedediah - I agree on Spiner being a major part of it, and it's easy to see how his skill and the potential in the character for exploring those big themes would push the writers. I'd guess the potential was part of the reason the character was there, even if there were no concrete ideas, but then again who knows how that weighed up against 'How cool would it be to have an android?' The story about Spiner avoiding the generic brings home just what a good job he did, and how the character could easily have been played as more robotic and inhuman. The effect is still just a little uncanny, but the odd mannerisms are soft enough to feel like quirks, and the overall effect is understated and even calming. The inward-looking eyes he does and the sense of a slight self-absorption really give the character depth.

@ The Happy Whisk & Trey - I wouldn't dare argue against TOS. I would say though I've never been too fond of the name 'The Original Series'. I can't think of anything better of course, but 'Star Trek' alone, with no other terms, still just suggests it.

@ Trey - They really hung a lot off Picard, and I guess they knew Patrick Stewart would manage. The character holds everything together and keeps the disbelief suspended. It's a solid basis for all the high-flying.

@ Mik & SinSynn - Having him there really tied in with the zeitgeist, and maybe even helped make it, just because at the beginning at least we were very aware he shouldn't be there, and maybe thinking how trusting they all had to be. There was also more menace to the character early on, more unknowns.

@ Ray Rousell - Yep, I got a few good laughs as well. I love the way the sequence in the Worf vid emphasises the small movements when you know what's coming overall. One bit that got me was the scene around the six minute mark where they're at the conference table, Beverly says 'yes' and Worf is already shaking his head.

@ Jedediah - He was really perfect for DS9, and arguably it was the success of all the deeper exploration of Klingon civilisation in TNG that made DS9 possible, through the Romulan reactivation and their later episodes, the development of the Cardassians and the character of Ro Laren, and a lot of that growing complexity, moral ambiguity and angst.

@ SinSynn - When he gets turned down as much as he does, that's an excellent question.

G said...

It was a great series - and now I'm going to have to watch it all over again to check out the worf thing.

The Happy Whisk said...

I agree with you Porky. I'd rather not say the original but ... with so many out there, I always feel like I have to say it. What I often say in person though, is the real Star Trek.

But that just sounds snotty.

Cheers & Happy Weekend.

Porky said...

@ G - I'd be happy to watch it all again too, with the DS9 episodes overlapping. I wouldn't like to think how many hours that would have to be...

@ The Happy Whisk - That's reasonable. I remember back when TNG started it didn't feel completely real, in the sense of similar to the reality we'd known for so many years, especially in the films which had an ageing crew and a more naturalistic feel, more texture. They did a good enough job on the continuity, but it did take some time to accept.