Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E02 – Encounter at Farpoint, Part II

In the second episode of the first season of The Next Generation, Picard grapples with Q’s demands and judgment as he tries to help his team solve the mystery of Farpoint. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I definitely think the second half of “Encounter at Farpoint” is a lot stronger than the first, but I also understand that this originally aired as one piece. Still, I got a better sense of who these characters are once I got to see them in action. Plus, I feel like the entire Farpoint storyline wasn’t given much space to grow within the first half of this episode, though that’s a necessary aspect of this story. I don’t know that I would have found the pilot as interesting as I did without the framing provided by Q’s test of humanity.

I’ll touch on that at the end. We have a lot to discuss!

Deanna Troi

YES. Y E S. First off, the idea that the Enterprise now has a counselor who can act as the ship’s therapist is a BRILLIANT IDEA. Not only does it make sense in terms of organization and efficiency, but now there’s a character within the fabric of The Next Generation who can bring out any number of emotional storylines, and y’all know how much I love emotional destruction. She’s also half-Betazoid, a species that’s new to the canon. (I think? I don’t recall them being mentioned in The Original Series.) So we’ve got someone who is – for lack of a better term – empathic, able to determine the emotional state of any being in her vicinity. However, there’s one exception: she can speak telepathically with Riker, who she clearly had a relationship with, one that I imagine was strong enough to help develop this kind of connection. IT’S AWKWARD. Uncomfortable! DRAMATIC. They don’t hate each other, though, and I felt there was an affinity they felt towards each other. That’s intriguing. MAY THEY RESUME THEIR RELATIONSHIP AGAIN?


WHAT! THIS MAY BE THE COOLEST TECHNOLOGY INTRODUCED IN THIS SERIES. Hell, even the science itself makes a lot of sense. If the transporters could reassemble matter in a way that made it possible to transport humans, then why couldn’t you transport a forest? HOW MANY HOLODECKS ARE THERE? How many possible scenarios or locales are programmed into those computers? Are they limited to the size of the rooms? WHERE IS MY HOLODECK?

I found it fitting that within a setting that’s a version of reality – as close to the “real” thing as possible within the space – Riker meets Data and the two talk about authenticity. How “real” is Data if he is a programmed android? How much does that bother Riker? Riker might have felt disturbed by Data’s presence, but throughout this episode he sees how valuable and trustworthy Data is. Sure, Data might be a reference to the dynamic that Spock had within the original Enterprise, but this episode makes it clear that Data is not at all the same. And I dig that.


To repeat what I said in the video for this episode, “Encounter at Farpoint” does a lot to show us that Picard is nothing like Kirk. His distaste for children feels like such a bold decision for the writers to make, and I am utterly and completely into it. Picard staggers between an almost regal authority – IF HE YELLED AT ME I WOULD BE REALLY SAD – and a self-aware sense of perpetual awkwardness. I love this dichotomy, I want more of it, and be prepared for me to shriek constantly about Patrick Stewart’s face. (I just love that man so much, for reasons other than his acting.) I initially thought that his abrupt treatment of Wesley and Dr. Crusher was due to some weird romantic thing (like with Riker and Deanna Troi), but I’m guessing that Dr. Crusher’s husband died under Picard’s command. Does that make her presence strange on the Enterprise? It does for Picard, who thinks he’s doing the right thing by asking her if she wants to transfer. But Dr. Crusher, who may have her own reservations about being on a Starship again, deliberately signed up to work under Picard. Not only is that her choice, but she establishes very directly that she is here to do a job and do it well. THIS DYNAMIC IS ALREADY SO GREAT. Right off the bat, I feel like Dr. Crusher has a rapport with Picard that no one else does, and most of it involves her being assertive and able to make Picard endlessly uncomfortable and he just deflates around her and YES YES YES YES YES.


There’s a neat story within the Farpoint mystery, though I don’t know if it would have been as interesting without Q’s involvement. It felt like the kind of episode that fits right in with what The Original Series did, especially since it involved a previously-unknown species that were being exploited for personal gain. But it’s the small details that made me want so much more from this iteration of the Star Trek universe. This cast is FUCKING HUGE, and the “side” characters all have way more lines than the secondary characters did in The Original Series. I love that the team that beams down to the planet isn’t the Captain and his First Officer; it gives those other characters (like Geordi or Yar or Troi) a chance to get scenes. I like that, and I hope that is still the case in episodes going forward. There’s an improvement in the technology, from the transporters that don’t seem so stiff and unmanageable, to the BRILLIANT DECISION TO MAKE EVERYONE WEAR COMMS RIGHT THERE ON THEIR UNIFORMS, to the sheer efficiency of the crew working together. That’s a difficult thing to communicate in just 90 minutes, but by gods, I already see it. While there are people in this crew meeting for the first time, you can also tell that many of these folks have known one another for some time. It’s fascinating! It’s good visual storytelling, too, you know?

And Q… holy shit, y’all. John de Lancie, first of all, is so unreal as this character. (Still gonna mention his greatness on Breaking Bad.) PLEASE BRING Q BACK, Q IS SUCH A SMUG AND ENRAGING CHARACTER AND I WANT MORE. Q is part of a species that is so full of themselves that they can’t even admit to Picard’s success; the test they designed wasn’t difficult enough, apparently. Of course, the very notion that this one mystery could act as a representative for the entire human race is fucked up, but Picard didn’t refuse to take part. Even when it did become challenging to determine a course of action that wouldn’t harm the unknowing Bandi people or the unnamed SPACE JELLYFISH, he still came up with a solution that provided the being with freedom from Zorn’s oppressive exploitation of it. The Bandi are not left hopeless and abandoned, and the SPACE JELLYFISH are reunited, all without displays of violence and force, aside from the freeing of the SPACE JELLYFISH, of course.

I suspect that wasn’t good enough for Q. WHEN DOES Q COME BACK??? Don’t tell me, oh my god. This was a decent pilot that has kept me interested in the show, so… a success! ONWARDS I GO TO FIND OUT WHY EVERYONE LOVES THIS SHOW SO MUCH.

The video for the second half of “Encounter at Farpoint” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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