Exclusive Interview: Wil Wheaton Talks Trek Past, Present and Future | TrekMovie.com
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Exclusive Interview: Wil Wheaton Talks Trek Past, Present and Future January 22, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Conventions/Events/Attractions,Interview,Star Trek (2009 film),TNG , trackback

In the first part of our exclusive interview with TNG star Wil Wheaton, we talked about his appearance at multiple events at this weekend’s Phoenix Comic Con, geeking out, voice acting and more. Now in Part 2 see what Wil had to say about his future writing plans, the early seasons of Next Generation, the changing of the guard from Gene Roddenberry to Michael Piller, and JJ Abrams new Star Trek movie

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Interview: Wil Wheaton – Pt 2

TrekMovie.com: How are things going with your latest book, "Happiest Days of Our Lives," and is their a fourth book in your series of personal journals?

Wil Wheaton: Things are going really with "Happiest Days." I have sold out of two printings and there is a special expanded edition coming early this year from Subterranean Press. I am also going to do an audio versions of the expanded material that are going to be online for free released a little before the print book. We did an audio version of "Happiest Days" that is doing well and people seem to like it and I am really proud of it. I am not sure I am going to do another collection of narrative non-fiction stories. I have been wanting to write fiction for a long time. 2008 was supposed to be the year of writing fiction for me, but I had sinus surgery early in the year and it disrupted my rhythm so much to lose eight weeks to just recovery and then it was the summer with conventions and so by the time the Fall came and I started working on the stories I had planned to start in February, it was October. So it is very important for me to write fiction. I wanted to do it for a long time. I am really proud of "Happiest Days," and feel like I have done everything I want to do in the narrative non-fiction world, but obviously I will never say never, but my primary focus right now is working on a collection of science-fiction and other genre fiction short stories and novellas to be collected and will hopefully be out later this year.



Wheaton’s three collections of narrative non-fiction

The other book that’s coming out that will be interesting specifically to your readers is a collection of my Star Trek The Next Generation reviews/reminiscence/snark columns that I was doing for TVSquad. We are collecting them into a full season and releasing that as a book later this year, in time for summer. 

TrekMovie.com: How many of those reviews have you done?

Wil Wheaton: I have done nineteen from the first season so far. I have two reviews from the forthcoming Star Trek reviews book that have never been seen anywhere that I am bringing with me to perform at the Phoenix Comic Con. People who have enjoyed my reviews will definitely want to come to the con to hear what I am bringing with me.

TrekMovie.com: The first season can be be brutal.

Wil Wheaton: Yeah. That is why the first season is kind of fun. Some of the episodes are really really bad and a few of the episodes are extremely good, even if you are not grading on a curve. For the most part — we are awkward — we are trying to figure out what our show is about. And you can see how we had so many different writers and creative power struggles while we figured out what we were going to be. We were really lucky we got a chance to do more than one season. If it wasn’t for the incredible cast and writers like Sandy Fries and Tracy Torme, we probably would not have gone past the second season.

TrekMovie.com: I am in the camp that thinks that Michael Piller, and writers like Ron Moore, really saved the show in the third season.

Wil Wheaton: They absolutely did.

TrekMovie.com: I know some don’t like to hear that Gene [Roddenberry] didn’t save the show. I love Gene Roddenberry, but for TNG I think the Michael was the best thing for the show.

Wil Wheaton: Gene had the presence of mind to know he was getting old and he knew that someone who loved Star Trek as much as he did could step in to take the reins. He hand picked Michael. He begged Michael at the end of season three to come back. Michael didn’t want to at first, but Gene said to him "I need you to make this show great, I can’t do it without you" and Michael agreed. And Michael had the open submissions policy, which is how Ron [Moore] came on, with "The Bonding." I don’t think it is inaccurate or unfair to give Michael a great deal of credit for making Next Generation great, but at the same time I think it is also fair and accurate to acknowledge that it was Gene Roddenberry who had the vision and presence of mind and the foresight to keep Michael Piller on and put him in a position to do what he did.


Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in 3rd season TNG episode "The Bonding"

TrekMovie.com: The last time we chatted we cross-posted a blog of yours about the new Star Trek movie. Since then have you been keeping up with the news, like the recent spoilers from Orci, did you see that?

Wil Wheaton: I have been working hard to avoid spoilers.

TrekMovie.com: But you have seen the trailer. What is your current geek level alert on the movie?

Wil Wheaton: I remain cautiously optimistic. Based on what I know, I am really excited to see it. I wasn’t crazy about the trailer, speaking strictly as a Star Trek fan. It felt like a sci-fi action movie, with Star Trek costumes. But I actually think that is a really good idea that they did the trailer that way. Guys like me are going to see the movie no matter what, they need to convince my kids to see it. And my kids are only going to see it if it is in a language they understand. 

TrekMovie.com: So what did your kids think?

Wil Wheaton: They thought it was cool and exciting, so good job! They are not making the trailer for me — they are making it for this other audience and Star Trek fans should be really excited about that. They really need to get my kids and their friends, and a next generation, if you will pardon the pun, into the theater, so that Star Trek can keep going. If they are going to keep going, Star Trek has to be made relevant to the millennials. 


Wheaton: cautiously optimistic about Star Trek 2009 – sees opportunity for another generation of fans

Trek stars this weekend at Phoenix Comic Con + Trek poster giveaway
Wheaton is one of four Trek celebs attending the excellent fan-run Phoenix Comic Con this weekend January 23-25th, being held the Mesa Convention Center in Mesa, AZ. On Saturday Wheaton will be on a panel with his TNG co-stars Marin Sirtis and Brent Spiner. Also attending the con is DS9’s Chase Masterson who will be showing her film Yesterday Was a Lie. Will has two other Phoenix panels planned: the Friday ‘geek out’ panel with Lowenthal and Douglas (mentioned above), a Saturday solo panel discussing his blogs and projects (probably where he will do his TNG review). Wil will also be joining with others in the ‘Rock Band Blowout’ playing the popular video game ‘Rock Band’ on stage Friday night. The Trek guests and panels are just a fraction of the sci-fi and genre programming for the weekend.

The con only costs $30 for a three day pass, and less for individual days. Photos with the stars are also available, see the site for schedule and prices.

There will also be a special Star Trek poster give-away at the con, sponsored by Rodenberry Productions. They are giving away 10,000 vintage Trek posters from the 80s and 90s.



10,000 Trek posters given away this weekend at Phoenix Comic Con

More info at www.phoenixcomicon.com

TrekMovie will be there
TrekMovie’s Kayla Iocovino will be reporting on happenings from Phoenix Comic Con this weekend, so check back for her reports.

 

Comments

1. Bennie - January 22, 2009

Nice interview.

2. Benni - January 22, 2009

ps: does anyone know what het does for al living besides writing books and going to conventions? Is he still in the movie business?

3. Marc - January 22, 2009

From what I can gather he mostly writes and does some voice acting for cartoons and video games.

His blog is here: http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/
Follow him on Twitter @wilw

He now owes me a beer for pimpin’ his sh…stuff

4. Will H. - January 22, 2009

It seems like sometimes Wil Wheaton is the only Trek related person to give honest opinions about the new movie. Everyone else says its going to be awesome, without giving any reason why, but just that it is. But I think Wheaton says what is on the mind of a lot of us Trekkies, that we feel that the movie looks like a sifi action movie wrapped in a Starfleet uniform. And yes, its being marketed to non-trekkies because they know we’ll go see it no matter what. But I, like him, remain cautiously optimistic.

5. jw wright - January 22, 2009

they should have spun off a series about academy life, starring wil, that ep when he and his pals got busted for that illegal flight stunt was great…

6. Aldo F. Rodriguez - January 22, 2009

I remember that episode, The Bonding, where they had this wonderful scene (pictured above) in which Troi was trying to make Jeremy see how others delt with loss in their lives and moved on by accepting it and letting go. It was a little startling to see how wounded they all were (especially Wesley, who finally got his chance to give Picard his grief over the loss of his father and subsequent forgiveness; that scene between Stewart and Wheaton was priceless) but were made stronger because they were all part of the Enterprise family. And the final scene where Worf made the young lad a place in his family. Yes, TNG finally came around as great story telling of the human condition.

7. AJ - January 22, 2009

Well, if Wil wants to savage the first two seasons of TNG. there are a lot of putrid nuggets ripe for his wrath.

I think “Justice,” a quasi-Wes episode (half-naked blonde people who run everywhere, have stupid laws with only the death penalty, and a ‘God” who orbits the planet. Wes tramples someone’s garden, gets sentenced to death, and Picard solves it all by shouting) has got to be the low-point.

Who remembers “Bags of mostly water”, or the ep with Tasha that followed “Farpoint?” It’d be nice to hear Wheaton’s reviews, and have empathy from one of the stars about how bad TNG could be in those early years.

8. StNic - January 22, 2009

@7 – He’s already done those ;) http://www.tvsquad.com/2006/12/05/star-trek-the-next-generation-justice/ and http://www.tvsquad.com/2006/09/08/star-trek-the-next-generation-the-naked-now/

Full list was posted above at http://www.tvsquad.com/bloggers/wil-wheaton/

9. AJ - January 22, 2009

StNic:

Thanks! Good stuff…

10. WhatInBlueBlazes?! - January 22, 2009

I don’t know how likely it is, but having read a couple of his reviews, I’d love to see him do the entire Next Generation series. Granted, he wouldn’t always have the behind-the-scenes memories for the later seasons, but I still think it’d be good fun.

11. sean - January 22, 2009

Thank goodness he had a sense of humor while reviewing ‘Code of Honor’. The most non-Trek, offensive episode ever produced. I taste bile every time I think about it.

12. Closettrekker - January 22, 2009

“They thought it was cool and exciting, so good job! They are not making the trailer for me — they are making it for this other audience and Star Trek fans should be really excited about that. They really need to get my kids and their friends, and a next generation, if you will pardon the pun, into the theater, so that Star Trek can keep going. If they are going to keep going, Star Trek has to be made relevant to the millennials.”

I really like most of Wheaton’s approach to the upcoming film. He absolutely right about that. That is a very grounded approach, and one that I share in regard to my own children and their peers.

Here is where he and I don’t quite see ‘eye-to-eye':

“I wasn’t crazy about the trailer, speaking strictly as a Star Trek fan. It felt like a sci-fi action movie, with Star Trek costumes.”

He uses the descriptive term, “sci-fi action movie” in a pejorative manner. I don’t see it that way. The ‘Star Trek’ that I grew up with could easily be described as “sci-fi action”, so I’m not sure why he presents that term in a negative light .

TOS was sexy, romantic, adventurous, and truly unafraid of a good old fashioned bare-knuckled fistfight…Since that is the ‘Star Trek’ I love anyway, I hope that the upcoming film has those elements, along with fulfillment of the promise that the distinctly ‘Star Trek’ vision of an optimistic future will be left intact.

But I do respect his approach in general. It’s quite down to Earth.

13. Andy Patterson - January 22, 2009

Ah, Tracy Torme, son of the late great Mel Torme. Somebody I really miss from this world.

14. AJ - January 22, 2009

11. Sean, i remember the let-down coming off the the fanboy high of Farpoint, which in itself was crap, and then seeing “Code of Honor.”

I have never watched it since its original airing, so WW’s review served as a refresher.

TOS aside, I think the “episode 2″ of every Trek series was a clunker. TNG rubbed it in, however, with “Naked Now,” “Justice” and “Angel One,” etc. It was a shame Tracy Torme didn’t stick around as “The Big Goodbye” was terrific.

And thank goodness they defied the Writers’ Guide and brought in the Klingons in “Heart of Glory.” Worse luck with the Romulans, playing second fiddle to some stupid unfrozen humans, and wearing horrid shoulderpads and bumpy foreheads. Ahh, history!

15. sean - January 22, 2009

#14

Seasons 1&2 really were a mixed bag. I like to think of it as growing pains, but ‘Code of Honor’ and ‘Angel One’ were unforgivable. ‘Justice’ is awful, BUT, one thing I do love about it is Picard’s speech in the end about there being no ‘justice so long as laws are absolute’. I always appreciated that moment, where he just sort of desperately cries to the heavens in an effort to appeal to reason. The story itself is bad (a society that kills a citizen for falling in a garden? Seriously???) but that moment feels very Trekian.

16. Closettrekker - January 22, 2009

#14—Funny….My TiVo dvr picked up “The Naked Now” under ‘Suggestions’ this week!!!

:)

17. T.U.M. - January 22, 2009

Seasons 1 and 2 were uneven, without a doubt. And Wil’s right that TV shows don’t get the luxury of those teething seasons anymore. All the performances were good despite the patchy writing – but man, I hope whoever made the final decision on casting Patrick Stewart knows what a great thing he did for the show and the franchise. That performance alone would have made the early seasons worthwhile.

18. SirMartman - January 22, 2009

Like Wil Wheaton Ive have been working hard to avoid all spoilers as well.

Ive only seen the trailer and the first pic of the Enterprise !!!

I hope theres more Spoiler free fans out there !!

:o)

19. SirMartman - January 22, 2009

And yes,,,

Its killing me,, but it will be worth it

20. OneBuckFilms - January 22, 2009

17 – I’m definately there on thanking the guy who said “Go Stewart”.

21. Ian Watson - January 22, 2009

Always makes me squee that Wil put me in his Code of Honor review (Twitter user @etherlad, at the end). (:

Thanks, Wil!

22. Randall - January 22, 2009

I distinctly remember my deep disappointment in 1988 when TNG first came on the air, and I saw how godawful the first episode was… and then how I hoped, with each successive episode, that the show would improve… but it didn’t. Instead, the entire first season was an atrocious embarrassment… and the second season was hardly any better.

It puzzled me at first why this should be so, when the first season of TOS was so amazingly great, and the second season was, if anything, even better. Was the writing and production staff on TNG just terrible, whereas TOS had been great? Had Roddenberry lost all his skills over the years?

Fixing blame was hard to do, but it was easy to recognize what was wrong–TOS had been–despite the stigma attached to sci fi at the time–a much more adult show, written by and produced by grown-up people who had had hard experiences in life (Roddenberry, Gene Coon, etc.) and were thus less likely to truck in nonsense. When *romance* showed up on TOS, it was more juvenile and one dimensional…with the occasional rare exception (City on the Edge of Forever, for instance)… but when it reached for other human themes, and action, it always fared far better. Writing and production and editing molded together to produce episodes that, on the scale of TV drama, were always closer to the high end. Hardly ever AT the high point–but close.

Whereas TNG started out *always* juvenile and sophomoric and silly, and struggled and scratched its way up over 7 seasons to get away from that and closer to more adult drama. It hit it, a few times, where it managed to do a good job–but it was never consistently there. Instead we’d still have to suffer–right up to the end–appearances from the awful and ridiculous “Q” character–a character and a device right out of the worst periods of “Lost in Space” (which was not John DeLancie’s fault–he’s a good and very likeable actor–but the idea of the character and the overall concept was terrible and silly) and asides to other silly and poorly realized characters and situations. TNG never managed to fully get away from this.

It was a much more juvenile show than TOS, but why? Just different times? But why should that be so? If anything, you’d expect the more jaded, less innocent, more cynical modern types to produce a show that was MORE adult than TOS, not less. Well, one answer, perhaps, is that sci-fi, while having long since thrown off its truly childish edge, has also gotten worse in regards to how it manages to depict real human situations, emotions, and characters. But again, this isn’t always the case. Was it the shift to Roddenberry’s overly touchy-feely vision of the future, from the more simple and general optimism of the 60’s TOS to the 80s, when the vision became sickeningly cultish and weird? But Roddenberry wasn’t doing all the writing, by any means. I place some blame on David Gerrold, who, if I’m not mistaken, wrote the bible for TNG in the early days–and Gerrold, I personally believe, has always been nothing but a one-trick pony who wrote one very good but lightweight episode of TOS, then did a less-than-stellar story editor job in the third season, and then went on to do a workmanlike job on Land of the Lost shortly after. (I forget what role, exactly, he played in the animated ST series). But that’s it. I tried reading some of his other works and found them dull or downright unbearable. And if he’s responsible for setting some of the tone and for creating or at least fleshing out some or all of the characters of TNG—then clearly there’s the origin of some of the problems right there. Gerrold, I understand, was the one responsible for inserting the insufferable character of the “Ship’s Counselor,” a ridiculous and pansy-ass concept if there ever was one (this is not a slur on Gerrold’s sexual orientation–I couldn’t care less about that–merely a comment on the nature of the “Ship’s Counselor’s” role, which was the worst “touchy-feely” cutesy aspect of the entire TNG) as was the idea of inserting children on the Enterprise, of the character of Wesley Crusher himself (which only served to further emphasize the childish or adolescent nature of the show and also served to make Picard look less realistic, as he walked around the whole first and second seasons treating Wesley like shit, when this was supposed to be the now-fatherless son of Picard’s freakin’ BEST friend) of Data, who was by *their own admittance* simply a mechanized Peter Pan (more child-crap) of the character of Natasha Yar, some idiot’s idea of what a “tough” woman should be like—of Geordi (stupid names were also stock in trade of TNG) the only actual black character on the show (Worf was a black guy in heavy makeup) who instead of being made a strong, interesting character, was nothing but a handicapped, boring cipher for the first few seasons, and really remained a throbbing bore throughout the show–none of which is Levar Burton’s fault, but rather the mess of a character he was handed to deal with. And how backwards-subtle-weirdly racist was it to take the only black man on the show and make him BLIND, when this is the goddamn 24th century and by that time you’d think they’d have conquered blindness–and lo and behold, they finally got around to realizing this and gave Geordi his sight, in the movies—the filmmakers obviously realizing what a ridiculous and even insulting device it had been from the start, to handicap Geordi thusly.

I could go on–the yawningly dull ship’s doctor, the overgrown boy-man first officer, the weird and unrealistic (at least at first) captain…

And yet it became obvious over 7 years that very little of this had been the fault of the actors themselves—sure, some of them may have been miscast, but Stewart finally did something decent with Picard, Riker improved, Spiner, as we know, molded Data into a more interesting and three dimensional character–and god knows Marina Sirtis was always easy on the eyes and a delight, and could have been so much better given a better role to work with. And Worf, of course, once unleashed, was fantastic–the best character of the series, I thought, with Picard and Data close seconds.

So if it wasn’t so much the actors, what was it? Clearly it was the writing and the vision. And even when the writing became good, further down the line, the lousy vision of the show still hampered things. And by vision I don’t mean Roddenberry’s “vision” of the future—I mean the overall philosophy AND demeanor of the show itself. It simply never really worked. TOS had worked because it took it’s cue from far firmer grounds, and grew something entirely new. It came out of classic tension and drama, and from solid sources like the basic western, and legendary iconography, and from the Hornblower novels and Forbidden Planet and a half dozen other firm influences and origin points. But TNG seemed to take, as its sole lifting-off points, a watered-down version of TOS and the lukewarm and puerile notions of the producers.

That’s WHY somebody wanted to come along, halfway through, and break free of that restraint and make Deep Space Nine—which to me was not a great idea, frankly–I never cared for the show until it became an action-centered “war” series—and not because I wanted a “war in space” thing, but simply because it at least gave vent to action and adventure in ways that TNG never had. (perhaps TNG and Deep Space together would have made ONE good show, who knows?)

And as we all know, Voyager and Enterprise never really fixed the basic problems. They carried on but still never managed to get it right, and sometimes got it as badly wrong as the worst TNG episodes ever got it.

I continue to hope that with the new film, the whole Star Trek thing will be reinvigorated and reinvented, to return to the elements (but with different and updated substance) that made TOS great. I have my fingers crossed. At present it looks like, from what we know of the story, that they did this. And if it takes off, then one might say that in a very real sense, we’ll finally have Star Trek back—and the first time we can truly say that since The Original Series went off the air in 1969.

23. Trek Nerd Central - January 22, 2009

Very smart and funny guy.

Moving on to a complete non sequitur: Is anyone else as upset as me that The Dark Knight got shut out of best pic in the Oscar nominations?

24. Lee Whiteside - January 22, 2009

A note for Trekmovie’s Kayla Iocovino: If you are at the convention tonight, track me down at my SF Tube Talk panel at 8 pm.

25. Jamie - January 22, 2009

Funny how an ex Star Trek actor has gone on to be (in my opinion) one of the most entertaining and on-the-money Star Trek critics.

How did Wil get cast as Wesley? I’ve never heard that story, but I think it would be interesting. If he releases his season 1 reviews as a book, he should definitely write an introduction recalling his audition experiences, to lead nicely into the Farpoint review.

26. JWM - January 22, 2009

Great interview. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by Mr. Wheaton’s openness, honesty and candor about the franchise and his own fandom.

27. Doug in Afghanistan - January 22, 2009

#22: I think the fact that after 700 some odd stories (on film alone) have been produced it is hard to come up with something new, fresh and innovative.

I have to say I disagree with your view about David Gerrold. I think one thing that hamstrung TNG early on was Roddenberry’s insistence that all of the main characters get along (the evolved man concept). That idea loosened up a little later on.

Another thing that hurt the show early on was the writer’s strike in its second season.

Funny thing that “Justice” would be pointed out as a weakness, as I remember reading fairly recently of a similar event (real time) that resulted in a harsh sentence (if not death). I wish I could recall the details (dammit!).

I’ve enjoyed all the various versions of TREK and have no doubt I will enjoy the upcoming film too but I agree with Will’s assessment about this maybe being an action film… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… if they do it right.

Oddly enough AFN (Armed Forces Network) showed Star Trek V today.

I have to say that after this week I am more than ready to come home (we had a bombing right outside our camp last Saturday with one of our own being killed.. .and four more injured–one quite seriously– our own office space had a window broken out from the concussion of the blast).

AND in spite of that I am still quite hope for this country.

I hope you all enjoyed the inauguration… I’d have loved to have been there for it!

As they used to say in the 70s, “keep on trekkin!”

28. sean - January 22, 2009

#27

“Funny thing that “Justice” would be pointed out as a weakness, as I remember reading fairly recently of a similar event (real time) that resulted in a harsh sentence (if not death). I wish I could recall the details (dammit!).”

That’s a good point, Doug. I suppose there are a lot of ‘frivolous’ laws out there. I just found the concept of disobeying a ‘Don’t Walk on the Grass’ sign being punishable by death really goofy. Then again, maybe it was that the planet was full of blonde joggers that irked me more! ;)

I love TNG though, and I’ll disagree with Randall – I think Seasons 3-6 were outstanding, and featured stories and issues that TOS simply couldn’t have realistically dealt with. Each show was a reflection of the times they were produced in, and I think that’s what kept Trek going for a long time. To me, that was the misstep with VOY & ENT – I never felt they tied us back to today in a very interesting way. From TOS to TNG to DS9, I felt a very clear lineage and progression, whereas VOY & ENT both felt like TNG Lite (to me).

29. Trek Nerd Central - January 22, 2009

#27. Doug, you just put everything in perspective — I won’t be complaining about anything today. Thanks for that. And thanks for your sacrifices.

30. Randall - January 22, 2009

sean #28:

I grant that you’ve hit on a good point about VOY and ENT feeling like “TNG Lite”—that’s a good way to put it. And VERY “Lite” at that.

As for some of the seasons of TNG being “outstanding,” that’s a matter of opinion, of course–but I never said I hated TNG–I merely maintain that it was inferior overall to TOS for the reasons I gave. And I realize that’s MY opinion–but certainly no one can seriously or reasonably argue with a straight face that TNG wasn’t often very silly, stilted, and adolescent.

But this idea of each series being a “reflection of its time” is a cop-out. This should have nothing to do with good, grown-up storytelling and certainly should have nothing to do with talent and good ideas. And I most certainly cannot agree with your statement that TNG did ANY stories that TOS “couldn’t have realistically dealt with.” Frankly, I challenge you to present these–because when I wrack my memories of TNG, I can’t think of one.

Again—I don’t hate TNG. I think it was a GOOD show, after it’s first couple seasons (but for the first two, it was abysmal). But TOS was a *great* show—which is clearly evident from the fact that it was TOS which is still the cultural icon today–and had it never existed, and TNG had been the “first” Star Trek series—then Star Trek would not be the iconic phenomenon it is today–and has been for over 40 years. And there are numerous reasons to believe this—it isn’t simply a matter of preferring the old over the new.

31. Randall - January 22, 2009

Doug #27:

I’m 43 and never had to serve in the military due to a threat to our country (other than the then-dying Cold War, there was no such threat in the early 80s, when I came to adulthood) and did not make the choice to serve. I will say, in any event, thank you, for doing what you’ve done–to give a piece of your life to service. I assume you’re younger than me (though perhaps not?) and I thus feel for you all the more, being over there risking your life at a young age. Come home safe, Doug.

Of course if you’re my age or near, I still implore you to come home safe. And I still thank you for doing what you’re doing.

Now… I agree that Roddenberry’s insistence on a crew that “got along” was one of the mistakes that screwed up TNG. But how does this let Gerrold off the hook? I’ve never heard of any indication that said he disagreed with Roddenberry on this—though if he did, fine. But it’s certainly also true that Gerrold WAS responsible–so it’s been my understanding–for not only the makeup of several of the characters (as I pointed out) but also for some of the overall feel and philosophy of the series–most notedly, the annoying and silly constant insistence over Riker being the one to go on “away teams” (another silly move away from the military terminology of “landing party,” which gave TOS a nicely traditional feel and to me never smacked of the “militarism” Roddenberry and Gerrold evidently hated so much) and the endless argument about this between Riker and Picard—because Gerrold was the one who had thought it “unrealistic” and “wrong” that Kirk had been the one to go out on these ventures in TOS. (But this is drama, not reality—and much of the dramatic force of a captain, as a character, is that he is a heroic figure who will, therefore, occasionally have to get into danger. Moreover, who the hell are we to say what will be considered appropriate 300 or 400 years from now, in space? Maybe it would be considered sensible to send the experienced, hard-fighting guy out to deal with shit. Granted, if you lose him, that sucks. But maybe in the future they have some unforeseen, high-tech way of judging who the human beings are that have the unique skills to survive in tight corners, and this is the very quality that MAKES a starship captain. Gerrold wasn’t thinking like a good writer—because in my opinion he isn’t one—and he was being far too mundanely prosaic). Also, as I noted earlier—supposedly it’s Gerrold who came up with the idea of the “ship’s counselor.” Puke.

Perhaps, as others have pointed out, there was no one of the caliber and quality of Gene Coon on TNG to push the show over into greatness. Imagine, after all, TOS with only Roddenberry and Gerrold. But TOS had Coon AND Dorothy Fontana (again, I can’t recall how much of a role she played on TNG) to keep Roddenberry’s vision on the straight and narrow—AND curb some of his more egregiously silly notions.

32. T.U.M. - January 22, 2009

So sorry to hear the bad news, Doug, but glad to hear the good news that you’re OK and still able to get in touch with us!

33. Closettrekker - January 22, 2009

#22 and #30—Randall, I share many of your opinions on TNG vs. TOS, and some of the reasons in particular as to why the show failed to resonate with you and I in the same way that TOS did. Here are just a few in my mind:

–ship’s counselor
–android pinnochio
–holodecks
–the USS Hilton (aka Enterprise-D)
–lack of dissent and conflict (at least early on)
–a child on the bridge
–not ‘sexy’ at all

But the one element inherent to TOS which was never compensated for in TNG, IMO, was Kirk/Spock/McCoy. I fell in love with those characters. I was invested in them.

I never invested in the TNG characters. Patrick Stewart is a fine actor, but his character simply didn’t appeal to me.

Like you, I don’t “hate” TNG, but it just isn’t my Star Trek—-and I don’t mind being in the minority either. As for placing blame, I can’t say that I care…

34. AJ - January 22, 2009

22/Randall:

I have to disagree with your slamming of TNG. The early years definitely sucked wind, but the early use of Q as a device grounded TNG firmly in the liberal camp during a conservative US presidency.

I think GR and DCF really wanted to throw that view into the face of the viewing public. “Here we are at a million per episode, and this is what we gotta say.” And John DeLancie channels Oliver North in the first 10 minutes. His bookending of the series in “All Good Things” was appropriate and well played.

It’s a given that TNG went through a few tough years. A writers’ strike and rumored internal turmoil did not help, either. But they did it anyway, and rejuvenated our show, so I’ll take the good with the bad.

35. Randall - January 22, 2009

#33 Closettrekker:

Thank you. You enumerated some items that I failed to touch upon, and they only serve to reinforce the negative aspects, dramatically, of TNG.

And by the way—I think I called Data a “Petet Pan” character, but I misspoke (miswrote?). You’re right—he was a Pinocchio character. Just as bad.

The holodeck, the faux-posh-hotel look to the Enterprise itself, the lack of “sexiness”—all these things are further confirmation of what I was saying.

Stop and ask yourself (those of you who are reading this)… what do these things add up to? They add up to the boring and ultra-sanitized worldview of mediocre talents, who didn’t know–or had forgotten how–to create an exciting show with good and believable drama.

Closettrekker–don’t kid yourself. We’re not in the minority. We’re in the majority by leaps and bounds. Maybe not on a website like this—but out in the real world, if you mention “Star Trek,” people think immediately of Kirk and Spock and TOS. Hands down. That’s the icon to the world as a whole–TOS.

36. Randall - January 22, 2009

AJ #34:

“the early use of Q as a device grounded TNG firmly in the liberal camp during a conservative US presidency.”

Huh? Come on AJ, quit smoking that stuff, it’s making your brain fuzzy.

A) Q was a ridiculous, silly character and concept, and not because he was really “meant” to be. As I said, it was a character and idea right out of Lost in Space. Take a look at the difference between TNG and TOS on this point. TNG: Q–a smarmy, cloying, cutesy character who is supposed to be a superior being. Do we really believe that for a moment? I certainly never did. It turned me off from the get-go. But TOS? The Organians, for just one example—serious, otherworldly, eerie, even creepy superbeings who, in the end, couldn’t stand to be near primitives like ourselves. THAT makes sense, and moreover is the ADULT way a story is told and a character is created. Q, on the other hand, was not only childISH, but was written as though a childish MIND had created him. In TOS, “Squire Trelane” (a character many have linked with the “Q”) even though he DID turn out to be a “child” of sorts, still acted twice as “grown up” than Q ever did–in the ways that it mattered. AND TOS dispensed with the character in ONE episode, because in those days that’s all such a character was worth.

B) Do you really think we needed to be reminded of Star Trek’s general political orientation? That’s just silly. Moreover, if you wanted to take a stance in that sense—well, to begin with, TOS was never political in that way–politics date and weigh down drama, AJ. But if you wanted to take such a stance, one would think you’d do it seriously and thoughtfully, not sophomorically and embarrassingly, the way it was done with Q. The concept is cringe-making, and even as satire it failed utterly. As I said, pure Lost in Space stuff.

“I think GR and DCF really wanted to throw that view into the face of the viewing public. “Here we are at a million per episode, and this is what we gotta say.” ”

Then they should have–and could have–said it with FAR more aplomb and class and style than inventing some moronic concept like “Q.” Whenever you have a character who can best be described as an “imp,” you know you’re in deep trouble, dramatically. You’ve in fact left the region of drama and entered the region of silly and pompous.

“And John DeLancie channels Oliver North in the first 10 minutes. His bookending of the series in “All Good Things” was appropriate and well played.”

Well, I disagree. You already know what I think of the character—but tell me how the final episode even made sense. To me it made none, and only served to remind us that TNG was NEVER a truly serious show–it was always more than a shade juvenile in presentation and outlook.

It was a fun episode, but logically didn’t cut it and dramatically was to me, a let down.

And I LIKE John DeLancie as an actor.

37. Closettrekker - January 22, 2009

#36–“…politics date and weigh down drama, AJ. ”

In the interest of fairness, I have seen AJ’s thoughts on this particular issue, and he has–in the past–been adamant that this is one of the reasons that he feels TNG does not hold up against time quite as well as TOS. AJ can correct me if I am mistaken, but that is how I understand his position on the matter (having read his posts for a long time now).

You alluded to “The Squire Of Gothos”, and I agree with many that the character of ‘Q’ evolved from the idea of Trelane. And I think you touched upon an interesting point here:

“AND TOS dispensed with the character in ONE episode, because in those days that’s all such a character was worth. ”

I took ‘Q’ as a loose story arc for Picard, a recurring nemesis, if you will. Storytelling styles for a fictional series were different in the 1960’s. That’s a given. With the exception of Harry Mudd, I don’t recall any recurring villains (if you can even call him that). There were no story-arcs in TOS, and while we didn’t see true story-arcs in Star Trek until DS9, TNG did form somewhat of an arc with the recurring character of ‘Q’. So really, the only antagonist character that TOS did not dispose of in a single episode was Mudd, and I think his worth as anything more than fodder for Captain Kirk is questionable.

The point is that, even if Roddenberry had wanted to do something more with the concept of Trelane, it was never likely to happen in the 1960’s.

My knowledge of TNG is somewhat limited compared to that of Sean and AJ, as I haven’t seen many episodes more than once, but as I recall–the TNG finale did tie up the ends of the ‘Q inquisition’ depicted in “Encounter At Farpoint”, and served to prove that humanity had more to offer than Q gave it credit for.

Again, that doesn’t make me appreciate the show in any manner close to the way I value TOS, but I did think it made some dramatic sense.

38. sean - January 22, 2009

#30

“but certainly no one can seriously or reasonably argue with a straight face that TNG wasn’t often very silly, stilted, and adolescent.”

True Randall, but as the saying goes if you’re pointing a finger at TNG, you have 3 more pointing back at TOS. I’ve often said that TOS has what I’d essentially call 20-25 ‘great’ episodes, 20 or so ‘okay’ episodes, and roughly 30 real clunkers. You’re going to tell me ‘Not Morg. EYEmorg’ isn’t silly, stilted and adolescent? Silly and adolescent, at the very least. I loved TOS before there was a TNG, but I’m not afraid to look at it with a critical eye.

“But this idea of each series being a “reflection of its time” is a cop-out. This should have nothing to do with good, grown-up storytelling and certainly should have nothing to do with talent and good ideas. And I most certainly cannot agree with your statement that TNG did ANY stories that TOS “couldn’t have realistically dealt with.” Frankly, I challenge you to present these–because when I wrack my memories of TNG, I can’t think of one.”

I don’t see how that’s a copout. How can you possibly argue that TOS wasn’t a reflection of the 60s? Or that TNG was of the 80s? I didn’t imply that’s an excuse for bad storytelling. I just think that the fact that both shows were period pieces – of a sort – can help put certain idiosyncrasies into perspective.

In terms of the kinds of stories TNG could do that I don’t believe TOS could ever have done (or likely would not have tackled), ‘The Inner Light’ comes instantly to mind. Sure, it might have a cousin twice removed in ‘The Paradise Syndrome’, but the former had an emotional resonance I’ve never seen repeated in any TOS episode (and also didn’t feature any ‘I AM KIROK’ proclamations), save possibly ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’. Still, it was one of the moments where I realized the show had surpassed its predecessor in some ways (that and seeing Star Trek V while TNG was entering its 3rd Season – ouch), in terms of the power of the storytelling. It worked on an emotional level that TOS had a tendency to stay far away from. The effects of that episode followed Picard for some time and continued to be referenced, whereas any trauma Kirk suffered was usually temporary and never referenced again.

Famous – or should I say infamous – example: Spock giving Kirk the infamous ‘forget’ meld. A touching moment for the characters, but also a convenient plot point that would allow the writers to never have to acknowledge the events of the episode again. Not to mention the daft idea that Kirk somehow fell more in love with an android he’d barely just met and that it was having such an effect on him that his duties were suffering. We’re to believe this 5 minute love affair was more devastating than Edith Keeler? Carol Marcus? I digress…

On a different front, I’d argue a show like ‘Lower Decks’ would never have worked on TOS, either. One of The Original Series’ strengths was the Kirk-Spock-McCoy troika, but it was also a weakness/limitation in that we rarely saw what life was like if you weren’t Kirk, Spock or McCoy. Oh, we got tastes of life for Scotty and Uhura and Sulu and Chekhov here and there, but those characters were rarely allowed to shine, and especially not brighter than the Big Three. TNG was a true ensemble, and apparently lacked the ‘line counting’ that notoriously took place on TOS behind the scenes. It’s a different formula, but one I could always appreciate.

“Again—I don’t hate TNG. I think it was a GOOD show, after it’s first couple seasons (but for the first two, it was abysmal). But TOS was a *great* show—which is clearly evident from the fact that it was TOS which is still the cultural icon today–and had it never existed, and TNG had been the “first” Star Trek series—then Star Trek would not be the iconic phenomenon it is today–and has been for over 40 years. And there are numerous reasons to believe this—it isn’t simply a matter of preferring the old over the new.”

Since we have no way of going back in time or trying out Bob’s Many Worlds theory, I don’t think anyone can say what it would have been like had TNG come first. But I think that’s missing the point anyway – TNG wouldn’t have been made in the 60s because it wasn’t in tune with the storytelling or nature of TV programming at the time. The same as you couldn’t have had DS9 before you had TNG. We can argue ‘what ifs’ ’till we’re blue in the face, but since neither of us can prove it without altering time itself, it seems silly to even bring it up. My mother grew up on TOS in the 60s, but is a much bigger fan of TNG. Everyone’s different.

TNG is iconic. I’ll acknowledge that TOS will always remain the major representative of Trek to the world because it was the first – that’s a distinction you can only make once. Putting that aside, TNG was an *incredibly * popular show watched by millions of people every week. It was the #1 show in syndication for its entire run. It wouldn’t have run for 7 years if no one was watching and enjoying it. Not back in those days. There’s an entire generation out there that knows more about Picard than they do Kirk. ‘Engage’ was nearly as ubiquitous as ‘Beam Me Up’.

Some of that has faded now, admittedly, but not entirely because of TNG’s failings. Simple oversaturation hurt the Trek brand as a whole. TNG was 20 years after TOS. Every subsequent show came on while another was still being broadcast. I’m sure this was part of what hurt VOY & ENT (besides the general bladness). It’s sort of like CSI – people loved CSI, many loved CSI: Miami even more, but no one watches CSI: New York. ;)

I’m not saying either show is better than the other. I actually prefer DS9 to either, if I were being honest, but that’s because I felt it was the perfect marriage of the two methodologies. I’m also not saying TNG didn’t have a rough first 2 seasons or some dodgy episodes, but to act as though TOS didn’t suffer from a similar problem seems quite a stretch.

39. sean - January 22, 2009

PS –

I’d also add that this is part of why the TNG movies *never* worked. The characters bore little resemblance to the characters in TNG. The movies couldn’t make up their mind if Picard was a complete dolt (Generations and to an extend the end of Nemesis) or a superhero (First Contact/Insurrection). The TOS movies had a firm grasp of who those characters were (aside from maybe TMP and obviously TFF) and didn’t really make any attempt to turn them into something contrary to what we knew they were. They typically rang true, whereas the TNG movies never felt ‘right’.

40. Closettrekker - January 22, 2009

#38—” I’ve often said that TOS has what I’d essentially call 20-25 ‘great’ episodes, 20 or so ‘okay’ episodes, and roughly 30 real clunkers. You’re going to tell me ‘Not Morg. EYEmorg’ isn’t silly, stilted and adolescent? Silly and adolescent, at the very least. I loved TOS before there was a TNG, but I’m not afraid to look at it with a critical eye.”

Absolutely. You and I have always been on the same page with this (among other things!).

I’ll grant TOS (in only 3 seasons) 20 great episodes…and the rest range from decent to horrendous.

The difference for me is, I can’t name 20 episodes of TNG (in 7 seasons) that I can even sit through…but, as you say, a whole lot of people must disagree, since it generated enough interest to remain on the air for 7 seasons.

And I have always said that my investment in the characters of TOS allowed (and still allows) me to look past its weaker links. And of course, many of the worst episodes of TOS are so bad— they’re absolutely fantastic!!!

Gonna crack my knuckles
and jump for joy,
Gotta clean bill of health
from Dr. McCoy!

Brain? What is brain?

And I nearly fell out of my chair recently when I saw a clip from “Plato’s Stepchildren”.

In some ways, TOS isn’t as good without some of those “bad” moments…

41. Randall - January 22, 2009

Sean #38:

“True Randall, but as the saying goes if you’re pointing a finger at TNG, you have 3 more pointing back at TOS.”

Hardly. This was my very point—while TOS was by no means and was never high-class, level 10 drama, it was *overall* far closer to it than TNG. The point wasn’t that TOS wasn’t guilty of some crap and silliness. The point was that TNG was far MORE guilty of it, and that with TNG, it was built right into the fabric of the series from the start. Whereas with TOS, it was just an occasional hiccup. AND could be put down to less sophisticated storytelling techniques and talent of TV writing of the day.

“I’ve often said that TOS has what I’d essentially call 20-25 ‘great’ episodes, 20 or so ‘okay’ episodes, and roughly 30 real clunkers.”

Well, this is debatable, but probably not far from the mark of what I’d say, myself—though I wouldn’t place the number of “clunkers” that high. But remember–this is in a series that only went for 79 episodes–and I’d certainly say that way more than half were at least “okay”—and at least 30 of them were very good to great. Those are high percentages.

“You’re going to tell me ‘Not Morg. EYEmorg’ isn’t silly, stilted and adolescent? Silly and adolescent, at the very least. I loved TOS before there was a TNG, but I’m not afraid to look at it with a critical eye.”

Sean, I’m not at ALL afraid to look at TOS with a critical eye. This is, in fact, what I’ve done many times. Star Trek was not high drama. It was a very good, even great, entertaining TV series. It had its flaws. I could enumerate them for you.

But cherrypicking little examples here and there, as you’ve done, proves nothing to negate what I was saying. TOS succeeded and became the cultural icon that it is because *overall* it was fun, but adult in nature. And sometimes it made us think and got at some emotions.

TNG, on the other hand, failed at this *overall*—though occasionally it touched on that.

“I don’t see how that’s a copout. How can you possibly argue that TOS wasn’t a reflection of the 60s?”

I wasn’t saying that. I was saying that using this idea of a show being a “product of its times” as an EXCUSE for bad writing or bad concepts is a cop-out.

Yes, the 60s and the 80s/90s were very different. Yes, the shows reflect some of the difference, of course. But in another sense, good ideas and good writing are just that, regardless of time frame.

“In terms of the kinds of stories TNG could do that I don’t believe TOS could ever have done (or likely would not have tackled), ‘The Inner Light’ comes instantly to mind.”

K, forgive me… I’m not that strongly TNG versed, though I’ve certainly seen every episode at least once. Was this the one where Picard “became” another person, in a sense, with all these false memories, and lived out a sort of alternative life?

If so (but it hardly matters) I don’t see what point you’re making. Of course such a thing could have been written in the 60s. And it certainly could have been done on TOS. Would they have? Maybe, maybe not—but not because they were “incapable” of doing so.

The idea that the sense of what’s dramatically resonant may have changed from the 60s to the 80s/90s doesn’t negate what I said—if anything it supports it. BY the 80s/90s TNG should have looked a LOT more like its own VERY BEST episodes *right from the start.* Because in the time since the 60s, we’d seen a lot more serious and adult and well-realized television, both dramatically and particularly in terms of sitcoms—TV had grown up a lot. But TNG failed to reflect this from the start, and was always hampered down from then on by the crap concepts that it was saddled with at the beginning.

It was actually a shock that TOS was as good as it was, being produced in 1966—it could have just been a fun throwaway, like many other series of the day. But it managed to do more. I mean, that’s another reason why TOS was so huge back in the day. It was a step or two above the usual level of television—much, but certainly not all, of the time.

TNG, in its day, could have and should have been brilliant from the start. Especially building on the legacy it was given. But it was just the opposite, and had to fight to get even close to it.

“it was one of the moments where I realized the show had surpassed its predecessor in some ways (that and seeing Star Trek V while TNG was entering its 3rd Season – ouch), in terms of the power of the storytelling.”

Sorry, but I just don’t see that. Again, yes, different times—different approaches. In this instance it was satisfying (to you anyway—I actually didn’t find that episode that hugely great, myself, if it’s the same one we’re talking about) but the problem is that TNG did not, in fact, EVER surpass the best qualities of TOS.

Power of storytelling is only part of it. I’m also talking about the overall feel, philosophy, attitude, iconography and mythic aspect of each show. TOS had these in huge measure. TNG, by comparision—well, Closettrekker and I have already compared the two. TNG was hampered where it shouldn’t have been hampered.

When and where it broke free of its chains, it got very good. But the hint, the echo, was always still there, in the background–the memories of the crap, the silliness, the juvenalia of it.

When TOS got silly and juvenile, it also made you cringe… but it was fighting the memories of City on the Edge of Forever, Devil in the Dark, Charlie X, Corbomite Maneuver, The Doomsday Machine, the Tholian Web, etc. etc. etc. Whereas with TNG it was the opposite–when it FINALLY got somewhat good, three or four seasons into the show (!) you could still see the ghost of the crap still behind it, all the time. Children on the ship, childish episodes and characters, silliness right out of Lost in Space, etc. etc. Even with “Best of Both Worlds,” you’re still reminded of it. Because THAT was the stamp of TNG from the beginning. Whereas with TOS, the stamp of the show from the start was of a much higher, rarified air.

“whereas any trauma Kirk suffered was usually temporary and never referenced again.”

Well there you hit on one of the major flaws of TOS. The flat and empty characterizations at times. Even after three seasons, the irony is that the only character really ever allowed to be “human” was, in fact, Spock. He’s the only character that “grew” in a sense.

“Famous – or should I say infamous – example: Spock giving Kirk the infamous ‘forget’ meld. A touching moment for the characters, but also a convenient plot point that would allow the writers to never have to acknowledge the events of the episode again.”

I completely agree, actually.

But again–picking out the occasional inconsistency of character and/or situation in TOS doesn’t negate the overall. Whereas with TNG the bad qualities were in the *forefront* right from the start. THAT is the difference between the two.

Basically, TOS was very well-conceived and usually followed its conception, and when it didn’t, it screwed up. TNG was ill-conceived from the start and had to constantly fight that handicap just to TRY to be good, and better.

42. Randall - January 22, 2009

Sean:

One other thing—I cannot agree that TNG was iconic. TOS, yes, certainly. But TNG, no. Nor was Deep Space, nor was VOY, nor was ENT. “Iconic” is more than popular. Something isn’t iconic just because it hits high ratings numbers.

TOS was iconic because it created new, interesting, sometimes surreal situations and characters. It stepped off the foundations of earlier sci fi and blended them with action/adventure into a new mix. And it took with it character archetypes, like the iconic hero (Kirk as both Hornblower and Hamlet, loner Sheriff in a Western and heroic WWII ship captain… Spock as the eternal man of two minds, at war with himself…. McCoy as the everyman, the ordinary guy, etc.) This stuff resonated deeply with generations and STILL DOES. That’s why Abrams has gone back to it.

Whereas TNG NEVER reached that level because it wasn’t based on that kind of stuff–to its detriment. Instead, if should have been. But it wasn’t. And in time it will be much more forgotten than remembered, whereas TOS will probably live on as much as it ever has.

43. Izbot - January 22, 2009

“2008 was supposed to be the year of writing fiction for me, but I had sinus surgery early in the year and it disrupted my rhythm so much to lose eight weeks to just recovery and then it was the summer with conventions and so by the time the Fall came and I started working on the stories I had planned to start in February, it was October.”

Sinus surgery?! Are you kidding me?! I had sinus surgery in 2008 as well — because of my inability to use either of my primary sinuses for the past twenty years. I recovered in less than two weeks! WTH?! Did you have an action figure lodged up there? It’s sinus surgery! That’s an excuse?! Will, I have stood up for you several times when others here have bashed you for your outspokenness and oft-times extreme opinions — but really, sinus surgery?! As an excuse?! Dude, that is just lame and I don”‘ buy it. If you said you were gonna do something — even if it was just to yourself — don’t use some flimsy excuse like sinus surgery as your reason for not accomplishing a personal goal. That is just WEAK. Buck up, m’man! You shoulda been breathing well and feeling fine in no time.

Unless you got some sort of life-threatening infection after the fact. But wouldn’t we have heard about that? C’mon, man! No excuses! Sorry, I just can’t imagine an 8-week recover for sinus sugery. New nose?! WTH!!

44. sean - January 22, 2009

#42

I think this is a matter of perspective and can be argued. Many, many people identified with the characters and iconography of TNG. You didn’t, fair enough. My good buddy Closettrekker didn’t either. Some would argue, however, that TNG took TOS and built upon it, morphed it, molded it into something else that was nonetheless just as important. Picard or Data may not be icons to you, but they are to many. People remember those characters. They’re referenced, ruminated on and held in high esteem. They’ve appeared on the covers of countless magazines. There was a point in the 90s where Entertainment Weekly practically turned into TNG Weekly. Time had Picard & Kirk on the cover for ‘Generations’ – to the best of my knowledge the only time a Trek actor has appeared there.

Heck, look at the production team on this new movie – they’re mostly confessed TNG fans. As I said before, there’s an entire generation that grew up with TNG, not TOS, and that generation frequently thinks of TNG when they think Star Trek. In terms of the mainstream, TNG won nearly 20 Emmy Awards and was nomintated for over 60 during its run. The episode I mentioned previously, ‘The Inner Light’, was the first television program since the original Star Trek to win a Hugo. ‘All Good Things’ would go on to tie TOS by winning one as well. In the Christies auction of Star Trek memorabilia it was the Enterprise-D (no bloody A, B or C) that sold for the greatest amount. The freakin’ flute from ‘The Inner Light’ sold for nearly 50 grand! Look at Family Guy. It’s an incredibly mainstream show, and its Trek parodies are almost entirely TOS & TNG (I’d say they actually parody TNG even more, and the upcoming Star Trek-centric 1 hour episode will reassemble all 7 leads from TNG). If there was no recognition for the TNG characters, those jokes wouldn’t work with the audience.

I don’t use those facts to try to argue for a ‘better than’ status for TNG. I fully recognize TOS as the first, the biggest, the best, as far as recognition goes. The point I am trying to make is that given all the aforementioned facts, you have to recognize that there is a huge following for TNG inside as well as outside of Star Trek fandom and that it has become iconic in its own right. Regardless of whether you personally enjoy it or find it inferior.

I would also argue that Abrams decision to make his film based on TOS is more about that previously mentioned oversaturation than it was about TOS being ‘better’ than TNG. When a franchise suffers from bloat, it is not uncommon to go back to the beginning and essentially go for a fresh start to reacquaint your audience with the foundational elements. That’s why I have no problem with them ditching certain elements of the character histories in favor of streamlining but retaining the ‘core’ elements of the characters. Star Trek needed a ‘do over’.

45. SpocksinnerConflict - January 22, 2009

Can’t you people remember how many times TOS came to fist a cuff?
Almost every ep, there’s a fight. Why, since this film was anounced, do people have a problem with Star trek being an Action sci-fi film?
Why so rigid?
Why cant a thoughtful, smart, mind bending sci-fi film, also be full of Action?

Since our contemporary Action films have evolved a great deal; figuratively pumped with steroids if you will, it may be hard to remember that films like Wrath of Kahn WERE considered Action sci-fi. Just go to any video store, circa ’86. Shit I’m sure even today it wouldn’t be hard to find Kahn placed in an Action sci-fi shelf.
I know the concern is: it will be nothing BUT a steroid pumped action film, but come on…Studios WANT there films to make money, and a sure way for this film to fail is to excise the trek elements and alienate the trek audience.

46. barrydancer - January 22, 2009

I always kind of balk at the characterizations of the Enterprise-D as “U.S.S. Hilton,” etc. The Galaxy Class was designed to be away from a starbase/habitable planet for years on end. Is it so hard to believe Starfleet might try to add some comfort to the ship?

47. Izbot - January 22, 2009

45. SpocksinnerConflict –

I hear you. And you’d also think those folks up in arms would at least take a look at some of JJ’s other franchises for comparison. Lost, for example, has always had it’s share of punchups and shoot-em-ups but still remains primarily a character piece smooshed up with a very twisty and engaging mystery story. Trek has always been about challenging puzzles, character-driven stories and a lot of action. It’s part of tapestry folks, accept it!

48. Truthamador - January 22, 2009

#43 –
Seriously, you are going to yell at Wil Wheaton for saying that surgery kept him from writing his fiction? I mean, really? Maybe it was some other issues, some kind of personal problem, maybe even a more serious medical event, that he might not wanted to have shared with you. I guess I just don’t get it when people question things like this of celebrities/writers/actors. I don’t know, why didn’t you accomplish everything you set out to do last year? Would you like to share every single reason/excuse with the WHOLE WORLD? I’d say he is doing pretty good attending so many conventions, writing on his blog, twittering, and publishing books, not to mention apparently putting a kid through college.

I guess I just don’t understand the complete negativity that comes across in many of these post lines, whether it be about one of the series, the new movie, or individuals involved in Star Trek. Not to say the criticism is a bad thing, because we should very much discuss pro’s and con’s. But sometimes I feel people get a little too wrapped up in discussing the bad, or what they “hate” (though I don’t understand why anyone posting on a Star Trek website, especially this one, would have such harsh feelings towards anything Trek), or bashing on writers/producers/actors. Look at Wil’s reviews. I mean, wow, they are f’ing hilarious, and seriously bash on TNG, but at the same time, he is able to step back, take a fair look, and examine the good in them. I know that ratings alone don’t give a show merit (otherwise reality television would be a god-send), but it does say that there must have been something there to keep people interested, which is worth examining.

Unless, of course, you subscribe to the arrogant notions of “people are stupid/sheep/worthless”, and the reason why the new movie is being “dumbed-down” for the masses, which I still don’t understand. Maybe left over high school angst at being made fun for being a nerd? I don’t know.

49. Izbot - January 22, 2009

46. barrydancer –

RE: U.S.S. Hilton

I’ve dumped tons of rhetoric on this very idea on this site over the past couple years so those who recognize my name know I no longer identify with the utopia of the 24th century. Ah, the TNG Enterprise! The great shopping mall in the sky! Sorry, but I no longer find that notion compelling. Give me the hard-scrabble frontier of TOS instead. Despite it’s times TNG demonstrated that Reagan-era foreign policy — dominate and spread democracy wherever you go. Sorry, it’s just a tad bit imperialistic to me. You can almost see the throughline from Picard to Palpatine. Sure, you can condemn the American frontier days as also imperialistic but that idea of being on the frontier with no one to rely upon except yourself and your best mates really grabs me. TNG felt like a bureau cabinet in space.

50. Izbot - January 22, 2009

48. Truthamador –

Sorry friend, I was talking directly to Wil. I have defended him so many times here I think I can call him on BS until he straightens it out. I like Wil. I read his stuff. And if you do, too, you’d know he’s one who also reacts to things from his own personal experience. That’s what I’m doing.

That having been said, C’mon, Wil? WTH?! Really? Sinus surgery? Was it really that bad? Were there complications?! Spit it out, man!

51. SpocksinnerConflict - January 22, 2009

dear moderator,

This talkback is looking more and more like a private discussion between “sean” and “Randall”.
Cant we have a little restraint and not allow multiple, book length, talkbacks from just two people.
I don’t think those two are doing it on purpose, but it’ getting difficult to find any other opinions but those two. It’s a combination of frequency of posts, plus, length.

52. Izbot - January 22, 2009

48. Truthamador –

Also I’m not one of those bashing the new movie. I’ve been very supposrtive and have been following it daily since this site debuted. I love Trek. It has informed a huge chunk of my life. But like anything a person is that attached to I have gained a healthy sense of what I feel is correct and incorrect about Trek over the past thirty years that I’ve been a disciple of it. That’s called creating a dialogue. That’s where ideas come from (I think David Marcus said something to that affect). Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, as the Vulcans say. I rejoice in our differences.

You’re probably addressing the masses you perceive are being all negative here all the time and that’s understandable. I just wanted to interject that I am not (usually) to be lumped in that bunch. Unless, of course, we are talking about trashing Insurrection, Nemesis or Berman & Braga in particular — then, yes, I *am* being negative! ;)

53. Janisse - January 22, 2009

‘Follow him on Twitter @wilw’

Don’t bother. He won’t follow you.

54. S. John Ross - January 22, 2009

#12: “He uses the descriptive term, “sci-fi action movie” in a pejorative manner. [...] I’m not sure why he presents that term in a negative light .”

Possibly because, to many of us anyway, that phrase conjures images of movies like Total Recall or Demolition Man … films that can be fun in a brain-dead, cornball way, but which may not be the ideal templates for a Trek feature.

“TOS was sexy, romantic, adventurous, and truly unafraid of a good old fashioned bare-knuckled fistfight…”

All of which are qualities frequently _missing_ in sci-fi action movies, IMO. What’s more, Star Trek had all of those things and *more* … while most sci-fi action movies have some of those things and less.

I think there’s plenty of room to acknowledge, admire, and celebrate the sexy action-packedness of [original/one-and-only] Star Trek and still _also_ use the phrase “sci-fi action movie” in a less-than-enthusiastic way in a Star Trek context. It just depends on what’s meant by it.

55. Janisse - January 22, 2009

‘Cant we have a little restraint and not allow multiple, book length, talkbacks from just two people.’

Why? Do posts containing more than two sentences scare you?

56. Randall - January 22, 2009

Sean #44:

“Some would argue, however, that TNG took TOS and built upon it, morphed it, molded it into something else that was nonetheless just as important.”

No, come on. I sense that’s how you want it, Sean, but wanting doesn’t make it so.

Perhaps, yes, to some TNG was more important. But not, I maintain, to the mainstream. Not to the general public. And in terms of iconography, no way. You’re saying, basically, that Data is as iconographic as Spock. Or Picard the equal of Kirk, in those terms. That’s just silly.

Let me remind you… none of this is saying that TNG was a lousy show. It was a GOOD show, that sometimes was VERY good. But as Closettrekker said, I couldn’t count very many episodes of it that have stayed with me or that resonated in the mythic, iconic terms that MANY episodes of TOS did. TNG was, simply, a good show (though not at first—as I said, at first it was terrible) and it’s to be commended for that. But let’s not make it into something it wasn’t.

It COULD have been more. It COULD have been as great as TOS, and perhaps even greater. But the concept wasn’t up to it. And the writing never was, even at its best. It sometimes came close, but rarely.

“Picard or Data may not be icons to you, but they are to many.”

Sorry, but that’s rubbish. Or you’re using “icon” in a very stretched out, ill-defined sense. Picard and Data, are, perhaps, more iconic than Jim Rockford and Sam Malone, or Hawkeye Pierce, or several other TV characters. And one could argue they are boosted from having appeared in the films, though I try to leave that out of it, since that’s a separate thing. But you’d be hard pressed to argue that Picard or Data or Worf or whomever is as iconic–let alone more so–than, say, Fonzie. Or Archie Bunker maybe. (And I’m being serious). You MIGHT argue so—and perhaps be correct. But it wouldn’t be an easy argument by any means.

But CERTAINLY Picard and Data (or any other TNG character, or any others from DS9, VOY, or ENT) are NOT as iconographic as, say, Robin Hood. Or Sherlock Holmes. Or Tarzan. But Kirk and Spock ARE.

And they rank at that level for a reason—because there were elements behind TOS that were NOT evident behind TNG.

In a sense one could say that TOS was akin to a burst of genius from a single creative mind (even though this isn’t strictly so) whereas TNG was what you get when that mind has gone old and soft (and a tad weirdish) and/or TNG is what you get when you have creativity by committee instead of out of one burst of genius. Not that I call Roddenberry a genius. I don’t think I’d use that word. But I’m making an analogy, you see.

But that has only so much to do with the iconic nature of TOS. THAT was due to a multitude of factors—very few of which, if any, applied to or were directed at TNG.

LIKING TNG, even liking it a LOT, does not make it automatically an icon.

“People remember those characters.”

Some, yes. Fans. Fans always remember characters.

But TOS is remembered OUTSIDE of fandom. That’s another key difference.

You keep referencing popularity, and awards and so on. This is NOT what we’re talking about. Again, TNG was a GOOD show. I do not denigrate it in that sense, nor do I hate it. If it’s on, I might watch it—and sometimes I’ll sit through it, and other times I’ll cringe or get bored and turn the channel.

But TOS—even at its absolute WORST–was still entertaining, because it was a different kind of cringe. It was the kind of cringe you got from a LOT of 60s TV—-which was big, loud, brassy, weird, and surreal. And on top of that, TOS could also be extremely GOOD–even great at times—because it was one of the very first TV dramas to present top quality writing AND concepts, at least in the color era.

Whereas watching some episodes of TNG—perhaps even many of them–is like watching old reruns of Hill Street Blues or LA Law or ER. Good, okay shows—sometimes enjoyable… but in the long term, the very long term—forgettable and a trifle empty.

“Heck, look at the production team on this new movie – they’re mostly confessed TNG fans.”

Which worries me greatly, in fact. It worries me that Abrams prefers Star Wars as well.

“As I said before, there’s an entire generation that grew up with TNG, not TOS, and that generation frequently thinks of TNG when they think Star Trek.”

This is irrelevant. Again, you and I arguing two different things. You’re arguing time and popularity… you’re arguing PLACE. I’m arguing larger, loftier, thematic things. Now granted, in a sense TOS *is* locked in a time, but if you think about it, it isn’t really. It never was. It only LOOKED it and sometimes peripherally ACTED like it. It shared a lot with other 60s TV, but in a way it shared the least of ANY 60s show, at the same time.

“The point I am trying to make is that given all the aforementioned facts, you have to recognize that there is a huge following for TNG inside as well as outside of Star Trek fandom”

No. I quite frankly do not agree with this. A huge following IN fandom, yes. But outside of it? No. Not a huge following. A following, perhaps. But by no means a huge one. And it will dwindle with time–and already is. The waning success of the TNG films speak to this. It’s in part due to bad concepts and bad writing in those fims–but that’s just it. THAT is the problem with TNG and has ALWAYS been its problem.

And DS9, VOY and ENT are virtually unknown outside of fandom. TNG fares only somewhat better… but not hugely so.

Do you really think Counsellor Troi or Geordi LaForge are remembered or are GOING to be remembered like Uhura or Sulu or Scotty? Inside of fan circles, yes, of course. But out there in the REAL zeitgeist, in the big grown up world? No.

“and that it has become iconic in its own right. Regardless of whether you personally enjoy it or find it inferior.”

Well sorry, but I’m not saying this is MY decision. I’m telling you that the culture speaks. And while fan and geek culture revere TNG to a large degree, out in the larger circles it is far less a factor. Whereas TOS has resonated mythicall with millions for generations. NOT because it was first, but because it came from the right angles and the best kind of roots, and played right to the mythic impulses and needs that are basic in MOST people. And so it is popular or at least “known” like second nature in the same way, and for the same reason, that Sherlock Holmes is known, or Tarzan, or Robin Hood.

“I would also argue that Abrams decision to make his film based on TOS is more about that previously mentioned oversaturation than it was about TOS being ‘better’ than TNG.”

Okay, now you’re just beyond silly–now you’re being almost disingenuous in your silliness.

Give me a freakin’ break Sean. You’re being FAR too defensive about this—to the point where you’re ceasing to make sense.

Abrams went back to TOS because he had the sense to know that THAT is where ALL the mythic power and iconography of Star Trek lies and is invested. Because those characters were done right. The concept was done right. It worked. And it was always resonant in us.

I’m sorry, I know you want your favorite Trek series to be the best, but as with all things, history will say otherwise if it so chooses—and in fact, it already has, for the last 40+ years. Star Trek is still about TOS. Not about the legion of successor shows, fandom, games or fantasies.

57. James Heaney - Wowbagger - January 22, 2009

Randall (and Closet): Maybe TOS is the iconic show for your era. But, on this college campus (and the other ones I’ve been to), you say Star Trek, people ask about the bald guy and the dude with the funny sunglasses.

And then there’s the weirdly large number of closet Voyager fans who are currently finishing high school…

Anyhow. I’ve never been able to pick TNG or TOS over the other. They are both GREAT shows with some amazing episodes. They *both* sank doddering silliness at many points–people lionize the first two seasons of TOS, but, honestly, the hit-miss ratio in TOS2 was no better than that in TNG3. Over the course of the series, you’ve got about the same ratios: 30% “great”, 30% “fine”, and 40% “nah”. So they’re really about equal in my book.

But this talk of TNG as childish astonishes me. Though I don’t have a favorite, I *can* differentiate, and it seems obvious to me that TNG was far more honest with its characters and storylines than TOS ever even pretended at. “All Good Things,” “The Best of Both Worlds,” “The Inner Light,” “Darmok,” and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” are infinitely closer to “adult drama” than “Mirror, Mirror,” “City on the Edge,” “Obsession,” “Balance of Terror,” and “The Corbomite Manuever.” They’re deeper, more involving, and ultimately much more human than the shallow highlights of TOS.

Fortunately for TOS, I don’t place a very high premium on “adult drama”.

58. James Heaney - Wowbagger - January 22, 2009

#56 Randall: “You’re saying, basically, that Data is as iconographic as Spock. Or Picard the equal of Kirk, in those terms. That’s just silly. ”

Quite right! It would be silly to claim that Kirk or Spock have anywhere near the instant recognition and dramatic clout with today’s youth that the Picard-Data duo has. Kirk and Spock, when they’re known at all, are viewed as laughable artifacts of a tawdry, low-budget cult show. Picard and Data, to the modern youth demographic, are heroes.

Hopefully the new movie will help Kirk and Spock burnish their images with my generation. But let’s not pretend that they are anywhere near as relevant to younger people as Picard and Data.

59. barrydancer - January 22, 2009

#49

Picard=Palpatine? There’s one I’ve never heard before.

60. Chadwick - January 22, 2009

Its funny the trailer did a lot for me, it blew me away it was thrilling and exciting. It is one of the first Star Trek trailers that does not have a corny narrator saying corny lines. Go on youtube and watch the Star Trek trailers for every movie, they are cheesy and corny lol and I love them because I am a Star Trek fan but they are still corny, sappy, and nerdy, lacking any kind of alpha. I mean for ST I & II trailers they used the same narrator as the dawn and day of the dead movie trailer and other 70’s films, ST III through V use the same narrator who did a bunch of 80’s movie trailers and Disney movies. Honestly go on youtube and watch those trailers, and you will say “wow they are cheesy, and this new trailer is pretty cool.” Hell even Insurrection had a corny narrator. Nemesis was almost home safe, no narrator, but text throughout the trailer explaining the movie and what we are seeing, lol I HATE THAT. The trailer for the new movie was actually exiting and trilling and kick ass… NOT GEEKY!

Being born in 83 I was raised on TNG, as a child I hated TOS, I only watched it because my father liked it, I would always ask my father when is Worf coming on again? In my late teenage years or early 20’s I fell in love with TOS, I loved how simple, I loved the psychedelic lighting, lol those horrible computer sound effect, it was because I used my imagination to fill in the gaps, it made it fun. I understand what Will is saying and why Star Trek needs to be shaken up. We Star Trek veterans might not like it even I as a child love TNG thought it was high tech and TOS was old, ghetto, and I had no interest in it what so ever. How can you expect children of today to not react the same way? For kids today TNG is not appealing at all let alone TOS. But DS9, VOY, ENT might be. But Will is right for Star Trek to continue it must shape shift to fit the voice and identify with the current generation of youth. As I got older I wanted to know more about Trek see more Trek as will today’s young generation who find an interest in Star Trek through this movie. I was lucky enough to grow up with four…FOUR Star Trek series when I was a child, a teenager, and a young adult I had new and syndicated episodes all the time, while people in the 60’s had one Star Trek show with only three seasons, this generation has had nothing, since 2004.

If Ron Moore wants to do a dark Trek let him, just look at what he did with Battlestar, the new series is NOTHING like the old bubble gum 70’s show, yet the new battle star is fantastic I thought it was a great TV show.

It just scares me that Star Trek’s future is always in the hands of the Paramount executive bureaucrats, i.e. “if it does not make money then f*ck it, we cant waste time with it because time is money.” That scares me, it would be comforting to know the Paramount executives are down to earth and are willing to give Trek a chance, and well…they have.

I think Star Trek fans should shut the hell up and let this movie happen, be happy that Paramount gave it another chance, be happy there are fresh new minds with fresh new ideas, be happy Star Trek is re-imagined for a new generation AS IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN EVERY DECADE. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME WE ARE GIVEN A NEW STAR TREK!

Yea change hurts but the more things change the more they stay the same. Star Trek might change but as long as it survives with its moral standards intact who cares if it has more action, the fact that Star Trek is surviving is all that matters.

61. sean - January 22, 2009

#51

Apologies if Randall and I got a bit carried away. We’re passionate people! :)

62. sean - January 22, 2009

#56

I’ll avoid a booklength reply for the sake of others, but I’ll take issue with this:

“No, come on. I sense that’s how you want it, Sean, but wanting doesn’t make it so.”

Nor does wanting it the other way make it so. That’s not really a meaningful argument. I’ve cited examples of awards and recognition because rewards and recognition raise the profile of a show in the public consciousness. I can only speak to my experience as I’m sure you’re speaking to yours, but in mine Picard & Data have a definitive iconic status in the public eye. They end up on ‘Greatest’ lists of all sorts, not just those made by SciFi nerds or TNG fans. If I mention Star Trek to my non-Trek fan friends, they’re just as likely to make a reference to TNG as they are to TOS.

63. Izbot - January 22, 2009

59. barrydancer – January 22, 2009
“#49
Picard=Palpatine? There’s one I’ve never heard before.”

I didn’t say Picard equals Palpatine, I said you could draw a throughline from Picard to Palpatine. Picard bounced from planet to planet imposing Federation morals and conduct codes on races he was just encountering. And he had an all-powerful Galaxy-class starhip, a ship so large only the Borg cube or Romulan Warbird came close in size comparisons, to back up his rhetoric.

I liked Picard, sure. But it’s hard not to see the imperialistic tone of TNG. These guys were rarely bothered by anything. And why not? They had a luxurious cruise ship/shopping mall/war machine they called home and all the knowledge and technology of a 150-planet-strong Federation to back them up. Maybe I just like the underdog but it’s just too much to ask me to relate to these guys. It’s like being sympathetic to the Spanish-Catholic invaders of Mezoamerica. “Join us or be bowled over by our march of progress”. And from there you can hop to Palpatine and the eventual rise of an almighty, relentless, unstoppable empire.

Yeah, I get it, it’s a frickin’ TV show. Yeah, I’m fairly certain Roddenberry had none of this in mind when developing the show. And, yeah, Kirk definitely made his share of imperialistic Andrew Jacksonesque squashing of indigenous (world) governments. But it was *supposed* to be (in TOS) about the frontier and the strides and missteps an emergent Federation was making in that vast unknown. Never really got that feeling on TNG. Our corner of the galaxy seemed pretty known and certainly the Federation was wellknown. Unlike Kirk, Starfleet Command and the UFP were a mere ‘phonecall’ away. Admirals and Ambassadors routinely visited Picard over tea after a quick shuttle ride. And Picard usually stuck to Federation policy. He was much more a diplomat than Kirk. Kirk usually made decisions from the gut, Picard on policy. And Picard so often shook his head in disaproval and disgust at the affairs of other governments. He was spreading policy as surely as the Catholic missionaries were ‘informing’ indigenous races of their apparent wrong-headedness all during the age of discovery.

Sorry, I just find that too close for comfort.

64. AJ - January 22, 2009

57:

TOS’s finest moments were, in many cases, written by science fiction authors of the day, “City,” being just one example. I t was more “science fiction” than its later incarnations

TNG, as you say, had stories written as adult TV drama. but not as Sci-Fi. So you have “The Inner Light” which uses some space gizmo to get Picard off the Bridge into someone’s family soap opera. “Darmok” was a clunker as it forced comraderie between the two captains due to someone forgetting that all aliens in Trek speak English.

TNG has its moments, but it relied too much on gimmicks for its stories, rather than ideas (runs and hides!).

65. Eric AD - January 22, 2009

I loved Wil Wheaton’s season one revisited column. As a TNG fan, I have to agree that season one was pretty damn awful, but am I the only one who found season two to be a BIG improvement over year one?? I always see them lumped together, like TNG became good suddenly in season three and all of season two was a waste of time. Granted, there were some season one style horrible eps ( “The Child”, “Manhunt” “Shades of Gray” and “The Dauphin” are particulary bad) but Season Two gave us one of the best TNG eps of all time, “The Measure of a Man”, as well as “The Emissary” which introduced K’ehylar, “Q Who?” which introduced the Borg, “A Matter of Honor” and several others that stand up over time. Even some of the lesser eps that season had some really nice acting and character moments (like the conversation between Picard and Wesley Crusher about Picard’s wild younger days that served as the basis for “Tapestry” is year six.) I guess I’m the only one who sees the value in year two.

66. Dr. Image - January 22, 2009

I think TNGs third season was its best.
Thank God (Rod?) for Michael Piller. His contributions were perhaps beyond those of Gene Coon on TOS.

67. James Heaney - Wowbagger - January 22, 2009

#63: I liked that aspect of TNG, which was really just a reinforcement of TOS’s core theme: there’s a right thing and a wrong thing, and we’re going to make you do the *right* thing.

In fact, TOS was better at that “imperialism” thing, because Kirk’s care for the Prime Directive was about as hefty as a feather on Stratos.

#64 AJ: I’m in a crummy mood (January 22nd is a bad, bad day), and I’m trying not to take it out on you guys, but I may be failing. Sorry if I’m making you feel like you should run and hide.

Science fiction–more broadly, speculative fiction–is about ideas, not science. “Darmok” was a brilliant piece on language. I’ve seen it used in college Philosophy syllabi to this day. Same with “The Measure of a Man.” As for “The Inner Light”… I don’t see how one can dismiss a show that so profoundly illustrates Picard’s inner self as merely inserting him into a “family soap opera,” because the hour *works* because it reveals Picard perhaps more than any other single episode of Star Trek has *ever* revealed a character. They’re grand, grand works.

Honestly, I never cared for “City” much. I’ve always considered “A Taste of Armageddon” TOS’s most intellectually stimulating episode, and that’s really what I’m in it for–thinking.

Shrug. I’m burned out. It’s been a long, sucky day. To each his own, and good night.

68. Jim Nightshade - January 22, 2009

I always like wil wheaton and never blamed him for Wesley. Posters mentioned that q was a throwback to lost in space….Wesley was kinda the Will Robinson role although Roddenberry always said that Wesley was himself as a kid….it wasnt wils fault that Wesley saved the ship too many times….et al….

I also think that TNG stories as a whole were much deeper and far more complex than just about any TOS episode….Calling TNG childlike seems silly….even Q was more complex than Trelayne….I always thought of Q as being a superior advanced species coming down to our level to teach or warn us by using Picard as the sounding board….They knew of his importance from the beginning….I also happen to have loved John DeLancies portrayal….besides which he helped make some of trek a bit less stuffy or high handed sometimes….q kinda reminded me of the good ole tos days and I think that was part of his function….

Each of the series had great episodes and not so great episodes….all to varing degrees. I even enjoyed Voyager and Enterprise….Voyager to me had one of the best FAMILIES in Trek….with the characters earning each others love and committment….again not perfect and yes these two series may have had more than their share of flaws but they were still trek…

I can see why JJ would want to go to the source….to reboot, these characters are the most iconic and also not as overexposed lately as the other series….we all have a lot more history with all the other series than with TOS….

But thinking Historically….Star Trek the Experience is a good example….when it opened would I have wanted people in tos uniforms walking around? No because the experience setting is/was TNG era station coming back and interacting with our time….the museum history of the future had many elements form tos in it as the important early part of Starfleets history….So with this reboot they can add more elements from TOS but it would have to be in a historical setting and now that history is being redone..hmmm….anyway…..to me TOS was great…..the best show ever done scifi wise for the time….but tng, voyager et al to me as a trek fan are all just as good…..none were perfect….but none of them were as bad as so many of these posts make it sound….if those shows were so bad to you why watch them? I appreciated and liked all the shows….and i will probably like or love the new old star trek movie as well….why? Its all Trek to me….Wil Wheaton and the rest of the TNG cast did a great job….I think in America KIRK AND SPOCK maybe are more ICONIC than Picard and Ryker…but I think it most of the other countries around the World TNG was much bigger than TOS ever was….Which is a good question…will TNG fans enjoy JJS reboot as much as TOS fans??
hmmmm

69. SciFiMetalGirl - January 22, 2009

Did I miss an Orci spoiler??? What’s he talkin’ bout?

70. Jamie - January 23, 2009

Of all the Trek fans I ever met, roughly half prefer TNG and roughly half prefer TOS. Almost all have watched both shows.

My conclusion: both shows are about as popular as each other (here in the UK at least).

TOS is more widely recognised because it came first and had a 20-year head start.

Likewise, the 1960s “Batman” is still possibly the most well known incarnation of that franchise, despite being vastly inferior to the modern films and cartoons. But because it harks back to a time when there was less on TV, shows like this had more prominence. Plus they’ve been repeated for decades and had a long time to gain recognition from several generations of viewers.

And then there’s nostalgia.

But if you take all this into consideration, I don’t think there is actually a big difference in quality between TOS and TNG overall. And this is reflected by the number of fans of both shows.

71. Closettrekker - January 23, 2009

#54—“Possibly because, to many of us anyway, that phrase conjures images of movies like Total Recall or Demolition Man … films that can be fun in a brain-dead, cornball way, but which may not be the ideal templates for a Trek feature.”

Those are just ‘weak’, or even ‘bad’, sci-fi action movies to me.

If he had said, “bad sci-fi action movie”, I wouldn’t have any issue with it…but that isn’t what he said. It was the absence of qualification that bothered me—not alot, but enough to comment about it.

“All of which are qualities frequently _missing_ in sci-fi action movies, IMO. What’s more, Star Trek had all of those things and *more* ”

Agreed. Which is why I said this in the post (#12) in question:

“Since that is the ‘Star Trek’ I love anyway, I hope that the upcoming film has those elements, along with fulfillment of the promise that the distinctly ‘Star Trek’ vision of an optimistic future will be left intact.”

Action, sexuality, romanticism, and the maintenance of Star Trek’s optimistic vision are not mutually exclusive properties.

I believe I was quite kind to Wheaton. In fact, I agree with a great deal of his thoughts toward the film. However, I think that, if he considers Star Trek to be without the properties associated with ‘sci-fi action’, then perhaps he should revisit TOS for a little while and see what he thinks then.

72. sean - January 23, 2009

#71

Demolition Man and Total Recall are ridiculous, albeit entertaining when I’m in the right mood. If for nothing else, than the final scenes of Recall where Captain Jellico’s head blows up like a balloon! Haha.

I definitely am picking up what you’re saying, CT. Action doesn’t *have* to be mindless or stupid to be entertaining. The action in TWOK certainly wasn’t that way, and in fact had a substantial emotional punch to it. Forbidden Planet had quite a bit of action. So did Alien. In fact, I’d say Alien is a perfect example of both types of action. The first 3 movies were about characters and situations and action in context, whereas the 4th as well as the AVP movies (*shudder*) were simply one mindless and gruesome death scene after another.

73. Randall - January 23, 2009

James Heaney:

“Quite right! It would be silly to claim that Kirk or Spock have anywhere near the instant recognition and dramatic clout with today’s youth that the Picard-Data duo has.”

James, that’s just so much rubbish.

How is it that you make this assertion? Do you have some sort of research to back it up? Or are you just tossing it out there, hoping it to be true?

Again–not just you–but a lot of people here make this ridiculous argument that “the times” has something to do with it—that TNG is more forceful, more iconic, etc.—simply by virtue of the fact that it is more recent.

A mere moment’s thought should expose to you how ridiculous an assertion that is.

If all that mattered was the position in time of this or that piece of media or what have you, then we would no longer give a rat’s ass about figures like Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes, or Achilles or Odysseus, or Hercules… or for that matter any cowboy/western hero you can think of, or Zorro, etc. and we would no longer care about the stories they’re a part of.

The simple fact is that TOS was always mythic and sweeping in its iconography from the get go. TNG was NOT, because, while a good show, it was not based on the same kind of concepts and characters, but far less exciting and vital concepts and characters.

I am NOT saying TNG was a bad show—I’ve reiterated that many times. But it, and its characters and stories, do NOT rank with TOS in this sense—and it has nothing do with which came first. It has EVERYTHING to do with the cloth that each show was cut from.

“Kirk and Spock, when they’re known at all, are viewed as laughable artifacts of a tawdry, low-budget cult show.”

O….. kay, James. Sure. Yeah, a “cult” show. Uh huh.

“Hopefully the new movie will help Kirk and Spock burnish their images with my generation. But let’s not pretend that they are anywhere near as relevant to younger people as Picard and Data.”

I don’t NEED to pretend it; it’s in fact so. You, perhaps, are a fan of TNG. I am not talking about its rabid fans. I’m talking about OUT THERE in the mainstream. And out there, in the real, big world, TNG has never had the impact that TOS had.

My own daughters, 15 and 11, have seen both shows. Neither one of them particularly likes Star Trek—they prefer Doctor Who, to be honest. But they cannot and will not sit still in front of an episode of TNG, which they consider to be absolute drek.

But TOS? Yes, they’ll laugh at it. They’ll joke about Shatner. They’ll roll their eyes at Kirk’s cheesy ways with women.

But they’ll watch. And they’ll sit through episode after episode, entertained, and every once in a while my oldest daughter will even turn to me and say, half begrudgingly, “That was actually very good. The horta was cheesy… but cool.”

It’s not that TOS is something they worship or even care about all that much—but it nevertheless resonates with them. They’re not sci-fi fans. Except for the aforementioned Doctor Who, they really don’t like sci-fi. But they recognize something in TOS, and it isn’t there in TNG. And this isn’t true only of MY kids. I’ve seen it in others. And I saw it growing up.

74. Jamie - January 23, 2009

To me, “action film” = film where the emphasis is on action.

An action film to me is a film where the story supplements the action.

All the Trek films, despite having plenty of action, are films where the action supplements the story.

I don’t think you can just hand out the label “action film” to any film with a lot of action. It denotes a film where action is the main objective. And that is what the new trailer denotes. But Trek films have never been like that.

75. Closettrekker - January 23, 2009

#74—But again, the term in question wasn’t “action film” or “action movie”.

It was “sci-fi action movie”, specifically, “sci-fi action movie, with Star Trek uniforms”.

“It denotes a film where action is the main objective. And that is what the new trailer denotes. But Trek films have never been like that.”

Did you mean “never marketed to a specific audience that way”? As Wheaton suggests, the trailer is not aimed at you and I, but at an audience that isn’t already invested in Star Trek or its characters.

As Wheaton contends, you and I (and him) are going to be there anyway. The trailer is meant to intice his (and my) kids to want to see it. Star Trek (TOS) was presented to me as a set of “adventure” stories in a sci-fi setting. Once it had me as a member of its audience (as a child), it was able to present to me more than just exciting fistfights and battles with alien monsters, etc.

Roddenberry pitched (to a conservative group of television execs) a “wagon train to the stars”. What they got were morality plays in a science fiction setting.

I don’t see the trailer as any different. Abrams is pitching (to a more mainstream audience, not already inclined to watch Star Trek) a sci-fi action movie. What the Trek fans within the self-proclaimed “Supreme Court” (like Orci, Lindelof, and Kurtzman) have told us (established fans like themselves) is that the film won’t leave the message/vision behind, and will be much more than that.

Some will be able to enjoy Star Trek’s optimistic vision, alive and well, while others will watch for the “sci-fi action” and special effects only. Still others will enjoy both.

My point was that, even if STXI has much more to it than action (which I would expect), it is no less a “sci-fi action movie”, and there is nothing at all inherently negative about that.

76. Randall - January 23, 2009

Closettrekker:

I agree with you. But the other thing we have to remember is that film demands certain things that are very different from what TV demands.

I remember back in my college days, when I was writing a thesis on film–I had this great book written by a guy named James Monaco called “American Film Now.” In that book, he talked about this scene from an early 60s film.. I can’t recall which one now… but anyway, it was this doctor, talking to his patient about certain medications or something like that. And how one med made you go bbbbbbrrrrrrippppp, right up the wall…. and the other one blapppp… down onto the floor, or some such thing.

And what Monaco said was, film is the brrrrippppp, the drug that we go to for excitement, and to be enthralled. We cushion and secret ourselves in a vast chamber of darkness, where the experience is dominating and controlling—you’re not supposed to talk or do anything except watch the screen and get drawn into the rush of the huge visual spectacle that’s in front of you and, in terms of sound, all around you. The film doesn’t stop for us, it demands our attention, and to keep it, it does all kinds of things–gets in our face with action, excitement, or wild emotions, or epic scenery, or whatever.

Whereas TV was the other drug, the one we zone out to. Even when TV is action-packed, it’s still just a little box in the corner and we can look away or do other things at our choosing. And mostly TV doesn’t try to excite or stimulate us–it’s there to dull us and think for us and put us into a kind of trance.

Maybe not fair to characterize TV thusly, but you know how film guys think of TV, traditionally. On the other hand, do any of us doubt it the truth in it?

But the flipside is that filmmakers feel they have to dazzle us and wow us with action action action. This isn’t always a bad thing. But the thing about it that should give us pause, is, it means we may never see a Star Trek film that ISN’T an “action film,” and I don’t mean simply “in part,” but as a whole–we may only ever get ST films that are somewhat empty “action pics.” (As compared to intellectually stimulating or emotionally stimulating). Why? Because Paramount sees ST as its franchise in answer to the Fox’s Star Wars franchise, and to other franchises, like Warner’s DC Comics franchise, and so on. And so ST films are viewed as product, and a particular kind of product. Of course, most films ARE made and viewed as product—but of course as we know, this is a particular brand of product—the kind that delivers comic-book like action, thrills and awe–with maybe a fun story, but nothing too deep.

But that’s it. Little else.

And that’s not always a bad thing—it worked in Wrath of Khan. It worked in “First Contact.” But as we all know, Star Trek was ALWAYS more than just action, thrills, and spectacle with a fun, but vapid story. It was about morality, and to some extent it stimulated the mind, the intellect. It often ventured into the creepy and eerie–even the horrific. But often in quiet, small ways. And really the best of Star Trek was like that.

But I find it highly unlikely we’ll ever get that from the films. They’ll always be bang-em-up shoot-em-up action pics–battles in space with villains and easy to peg storylines. Exciting and thrilling, sure. But not very deep. Not very thematic or mythic or stimulating in any sense but that in which a rollercoaster ride is stimulating.

It kind of worries me. Because the thing is, there’s a lot of things that could be done with Star Trek stories, on film. They could be epic, but not just in an “action” sense. They could be weird and eerie and thought provoking… even scary and bizarre… in short, they could be REAL science fiction in the way that Star Wars, for instance, was never REAL sci-fi.

But I doubt this will happen, because of the risk. Film execs will say, always, that the return on the investment is the most important consideration—and with good reason—can’t fault them for that. But that attitude also tends to force filmmakers to play it safe. And the safest bet for raking in the dough is spectacle, action, and a very simple storyline that’s easy to follow and is first and foremost fun. Again, nothing wrong with that–sometimes. But that isn’t ONLY what Star Trek is about. Sadly, however, I think that’s what it could end up *being.* That and only that.

77. Closettrekker - January 23, 2009

#76—“They could be epic, but not just in an “action” sense. They could be weird and eerie and thought provoking… even scary and bizarre… in short, they could be REAL science fiction in the way that Star Wars, for instance, was never REAL sci-fi. ”

Granted. But my own personal opinion of what thus far has been the best “science fiction movie” of the Star Trek film series comes very close to that—TMP. Interestingly enough, it isn’t my favorite ST movie (although it is second on my list).

The bigger problem (and the source behind why the studios are less willing to go that route with Star Trek) is that, IMO, most people find that kind of epic film to be rather dull, and regardless of the passage of time, people in the business are aware of how it is generally regarded (despite my own more positive feeling about it).

Without the potential for the “monster” in ‘Alien’ to suddenly appear and attack, most are unwilling to pay good money to sit through that kind of thing.

But I think that your ceiling for realistic expectations from a Star Trek movie aren’t far off, if at all . The best “science fiction” we are likely ever to get from such a film would need to be within a veil of epic adventure and—action.

Personally, I don’t mind mixing peanut butter and chocolate, so it is a much less distressing prospect for me.

78. Jamie - January 23, 2009

Closettrekker,

I never said I thought “action movie” had negative connotations, or that I disagreed with pitching the trailer as an action movie.

I am just agreeing with Wil when he suggests that Trek films are not sci-fi action films. In my humble opinion, a sci-fi action film (or any action film) is a fairly simple genre of film where the focus of the film is basically on the action, with a story that supplements the action. But it might not be very interesting with all the action removed. Trek films, however, are much more than that.

That is only my own opinion of what the phrase “action movie” means to me. It has nothing to do with my feelings on the trailer, and it’s not something you can disagree with, because it’s really my own personal definition.

My only point is that I can completely see where Wil was coming from when he said that.

79. TrekMadeMeWonder - January 24, 2009

I think Star Trek would really benefit from the introduction of realistic robots or “primitive” androids into it’s early mythos and ship’s operations.

Are there going to be any robots at all in this new movie?

Bring back Sonny!

80. 790 - January 24, 2009

Take care Doug!!!

What’s cool about Wil Wheaton, is that he’s very accessible and has some great stories about TNG.
Great interview!

81. Closettrekker - January 24, 2009

#78—Of course. Your opinion (and his) is quite valid.

82. Okie Trekker - January 26, 2009

(from the Oxford American Dictionary)

“icon |ˈīˌkän| (noun) – idol, paragon, hero, heroine; celebrity, superstar, star; favorite, darling.”

By that definition, I would have to say that TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT were/are ALL iconic each in their own way. To endlessly debate the issue of which was MORE iconic seems a pointless waste of time, because it is a debate based solely on opinion not facts.

Sean and Randall both make excellent points in their respective comments. Me, I tend to side more with Sean’s arguments. I’m old enough (barely, mind you, but still old enough) to remember watching at least the second and third years of TOS in its original runs and what I remember is that the show was popular – but that it did not truly reach “iconic” status among the masses until after it was cancelled and had been in syndication for a couple of years. TNG, on the other hand, for all its faults was immensely popular and drew excellent ratings from the get-go – partially because of nearly two decades’ worth of pent-up anticipation for new Trek adventures on TV, but also in part because it was (again, for all its faults) hands down better than just about anything that was being broadcast elsewhere on television at the time.

Each new series was greeted with some sense of anticipation but suffered from the age-old problem of overexposure and diminishing returns – we went from two decades of no new Trek on TV to several years of Trek everywhere we turned around. But each new series had its core fans who embraced the individual shows on their individual merits; I know a number of people who had never seen ANY version of Trek until “Enterprise” came along, watched it on the strength of Scott Bakula’s presence, and grew to love the series. Same with DS9 and Voyager (which is my least favorite of all the series – if you want “Trek’s” version of “Lost In Space,” there it is).

That said, I happen to be one of those illogical lifeforms who think that each new series (even Voyager and, yes, even the animated series) has brought worthwhile to the overall mythos. Debating the merits or lack thereof of each series may be a fun and interesting way to look at the differences between each series, but to say that any one was better or more iconic than the others is merely a statement of opinion. Not that I am criticizing Randall and Sean for expressing their opinions; I think it has been an interesting and thought-provoking exchange. But it’s still just opinion.

And the above has been nothing more than my opinion, offered with no intended offense towards anyone and hopefully accepted in the same spirit.

Peace,

John Small

83. Okie Trekker - January 26, 2009

By the way, I agree with the comment made in #77 stating that ST:TMP has thus far been the most “purely science fiction” Trek offering thus far. I once read a review that even compared it favorably to “2001” – not exactly the most ringing of endorsements in my particular instance, since I’ve always seen 2001 as an overrated bore, but at least it shows that at least that one Trek film was taken seriously by some in the “mainstream” SF community.

84. I trek. - January 27, 2009

Whoof. It’s like reading an epic. I like both the old series and the new series. I even like Voyager and Deep Space 9. I’d probably like Enterprise if I’d ever seen it. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, enough so that I find I can see what writers wanted in episodes. I am looking forward to this new Star Trek movie, because I carry weighty opinions about the movies, more so than the TV series. I hope this is not another ill-conceived movie. The first was supposed to tell a story different from the series. It did. It was a visual showpiece, with a somnolent storyline. I like the second (as quite a few Star Trek fans do), but the third loses steam. I like the fourth’s comedic value, if not much else, but the fifth has a few akward moments. I love the sixth, and the seventh isn’t bad either. The eigth is full of action, but I despise the ninth, Insurrection. Bleaugh! The tenth brought back some lustre, but was mostly hailed by fans. This one has a big chance of being the introductory movie. The first, I would say, in a very long time.

On the subject of the series, yes they are imperfect. What isn’t? As a form of entertainment, though, give me any Star Trek over a whole lot of other TV shows.

Let the cheering commence.

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