Shuttle Pod 49: A Discussion Of The Four Berman Era ‘Star Trek’ Pilots

Pilots are important to any series. They set up the story arc and introduce us to the people who will guide us through a brand new world over the coming years.

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Shuttle Pod 49: A Discussion Of The Four Berman-era Pilots

In this episode of the Shuttle Pod we discuss the pilots made during the Rick Berman-era of Star Trek. This includes four pilots, from Next Generation through Enterprise:

Encounter at Farpoint (TNG)

Emissary (DS9)

Caretaker (VOY)

Broken Bow (ENT)

Brian, Jared, Kayla, and Matt each take a pilot and discuss. We also asked ourselves: “How well does this pilot set up the series?” and “How well does the pilot episode work on its own as a story?”


NOTE: We covered the TOS pilots right before the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, in episode 42. So be sure to check out that podcast too if you haven’t already.

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Glad that Kayla is back.

DS9, Voyager and Enterprise had excellent pilots. All three were very well done and told good compelling stories. TNG’s pilot suffered from the same problems prevalent throughout the first season. “Great joy and gratitude….great joy and gratitude.” A spandex hell Ugh.

The only good ST pilot was from Discovery.

Really? I thought the show improved after the pilot.

Agreed, that two part pilot was a real letdown to me. Context is for Kings is still my favorite episode of Disco, and even that feels undermined by the lack of payoff from the rest of the season. Actually is there anything that was good about that show that wasn’t ruined by the final episodes?

Yeah the final episodes really blew it, it seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do after returning from the mirror universe.

Opinion, not fact. I enjoyed all of the above. Even Encounter at Farpoint, cheesy as it was, had some decent moments. Caretaker and Emissary were especially good, imo.


My favorite among the four was Caretaker, it had a nice Trekkian story, introduced characters effectively, Introduced the new bad guys, had plenty of action and even small cameos from previous series. The show’s quality after the pilot was mixed bag, but as a pilot itself it was very effective.

Enterprise pilot blew a huge opportunity. Here was a show that could have been WAGON TRAIN TO THE STARS x 100 with post WW3 humans having to come together, a ship where the Captain makes decisions decide the fate of the galaxy and you can’t just ring up Fleet Command for help or to make a decision for you, meet and befriend races they had never encountered before, early colonists facing hardships and dilithium shortages while making it with all the romance of the frontier, face the Klingons and the Romulans, having to use primative nuclear weapons and shuttles where warp 3 almost rips apart the ship, `landing parties’ using machine guns, had primitive technology where the answer isn’t just to beam away or fire phasers on stun where we could see early explorers facing situations gone horribly wrong leading to the Prime Directive, the Federation, etc. Could have been TOS on steroids combined with CSI, Seal Team Six, Greys Anatomy, NCIS on all the final frontier. Instead in one hour we got the transporter, peace with the Klingons and Phasers on stun that we went from WW3 to TNG in five minutes…

…and don’t forget Vulcans with a serious attitude problem. Good points, Cmd. What you’re describing could have been epic. I often think the last 40 years of this franchise has been more about squandered opportunities than ‘boldly going.’ And I’m including the current incarnation in that assessment, thus far.

I generally agree with most of that. At the very least there should have been more focus on the psychological aspects of deep space exploration, discovering new things, and the real risks of it all (not just conflicts with other species). The whole temporal cold war storyline was a mistake… and it made the NX and it’s crew seem rather insignificant, despite Daniels’ attempts at the contrary.

Maybe we’ll pick up on that TCW thread someday and realize ENT existed in an alternate universe all along, then we can get the kickass story Bremmon cooked up instead. Are you listening, Quentin?!

Well I do think that it takes place in an altered timeline at least. They try to play off the episode “Regeneration” as a predestination paradox kind of deal, but I think the events of “First Contact” actually changed things.

Totally agree. It makes total sense that it changed things and that it’s not, in fact, a paradox

Well said. I could not agree more.

Awesome! I’d have stuck with that version of ENT!

After beeing very disapointed with DISCO I wanted to know, if the problem is with me or with DISO. So I recently rewatched those pilots and injoyed all of them. I see no problem in farpoint. That good old TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT era is as good as I had it in my memory as a judge fan.

Here’s to ya, 49ers! And here’s to many more podcasts. Cheers.

Thanks for the kind wishes, Cheers!
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Enjoyed all the different perspectives. Great job as always, gang!

Farpoint may have been the weakest entry of the bunch, but it was the first new Trek on TV I got to experience with my Trekkie dad. So, it was the start of a weekly appointment we had to watch some trek together until I moved out after college 15 years later. Lots of fond memories beginning with that episode. So, will always have a soft spot for the TNG premiere.

Love this kind of anecdote, it’s nice to hear how Trek brings people together :)


Would like to say I could do the same with my daughter now that Discovery is on, but (1) she’s only three and (2) discovery is WAY more mature than old trek!!! But…

Guess I could start her on old trek and by the time we get through all of that, she should be an adult and old enough to watch discovery at that point. I kid, I kid (sort of). :)

My future children are going to be exposed to the earlier Trek stuff for sure. I’ve been a Trekkie since the ripe old age of 6 :)

Sounds like a plan! :)

ENT’s pilot had me dewy-eyed at age 9, it felt so slick and new, and ENT became my favorite Trek by season 3. Of course that’s when I started getting into TOS which, let’s be honest, is as good as it gets. ENT shoulda been more TOS.

If they really wanted to help Troi, at the end of The Loss, she wouldn’t gotten her empathic abilities back.

DS9 had an interesting pilot but I remember feeling underwhelmed. I liked the station but I could tell from early on that they really needed a ship WITH the station. It opened it up for much more stories.

Farpoint is just weird to look back on because of all the changes that were made since. Not to mention Picard being pretty much cranky the entire episode. I remember asking myself -does he even like being a starship captain?

Voyager’s pilot is always fun to watch until they get thrown in the Delta Quadrant. Sure, I like what we ended up with but I think I would’ve been much more curious to see Voyager without the DQ aspect.

Broken Bow has to be my favorite of the four. It holds up really well and from beginning to end, it’s a fun adventure full of great moments and great pacing. By far it was an excellent way to start off a series.

Many of you will disagree but I think Broken Bow was the strongest pilot out of the 4.

We actually had some good debates before we recorded the podcast, we felt ENT and DS9 had the top pilots, and one could make a pretty strong argument for ENT being the top spot.

Matt Wright

we felt ENT and DS9 had the top pilots, and one could make a pretty strong argument for ENT being the top spot.

I agree with all of this.

The one criticism I’d add is that while the DS9 pilot is pretty strong, I don’t think that Avery Brooks does a particularly good job in it. He hadn’t settled into the character yet, and moments like when he’s been transported to the beach in the past and he utters an excited “ow!” strike me as out of character and ridiculous. But, apart from the inconsistencies in his performance, it’s a fairly strong pilot.

Interesting discussion. I liked the way Farpoint introduced Picard — he seemed to have great historical knowledge about the Post Atomic horror when speaking with Q, and he had the sense to surrender when faced with Q’s overwhelming power. His instructions to Riker on docking demonstrate his adherence to procedures and protocol — a Picard trait throughout the show. And he is shown as giving proper concern not only to his civilian crew — giving Worf command of the saucer section to escape — but to humanity’s place as growing, improving beings as he debates Q.

While I know many may not agree, I personally enjoy “Encounter at Farpoint.” It’s not without its flaws, but I love it for the nostalgia factor. I enjoy going back to the beginning and seeing how they compare to where they ended up at the conclusion of their run. TNG, especially, was fun to see how the characters, sets, and uniforms evolved through the seasons.

Farpoint had incredible effects back in 1987, they hired the company who made Star Wars to do them.

Encounter at Farpoint…what a complete and utter disappointment. Had my living room full of friends for the premiere party, my brand new 32″ Sony that I bought specifically for Trek’s grand renewal on TV, and then to see that utterly boring crap-fest with the wooden acting, bad special effects, and the Rodenberry Rule of no crew drama…an epic fail. After it ended, we were all like, “what the hell was that?”

The only similar experiences I have had with genre stuff I was so excited about leaving me so disappointed and depressed were the Dune movie and Highlander 2. Hell, the Phantom Menace is actually vastly superior to Encounter at Farpoint in terms of the return of a franchise.

You know Industrial Light and Magic did the effects for the pilot, any shortcomings were because of a tv budget. Bad effects happened later with low resolution video effects and cgi.

Of course I know ILM did the special effects. That’s why what I saw in the premiere in 1987 was so disappointing. I was expecting something more like what I saw in TMP and the early Trek and SW movies applied to TV, but it just looked lame. I know we can get technical and some will provide me examples that point to it being state-of-the-art, but I was expecting it to look better than it did.

Heck, some of the special effects on Space 1999, and Battlestar Galactica, filmed back in the mid-late 70’s looks better in my opinion…and believe me, I have personally compared them in back to back viewings.

In response to Kayla’s “woke” reference…

Robin Koerner of the Huffington Post says it much more eloquently than I could:

Orwell had a name for this kind of self-righteous certainty – and it wasn’t fascism, capitalism, or communism. It was “orthodoxy”, which he explains in 1984, “means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” It is a state exhibited by people who already know they have the right answers – at least in the areas that matter.

To make the point to the people he felt most needed to hear it, Orwell, a self-identified socialist, called out the arrogance of his friends on the Left who experienced themselves as so “enlightened” [or “woke”], to use his word, that they did not need to consider the sentiments – let alone ideas – of those who were to them clearly politically ignorant.”

Link to the article quoted above:

Another great podcast. You guys are firing on all thrusters!

Enterprise is my least favorite of the Bergman Treks but it has the strongest pilot. Caretaker is garbage, Farpoint is worse, and Emissary is only tolerable.

Thankfully all of those shows improved greatly from their pilot, as did Discovery. I get the sense (though I’m probably wrong) that the first two parts of Discovery were initially written to be used as flashbacks throughout the first season. And if not, I think it would have worked better that way.