The Shuttle Pod Crew Asks: Is ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Season One All So Bad?

Shuttle Pod 82 – The Shuttle Pod v. TNG Season 1

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Kayla has been rewatching all of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and has reevaluated season one. She feels the common wisdom of TNG S1 being generally poor and often hard to watch is flawed, with some obvious exceptions, like “Code of Honor.” She presents her points to fellow her Shuttle Pod crew members — Brian, Jared, and Matt. Will they be swayed?


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Although S1 of TNG was adequate at best, I am happy it hit the airwaves in 1987, long before the average person knew about the Internet or had access to easily post their opinions on social media. If you think the negativity around Discovery was bad, I can only imagine the outrage producers would have had to put up with regarding TNG. (A French Captain with an English accent, a child prodigy and a counselor on the bridge – oh the outrage!) IMO S1 had some extremely terrible episodes including Code of Honor and Conspiracy, but along with some other milktoast weak stories like The Naked Now there were also good morality tales like Symbiosis, When the Bough Breaks and Justice. Add some plain old good stories like WNHGB and The Neutral Zone and you had a mediocre first season that was bordering on good.
Despite many flaws or holes, overall I think the first season (although devoid of any classics) was collectively satisfactory and was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. It introduced a multi-dimensional renaissance man in Picard (so completely different than Kirk), a great long-lasting villain in Q as well as a cast of characters who would eventually go on to become beloved members of the Star Trek family. Most of all, after years of rumours and potential it finally returned the Star Trek franchise to television.
In some ways, I hope the first 26 episodes of Discovery can replicate what we saw with those first 26 episodes of TNG. So very different, but TNG paved the way for DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. Discovery has already spawned Short Treks and SNW, but can it eventually stand on its own in the 32nd century and go on to become beloved just like TNG? The odds are against it, but we shall see… starting with S3 in the 32nd century.

I’ve always been more forgiving of S1 than the latter seasons 5-7 (particularly season 7).

I probably also saw those early eps (on average) more than any of the latter seasons, thanks to taping them off TV (I would have limited access to TV from seasons 3 on, and most of S7 I’ve only seen once). Everyone said TNG “sucked” but… I was still fairly new to ST and didn’t know better.

TNG improved as the years went by. It’s a slow and steady process.

TNG season one was not good. A sci-fi show with the ship not needing a Chief Engineer, the “ultimate bad guys” to be the Ferengi, no conflict on the bridge, kids unnecessarily put in harms way on saucer with no warp drive and humanity so “enlightened” that the Q learn from us and not vis versa = brutal. The real question to ask is was all of TNG bad all the way to the ENT-D being destroyed by a 50 year old bird of prey? Again I’d say it was brutal. TNG certainly threw the ideas of Trek being about humanity facing challenges and learning, Wagon train to the Stars/Horatio Hornblower out the window. You now get more “Trek” adventure/action/excitement in the new Lost in Space, the Expanse, etc. Firefly in terms of quality and fun crushes TNG. For TNG the actors were good though (Patrick Steward was great) and the concept of the Borg as the ultimate collective uni-mind bad guy / AI hunting for perfection but having to deal with need for the imagination of organics really worked for me (though was later nullified by more bad writing).

By far, Season One of the TNG was the most disappointing year of my life in terms of being a Star Trek fan.

In today’s environment, if a Kurtzman season 1 was that bad, the show would be full-up cancelled after the first season.

Seasons 1 of Discovery and Picard alike were vastly worse. Neither got canceled, sadly.

That’s absurd to call those series’ first season worse. But to each, their own.

Kayla forgot to mention Q! For me, I did not get into Star Trek until season four of TNG, so I only watched the first season out of order in syndication reruns. So I did not get the experience of watching these episodes wondering what happened to Star Trek. But since I started in the very great season four, I did watch them as like “prequel” knowing it would get better. In fact, I only watched TNG in order for the first time two years ago, and I did enjoy it more than I thought I would. “Code of Honor” was the only episode I could not watch all the way through. I am probably in the minority of liking the Wesley character in season one.

My favorite season one episode is “The Neutral Zone” with the 20th century people waking up Khan-style and then getting reintroduced to the Romulans.

Btw: I have a hypothesis about the Picard and Riker characters: Picard was only supposed to be the captain for season one then Riker would get promoted to captain for season two onward. That’s why Picard was more of a “mentor “ role and not in the action, that Riker felt more like a main character. But the producers saw how good Patrick Stewart was that they dropped that plan.

I remember when me and my dad watched the premiere when it aired. Here was a life-long Trek fan practically /offended/ by Picard calling for surrender versus Q in Encounter at Farpoint. “_KIRK_ WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE THAT!!”, he cried.

Of course, we’d both become fans. But it was perilous at first. 😏

Cool! And your dad was right then, and he’s right now. Picard is a great Captain, but he obviously doesn’t rise to the level of James T. Kirk. Kirk would have defeated Q, and we would never have seen that character again in Trek

That’s why Picard is great. He is not a cowboy, shoot and die. He is a tactician, analysing the situation and doing what is necessary even when the own pride is hurt.

Adding : Kirk teaches you to be bold. Picard teaches you to be smart.

With Picard and Riker they switched the roles of Kirk and Spock.
In TNG the cool thinker was captain and the hothead first officer. In TOS it was the other way around. Both works.

Picard was a great tactician…. for the Borg when he took out half the Starfleet. Other than that the ENT-D never lasted more than 30 seconds in combat and ended up being taken down by a 50 year old bird of prey. Honestly I think Picard wasn’t an authentic leader seeing people as a necessarily evil and being too arrogant to the point they learned from no alien race at all (Kirk in 3 seasons learns more lessons from omnipotent aliens than all of TNG). He is the enlightened human who thinks all aliens should learn from oh-so-smart humanity where there can’t be any disagreement with us because we are so perfect that Roddenberry himself (in the TMP novelization) said would fair poorly with respect to space exploration.

The later seasons are better, but it’s season one (and season two as well) that comes to mind when I think of TNG. With a few exceptions, I could sit down and watch pretty much any one of those episodes at any time and feel pretty content with it.

There were a few good moments in TNG season 1, but the season was mostly crap. Some episodes are nearly unwatchably bad (Code of Honor, Justice, etc.), and even the better episodes had lots of cringey moments in them. I enjoyed Symbiosis, for example, apart from the bit where Wesley and Tasha have a “just say no to drugs” moment.

I’m also not buying the idea that season 1 is good because it introduced concepts that the pater seasons used better. Its the first season, so it would be weird if they didn’t introduce anything. However, if you were just judging things like the Ferengi or Lwaxana or Lore based on their season 1 episodes, they suck. We only remember those things fondly because later seasons were so much better.

Please guys you must do a retrospective shuttle pod of Enterprise. It’s time.

That’s on our list, not sure when, but it’s on our radar.

Thanks for another great podcast.

I’ve been catching-up on older podcasts during lockdown and the links to the podcast are missing from:

• Shuttle Pod 30: Paging Dr. Pulaski: Revisiting Trek’s Least-Loved Ship’s Surgeon
• Shuttle Pod 32: A Deep Dive Into Star Trek: Nemesis
• Shuttle Pod 39: Will the Real Top 10 ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Episodes Please Stand Up?

Could the links please be restored as I’d love to hear those episodes.

Those three use an older Flash based player. They need to get updated, but they should work in a browser that supports Flash, like Google Chrome. Also if you use a podcast app then the episodes are available that way too.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matt Wright

Many thanks for getting back to me and I’ll check out your suggestions. I must say the Podcast has been great to listen to during lock-down and I went back to the beginning and started listening to them at a rate of 1/day. Been watching “Enterprise” from the start and look forward to your Podcast covering same.

I also am watching/rewatching all of TNG. The first two seasons are really bad save for a handful of episodes. The pace of my rewatch increased quite significantly once I reached S3.

Honestly, if you asked me to rank all the Trek series based on only the first two seasons, TNG would be (probably a distant) last.

After reviewing the list of Season 1 episodes, I gotta say that there are PLENTY of them that I would watch right this second. Not so bad as my fading memory have led me to believe. My favorites are …

The Naked Now
Where No One …
Hide & Q
Datalore
Heart of Glory
Symbiosis
Skin of Evil
Conspiracy
Neutral Zone

… in no particular order (well, production order but you get my point).

Thanks for another great podcast. Like Kayla, I’ve been working my way through TNG and I’m currently mid-way through Season 2. Kayla chose some nice episodes to make her point and I’m in full agreement about “Symbiosis” being one of the better episodes. Having waded through some indifferent stuff by that point, “Symbiosis” was a pleasant surprise and the ending was particularly well done and clever to boot (Picard satisfying his commitment to the Prime Directive while bringing the dependency of one civilisation on the other to an end). I always thought that the S1 finale “The Neutral Zone” was a very good episode, which sees the return of the Romulan’s and mention of outposts going missing (which as we all know, would be picked up 2 seasons later in “Best of Both Worlds” Part 1).

For future podcasts I wonder if you would consider doing a “best episodes of the Original Series” instalment, although I fully agree with the suggestion to do a retrospective on “Enterprise”. It would also be fun to hear your observations on TNG Season 2, which as you remarked was transitional and to me feels like a series reboot.

It’s actually been made to look a lot better thanks to newer Trek. Having a season of Trek that isn’t intertwined with a character’s perpetual sadness and stories that aren’t trying to make you feel like you and everyone you know are horrible human beings is refreshing.

Just wanted to drop a big thank you. This episode was great and made me want to watch a random season 1 episode and see for myself if the season is as bad as I remembered it to be. So I did roll a (virtual) dice yesterday and totally enjoyed watching the fourth worst episode of season 1, according to IMDB (Too short a season).
Thanks gang, you rock!

In the Skin of Evil, I thought that the way Picard handled Armus defined his leadership for the rest of the show. It was the first time that Picard impressed me as a captain. From then onward in my mind, he was a Captain in his own style, definitely not Kirk, but just as competent if not more so. The bad and mediocre episodes were basically discussed, but there were good ones that I thought set up the future of certain characters The Arsenal of freedom is a great Geordi episode showing his leadership talents. Also Heart of Glory, started defining Worf character and Klingons race. Showing them an alien race with an culture not just stereotypical bad guys.

very good discussion of TNG sea 1. thanks folks! I agree with Kayla that sea 1 had some very good parts and good eps, but also had some real clunkers. so it was uneven, not all bad as some harsh critics claim. (by the way, she did not seem to mention the Q, which i thought was one of the best ideas ANY Trek show ever had). with our hindsight, we can and should cherry pick sea 1 and watch the best eps, and ignore the clunkers. i think that is a very common situation in all Trek series, and in all seasons. there are great eps and poor eps in EVERY season of TNG, as well as all the other series. was all of TOS great? certainly not. of course, we all have our different opinions sometimes about exactly which eps are the great ones. but hey, that’s life.

Last edited 2 months ago by pat c