The Shuttle Pod Crew Reevaluates ‘Next Generation’ Season Two

Seasons 1 and 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation are often lumped together. The full crew compliment of The Shuttle Pod discuss how season 2 is quite a different show than the first. Season 2 took risks with the introduction of Kate Pulaski, and because they were still finding their footing the writers gave us a variety of styles of stories. Season 2 also introduced many mainstays for the series, including: Guinan, the weekly poker game, The Borg, Riker’s beard, plus Worf and Geordi get their key positions in the senior staff.

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My main takeaway from season 2: with maybe 5 exceptions, it was so bad I gave up watching the show, which cost me dearly.

It was a couple months into season 3 before I gave it another shot and got excited and started writing a couple new spec scripts. If I’d known about Piller’s submission policy, I’d have gotten in to pitch a year earlier than I wound up doing, and one of those specs would have arrived well ahead of when the ‘it can’t happen here’ story being developed that wound up being THE DRUMHEAD (mine was also a bottle show, but fueled by THE PARALLAX VIEW and ASSAULT ON THE LIBERTY — it’s the story that got me called in, but with the knowledge that they were already developing something like it.)

I had actually gotten some of my first spec stuff to the story editor toward the end of season 1. A friend had this volume called THE BOOK with addresses for nearly Everybody from Oliver Stone on down, which is how I got her home address. But she called me (after admitting to being creeped out that her home address was published someplace) and said WGA rules would keep her from reading any of it (stuff you already know, but you still hope after hearing about people doing unorthodox things to get their material read.)

So I’m still mad about how much the first two seasons alienated me from TREK, as well as by how ‘off’ it usually felt. Still, there’s Melinda Snodgrass coming on, MEASURE, the Riker part of MATTER OF HONOR and especially Q WHO, so it wasn’t all bad (though I’ve still never made it all the way through LOUD AS A WHISPER or MANHUNT … am amazed I actually remember those titles, come to think of it.)

I gave up on TNG after the series premiere. I was cringing throughout it. The bald geezer captain, the shamelessly emotional woman, the awkward guy pretending to be an android… My 13-year-old sensibilities just couldn’t take it.

I revisited the show in Season 5 with “The First Duty,” and I was hooked. Fortunately, my friend had taped every episode of the series, so I was able to go back and watch them all repeatedly.

Since kmart brought up spec scripts, my writing partner at the time and I submitted a spec script to TNG that addressed the topic of suicide that we thought was pretty inventive (and this was before the episode “Aquiel”). Some years later, Evan Carlos Somers (who wrote DS9’s “Melora” and was a pre-production associate / reader for TNG) read our script and called it the finest TNG spec he had ever read and was shocked to learn we were never invited in to pitch. It’s okay; it still was a wonderful compliment, and the script got us into a highly competitive writers’ workshop at the American Film Institute, so it wasn’t a total loss. In the workshop, David Eagle, who directed the classic B5 episode “Severed Dreams,” said our script was “production ready and he could shoot it tomorrow.” That was also a thrill to hear.

Ironically, my writing partner became a licensed psychologist and I went into advertising. But it was a lovely career detour while it lasted.

Interesting, this thread on spec scripts. Might make a good discussion for a future podcast – the episodes that never were.

Anyway, excellent pod as always.

I really wish we could stop the constant claim from Jared that Guinan’s perspective/dialogue in Measure of a Man had anything at all to do with Whoopi’s performance in The Color Purple. The episode aired in Feb of 1989…four years and 6 film appearances after TCP, a film with a stronger narrative about domestic abuse than slavery. Every time the episode is brought up Jared says Whoopi was “just coming off of The Color Purple” which is inaccurate and just plain weird. The speech was about the plot. Not Whoopi’s previous film roles. Please just stop, Jared.

I’m taking the fact that all other crew members have joined Kayla in defending season 2 to mean that they concede that Kayla is right about early TNG. It has some really great stuff! I love that Matt, Jared, and Brian have given in and now accept the greatness instead of arguing against it.

The “common wisdom” that early TNG is hot garbage can easily be disputed by anyone with an open mind just watching the episodes. There’s a lot of imagination in seasons 1+2.

Great episode of the Shuttlepod!

Not saying there wasn’t imagination; but how about some discipline? And some screenwriting 101 sensibility?

I’m not landing on this with Kayla.

I’m just not finding as much of season 2 standing the test of time as I’d expected. More, most of Voyager which is derided by many as uneven or TNG-light, holds up better in my view.

I’d always seen it as a season with flashes of brilliance, of hits and misses, ramping up towards a steady stream of great episodes in S3, but while I once found the misses tolerable, there seem to be more of them in hindsight. More, I find it very hard to make myself rewatch them, when I know I watched them 2-3 times the week they were first broadcast.

This really surprised me. I watched the entire run of TNG in first-run run, and very quickly preferred it to TOS (which I’d seen a good part of in first run as an elementary student.). More I was enthusiastically attending regional CreationCons by that point and was eager to get all the inside scoop on the new series and cast.

Throughout the 90s and early 00s, I regularly recorded and rewatched all the Berman-era series, and watched the early seasons for the most part.

So, when our kids hit an age that we thought they were ready for TNG, I got out the remastered DVDs from our public library. I was fairly stunned to realize that there was only about a third of the season I wanted to introduce them to as middle-graders. The brilliant moments are still brilliant, but the dubious episodes don’t stand up, and I don’t see anything redeeming in the misses that wasn’t apparent before.

At this point, the kids are into their teens and have been watching TNG and other series independently for some time, but we still occasionally watch together and discuss episodes.

That Voyager is better on rewatch than TNG seasons 1, 2 and perhaps 7 is something I never thought I’d say.

Yes, some of the stories in Voyager are refreshes of things attempted in TNG, but they are better executed in several cases. Definitely not “light” versions.

Rather, when viewed at a distance from TNG, they have real punch. For those who have seen the Voyager episodes first, watching the TNG versions shows them to be rough cuts — which is something I can’t really say about the early TNG episodes that marked back to TOS.

I agree with pretty much everything you say. The only difference is that I seem to give TNG S1+2 more slack. Maybe I rewatched S3-7 too many times over the decades and now I appreciate S1+2 being able to surprise me every now and then.

The string after string of good episodes in S3-5 cannot be denied. Very few clunkers.

I also like how S1+2 have a more experimental feel. I have similar soft spots for VOY and DS9 S1-3. I grew into liking them, rather than appreciating them fully on first (even second or third TBH) watch.

Finally, I am filled with glee that you are parenting teens who independently watch Star Trek. Living the dream. Hats off to you, good person!

I was sitting in front of the television every week for the entire run of TNG. I loved the second season then and (a few episodes excepted) love it now, as well.

I mostly stopped watching for a year after Season 2 – I saw a couple of episodes in early Season 3 but missed most until Best of Both Worlds.

I was gobsmacked by BOBW and never missed an episode again – until the final season.

“A Matter of Honor” has one of the finest scenes in all of Star Trek: the dinner scene aboard the Klingon ship, where Riker tells Klag to honor his father, Klag says, “we would not know how,” and Riker replies, “yesterday, I didn’t know how to enjoy gagh.”

This, along with the Gilgamesh scene in Darmok, really epitomize Star Trek.

Season 2 has become one of my favorite seasons. Overall a much better season that the first and better than most of the final season too. Only Loud as a Whisper and Shades of Grey are truly rough to watch, the rest of the season is just plain fun. Pulaski is a blast, which is an unpopular opinion, I know. The Royale is such a classic that you could throw Spock, Bones, and Kirk at it, and it would still work. Peak Performance is admittedly one of my favorites of all time. Watching Samaritan Snare still makes me laugh like an idiot. If you honestly don’t like season 2 of TNG, but you actually enjoyed the first season of Picard, I am pretty sure your Trekkie card should be revoked.

I’m looking forward to the audio commentary episode for “Shades of Gray”.

It should just use soundbites from previous podcasts to save money.

Right on the nose!

Yes!

Please don’t waste your time with ‘Shades of Grey’. It doesn’t deserve any airtime.

it did set geordi and worf into their eventual roles as engineer and security chief after the nebulous roles they had in season 1.
and guinan/10 forward was a real asset for the series.

Yes, those are great points. Geordi was sometimes too silly in the first season, and the joke about the “blind man piloting the ship” got old quick. Also, there was never a set Chief Engineer in the first season, so putting Geordi in the role was perfect! But Riker’s line “Chief Engineer, has a nice ring to it” was verrrry cheesey.

Worf filling in Tasha’s position was also good. I never knew what his job was in the first season, he was just “there.” He was a junior officer on the bridge crew, but what was he supposed to do? Being Security Chief and Tactical Officer gave him a better role. I always thought it was funny how Worf went from a non-specified job from the TNG first season, to tactical/security, to another non-specified job when he was on DS9. Yeah, “coordinate Starfleet in the area,” but really he was just a sub for Sisko on the Defiant sometimes.

The Ten Forward set was amazing. The best set on that show. I know they built it just for Guinan, but it was used more times without her than with her. I always thought that set would make a great real-life restaurant. It was fitting that Ten Forward was the only part of the Enterprise-D seen in Picard show.

I’ve never lumped Season 2 in with Season 1. I’ve always seen Season 2 as much more in line with what TNG would ultimately become. And I’ve always enjoyed Season 2. I had absolutely no use for Season 1 for years. And then, in my late 30s, it grew on me. Damnedest thing. Season 1 is sort of the red-headed stepchild of TNG. The way I see it now, disliking Season 1 because of how different it is from the rest of the series is missing the point of it. You have to appreciate Season 1 on its own terms or not at all. If you can look beyond the cheese and beginner’s awkwardness, there are some good thematic concepts there. And I really do enjoy “Conspiracy.” It’s a campy, creepy thriller!

WE SEEK PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE!!

Thanks for another great podcast. Nice to see the somewhat maligned second season get the attention and thoughtful praise it deserves. Like Kayla, I’ve been watching the entirety of TNG during the past few months (I’m currently on Season 6) and the second season felt like a medium scale reboot of the series, generating some great episodes, many of which you commented on during the podcast. Personally, I think that Pulaski was one of TNGs missed opportunities and that the character should have had a recurring role throughout the rest of its run (e.g. Lwaxana Troi).

I also wanted to mention that as far as I’m aware, you’ve not done a podcast devoted to where it all started i.e. The Original Series. That would be a fascinating listen. There is probably too much to discuss during one podcast and in fact an appraisal of TOS might lend itself to a podcast devoted to each of it’s three seasons. Anyway, thanks again for all your efforts in bringing the podcast to your audience.