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Encounter at Farpoint

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 2
Disc No : 1.1 Episode : 1
First Aired : 28 Sep 1987 Stardate : 41153.7
Director : Corey Allen Year : 2364
Writers : D.C. Fontana, Gene Roddenberry Season : 1
Guest Cast :
Cary Hiroyuki as Mandarin Balliff
Chuck Hicks as Military officer
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
David Erskine as Bandi shopkeeper
DeForest Kelley as Admiral Leonard H. McCoy
Evelyn Guerrero as Young female ensign
Jimmy Ortega as Lieutenant Torres
John de Lancie as Q
Michael Bell as Groppler Zorn
Timothy Dang as Main bridge security
Moral :
Omnipotence : Just because you can do anything, it doesn't mean that you have the right to
YATI : When Q's energy field appears, Picard orders full stop. A moment later Torres reports "Controls to full stop, sir... now reading full stop, sir." And a moment after that we cut to an exterior view... and the ship is still drifting towards the force field. That Torres isn't too good at his job, is he?

When he is enthusing about how wonderful the Enterprise is, Wesley lists the "low gravity gymnasium" as one of the highlights. Um... doesn't a low gravity field defeat the main purpose of using a gym? If you're lifting weights or running or doing pushups or whatever, isn't it all rather easy and pointless if you have the gravity turned down low?

When Riker meets Data he says "When the captain suggested you, I looked up your record." Data comments that this is wise of him, and Riker says "Then your rank of Lieutenant Commander is honorary?" and Data corrects him, pointing out that he graduated "Starfleet class of '78; honours in probability mechanics and exobiology." Okay, for one... if Riker looked up Data's Starfleet records, wouldn't it actually say that in it? It seems like it would be the exact kind of information one would expect in a person's record, yes? And for another thing, wouldn't Data pretty much be expected to graduate with honours in every subject? Or at least, in every subject where performance was purely a matter of intellect, scientific ability, stuff like that?

And for a third thing, Data himself will later establish (In "The Neutral Zone") that this season takes place in 2364. So how exactly can he be "class of 78"? 2278 was 86 years ago! I suspect time travel...

When Picard fires an energy beam at Farpoint to feed the creature, he orders Yar to use the main phasers. However, the beam comes from the middle of the Captain's Yacht. This nit is fixed in the remastered blu-ray versions.

Great Moment : McCoy's visit to the Enterprise.
Body Count : One of Q's soldiers is killed, two Enterprise crewmembers are frozen but survive. 'Many casualties' in the Bandi city when the creature fires on it.
Factoid : When the E-D does it's final flyby in the opening credits, the figure you can just make out in the windows at the back of the bridge is meant to be Captain Picard pacing in the observation lounge.
Quote : "Let's see what's out there..." - Picard ordering the Enterprise into the unknown.

"Treat her like a lady and she'll always bring you home." - McCoy to Data on the Enterprise-D


Plotline

Jean-Luc Picard is commanding his first mission aboard the USS Enterprise. The ship is on a heading for Farpoint Station, a distant Starbase facility constructed by the Bandi on Deneb IV. The mission is disrupted when an immensely powerful entity calling itself "Q" stops the ship in space. Q has near-limitless power to manipulate matter and energy, even time and space themselves - yet he acts, by Human standards, in an incredibly immature manner. Q declares that Humanity is a "dangerous savage child-race", and will be denied space travel from now on. Confronted by the dark deeds which Humans have committed in the past, Picard suggests that Humanity be judged not on how it was but how it is now, in the present. Q arranges a trial for this purpose, with himself cast as both prosecutor and judge.

After some debate, Picard suggests that Q can arrange a test for the Enterprise-D crew; if they pass they can continue exploring space, if they fail he can deny Humans space travel.

Released, the ship proceeds to Farpoint. The station is considered something of a mystery; it is lavishly built to the highest technical standards, matching anything Starfleet can manage. Yet the Bandi themselves are far more primitive than the Federation, lacking the resources or ability to create anything like the station. Their leader, Groppler Zorn, is evasive when asked questions regarding the station. Commander Riker, investigating the station whilst waiting for the Starship to arrive, notices other odd things; anything the Starfleet personnel ask for has a tendency to appear out of nowhere moments later. The strange occurrences continue after Picard's arrival, with Zorn both refusing answers and suggesting that he might instead deal with the Ferengi.

Eventually another ship arrives in orbit and begins bombarding the old Bandi city, inflicting heavy damage. Picard orders Riker to lead a team to the ship; they find it riddled with corridors identical to those under the Farpoint station. Despite some interference from Q, Picard realises that the ship is not a ship at all, but a spacegoing life form with shape-shifting abilities... as is the Farpoint station below. Zorn admits that one of the creatures landed on his planet, injured. His people gave it just enough energy to sustain itself and forced to modify itself into the Starbase in hopes that they could grow wealthy off Starfleet.

Picard orders the Enterprise to send a beam of energy to feed the creature, and it transforms into its natural shape. It joins its mate in orbit and the two head away from the planet. A disgruntled crew grudgingly agrees to leave Humanity alone to explore the stars and departs. En route to Farpoint Station, an immensely powerful being called "Q" intrudes aboard the ship and accuses humanity of being an immature species. To prove their worthiness, they have to solve the "mystery of Farpoint Station". It turns out that the inhabitants of Deneb IV, the Bandi, have captured a huge space-dwelling being to serve as their starbase. The Enterprise helps to free the creature and Q, disappointed that the crew was smarter than he thought, retreats-though he hints that it won't be the last time they see him.

Analysis

As pilots go this isn't bad, nor especally good. On the plus side we get some interesting characters - most notably Picard. He softened a lot over the next couple of years, and it's interesting to see just how grumpy and gruff he could be back in the early days. Riker I always liked, and it's great to see Data for the first time. On the down side, Troi doesn't contribute a whole lot besides stating the blindingly obvious, something she would become known for over time. And most irritatingly we get to see Wesley Crusher, a character you just want to shove out of an airlock within ten seconds of meeting him.

The pilot is very much a story of two halves; the first, the meeting with Q, is probably the better. Q has always been a fun character, but here he's played with a bit less of the comedy aspect and a bit more menace. As a result he doesn't work quite as well as he will in future outings.

The second half is all about Farpoint, and although this is a more conventional story and gives you a little more to think about, it's less well executed and not quite as involving. The creatures seem a little too capable to be realistic life forms; shape shifting you can imagine, but creating an entire fully-functional base comparable to a small town? It's just a little over the top for credibility.

And now, the Enterprise-D herself. I really hated the design when I first saw it, but it grew on me a lot over time. It's interesting to note that the FX people didn't quite have the ship worked out yet - hence the main phasers fire from the Captain's Yacht at one point. The show introduces the new warp scale, which is something I've never really liked and which has become a bit of a liability over time in my opinion. The photon torpedo scene is probably the most impressive demonstration of the new ship; those torpedoes feel powerful, and the way the ship just keeps firing and firing them is really quite impressive when you're used to TOS special effects. Internally the E-D is a world above the TOS Enterprise, demonstrating the advances in production quality which thirty odd years brought.

Overall, not a bad start for TNG. A bit clunky, certainly flawed, but it did well enough.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 5,268 Last updated : 7 Aug 2013