To keep me inspired while writing a sorta-sci-fi script, I decided to work my way through the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was a big fan of the show back in my student days, but haven’t watched it since it first aired on TV. Overall, I found it quite enjoyable, and I admire its noble intentions, even if the whole venture seems rather quaint and stuffy compared to a show like Farscape, which was aimed at an older audience and featured a far less disciplined and diplomatic crew.
In theory, my fave Starfleet lady should be ‘Lt. Natasha “Tasha” Yar’, the short-haired, spunky, no-nonsense Chief of Security… but the actress who plays her, Denise Crosby, simply doesn’t project the kind of kick-ass qualities that the part really required. It’s not that I think Crosby is a bad actress per se, but I think it’s rather telling that she was initially a favourite for the role of the ship’s touchy-feely counsellor, ‘Deanna Troi’, until Marina Sirtis replaced her, and she was shuffled back into the deck. According to Yar’s page at Memory Alpha (an online Trek-related wiki), the character was inspired by ‘Vasquez’ from the 1986 film Aliens, and her original name was going to be “Macha Hernandez”… but somewhere along the line they chucked out the butch Latina concept, and made her a petite Ukrainian chick instead. Boo to that! Of course, my go-to-fantasy-casting choice, Michelle Rodriguez, would have been way too young to play the part at the time… but it’s still fun to dream, right? Crosby ended up leaving the show before the end of the first season, frustrated by how little she was given to do… and they punished her for jumping ship by giving her character one of the lamest, limpest death scenes of all time: Killed by a burst of inexplicable, invisible psychokinetic energy, emitted by a giant, “evil” ink spot. Meh.
As for Troi, on a purely superficial level, I was struck by how cute Sirtis looked back in the day*… although I did cringe a little every time she made some pointlessly vague and obvious observation regarding the emotional state of another character. My favourite, laugh-out-loud example comes from ep #1.25 (aka “Conspiracy”), following a short conversation via the main viewscreen between ‘Cpt. Picard’ and a trio of Starfleet Admirals, who he suspects of being mixed up in something fishy. He asks for Troi’s professional, Empathic take on the interaction she’s witnessed, and she helpfully declares: “I sense that someone is hiding something, but I can’t tell who or what.” Yeah… cheers for that! I do appreciate the fact that Starfleet has made room for a New Age-y therapist on board their big fancy flagship, and even given her a seat alongside the captain… but I can’t help thinking she’d be a damn sight more useful if she had full access to her Betazoid mind-reading powers, rather than just being able to smell auras, or whatever the hell it is she does. Tch!
Which just leaves the Enterprise’s chief medical officer, ‘Doctor Beverly Crusher’, played by Gates McFadden. She’s a smart, strong-willed redhead, with killer cheekbones and a solid sense of humour, which scores her big points in my book… and I do enjoy the great dynamic she develops with Picard over the season… but it’s impossible to overlook the fact that she also gave birth to ‘Wesley Crusher’, one of the most despised characters in science fiction history! Rewatching the series, I can’t help feeling sorry for Wil Wheaton, the poor sod who had to bear the real-world brunt of all that fan-loathing. I think he actually came across as a very charming, likeable actor… and if they’d written Wesley as a slightly dorky kid who turned up every four or five episodes to geek out over some new bit of equipment or get himself into trouble, he could have been a much loved “comic relief”/”damsel-in-distress” character. Instead they chose to make him an irritating and ubiquitous little prodigy, who regularly outsmarts every adult aboard the ship while wearing some of the fugliest outfits imaginable. Thankfully they eased off the Wesley-pedal in the latter half of the season, but the damage had already been done… in retrospect, it’s quite shocking to see how much screentime he gets in comparison to ‘Lieutenant Worf’, who went on to become a firm fan-favourite, and even appeared in four seasons of Deep Space Nine after his stint aboard the Enterprise!
So, all that being said, I’d have to say that my favourite female character of this season has to be… uh… the ‘Female Klingon’ (aka “K’chiQ”) seen in ep #1.10 (‘Hide and Q’), and portrayed by an uncredited stuntwoman named Faith Minton. She’s magicked out of the air by the godlike-entity known as ‘Q’, and tries to seduce Worf into having snarly Klingon sex with her right there on the bridge, in front of the whole senior crew… but then he spurns her, and she returns to the ether from which she came. She was the first female Klingon to appear on the show, and it made me sad they didn’t include one of her kind as a regular character in this series, or any of the spin-offs (yes, there was ‘Lt. B’Elanna Torres’ in Voyager… but she was only half-Klingon, and I don’t remember her being anywhere near as much fun). Apparently Minton’s biggest claim to fame is playing the title role of “Hurricane Rosy” in a wrestling-based rom-com opposite Gerard Depardieu! Sadly that flick doesn’t seem to be available in any format, in any country…
I should also give a shout-out to Picard’s long-lost love, ‘Jenice Manheim’, who pops up in ep #1.24 (“We’ll Always Have Paris”), decades after he stood her up at a Parisian cafe and ran away to outer-space! It wasn’t until I looked her up that I realised the part was played by Michelle Phillips, of singing-in-The-Mamas-&-the-Papas fame!
Embarrassing fact: I giggled like an idiot when I saw that the DVD menu screens were set out like the control panels on the Enterprise’s computers. Episode… ENGAGE! Tee hee.
* She’s still damn cute, actually.