TNG (As nerds and misfits call it) follows a crew aboard the Star Ship Enterprise. The ship is the size of a city, so naturally it’s staffed by about nine different people. I suppose there’re scores of people somewhere in the background, running the shops, doing the admin, cleaning the photon gun, tazering the Klingons etc… but, you only ever get to see the same people.
The Captain, Jean Luc Picard. He’s the brooding patriarch of the Enterprise clan. As his name suggests, his character was born in France, so plausibly they decided to cast no other than Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart, presumably to give Brits over the world a snigger when he spouts remarks like ‘I remember the vineyards of Toulouse’ in a classically theatrical English accent.
While Kirk used to get in, shoot a few things, bang an alien chick and get out in time for the ad break, Picard seems to be both a master diplomat and master tactician. From the writer’s point of view, he never puts a foot wrong. Most of the time he manages to say the perfect thing or pull off the perfect tactical play. The writers suffer from ‘Diagnosis Murder’ syndrome, so like the Surgeons working 12 hour shifts and then having a bit of time to solve the odd stone-cold-whodunnit, Picard can handle the duties of a normal Captain, then somehow find the time to dick off to a random planet at his fancy and learn something about the natives.
As the series progresses, Picard becomes less the master and commander type and more of a bumbling, David Brent style Captain. One episode sees the ship stolen by a race of aliens who then proceed to beam the crew out of the ship and joyride to their home planet. All of which could have been stopped by Picard and Riker, but they spent most of the episode chatting up a very pretty but nonetheless computerised lady in the holodeck and were unable to assist.
In another episode, A hologram murderer makes it onto the ship and nearly wipes out half the crew, thanks to Picard using The Federation’s cutting edge, experimental technology, The Holodeck - paid for by the intergalactic tax payers money, no doubt - to indulge in a bit of role play as a 40s Private Detective.
Counsellor Troi is the Matriarch of the clan and ship’s counsellor. As the main female character, her heightened emotional state gives her the magical ability to sense other people’s emotional states. Whether she has the special ability to clean and cook really well is not dealt with. Her special ability means she spends most of her time pointing at people running away and exclaiming ‘I sense he’s frightened of something!’. As the plot is paper thin you can see the twists coming a mile off. For most of the show she spends her time pointing out the finer details to people too slow or lazy to follow.
Wesley is a child on the ship, and a round-eyed picture of innocence and wonder. He spends most of his time either wandering around the control room like a kid in a candy shop, or getting on Picard’s tits. Although Picard is a master diplomat, fluent in however many alien languages and able to use his well-sculpted tongue to over-pronounce himself out of many a tight situation, he’s humorously unable to converse with an 18 year old child. Instead, he fixes Wes with the kind of look you give a stray dog with a leg missing and shouts at him a lot. This is due to the fact that when Picard was written the writers didn’t want to bother with trivial things like character flaws, so it provides welcome comic relief.
Warf is the ship’s only Klingon, a race similar to humans apart from the fact that somewhere down the trousers of time, evolution deemed it necessary to affix a Cornish pasty to their foreheads. Klingons are more barbaric and less intelligent then humans and they place great stock in virtues such as honour, courage, war, shouting, grunting, roaring, fighting, shouting some more and sporting receding hairlines.
The final five characters are aren’t really worth mentioning apart from their quirks. They are Lt. Data (Robot) La Forge (blind), Will Riker (twat), Lt. Yar (Head of security - nobs Data in the second episode) and Beverley Crusher (ginger). Beverley Crusher is played by the superbly named Gates McFadden.
New characters get introduced now and again but don’t bother to learn their names as they’ll only be eating phaser dust five minutes later. Star Trek has an annoying habit of killing off minor characters they’ve only just introduced to save them from having to kill the main ones off. However, when Lt. Yar gets killed by an evil pool of tar in one episode, the tacky and sentimental scene that follows makes you glad of this.
The average episode starts with the crew in high spirits; usually Data is failing to understand something we all take for granted (‘what is this strange thing you humans call ballroom dancing?’) because Data is a tool. He’s an android with a memory bank the size of India, so he’s able to quote the intricacies of Ferengi culture or the history of Klingon planets in a certain region at will, but is unable to understand even the basic concepts of the culture that invented him. He was probably made by Dell.
Anyhow, before long they will encounter an alien race. All alien races in Star Trek are humans, with two arms, two legs, proportionately sized bodies and some weird shit stuck on their faces thanks to the make up department. The alien races are shallow pastiches of human cultures, so the Farengis are ruthless capitalists, the klingons are warring bastards, The Borg are technology gone evil, The Vulcans are humourless logic whores who probably watch Newsnight Review and the humans (for which, read: white Americans) all go around the galaxy sorting out the other races’ flaws.
Someone will then make a mistake. Usually the crew - if they were real, they’d all be facing court martial by now for endangering civilians and Picard would have been shot from a cannon into the sun – and they will then need a futuristic, space-age battle to sort it out.
However, it’ll only be futuristic by the standards of the late 80s, so in reality all the flashing blue screens and chunky graphics look so retro you’re almost expecting Picard to mention that these computers can hold up to 12 telephone books worth of data, or La Forge to mention he just downloaded a song in a lightening fast six days.
After the ensuing battle, most alien leaders will melt under the steely glare of Picard and ‘fess up to their shortcomings, although not once will Picard ‘fess up to how much of a bumbling fool of a Captain he is. Did I mention the episode where he nearly gets himself killed because he couldn’t remember if he ordered a ship and its people to be nuked?
Instead, Picard tells the aliens where they went wrong in life and shoots off to another adventure.
And that’s Star Trek, really. What the Star Trek people have done here, unintentionally, is create one of the funniest sci-fi parodies to date. At least, the unintentional hilarity is why I tell myself I watch it and encourage others to do the same. But then I remember the Trekkies: legions of po-faced losers who seriously think this programme is worth all the conventions, merchandise, fan fiction, fan novels…