Friendship is wonderful, isn’t it? It can lead you to do all sorts of things you’d never do on your own. I’d start listing examples but, c’mon, then we’d be off on a tangent (a beautiful, nourishing, and entertaining tangent to be sure!) which could fill pages. Let’s cut to the chase! My friendship with Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 – my oldest, longest, and dearest blogging friend – has led to an historic first. I, Michael John Miller, author and operator of the blog My Comic Relief, am writing about Star Trek for the very first time. You see, Nancy loves Star Trek and I’d never seen a single episode of Star Trek (only the JJ Abrams films). I love Doctor Who and Nancy had only seen a few episodes in passing. So, in the name of friendship, AMAZING THINGS, and blog content, we did our first ever Fandom Swap! Eagerly sharing what we love with the other, Nancy chose eight episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (her favorite iteration of the show) for me to watch and I gave Nancy eight episodes of Doctor Who.
What follows is a unique piece, a sort of dialogue. You’ll see Nancy’s intro material leading me, a Star Trek newbie, into each episode, followed by my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the episodes as well as my general feels on wading into the world of Star Trek for the first time. Enjoy!
Nancy: Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven outstanding seasons, but I am starting off with an episode from S3, for truth be told most series take awhile to gain their footing and attract a fan base.
Yesterday’s Enterprise S3E15
Nancy: This episode was the perfect “going back in time to right wrongs” episode. It features Tasha Yar, a character from the first season who had been the first Head of Security in S1 and was killed in the line of duty. IRL the actress wanted to leave the show (so foolish!) and was given a rather ignoble death scene, so this episode in S3 gives her a fitting end, plus I liked the subplot about the possible romance between her and Castillo. It also ended up setting up another amazing twist storyline in future seasons. Some background knowledge: The Enterprise NCC-1701-D is the fourth Enterprise, under Captain Picard (A was Captain Kirk, B was Captain Harriman, C was Captain Garrett).
Michael: My very first thought as I began my very first episode? “Is that Whoopi Goldberg??? It is!!!” I had no idea she was on Star Trek! The size of The Enterprise is something my mind kept sticking on. I’m not used to “good guy” ships being so big/full. In Star Wars, the Rebels’ ships are so much smaller than the Empire’s and in Doctor Who the TARDIS is infinite on the inside but it’s always just the Doctor and a few companions. To think of this ship’s “ecosystem,” as it were, is staggering. It’s so much more “polished” than the world of Doctor Who, where the Doctor is essentially a vagabond setting things right where they find things needing sorted. I got lost thinking on the Tasha/Castillo romance. The idea of meeting someone, having that connection, and then knowing they have to go back into the past which will reset your timeline and make you forget ever even having met them?? That’s a heavy thing to wrap your mind around.
It’s not as jarring as I thought it’d be, jumping into the world of Star Trek for my very first time. My most vivid connection to a character from this episode was Tasha then Picard (obvs.) and Data and Whoopie.
Sins of the Father S3E17
Nancy: Worf, Klingon Head of Security, defends his family’s honor and has to make a sacrifice. This episode really showed Klingon society. Worf has proved to be one of my favorite characters, and later very capably made the jump to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and helped anchor the series that was initially struggling before it hit its stride.
Michael: Worf is one of my most vivid Star Trek memories from my youth, seeing him in ads in my comics or on TV. I always thought he was a villain (he kinda scared me) given the way he looked. Since Klingons freaked me out as a kid, it was interesting to see an episode so focused on their culture. They were as intense and violent as I would’ve expected but there was a surprising warmth and familial connection. As I observed above, the very military nature of this show is so foreign to me. I don’t normally watch or read things like this. The hierarchy. The routines. The protocol. It all fees so…strict. I got a rush o’ feels when Worf asked Piccard to serve as his cha’DIch. And when Picard replied in Klingon?? It felt surprisingly sweet for a show I was only on my second episode of.
The Best of Both Worlds S3E26 & S4E1 (two-parter)
Nancy: The Borg, cybernetic humanoids that assimilate individuals into their hive-mind, are introduced. Captain Picard is captured and assimilated! His time there would forever change him and would tie him to another character (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager – which was Captain Janeway’s ship) who also was formerly a Borg, and the two co-star in the series Star Trek: Picard. This was an excellent cliffhanger episode and really made me anxious for the start of S4. In the years since, the Borg have become the Big Baddies of the franchise, and are over-used TBH.
Michael: What came to mind whenever I thought of Star Trek as a kid, before ever seeing an episode, was their color coded uniforms, the shape of the Enterprise, Picard, the Klingons, and the Borg. So to see the introduction of the Borg was exciting! The Borg gave me major Cybermen vibes – a cyborg species seeking to assimilate everything and operating through a hive mind. So this was kinda cool :). This threat felt familiar. It makes me wish I gave you an episode of Doctor Who with the Cybermen in it! I get your anxiety over the summer, too. My notes at the end of Part One literally said, “That’s where they did the ‘To Be Continued…’ cutoff?? How did people wait all summer to see the next one?!?”
This episode was the first time through this I felt really invested in the story. Like I was on the edge of my seat watching! I also keep thinking of how often I saw the Borg, the assimilated Picard, and their big ol’ cube ship in my comic ads as a kid. So much of my sense of Star Trek comes from those ads. Going into the second episode, even though I knew Picard would be ok (somehow), I still felt a pit in my stomach as Ryker takes charge and Guinan gives him his li’l pep talk to do so. My notes for the end of Part Two, “What was with that ending?? Was it just a sobering reflective moment or are they still in his head someway??”
The Inner Light S5E25
Nancy: Probably my favorite TNG episode ever! Picard is always so stoic, but here he gets to raise a family and the ending will gut you. The flute…tears!!! It makes you wonder how long you yourself would fight against knowing you were in the wrong era/world and give in and live the best life you could under the new circumstances.
Michael: Knowing this is your favorite TNG episode ever had me really excited to see it! I can see why you like it (and I don’t even have the emotional connection to the series/characters that you do!) and it did give me a lot to think about! Waking up in a world I know is wrong but everyone else says is correct would be so overwhelming! I presume I’d spend a lot of time crying and ultimately find myself committed. Even if I had another family and natural supports, I’d be haunted by what I knew was right and what I knew I’d lost. Could I go to bed with a women I just met who was certain we were married? When would I commit to an illusion? When would I accept it as “real”?
I figured out the twist when Picard and Batai were talking about the planet being doomed but that didn’t make it any less emptional. What a beautiful reflection on the power and purpose of history! History, when done right, should pull us into a people and we should come to love them – their life, their culture, their ways, their world – just as we do our own family. But history often fails. Though when it doesn’t, well it can forever change our lives as it did for Picard. The flute scene at the end, while I was expecting something like it, was so poignant! This was an episode! I see why you love it so much! On the one hand, my gut reaction was it was kind of a dick move on those people’s part, to hijack a consciousness to share their story with the world. But as soon as I thought about it for a few moments I realized…what else is the point and purpose of history? Yes, it’s hard but it should be. WOW.
I, Borg S5E23
Nancy: An injured Borg drone is captured and Picard has to decide if he will use him as a weapon against the Borg, who have become a huge threat to the Federation. What happens when this former Borg begins to demonstrate free will?
Michael: Seeking out an area “for colonization” carries a different connotation in our age of growing awareness of the horrors of empire. Dr. Crusher’s immediate compassion for the wounded Borg boy was welcome, especially after their last encounter. I really like her character for that :). Picard plotting a potential Borg genocide with Data is not unsurprising (heck, Star Wars adores genocide) but it still makes me sad. The whole military-centric drive of the show, in fact, is something that has yet to feel like it “fits comfortably” for me. I love how the more Geordi gets to know Hugh, the more uncomfortable he feels with the program he’s designing. Conversation breeds connection and connection breeds communion. The last episode tugged on the ol’ heartstrings but watching Hugh voluntarily go back to the Borg to protect Geordi from their pursuit hit hard. I just wanted them to save Hugh! Why couldn’t they take him with them?? Why didn’t he become part of the crew?? Siiiiigh.
The First Duty S5E19
Nancy: Wesley Crusher, the doctor’s son who had been a regular in the first few seasons but had left the Enterprise to attend Starfleet Academy, is back in this episode and he is in trouble. He and some other cadet pilots made a stupid decision while flying and a crewmate died. This isn’t truly one of my very top episodes, but it ties in nicely with the next episode I am having you watch. Aside – the actor playing Nick Locarno would later be recast and play Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager. For legal reasons, he couldn’t be the same character in two different series.
Michael: “Captain’s Log: Stardate…” “Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise. It’s continuing mission, to seek out new life, to explore new star systems, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” “Resistance is Futile.” It’s so cool to finally be experiencing these classic lines for myself as part of their narrative rather than just hearing them as an oft quoted piece of pop culture! Picard told Wesley the duty of every Star Fleet officer is to the truth – scientific, historical, and personal truth. I really like this frame of what they do. And I got to see future Earth – future San Diego, it looks like – for the first time!
Lower Decks S7E15
Nancy: We get a look at the younger crew members of the ship, and one of them is from the episode The First Duty. This gives us a different perspective of the ship, seen from the crew who are part of the “lower decks.” This premise is the basis for the new series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is a cartoon, but ties in with the entire franchise. A very bittersweet ending, but realistic that sometimes captains need to make decisions that they know could hurt or kill their crew, but is for the greater good.
Michael: In some ways this episode reminds me of Scrubs S9, with it’s focus on the ensigns on the ship and their concern about their careers and promotions and coming up in Star Fleet. I was really happy to see Sito back from the last episode. I like her. Watching her talk with Picard in the wake of what happened at the Academy was hard. We’ve all been haunted by mistakes but how do you come back from something like that. Do you? Can you? I like how this episode explored that. I love how often they hang out in the bar/restaurant on the Enterprise. I like the overlay of senior officers and the ensigns playing poker – regular poker on a regular poker table with regular cards – and chatting, too. It gave a strong sense of continuity between those on the Enterprise and us. It felt more like our possible future, you know? Ok, so here are my literal stream on consciousness notes:
“If Sito dies in this episode…I’ve not seen enough Star Trek to learn their narrative rhythm yet but it seems like this could be setting her up for a tragic ending. I am rooting for her! I really like her as a character! She can’t die here! If I lose Sito after the flute scene and losing Hugh, I am gonna be in a rough place! I am not comfortable with this whole hostage ruse/escape pod pickup scenario. I am not liking this one bit!”
What a heartbreaking way to end. I mean, it makes sense. It is bittersweet, as you said. And it certainly leaves me awash in my own emotions around the crew of the Enterprise. Part of me is surprised I became so connected to these characters in just eight episodes – and Sito who was only in two of them! – but part of me isn’t. I’m an empath by nature and I’m easily pulled into a well written story. Also, Star Trek has been popular for sixty years precisely because it pulls people in like this.
Nancy: I hope you enjoyed your window into my beloved franchise, and if I had another episode I would recommend the last episode of the series, All Good Things, which wraps up the series nicely. It had a perfect ending scene with all the main characters. While of course Star Trek: The Original Series is the granddaddy of the entire Star Trek universe, I believe you can truthfully say it was Star Trek: TNG that revitalized the franchise, and all series that came afterward are truly based on TNG. For anyone interested in getting into Star Trek for the first time, of course, I recommend TNG, but the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is absolutely fantastic and will make a Trekkie out of you yet! In the meantime, Live Long and Prosper!
Michael: I did enjoy this! In fact, I enjoyed it so much by the start of “The First Duty,” I began to consider watching Star Trek on my own, making it another big series I explore alongside Classic Doctor Who. This is HUGE as I feel I never have time for the TV people tell me I “should” be watching (in fact, I just wrote about my reluctance to jump into new TV shows here). But I was open to – even eager – to explore more of the Star Trek universe on my own. The main reason I haven’t yet was I wasn’t sure if we’ll make this Fandom Swap an annual thing we return to so I held off ;D. But I’m SO GLAD we did this! And I’m really happy you chose TNG for me to begin with as almost all the Star Trek memories I have from my youth are about TNG. Now I finally got to see it for myself!