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Star Trek TNG - Season 1 - Episode 02

Star Trek TNG - 1x02 - Encounter At Farpoint, Part II

Originally Aired: 1987-9-28

Picard continues on with his mission to Farpoint hoping to prove to Q that humans are not a grievously savage race. [DVD]

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 4.86

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Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Introduces numerous characters and plot threads that continue throughout Star Trek going forward.

- The original airing of this episode showed the phaser beam which nourishes the alien space jellyfish being emitted from the captain's yacht. In the remastered version released in 2012 this was corrected.

- Given Riker's reaction to the novelty of the holodeck, it seems that up until TNG the technology remained quite rare despite its introduction almost a century earlier in TAS.
- The lights on the roof of the transporter pad are the same lights that were on the floor of the transporter pad on TOS.
- This episode (both parts) was nominated for the 1988 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Remarkable Scenes
- Picard to Worf: "Do you intend to blast a hole through the viewscreen?"
- Wesley's awkward interactions with Picard.
- Picard's private meeting with Beverly clumsily attempting to welcome her aboard properly.
- Picard solving the Farpoint mystery to Q's begrudged satisfaction.

My Review
An intriguing difference from TOS seen clearly in the second part of Encounter at Farpoint is the clear establishment of long term plot arcs. The past relationship between Riker and Troi, Geordi's blindness, and Picard's history with Beverly and Wesley are all plot elements that clearly have more backstory and more developments left to unfold. In this regard, Encounter at Farpoint functions better as setup for future stories than it does as a story in its own right. Q's mystery of the space jellyfish was indeed, as Q noted, too easily solved. And the question of Q's precise motives for toying with the Enterprise crew leaves yet another mystery for a future episode to solve. While it is certainly nice to see the writers show a willingness to develop characters and plots over time which was exceedingly rare on TOS, a better story would've been more notable for its own developments rather than mostly for what it sets up for later.

The biggest flaw with Encounter at Farpoint is the pacing. So many scenes feel padded out unnecessarily to fill time. But there were other notable flaws too. One particularly cringeworthy feature of the episode is the romantic tension between Riker and Troi. They are heavily implied to have had some kind of romantic relationship in the past prior to their assignment to the Enterprise. After what was evidently a relatively amicable breakup, they are now flung back into each other's company unexpectedly by both being serendipitously assigned to the Enterprise. There's nothing wrong with that premise, but how it plays out in the episode leaves much to be desired, with the climax of absurdity being Troi not-so-subtly trying to nudge Riker into going into the underground caverns alone with her and then dropping even the pretense of subtlety when she has her "Don't! If you should be hurt!" outburst.

Troi and Riker both exhibited some unsavory characteristics of their own independent of each other too. It could perhaps go without saying that how Troi's empath powers were portrayed was quite lame. Watching her repeatedly exclaim, "Pain! Anger! Powerful mind!" is an exceptionally lazy way to do exposition, as it violates the principle of "show, don't tell." Heightening the irritation of watching these scenes is the silly degree of overacting that Marina Sirtis brings to the table for them. But we should place the majority of the blame on the writing here, not the acting. Her worst line was clearly an example of bad writing, not bad acting: "I'm only half Betazoid. My father was a Starfleet officer." She says this as if it goes without saying that her father could not be Betazoid if he was in Starfleet; as though those things are mutually exclusive. This strangely contradicts the idea that anyone can be in Starfleet, even a Klingon.

For Riker's part, his scene with Data on the holodeck was especially awkward as well, mostly for Riker's remarks, but partly for Data's as well. Mostly the problem with the scene is Riker's weirdly anachronistic prejudice directed at Data. While it was nice to see Data call him on it, it's surprising to see the show assassinate one of its main characters by depicting him as bigoted out of the gate. But then it gets even weirder when Riker responds to Data's remark about prejudice by interpreting it to mean that Data thinks he's superior, after which Data bizarrely agrees, in fact, he does consider himself superior. Yeesh. The whole point of depicting a multiracial, multispecies society like the Federation that was forged out of the crucible of the eugenics war and the "post-atomic horror" of a third world war is that by the 24th century, people should be beyond these kinds of shallow bigotries. But apparently Riker still has some lizard brain left to beat back. No wonder Q found just cause to test to see if the Federation was still "grievously savage" or if it had evolved beyond its animal instincts.

In any event, despite some awkward moments, Encounter at Farpoint is still a pretty strong story and a good start to a show that does indeed promise to be, as Picard put it, "much more interesting" down the road. Engage!

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-05-22 at 5:17am:
    This is the only episode where Riker and Troi communicate telepathically.

    - The computer gives Riker directions to the holodeck: the entrance is the next hatchway on the RIGHT. Riker turns LEFT!
    - While talking to Data in the holodeck, Riker comments that he looked up Data's record. He then asks Data if his degree is honorary. If Riker had read Data's record, wouldn't he have known the degree was earned?
    - While in the holodeck, Wesley fall into a stream. When he leaves the holodeck, Wesley is still wet. If matter created on the holodeck can't exist outside the holodeck, shouldn't Wesley be dry?
    - The alien ship attacks the Bandi city with energy pulses. Why didn't the alien just beam the energy down to its mate?
  • From CAlexander on 2011-03-28 at 7:06pm:
    The good part of this two-part episode is the interaction with Q. I like the scenes in the 21st century courtroom. The actual plot about the creature is rather pedestrian, not really of great interest.

    Historically, I have to give this episode big props for being the pilot for a great show. But if you look at it as just another episode, it has some definite weaknesses. First, as Michael B pointed out in the comments to part 1, the acting hasn't hit its stride yet. Second, there were a number of elements that they later realized were mistakes and removed.
    - The music is way too dramatic, going off like crazy at rather trivial revelations.
    - The Ship Separation scene. I guess it seemed like a good idea on paper, but wow, what a waste of time! And that "headless" ship is ugly!
    - Counselor Troi going totally over the top acting out her empathic connection with the creature.
  • From Amiable-Akuma on 2017-06-01 at 8:35am:
    I agree that the Bandi city stuff is more boring, cheaply-manipulative, and less-interesting than the Q stuff - but upon re-watches it has grown on me. The saccharine ending feels more genuine to me now and I enjoy how the guest-actor who plays Groppler hams it up.

    -Note how in the holodeck scene, a clear "stuntman given makeup/hair to be Data" is used for that entire significant sequence where Data springs into action and pulls Wesley from the water. I find it odd that Brent Spiner couldn't at least perform the part where he is jumping down the hill quickly to get there. Maybe Spiner tried it several times and didn't look as smooth as the stunt-performer?

    -There's at least two shots in the 2nd half of this two-parter where Counselor Troi is standing, and her "official" skirt is shown to be absurdly short. I kind of love it. Shows that the 80's and Starfleet had an "innocently" sexy vibe.

    -Note Troi's headband, hair, and uniform in general. Odd seeing her introduced as such, given that her classic "cleavage" unitard and style becomes so familiar to her

    -Finally, Marina Sirtis' acting as Troi bothered the hell out of me when I first saw this, especially the director's choice to linger so much on her "feeling the emotions" scenes. It felt cheap, corny, unnecessary. But I'm over it now. I realize it's part of the silly charm to her character and that's all a means to an end for many storylines, etc.

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