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Season One:
-101: "Encounter at Farpoint"
-104: "Code of Honor"
-106: "Where No One Has Gone Before"
-109: "Justice"
-110: "The Battle"
-112: "Too Short a Season"
-115: "Angel One"
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-123: "Symbiosis"
-124: "We'll Always Have Paris"

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Star Trek TNG

The Next Generation

Encounter at Farpoint

(Star Trek - The Next Generation story no. 1)
(episode production codes 101 & 102)
written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
directed by Corey Allen

Ahh, the Next Generation. My favourite Star Trek crew and series. As much as I love The Original Series (TOS) and crew, I enjoy the characters and series of "The Next Generation" (TNG) even more, and they have become my favourites in the Star Trek franchise.

Some have said that "The Next Generation" also has its own "big three" amongst the cast, a trio that is comparable to the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad that dominated old Star Trek. I don't see that. To me, the cast chemistry between Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley was very unique and unparalleled in any of the spinoffs.

And the real question for the Next Generation is, exactly which three cast members would be the "big ones"? In my mind, this series made ALL of its main cast members "big", refusing to side-line any of them the way that Scotty and Chekov rarely rose above comic foils, or the way Sulu and Uhura most often got left behind in the background. The endless ability of Next Generation stories to rotate main character status between all cast members ensured that they all became important and big.

Also, while Kirk is a great Captain, I enjoy Picard more, and not least because Patrick Stewart is such a fine actor bringing great power and dignity to the top of the show. Under his command, one can truly believe that high philosophies are being lived, rather than simply romped through. Excellent.

Mind you, the characters are still quite rough in this pilot story. As scripted, Picard still seems slightly off, although one can feel Stewart's performance tugging it into the correct direction and adding some extra dimension and colour. Typically, whenever the characters can distance themselves from the awkward moments scripted for them and focus on their jobs, things fall into place and we see the characters we'll grow to love over the next 7 years. Riker nicely exudes the charisma around which the crew's team spirit will gel, while Data seems poised to become the emotionless outsider to the human condition who can best articulate its exploration to the audience as he grasps each new idea in wonderment. Just to be sure you don't miss that fact, DeForest Kelley is imported to the story for a cameo to make the comparison between Data and Spock obvious.

But the best addition to this crew may be the character of Deanna Troi, who can tune in to the emotions of those around her at will. This is a nice reflection of the New Age movement that was gaining strength in the world at the time of production, and is an ability that ALL of us humans can learn as well. In hindsight, it is most bizarre that Troi's abilities are not reflected in any other crew of the other spinoffs in the Star Trek franchise, although we might be able to put that down to the writing team that later solidified for the spinoffs not really knowing how to use those abilities, and anthropomorphizing too many alien species until they became just humans with weird make-ups, thus robbing Troi's character of one of her more obvious purposes in helping form bridges between examples of Roddenberry's "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations". But the addition of her unique perspectives to the decision-making command structure of this crew, particularly in its early explorative phases, really helped elevate this crew above the others, as is aptly demonstrated in this adventure. Q rightly praises her when she nearly puts the entire puzzle together herself in part 2. Insisting on a Next-Gen "big three"? Look who's sitting in the three chairs at the Captain's position on the bridge....

So, if The Next Generation is the version of Star Trek that arguably has the best total line-up of regular characters and actors... but this pilot adventure wasn't a great vehicle for showcasing those characters, what strengths should we expect here?

I think, as William Shatner has said, even when actors are having an off day, a grand concept can carry a show. "Encounter at Farpoint" showcases many concepts and philosophies that are particularly grand, while coming with some of the best razzama-tazz eye-candy television could produce in 1987 - a combination so good that this pilot story can still rank as one of the top three of all Star Trek pilots we know today. And indeed, I'd be hard pressed to find any other first season adventure of Star Trek TNG that gives as good a ride as this one, or which I enjoy more than this one. "Farpoint" is still a big, big winner in my book.

Patrick Stewart does have his moments to shine in this first story as Captain Picard - ultimately my favourite character of all the Trek Captains with leading roles. It is when he is on the bridge in command of his crew during a crisis that he most resembles the character he will play throughout the series - and indeed the character that will inspire the audience's confidence in him to lead the way out of whatever bizarre situations present themselves in continuing adventures.

His more personal moments with individual members of the crew are much more awkward, and not quite yet finding the right tone. Perhaps the script was trying a bit too hard to show awkwardness and strangeness at every turn.

His interactions with Q are perhaps the strangest of all. Though there is a worthy issue for them to debate, which they tackle successfully, the extremities of their main conflict feel forced and inorganic, going off-tangent at many points in ways that produce scenes of questionable quality and interest to the audience.

Q's main motivation is also difficult to really pin down, at least as long as we look at him as an external antagonistic force. Is he really keen to stop Humanity from exceeding a certain boundary, to see them fail? In particular, I look at his goading at the end of the story as being one of the key factors ensuring that Picard and crew realize the truth and make philosophically better choices. It's as though Q has decided that the best way to HELP humanity is to play a mock antagonist, rather than a real one.

Indeed, it often seems the best way to make sense of the interaction between Picard and Q to think of Q as a manifestation of some part of Picard's own psyche, a part which he has tried to repress, but without which, Picard is not quite complete. Somehow, that theory seems to provide a context for the more bizarre ideas that crop up, and help make them fit.

A lot of the rest of the cast still seem to be struggling to find their characters, and there is a feeling that more rehearsal for the actors would have been of great benefit, whereas special effects got a higher priority on this first story. From a scripting point of view, perhaps Troi got too many scenes of highly negative emotions to work through, from general worry, fear, and tension, to channeling pain and anger, to reliving the memory of being jilted. Though she and Riker generally hit the right note when they first come face-to-face in this one, the director should have ensured that that note was a brief moment, and not drawn out as if they were both headed for their own inevitable funerals. Troi gets her due closer to the end of the story, where she has some much more joyous and triumphant emotions to deliver. A bit more of that sprinkled throughout the tale would have brought a greater balance to the story and to helping the new cast gel with each other and with the audience.

One of the greater successes in this first story is the interaction between Riker and Data, which hits a good note, and helps one want to see more of this crew getting to know and work with each other.

Something that really only becomes noticeable from the audio CD release of Dennis McCarthy's music for this story, is the alternate main title he composed for the Next Generation series. While I certainly don't prefer it over the Jerry Goldsmith theme they eventually used, I think it is a pity that they didn't keep it just for the pilot episode's titles, because.... McCarthy continues to very successfully use variations of this theme all throughout his music on this first story, and hearing the theme properly at the beginning would help audience appreciation and give the whole thing a greater sense of unity. And the saucer separation sequence is a good opportunity to bring in Goldsmith's theme fairly early to satisfy Next Generation fans who have become attached to it. In fact, McCarthy continues to use variations on his alternate theme throughout many of his later scores as well, so its importance is not to be underestimated. I kind of like it, especially in its gentler renditions during the episodes.
The score from "Encounter at Farpoint" is available on audio CD here:

Encounter at Farpoint expanded /
The Arsenal of Freedom

This does turn out to be a finely crafted story in the end. Although the opening sequences with "Q" seem a bit stiff and aren't yet finding exactly the right tone, Q's presence in the story pays off enormously as he applies much dramatic pressure on the emerging new Starfleet crew to be at their philosophical best during the adventure at Farpoint. And by the time we reach the second half, John de Lancie has found his characterization of Q, and offers the much more brilliant style of playing this character that one will find coming up more and more often throughout the rest of Star Trek.

The mystery of Farpoint station also tends to work well. We get some intriguing questions that keep us on the hook to learn more, while there is breathing space for the two halves of the crew to meet each other and get to know each other. And the mystery escalates well, particularly when an unknown craft enters the system and increases tensions. The story's drama begins to work particularly well after this point.

With philosophy pushed so nicely to the forefront of the story, of course the Prime Directive gains mention. Its application is curious this time, because the Bandi civilization in question is fully aware of its neighbours in space, and negotiating agreements with Starfleet and the Federation. It is less about proper awareness being given to a pre-warp society, and more about defensive agreements with an adequately advanced, but not-yet allied society. Thus the Prime Directive seems to have acquired greater scope and complexity since Kirk's time, and the thrust of the Picard-Q conflict here suggests that humanity tested now in the 24th century will prove itself far more noble than even during Kirk's time in the 23rd century. Thus the Star Trek franchise earns some points here for allowing itself to continue to grow.

Not many details come out, however, of what the Prime Directive actually states, or how it may have developed in the intervening years. Fair enough, since there is a whole new series starting here, and one would want to leave room for further episodes to fill in such gaps after they've been thought out a little more. Good show.

Perhaps this pilot story does suffer a bit too much from Gene Coon's philosophy of a violent instinct at Mankind's heart that requires effort to overcome, as this story is riddled with examples of that style of outburst being struggled with, and in retrospect feels out-of-character for many of the regulars that we have since come to know much better. And the plot often hinges on the most obvious reversal of that instinct over and over again. But I think the payoff at the end still makes the struggle worth it, as we get a concluding sequence far more cinematic than most other dialogue-heavy episodes will manage, a sequence as awe-inspiring as the best of Carl Sagan's Cosmos episodes. And that in itself is so powerful, I don't think any other season one episode can come close to touching it.

"Encounter at Farpoint" is a milestone, and one of the better and more enjoyable stories of the Next Generation's ground-breaking first season. Don't miss it!

The Next Generation begins on DVD and Blu-ray with "Encounter at Farpoint" in The Next Generation Season One box sets:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One (1987-1988):

Includes the double-length 92 minute pilot plus 24 episodes @ 46 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • "The Beginning" origins Featurette
  • "Selected Crew Analysis" cast Featurette
  • "Making of a Legend" production featurette
  • "Memorable Missions" key episode featurette
Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.


6-disc Blu-ray box set

Blu-ray features add:

  • Energized! Taking TNG to the Next Level (HD, 23 min.) detailing the high-definition restoration for Blu-ray.
  • Stardate Revisited: The Origin of TNG (HD, 93 min.) with
    Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker),
    Brent Spiner (Data), LeVar Burton (Geordi), and
    producers Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman,
    Robert Justman, and D.C. Fontana.
    • Part 1: Inception
    • Part 2: Launch
    • Part 3: The Continuing Mission
  • Gag Reel (8 min., standard definition)
  • Star Trek: TNG Archives: The Launch
  • Promos for each individual episode
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Reviews and articles written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read our next Star Trek review: Where No One Has Gone Before

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