A new month, new header for Star Trek

For May we’re finally up to the first incarnation of Star Trek: The Next Generation which took up the torch from Kirk’s crew in 1987 on TV. The first season was shaky thanks to Roddenberry recycling his less interesting ideas from Star Trek: Phase II and whatever oddities I guess he thought were possible, namely the Ferengi being even more lecherous and male crewmen wearing miniskirts. The pajama-based uniforms were never missed but you’ll still see them on extras during the third season when the costumes shifted to the better, high collars. The color change was welcome too even if was done for appearances; Patrick Stewart in gold and Brent Spiner in blue would’ve appeared jarring.

When NG was pitched, the plan was to have it carried on one of the four commercial networks. After two (I wish I knew which two) passed, Paramount gambled on syndication which was pretty risky despite the deal they made on the advertising. OK, I took a gamble on Wikipedia. NBC and ABC were offered the show but would only accept a pilot. CBS wanted to go with a miniseries (this was before Viacom owned them and Paramount in 1986-7) and Fox would only order a 13-episode miniseries plus they wanted it in March 1987. The ad deal was Paramount getting national spots for seven minutes and the local stations took care of five with them getting dibs on reruns later, should the show make it. Sounds like a major gamble initially. However, it was a reasonable move. The number of independent (non-network) TV channels had tripled since 1980, I remember Bloomington-Normal finally powering up channel 43 in 1985 before getting devoured by Fox years later. Cable/satellite TV usually was just 40-50 channels with few specialized networks too; no SyFy, BBC America, etc.

I didn’t get to see “Encounter at Farpoint” the night it first aired. I did have a friend who did record it so I borrowed his tape to watch at my roommate’s parents’ house during Fall Break. It failed to impress. I didn’t give up though. A bad Star Trek show was still better than no Star Trek. A small clique of us managed to catch the first airings every Friday night on Paul’s portable black-and-white TV during the first season; yes, those types of TVs still operated in the Eighties, I doubt you could buy a new one though.

Recently, I did see the first season of NG, they’re not as terrible as I recalled. The show lacked its voice but it was getting there. Captain Picard and his crew survived that rough, almost cancelled after the first season to go on and be an equally loved, respected part of the mythos shared by Kirk’s team. I’m glad. I’ve always felt the show’s real star was the setting/history and it was always big enough to accomodate a few crews. 

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