There’s a thing from the pilot episode of The Next Generation which, depending on how much of your time you’ve spent watching this show and how much of your brain you’ve dedicated to storing info gleaned thereby, you may or may not have ever known and if you did know may have forgotten, but it’s an important thing and so we’ll just pretend nobody remembers at all and go over it together:
Riker and Troi could originally converse telepathically. They just straight up have a conversation in the turbolift. This is because Troi is an empathic half-Betazoid and also because of…reasons? Also she and Will had totally boned in the past so there’s this soap operatic tension between the yearning of the two imzadi and the requirements of duty for them not to recommence with the whole Cardassian Mambo thing while serving together as senior officers of the Enterprise. Or something. Very soap opera.
But so yes: telepathic conversation between Riker and Troi. The show got rid of that after the pilot — after that scene, pretty much, if I remember right — and made Troi merely able to sense feelings and that was structurally speaking a good idea because how annoying would voiceover conversations be to incorporate into every single goddam episode. (And it meant they could play it for more effective laughs later on when Troi’s mom, a full-on Betazoid who could get her telepathy on even outside the confines of the Practically Non-Canon Pilot Quadrant, would visit the ship. And mentally molest Picard. WHO PROBABLY SECRETLY LOVED IT.)
But man think what it would have been like for Troi if that had stuck around. In the pilot, sure, they were lovers reunited for the first time in a while under complicated circumstances, there’s that romantic flush of meeting one another again and you remember all the good bits. But within three days, maybe a week tops, it’d all come back to her why she’d been avoiding him in the first place: non-stop, 24/7 psychic chat-ups and intrusive come-ons and the mental equivalent of “hey, look at my penis” pranks. Riker is basically Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock. You broke up with that guy for a reason, Deanna. Don’t be a sucker.
If you haven’t already run across this, you have absolutely got to take some time to read through one of my favorite jokey twitter accounts of all time, @tng_s8.
It’s a running collection of straight-faced synopses of fake Next Gen episodes (hence the name: TNG, Season 8). Some random examples:
Wes gets trapped in a bunker with an obnoxious child king. Riker wakes up on Risa with a lower back tattoo and no memory of his last 3 days.
Troi’s new alien jewelry rewrites her DNA, altering her features and personality. Geordi & Data’s staring contest is declared a stalemate.
Picard must devise a plan to free the Enterprise from a gravitational “pitcher plant” nebula. Beverly’s harmonica performance is torturous.
Just about killed me the first time I started reading it. Go give it a look and a follow.
I feel like the pro forma thing to do here is apologize for the obvious Reading Rainbow joke but (a) at least it’s out of the way (twice-over if you check the alt text on the comics) so we can all stop thinking about it and (b) seriously, Reading Rainbow is awesome.
I grew up on it as a kid, and something about the way LeVar delivered the whole thing was just great; I was a weirdly cynical kid about children’s media for whatever reason, and had trouble trusting overly earnest or twee stuff (I found Mr. Rogers, of all people, unsettling, though I think that was mostly the puppets and the weird falsetto voices he did for them because Trolley was fantastic and oh man the crayon factory filmstrip and I think I got lost a bit here) but for whatever reason when LeVar would start talking about books and how they were great that stuff just clicked for me. I hear I was an early reader, and Reading Rainbow didn’t hurt on that front.
And man, that title sequence. Earworm. I apologize, but not really.
But! Yes. Beyond the whole nostalgia kick, the neat thing is that RR’s a straight-up 21st century product now: you can get it on your dang iPad. With @levarburton and everything. Crazy future kids ebook reader. Some Roddenberry shit right there.
Hey, people seem to like this! That’s awesome. And people also seem to want to know what the update schedule is, which is tricky because it’s so early yet that I didn’t really settle on one.
But let’s call it M-W-F. Three a week is a pretty manageable production schedule on my end, the way things are going so far, and that’s easy enough to remember if you’re not the RSS-reader type. And it’s probably best if I just commit to a schedule right now because it’ll stop me from going OMG AND HERE’S THE NEXT ONE AND HERE’S THE NEXT ONE and just burning through my backlog.
Very spiritual people, advice ambulance the Dopterians.
So, this is a thing.
LARP Trek started as a jokey conversation at a Metafilter meetup about a year ago; sitting around a fire, a few drinks in me, I pitched the idea that Deep Space Nine wasn’t a real thing that happened in the Star Trek universe, but was in fact a role-playing game that the crew of Next Generation played when they were on one boring milk run or another in between the exciting stuff that we got to see during the weekly episodes. All of the character pairings I proposed (Picard as Sisko, Dr. Crusher as Dax, Riker as Dr. Bashir, Troi as Quark, etc.) were just vehicles for commentary on the Enterprise crew’s psychological foibles and insecurities and delusions of grandeur; DS9 was a soap opera because the people playing it were straight-laced Starfleet bridge officers letting their hair down.
After that night, I tried working up the idea in a few different ways — as a big character x = character y infographic, as a series of character sheets and other pen-and-paper RPG artifacts, as a series of private log entries by Counselor Troi about the game sessions as group therapy — but nothing really felt like it was working, so the idea just sat for the last year.
And then I had another conversation a week ago, at another Metafilter meetup, about that old idea I’d never done anything with, and it got me thinking about a talking-head comic strip type thing. I’ve fiddled around with sort of related ideas before; Mulder’s Big Adventure leaned heavily on screencap and talking-head humor, and Previously on the X-Files and The Big Markovski (and the woefully unfinished ST:TNG vamp on same) played directly with the screenshots-having-a-discussion idea though without any actual coherent scripting on my part.
LARP Trek is a synthesis of all that. I’ve spent the last week mocking up strips, sharing them on mlkshk, getting feedback, and playing with the format to find something that feels right, and I like where the strip is now. Visually it’s pretty cut-and-dried, but I think that works for the kind of humor I’m aiming for, and the upside of the relatively ascetic look is that laying out strips is pretty fast and fun to do; just some screenshotting and some photoshoppery and, blam, it’s a comic strip. A little WordPress hackery and here we are, on a proper website and everything.
I’ve got a lot of ideas in the hopper for how our crew will stumble their way into role-playing their epic sister franchise, and I’m excited to keep putting those ideas down on paper. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do; thanks for reading.
I would have made that last Geordi panel redder, but it turns out there isn’t any redder red than that. None more red. But, yes, I need to expand my collection of Angry Geordi screencaps, because the way things are going we might be seeing a lot of him.
It’s like, “ooooooh, look at me, I’m Worf son of Mogh, oooooooh, I think this campaign sounds deriiiivatiiiive, oooooooh…”
A fact about me: I have DMed exactly one pen-and-paper RPG session in my life, and I was I think a junior in high school at the time, and I was not very good at it at all, but I had drawn up a bunch of random encounter tables for it, and also there was this spooky mansion and in the basement of the mansion was some weird complicated glowing magical trap thing that reacted to character alignment in a way that I thought was super clever but the players mostly thought was kind of confusing and annoying, and I stayed up till four a.m. running it for a bunch of gamer/theater friends and two of them ended up sort of making out under a blanket instead of paying any attention, which was kind of rough because I totally had a crush on one of them.
I haven’t really comported myself that much better as a player over the years, either. One time, I stabbed a horse in the neck with an arrow? To try and slow down some dwarves? Basically it was like pushing over a bunch of Hell’s Angels bikes outside a bar, except in the Forbidden Realms. So that was a thing.
Basically what I’m saying is I have a lot of respect for anyone who can manage to run a game. I’m not sure Geordi knows what he’s getting himself into.
Poor Wesley, being a kid on a starship; poor Wil Wheaton being stuck playing that kid to an unkind audience. (Though Wil seems to have come through the dark tunnel of being Wesley Crusher and then some at this late date.)
The problem with Wesley Crusher, if I’m gonna argue it, was mostly that the show wasn’t built to showcase a kid’s wonder. And as The One Kid On The Enterprise (in terms of major recurring cast members) he didn’t really have a peer group to build stories with either; there was no one we, as viewers, really cared about who wasn’t mostly too busy to hang out with Wes and too old to have a non-condescending, non-twee, non-Very-Special-Episode emotional arc with him.
So Wes was stuck trying to be a grownup on the sidelines even though he wasn’t (and so we got to watch him be bummed that adults we liked were annoyed by him being inconvenient or underfoot, nominal pat on the head at the end of some episodes notwithstanding), or having Wes-centric episodes where he gets up to who knows what random nonsense this time with some one-off guest star kids who we have zero investment in. It’s a bad setup, for a kid whose backstory was already sort of glum and dicey.
And I can’t blame people for not liking the character, because he didn’t get used well; but it’s kind of a shame when you think of Wes’s potential with slightly different plotting and setup as the kid living the greatest goddam adventure a kid could have. How great would that be? But maybe that’s just not Star Trek.
Anyway, I’m taking a shot at Wes having his miiiiiind blooooown here but I think what I’m saying is that it’s an affectionate shot. If Wes didn’t get a chance to have his mind blown by the actual insane future scifi world he was living in, he ought to at least get a chance to get a little bit OMG HAVE YOU EVER REALLY LOOKED AT YOUR HANDS? about the concept of old-school roleplaying.