I feel like I should note here that (a) the Aquans really are an alien race in the Star Trek universe and (b) they are in fact fish people, and (c) they only ever appeared in one episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, and (d) that apparently qualifies as series canon, and (e) I only know any of this because I looked it up on Memory Alpha when I needed some aliens for Picard to blow up.
I like Star Trek a lot — I have watched more of it than the average person, that much is safe to say — but I’m not an encyclopedic superfan, so it’s handy that there is an actual encyclopedia maintained by actual superfans. Because I’m gonna be leaning on that thing a lot.
If you suggested that I’m really only doing this whole thing for the Riker sex jokes, I would have a hard time arguing.
I’m maybe wasting material for a future comic in talking about this, but it’s not difficult to watch some Riker-centric scenes in TNG and come to the conclusion that his face is just a straight-up sex thermometer. Like, any time Riker is smiling, he’s ready to go. Whomever or whatever. That smile is upstairs and downstairs. Which makes those crestfallen moments when the smile wilts a little bit funnier.
You might object on the grounds that Riker smiles sometimes in scenes with no obvious erotic overtones. I’m saying that’s a failure of imagination. The man’s got some serious depths, psychosexually speaking.
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.
It’s like, “ooooooh, look at me, I’m Worf son of Mogh, oooooooh, I think this campaign sounds deriiiivatiiiive, oooooooh…”
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.
Very spiritual people, the Dopterians.
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.
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.
Character introductions! Now we get to see the rubber meet the road. Or the…nacelles hit the spacetime fabric? Do cars even have rubber wheels or drive on roads in the 24th century? I don’t know, future metaphors are a problem.
In fact, I’m willing to argue that Darmok wasn’t actually an episode about communicating with a species with a fundamentally alien (and Universal Translator-defying) language but rather a cautionary tale about being four hundred years out of date on your internet memes.
Anyway, as character picks go I felt like this was sort of a gimme, right? Picard’s idea of branching out is “me but cooler”. The demotion stung a little but he decided to take one for the team so long as everyone else has the good sense not to outrank him. (Riker knows which way the wind blows and quietly scraps Admiral Beefstrong, goes back to the cartoon-penis-drawing board.)
I get the impression of Picard that, for all his merits as a Captain, he’s not one of those bosses who really digs on the whole inverted-power-dynamics Carnival sort of deal; he’d grit out a smile through the first couple of disrespectful jokes and then he’d lose his cool and people would start getting fired and that’s the end of that office party, etc. He’ll laugh with you, but he won’t laugh with you laughing at him.
I know there’s a lot of jokes and or uncomfortable straight-faced discussions to be had about (a) the dilemma of being an adolescent boy with essentially no peer group on a sterile, surveillance-state environment like a warp-powered submarine and (b) the dysfunctional dynamics of spending most your time around your hot mom and your adoptive-but-actually-pretty-seriously-not father figure who sorta got your real dad killed, but:
Let’s talk about Counselor Troi. Specifically, about her duties as psychological counselor on the Enterprise. There’s about a thousand people on this ship, yeah? And she’s the ship counselor. There’s no clear indications in the show that she has staff; she’s The Ship’s Counselor, and that’s that.
How does she spend all that time chillin’ like a villain on the bridge? We see her actually counseling someone in a regularly-scheduled sit-down session like…five times? Maybe? In the entire run of the series. We see Picard specifically ordering some tea to drink more often than we see Troi doing what is ostensibly her vocation. She does plenty of little ad hoc “let’s just have a chat where I say observant things and we make expressions” moments mid-narrative but that’s not a J.O.B., that’s being there for your Bs.F.F.
A thousand crew members, let’s guess that maybe 30% of them need a monthly hour-long session (or a couple of half-hours, or a quick weekly check-in) for recurring mental health / evaluation / misc. counseling reasons. Most of it’s not dramatic, but it’s basic due diligence, crew-maintenance stuff that’s important in its own right, yeah? That’s 300 hours a month, or 10 hours a day and no weekends off. Plus drop-in hours. Plus emergencies. And that’s ignoring paperwork (PADDwork?), briefings with the senior officers, coordination with Bev’s medical staff, etc. Every single time she gets paged off screen, it should be interrupting a session or some bit of office hours.