Monday, March 30, 2015

Star Trek: the Next Generation story arcs

I have the unusual opportunity to show Star Trek: TNG to a willing viewer who is otherwise unfamiliar with the series.  Yes, she's caught some episodes over the years, but only a handful.  Suffice it to say, I'm excited by the prospect.

Now, what we will likely do is to eventually watch the show from the beginning, but I've been given license to cherry pick some good episodes just to get a feel for the show.  I insisted on this, because the first season is just so godawful, I wouldn't want to lose her before she’s even begun.  Granted, we will be watching episodes from the first season, because there are plot points that you can’t avoid, such as the introduction of Q, Lore and the death of Tasha Yar.   But I hope to leave season 1 behind asap.

In the meantime, I’ve been having fun reviewing old episodes.  I love TNG.  So very, very much.  One thing I noticed from viewing the episodes in one big list, is that, while TNG didn’t have seasonal story arcs, as are popular in shows these days, they did have a great number of story threads working their way through the show.   And many of these stories are interconnected.  The Borg, for example, overlap with both Q and Lore.  But Lore also overlaps with the Crystalline Entity.  I’ve been having a great time stitching these episodes together.  Driven only by my initial fanaticism, I've managed to construct the following story arcs:

  • The Borg/Lore/Crystaline entity
  • Worf/Durass/Alexander/Deanna Troi
  • Tasha Yar/Sela/Spock

The Borg are an absolute must.  They're easily the biggest bad in the TNG universe.  The Tasha Yar story is the trickiest, as she was around for most of the first season, but it was a bad season.  It’s important to familiarize the viewer with her character in order to get the proper effect of her death and rebirth.  This is especially true in the episode ‘Yesterdays Enterprise’ wherein she receives another shot at life, and it is that element of the story which is so key to the episodes emotional impact.  Not to mention that the events of that episode lead to the birth of Sela.  Sela crosses over nicely with Worf’s Redemption story and with Spock’s reintroduction.  And of course, I'm looking for any excuse to include Spock.

And then there's the inclusion of the Troi/Worf romance, which may just be me being indulgent.  The writers drew those characters very slowly together, mostly through their mutual work with Worf's son Alexander.  But the growth of these two characters reached a head by the show's end, and I always loved that relationship.  

Granted, the more generous and inclusive I get with these storylines, the longer they get, and the more inclusive I'm driven to be.  This must be what it's like to invite people to a wedding.  If I include him, then I have to include her, and if I include both of them, then I have to include these other five.  

Sooo much subtle buildup to this scene

Still, in some cases, episodes aren't best shown right next to one another, so it's good to have some padding in between.  For example, QWho and Best of Both Worlds.  While they are the two episodes featuring the Borg in chronological order, there is supposed to have been an entire year between the two episodes, the time it takes for the Borg to travel from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant.  This time is important, because the Borg go from a distant, looming threat to an immediate danger of catastrophic proportions, with just enough time in between to get comfortable in the idea that maybe we aren't all going to die.   So, in order to solve this problem of padding between episodes without including a bunch of irrelevant or mediocre episodes, I would combine arcs.  

So far, I'm looking at 37 episodes, a bit more than a season's worth.  I could easily trim this down to 26 episodes, the length of a full season.  I've marked certain standalone episodes on the list below.  I chose to include these because they expand on existing themes, but aren't strictly necessary.  

So, without further ado, below are my personally constructed Star Trek the Next Generation story arcs.  Again, it is important to note that this is really just based on a fairly quick review of the episode list.  As time goes by, I may expand or pare down these arcs, in addition to adding others I haven't included (the Cardassians come to mind).  I plan to use these arcs to pick a series of stand-alone episodes outside of major story arcs.  

The season number and episode is listed to the right of each entry.  The episodes that are not strictly necessary are marked with an asterisk.  I included the first and last episodes as bookends.

  1. *Encounter at Farpoint- 1:1, 1:2
  2. *The Naked Now- 1:3
  3. Datalore- 1:13
  4. Skin of Evil- 1:23
  5. *Measure of a Man- 2:9
  6. QWho- 2:16
  7. The Emissary- 2:20
  8. Yesterday’s Enterprise- 3:15
  9. *The Offspring- 3:16
  10. Sins of the Father- 3:17
  11. *Sarek- 3:23
  12. Best of Both Worlds- 1 & 2 3:26, 4:1
  13. Family- 4:2
  14. Brothers- 4:3
  15. Reunion- 4:7
  16. Mind’s Eye- 4:24
  17. Redemption- 1&2 4:26,4:27
  18. Silicon Avatar- 5:4
  19. Unification- 1&2 5:7, 5:8
  20. *Ethics- 5:16
  21. *Cost of Living- 5:20
  22. I, Borg- 5:23
  23. *A Fistful of Datas- 6:8
  24. Birthright- 1 & 2 6:16, 6:17
  25. Descent 1&2- 6:26, 7:1
  26. *Parallels- 7:11
  27. *Eye of the Beholder- 7:18
  28. *All Good Things 1&2- 7:25, 7:26

 Listed by Arc:
*Encounter at Farpoint  1:1, 1:2

Borg/Data/Lore/Crystalline Entity  -  13 eps

Datalore  1:13
*Measure of a Man 2:9
QWho  2:16
*The Offspring 3:16
Best of Both Worlds 1 & 2 3:26, 4:1
Family 4:2
Brothers 4:3
Silicon Avatar  5:4
I, Borg  5:23
*Birthright 1  6:16
Descent 1&2  6:26, 7:1

Yar/Sela/Spock  8 eps
*The Naked Now  1:3
Skin of Evil  1:23
Yesterday’s Enterprise  3:15
*Sarek  3:23
Mind’s Eye  4:24
Redemption 2 5:1
Unification  1&2 5:7, 5:8

Worf/Duras/Troi - 12 eps
The Emissary  2:20
Sins of the Father 3:17
*Family 4:2
Reunion  4:7
Redemption  1&2 4:26,4:27
*Ethics  5:16
*Cost of Living  5:20
*A Fistful of Datas  6:8
Birthright 1 & 2  6:16, 6:17
*Parallels  7:11
*Eye of the Beholder 7:18

*All Good Things 1&2  7:25, 7:26


P.S.  I think this might be the nerdiest post I've ever posted

1 comment:

  1. I tried to list only episodes that you didn't already have, although these are pretty much just all filler episodes and would greatly increase the length of time before seeing the awesome series finale.

    Season 1
    Where No One Has Gone Before 1:6
    The Battle 1:9
    Home Soil 1:18
    Conspiracy 1:25
    The Neutral Zone: 1:26

    Season 2
    Where Silence Has Lease 2:2
    The Royale 2:12
    Time Squared 2:13
    Manhunt 2:19

    Season 3
    The Survivors 3:3
    Who Watches the Watchers 3:4
    Deja Q 3:13

    Season 4
    Remember Me 4:5
    Legacy 4:6
    Future Imperfect 4:8
    Final Mission 4:9
    Data's Day 4:11
    Clues 4:14
    Galaxy's Child 4:16
    Night Terrors 4:17
    Identity Crisis 4:18

    Season 5
    Darmok 5:2
    Disaster 5:5
    Cause and Effect 5:18
    The Inner Light 5:25
    Time's Arrow, Part I 5:26

    Season 6
    Time's Arrow, Part II 6:1
    Relics 6:4
    Schisms 6:5
    True Q 6:6
    Rascals 6:7
    Tapestry 6:15
    Starship Mine 6:18
    Frame of Mind 6:21
    Timescape 6:25

    Season 7
    Phantasms 7:6
    Dark Page 7:7
    Force of Nature 7:9
    Lower Decks 7:15