Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek (1966-1969)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Type: Franchise
Group: 10

   According to the intro to both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation (something the new Trek shows could use - a nice intro narration) space was the final frontier to be explored. In point of fact syndication seemed to be the frontier both these shows seemed bent on exploring.

   The story of the original Trek series is by this point part of TV folklore but for completeness sake lets go over it. The original Star Trek was about the U.S.S. Enterprise's 5 year mission to explore space. Running on NBC, the show was cancelled after only 3 years due to less than stellar ratings and while it was still far from that 5 year goal. Then the show went into syndication, airing every weekend in most areas. Remember the days before a zillion networks and first run syndication when independent stations needed SOMETHING to fill their schedules up with? Well, unlike most of the crap that got dumped into weekend schedules, Star Trek actually had some quality to it and was highly rewatchable. It soon floated to the top of the the syndication cesspool. It was actually something good to watch on a slow weekend! Next thing you know, the show has a following, Paramount takes a chance on some Star Trek feature films and, bam, Star Trek is suddenly a going concern.

   Which leads us to 1987 and the premiere of a NEW Star Trek show. Even though today Star Trek is a hugely successful franchise juggernaut, at the time the new show Star Trek: The Next Generation was hardly viewed as a guaranteed success. Sure the old series was popular and the feature films were kicking ass but The Next Generation was risky in a lot of ways. First of all, it wasn't going to air on network TV but rather in first run syndication. At the time first run syndication was not common place. A few quality shows like Fame went from network to success in frist run syndication but for the most part it was where a lot of crap shows landed. Anyone remember Small Wonder? If so, I'm very sorry for you.

   Secondly, they were boldly going on with a new cast. Most people dearly loved the old cast and felt that they were Star Trek. The idea that you could replace them like changing the tires on your car? Insulting. And it was a risky move demonstrated by the final reason the show was a risk which was the fact that...

   Thirdly, that time in the 80's saw a number of other television franchises trying to do "new" versions of old shows with new casts. In what looked to be a sea of poorly recycled old shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation suffered by association. I remember seeing the show noted in articles right along side of the also first run syndicated New Monkees. Eeeek. The New Monkees weren't a bad band but did make for really bad TV. Also around the same time there were a couple of Bonanza TV movies of the "Next Generation" variety featuring new generations of Cartwrights as opposed to reunions of the original cast. They were clearly TV pilots in search of an audience masquerading as TV movies.

   What the show did have going for it was a good cast and much better special effects than usual for syndicated sci-fi shows of the time. In spite of all of the previously noted problems and some weak first season writing, the show became a major hit. It opened up first run syndication for a whole slew of actual quality shows and demonstrated it was possible to inject new characters into an old franchise and make it work - as long as it was a quality show.

   As to actual face to face howdy do's between the casts of the two shows, there were several. The first happened in the very first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when a very elderly Dr. Bones McCoy came to the launch of the new Starship Enterprise (The Next Generation was set almost 80 years after the time period of the original series). Escorted by the android and emotionless officer Data, Bones wondered if Data wasn't maybe a Vulcan.

   The very next episode crossed over with the original series via a common plot. Titled The Naked Now it paralleled the original Star Trek series episode The Naked Time with something causing the crew to become seemingly intoxicated. The Next Gen crew soon discovers the connection between their situation and that of Kirk's crew. So, no actors showing up but the carry over of a plot and a mention of the older show. Usually a crossover between a new show and a hit helps the new show by the attention the event attracts. This wasn't the case here. People were already worried about whether The Next Generation would even work. When the second episode seemed to be cribbing a plot from the original show it didn't exactly bolster fan confidence. After a shaky start though The Next Generation found its voice, found an audience and turned into a top notch sci-fi show.

   The next crossover would not involve one of the regulars from the original series but rather a recurring character: Sarek, father of Star Trek's Mr. Spock. Sarek was a Vulcan ambassador. For those of you who aren't Trek literate, Vulcans are a race of people who pride themselves on logic and being unemotional. They have emotions mind you, they just suppress them as they interfere with logic. Vulcans also possess various telepathic abilities. In the episode in question a now elderly Sarek was called upon to try and negotiate peace between two alien races. He had however contracted a rare Vulcan ailment causing him to "leak" emotions. He broadcast emotions to those around him causing fights between the crew and the like. Sarek was too proud to admit to what, to him, was a humiliating ailment. Think how altzheimers sufferers feel. Sarek was the only being who could accomplish the task at hand but in his condition he wouldn't be able to. Once he was convinced that he was ill and did need help, Sarek mind melded with Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard. A mind meld joins two beings minds and allows them to share thoughts, feeling etc. Picard took on Sarek's raging emotions so that Sarek would be free to do what he had to. Only problem was Picard had to struggle with over two centuries worth of pent up emotions. Patrick Stewart has a killer scene where Picard wrestles with these feelings. In this scene we get to hear through Picard Sareks regret at never having told his son Spock that he loved him.

   The crew of the Enterprise got to meet Spock in person in a story that took them to the Romulan home world. The Romulans were a race that had common ancestry with the Vulcans. The Romulans did not suppress their emotions but that's about all they didn't suppress. A tyrannical people, the Romulans had for a long time been enemies with the Vulcans. The now Ambassador Spock was on a secret mission to meet with an underground faction on Romulus that wish to reconnect with their Vulcan cousins. Starfleet was not sure what Spock was up to or if he had perhaps defected. SO they sent the Enterprise in to find out.

   The plot is too complex to quickly spell out but the story (a two part episode) had at least two real highlights. The first was the meeting of the unemotional Spock and the emotionless Data. The characters always seemed cut from a similar cloth but their meeting highlighted how utterly different they were. Spock was a half human half Vulcan who had emotions but wished and strived for the absence of them. Data was an android who did not have the capability to have emotions but wished and strived to gain them. Each was the perfect image of what the other desired to achieve. They fell in love and married (just kidding - fans, no angry mail, Paramount - no law suits please).

   The second highlight was when Picard finally was able to speak with Spock about his father and tell him of Sarek's death. Picard told Spock what Sarek could not - that he loved his son. Spock knew anyway. Spock revealed though that he had never mind melded with his father and shared his thoughts and feelings. Having melded with Sarek, Picard carried some of Sarek with him. Picard mind melded with Spock so that he could, in a way, meld with his father.

   It was some time after that when the Enterprise stumbled across yet another Trek veteran. Receiving a distress call, the Enterprise found an apparently empty wreck. Only as it turns out the transporter system has been jury-rigged to keep a couple members of the crew in a sort of suspended animation, their biological patterns being stored and recycled through the pattern buffers (that, my friend is what we call technobabble). As it turns out, one of the crewmen's pattern had degraded and was unretrievable. The second pattern however was intact and turned out to be the original Enterprise's engineer Montgomery Scott.

   Taken back to the new Enterprise, Scotty regaled the crew with tales of the old days that bored them nearly into tears like some visiting uncle who can't stop telling you about his goiter. He also tried to help out but was out of step with the current technology. He was a man out of his time. While making Scotty sort of an outcast who must prove his worth works on a lot of levels, I must say it did bug me to see Scotty being put in the position of being an annoyance to others.

   In the end he helped to once again save the Enterprises bacon. The best scene had to be when he revealed to the new Enterprise's engineer Geordi LaForge the secrets of his success. First of all, when he wrote up the specs for equipment he worked on he would purposely understate their abilities so that he would have some breathing room should he need to push them farther than expected. It also turns out when the captain would ask Scotty how long a job would take to get done, Scotty would overstate the time needed so that he would look good when he got it done in half the that time. LaForge tells Scotty that when the captain asks him how long a job will take he tells him the actual time it will take. Scotty tells him he has a lot to learn if he wants people to think of him as a miracle worker.

   I have to use this opportunity to rant about how this episode ends though. The final scene begins with Scotty on his way to the ship's bar, Ten Forward. He runs into LaForge who takes him to a shuttle bay. The crew is gathered there to give Scotty a shuttle and a farewell send off. They say their goodbyes and leave Scotty to get ready to go. Do you see the problem here? Scotty was ON HIS WAY TO THE BAR! He wasn't apparently even thinking yet about leaving and the next thing he knows the crew is giving him the bums rush out the door. They didn't show him the shuttle and say, "It's here for when you are ready to leave." Oh no. They gave him the shuttle and said, "It was nice seeing you. Sorry you have to leave right now. Bye! See ya! Don't let the tractor beam hit ya where the good Lord split ya!" So even after he helped save them they were still treating him like that uncle who you can't get out of the house fast enough. Nice.

   That brings us to a couple of crossovers between these shows that actually happened on the big screen in the Star Trek movies. The first is actually the only case of a crossover of The Next Generation cast into a original Trek cast project. In the final Trek film to feature all of the original Star Trek series cast, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country had Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy standing trial in a Klingon court for murder. Who should their appointed Klingon attorney be but the grandfather of Next Gen's Klingon security chief Mr. Worf. Michael Dorn who played Worf also played Worf's grandfather in the film. So it wasn't technically the same character but it was an extension of The Next Generations cast and characters into the old Trek's story so what the hey.

   The final crossover between these shows was in the first theatrical film to feature the Next Generation cast, Star Trek: Generations. At the start of the film we see Captain James T. Kirk in his time period helping to launch the latest Starship Enterprise. As Scotty and Chekov watch, Kirk is lost in an encounter with a giant space anomally. It will turn out that inside that space anomally is a sort of paradise - a place out of time and space where you can live forever and make your own fantasies come true.

   Jump forward in time to the Next Generation crew's era. Malcolm McDowell plays a character named Soran who had briefly fallen into the space anomally but been "rescued". He is blowing up planets and basically wreaking havoc in order to get himself back into the anomally. In the end he succeeds, destroying the Enterprise in the process and acidentally pulling Captain Picard into the anomally as well.

   Even though he is in a sort of paradise, Picard realizes that he must leave and set things right. You see, if you are in this anomally, you can exit it to any point in time and space. Thus he can leave BEFORE things go bad and stop Soren. He searches out Captain Kirk and persuades Kirk to help him. You see, in a place where you control everything and nothing is left to chance, there is no risk of failure to anything and so it's, well, boring. And so, the two greatest minds in Starfleet with all of eternity to plan their course of action and with the ability to re-enter our universe at any point in time and space to start their plan come up with the following (this is the part I can't take): jump out about ten seconds before everything goes to hell and "get 'em!" Brilliant. They do stop him but Kirk is killed. Instead of taking him back to Earth for a proper burial, Picard burries Kirk under a bunch of rocks. Note to Enterprise crew: don't put Picard in charge of your funeral plans.

   Again I must rage. As is already clear, I was stunned by the idiocy of their plan. It was the stupidest course of action possible. Like I said, Soren blew up inhabited planets to make his plan happen. In addition to this, at the start of the story Picard learns that his beloved nephew has died. Hello, Captains Beavis and Butthead could easily have jumped out MUCH earlier and saved not only an entire world but also Picard Nephew with time left over to get some coffee. I guess Picard didn't really love his nephew that much afterall. If I could save someone I cared about from certain death I wouldn't be passing that option up.

   Unless Picard's hate for the original Trek crew outweighed his love for his nephew. Think about it. First he shows Scotty the door as fast as he can and then he comes up with a plan that all but assures Kirk's death. Then he rudely burries the guy under a bunch of rocks like a dead pet. Spock should feel lucky Picard didn't smoke him too.

   I apologize. Generations just gets me a little angry. The truth is these were two great shows that, mostly, made for some great crossovers.

Other Star Trek Crossover Links
Star Trek and Enterprise
Star Trek and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek and Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek and Team Knight Rider

Other Star Trek: The Next Generation Crossover Links
Star Trek: The Next Generation and Enterprise
Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager

Links To Star Trek Related Web Sites
Cynics Corner (Star Trek Episode Reviews)
The Official Star Trek Web Site

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