Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Encounter at Farpoint"

**

Air date: 9/28/1987
Written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Corey Allen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As the new Galaxy-class Enterprise heads out on its first mission to Farpoint Station, the crew encounters a powerful being known as Q (John de Lancie), who blocks and then pursues the ship, before kidnapping four of the crew and putting humanity on trial. Captain Picard finds himself answering Q's charge that humanity is a "savage race."

Star Trek: The Next Generation launches with an uneven maiden voyage, which admittedly shows its age when compared to today's higher-tech and faster-paced world of drama. Slow and talky (which is not necessarily a demerit), "Encounter at Farpoint" suffers in part because it doesn't find the right balance between the supposed urgency of Q's ominous warnings and all the character threads that are in play as the new crew is assembled. The shifts in momentum between plot and character are at times distracting. Meanwhile, there are two overly self-impressed set-pieces involving the separation and reintegration of the Enterprise's saucer section — an action gimmick that's frankly much ado about nothing. Sure, the visual effects are impressive for 1987 television, but there's not much substance to the idea here beyond, "Look, honey! The ship can split in two!"

As a pilot and as Trek, this is adequate and absolutely no more; it establishes all the regular characters while supplying a reasonable (but ultimately disappointing) sci-fi scenario. The unconvincing planet sets and the dramatic music score give the production a definite feel of old-school TOS Trek. On the other hand, making the ship more of a luxury liner than a military vessel is a definite departure from TOS, as is the character of Picard, who is a mannered intellectual and debater. I suppose it takes a certain level of guts to make Picard the ultimate anti-Kirk, who announces an unconditional surrender in the first half-hour of the story and frequently showcases a cerebral style. And Picard's debates with Q are the first in what would eventually become one of the series' great running dialogs.

The notion of asking questions before resorting to violence is in tune with Trek's humanistic message, but the plot's solution is far too transparent and unchallenging to live up to Q's portents of earth-shaking significance. "I see now it was too simple a puzzle," Q notes at the end. Funny — that's exactly what I was thinking.

The episode has one of my favorite goofy laugh moments: Q invades the bridge and then puts a deep freeze on a threatening lieutenant with a phaser. "He's frozen!" exclaims Troi. Wow, thanks!

Next episode: The Naked Now

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28 comments on this review

Matthew - Sun, Feb 8, 2009 - 4:15am (USA Central)
The pilot was slow and talky? Ironic, because that is exactly what they said about The Cage. We probably should have known at the time better things were coming.
NCC-1701-Z - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 11:43pm (USA Central)
I just started getting into TNG's 1st season a short time ago, after being a longtime TOS fan.

Welllll...there really isn't much to say here. "Encounter at Farpoint" isn't too bad, but it isn't too good, either. More like just "here". Too bad, because it had a lot of potential, too. I agree with the rating, 2 stars is what I'd give it too. The music is wimpy, especially compared to TOS, and the actors lack passion and excitement at this point in time, which contributed in no small part to the overall wimpiness of this episode. The TOS actors' energy contributed in no small part to that series' success, so I guess I'm a bit spoiled.

The plot, as Jammer said, is too ho-hum to be much of interest. The special effects (the alien ship and Farpoint station matte, for instance) also look really cheap/fake at this point in time. I'll go even so far as to say that in my humble opinion, the TOS effects and sets were much more convincing! (Even though of course I know they'll get much better)

I find myself liking Picard, Worf and Data quite a bit, and John de Lancie as Q -- I love that guy already. I think it's his acting, it's so dramatic that everyone else looks even more dry and stilted by comparison--he almost steals the show! But not to be overly negative--there's a lot of good stuff too. I loved the scene with old McCoy and Data--a bit cloying, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Also, the NCC-1701-D exterior and interior designs look great.

One other thing that bugged me is the new "dust-buster" phaser design. Being a long time TOS fan, I still prefer the old "gun-style" phasers--they just look more threatening and "action-y". When Tasha was walking through the alien corridors with her hand on her phaser, I could barely see it, and had to think a while before I realized what it was. Kinda ruined the whole suspense/danger factor for me. (Nitpick alert: Wouldn't phasers be quicker to draw if they weren't placed in a "cross-draw" fashion?)

I'll try not to bash TNG too much, although that won't stop me from making TOS comparisons. I'm quite willing to go through with an open mind, and hope to watch this series take to the stars like many others have done before me.
Rikko - Tue, Apr 3, 2012 - 11:38am (USA Central)
Ok.

Guess that now that we're allowed to post in every single episode, I'll give my impressions as I go (Will take a while until I reach my recently-watched ep).

Encounter At Farpoint! It is the only ep since I've started following TNG that I've seen twice. And not because it's uber-good, but due to a false start while attempting to make this into a regular thing on my agenda. Watched only EaF and "The Naked Now" before stopping for months.

By the time I really came back to it, Encounter wasn't as good as I remembered it to be. It is as you say, good for a pilot and nothing else. The acting was super-lame (everyone but John De Lancie) the plot could've used more work. And the music...it's so cheesy at times.

Foreshadowing future events, I kind of disliked the character of Natasha Yar and felt she'd be the less interesting character of them all. Later episodes developed that idea even further...
Van_Patten - Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 5:50am (USA Central)
Not that much to add here -one of the best reviews of the TNG pilot I have read. The episode is very dialogue -heavy, which as you say, need not necessarily be a negative thing, but the sheer amount of exposition can be a chore.

On the positive side, The courtroom scenes and the repartee between Picard and De Lancie show real promise - it's a shame that momentum is squandered by the 'Saucer re-integration' sequence, which seems to drag on forever. It's a little tricky to chide the Special Effects given it was made 25 years ago, but the sets ( as they do in some other season one episodes) seem to say 'cheap'.

Of the actors, Stewart, De Lancie and Spiner look, for me, the strongest part of the ensemble thus far. Mention also needs to go to Michael Dorn (who would appear in more episodes across the combined series than anyone else) - originally in as a mere 'speaking extra' to illustrate that the Klingonswere no longer the emy, his character grows to become a key part of the ensemble, and he does much better with his few lines than several higher billed actors.

The 'die was cast' in terms of 'weak links' in retrospect from ths episode. Wil Wheton is simply annoying although this episode is ar fom a Season 1 nadir for him. As Riko says, the character of Yar never really took off and Crosby's performance has to shoulder some of the blame. Marina Sirtus is also very stilted, and the lack of chemistry between her and Frakes at this point in the series makes those scenes very flat.

Probably a 2 star rating as well from me, given some leeway by it being the pilot!
xaaos - Thu, Oct 25, 2012 - 11:09am (USA Central)
I lol'd when Riker came aboard the Enterprise and watched the briefind video of what had happened concerning the Q's visit: the video was exactly played just like we had watched it, instead of being shown by one single bridge camera angle.

Agreed with Van_Patten, Wes is just annoying. The producers shouldn't have him onboard from the start.

A pretty mediocre starting, even for it's era. The plot is poor and boring, cheesy music and sometimes flat acting (especially by Tasha who went overdue a lot).
pusher robot - Tue, Jan 8, 2013 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
I just watched this on Amazon Instant Watch and it was a simultaneously bizarre and hilarious experience. Somehow, the entire sound effects dub was omitted from this episode, leaving only the score and raw dialog. As a result, dialog on e.g. the bridge took place against a background of total silence, and you could clearly hear the creaks and squeaks of the set and props. Meanwhile, the space scenes were reminiscent of 2001, with ponderous action taking place against total silence.

I would add an extra star to this version simply for being unique.
Grumpy - Sun, Jan 20, 2013 - 6:20pm (USA Central)
The choice to make this pilot about a crew of strangers coming together for the first mission of a new ship gave TNG a different premise than a day-in-the-life pilot. However, TNG did less with this than Voyager did with its more high-concept premise. Apart from a few Season 1 references to 1701-D's newfangled features (so they could be explained to characters and audience alike), the premise established in the pilot served chiefly to excuse the awkwardness among the ensemble. That is, the cast & writers didn't know how the characters would interact, but that's justified in-story by having most of them meet for the first time at Farpoint.

Nothing justifies Riker being ignorant of his new ship's most basic user interface, however. Even Chakotay was more familiar with Voyager's systems, and he was an emergency replacement!
Landon - Tue, Jan 22, 2013 - 4:17pm (USA Central)
It's not perfect....so? I v'e always like this episode and its more than just "adequate" as a pilot. Its big in both scale, adventure and ideas. It introduces two of the best things ever in Trek: Q and the holodeck. The courtroom philosophical dialouge concerning humaninty was engaging and thoughtful. For me it's right up there with caretaker and emissary as great, big trek pilots. 3 1/2 stars
Corey - Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - 10:53am (USA Central)
@Landon - I'm not sure you want to mention "holodecks" about being the best thing about Trek! There were a lot of lousy holodeck episodes - I agree with you about Q, however.

As for this pilot - I liked it. I didn't mind the pace. Captain Picard sure was a bit quick to surrender though. What if a US Navy Carrier captain surrendered at the first sign of trouble, do we think US Navy admirals would be as forgiving as apparently the Starfleet admirals were about Picard (since Picard kept his job). I wasn't very impressed with the acting in the pilot though, so I agree with the two star rating. And the saucer re-integration sequence was also rather laboriously long - they could have used this time to make a more involved story!

For the first (and apparently last) time here we saw Troi turn off her empathy abilities - that sure would have come in handy in later episodes! Too bad she "forgot" she could do that...also Tam, her student (a character in "Tin Man") sure could have used that skill! Too bad for him, Troi didn't tell him he could just shut off his ability...
William B - Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - 7:13am (USA Central)
A mixed bag. Probably the worst Trek pilot, but it's not a total disaster. I agree with Jammer's 2 star rating.

Apparently the original pilot was going to be just one hour, and feature only the space jellyfish plot. The Q material was added later on to stretch it to 2 hours. Well, thank heavens, because the space jellyfish is dirt-dull, though it gives a chance for many of the cast to stretch themselves. The Q material works better, though there it is still a mess, but a much more entertaining one. De Lancie is game and the crackle between him and Stewart is already on, and I like the way Picard matches wits with Q and continues to surprise him -- offering "guilty -- provisionally," acknowledging humans' previous weaknesses, refusing to change his behaviour ("if we're going to be damned, let's be damned for who we really are"). Given how "All Good Things" plays out, my feeling is that Picard in particular and the Enterprise crew in general are meant to represent the best of humanity, and the show poses the question: is it possible to envision a future in which humans are recognizably human and yet have grown past most of the worst traits of our current society? And even then, is this best case of human society worthwhile? The show's answer, of course, is yes -- it's an optimistic show, and it's hard to be humanistic to say that humans can improve in most ways and *still* be non-worthwhile, but Q is a good character to poke holes in even this 24th-century-idealized humanity. So it's a good concept, and the acting is good from the two principals, but there is still a lot of cheese -- that net, the saucer separation (!!!), lots of Q's flashbacks to the worst of humanity's past which play out too goofy.

As an introduction to the characters, it works fairly well, if not great. Tasha comes off worst, alas (especially the "I grew up on a place where this happened and Starfleet is awesome!" scene); Troi's ow-the-pain scene is not a good sign of things to come. Picard is most interesting right away, though at times a bit inexplicable (WHY would he ask Riker to do the manual docking?). Data is very fun to see early on.
Reverend Spork - Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - 10:11pm (USA Central)
This episode was painful to watch, largely due to some of the characters. Troi in particular made me want to kick small children, and Yar and Riker weren't much better. The story, however, was not bad, and Q and Picard made great sparring partners from the very beginning. Two stars is accurate.
Caine - Fri, Nov 8, 2013 - 5:48pm (USA Central)
How DARE you mere mortals make negative remarks about the legendary first episode of the 2nd greatest tv-series ever?

This episode is perfection, do you hear me? PERFECTION!
Kmfrob - Thu, Nov 21, 2013 - 5:07am (USA Central)
I'm coming direct from the DS9 pilot, and honestly I don't see how you can criticise the acting in this after that! While by no means exemplary, it is much more passable than the wodden drivel served up by Sisko and crew!

In regards to the special effects... Again I don't see what all the fuss is about. It served its purpose and for the time is again passable.
Patrick D - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 5:27pm (USA Central)
As an episode, "Encounter at Farpoint" needed some work (tone it down, Marina!), but as a pilot it works like gangbusters. There is such energy and passion and CONFIDENCE that courses through this entire episode it's hard for me not to smile anytime I've seen it. The Enterprise-D is off on an ADVENTURE and forging a new frontier. But, not just that! They must prove that humanity is worthy of traveling to the far reaches by an omnipotent being putting said human race on trial for its past transgressions. That's an epic premise for the first episode! And that moxy propelled a television phenomenon that lasted 18 years and 624 episodes.

Compare that to "Broken Bow" which is technically better put together as an episode, but is such a lackluster pilot. "Well, we've got to return this Klingon back to his people. Oh, yeah, this is humanity's first venture into deep space and stuff. Check it out: people are rubbing each other down in their underwear! Tune in next week?"

"Encounter at Farpoint" accomplished it's mission perfectly. It was a rocky start that led to better days when the show reached "The Measure of a Man" (TNG's second pilot, as I like to call it) and "Q Who" and then when the genius known as Michael Piller took the reins.

"To the bitter end?"--Riker
"I see nothing so bitter about it"--Picard ("EaF")
Paul - Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - 9:08am (USA Central)
@Patrick D: You make some good points. Even the opening shot where we zoom into Picard through a window of the Enterprise was a nice touch. The sequence where Riker manually reattaches the saucer section is nice too.
Jellifer - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 12:18am (USA Central)
"Captain Picard sure was a bit quick to surrender" Really, you think any US naval aircraft carrier captain would be daft enough to say "Do what you can" to an omnipotent being? And actually live to tell the tale?
Jellifer - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 12:22am (USA Central)
@Patrick D About the only person on this thread that got the 'spirit' of EoF. Sure, it looks dated, but the pilot is 2 decades old. And as for the OP & just about everyone who disses on the saucer section separation/reattachment sequence- that was a MAJOR sfx sequence for back in the 80s and hell they're tell you that massive ship CAN BE TAKEN APART & PUT BACK! But the iPhone generation & all
Jellifer - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 12:22am (USA Central)
@Patrick D About the only person on this thread that got the 'spirit' of EoF. Sure, it looks dated, but the pilot is 2 decades old. And as for the OP & just about everyone who disses on the saucer section separation/reattachment sequence- that was a MAJOR sfx sequence for back in the 80s and hell they're tell you that massive ship CAN BE TAKEN APART & PUT BACK! But the iPhone generation & all
SlackerInc - Tue, Mar 4, 2014 - 3:38am (USA Central)
Ha, that's funny about the briefing video using all the same camera angles--hadn't thought of that (nor how the scenes at "trial" would be able to be shown).

Picard's asking Riker to do the docking makes sense to me: here's my new first officer, let's give him a tough assignment right off the bat and see what he's got.

I actually always liked Tasha Yar (but then, I was always a sucker for blondes with that haircut--like the girl from Wilson Phillips for instance). Wasn't crazy about Riker, and absolutely could not stand Deanna Troi. She could be more tolerable if she were a minour character (like Whoopi Goldberg's); but to have her right there in the row of chairs next to Picard and Riker on the bridge all the time...ugh.
Bravestarr - Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - 1:25pm (USA Central)
Not going to lie, this episode BORED me. I actually skipped the whole episode when they started the slow as molasses seperation sequence. I liked Q of course, but the episode just went downhill fast after he let the crew go. Is this an episode about Q or about Space Jellyfish? Entirely too unfocused, thank god things picked up later on or else I would've thought this show would be cancelled.
Paul M. - Sat, Jun 21, 2014 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
For some strange reason (nostalgia maybe) I have a soft spot for this episode. Yeah, it's bad, yeah, acting is problematic, but it has... flair, I guess.

I'll give one thing to Season 1: however bad it may be, and it's pretty bad, I'm rarely bored by it. It's so campy and silly and outlandish that I actually enjoy watching it. You know how some people gobble up bad ninja movies? It's something like that for me here. I will ALWAYS prefer a bad Season 1 episode over a bad Season 7 episode.
Andy's Friend - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
^ I'm with you all the way there, Paul. I remember actually counting the days back in 1987, waiting for this episode to air and The Next Generation to get under way. Fond memories.

People tend to forget that a quarter of a century has passed. This isn't a bad episode. True, it isn't great, either. But with the massive nostalgia attached to it, I judge it to be out of contest. I'll always like it, and remember me, sitting there, watching it all for the first time.

The same applies, essentially, to the rest of the season. Back then, we had no idea of just how good it could get. I always watch Season One with that innocence fresh in mind. And I'll always have a soft spot for it all.
Paul M. - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend: "The same applies, essentially, to the rest of the season. Back then, we had no idea of just how good it could get. I always watch Season One with that innocence fresh in mind. And I'll always have a soft spot for it all."

Yeah. TNG Season 1 was, I think, the first series I've ever watched, as a 7-8 year-old kid. The country I live in stopped broadcasting the show after the first season, so for a number of years that was the only thing I'd watched and loved. Years later, when I was maybe 12-13, we got cable TV and I finally watched the rest of the show on SAT1 with German synchronisation. I'll always have fond memories of this great show.

And I learned German that way! Yay! I spent countless days with TV remote in one hand and German dictionary in the other, playing and stopping, playing and stopping.
desultoryd - Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - 9:03am (USA Central)
the folks at missionlogpodcast (who have been doing a podcast of all the star trek shows and movies) are finally getting to ST:TNG.

Can't wait to combine the excellent reviews here with the audio commentary they provide.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 4, 2014 - 8:18pm (USA Central)
Q and Picard saved this episode... because the dialogue and script were very awkward (and am I to believe Data doesn't know the word "snoop"? Come on). It took a while before tng got the hang of things. The sound is appalling, for starters. When Troi speaks on the wide shot, the voice is coming from that far away.

The wide shot of the bridge looks totally dated now too... there are 2 poxy looking chairs and a massive space around them. The set looks really dated.

I don't usually fault these things, but they are so bad here, it had to be mentioned. The real failing is of course the silly jelly fish storyline.



Season 1 was a mixed bag.
DLPB - Mon, Aug 4, 2014 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
Still watching.. here's another:

Crusher: You've been blind all your life?

Geordi: Hm, hmm, I was born this way.

It's clunky. And no one would say that, especially not the way Geordi says it. Unless he had some serious condition as a baby, why would he feel the need to say he was born that way? It goes without saying.

Better response may have been "Yeah, born that way." It sounds like something someone would say at least. It's these small clunky things that add up in Season 1.
langtonian - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
Very much a game of two halves, this. Q was a wonderful character, right from the off. The actual Farpoint storyline, though... There's just nothing there. No matter how many times I watch the episode, it just doesn't stick in my brain.

As I recall, when this was first on, I got bored and switched off the TV less than half way through. I'd been really excited about it, as well.

1 star for the Farpoint storyline, maybe 3 for Q. So 2 stars would probably be about right.
Grumpy - Sun, Oct 5, 2014 - 4:07pm (USA Central)
If the Q material hadn't been grafted onto the Farpoint story to make and extended pilot, what would the story have been about? Picard's opening log says they must "examine" the station, and Data calls it a "mystery." Yet Data turns out to be correct: the mission turns out to be uninteresting and too easy, thus proving both Picard and Q wrong, despite both of their (unrelated) efforts to pump up the intrigue.

Without Q making the mission a test, it might've gone like this:
Picard: Any reason why Starfleet should not use Farpoint as a base?
Crusher: Well, the shopping mall had exactly what I wanted.
Riker: And some apples materialized after I asked for some.
Picard: So they have replicators. Sounds ideal. I'll report our findings to Starfleet. Mission accomplished. I'm sure our other adventures will be much more interesting.

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