Saturday, November 05, 2005

make it so

At the risk of sounding even more nerdy than my usual, let us speak, for a moment, about "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Look, I don't care what you say. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was an awesome show. Far better (to my mind) to the cheese of the original, and obviously superior to its second-rate spinoffs--"Deep Space Nine," (kinda bad) "Voyager," (kinda worse) and "Enterprise," (never watched it, but badness is presumed). "The Next Generation" had good characters and good stories and sometimes things would explode. Groovy.

Clearly the reason the show worked as well as it did was because the character of Jean-Luc Picard was the motherfucking MAN. Though I was always confused as to why Picard, who was French, and raised on some vineyard or some such other quintessentially French thing, had a tony Shakespearean British accent, let's just pay that no mind for now. The reason that we will ignore it is because Patrick Stewart is cool. The best episodes were the Picard-centered episodes, the ones where he got to use his mad acting skillz and wow us all with his classically-trained charm. Like that one episode where his mind got taken over by that alien satellite from the long-dead civilization and he lived a whole life in 40 minutes IN HIS MIND and at the end of the episode he played the pan flute? AWESOME. Or how about that episode that was totally shades of "1984" where he was held hostage by the Cardassian warlord and he was all beaten down and tortured and in the end he's all, "There are...FOUR...LIGHTS!" Awesome. Or how about the series finale where he's all old and stuff and he's trying to convince people he's not senile and he's all puttering around with his old-guy shuffle muttering, "I'm traveling back and forth through time!" AWESOME. I've actually had the pleasure of seeing Patrick Stewart on Broadway (twice for his one-man show of "A Christmas Carol" and another for some Shakespearean thing--I can't remember what it was exactly) and I have to tell you, the man is The Man. (Though I heard that he gets quite annoyed when people call him "Picard.")

Riker was a different story. Well, to be clear, there were really two phases of Riker. Much like Elvis, there was the young, skinny, no-beard Riker (kind of a dick), and then there was older, fatter, beard-y Riker (who was less toolish and eventually grew on me). I think early Riker was written to be like this young hot recruit whiz-kid, but he just came off like a cocky little braggart yelling at people and throwing his weight around, not unlike some of the surgery residents that I've met. (I didn't just say that.) Older Riker was better because he was more mellow, but I was always grossed out whenever he was called upon to lounge about in open bathrobes in romantic storylines, because---ugh. I did like that not-so-subtly-disguised gay rights episode, though, where he falls in love with that hermaphrodite from the planet with no genders who nonetheless identifies herself as female. (The plot plays better than it sounds.)

Data was clearly the comic foil/surrogate Spock of the series (Mister Spock, not Doctor Spock), and I think he could have been a much lamer character than he actually was, because any show that has a ROBOT as one of the characters is flirting with cheese. ("Small Wonder," I'm looking at you.) Data was cool because he was all stiff and clueless and "what is this human thing you call love?" and not just a little bit like C3PO from Star Wars, except a little less shiny. And occasionally the writers would through Brent Spiner a freaking bone and let him have an episode where he got to do some DRAMATIC ACTING wherein he would play different characters (like Data's evil twin Lor--again, evil twin, flirting with cheese) or Data would get some sort of "emotion chip" or whatever excuse they could use to allow him to yell and weep and laugh and generally chew the scenery.

I never understood why Dr. Crusher had to go to medical school in the first place, because it seems like all she had to do was wave that little cell-phone beep-beep-beep tricorder thing over people to diagnose whatever problems they had (be it a syndrome in which their DNA is de-evolving, or a case of the creeping crud), and any treatment could be administered as some sort of painless injection/spray to the neck. Dude, anyone could do that job. Also, she taught me that the doctors of the future no longer wear white coats, they wear blue coats.

As if Dr, Crusher wasn't crippled enough by her limited knowledge of how to treat medical conditions without her space gadgets, she was also saddled with an unfortunate and nerdy son, Wesley. The phenomenon of Wesley Crusher has been seen in other shows (for example, "Inspector Gadget," and "Thundercats,") in which precocious children occasionally and implausibly save the day. Wesley got better as he got older and eventually got shipped of to Starfleet Academy (read: was not in every episode), but his "gee whiz!" air of wonder always annoyed me. Sorry, Wil Wheaton. You were cute in "Stand By Me" and everything, but god.

I think the show came out when I was in the sixth grade or so, and at that time, the only actor I could identify right off was LeVar Burton, by virtue of having watched every episode of "Reading Rainbow" ever filmed. I spent the first few episodes trying to figure out why LeVar was wearing what appeared to be a giant girl's hair barrette over his eyes, and finally realized, oh, he's supposed to be BLIND. What I don't understand is how they were able to develop the technology to let a blind man see, like, geothermal flux on a planet's surface, yet not able to see if a girl is hot or not. Hey, remember when Geordi fell in love with that lady scientist on the holodeck? And he was like, "I like your style, computer generated image!" Still, my favorite episode with Geordi was the one where he and his away team go to investigate some crash site on an alien planet, and all of them start mutating into these phosphorescent blue-veined monsters with melted together fingers--gah! Blue-veined monsters! I had nightmares about that one.

You might think that Michael Dorn got off the easiest of all the cast members because, with all that makeup and gunk that he had to wear for the show, he was the least likely to get typecast when he was wearing his regular face. In fact, the very opposite happened. When "The Next Generation" ended, he just joined the cast of "Deep Space Nine" and ended up marrying that chick with he worm implanted in her belly. (Yes, yes, I know, it was a "symbiant". Whatever. WORM.) Actually, no, I did see him in one other role--I think he was the "celebrity judge" on some second-rate bauty pagent. Miss Teen New Jersey or something like that. I kind of hated the Worf-based episodes, because they invariably dealt with some boring-ass Klingon political crap or warfare, and I found it all very boring. (Even though the Klingon ladies wore those breast plates with the hole cut out to showcase their ample bosoms.)

Finally, my most hated character on the show was Counseller Troi. I hated her because she was useless. Her only job, so far as I could tell, was to be on the bridge to "sense" things when they encountered other species, due to her magical telepathic powers. The problem is, the only things that she could sense were TOTALLY OBVIOUS, like, "they're feeling a lot of anger and hostility" when the party in question is totally attacking them, or "there is great sadness" when someone is fricking CRYING already. Um, excuse me, but duh. And anytime they actually needed her to read the mind in a non-obvious situation, she would just be like, "It's very cloudy. I can't make anything out." Well shit, I'm not telepathic, but I could tell you that. So so far as I could tell, her sole job on the ship was just to look generally fleshy and available in a variety of low cut (and often unfortunate) spandex outfits, and to be imperiled when outside influences take over her mind and cause her to lapse into a coma, which Dr. Crusher would invariably diagnose with her beep-beep-beep cell phone-looking thing and treat with some variant of the neck spray.

Ah, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I miss you, you crazy show.

* * *

Joe's parents are in town for the weekend to visit (meaning they will shove us aside to get to the BABY where's the BABY we want to see the BABY BABY BABY) so this weekend will be kind of busy. I'm trying to keep Cal on more of a schedule during the weekends though, because when he gets off his schedule (which entails a regimented series of naps in the morning and afternoon), he gets EXTREMELY grumpy come Monday. By Tuesday, he's usually back on track, but woe be it to the Monday caretaker to deal with his inconsolable weeping. "He has a hard time on Mondays," Georgia noted last week. Hey kid, join the club.

Currently reading: About upper extremity nerve blocks. I have to do a bunch of shoulder cases on Monday.

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