--it's uphill from here (through Season 5)--

In his endnotes for "The Neutral Zone," Larry Nemecek mentions Susan Sackett, a walk-on in that episode, who had been Gene Roddenberry's "personal assistant" for eight years, and who earned this non-speaking part by winning a bet to lose weight. Sackett later co-wrote "Menage a Troi" (a good episode) and "The Game" (one of Star Trek's most idiotic episodes).

While one could dismiss this little story as trivia, it yet illustrates something important about the insular world of Star Trek, that is, Roddenberry's use of syncophants and underlings as writers--the sort of writers who would tend to accept an "assignment" such as writing "The Game," a-kiss-Nancy-Reagan's-ass-just-say-no-to-drugs episode. Instead of employing tough-minded, independent, real science fiction writers, Roddenberry and his successors Piller and Berman often ultilize secretaries, cronies, and underling producers, who can be controlled.

The fact that Sackett could earn a walk-on part by winning a bet to lose weight (Nemecek doesn't say who the bet was with), illustrates something else about this airtight little Star Trek world: that is, its yuppie preoccupations, which begin to emerge in the coming episodes in all sorts of little and big ways: Counselor Troi's addiction to chocolate; the very yuppified relationship of Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher (whose conversations in Ten Forward resemble two yuppie females gossiping about "men" and their careers in a Malibu expresso bar); the social atmosphere among Enterprise officers (a "singles" bar); Counselor Troi's silly, superficial "pop psychology"; the effort of the show to be non-racist, non-sexist, non-agist, and non-everything else, while committing howlingly funny prejudicial bloopers, time and again; the very superficial understanding of contemporary, outer-edge physics, obviously taken from popular science books (such as Stephen Hawking's "A Short History of Time") that are all the rage among yuppies in the '70s and '80s; and the presentation of such science as gobble-de-gook about "fluctuations in the subspace frequencies of the warp coil containment fields, etc., etc." (because it obviously is gobble-de-good to the superficial thinkers in Hollywood).

I could go on. The point is that the people who bring you Star Trek are a tight little crowd who live apart from the rest of humanity, and are often selfishly preoccupied with their own well-being--how they look (Sackett's bet on losing weight), how they feel, what they eat, and how much money they make. It is a highly materialistic and self-centered culture--one that I am familiar with, because I lived in Hollywood for twenty years. The idea that these sort of people are defining humanism (the chief inspiration of science fiction) for the general population, via TV, is both ludicrous and interesting. One applauds their effort to think about something more edifying than their own bodily hygiene, while yet sometimes being appalled at their failures of thought and imagination.

My apologies for trashing the people who have brought you this sometimes excellent and certainly entertaining show. I am as much concerned with my own bodily well-being as the next person; I, too, like to read Stephen Hawking; my knowledge of science is, at best, superficial; and if I were in the position of Star Trek producers--with, literally, thousands of would-be writers and actors applying to me for work--I, too, might turn the poor grubbers all away in favor of my loyal secretary. But it is important to understand the socio-economic context of the ideas that you are being fed--even if you find that you are looking into a mirror.

The Entertainment Rating average for Season One is "C" (traditional letter grade, academic system). What is more interesting (and instructive) in looking at the spectrum of grades for all 25 episodes of Season One is the wide range. The highest entertainment grade is an "A-" (for "The Big Goodbye"). Four episodes receive a "D-." None receive an "F." In between are a great range from "B+" ("Home Soil") through many B's, B-'s, C+'s, C-'s and D+'s. The "C" average for the whole season does not reflect how very entertaining some of the episodes are (shows you what garbage grading on the curve can be). Although the quality of Star Trek TNG writing will continue to be very roller-coastery (some great writing, some wretched writing), this unevenness in the entertainment value will not continue. Star Trek TNG becomes a much smoother production, and much more reliably entertaining, over the next four seasons. All production values--quality of the acting, quality of the sets and costumes, quality of special effects and photography, etc.--all improve and become more consistently good.

There are many delights in Season Two, which contains some of TNG's best episodes, including the trial on Data's human rights ("The Measure of a Man"), a macabre tale worthy of Edgar Allan Poe ("The Royale"), another great Data episode ("Pen Pals"), the introduction of the Borg ("Q Who"), the introduction of Guinan (who has superb bits in "The Measure of a Man," "The Outrageous Okona," and "Q Who"), a triumphant morality tale on the handicapped ("Loud As a Whisper"), Worf's best episode ("The Emissarry"), and one of TNG's most perfect scripts ("Peak Performance"). The trend is mostly uphill, as to the quality of the show, through Season Five.

TERGIVERSATION METER READING, SEASON ONE TOTAL: -50. The total positive (or non-tergiversating) points in Season One was +14. The total points for tergiversating (see definition below) was -64. This dismal picture of general ambiguity and apostasy on progressive issues changes significantly in Season Two which has only six episodes (of 25) that fall into the negative category.

Tergiversate (tur-ji-ver-sat): 1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate. 2. To change sides; to defect; apostatize. The Tergiversation Meter scale runs from -5 (very defective) through +5 (unambiguous, true blue philosophical humanism with no negative subliminal messages).

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