It’s almost hard to believe, looking back on the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, just how bad much of it was. To be fair, the show itself was a bold experiment – an expensive take on the ”Star Trek” mythos, without any of the classic cast, that saw the fans through the 18 years between TV series – and it was bound to have a few missteps. And even if they were intentional bones thrown to the diehards, cheesy holdovers from the ’60s ”Trek” clogged way too much of the first season. There was the episode with the disease that made everyone horny, the one with the planet of scantily clad women, the hour with the clumsy military parable, and the half-dozen shows where Starfleeters beamed down to a world with a monochrome sky and Styrofoam landscape. All that was missing was the half-black/half-white-painted Frank Gorshin.
But, for all of its silliness, the first season succeeded where it needed to: It introduced viewers to the characters who would carry the torch through six more seasons, the new crew of the Starship ”Enterprise.” Led by Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, the cast was executive producer-creator Gene Roddenberry’s masterstroke, even if he wasn’t always sure how to best utilize them (drinking-game alert: Do a shot every time Marina Sirtis’ empathic Counselor Troi ”senses something”). But for every awkward moment, there’s a bit that portends the greatness the show would achieve, beginning with its third season.
The creation of ”The Next Generation” is documented in a series of retrospective documentaries on the set’s seventh disc; cobbled together from mostly archival footage, it’s an interesting if somewhat biased look at the rejuvenation of a franchise. After all, the interviewees are people who still make enormous amounts of money off their past or present ”Trek” association. The episodes themselves look just fine – they’ve also been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround – and aside from the docs, there aren’t any other supplements. But the real draw here is watching the first tentative steps in going where no one had gone before.