721 "Encounter at Farpoint"

(airdate: September 28, 1987)

Writer: D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
Director: Corey Allen

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Patrick Stewart
Lt. Geordi La Forge: LeVar Burton
Lt. Worf: Michael Dorn
Counselor Deanna Troi: Marina Sirtis
Wesley Crusher: Wil Wheaton
Zorn: Michael Bell
Battle Bridge Conn [Miles O'Brien]: Colm Meaney

Commander William Riker: Jonathan Frakes
Lt. Tasha Yar: Denise Crosby
Doctor Beverly Crusher: Gates McFadden
Lt. Commander Data: Brent Spiner
Q: John de Lancie
Admiral Leonard McCoy: DeForest Kelley
Mandarin bailiff: Cary-Hiroyuki [Tagawa]
Lt. Torres: Jimmy Ortega

Stardate: 41153.7

Captain's Log: The Enterprise-D, under its new captain, Jean-Luc Picard, is on its way to Deneb IV to check out a new starbase, Farpoint, created by the inhabitants of the planet, the Bandi, when it's stopped by a powerful being who calls himself Q. Q puts humanity (in the form of Picard and his crew) on trial, charging that they're still a savage race and should not be allowed further into the galaxy. Picard argues that humanity has evolved since its earlier days, and that Q should test them to see if they're still savage - a test that Q agrees to. The Enterprise then continues to Farpoint, where they discover a luxurious starbase - but one that seems almost too good to be true, with desired goods appearing seemingly out of thin air. While the Enterprise crew is investigating Farpoint, an unknown ship approaches and begins firing upon the old city near Farpoint Station. Through the help of Counselor Troi's empathic abilities, Picard determines that both the alien ship and Farpoint Station are in fact two alien beings; one of the beings was injured and came to Deneb IV, where the Bandi gave it just enough energy to survive, so long as it created things that the Bandi wanted - and now the creature's mate has come looking for it. The Enterprise provides the injured creature with enough energy to become strong, at which point it ascends into space alongside its partner. Q begrudgingly admits that humanity has passed the test and may continue to explore the galaxy.

Whoops!: Why does Picard choose to go down to Crusher's office while the alien ship is still present and intermittently firing on the planet? [Director Corey Allen was shooting scenes more economically than anticipated, so they needed filler scenes to pad out the running time.]
     Why does Data have difficulty with the word "snoop"? The implication is that he doesn't know the word, but why would he be programmed with all sorts of synonyms (including things like "pussyfoot") but not "snoop"? What kind of dictionary was he provided with? (And if we're going to split hairs, he also uses contractions a couple times here, which contradicts statements made later in the series.)
     The energy beam the Enterprise provides the creature emerges from the center of the saucer section instead of from the main phaser banks, as the dialogue indicates it should come from. [This is corrected in the remastered high definition version.]
     Being super pedantic now, but this isn't the "next" generation - depending on how you count them, it's at least two generations along.

Classic Lines: "If we're going to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are."
     Picard to Q: "If you'd earned that uniform you're wearing, you'd know that the unknown is what brings us out here."
     McCoy on the new Enterprise: "Well, this is a new ship, but she's got the right name. Now you remember that, you hear. You treat her like a lady, and she'll always bring you home."

Cringe Lines: Picard, giving fodder to all the critics: "I'm sure most [missions] will be much more interesting."

Casualty Report: Lt. Torres (at the conn) and Lt. Yar (in the courtroom) are both frozen by Q, although both recover. There are also likely many casualties in the old Bandi city when the one space jellyfish starts firing on it, although we don't ultimately hear one way or the other if this was actually the case. Oh, and that one soldier in the courtroom is killed, although it's not really clear just how real that is.

Alien Love: The two space jellyfish certainly seem affectionate toward each other. We're also told of a past history between Riker and Troi. [As we noted under Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this relationship seems to be lifted more or less wholesale from the prior relationship between Decker and Ilia in what was going to be Star Trek: Phase II but became the first movie instead.]

Library Computer: [This is gonna take a while.]
     The U.S.S. Enterprise is a Galaxy-class vessel, with the registry number NCC-1701-D. It's a new vessel and the fifth starship to bear the name U.S.S. Enterprise [according to the dedication plaque, which admittedly isn't remotely legible on screen - it will be more legible in the episode "The Ensigns of Command", however. According to that plaque, it was built at the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards on Mars by Federation Space Systems Division, and it was commissioned on stardate 41025.5. The chief of staff was Admiral Gene Roddenberry, and the design engineer was A.G. Probert. The motto of the ship is "to boldly go where no one has gone before"]. It's designed to house both crewmembers and their families, instead of just Starfleet personnel. The general configuration of the Enterprise is the same as its predecessors: a saucer section attached at its rear to a neck that leads down to a secondary hull, with two warp nacelles rising up at the back of the ship. The details are pretty different, though: the saucer is a large oval shape, wider along its width than its length, with lots of thin rectangular windows along its surface, and with a semi-oval ring around the interior on both the top and bottom for phaser banks; the neck is fairly short, while the secondary hull is much flatter, with an oval deflector dish (orange ringed with a light blue, and with a blue ring in the center), two shuttlebays at the back of the top of the neck, a photon torpedo launcher at the base of the neck in the front (just above the deflector dish), and an impulse engine at the base of the neck in the rear. The nacelles (blue light along their length and red tips at the front) look somewhat stubby in comparison to the rest of the ship - they're not quite as long as the saucer section is, and they attach at the very back of the hull [instead of halfway along, the way the original and movie versions of the NCC-1701 do]. The nacelles also only rise up about halfway up the ship, being ultimately placed below the saucer section. [Compare again with the original U.S.S. Enterprise, where the nacelles rise slightly above the saucer. The general impression that the Enterprise-D gives off is one of power.] The maximum safe speed of the Enterprise is between warps 9.2 and 9.3 - going at warp 9.3 pushed the ship past the red line. Data notes that the Enterprise can travel at warp 9.8, but only at extreme risk to the ship.
     One [seemingly] new feature of this Enterprise is the ability to separate the saucer section from the secondary hull (the "stardrive", as everyone here calls it), thus allowing the ship to carry part of its crew away from a battle situation, while the stardrive section can stay and fight. [This may have been hinted as being possible with the original Enterprise in "The Apple" - although it doesn't really sound there like it's the same sort of thing - while the original series' Writer's Bible eventually stated that that was a possibility. We never saw any evidence for it on screen though, and certainly nothing like this.] The two halves separate at the top of the neck, with a small wedge-like shape jutting out from the neck on the secondary hull and a corresponding indentation on the rear underside of the saucer. It's theoretically possible to perform this maneuver at warp speed (and the Enterprise in fact does so here), but it's inadvisable as there is absolutely no margin for error. The two halves can be rejoined via a manual docking - this maneuver is considered unusual but not impossible, and Riker successfully completes it at Picard's request. [Presumably Picard is testing Riker here, although he doesn't come out and say that.]
     The interior of the Enterprise feels more elegant and spacious than we've seen on Federation starships before. The bridge is a large, fairly open space, consisting of two levels: an upper level at the rear of the bridge, and a lower level at the front. The two levels are connected by two sloping ramps, one on either side of the room. Tucked in the rear of the lower level, where it meets the upper level, are three chairs: the center chair is the captain's chair, while the chair to its right is occupied here by the first officer, and the chair to the left is occupied by the ship's counselor. [It's not completely clear why the counselor gets their own chair on the bridge, but given that Picard at this stage seems to be something of a stickler for rules and regulations and he's allowing Troi to sit there, it must be a fairly typical arrangement.] The captain's chair has two panels in the arms that flip up; the panel on the right arm lets the captain record log entries, access the library computer, control the viewscreen and intercoms, and other similar functions, while the panel on the left arm includes backup ops and conn panels as well as shield and armory controls. The two side chairs have small consoles that can be swiveled as needed for the seat occupants to use. The front of the bridge is dominated by a large viewscreen (which uses high-resolution multispectral imaging sensor systems), with two consoles arranged in front of it; these are the conn (so both navigation and the helm) and operations, and it looks like these two stations can switch roles as needed. The physical consoles themselves can swivel outward, allowing the operator to sit down and stand up from them as needed. The rear of the bridge is lined with consoles for people to work at, and the sections below these consoles contain recessed seats that can be pulled out as needed. At the front of the upper level is a wooden arch that runs along the length of the ramps, with a console built into it at the apex of the arch: this is where the tactical officer is stationed. All the consoles operate via black touchscreens with colorful yellow, light blue, green, and orange controls. The floor is all carpeted, with the center a salmon shade and the outside edges a light grey. There's also a large dome over the bridge, lit in such a way as to resemble sunshine streaming through white-colored glass panes, but with the very center clear, allowing the viewer to see directly into space. There are a number of doors leading off the bridge: in the rear left corner (while facing the viewscreen) is the main turbolift, while the rear right corner contains two doors in an alcove - one for the observation lounge, at the rear of the alcove, and one for the head, at the front of the alcove [not that we can see that label at all - and occasionally this door will be legibly relabeled as "Conference" in subsequent episodes]. The front right corner is the location of the emergency turbolift that leads directly to the battle bridge, while the front left corner contains another alcove with two doors: the forward-most one is a turbolift, while the rear-most one leads to the captain's ready room. All the seats we see seem to be covered with [presumably synthetic] beige leather, and the ones for the two forward stations are reclined pretty far back. There are also cameras on the bridge that are capable of recording and replaying events, such as the recording of Q's first appearance on the Enterprise that Riker subsequently reviews.
     The captain's ready room is a small, brightly lit room, with a wood-and-glass desk and a chair for the captain, and a chair across from the desk for someone else to sit in. There's also a large window looking out into space. Captain Picard has included some personal effects, including a round fishtank set into the wall and a yellow model of a starship with four warp nacelles: two above the saucer and two below it, without any secondary hull to speak of. [Despite the common assumption, this isn't technically Picard's old ship, the Stargazer; instead it's a ship with the registry NCC-7100 (not that that's ever visible on screen). It is the same class of ship, however, as we'll soon learn in "The Battle", so it's a completely reasonable misunderstanding.]
     The observation lounge is a large, fairly dark room with a long, curved conference table and comfy purple seats surrounding the table. One wall has a number of windows looking out into space, while the opposite wall has some (slightly stylized) brass-colored models of previous Enterprises.
     We also get some looks at the sickbay and at engineering. Sickbay looks about how you'd expect, with biobeds and such; there's also an office for the chief medical officer, with windows that look out into space. These windows have vertical blinds in front of them. Engineering looks somewhat dark and a bit cramped, at least in this episode; the main feature is the massive warp core running vertically through the center of the room, pulsing with a white-blue light. As with the movie Enterprise, engineering has multiple floors, with personal elevators used to get from one floor to the next.
     The transporter room again looks largely how we've come to expect it, with a large circular dais with six individual pads surrounding a larger blue pad, and a smaller step down from the dais before reaching the floor. There's a transporter console across from the pads, and the walls are covered with a dark green pattern instead of the light beige that most of the other walls aboard are.
     We also get a good look at the corridors, which look roughly the same as ones we've seen on the refitted movie Enterprise, although they seem a bit more spacious and brightly lit. The new Galaxy-class ships have computer interfaces in the corridors where you can request the location of someone aboard; the computer will provide the information and then send a moving yellow circle down the corridor displays to guide you to your destination.
     This Enterprise is equipped with a number of holodecks: rooms that can simulate via holographic technology almost any environment, with thousands of patterns on file. Much of a given environment is actually real; Data compares it to a transporter reconstructing a person from an energy beam. (And note how Wesley Crusher can become sopping wet after falling into the creek.) The woodland forest pattern is quite popular, although Wes notes it's one of the simpler patterns. Riker is impressed by how realistic the simulation is [thus implying that previous holodecks haven't been quite as convincing].
     The battle bridge is the secondary command center of the Enterprise, used when the ship separates into two parts. The battle bridge is located in the stardrive section. It's a much more cramped room, with the ops and conn stations still in front but very close to the captain's chair, which is on a raised platform. There's a console on the wall behind the captain, a turbolift on either side of this console, and stations that are located surrounding the room but facing the (smaller) viewscreen instead of against the wall. [It looks a lot like a redress of the movie Enterprise bridge set - one guess as to why.] The battle bridge is also more dimly lit than the main bridge.
     The Enterprise has a low-gravity gymnasium aboard.
     The uniforms are new to us as well. The primary version consists of a form-fitting jumpsuit, mostly black, but with the torso and sleeves in one of three departmental colors: a red burgundy for command, a mustard yellow for operations, and a brighter royal blue for sciences. [These all look like more muted versions of the original series colors. And note that the colors for command and operations have swapped - probably to stop all the "red shirt" jokes.] The bottom of the torso resembles the bottom of the Starfleet arrowhead, in that the black moves up to a point on the wearer's left side of the uniform on the front, while on the back the color dips down to a less pronounced point on the wearer's right side. The panel under the sleeve is also black. At the shoulders the colored portion ends, with a straight line that runs across the bottom of the shoulders and back (well, we say straight, but it actually curves slightly, ending at a point at the top of the arm); the portion above this line is black. There is some piping in the matching departmental color in this black shoulder area, which runs from the top of the shoulders down below the neckline and back up. There are no collars to speak of, but the neckline is trimmed along the top edge with the departmental color. These jumpsuits appear to have a concealed zipper that runs down the front of the uniform. The bottom of each pant leg has an inverted V cutout on the front, presumably so the boot can move more freely as the wearer walks. This V is lined with piping, again in the same departmental color as the other parts of the uniform. This uniform appears to be unisex in design, as both men and women can be seen wearing it.
     This is the uniform that most crewmembers are wearing, but we also see a dress-like version [called a "skant" behind-the-scenes]; this resembles the jumpsuit version in color and patterning, except that it ends as a short miniskirt about 2/3rds up the thigh and the color runs all the way to the bottom of the uniform. The wearer's right side has a slight panel at the bottom, presumably to aid movement. In addition, the sleeves are short and all black. This uniform also appears to be unisex; while Counselor Troi is the most prominent crewmember to be wearing it in this episode, we can see it on a handful of men and women throughout the episode. We also see two lengths of black boots; Troi is wearing a boot that runs almost to the knee, while there's a male lieutenant on the Enterprise who's wearing a boot that ends just above the ankle. [The latter is likely the same boot style that the people in the jumpsuit uniforms are wearing.]
     Rank insignia have moved to the neckline, on the wearer's right side. These consist of round gold or black-with-gold-outline [sometimes called "hollow"] pips, with the number and color of pips indicating rank. A single gold pip is an ensign; a gold and a black pip is a lieutenant (junior grade); two gold pips is a lieutenant; two gold pips and a black pip is a lieutenant commander; three gold pips is a commander; and four gold pips is a captain. In all relevant cases, the black pip is the furthest from the center of the shirt.
     The now-standard Starfleet arrowhead badge is still present on the left breast, but now it's also a communicator. It consists of a silver arrowhead on a gold oval, and it can be removed as needed. [Not that we see that occur in this episode, but it does happen.] The communicator is operated by tapping it and stating the name of the person you're trying to contact; a little chirp indicates the communicator is active.
     We also see new phasers and tricorders. There are two phaser versions here: a small palm-sized phaser and a slightly larger hand-held one. They're both light grey, with light green light indicators: the palm-sized one is rectangular in shape, with two gold buttons in the middle and a slight indentation near the "back" of the phaser on the top; the hand-held one is also rectangular, but it's wider, has a black oval "barrel" at the front, and a grip that continues along the length of the rectangle. They still have stun settings. The tricorder is also light grey, but instead of the bulkier over-the-shoulder version seen in the original series, these are designed to be hand-held. They're rectangular in shape and generally featureless on the outside, but they open up (somewhat like a flip-style mobile phone) to reveal a screen and a number of indicators and controls. [A label that's not legible on screen here (but will be in "Identity Crisis") indicates this is a TR 560 Tricorder VI, made at Starfleet R&D in San Francisco.] We also see a medical version, which looks the same save for an extra compartment at the top for a small handheld medical scanner, which is a cylindrical device, slightly tapered at one end and with a red light at the other end.
     Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the new captain of the Enterprise. He's a trim Caucasian male in his late 40s, with brown eyes and a fringe of short white hair around a completely bald scalp, and he's dressed in a command red uniform. Despite the French name, he speaks in an English accent. [Later episodes will establish that Picard is indeed from France, so perhaps he's worked hard to eliminate his French accent when speaking English.] He's a somewhat severe man, albeit with softer moments, and he seems comfortable as a leader. He believes humanity has evolved beyond its savage ancestry and is willing to put that belief to the test. Picard also knows his Shakespeare (specifically Henry VI, Part 2). He was once a first officer. Picard has no family of his own; he confesses that he's not a family man and isn't comfortable around children. [We'll subsequently learn that he does have a brother, Robert - see the season 4 episode "Family".] His standing orders include no children allowed on the bridge. Picard was initially somewhat in awe of the new Galaxy-class Enterprise. He likes to start the ship moving with the command, "Engage", and at one point he instructs Data to carry out an order by saying, "Make it so." [These will becomes Picard's "catchphrases", for lack of a better term.] He also refers to his first officer, Riker, as "Number One".
     Commander William T. Riker is the new first officer of the Enterprise. He's a tall, clean-shaven white male in his 30s, with neatly groomed brown hair and blue eyes, dressed in command red. He seems a bit more relaxed than Picard. His last posting was on the U.S.S. Hood, where he served as first officer under Captain DeSoto, who thought very highly of him. While serving on the Hood, Riker refused to allow DeSoto to beam down to Altair III, deeming it an unacceptable risk to the captain's life. He told Picard that he was willing to follow all the captain's orders unless it compromised the safety of the captain - he felt the captain's life was of tantamount importance. At one point in the past, he had a prior relationship with the Enterprise's counselor, Deanna Troi [implied to be romantic in nature], and can read her thoughts as she calls him "Imzadi". He knows and can whistle the tune "Pop Goes the Weasel", and he likes apples.
     Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi is the Enterprise's counselor. She's a slender woman with pink skin, frizzy dark hair, and black eyes, dressed in a (frankly unflattering) sciences blue skant, with a gold-and-silver braided headband in her hair. Troi is half-Betazoid; her father was a Starfleet officer [so Betazoids aren't typically members of Starfleet?]. This means that she can't read the thoughts of others (apparently a standard Betazoid trait), but she can sense their emotions. These emotions affect her own emotional state, with, for instance, feelings of pain causing her to also feel pain. It seems, though, that if she has a sufficient emotional connection to someone (such as Riker), she can in fact communicate telepathically. She cannot sense Q's emotions, however, although she can sense his presence.
     Lt. Commander Data is the Enterprise operations officer. Data is an android, with genuinely white skin [as opposed to using "white" to mean pink], yellow eyes, and brown hair, dressed in an operations yellow uniform. Data is superior to a human in many ways, with greater strength and intelligence, including the ability to recall every fact he's exposed to; however, Data ultimately yearns to be human and would give up his superior abilities in exchange for that. He also occasionally displays difficulties with more colloquial language, speculating that it's because he wasn't designed to emulate that particular aspect of human behavior. He has the ability to mimic (or at least play back) the voices of others, as he does when he repeats Q's and Picard's words back to them. However, he has difficulty whistling the end of "Pop Goes the Weasel". Data also admits that his eyesight, while superior to a regular human's, isn't as good as Geordi's VISOR. Data graduated from Starfleet as part of the class of '78, with honors in probability mechanics and exobiology. ["The Neutral Zone" will establish that the current year is in fact 2364; "class of '78" suggests that Data has been in operation for at least a century - a fact explicitly contradicted in "Datalore". So it's uncertain, piecing everything together, what "class of '78" refers to: perhaps a stardate rather than a year? A display in "Conundrum" will establish that Data graduated in 2345.]
     Lieutenant Tasha Yar is the Enterprise security chief and tactical officer. She's a young Caucasian woman with short brown hair dyed blonde and blue eyes, dressed in operations yellow. She's somewhat prone to angry outbursts. Yar grew up on a world where things such as kangaroo courts were common; she claims that Starfleet saved her from that life.
     Lieutenant (junior grade) Worf is a bridge officer aboard the Enterprise. He's a Klingon, with dark brown skin, dark brown eyes, and medium-length dark brown hair. He has a prominent forehead ridge and a goatee with the center part of the moustache missing. Worf is dressed in command red, accessorized with a dull gold sash that runs from his right shoulder across to his left hip. [This sash appears to be more or less identical to the one Kang wears in the original series episode "Day of the Dove", right down to the badge on the sash.] Worf believes that, as a Klingon, it's undesirable for him to seek escape while his captain goes into battle - although he's still willing to follow orders when they go against his instincts.
     Lieutenant (junior grade) Geordi La Forge is also a bridge officer aboard the Enterprise. He's a black human male with short brown hair, dressed in command red. Geordi has been blind since birth, with sightless white eyes; in order to see he uses a special VISOR that goes over his eyes and attaches to blinking red implants on his temples. He doesn't "see" the way typical humans do, but instead sees much of the electromagnetic spectrum, from infrared through radio waves and more. Using the VISOR causes Geordi pain, likely because he uses his natural sensors in different ways, but attempting to control the pain (either via painkillers or by desensitizing the affected parts of the brain) would affect how the VISOR works, so Geordi has learned to live with the pain. The VISOR itself is a silver band with gold "teeth" that alternate direction up or down with each tine.
     Dr. Crusher [first name Beverly, as we'll learn next week] is the Enterprise's chief medical officer. She's a middle-aged Caucasian woman with red hair and blue eyes, dressed in sciences blue, with a lighter blue lab coat over her uniform. When we first see her she's a lieutenant commander, but once she's officially part of the crew she's wearing commander pips [suggesting that she received a promotion when she became the CMO]. Crusher was a widow; her husband had served with Picard, and it was Picard who brought her husband's body home to her and her son Wesley. Despite this history, Crusher specifically requested to be posted to the Enterprise and informed Picard that her personal tragedy wouldn't affect her ability to perform her duties. She states that she's not interested in being part of the command structure of the Enterprise. According to her son, Dr. Crusher is shy around men she doesn't know. She's interested in bolts of cloth, suggesting she likes to sew (or whatever the 24th-century equivalent is). She also has the ability to buy the bolt from the merchant, telling him to charge it to her. [Thus indicating that there's at least some form of money, between cultures at least if not within the Federation.]
     Wesley Crusher is Dr. Crusher's son. He's a Caucasian male in his mid teens, with brown hair and eyes. He likes wearing various sweaters. He's excited to be aboard the Enterprise and knows a lot about the bridge controls and the technology used there - something that seems to surprise Picard. [This is the start of Wesley's most annoying characteristic - that of being a genius know-it-all - but here it's reasonably tolerable.] He remembers when Picard brought his father's body to them, an event that happened when he was little. He doesn't think he'll get bored on the Enterprise. Wesley's father liked Picard a lot.
     The relief conn crewman is a white Caucasian male with reddish brown hair, green eyes, and an Irish accent. He's wearing a command red uniform and a single gold pip. [This is the first appearance of Miles O'Brien, who'll go on to be a recurring character on this show and a main character on Deep Space Nine - in fact, he'll have the most appearances in the Star Trek franchise of any character save Worf. Subsequent episodes will establish that he's in fact a non-commissioned officer, not an ensign as he appears here - but we'll delve into the knotty history of O'Brien's rank when we get to the Next Generation episode "Realm of Fear".]
     Q is the representative of a race called the Q (as Q puts it, calling them the Q and him Q amounts to the same thing). He appears to the crew of the Enterprise as a white human male with short dark hair and brown eyes, wearing a number of different outfits: first as a well-off 16th-century ship captain; second a 20th-century United States Marines captain; third as an army soldier from 2079, complete with drug inhaler; fourth as a judge from the same year, dressed in black and red robes, complete with a black biretta; and finally as a 24th-century Starfleet captain. Q uses language to match each outfit: for instance, he uses "thee" and "thou" while dressed as a 16th-century captain and moves on to discussions of patriotism and Commies while dressed as a Marine. Q is a being of seemingly limitless power: he can appear and disappear at will with a flash of light, trap a starship in place with a grid-like forcefield that registers as solid on Enterprise sensors, freeze people with a look (literally freeze, so that they become covered in frost), and transport others to facsimiles of other times and places, complete with people to populate the place. Q told Picard and his crew that they had ventured too far into the galaxy, and that they were to return to their own solar system at once; humanity was deemed too savage a race to be allowed to travel the galaxy. When Picard protested that humanity had since evolved, Q put them on trial; Picard subsequently admitted that humanity had been savage in the past, but he argued that they had outgrown these impulses, and demanded that Q test them in order for them to prove their growth. Q then informed them that the upcoming Farpoint Station mission would be a suitable test. Picard speculated that the Q used other races for their own amusement.
     Deneb IV is a brown-red planet, "beyond which lies the great unexplored mass of the galaxy". It has an abundance of geothermal energy, thanks to the planet's interior, but little else of intrinsic value. Deneb IV is home to a species called the Bandi, pink-skinned humanoids who wear grey and brown robes, with coverings draped over their heads; they're not members of the Federation, although the two are in the midst of diplomatic discussions. The Bandi had, until recently, lived in an old city, consisting of a number of small adobe buildings clustered together, connected by both streets and underground tunnels; however, they'd subsequently constructed an advanced city, Farpoint Station, which they wanted to offer to the Federation as a starbase. Farpoint was a round, futuristic city, with eight struts radiating out from the center: a tall spire formed by the joining of said struts. The surface of Deneb IV (that we see) is rather dry and dusty, with occasional sprouts of greenery, and the sky is a red shade. The administrator of Farpoint Station was a man named Groppler Zorn, who had long white hair. His office was in the old city; it was a somewhat small, dark room, with a green stone desk and a window with Zorn's name in it as a stained-glass pattern. Zorn claimed that the Bandi didn't like to leave their homeworld, and Zorn supervised all Bandi contact with other worlds. Riker found Farpoint to be luxurious and perfectly suited to the Federation's needs, but he became suspicious when exactly the things one requested suddenly appeared as if out of thin air. Exploring the underside of Farpoint revealed a set of empty corridors, constructed out of material completely unfamiliar to La Forge.
     Farpoint Station was revealed in fact not to be a city built by the Bandi, but instead a single space-faring organism, which in its natural state resembled a massive glowing pink-and-blue jellyfish. This organism could convert energy into specific patterns of matter, similar to Federation transporters, which allowed it to make anything it wanted or was asked to make. The organism arrived at Deneb IV in an injured state, so the Bandi gave it some of their energy, but only enough to keep it alive; they then forced it to become a modern starbase for their needs. This caused the organism great pain, loneliness, and despair. The organism had a mate who came looking for it; it fired on the old Bandi city in anger. This mate could appear as a saucer-shaped ship of unknown origin with a purple light in its center, as well as a glowing space jellyfish; it was twelve times the volume of the Enterprise, and scans couldn't penetrate its surface, although transporters could. The mate had the ability to use transporters of its own, transporting Zorn from Deneb IV to its interior (where it began torturing him), and transporting Zorn and the Enterprise away team to the bridge of the Enterprise. Once Picard worked out what was going on, he fed the captured organism with an energy beam; the creature ate its fill and then rose from the surface of Deneb IV and out into space with its partner. The peaceful resolution of these events also meant that humanity had passed Q's test, at least for now. Following the departure of the space jellyfish, Starfleet pledged to help the Bandi rebuild Farpoint Station.
     It's four hundred years after the 20th century. [So the 24th century. As noted above, a definite year will be given at the end of this season, but it's gonna be a bit vague before that point.]
     In the latter part of the 21st century, during the post-atomic horror, the people of Earth had resorted to a more barbaric situation. While in 2036 the New United Nations had declared that no Earth citizen could be made to answer for the crimes of his race or forebears, by 2079 the idea of a united Earth had been abolished, and more draconian legal proceedings had been put in place. Defendants were considered guilty until proven innocent, while the lawyers had all been killed, as the courts were now declared to be "court[s] of fact", not of legal trickery. [The way Picard finishes Q's sentence suggests this was a common phrase - or perhaps even a motto - at the time.] The courtroom was a fairly rambunctious place, with lots of people dressed in rags watching the proceedings, while the bailiff was dressed in elaborate vaguely Oriental robes and holding a ceremonial staff, while his assistant (similarly dressed) was holding a bell which made a deep tone. On one wall was a large stylized black eagle on a red background, its talons in a laurel wreath surrounding a black sphere. As there were no lawyers, defendants were expected to defend their own cases, while the judges served as prosecutors and as jury. The judge sat on a carved wooden chair, which was suspended on a large control arm that allowed it to move freely around the courtroom. [They don't make any effort to disguise the arm, so presumably it's meant to be there.] The army troops were dressed in thick quilted dark silver uniforms with hoods and various pockets on their jackets, as well as a drug dispenser on their right breast: a small form of atomizer on a retractable cable could dispense the drug when brought to the nose, inducing a state of drugged happiness; this was how the military at the time controlled their soldiers. The hoods bore a couple different emblems; the one Q wears has a triangle with a kind of targeting reticle inside it, resting on a sort of chain-like design, while the soldier we see killed has a bar with three small triangles arranged in a row. [Q's emblem probably indicates he's a captain, given that he's a captain in all his other outfits.] The soldiers also had submachine guns that fitted over their right forearms, making them constantly armed; the barrel was on the underarm, while a large scope or targeting sensor appeared to be on top. [It's worth noting that humanity's formal first contact (as seen in, um, Star Trek: First Contact) took place in 2063 - so clearly (and understandably) things didn't immediately get better after that event.]
     The U.S.S. Hood was an Excelsior-class vessel, with the registry number NCC-2541. [The number isn't visible on screen, but it was present on the model, as behind-the-scenes photos show.] Her captain was named DeSoto. Riker served aboard the Hood as first officer right before his new assignment aboard the Enterprise.
     Leonard McCoy is still alive and now an admiral in Starfleet. He's currently 137, and he still hates transporters. He's dressed in civilian clothes. [If the year is currently 2364, that means McCoy was born in 2227 or so - which would make him about 38 at the start of the five-year mission (and nearly ten years younger than DeForest Kelley's actual age during the original series).]
     It's generally accepted that Vulcans are an advanced and honorable race.
     The Ferengi Alliance receives a namecheck as a race the Bandi would be willing to give Farpoint Station to. Picard suggests that the Ferengi are not the best people to partner with - "I hope they find you as tasty as they did their past associates," Picard tells Zorn. [This is the start of the Next Generation's efforts to make a new race, the Ferengi, one of the primary adversaries on the series. That's...not going to go well, as we'll soon see.]

Final Analysis: "Your immediate destination offers far more challenge than you can possibly imagine. Yes, this Farpoint Station will be an excellent test." Familiarity with this episode has disguised one rather striking difference from what's gone before: in the first two Star Trek pilots, the crew are already established and know their ship and one another, but here they all meet each other at the same time we do. This not only allows characters to ask each other basic questions for our benefit, but it also excuses some of the awkward interactions between them; if the actors seem awkward, it's actually because their characters are awkward. Of course, narratively justified awkwardness is still awkwardness, and so the end result suffers somewhat, as some actors seem noticeably more comfortable in their roles than others. It also doesn't help that the two halves of the story - the main Farpoint story and the secondary Q story - feel clumsily grafted together, with Q showing up at random moments to stop the Farpoint storyline's momentum. (That said, Q is probably the most interesting part of the episode; the Farpoint stuff just isn't that exciting.) But it's not a disaster, and at a more basic level "Encounter at Farpoint" would go on to set the template for every subsequent Star Trek pilot episode (with the possible exception of Discovery, although even that's a qualified exception). The fact that the later series pilots are more elegantly constructed than this just means that the respective production teams learned from what was done here.

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Page originally created: April 7, 2020
Page last updated: April 29, 2020

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