Friday, July 4, 2008

Review - Star Trek: The Next Generations - "All Good Things"

Star Trek: The Next Generation - "All Good Things"
1995 Hugo Winner for Best Dramatic Presentation

This is the last time that Star Trek won a Hugo award and I find it unlikely that it will win another one in the future (not to pre-judge Abrahm's upcoming restart of the Star Trek film franchise, I just think there's going to be a lot of heavy competition for next year's Hugo). As a result I feel the need to say more about Star Trek and the Hugo awards in general rather than a great deal about this particular episode. If you need a review though...

"All Good Things" is the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and they ended on a fine note. Despite thrashing around quite a bit and a final season where I cannot say a single nice thing about any of the episodes except "All Good Things" they managed to turn the end of the show into a coda for the series. In it the persistent god-like antagonist Q returns as Captain Picard finds that he has become unstuck in time ala Slaughterhouse 5. Q once again puts Picard on trial in humanity's place as he did in the pilot episode (and Picard returns to the pilot episode throughout the finale) and informs him that Picard himself is responsible for the damaging the universe and wiping out life on earth. Picard must organize a response from the time periods of the beginning of the series, the end, and more than a decade in the future.

It's the kind of finale that all shows hope for. The viewer finds out what may happen after the credits roll and the conclusion of the characters' stories, it ties to the history of series, and it is a fine story in its own right. It leaves the long time viewer in a satisfying place. If that wasn't enough it manages to deliver the message for the entire series without making it feel like a heavy handed message being dropped on the viewer.

The only downside are the typical ones for Star Trek: The Next Generation: the details of the plot are better left unconsidered since you'll just make yourself go cross eyed sorting out the technobabel. Really it's just better to think of it as "magic" and let it go since the story isn't really dependent on how things work.

This is one of the short list of Next Generation episodes that I enjoy and I find it improbable that anyone with interest in Star Trek hasn't seen it. Of course if you haven't then I'd recommend watching a few other episodes before turning to it since the series finale is dependent on the viewing being familiar with the show for its emotional impact.

So that's out of the way, let's take Trek and the Hugo awards. There have been four times that Star Trek has been given a Hugo. Two of the greatest episodes of the original series were "The Menagerie" and "The City on the Edge of Forever" and they each brought home the award but during the final season 2001 was released and locked the award up. Next Generation had an even rockier time since despite having more than twice as many episodes they also only received two awards. Nothing else has ever won for Star Trek.

It has been a persistent bridesmaid, though. Eight of the ten movies have been nominated skipping over only Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis which are really only appropriate for tormenting sinners in a Boschian vision of hell. Yes, this does mean that Star Trek: Insurrection was nominated in what I can only take as some kind of cruel practical joke. Two episodes of Deep Space Nine were nominated including the episode in which they integrated the new episode with "The Trouble with Tribbles" from the original series. The nominations wisely skipped over Voyager but somehow nominated two episodes of Enterprise in the same year. I can only guess that it was the addition of the Dramatic Presentation Short Form award that year which let them slip onto the ballot.

The point of this is that despite Star Trek's reputation among scifi nerds and a few odd choices it has never been a favored option of the voters at Worldcon. My personal suspicion is that this is due to Star Trek fans having their own segregated conventions. With the huge fans being more likely to go elsewhere the scifi fans who don't have the overwhelming loyalty to the series have been left to select the award.

I can't say that this would be a bad things since the four awards that Star Trek has received are well deserved ones. "Encounter at Farpoint", the pilot of Next Generation, despite being nominated really wasn't worthy of an award. Nor were most of the movies; as much as I like Star Trek 2 it's hard to claim that it's more deserving than Blade Runner.

Also unless the new movie this fall is very impressive and relaunches the franchise I suspect that Star Trek as a media movement is over. The Trek fans of the seventies and eighties have been supplanted by Star Wars fans in the hierarchy of science fiction fans. It's been forty years since the original series aired and the ground has been farmed so often that all that is left is a dead marsh. Star Trek fandom is aging and its rare that you'll find a fan under thirty. Star Trek's time has passed and all good things must come to an end.

Next week Star Trek's upstart rival in the 90's hits the scene in a double episode review that also covers the entire series.