Recap: Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 E1 "Encounter at Farpoint"

Series:Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: Season 1, Episode 1
Title:"Encounter at Farpoint"
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Next: The Naked Now
Recapper: Insert Witty Name Here

The Enterprise-D is out on its maiden voyage to Deneb IV to pick up Commander William Riker when suddenly she encounters a giant space net of some description, and a being that calls himself a "Q". After a reflex action results in the freezing of a Red Shirtnote  (he gets better), Q decides to challenge the crew: If they can prove that mankind has put aside their savagery "nonsense", he'll let them go. The challenge involves them solving the mystery of Farpoint Station, an outpost on Deneb IV that has been the site of some absolutely bizarre goings-on, mostly in the guise of apples that appear from nowhere and fabric that suddenly changes texture. Of course, all is not as it seems, and the head of Farpoint Station, Groppler Zorn, has a lot to answer for.


The year is 2364. The United Federation of Planets is enjoying a period of unprecedented peace and exploration, and the crown jewel of this period has been launched: the Galaxy-class USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D. She's captained by Jean-Luc Picard, a forty-year veteran of Starfleet and one of their most distinguished officers. His crew is a handpicked ensemble of Starfleet's finest, including an android (Lieutenant Commander Data) and a Klingon (Lieutenant Worf), a sign of the Federation's alliance with the Klingon Empire. For her maiden voyage, the Enterprise has been assigned to visit the Bandi on Deneb IV, a planet on the edge of explored space. It seems they have constructed a space station (on the surface) and they're appealing to join the Federation.

Suddenly, the voyage is interrupted by a vast energy grid blocking their path. Picard orders full stop, and suddenly they are created by someone who flashes onto the bridge. The being declares that humanity has gone too far into the galaxy and they are to return home at once. Identifying himself simply as Q, he demonstrates his powers by blocking security from entering the bridge and freezing a goldshirt (though non-fatally). Picard and Q engage in philosophical debates as the former tries to explain how humans have grown up from being a "grievously-savage child race." Nevertheless, he inadvertently gives Q an idea and the being departs. Thinking quickly, Picard decides to see just what a Galaxy-class starship is capable of and orders them to jump to maximum warp. A Sphere of Fear gives chase and eventually starts to overtake the Enterprise. The Captain orders all civilians into the saucer section, which separates while he takes the star drive against Q. However, recognizing that he is outmatched, Picard broadcasts a surrender.

Tropes:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Q presents himself as a "fellow captain" to break the ice.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Justified as this is the first episode and the beginning of the journey.
  • After the End: Q puts the crew on trial in an Earth Kangaroo Court from the late twenty-first century, the time of the Postatomic Horror following World War III.
  • Appeal to Force: Once Q has put the Enterprise crew on trial, the accusation is made that humanity was once and still might be a "dangerously savage child-race". Picard says they will successfully defend themselves against the accusation if the trial is fair. Q replies that the trial will be absolutely equitable, and then promptly orders that Picard and crew be summarily executed if they enter any other plea besides guilty.
  • Badass Boast: "Let's see what this Galaxy-class starship can do!"
  • Beyond the Impossible: Picard tries to outrace Q and pushes the Enterprise to its maximum emergency speed of warp 9.7 (which is a subtle Continuity Nod to the Original Series, where in the episode "That Which Survives" a villain made the Enterprise go at warp 14.1, the same speed but on the old scale). Then Q's "ship" reaches warp 9.8. Data says they might be able to match that, but at 'extreme risk'. As Picard hesitates and considers...
    Yar: Now reading hostile at warp nine point nine sir!
  • The Cameo: DeForest Kelly as 137-year-old Admiral McCoy. This would start a tradition of each new Trek show having a cameo from the previous show in its pilot.
  • Captain Obvious: Troi is there right from the start, as she sees a guy covered head to toe in ice and declares "He's frozen!"
  • Captain's Log: The first spoken words after the Opening Credits.
  • Cerebus Retcon: When the crew is placed on trial, Picard suggests that Q judge them based on their performance on the "long mission" they have ahead of them. Q dismisses the idea but says he will judge them just based on how they perform on this specific visit to Farpoint Station. Seven years later, in the final episode "All Good Things", Q reveals that he took up Picard's suggestion after all, saying "the trial never ended."
  • Characterisation Marches On: Everyone, due to the Early Installment Weirdness. Some can be written off as being pre-Character Development.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: "Commander, signal the following in all languages and all frequencies: We surrender."
  • Chekhov's Lecture: In the holodeck, we're treated to some mild technobabble on how it converts energy to matter to make objects. Later on, it is revealed that the Starfish Aliens live on energy and use it to create objects in order to please people on the Farpoint station.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The crew says that the mysterious ship does not match anything in their database at least twice.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Lots. It's obvious the actors and the writers hadn't quite found the characters yet.
    • The Bandi were apparently a pre-warp civilization, even going so far as to rely on the argument that they do not like to leave their homeworld as an excuse for not accepting a proposal to build starbases for the Federation elsewhere. Despite this, the Prime Directive is apparently not an obstacle to the Federation setting up shop on their planet, even though in later seasons it would be argued that comparable civilizations should not be saved from extinction due to the Prime Directive forbidding even contact with them.
    • When meeting Riker, Data mentions he graduated in the "class of '78." By the end of the season, the first year would be established as 2364 and later seasons would establish Data as having been in Starfleet for nearly 30 years.
    • The holodeck behaves a bit oddly compared to later in the show. The water Wesley falls into must have been non-holographic, since it persists when he leaves. Data also throws a rock, which bounces off the holodeck wall instead of merging into the scenery as it should.
    • Dr. Crusher decides to purchase a bolt of fabric and asks the Bandi to charge it to her account on the Enterprise, making this one of the very, very rare references to any sort of money being used by the Federation.
    • Data sits at what would later be established to be the helm console. In addition, there's a hidden phaser underneath the console.
    • The primary handheld weapon in this episode is the Type 1 phaser, nicknamed by some as the "lady razors." They would rarely appear in the first season, as Gene felt they were too small to see on-screen and hardly appear afterwards.
  • Humanity on Trial: The Q do this because they believe humans are a barbaric race.
  • Kangaroo Court: Q has made up his (their) mind already and the trial is a sham.
  • Kill It with Ice: Q does this to the Redshirt Ensign Torres and later to Tasha Yar, though both are revived (Torres with the Enterprise`s sickbay, Yar by Q himself). Part of the Early Installment Weirdness; later on Q's weapon of choice for messing with people is different forms of Teleport Spam.
  • Magical Security Cam: Picard shows Riker the highlights of the episode so far when he comes on board. Which we see in its entirety.
  • Planetville: As had been standard for Star Trek since the original series. The Bandi "capital" (and seemingly the only major settlement on Deneb IV) is a crude-looking village in the desert.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Worf, of course; it's his Establishing Character Moment in fact, when Picard orders him to take command of the saucer section and lead the civilians to safety.
    Worf: I am a Klingon, sir. For me to seek escape while my captain goes into battle—
    Picard: You are a Starfleet officer, Lieutenant!
  • Scenery Porn: The saucer separation sequence, intended to show off the Visual Effects of Awesome that the new series would become known for.
  • Schizo Tech: A plot point is that the Bandi don't seem technologically advanced enough to have built Farpoint Station. It turns out they didn't.
  • Spinoff Send Off: De Forest Kelley, as an elderly Dr. McCoy, sends the TNG crew on its way with his blessing.
  • Starfish Aliens: Jellyfish Aliens, to be exact.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Q is capable of transporting himself and other people around at whim, and disables the Enterprise a couple of times.
  • Technology Marches On: The computer showing visitors around, with displays lighting up with traveling dots, was impressive at the time, but now seems a rather low-tech solution to the problem. This wouldn't be such an issue, except Riker treats it as new and impressive in-universe rather than taking it for granted.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The jellyfish aliens (although the Bandi ensured that it wasn't voluntary for one of them).