My Cup of Tea- Earl Grey, Hot
Let’s get one thing straight- “All Good Things” is the best series finale ever in the history of television. I know, I know-there’s MASH and Seinfeld and all that, but seriously, Star Trek: The Next Generation ended better than any other TV show could have or will. People might claim I’m biased because I’m a nerd and a Star Trek fan but TNG isn’t even my favorite Star Trek. That honor goes to Deep Space Nine. So when I say that “All Good Things” is the best series finale ever, it is kinda, sorta pretty objective.
I’ve been itching to re-watch this final episode for a few months because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and I realized back in June it is 20 years ago since TNG ended. BBC America (quickly becoming one of my favorite channels) airs TNG all the time, and had the finale on a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it. Caught the last, awesome scene.
Luckily the channel cycles through the episodes pretty good, and concentrates on a season or seasons for a while before moving on to a different batch of episodes. Last weekend they got back to it, and I recorded the finale this time. Though, I became so engrossed I didn’t need to watch much of the recording days later, because I had watched 3/4 of it already. Maybe it’s because it has been so long since I’ve seen it, or maybe it is a testament to how good it was, but I was basically enthralled as if I’d never seen it before.
TNG existed before the majority of hour-long dramas had storylines that carried over from episode to episode, and had season long story arcs with standalone stories buffering them (think Buffy or Battlestar Galactica or any show nowadays). You can definitely see the influences of this sort of storytelling in the final season a bit more, as the Star Trek universe overlapped with ideas between sister show DS9. But for the most part, TNG had standalone episodes. Occasionally there were call backs to earlier episodes or seasons, but knowledge of those events weren’t exactly necessary to understanding what the hell was going on.
The final episode of TNG was far beyond the quality of previous entries that were two-parters (yes, the finale was two hours when first aired, but now it’s divided into dual chapters). If more of the public were acquainted with the show, and at the time it already had a very large following, the producers could have easily used this as a movie and continued the series. Though, I’m not sure the series should have continued the way it was going. While “All Good Things” was amazing, the episodes preceding it in the show’s seventh season, um, kinda sucked.
The reason the show was ending was a corporate decision, as many are. Unlike most corporate decisions when it comes to entertainment, this ended up being a good one. You see, in 1994, TNG was at its pinnacle popularity-wise, and Paramount, who owns the property, wanted to cash in by moving the concept to the big screen, handing the baton from the cast of the original crew who had signed their retirement checks (literally) at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Many fans look back and wish Paramount had kept the show going instead of giving the world Star Trek: Generations. For the record, I quite like the movie, but it’s just an okay effort. To the people who pined for a continuation of TNG at the time, I say, thank your lucky stars they didn’t. Exhibit A- Star Trek: Generations. The very movie fans degrade was made by the people who were the “brains” behind the show at the time. The writers were a mixed bag, having written some of the best TNG one went on to write a lot of Voyager and Enterprise. We all know how wonderful they were. To be fair, one of the writers did go on to create the reboot of Battlestar Galactica…
Which brings us to Rick Berman, the man in charge of Star Trek after the death of Gene Roddenberry. I blame this man for all that was bad with Star Trek in the final years before Mr. Abrams made his flicks. Oddly, Berman had a lot to do with many of the things that made Star Trek great, including writing of episodes in what was TNG’s real golden age- seasons four through six. However, along the way he lost sight of what Star Trek was about, and made Enterprise, and Star Trek: Nemesis, reducing the franchise into space battles and hokey shtick (and not the fun kind, either).
But before some of these fellas rammed their warp core up Star Trek’s ass, they mad “All Good Things.” See, I’m back on point eventually. What do I like about this finale so much? For one, it’s a great story. Captain Jean-Luc Picard runs around in his jammies, hopping between three time periods, trying initially to figure out just what the hell is happening to him, and ending on a mission to save humanity from never having existed. It is solid as a story structure, and it does what Star Trek does best- makes you think and feel. And, yes, they get to have some action along the way.
Secondly, the great story encapsulates the entire series, which I think had to have been hard to do. Like I said, TNG was before this season long story arc period we are in today. But at the same time there were themes and ideas from both fans and the show’s creative team that they wanted to explore or at least satisfy. The time-shifting story allowed them to do that. The plot tied into the very first episode “Encounter at Farpoint” casting the omnipotent character Q as the “adversary,” and continuing the trial begun at the beginning of the series. This sums up what the entire series, and Star Trek in general, is about. Not only that but we get Chief O’Brien back from DS9 for a bit, and see Tasha Yar pre-oil spill death.
When Picard shifts to the future we get to see what might happen to some of our characters. Picard is a senile but content winemaker! Data is more human because he has gray hair and maybe emotions! Geordi has effing eyes! Crusher isn’t Crusher anymore- she’s Picard now, too! And a captain! Deanna is dead, and Worf and Riker hate each other in the aftermath! Let’s not forget the Enterprise has three friggin’ warp nacelles, and a damn phaser cannon.
There isn’t much to dislike about “All Good Things,” if anything at all. Like I said, it sums up Star Trek perfectly by using these characters to talk about who we are and what we have the potential to be. Just to look to Picard’s big speech in the episode. It doesn’t take place in the show’s present, or in the future. It’s in the past. Picard rallies the crew of the past to aid in the mission to save humanity by telling them he knows what they can do, what’s inside each of them, and that they all have the ability to accomplish great things. If that ain’t a metaphor for Star Trek’s philosophy on humanity, then I turn in my Nerd Card.
As long as we’re talking Trek- Happy Birthday, Original Series! Earlier this week, September 8 to be exact, the show (and by extension the franchise) celebrated 48 years since it first aired.