Star Trek:TNG Visual Cues
April 1, 2011 4:43 PM   Subscribe

What visual cues do you need to see in an ST:TNG tv episode to know that the episode is over the hump of mediocrity from the early years of the series?

Ryker with a beard
No Wesley
Picard's hair is short
Worf's hair is not short
No Pulasky (or post Pulasky Dr. Crusher)
Two piece uniforms
posted by notcostello to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Are you answering your own question here?
posted by Rash at 4:45 PM on April 1, 2011

Deanna Troi is wearing an officer's uniform instead of that horrible pink one-piece jumpsuit.
posted by media_itoku at 4:50 PM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I was not trying to answer the question but give the type of cues that I was referring to. I am assuming that there are more, a la media_itoku.
posted by notcostello at 4:56 PM on April 1, 2011

Response by poster: The cues that I supplied could also be commented on as being misleading.
posted by notcostello at 4:57 PM on April 1, 2011

The gradual thickening and wrinkling of Data.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:05 PM on April 1, 2011

Higher quality images on the view-screen.
posted by amethysts at 5:06 PM on April 1, 2011

Crusher loses that silly coat?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:07 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The uniforms with collars.
posted by amethysts at 5:07 PM on April 1, 2011

Guinan (some think her first episode, the second season premiere, "The Child", was terrible, but I think it was a Good Troi Episode. However, the show did decline from there because of the writer's strike, before it rebounded post-borg abduction.

The "Growing the Beard" TVTropes page also lists the death of Tasha as a defining moment. Personally, I would disagree. I feel that, in contrast, the return of Tasha (more properly, of Denise Crosby whether as Tasha or her daughter Sela) were growing moments for the show, and each of her reappearances marked another leap forward in quality.
posted by lesli212 at 5:08 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Riker and Pulaski spell their names without using the letter "y."

Big manly shoulders are a clue for me - the Lycra of the early years is a dead give-away. Also, there's a poofy-to-spiky hair continuum that's worth paying attention to. And from a special effects standpoint, well, let's just say that season 4 and beyond is a vast improvement over seasons 1 and 2. I mean, compare the larva in Conspiracy to the cellular peptide cake in Phatasms.
posted by SMPA at 5:08 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

No Tasha Yar.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:09 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, and also: the appearance of Ro Laren and the Cardassians and the disappearance of Wesley.

Ugh, I'm a huge fan, I could be doing this all night.
posted by lesli212 at 5:10 PM on April 1, 2011


"...wif mint frosting!"
posted by lesli212 at 5:11 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Worf loses that gold pageant sash
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:24 PM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Geordi in a red uniform/not as the chief engineer.
posted by Muttoneer at 5:36 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Music got more synthy and generic, less orchestral and TOS-ish in the better seasons.
posted by Victorvacendak at 5:37 PM on April 1, 2011

Response by poster: Audio cues. Never thought of that. Amazing.
posted by notcostello at 5:56 PM on April 1, 2011

Alien planets look like real life in Descent and not so much in, say, Skin of Evil. It's one of those "hey, we have money and experience" things, that paired with how much clothing the natives are wearing (more = good,) usually portends a later, better episode.

Also, all TOS guest stars other than DeForest Kelly: Mark Leonard first shows up in late season 3, Leonard Nimoy in season 5, and Jimmy Doohan in season 6. Many guest and recurring stars are like this: Guinan, as mentioned above, Professor Moriarty, Reginald Barclay, Alyssa Ogawa, Keiko O'Brien, Gowron, and so on. A story that featured, oh, I don't know, Picard, Keiko, Guinan, and Ro Laren all at once? Yep, pretty much.

Rascals is an example of the "haven't I seen you in a similar role around here already" guest star where it isn't terrible. Discounting true frequent fliers like Jeffrey Combs and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, your odds are better than 50/50 if you root against an episode with someone new who you only kind of recognize and feel you should have an in-series name for but can't really figure out why.
posted by SMPA at 6:01 PM on April 1, 2011

Ok, just thought of this last one, I promise: Once you start seeing Ron Moore's name regularly in the credits (writer, executive producer, etc), that marks a point where the shows get markedly better. Note that not all the RDM episodes are good, and lack of RDM doesn't mean the particular episode is not good, but once you see his name crop up almost every episode, it's a pretty good indicator that you're in a good season - starts late season 3, early season 4ish.
posted by lesli212 at 6:14 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Personally I liked episodes featuring Q, Data, Geordi and Guinan. I also liked the *plots* of the Wesley episodes, just not Wheaton's stony acting (sorry Will, I couldn't have done better, and some of the guest adult actors did much worse IMO).

Certainly many of the awful early episodes sunk below the original series level (which for my taste was an awful indictment).
posted by forthright at 6:41 PM on April 1, 2011



Almost-sympathetic treatment of Q. Plus, the wackier he got, the better. For example, his treatment of Riker.

I didn't mind Yar, but Data got better once his experiences with her were factored in to his past.

I understand what you mean by visual cues. When you flip channels and see TNG, you can tell within seconds whether to hang around and see if you liked this one, or if it was going to be all matte paintings and Dr. Pulaski.
posted by skypieces at 7:16 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Noticing names in the credits was not something that had occurred to me but exactly the kind of of insight I was looking for.

And flipping through the channels and seeing one thing in an episode that will tell you whether or not you should keep watching or continue to flip. That is exactly what I was thinking about.
posted by notcostello at 7:31 PM on April 1, 2011

I swear to god the first couple of seasons have some _strong_ vignetting and dim lighting thing going on that cleared up around Season 3. You can almost tell just from a random scene - is the vignetting cutting off a good chunk of the corners? 1st season!
posted by Kyol at 7:36 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Michael Piller in the credits is a good sign
posted by notcostello at 7:44 PM on April 1, 2011

When they stopped subtitling Klingon.
posted by zamboni at 8:15 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Victorvacendak: "Music got more synthy and generic, less orchestral and TOS-ish in the better seasons"

BTW, the one good thing* Rick Berman ever did for the franchise was fire the guy who did the music in the first couple seasons of TNG.

* typical fangirl over-exaggeration
posted by lesli212 at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2011

A friend refers to season 1 as the "rainbow wesley episodes"... wesley's rainbow sweater is a good cue!
posted by JumpW at 10:47 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

> BTW, the one good thing* Rick Berman ever did for the franchise was fire the guy who did the music in the first couple seasons of TNG.

The weird synthpad soundtracks (which I love as it goes) and the awkward tight one piece uniforms are the key signs you're in the first season. There's also the inexplicable appearance of male crew members in miniskirts. In other words, I wouldn't say the first two series are high quality as such, but I do think they have a ropey, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, anything-can-happen charm all of their own.
posted by iivix at 2:39 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

They remodeled pretty much the entire Enterprise in season 3!
posted by glenno86 at 7:51 AM on April 2, 2011

Mr. Tigerbelly refers to Troi losing the horrible shiny grey deep v-neck unitard and getting a real uniform as a big flag of quality.
posted by tigerbelly at 9:18 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Worf loses that gold pageant sash

dontjumplarry Are you not aware that the gold pageant sash is made from the exactly 600 beer can pull tabs which Worf consumed during a weekend of partying after graduating from Starfleet Academy?

My answers...
Worf's son Alexander is not in the episode.
The Ferengi are not in the episode.
There is a mess somewhere, like whenever they show the guy who invented warp drive, or the guy who created Data the android (ST: TNG's sets and locations are typically way too sterile and perfect.)
posted by No Shmoobles at 11:49 AM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: As a general rule I would say that any episode (and this relates to every series) that has a child/adolescent in a primary role = bad
posted by notcostello at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2011

I think we should keep in mind the difference between "early" episode and just plain "bad" episode.

And didn't the transporter effect get subtly better as time went by?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2011

JumpW, it could have been yours for under $2700
posted by nathan_teske at 9:32 PM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks
posted by notcostello at 3:24 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: Chief O'brien

He was great on TNG, but he was a precursor of the forthcoming surge in quality

Episodes after the character left are more generally fascinating.
posted by notcostello at 9:23 PM on April 15, 2011

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