Recurring Characters Give Star Trek: The Next Generation A Leg Up
Reg, Q, Lwaxana and Guinan provide a welcome change of pace.
Photo by Archman8
One of the many area in which Star Trek: The Next Generation was superior to the Original Series was the introduction of recurring characters. They provided a welcome change up from the typical infallibility of the main characters and returned a much more human component to the drama.
Reginald “Reg” Barclay
Reg Barclay is us. He exemplifies the impetus that had us boldly going when the reruns aired at six and midnight every day. He thinks bigger than what is actually possible so dreaming often takes the place of real life. Who among us doesn't know about that? Okay, so that may have caused some of us to linger in our parents' basements, and doesn't translate so well on the flagship either.
Or does it?
At first glance, the crew thinks his tardiness, escapades on the Holodeck and flights of fancy are not commensurate with the ongoing mission. Those of us in denial of our own similar failings likely agreed. So there was pause upon Picard’s patience. That is until he revealed that Barclay’s frailties were a mistake to be fixed.
Fortunately, nobody fixed Bill Gates or the guy who invented the cell phone. Both dreamers who were inspired by Star Trek, and some of us have had a few inspirations of our own.
Either way, the lesson is driven home at warp speed when Barclay's out of the box thinking saves the Enterprise. Of course, there would have been no Enterprise to save if Gene Roddenberry didn't point his wagon train to the stars and thought larger than what TV executives thought was possible.
Picard takes the mission seriously and consistently reassures the Enterprise’s heading with his unyielding moral compass. But can you let loose and kiss a green girl every once in a while? Sorry, Star Trek: TOS, The Next Generation had something much better to counter all the sincerity.
He’s frivolous, childish and doesn’t let his omnipotence diminish his need for attention. “You were so much more fun before the beard,” he berates Riker.
But for as much as he seems to knock the 1701-D off course, Q is on point. If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid,” he reminds Picard in forcing first contact with the Borg.
His long form lesson plans also reteach Picard the importance of love, self-acceptance and not taking those closest to him for granted. But most importantly, Q gives Picard an appropriate send off by clarifying the cause. “For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence,” Q sets Picard straight in the series finale.
He could have just said that at Far Point but what would be the fun in that.
Aside from the dilithium crystals and warp core propulsion that fuels the ongoing mission, the Enterprise runs on facts, data and logic. That’s why a periodic infusion of Guinan is so important to the vision.
So for example, as the whole crew misses Ensign Ro’s plea for acceptance, Guinan knows passive aggressive behavior when she sees it. “You picked a strange place to go if you only wanted to be alone,” as she rolls out the welcome mat.
But the process doesn’t actually culminate until she exercises Picard’s ear with an official introduction. “I want you to meet my friend,” she tells Picard, who understands the power of the declaration and is well schooled in Guinan's intuitive powers.
So much so that Picard sends the Enterprise-C to certain death on a feeling. Guinan just knows in "Yesterday’s Enterprise", and Picard takes a leap of faith that saves the Federation.
The same might be said for the producers who accepted Whoopi Goldberg’s interest in a part and gave us all a reason to go with our gut.
The crew of the Enterprise just seems like a cadre of people who ooze self-sufficiency and never spent a moment in the arms of a coddling mother. That’s why Lwaxana Troi is such a welcome visitor.
Of course, Picard is the most in need — even if it's wrapped up in Oedipal anxiety. Not needing her empathic powers to tap in, Lwaxana delivers the Freudian psychology on every occasion.
The nurture is never so therapeutic as when she hits midlife. Her sex drive quadruples, and Picard is forced to go on the run. “As ship's doctor, I consider it an excellent exercise for his reflexes and agility,” Dr. Polaski revels in Picard’s predicament.
After all, he is the captain of a big starship, and he rarely has a date. So Lwaxana knows if his fears of intimacy can be conquered, she can help keep the ship from flying apart at the seams.
But her shining moment comes when she characteristically puts aside logic in full defiance and does what feels right in "Half a Life." Unfortunately, she cannot sway a world.
However, her eventual capitulation reveals a woman of substance that understands the limits of her free wheeling approach. She attends the 60-year-old ritual suicide of Dr. Timicin (David Ogden Stiers), but in doing so quietly, gives this misguided world much to think about.
Oh mama, how about that Picard.