Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Difference Between TNG and DS9

My original post for today was not an uplifting one: It has been a very difficult two months for me and for many people I know, and I have reached the point where I can no longer escape into works of fiction to completely avoid the pain, nor can I stomach any more of the bad news that has been arriving on a weekly or even daily basis.

As I wrote the post, I came to realize that the post wasn't written for an audience--it was written for me. Granted, I often write for myself and hope others find that interesting, but still. This blog is often a forum for my more profound thoughts, a place for geeky catharsis, but this time was different. This time I was writing out all the words that were obstructing the words I wanted to write. There is a time for personal reflection, and there is a place for serious discussion, and even I know that there are times when it's simply not appropriate to be silly, but the fact is that there's simply too much good to dwell on the bad forever, no matter how terrifying and heart-wrenching it has been.

Allow me to explain.

I've been going back and forth between watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I grew up with and have seen virtually all of, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which I tried to follow when it first came on the air and stopped watching near the beginning of Season Two when I determined that it was too dark and political for my young tastes.

In Next Generation, there is always a happy ending. No matter how much pain and suffering the characters endure, with rare exception, the good always outweighs the bad. What I've observed so far about Deep Space Nine is that there is no happy ending. There is no silver lining. Things happen, and either they make things worse, or they make things a lot worse. No matter how much good there is in an episode, the immediate or long-term ramifications of the bad usually manage to smother it. Even with an episode that ends on a positive note, there's a persistent feeling of entropy, like everything is gradually headed toward utter disaster--the worst is always yet to come.

Personally, I prefer to live with the hope that better things are on the way, and that the best is yet to come. My original blog post was headed in the Deep Space Nine direction, and while the honesty and candor of something that tells it like it is may have resonated with people, the end of my post was not shaping up to be very hopeful. I may not be able to escape all the slings and arrows of the world, but I can at least do my part to keep this little corner of the blogosphere geeky and cheerful for those who still can.

We've all got serious stuff to deal with at some point in our lives. We deny it, we hide from it, and sometimes we even confront it, but at the end of the day, we can only move on if there is something to move on to. I'm not saying it's healthy or even possible to completely move on from some things, but if Star Trek: Voyager taught us anything, it's that there's always the hope of ending up where you want to be--even if it looks like it'll take 75 years to get there--as long as you start moving in the right direction.

For all the bad that has transpired these past two months, there has been a tremendous amount of good. Between getting settled in to my very own apartment, making a day trip this past weekend with two of my best friends, sharing dinner and Star Trek with my sister almost every night for the past few weeks, and marathoning the Rocky movies with my Special Someone, I've got a lot to smile about--and that's just the beginning.

Call me idealistic, but I'm convinced that there's too much to enjoy and look forward to in this life to be forever pinned down by the serious stuff. I realize now that I've been overwhelmed because I can't escape far enough from the tragic and the depressing. Instead of retreating, I should be advancing--pursuing the hobbies and passions that make me happy, and that, in whatever little way, help to make this planet a better place for others who could use something to smile about.

Stay tuned for scenes from the next Star Trek: The Next Generation.


A Philosophical Nerd said...

Star Trek: The Next Generation has always been my favorite Star Trek show. Not necessarily for the positive outlook (as Star Trek shows generally have, anyway), but I just liked the crew better. I related to the crew.

Captain Picard and Commander Riker were father-figures to me (as my own father wasn't around much growing up). I related to Data, an android who was trying to become more human, and to Worf, a Klingon outcase due to his being raised with humans; I was always made to feel like I was less than human, like I wasn't even a person, so I related to Data's quest to become more human. I also related to Geordi (who some might consider handicapped because of his blindness). I don't have any physical issues, but I have dealt with severe emotional issues and have struggled to kind of justify my own existence in this world. I always saw Wesley Crusher as a friend I never had, one who is loyal and would stick with you even when things got dark. Troi and Crusher were the mother-figures that I needed; even though my own mom was around, she was never really there to help me with any of my problems.

I have lived what would probably be considered a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine life. No matter what good things happened to me, there were many more bad things that were waiting to overshadow the good. Maybe that's a subconscious reason I enjoyed The Next Generation so much. I needed the happy endings that the show had to offer.

If I didn't have my faith in God to get me through, I would have easily degenerated into a destructive lifestyle. That, mixed with Star Trek: The Next Generation to get me through a tough emotional childhood, are the main reasons I'm still around today. So I can definitely relate to how you're feeling here, and even though I enjoy reading the more lighthearted entries on a blog, I certainly don't mind when a blogger gets a bit more personal. It helps us remember that there's an actual human being being these articles, and not just some blog-writing machine.

GarHoch said...

Allow me to give an alternative view of DS9.

Now I loved TNG and it's optimism. But, DS9 will always be my favorite and I feel the best of the series.

It was and still is the misunderstood redheaded stepchild of the franchise. It's dark and highly political plotlines (especially seasons 3-7) were misconstrued as pessimistic. But that is not the case.

It was about overcoming the baser parts of ourselves, finding and keeping faith (not just religious) in something and building a home, a society, out of disparate individuals and the strength and sacrifice it takes to build and defend that.

See, the Enterprise had the luxury of packing up and moving on at warp to the next adventure. That's fine. DS9 was about establishing roots and relationships.
Each of the main characters had progressed from the pilot to the finale. There was growth and change. Not all of it was for the better or something I even liked or wanted.

Perhaps, that was because the bulk of the show aired when I was in college. I drew hope and consolation about my uncertain future transititioning from teen to adult and into the "real" world.

Sure, TNG had its share of character moments, but being an episodic show limited those to few and far between. Things stayed the same pretty much. As nice as it would be if things were like that, they aren't.

Again, I don't want to seem like I'm anti-TNG. I merely want to contest that DS9 has a pessimistic
slant and has no silver lining. In DS9 terrible things happened, but the goal of peace and family and prosperity was there. And it was worth going through hell to get to.

GarHoch said...

Oops... The "That was" in the seventh paragraph should read "..the reason I love the show was because..."

Flashman85 said...

APN: Hey, I AM a blog-writing machine! ;)

I agree with you all the way that the crew of TNG really makes the show. I didn't have the same connections with them growing up like you did, but I could definitely relate.

Faith and Star Trek--that's a pretty strong combination right there.

GarHoch: I figured there'd be at least one objection to my assessment of DS9, and you put forth a solid alternative view.

Currently, I'm a few episodes into the second season, which is about as far as I've ever seen. I haven't gotten through any full story arcs yet, and a few of the characters haven't quite been established enough to start in-depth character development.

Basically, everything is still in the process of being set up--very little has actually been resolved, if anything. Taken on an individual basis with no endpoint in sight, the episodes can feel pretty desperate and pessimistic. For every ounce of hope, there's a pound of despair, it seems.

See: Duet, The Siege, Battle Lines, etc. As of yet, there's been little or no payoff for the good that happens, and the bad always looks pretty hopeless to recover from.

I'm willing to stick with the show until the end, but for right now, I stand by my observations.

Flashman85 said...

Okay, here's a strange twist of fate: Not too long after writing this post, I watched an episode of TNG ("Man of the People") that was a real downer, and an episode of DS9 right after it ("Melora," I think) that was uplifting. Total reversal of what I had said about the shows before.

Now that I'm a fair bit into Season 2 of DS9, I'm finding that it's really the first season that I'm not so fond of--most of this season has been very good, and even though some of what I said still holds, it was overall more positive than I expected. So far, so good.

Thanks again for sharing, you guys.