The next Generation will always be my favourite series of Star Trek. I grew up with the crew of the Enterprise-D over seven years of amazing adventures and when they moved to the big screen I was just as excited as everybody else.
Four films later I still love the Next Generation, they were good films. Some better than others, some with great moments and some needing improvements but there is one question that I feel needs to be asked:
Why did all the films have to focus on Picard and Data?
Now before you say anything I have no problem with Jean Luc being the main character in the films. He’s the Captain and Sir Patrick Stewart is the lead actor in an ensemble cast but why did Paramount & the writers decide that Data now had a better story to tell than Riker or Worf?
Of course we know the “real” reason is down to financial concerns. Paramount thought that from a commercial point of view having stories about Data would most probably bring in more people to the cinema and perhaps bring new people to Trek. However, from a character point of view did Data develop much more and was in fact Data overused?
Looking at the films:
• Generations – Data installs the emotional chip (that now looks 3 times bigger than it did in “Descent”) which allows some good scenes but leads to Geordi being captured that then leads to the destruction of the Enterprise-D.
• First Contact – Data become the focus of the Borg after encrypting the main computer and gets seduced by the Borg Queen. Data saves the day at the end and Picard’s life.
• Insurrection – Data malfunctions, uncovers a vile Federation plot, and makes friends with an annoying child (whose pet should have been squashed). Also gets to play in the hay at the end.
• The Wrath of Shinzon – sorry meant Nemesis. Always mixing those two up for some reason. Here we find another Soong android & brother for Data. Some nice scenes for Data with B4 (in the deleted section of the films DVD) and Data makes the ultimate sacrifice saving Picard, the Enterprise and Earth.
By the way remember I love TNG and the films before anyone writes in about my film descriptions…
Looking objectively you can understand the plots in “Generations” and “First Contact” since both stories is in some ways a natural progression for Data. It was never an option in TNG for Data to be allowed the emotional chip but those restraints were off for the films. While in First Contact the introduction of the Borg Queen meant that Data would be the perfect “foil” for her.
Now after two films the writers and Rick Berman should have given Data a rest. They should have remembered that Jonathan Frakes and the character of Will Riker were supposed to be second in the ensemble cast. After all Will Riker was “Number One”, he was the ladies man of the crew and all round action hero. Yes, the story of “Insurrection” would have needed to be amended but it wasn’t a perfect script to begin with (although over the years I now appreciate the film more). Instead all we saw of Riker was playing in the bath with Troi and playing with a giant joystick on the bridge while fighting the Son’a. Not Will’s finest hour on screen.
I am speaking of lost opportunities. The stories that could have been told but weren’t. Look at Nemesis, it had the Romulans in. They are my favourite Star Trek villain but forgetting that for a moment who hates the Romulans? Yes, you have it: the Klingons! The writers could have made the focus of this film on Worf. While on DS9 his character became even more popular with the Klingon stories some of the most interesting. We know of his hatred of the Romulans from the series and seeing him put aside that hatred to help the Romulans would have been an interesting story. Of course we know that there was a very small subplot in the film about that hatred of the Romulans but all we got to see of that was one line from Worf to Riker when the Remans board the Enterprise. A Klingon aspect would have made a great film. Did we need to see another android from Dr. Soong? No. Did Data need to die? No. It was shock tactics, nothing more.
Data was always an interesting character in TNG. However, in some of the best episodes of the series he only played a minor role. Look at “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or “The Inner Light” and many more. Don’t get me wrong, I like Data and there have been some great Data episodes but the series was not all about him.
My point is that the writers, Rick Berman and Paramount made a mistake (in my opinion) by just focusing on Picard and Data. Imagine the stories that could have been told but now we will never see. They should have remembered it was an ensemble cast and featured seven wonderful characters not just two.