Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. I watched it religiously when it was on in the late 80’s and early 90’s and I bought each season on DVD as soon as it was released. I also enjoy former TNG cast member Wil Wheaton’s writing, so imagine my excitement when he started writing reviews of TNG episodes a couple of years ago. He wrote an article about every ten years or so – OK, it was more often than that, but that’s how it seemed when you were patiently (or not) waiting for the next one to come out. He posted links to them on his blog, and then gathered them all up, did a few more, and put them in a book called Memories of the Future. There will be at least two volumes; each covering one half of the first season of TNG; only Volume One has been released. I don’t know how much further he’ll go – I asked him on twitter if he was planning on continuing the books or podcasts right up to season 7, but he never responded. Geez, you get 1.6 million followers and suddenly you don’t respond to questions? Bastard. I’d respond to you, @wilw.
Anyway, this book is a must for TNG fans. Wil rips each episode apart, telling you what was good and what was bad, which is fun to read because there were a number of really bad episodes in the first season. There is a lot of humour in the episode recaps and technobabble, and I found the behind-the-scenes memories really interesting.
Wil also gives some insight into the whole TV industry and how it works – like when person X is writes a script for an episode, but then their original script is hacked and changed without their knowledge by someone else who doesn’t get credit. By the end of the process, the writing of this really bad episode is still credited to person X, who really had nothing to do with how bad it is. It seems unfair, but that’s how it works. Wil pulls no punches, naming names on who were the worst writers, directors, and guest actors that he worked with.
Wil is very complimentary to the other cast members of TNG, particularly Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner, who are indeed excellent actors. One person he’s not very complimentary to, however, is himself. He seems convinced that he was the worst actor on the set, and that a large contributing factor to that is his youth. A number of times he mentions that if he wasn’t such a self-absorbed teenager at the time, he might have done a better job. Of course “self-absorbed teenager” is a redundancy, and Wil himself does acknowledge this at one point, when he tells the story of apologizing to (I think) Patrick Stewart for being the way he was when he was a teenager and not appreciating things as he should have. Stewart tells him that everyone at the time understood that he was a teenager, and that that attitude came with the territory. Of course, some of this self-deprecation could just be modesty – he only makes a point of mentioning when he did a lousy job. Perhaps there were a number of episodes where he thought he did a great job, but he decided to keep the “Wow, my performance was really great in this episode” thoughts to himself.
Wil was also doing weekly podcasts called “Memories of the Futurecast”, where he would read part of his review of one episode a week. In many cases, he’d expand on the stuff in the book, or mention memories that had come up since the book was written or that he didn’t include in the book for whatever reason. Those were pretty cool too – Wil is a good storyteller and is also pretty funny, though I find sometimes that the funny loses steam fairly quickly. In one or two of the podcasts he mimicked a conversation between himself and some pretend person – the first two or three lines were pretty funny, but then he kept going and the next seven or eight lines were just not. More is not always better. It’s kind of like my seven-year-old: “if I say or do something and daddy laughs, then obviously if I do it every ten seconds for the next hour, it remains funny.” Wil doesn’t go that far, but there have been a few times where he starts one of these jokes or “conversations” and after the second or third line I think to myself “OK, that was funny, but stop there. Please just stop there.” and he doesn’t. These long drawn-out jokes don’t appear in the book though, just the podcast.
The one thing I don’t like about the book is the language – there’s a fair bit of cursing and some sexual language and stuff like that. This is true of all of his podcasts actually, he’s quite the little potty mouth. It doesn’t bother me directly – I’m no language prude, and some parts of this book are quite hilarious because of the language. Example: when talking about Q giving them the whole Farpoint thing as a test, Wil explains why this will not be a problem: “in Starfleet, we save the universe and fuck the green alien chick before breakfast. We got this one.” My problem is that my 10- and 7-year-old sons are both TNG fans (ironically, Wesley Crusher is their favourite character along with Data) and I think they would get a big kick out of some of these stories, but it’s just not appropriate for kids that age to read about anyone fucking green alien chicks, or any other colour of alien chick for that matter. Perhaps I can find some stories that the boys would like and read parts to them.
As I said, if you’re a TNG fan, you owe it to yourself to check this book out, or at the very least, find the reviews through his blog. I am anxiously awaiting volume 2 and any subsequent volumes.