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Star Trek: T(eachi)NG

May 30, 2009

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m sure both of my readers are disappointed in my extended absence but I was busy passing a couple of classes, failing one, scrambling to set up summer classes in order to make up for that spectacular failure, and making sure, successfully, that I would have to bump out my self-imposed first draft deadlines. All of this and the duties of a husband and father, to boot.

It’s enough to make you want to clap someone upside the head when they complain (as I once did, as a young fool) that their life is too boring.

Anyway, on to the point of this post.

Part of what little down time I selfishly stole for myself I used to bask in the nostalgia that is ST:TNG. The show aired during some of my later formative years, ages 12-19 or so, and is considered by many to be the best Star Trek series ever (there is still a blood-feud between the ST:TOS camp and the ST:TNG camp on this).

I was plowing my way into Season 4 (out of the total 7) when it occurred to me that I wasn’t just relaxing and enjoying a blast from the past. I was studying. Studying my craft, no less.

See, what I figured out was that the main reason, in my opinion, that ST:TNG has such staying power is its characterization. This didn’t really surprise me since I’m a big believer that strong characters can carry weak plots and ST:TNG, for all its juicy goodness, has its share of relatively weak plots sprinkled in with the beautifully original, creative ones.

Part of this characterization is, of course, the dialogue. The writers took full advantage of a wide variety of species and gave each of them a distinct speech pattern. This makes it easy, even without visual cues, to tell which character is speaking. Even more impressive, to me, was the ability of the writers to distinguish each of the main human and humanoid characters by speech pattern.

Whether it be Picard and his Shakespearean, King’s English or Troi with her soothing, dulcet tones and comforting choice of words or Riker with his “John Wayne of the 24th Century” affectations or Data and his “just this side of monotone” glorified machine language (the obsession with precision and accuracy kind of remind me of Asperger’s Syndrome on steroids); each of the main characters (I haven’t even mentioned Worf, LaForge, O’Brien, the Crushers and a host of others) is easy to pick out even with eyes closed.

So, I’ve been able to justify being a little selfish by chalking up my ST:TNG watching to the study of dialogue. Kind of like taking a tax deduction for business expenses for the gas to drive to the post office because one of those twenty envelopes carried business correspondence. That’s legal, right? 😉

Anyway, back to studying. 😉

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