“Encounter at Farpoint” is the pilot episode and series premiere of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered in syndication on 02 September 1987.
It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek, and Fontana was a writer on the original series.
It was originally aired as a 90-minute special, and subsequent reruns typically split the episode into two parts.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the crew of the newly built Enterprise examine the mysterious Farpoint Station which the Bandi people are offering to the Federation, while under the gaze of a powerful alien entity that calls itself “Q” (John de Lancie).
The episode was made as a pilot for the new Star Trek series, and was a double length episode at Paramount Television Group’s insistence. After the show was initially announced on 10 October 1986, Roddenberry put together a production team which included staff members from the original series such as Robert H. Justman. The show utilised some existing sets and props from the Star Trek films and both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: Phase II. New actors were hired for the pilot, which in some cases required the character concepts to be redeveloped to better fit the actor. Marina Sirtis and Denise Crosby were hired for the roles of Macha Hernandez and Deanna Troi respectively, but were later switched by Roddenberry and Crosby’s new role renamed to Tasha Yar.
DeForest Kelley agreed to appear in a cameo role in the pilot, but as a gesture to Roddenberry, he refused to be paid more than the minimum possible salary. The show made its debut in syndication to a mixed critical response, an assessment which was upheld by critics reassessing the episode following the end of the entire series.
In 2364, the new flagship of the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet’s USS Enterprise, travels to the planet Deneb IV for its maiden voyage. Enterprise is to open relations with the simple Bandi people who have somehow been able to tap immense energy reserves and construct Farpoint Station, much to the surprise of the Federation. En route, the Enterprise is met by an omnipotent being who identifies himself as Q, a member of the Q Continuum and declares that humanity is being put on trial – posing in appearance as a Grand Inquisitor – and deciding that their actions in their upcoming mission will be used to judge their worthiness and determine their fate as a race. Before letting the ship resume its course, Q warns Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) that he is destined to fail.
As the Enterprise arrives, the crew members explore the offerings of Farpoint Station and establish relations with their Bandi host, Groppler Zorn (Michael Bell). The crew becomes suspicious when items they desire seem to appear out of nowhere moments later, and are unable to identify the power source that feeds the station. Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), an empath, senses a being with powerful yet despairing emotions nearby, and the crew discover a strange labyrinth beneath the station, but Zorn does not offer an explanation. As the Enterprise crew continues its explorations, a large unknown alien craft enters orbit and begins to fire upon an older Bandi settlement near Farpoint Station, and abducts Zorn. Before Picard orders the ship’s phasers to be fired at the craft, Q appears to remind him of humanity’s trial and prompts Picard to send an away team to the alien craft. The away team discovers the craft has passages similar to those under Farpoint and they are able to free Zorn. Their actions cause the alien craft to transform into a jellyfish-like space creature, and Picard is able to deduce the mystery of Farpoint Station. He confirms with the apologetic Zorn that the Bandi found a similar lifeform injured on their planet and, while attempting to care for it, they also exploited its ability to synthesise matter to create Farpoint Station. The creature now in orbit is trying to help free its mate by attacking those who hold it captive.
Though Q goads Picard into punishing the Bandi, Picard refuses, instead ordering the Enterprise to fire a vivifying energy beam onto Farpoint after the station is evacuated. The beam allows the land-bound creature to transform back into its jellyfish-like form, and it flies into orbit to join its fellow being. As the crew watches the reunion of the alien creatures, Q reluctantly tells Picard that they have succeeded in their test, but hints that they will meet again.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Corey Allen.
- Writer(s): DC Fontana and Gene Roddenberry.
- Release Date: 28 September 1987.
- Running Time: 93 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.