Friday, February 19, 2010

20 Years Ago This Week? TNG Came of Age


I'm talkin' bout the instant classic "Yesterday's Enterprise," of course.

And not just because my old bud Eric Stillwell was an instigator of that show, as the story co-writer. I still have his private mail-out reminder flier (above)—and I do mean mailed, as in "with a stamp on it."

Since TNG (and later DS9) were syndicated, they had no official single airdate—so they were listed as "Week of" beginning on Mondays. (Good ol' Channel 4 Oklahoma City, of course, insisted on runnng TNG at 10:30 pm on SUNdays, so we were the last in the country to see them week after week.)

But "The Week of Feb. 19" remains crystal-clear in my mind. For the first time on TNG, the tragic, mind-bending triumph of the little Enterprise-C and Captain Garret, Castillo and Tasha really made this long-patient fan sit up and take notice. I very clearly remember watching the show in early 1990 and thinking a corner had been turned: "It's happened—they finally hit on a par with the features. This is the potential. The series has finally found itself." Either this episode or the two-part "The Best of Both Worlds" that followed at season's end consistently poll in fan votes as the #1 TNG episode. (Hindsight, of course. tells us this is the legacy of Michael Piller's coming to the series and "saving" it.)

My "TNG" annual concordance zines had unwittingly opened some doors with the overtaxed TNG writers before I even comprehended what that meant. And Eric--first a PA, then script coordinator--was good enough to share a couple fact-filled letters with me (that, too, was via paper and typewriter ribbon ink, remember), and joined the process that eventually brought me to Hollywood.

I talk about the episode's storied and tortuous evolution in the TNG Companion, of course—like Casablanca, the rushed writers feared it would be a mish-mash of a dog, for one thing—and Eric offers even more detail in his self-published book about it, available here. But right now, thanks to him, I have my own memento of the week to celebrate, from a few years before this front-row seat to the Trekland show ...

UPDATE: And to bookend, from years later: here's the climactic scene of "YE" as the commissioned artwork from artist Javier Fernandez that graced the cover of our Communicator 127, a time-travel special issue:

7 comments:

Larry Nemecek said...

BTW--ATT! (Anal Trivia Time) The title font over the planet on Eric's flier was exactly the same as the one used on the early-season, in-house TNG script covers--in the case of YE, this is the EXACT same file from the script cover. Since he was the one who corralled it and all.

Larry Nemecek said...

ATT-2: Back then, no one in the Hart or Cooper Building (writers or producers) had font capability on their font-less IBM computers. Each script-cover title was font-typed and hard-printed by Mike Okuda & CO. in the art department, since they had the Macs, and PA-carried back across the lot for the Print Shop!)

Eric A. Stillwell said...

Hey, Larry -- thanks for the great anniversary tribute! Makes me all nostalgic and stuff -- like I should move back to L.A.!

pauldst said...

Yea, good ol' Channel 4, :-7, not good enough to show it at the end of the week they had to be variably late...10:35...10:40...even later, making it hard to set a VCR to record....

pauldst said...

But this was a good episode. Darker and grittier maybe...some of the reasons that DS9 was my favorite of series.

Larry Nemecek said...

I just put up a new "Feedback Loop" poll at the site, just for YE:

http://www.larrynemecek.com/

John said...

"Yesterday's Enterprise" was one of those episodes that impressed me the first time and just kept getting better with each subsequent viewing. Only a year after its debut, I was sitting in a college film class screening the episode (the only TV episode we watched) while the professor lovingly analyzed every scene.
Every Trek series has had hits & misses - this is one of those hits that you can return to and pick up new details to follow, subtle aspects of characters to explore. Like most excellent entertainment, it feels wholly satisfying and at the same time leaves you wanting more!