Friday, February 19, 2010
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: