You’ll have to pardon the jankiness of the image below, here. I am still trying to sort out this whole iPad thing, and, I dunno, fingerpainting is a little tougher than I expected. Anyway.
Last night I happened to catch the “Best of Both Worlds” two-parter episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and it caught me by surprise. I haven’t seen an episode of TNG in quite a while, and I didn’t realize just how very ’80s the visual design was. Late ’80s, sure, but definitely of its time, in retrospect. It seemed so futuristic back in the day, but now all I can see is feathered hair and terrible pastel color schemes. TNG looks as dated today as the original series looked when TNG debuted. And that is weird and alarming and makes me feel very old.
I mentioned as much on Twitter, which elicited a curious batch of responses: Everyone assumed I was talking about the visual effects and went to bat to defend the model work. The model work is fine, though! A nicely-shot miniature will always look more convincing and more alive than a CG rendering, and that’s certainly the case with TNG. Some of the other visual effects were pretty iffy, like the way the attack on the Borg cube appeared to have been executed entirely with 4th of July sparklers, but the little tiny fake ships, at least, were really quite nice.
No, the ships were fine. The people, though… they were somewhat less than fine. Even disregarding some of the more egregiously terrible wardrobe decisions, like anything ever worn on-set by Marina Sirtis, TNG has a datedly flat and distressingly out-of-date visual aesthetic that places it firmly in the realm of late ’80s/early ’90s TV design, just as Captain Kirk and his ship full of ultra-saturated primary colors and silly triangular sideburns (and, yes, all those analog knobs) place his exploits smack-dab in the ’60s. And no doubt modern Trek will prove to have its own contemporary quirks that’ll make it look perfectly dated 25 years down the line.
That rainbow tunic of Wesley Crusher’s, though? That’ll never go out of style.