Memories of the Future 1 by Wil Wheaton: B

memfuture1From the back cover:
The away team returns from the planet with some very good news: it’s clean, it’s beautiful, it’s populated with friendly humanoids… and they really like to do the nasty.

“At the drop of a hat,” according to Geordi.

“Any hat,” Tasha says knowingly.

Picard sends a second, larger team down to the planet to see exactly how many hats they’re going to need.

From “Encounter at Farpoint” to “Datalore,” relive the first half of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s unintentionally hilarious first season through the eyes, ears, and memories of cast member and fan, Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) as he shares his unique perspective in the episode guide you didn’t even know you were dying to read.

I came a little late to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don’t come from a family of Trekkies and didn’t know anyone who watched the original show, so I was not glued to my set for TNG‘s 1987 debut (like I’d later be for Deep Space Nine‘s). Instead, I got into it in 1992, when my brother was watching the episodes in syndication every afternoon and hanging TNG action figures (still in the package, of course) on his walls. I began watching with him and was soon hooked, acquiring Larry Nemecek’s The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion so that I could read all about the making of the episodes and keep track of the ones I’d seen. (Side note: I still haven’t seen 1.5 of them, but I kind of like it that way. It makes it seem like it’s not quite over.)

Although I eventually came to prefer DS9, TNG still holds a place in my heart. Like many people, I never did much care for the character of Wesley Crusher, but when I spotted Wil Wheaton’s episode reviews on TV Squad, I did read a few of them. In his introduction to Memories of the Future, Wheaton explains how the site lost a chunk of its funding and, therefore, the ability to pay him, but that he wanted to at least complete reviews for the first season, and so this book was born.

If you’re looking for a tawdry tell-all book, you’re not going to find it here. Wheaton doesn’t talk specifically about his castmates much, but when he does, he has nothing but positive things to say about them. Instead, his vitriol is reserved for the writers; he critiques the way various characters are written (Wesley, primarily, but also Worf and Troi, who are particularly one-dimensional during the first season) and points out many logic flaws and other problems with episode construction. I found his arguments to be compelling—especially how, contrary to many fans’ beliefs, Wheaton himself was in no way responsible for Wesley’s tendencies to save the day and be smug about it—and insightful.

There’s a chapter for each episode including a synopsis, quotable dialogue, obligatory technobabble, behind-the-scenes memory, bottom line, and final grade. The synopses are very snarky, though occasionally he’ll break from that mold to praise a particularly nice piece of acting. Many, many pop culture references abound—Strong Bad, Pulp Fiction, Animal Farm, et cetera—which is okay when I get them but rather annoying when I don’t. I have a feeling I was supposed to find some of the snark funny, but I never did, though I think there was a pretty clever/esoteric shabu shabu joke in there.

Memories of the Future is published by Monolith Press, which was founded by Wheaton “on the idea that publication should not be limited by opportunity.” I’m not sure, therefore, whether anyone else ever read and edited the book before its release. There are a few instances where an incorrect but not misspelled word is used—“marshal arts” or “when Picard apologies or something”—and a lot of inconsistency in the treatment of words that come after colons (don’t capitalize them unless they’re proper nouns!). Also, the header for each episode is accompanied by some grey bars with a lot of random numbers on them. I could never figure out whether they have any significance; perhaps they’re supposed to look like an Enterprise computer display or something? In any case, some tighter editorial controls would’ve provided a bit more polish.

(Update: After realizing that the numbers never go above 26, I tried my hand at cryptanalysis. All I could figure out is that the letters for the Introduction spell “Wesley.” Beyond that, it’s either gibberish or a code too complex for a lazy person like me to bother with.)

Ultimately, while I had some complaints I still wished I had volume two immediately on hand after finishing this one and I wish, too, that Wheaton will continue beyond the first season. While he is occasionally (and rightly) critical of some aspects of the show, his perspective is undeniably interesting and, above all, affectionate.

Additional reviews of the first volume of Memories of the Future can be found at Triple Take.

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  1. This sounds very interesting.

    I am not sure when I started watching Star Trek TNG, except that it definitely could not have been earlier than 1988 because that when I was born. I’m pretty sure had had watched some by 1990, though I did not understand a lot of what was happening because the plots were in the stratosphere over my little, developing head. However, I enjoyed the visuals, and I knew all the characters, even if I didn’t know what they were doing.

    It’s funny that you bring this up now. because a few months ago they starting broadcasting reruns around here after about ten years, and I finally can appreciate the episodes. And poke fun at them. Occasionally, particularly for later episodes, I get strong blasts of deja-vu – I know that I had see that image before, yet have no clue what’s going to happen next.

    As for Wesley Crusher … when I was that young, all of the characters (except Alexander) were Much Older Than Me, and thus approximately the same age. Therefore, Picard was not much older than Wesley. So now it’s mind-boggling that there is a crew member of the Enterprise who is so much younger than me. I actually like Wesley as a character, though he’s not my favorite.

    • What a neat perspective on the show!

      That sort of “deja vu” feeling you describe has happened to me with music. I have, for example, a memory of hearing a certain John Lennon song as a child, but I don’t know how or why. It’s not a single or anything. Maybe I heard it on the radio in 1980 when he died?

  2. Oh good, I’m not the only one wondering about the grey boxes! Whew! (Anyone ever figure this out?)

    • Not to my knowledge. I was all excited to discover the first ones spell out “Wesley,” but the rest do not spell words, nor do they form words in need of descrambling. It’s very possible there’s some more intricate code at work here, but I didn’t have the patience for it.

  3. You two had me looking at them again last night, but to no avail.

    Maybe we should start twitterbombing WilW until he gives up the answer.

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