I just watched, for the first time in over 20 years, the third season blooper reel from Star Trek The Next Generation. It’s going to be included on the Blu-Ray disc, and I get to see it before it’s released to offer any notes or concerns that will be politely ignored.
It’s very, very funny. By the third season, we were all a very close-knit family on the set, and when we messed up, we laughed about it and reset the scene.
Well, everyone, that is, but me. In this reel, when I screw up, I get angry at myself. I try to laugh, but it’s clear that I am frustrated beyond belief. I say, “I am so sorry,” but without any of the 10th Doctor’s charm. My frustration and embarrassment is palpable.
When I watched this just now, I viscerally remembered being that awkward 15 and then 16 year-old kid, with the awful helmet hair, the uncomfortable grey spacesuit with the embarrassing muscle suit underneath it, and almost crippling desire to be the kind of cool I was never going to be. I remembered how, when I was on the bridge spouting nothing but technobabble (which was a large percentage of what Wesley got to do in Season 3, so much so that it lead to my asking to be written off the show), it was so hard to remember because it didn’t mean anything, and that was frustrating on a number of levels. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to perform a character, and most of what I remember doing that season was plotting courses and saying “Aye, sir.” In the blissful, arrogant ignorance of being a teenager, it never occurred to me that there were eight regular cast members, and everyone except the Holy Trinity of Picard, Riker and Data had their turn spouting technobabble and saying “Aye, sir.” I was the only one who was too young and foolish to understand. I was the only one who was too young and foolish to attempt to understand.
Wesley (and I) did get to do some really great things in Season 3: The Bonding is fantastic and Ron Moore wrote a couple of magnificent scenes for Wesley in that episode, Evolution was pretty awesome (and I got to work a lot with Whoopi, which was as totally cool as you’d expect it to be, and got real character growth from writer Michael Piller), and Yesterday’s Enterprise remains one of my favourite episodes of all time. But, like youth being wasted on the young, most of what made that season awesome was wasted on me.
Season 3 and part of Season 4 are really tough for me to watch, because I regret being such a tool back then. I wish I could go back in time and tell that kid to relax and enjoy what was a pretty awesome job, but I know that he wouldn’t listen to me any more than he’d have listened to anyone else. He was a confused, weird, awkward nerd trying so hard to be an adult, and failing spectacularly.
I wish I could go back in time and have a talk with that kid, but I learned something important from Star Trek when Picard told Riker: “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of… there were loose threads… untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads… it had unraveled the tapestry of my life.”
I will continue to simultaneously feel ashamed of myself, embarrassed by myself, but compassionate towards myself. That kid was doing the best that he could, and I’ll keep trying to accept that. Maybe one day, I’ll even make peace with it.