Memories of the Future, by Wil Wheaton, is a review of the first thirteen episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation by one of the actors in the series, and one who has a unique bend on the series. Wil is best known to Trekkies for playing the oft-despised character of Wesley Crusher, and was 14 when he worked on the first season of TNG. Since then he’s gone on to be an occasional actor and a successful author, but I have not read any of his previous books, nor have I really paid much attention to his career since TNG until I hooked up to Fark.com, which has a love affair with the man.
I started following Wil on Twitter, and eventually he posted a link to something called Memories of the Futurecast, a podcast wherein he reads an excerpt of a chapter of Memories of the Future, one each week for thirteen weeks. He promised they’d be 5-6 minutes, and of course most of them are at least 20, and utterly hilarious. So I decided, why not buy the book? I was at work, and Lulu offers a download for $10 USD of the PDF, DRM-free (Wil is a big supporter of Creative Commons and the like).
My reaction to the book was, overall, I thought it was hilarious. Wil’s well-applied snark doesn’t remind me of a super-polished comedy routine, but more of the same sort of sarcasm I would apply with my group of nerdy friends whilst watching the same episodes, and it works better for that. The Futurecast reminds us of how heavily Wil works on each review, and I think that he did a great job maintaining the “off the cuff” feeling of the synopsis.
He then would offer some behind-the-scenes memories, which I think most Trekkies would love the most. To be honest, I enjoyed the snark just as much as I did the memories, but some are just fun. Futurecast tends to share a few more of those memories as well – it’s recommended to listen to the episodes just for that. There’s some really great memories and thoughts which I shan’t spoil here. If you’re a devoted Trekkie, Memories of the Future is worth it just for these thirteen sections.
Finally, Wil grades each episode based on its content and its audience expectations. One of the things that is incredibly evident is that Wil *understands* Star Trek in a unique way. He grew up as a nerd, and immersed himself in that in a way impossible for anyone else, living his teen years on the show. He gets the way the relationship between the individual episodes and us fans get, and he vocalized a lot of my thoughts in an efficient and really well-thought manner. He offers insights on each episode as to what might make it a better episode, even if they did something as simple as rearranging the aired order, and it made sense to me.
Understandably, Wil aims a lot of his snark at Wesley Crusher. Poor Wesley is always maligned without reason (I don’t think he was written and better or worse than any of the characters in the first and second seasons. OK. A little bit worse…adults), even though he provided some *great* moments later (The First Duty, The Game, and Final Mission are all among my favourite episodes). To be honest, sometimes I feel like he’s harping on Wesley to impress me, but some of the critiques are true too. He had me laughing, but sometimes I questioned if I was laughing because I’m supposed to laugh at Wesley.
The author is in line with a lot of my opinions on the early TNG episodes. I was…what? Three when TNG debuted? One of my earliest memories is my parents making me stay up to watch Encounter at Farpoint. But TNG doesn’t enter conscious, constant memory until I was around 5-6, so third or fourth season. When I watch the first season, I get a feeling of familiarity but not the instant click of recollection I get with everything from Best of Both Worlds forward. As a result, I’ve always tossed Season 1 aside mentally, assuming every episode was like Justice or The Naked Now. Wil’s made me go back and watch The Big Goodbye, and it’s really helping me to understand some of that early genius – how there’s that spark in TNG that convinced the network to renew it.
Overall, this book had me laughing, and was well worth $10. But make sure you read it with Memory of the Futurecast – it completes the experience. I can’t wait for Part 2…I need to hear what Wil is gonna say about Angel One!