Family Guy’s Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion!
I’d been reading about it for months now, so I was very pleased to watch this Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven,” which featured the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The episode opens with the Griffin clan attending a Star Trek convention at the Quahog Convention Center. Unfortunately, this leads to a number of very obvious “Star Trek fans are hapless geek” jokes, which was a little disappointing. In all of the interviews leading up to this episode’s release that I have seen and read, Seth McFarlane and his team seem to genuinely be big fans of Star Trek. There have been a lot of Trek references and jokes (and Next Gen references in particular) on Family Guy even before this episode, many of them quite obscure references that could only be dreamed up by serious fans. (My favorite was the ending of the “Stewie Kills Lois” cliffhanger, with ended with the words “to be continued” reproduced in the exact same font, with the exact same music, as the end of Next Gen‘s season three-ending cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds.” How many people in the world got that joke?? Me, I loved it.) Anyways, all of that made it a bit of a let-down to see the writers go for the easy, lazy jokes at the expense of Trek fans in these opening minutes.
Things pick up from there, however, when Stewie — angry that he didn’t get to ask a question of the assembled Trek cast members — constructs a working transporter in his room and beams in the entire Next Gen cast, so that they can spend the day together. The cast are portrayed as amicable but with about the intelligence of a kid Stewie’s age. This leads to some fantastic scenes in which Stewie attempts to corral the hapless gaggle of actors into a trip to a fast food joint and a bowling alley. There are some funny Trek jokes (such as Stewie’s immediate execution of Denise Crosby, whose character Tasha Yar bought it during Next Gen‘s first season; the revelation of what Levar Burton really sees through that visor of his; and Stewie’s inability to properly pronounce Wil Wheaton’s name) mixed with the usual Family Guy style of random lunacy (Patrick Stewart’s refusal to remove his loafers at the bowling alley; Michael Dorn’s insistence on ordering a McDLT).
The other story-line of the episode, in which Meg finds God after watching Kirk Cameron on TV when she’s home sick with the mumps, sounds like a funny idea but in execution I found it to be a bit slow. I kept waiting for them to cut back to Stewie and the Next Gen gang.
In a cosmic bit of TV cross-pollination, this episode also featured the involvement of Family Guy Executive Producer and writer David Goodman, who also authored Futurama‘s Classic Trek reunion episode, “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.” While that 22-minute masterpiece (featuring the voices of all the surviving members of the Original Series) is one of the most loving (and also brutal!) pieces of Trek parody that I have ever seen, filled with brilliant gags and a million in-jokes and references, Family Guy‘s “Not All Dogs Go To Heaven” is a lot broader. There are some good jokes to be found, and while it is a blast to see (or hear, I guess) the entire Next Gen cast reunited, I can’t really say this is a home-run episode of Family Guy. Still, it was fun!