Before I proceed, I want readers to know: I have nothing against Jill Pantozzi. She is a great writer, and her blog, The Mary Sue, is one of the best destinations for pop-culture musings; specifically because her insight into our culture is unique, and - considering the glut of samey-sounding, smartassed dudes all tripping over themselves to show off their Rob Gordon in High Fidelity impersonations (guilty as charged) - more than a little bit neccessary.
It's because I enjoy and respect her writing that I feel it would be a disservice if I didn't respond to her article about rebooting Star Trek: The Next Generation with the only possible answer.
Ewan McGregor as Chief O'Brien? The black dude that died first in X-Men First Class as Geordi? Tom Hiddleston as Data? You wanna waste one of the most charismatic actors in recent memory under four evenly applied coats of gold-tinged bland? Idris Elba as Worf! I know - let's take the man who should be the next James Bond, glue a trilobite to his forehead, and then have everyone else on the bridge ignore him forever. That's a bad call, Ripley. A bad call.
But opinions can't be wrong, you say! It's her dream cast! How can her dream be wrong?
This is the internet, I respond.
After the jump, I provide the blueprint for a successful Next Generation reboot.
The Premise: This cast could concievably all be hired on a somewhat manageable budget.
The Tweak: There's no reason to completely replicate the original Next Gen dynamics, because there were definite problems, and rebooting only makes sense if you can address some of those problems, with a refined, optimized version of something familiar and comforting. So to that end:
No Troi: She is a useless character, and provided almost nothing from episode to episode. She might be a special guest star in future seasons.
No Wesley: Also a useless character, and all his potential storytelling positives were realized in the character of Ensign Ro Laren, who will instead take Wesley's place on the show. Maaaaaaybe a special guest star in future seasons. Probably gets shot. Or airlocked.
No Chief O'Brien: His character overlaps with Geordi's, which is why he was a C-level castmember until he got shuffled over to Deep Space Nine.
Also, the ship can't look like a bar of soap fucked a salamander, nor can its interior resemble a 1991 Dodge Spirit's.
Let's get on with it.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
To Pantozzi's credit, she selected maybe the best possible choice for a new Picard: Christopher Eccleston. He can be as grumpy and patronizing as Sir Patrick Stewart made him, but not only could Eccleston add a touch of lighthearted energy and legitimate humor often missing from Original Recipe Picard, but he could essay a Picard who was legitimately scary if necessary.
Commander William Riker
Much of Riker's legend is legend simply because other people talked about his exploits, we rarely actually saw them, nor was it easy to match those tales up with the smirking face underneath that glorious beard. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan? That's a Riker I believe could give Kirk a run for his money as King Shit of Space Cowboy Mountain.
Doctor Beverly Crusher
I considered giving into my Doctor Who fandom for a split second, and casting Catherine Tate opposite Eccleston, just to see the Ninth Doctor and the Best Companion (2005-present era) tossing flirty lines back and forth. But I instead chose to put Elizabeth Perkins in the blue coat, possibly combining the best elements of both Dr. Crusher and Dr. Pulaski, and giving the character to an actress who is always one of the most solid performers in any ensemble she appears in.
Lt. Commander Data
This would probably be the hardest actor to sign. Paul Dano is not A-list, but he's definitely a serious actor, and a serious actor would need to be convinced that the money, and the exposure, would be enough to keep them away from the stage, and the potential academy award nominations that come when you catch bowling implements with your head. As such, Data's role would probably have to be beefed up, but that would probably happen over the run of the show anyway.
Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge
Since Chief O'Brien is cut from this version of the show, I feel like combining the older, crankier aspects of his character with Geordi's isn't a bad idea at all. A Geordi who's a little more grizzled, less prone to the spewing of excited technobabble vomitus would be very welcome. And who better to play the role of the smart, slick, sometimes-too-clever-for-his-own-good Geordi LaForge than Andre Royo, a man who frequently stole entire seasons of The Wire out from under his fellow actors. Also, we'd probably lose the visor, but he'd look okay with it if it had to stay.
I'm going with a bit of blatant genre pandering here: Tahmoh Penikett from Battlestar Galactica as a grumpy, angry, ass-kicking mountain of terror, relegated to the background until his imposing frame is needed to lend the show an air of ominous, impending violence. Plus, watching him pout when everyone tells him to shut the fuck up should be pretty funny.
Lt. Tasha Yar
In this version, Yar lives past the second season. In this version, Yar and Worf are like Vasquez and Drake from ALIENS. In this version, Yar, Worf, Riker, and Ro will form an away team that allows the show to successfully shift into ass-kicking action/adventure mode in a way the original never could. A Starfleet version of The A-Team, with Riker as Hannibal, and Yar as Face. Another bit of genre-pandering, but a little more justifiable; Alison Scagliotti of Warehouse 13 could be the sort of wisecracking badass not seen in a sci-fi show since Kara Thrace.
Ensign Ro Laren
Speaking of badass women: Adrienne Palicki as Eccleston's spiky, intense protege? I think it could work. Ro's role would have to be increased quite a bit, but the teacher/student dynamic introduced could add a little bit of the Obi-Wan/Anakin tension that the Prequels never quite gave us. Plus I miss seeing Palicki on TV after Friday Night Lights went away, and nobody (especially David E. Kelley) seems to have figured out how best to use her since.