Guinan (Star Trek)
|Star Trek character|
|First appearance||"The Child" (TNG)|
Isis Carmen Jones
|Affiliation||United Federation of Planets|
|Partner||23 marriages (Star Trek: Nemesis)|
Guinan is a recurring character that appeared in the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the films Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. Portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg, Guinan is a bartender in the Ten-Forward lounge aboard the starship USS Enterprise-D. She was also played as a child by Isis Carmen Jones in the episode "Rascals".
The character first appears in the second-season opening episode "The Child", and she appears several times over the course of the next four seasons; she makes no appearances in the seventh. She mainly works in Ten-Forward, whose set was added in the second season when a lot of the sets were re-created after the rocky first season. The character is an alien who is several hundred years old and is noted for her folk wisdom, which she often uses to defuse difficult situations or comfort other characters aboard the ship as they struggle with something.
Guinan is a recurring character, credited in 29 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and also appearing significantly in Star Trek Generations.
Concept and development
Following the departure of Denise Crosby from the role of Tasha Yar during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, well-known actress Whoopi Goldberg believed that there was a vacancy for a female actress on the series. She had been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, having been inspired to become an actress by Nichelle Nichols' appearances as Uhura in The Original Series. Goldberg later recalled that she first saw an episode of the series when she was nine years old, and after Uhura appeared on-screen, she went running through her house shouting "Come here, mom, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!" Goldberg approached her friend, actor LeVar Burton, who played Geordi La Forge in The Next Generation, but the producers of the series ignored her, believing that they were being pranked until Goldberg telephoned the production office directly. However, executive producer Rick Berman later recalled that it was Goldberg's manager who made the call, inviting him and series creator Gene Roddenberry out to lunch with Goldberg to discuss her appearing on the series.
At the time, plans were already underway to add a lounge set to the series. Named Ten-Forward, it was created to have a setting where the crew of the USS Enterprise-D could be shown interacting with each other as well as other aliens in a less formal, social setting. At the lunch between Berman, Roddenberry and Goldberg, she explained that Star Trek was the only futuristic science fiction series at the time she knew of that featured black people prominently. She enquired whether they had already cast the new Doctor, following the firing of Gates McFadden from the role of Beverly Crusher. They decided this would not work, so Roddenberry and Berman suggested the creation of a new character specifically for Goldberg. Goldberg was unable to commit to appearing as a permanent member of the cast, which fit in with plans for Ten-Forward as they were not expecting to have that appear in every episode.
The character of Guinan was based on Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan, a prohibition-era emcee and owner of the 300 Club in New York City. While the name was adopted, the characterization was changed to a worldly mystic, in line with Yoda from the Star Wars franchise. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, had envisaged the character Guinan as extremely old, leading Goldberg to suggest that she could be the ancestor of some of the other characters on the series. Gene Roddenberry went as far to describe Star Trek: The Original Series as a Space Western. (see also "A Fistful of Datas" (TNG S6E8)
When Goldberg made her first appearance as Guinan, in the episode "The Child", she was credited as a "Special Guest Star" alongside Diana Muldaur who appeared throughout the second season as Doctor Katherine Pulaski. Guinan-centric episodes would end up being scheduled throughout the rest of the run of The Next Generation to coincide with the future availability of Goldberg, who at the time was continuing to appear in films and other work. In one instance, for "Imaginary Friend", Guinan was written in at short notice taking lines originally intended for other characters after Goldberg became available at short notice unexpectedly.
There were plans to introduce a son of Guinan at some point in The Next Generation, but this never occurred. The idea was resurrected during the writing process of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rivals", with the character of Martus Mazur originally intended to be Guinan's son. After Goldberg was unable to make a guest appearance, the relationship between the two characters was written out. However, the first time that the El-Aurian species was mentioned by name was in this episode, but this may have been inspired by the scripts for Star Trek Generations which the writing team would have seen by that point in the production of the series.
Goldberg would go on to become intrinsically linked to Star Trek, and a personal friend of creator Gene Roddenberry, subsequently being one of the eulogists at his funeral in 1991. During the initial production of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, she met with director Nicholas Meyer to discuss appearing as a Klingon in the film. This was vetoed by actor Leonard Nimoy, who had taken the lead on arrangements for the film, as with Christian Slater already set to appear in the film he did not want to be overwhelmed with celebrity cameos. She later described Guinan as a combination of Yoda, herself and Andrei Sakharov, adding that she was "more grateful for Star Trek now as a mother and grandmother." and described the prospect of Star Trek, saying "We all need to believe there is a good, positive future for us." Goldberg stated at her first Star Trek convention in 2016, that she wishes to return to the franchise and appear on Star Trek: Discovery in the future since the character was specifically designed to be able to appear at any point in the timeline. Returning actor-character combination are famous in the Star Trek franchise, and popular also; TNG's "Unification" (1991) diology featuring Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Part II brought in the highest Nielsen ratings (15.4) of that Season, and the highest for TNG except for the pilot and finale. (see also Star Trek crossovers).
The decision was made to feature Goldberg prominently in the first feature film based on The Next Generation, Star Trek Generations. This was due in part to her being far more well known to the general public than the majority of the main cast, having won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 63rd Academy Awards in 1991 for her role in the film Ghost. During the course of the film, the character is revealed to be an El-Aurian for the first time. Upon arriving on the first day of production of Generations, Goldberg began looking around the set for Nichols, having expected her to be there since it was a cross-over film between The Original Series and The Next Generation. It was later reported by Walter Koenig that Goldberg was annoyed as she saw that the fans wanted a scene with Guinan and Uhura together. Nichols was not in Generations.
Producer Rick Berman was noted as being "extremely sensitive" about who interacted with Whoopi on the set, according to the book The Making of Yesterday's Enterprise by Eric A. Stillwell. In one instance where a co-writer of Yesterday's Enterprise talked with Whoopi, Berman found out about it and said he did not want this kind of interaction which was oriented towards the production office.
In "Rascals", Guinan's younger self is played by Isis Carmen Jones, who also played Whoopi's character as a child in the film Sister Act (1992). Guinan works in Ten-Forward and is one of Picard's friends, and they often chat about problems the ship is having.
Guinan made her first appearance in the second season opening episode "The Child" on November 21, 1988, on first-run syndicated television. During the course of the episode, she gives advice to Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) about whether or not he should leave the ship to join his mother when she transferred to Starfleet Medical on Earth. In this episode, she refers to meeting Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) for the first time when she came on board the Enterprise-D, something which would later be ignored and discounted. She made further appearances in the second season, including in "The Outrageous Okona" where she advises Data to use the holodeck to help him better understand comedy, and again in the Data-centric episode "The Measure of a Man", as well as "The Dauphin" where she and Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) attempt to explain flirting to Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton).
The first revelation of Guinan being something more than a simple barkeeper came later that season in the episode "Q Who". After Q (John de Lancie) sends the Enterprise-D across the galaxy, causing them to encounter the Borg, she trades barbs with the omnipotent being who reveals that he knows Guinan from past encounters and suggests she may have been known by other names in the past. She also informs Picard that the Borg drove her species into near extinction over a century earlier. She returned once more in second episode of the third season, "Evolution" in she explains she has many children, and later in the season in "Booby Trap" where she reveals that she finds the heads of bald men attractive. She once again comes face to face with Q in "Deja Q". Guinan is central to the plot of "Yesterday's Enterprise", when the timeline is changed after the USS Enterprise-C appears from a spatial rift. Guinan is the only member of the crew who is aware that something has changed, and believes that Lieutenant Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) should not be on the ship. The timeline is restored when the Enterprise-C re-enters the rift.
While she did not appear in the season finale, "The Best of Both Worlds" part one, Guinan did play a role in the second part which started the fourth season. She advises Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in his predicament in dealing with the Borg-assimilated Picard, known as Locutus of Borg. She tells him that her relationship with Picard "goes beyond friendship and beyond family". She appears in the following episode broadcast, which follows up on Picard's experiences as a Borg, "Family". In "The Loss", Guinan advises Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) when she loses her empathic senses, telling her that she still has her skills as a Counselor to rely on. Guinan joins Picard in his holodeck program Dixon Hill in the episode "Clues". Her other appearances in the season included "Galaxy's Child", "Night Terrors" where she reveals she keeps a rifle behind the bar, "In Theory", and the first part of "Redemption" where she scores higher than Klingon Security Chief Worf (Michael Dorn) on a firing range on the holodeck.
Her first appearance in the fifth season came in the first episode, the second part of "Redemption". In "Ensign Ro", she strikes up a friendship with Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) which would continue for the rest of the recurring character's appearances in the series. In "Imaginary Friend", Guinan discusses the nearby nebula with Data in Ten-Forward. In the following episode, "I, Borg", Guinan objects to the presence of the Borg known as Hugh on the Enterprise-D. Further revelations of Guinan's backstory are made in the season finale, the first part of "Time's Arrow", when after travelling back to 19th century San Francisco, California, Data discovers a photograph of Guinan in a local newspaper. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise-D, Guinan advises Picard that he must lead the away team to travel through a temporal rift to save Data in the past.
Central to the plot of the second half of "Time's Arrow" which opened the sixth season, Guinan meets Picard for the first time in her timeline and works with him and Samuel Clemens to prevent a plot by the aliens of Devidia II. In "Rascals", alongside Picard, Ro, and Keiko O'Brien (Rosalind Chao), her body is de-aged to that of a child following a transporter accident, where the younger Guinan was portrayed by actress by Isis Jones. Guinan reveals that her father is still alive at the time, having previously been hiding from him on Earth during "Time's Arrow". In "Suspicions", she advises Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) on whether to trust her instincts when a Ferengi scientist is killed during an experiment on board.
As a refugee aboard the El-Aurian vessel Lakul, she is rescued from the Nexus by the USS Enterprise-B. This is part of the opening act of Star Trek Generations, the 1994 film made after the series' seven-year run concluded. Guinan did not appear in the next two Star Trek films (First Contact and Insurrection).
Guinan reveals in Star Trek: Nemesis that she has been married 23 times. She states in "Evolution" that she has many children, including a son who went through a phase when "he wouldn't listen to anybody"—something unusual "in a species of listeners".
In "Yesterday's Enterprise", which involves a disruption of the timeline, Guinan is able to sense the disruption, even though everyone else believes it to be the natural course of events. As later explained in Generations, an echo of her is left inside the Nexus, which is said to exist outside of time. In that film, its not clear however if Picard is just experiencing what he wants, to talk with Guinan and rescue the Enterprise with Kirk. At the time no one knew if this would be the last film, which made it more likely the timeline continued, but if had been the actual end like Nemesis was, this reading of what happened is more obvious. Picard was only seeing a Nexus-created sequence of events according in that interpretation. If he did leave, then it means he also left echo-Picard in the Nexus, and may finally explain the mysterious relationship "deeper than friends or family"-part of each is stuck in the Nexus together. One of the more extreme interpretations is that Guinan was imagined by Picard after he was killed was similar to B'Elanna Torres near-death experience in "Barge of the Dead", where in the Star Trek universe people have naj; a dream-like hallucination before actual death. This may have happened to Picard before in "Tapestry". One problem is that there is logical do-loop created when Picard stops himself from ever entering the Nexus, how does he leave it?—at face value it breaks causality when he stops himself from entering the Nexus because how could he leave it if he never entered it. Because the Nexus is not fully explained, it may be part of its nature, or Guinan may simply have been part of his near-death dream before the Star destroys that solar system. The continuation of movies makes it more clear that the timeline continued at least until Nemesis. After Nemesis, TNG line continues in the quasi-canonical Star Trek: Countdown bridging the gap to the Kelvin reboot timeline in Star Trek (2009). If the Nexus could be found in that timeline, it might be possible to access Picard, Guinan and Kirk nexus "echos" since it can survive across time alterations.
Guinan appears in about 29 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an American television series that was produced from 1987–1994. She also had a role in two theatrical films, Generations (1994) and Nemesis (2002). As a Bartender/Hostess, she often has discussions with other crew members but is more of close friend to many including Picard. Guinan has special abilities related to time for unclear reasons, although it may be related to what is explain in the movie Generations.
- "The Child" (November 21, 1988)
- "The Outrageous Okona"
- "The Measure of a Man"
- "The Dauphin"
- "Q Who"
- "Shades of Gray"
- "Booby Trap"
- "Deja Q"
- "Yesterday's Enterprise"
- "The Offspring"
- "Hollow Pursuits"
- "The Best of Both Worlds" (Credited but no scenes); both parts)
- "The Loss"
- "Galaxy's Child"
- "Night Terrors"
- "In Theory"
- "Redemption" (both parts)
- "Ensign Ro"
- "Imaginary Friend"
- "I Borg"
- "Time's Arrow" (both parts)
- "Suspicions" (May 9, 1993)
Among the episodes with Guinan, "The Measure of a Man" and "The Best of Both Worlds" diology received noted acclaim, and an extended cut of "The Measure of Man" was released in 2012.
In Star Trek Generations, released in 1994, Guinan explains the Nexus to Picard.
In this 2002 Star Trek film, Goldberg reprises her role as Guinan. In Star Trek: Nemesis, Guinan has attended the wedding between Riker and Troi. 
The character Guinan, looking like the TNG character, appears in various TNG comics series including: A line and ink style Comic version of Guinan appears on the cover of Star Trek: The Next Generation Special "Good Listener/A True Son of Kahless" published September 1, 1993.
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- 8 issues in 2012 (Crossover with Doctor Who franchise)
Reception and commentary
Dany Roth in his article for Syfy Wire on Guinan's quintessential moments, described her as "easily one of the best characters in the history of Star Trek". His list of moments consisted of the one in "The Measure of a Man" where Guinan explains slavery to Picard; the time that she stabbed Q with a fork in "Deja Q"; the discussion she has with Commander Riker in "The Best of Both Worlds" part two and her lack of sympathy for the Borg in "I, Borg". Roth did state that his favourite moment came in the second part of "Time's Arrow" where she and Picard are trapped in the cave and the sexual tension between the pair, comparing the relationship between that of River Song and The Doctor in Doctor Who whereby they meet each other for the first time but out of sequence.
Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block state in their book Star Trek 101 that the key Guinan episode is "Yesterday's Enterprise". They describe her role in the episode as that of a Greek chorus to explain that a change has taken place in the timeline.
Her last episode "Rascals" had a rating of 13.5, only surpassed later in the season by "Aquiel" (14.1) and "Tapestry" (13.8) in Season 6. That would prove the be the turning point downward for TNG as only the finale in Season 7 likely surpassed even "Rascals". The franchise, while still massively popular, lost millions of viewers throughout the late 1990s, DS9's pilot, "Emissary" was probably the only DS9 to have higher ratings (18.8) than this turning point down in Season 6 (note that DS9 came out in that latter half of Season 6 of TNG). The first episode with Guinan, "The Child", had a Nielsen rating of 10.9. Although DS9 was not as popular, it was in many ways more critically acclaimed. The late 1990s also saw an increase in Star Trek production, including the conclusion of TNG's three movies and the launch of Voyager, while DS9 was still on air.
"The Best of Both Worlds, Part I" was ranked No. 70 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, Star Trek: The Next Generation was ranked #46 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time list, and in 2008, was ranked No. 37 on Empire's list of the 50 greatest television shows.
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