Webster was a sitcom about a precocious black kid adopted by white parents. It wasn’t very original. It was basically a rush job by ABC in 1983 to emulate the success of Diff’rent Strokes on NBC. Originally, the sitcom was supposed to just be about the parents, real-life married couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark. They would play ficitonalized versions of themselves – an ex-football star married to a socialite and it would be called Then Came You (still the theme song to what became Webster). Anyway, it ran for 4 seasons on ABC and another 2 in syndication. But the reason we’re talking about it today is that in one episode, Webster was beamed aboard the Enterprise-D. It’s a very, very strange episode. Let’s break it down.
So, it’s kind of important to explain this up front: The episode, “Webtrek,” which crossed over with Star Trek: The Next Generation was the final episode of Webster. This is how things literally ended for him. It aired on March 10, 1989, which was towards the end of Next Gen’s second season. Oh, and it’s also a clip show. We kick things off with Webster playing a video game on the computer in his bedroom. It’s called “Galaxy Man.” Then lightning hits the house and Webster gets transported. But not with the good Star Trek effect. Instead someone just sort of drew white stars over him. But they did get the sound effect right. So, you know, off to a pretty awful start.
Webster is transported apparently not only in space but in time as he ends up on the bridge of the Enterprise-D in the 24th century. The whole episode takes place on the bridge so don’t get excited to see engineering or the Captain’s ready room or anything. In fact, considering how short the actual new footage of this clip show episode is, it seems obvious that Webster only shot this episode because they were on adjacent Paramount lots and they probably had to get in and out while Michael Dorn was standing around in his Worf makeup. Anyway, the red alert goes off and Worf remarks on how there’s an intruder. I specifically say he remarks instead of his usual Worf-screams-everything delivery because the producers have toned Worf way, way down. Maybe so that he isn’t as scary? Or maybe Michael Dorn was getting dizzy and tired under his Worf makeup for the extra 20 minutes it took him to tape this episode.
Worf comments that he recognizes Webster as an Earthling. I’d hope so, since more than 90% of his fellow crewmembers are Earthlings. But Worf thinks his clothes are strange. Webster delivers a gut buster about how all the kids in the 90s will be dressed like this and Worf informs Webster that the 90s were over 300 years ago. Actually, Worf, you’re assuming Webster meant the 1990s, which is actually a very strange assumption to make. Besides which, you regularly encounter folks dressed like this, so are Webster’s clothes really that strange?
A completely unknown Starfleet person says that Webster is unarmed and not dangerous. And she has a weird 3D image of Webster spinning on her monitor. I never saw them do that for Q or the Borg. THAT was where the show decided to spend its special effects budget instead of getting the transporter right? So who is this person monitoring Webster? No idea. Because the ONLY Next Generation cast member in this is Worf. We’ll get told why shortly. But for now, Webster thinks the bridge is cool to which Worf replies that the temperature “never varies.” After you’re done catching your breath from that laff-fest, we’ll move on.
Worf declares that all people did in Webster’s time was watch mud wrestling (?), Groundhog Day (??) and dancing for fun. It doesn’t matter why Worf is an expert on 1989 culture because it’s just to set up the rib tickler of Webster declaring that dancing is fun and dancing for all three crewmembers. That earns a laughtrack dosage and it is just bizarre to hear laughter in a Next Gen setting. Worf warns Webster that dancing is considered a “prelude to violence” in some parts of the galaxy and the other no-name Starfleet officer on the bridge jams his phaser up against Webster. Christ! Picard may not like kids but I’m pretty sure sticking your gun in their ribs for dancing would be a punishable offense.
The dancing bit leads to Webster starting to talk about dancing with his uncle and we cut to some old clips. It eventually comes back and now Worf is sitting at a console. I guess he just stopped doing any work and just listened to this kid blabber on about his dancing uncle for a few minutes. Maybe Worf shouldn’t be in charge of the bridge.
After wasting that time with a pointless story that Worf could not possibly care about, Webster asks to be sent home. Worf says they’ll be able to once they clear the gravitational pull of the Antares System in a little while. Webster cracks the following “joke”: “Great! The thought of being in junior high for the next eighteen hundred milleniums didn’t sound too good!” What does that even mean?! Anyway, Webster asks why the bridge is so empty (we’ve all been wondering) and Worf says everyone is else is “going to the Holodeck to pursue their most stimulating fantasies!” That sounds so much more perverted than they could have intended. That leads to Webster saying back where he’s from people go on vacations for fun. The theme seems to be that Worf doesn’t understand what fun is, even though he was raised on Earth and should have encountered these ideas at some point. And they show clips from past shows. Nothing too interesting. Except for one where Webster and his parents are in a helicopter and Webster jokes: “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Beam me up. Scotty.
So in Webster’s world, Star Trek is both a TV show that he can refer to AND a place that he can be transported when hit by lightning. And I’m sure if you’re thinking about this at all you’re saying, “Well it must be imaginary.” Well, that would make sense but stick with me until the end. It’s a doozy.
Anyway, Worf just keeps on sitting there listening to these terrible stories because I guess there’s nothing to do on the Enterprise most of the time. At one point Webster talks about losing a baseball game and Worf insists that means Webster didn’t have fun because he was “humiliated.” But Webster argues that it’s the challenge that’s fun, not necessarily winning. Worf says challenges are part of Klingon courtship rituals. Dude. Talk about your strange psuedo-rape culture some time when there isn’t a kid on board.
Oh, two weird things happen during all these clips. First, someone who is definitely not Geordi calls up and says they’re having trouble escaping the Antares System’s gravitational pull which makes Worf say that if they don’t exit the “time continuum” at the right point, Webster will arrive 85 years late. So… are they time traveling? It is not explained because as soon as Worf mentions the problem, he says they’ve escaped and everything’s fine. So that was a weird problem to introduce and solve instantly. The second weird thing is that Webster tells a story of finishing a race even though it took him forever, and his dad was waiting for him at the end. Worf says that if he wasn’t from such a fierce race, that would bring a tear to his eye. But because of Michael Dorn’s super toned-down delivery, it sounds like Worf is just being sarcastic and teasing Webster for telling another unimportant story.
A random Starfleet guy gives Webster back his joystick and Worf says he can return home now. When Webster asks how, Worf says: “Just click your heels together three times and repeat, ‘there’s no place like home’!” Yeah, Worf makes a joke! Intentionally. He even smiles and calls it Klingon humor. Also known as humor. Then he says all Webster really has to do is press his joystick button. As Webster transports away he says: “I sure had a lot of…” and Worf finishes his thought: “I know. ‘Fun’.” So that was Worf’s arc. He learned about fun.
Cut to Webster waking up in bed. Okay, so it was all a dream, right? Not so fast. He picks up his joystick and it has a tag on it that says it was inspected by the Enterprise crew. So I think we have to assume he really did get transported onto the Enterprise. Perhaps most fun is that many fans will argue this is part of Star Trek canon. It comes from the argument that Gene Roddenberry himself issued a memo around this time declaring anything that happens in a live action episode to be canon. Obviously we don’t have to buy into that, but then again, is Webster being transported onto the bridge that much more crazy than the dozens of times the Holodeck went crazy and became a murderous machine?