I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. Here, we’re in season 2 and discussing episodes seven and eight. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
A Federation ship is found with the whole crew aboard dead… of old age. The crew of the Enterprise traces it back to Darwin Station, where they discover some disease has taken hold. Pulaski dives in to try to solve it but ultimately ends up contracting it herself. Ultimately, all is saved when the Enterprise uses the transporter to reconfigure people to their old DNA.
Wow. I had forgotten how good this episode is. The plot actually kept me guessing. I’d seen it before of course but it’s been years and I couldn’t remember all the twists and turns. It was a great feeling of mystery and discovery. Pulaski’s voiced-over commentary at the end was interesting and having her commentary on human discovery and how it came at a cost juxtaposed over the destruction of the ship that had been completely killed off by the “disease” was poignant and well-delivered. It’s the kind of monologue-type thing that probably wouldn’t make muster in today’s television but sets apart TNG as a great show with (sometimes) awesome commentary.
The character development for Dr. Pulaski was also excellent. She finally got a chance to shine in her role and remind of why I came to like her character. She apologized to Data (!), had some good interactions with Picard, and overall kicked some butt and took some names throughout the episode. The way she took charge, was willing to take risks for herself, but ultimately unwilling to risk the health of the entire ship just to save her finally painted her as a strong personality rather than simply an obnoxious one. Picard and Pulaski’s attempts to discover more about each other made the episode feel like it had bigger implications than just a one-off. This is one of the best episodes so far.
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was good character development and a not wholly-expected plot.”
“Matter of Honor”
Riker is sent to serve aboard a Klingon Warbird, Pagh, as part of the Federation officer exchange program. A biological threat emerges attacking both the Enterprise and the Pagh and the captain of the Klingon vessel sees it as a threat. Meanwhile, Mendon, an alien ensign, is struggling to learn his own way aboard the Enterprise and attempts to discover how to fix the issue. In the end, Riker takes over the Pagh, Mendon figures out how to rid both vessels of the biological threat, and high-fives are given all around–one of them in the form of a backhand to Riker’s face.
I think this episode is the kind that TNG thrives on. It’s fun, it has a fast-paced, high-risk plot, and it allows individual characters to shine. Mendon’s struggles aboard the Enterprise aren’t as painful as they could have been and it’s actually interesting to see his character develop. I don’t remember if we see him ever again, but I wouldn’t mind a reprisal later. Riker aboard a Klingon vessel is genius. He fully embraces the role, eating still-living Klingon food, joking with those aboard the Pagh, beating up other officers, all in a day’s work on a Klingon ship! Some of the one-liners in this episode are just great, and Worf gets his own share of them in when interacting with Mendon: “You may impress me” (followed by look-of-death).
All of that said, the pace starts to bog down towards the end and that’s what prevents this episode from being on the list of true “greatest” episodes for the show. Some scenes seem to just take too long, and while the comedy mixed throughout the episode helps keep it entertaining, there are points where it just felt like filler. The resolution is interesting but expected, though Riker sitting as Captain and ordering Picard to surrender is quite fun. Overall, a good but not great episode.
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Riker’s exploration of the Klingon traditions was entertaining.”
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